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The cut throat world of the media places ever greater emphasis on headlines in order to attract customers. This study examines the changes that have taken place over a period of twenty years (1979-1999) in order to reveal the linguistic means and content strategies through which the textual and cognitive functions of Russian and Czech headlines have been realised. Different strategies have been identified and considerable changes have been found in the headline infrastructure (changes in topic-naming and summarising headlines, grammatical structure and word count) and in the headline style (use of rhetorical figures, intertextuality, language formality etc.). Content strategies have also changed (personalisation, presence of women, human interest stories etc.). The language and content changes are rather extensive between 1989 and 1999 compared to the earlier years leading to the conclusion that at a time of major political upheavals language change occurs more swiftly. A broad review of literature includes works in Russian, Czech and English.