Lithuanian and the Hijacking of Ryanair Flight 4978



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What is this project?

On May 23, 2021, a Ryanair flight – scheduled to fly from Athens, Greece to Vilnius, Lithuania – was hijacked. While over the Belarusian air space, Belarussian authorities forcibly diverted the plane to Minsk, where two opposition activist passengers were arrested. Not shockingly, the event reflected a west versus Russia response: On the one hand, European Union, the United States, and other western countries condemned what they perceived as a state sanctioned terrorism; on the other hand, Russia issued statements supporting Belarus. This project aims to understand how Lithuania interpreted these events as reflected in the newspapers – not just because the flight was full of mostly Lithuanian passengers but because Lithuania is home to sizable Russian (and Polish) populations.

Faculty Leader: Amy Liu
Task Team Leader: Betty Compton

Goals for 2023-2024

In Fall 2023, student researchers will be assigned a list of newspaper sources in Lithuania – in Lithuanian, Russian, and Polish. The researchers will pull all “front page” newspaper articles from this period – using the help of Google Translate. From this sample, they will identify what proportion of articles were about the hijacking and what words were being used to describe the event. This project on the Ryanair hijacking will be situated against ongoing work with respect to Covid vaccines (AstraZeneca versus Sputnik) and Lithuania’s increasing diplomacy with Taiwan.

What students will learn

Student researchers are expected to develop three specific skills.

  • The first is proficiency with web-based research. Dr. Liu wants students to learn to develop the confidence in knowing how to do searches and being able to navigate different pages.
  • The second is critical thinking. These websites will be based in different languages, which will require students to employ the likes of Google Translate. While Google Translate is far from perfect, it will have some structure. Students will need to learn to read between the lines and use context clues to identify what the mis-translations could mean.
  • The third is fluency with using a spreadsheet software whether it is Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, or Numbers – not just in data entry but also data management and some basic data analysis.



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