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24. Russian Propaganda: Instigating Doubts and Confusion To Seek Total Control

The hold Russian propaganda has on its people (and others) is frightening.
24. Russian Propaganda: Instigating Doubts and Confusion To Seek Total Control
Photo by Tina Hartung / Unsplash

It is frightening to read primary sources from within the Russian information bubble. RIA Novosti, a Russian state-owned newspaper published the article “What Russia should do with Ukraine” about a month ago. A translation can be found here. It is a cold account of propaganda, rewritten history and implied cultural genocide. I would encourage anyone to read it to get an insight into what Russians are fed daily on their state-sponsored propaganda platter.

The Banderovite top brass must be liquidated; its re-education is impossible. The social "swamp," which actively and passively supported it through action and inaction, must survive the hardships of the war and assimilate the experience as a historical lesson and atonement for its guilt. – pro-russian RIA Novosti article

In the article, the Ukrainian identity is equated to, quite literally, Nazism. It claims that this Nazi Ukrainian identity started developing after the fall of the USSR in 1989 and that little Russia, as Ukraine was colloquially known under the Soviet empire, was nothing more than an extension of Russia, and created in whole by the latter. If familiar with Putin's essay "On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians" (hosted here by your friendly neighbourhood Kremlin), this all sounds too familiar. Putin has often referred to the fall of the soviet union as the greatest tragedy of the modern world. Frankly, there’s a lot to be debated there. For an empire that sent millions to unnecessarily die in WW2 combat due to incompetent leadership, sent many more millions to be murdered during Stalin’s great purges, starved 2 million Ukrainians in the 1930s and many more genocidal gaffes, it is not a negative mark on the world that it ended. That it ended the way it did and that the West may have contributed to the construction of a kleptocratic state in which Putin is the mafia boss is a whole different problem. Today, the Russian government spiel claims that Ukrainians are not, they are only disguised Russians pretending to have a newly formed, Western-backed identity. Really, they are newly formed Nazis who are abusing the disenfranchised Russian minorities, despite the fact that many currently fighting Ukrainians speak firstly Russian at home. In opposition to the Soviet attempt to erase Ukrainian customs and language, modern Ukraine is a democracy. It may have been extensively affected by fraud and bribery since the 1990s, but it pales in comparison to mother Russia.

Denazification will inevitably be de-Ukrainization - a rejection of the large-scale artificial inflating of the ethnic component of the self-identification of the population of the territories of historical Little russia and Novorossia, which was started by the Soviet authorities. – pro-russian RIA Novosti article

To claim that Ukraine has no culture and unity of its own seems to, in the RIA Novosti article, allude to its total required destruction. In it, the author claims that erasing the Ukrainian identity, which is nothing more than a USA-backed Nazi regime, will take a generation and the oversight of the great Russian Federation, that country where its leader and its cronies have systematically stolen from their people on a scale never before achieved (see Alexei Navalny’s documentary: Putin’s Palace, History of the World’s Largest Bribe). That the Russian national identity must be propped through the violent destruction of another culture is disheartening. The claims of cruelty and genocide against civilians led by the Ukrainian army are laughable as the Russian forces and mercenaries have proven to be sanguinary opponents. The Russians have mercilessly razed residential areas, tortured thousands (starting in Crimea), and joyfully continue to do both.

Unlike, say, Georgia and the Baltic states, Ukraine, as history has shown, is impossible as a nation-state, and attempts to "build" one lead inevitably to Nazism. – pro-russian RIA Novosti article

In the article, Russia is bolstered as the defender of human rights and freedom. Looking at the data, Russia has one of the poorest records in human rights and has incessantly and violently repressed all forms of freedom, lest it harms the kleptocratic tendencies of its leaders. Defenestrations of irritating reporters are an unknown event in the West, but in Russia, it has been a somewhat common curiosity during Putin’s interminable reign. Speak against the party at your own risk. What most strikes me about the extreme views of the article espoused by Russian state media is the utter nonsense of their rhetoric. By now, everyone knows that Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is Jewish, as is his prime minister. Why a Jew would embrace Nazism is a...comical mystery. And why anyone in Russia would embrace this load of lies also leaves me perplexed. Putin’s approval rating recently crossing the 80% mark is alarming. Is it only due to fear, as speaking against the Kremlin, supposedly propagating false information, will land you 15 years in prison? While it is difficult to trust these numbers and I can only hope that much fewer people are true supporters of Putin's Machiavellian methods and imperialist ambitions.

Ukrainianism is an artificial anti-russian construction, which has no civilizational content of its own and is a subordinate element of a foreign and estranged civilization. – pro-russian RIA Novosti article

Russia has emerged as a leader in online trolling, the activity of disseminating lies in order to build distrust of people in their traditional media channel. Present 100 stories of the same event, and the natural conclusion will be that we will never be able to know. Just look at the theories they had to cover up the downing of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over the Donbas region in 2014:

  • The plane was shot down by the Ukrainians (despite international investigations pointing to overwhelming proof that a Russian weapon manned by pro-Russian separatists was to blame).
  • The plane was not a passenger plane, but a Ukrainian army Antonov-26 transport plane, marking a victory for the so-called Donetsk republic, which was shortly denied after it became evident it was a commercial plane.
  • It was shot down by the Ukrainians as a failed attempt to assassinate Putin.
  • It was full of already dead bodies and shot down by the Ukrainians to then blame the Russians and instigate hate towards them. Seems rational.
  • And much more blather of this kind...

Following the downing of the plane, 111,486 tweets were sent from fake Russian accounts, likely manufactured within the Russian Internet Research Agency, a troll farm privately owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close friend of Putin. This organization is also closely linked by Western intelligence to the Russian Defence Ministry and Intelligence. While The RIA Novosti article does not present a plethora of different views on the need for the invasion of Ukraine, its claims are so outrageous that one may well question whether there are not some truths in it. Surely Western media cannot be fully honest either? The Kremlin’s maxim? Instill confusion and distrust: your enemies will destroy themselves and your populace will seek the leadership of a strong authoritarian who can reassure them.

Further Reading

The following are some reporting pieces about the Russian war I have deeply enjoyed:

Interesting Pro-Russian reading for context, to take with a whole boatload of salt as most claims are completely baseless and the views can be extreme and sometimes seductive: