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Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses humor and satire to achieve its own goals

Humor and political satire have become increasingly important in propaganda over time. They become strong, complex and multifaceted elements of the psychological impact on people. With a less serious form, jokes can effectively convey important, often controversial, and even offensive information. Often, it is with the use of elements of satire that certain information acquires the properties of a “viral” one and spreads much faster.

However, the addition of humor creates meaningful constructs that leave room for maneuver during the discussion, especially when regular language and serious arguments do not work. It sort of “turns off” critical thinking in people. In addition, the understanding and perception of jokes creates the conditions for the formation of certain social communities. And humor in this sense plays the role of a kind of marker of belonging to these groups, the recognition system “friend / foe”. Also, humor can really informationally “kill” a certain person, group of people or country. It is able to form a dismissive attitude and reduce serious things to the level of causing only laughter.

One of the first genres of political humor was caricature, which began to develop in the first half of the 18th century. In the Soviet Union, it was turned into a powerful weapon of its own propaganda even at the beginning of its existence - in the 1920s. Borys Yefimov, the Kukryniksy (Mykhailo Kupriyanov, Porfirii Krylov and Mykola Sokolov), Dmytro Moor (Orlov), Viktor Deni (Denisov) and Mykhailo Cheremnykh are considered outstanding masters of propaganda cartoons in the USSR. Their works ridiculed both the external enemies of the USSR, such as Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, Western states (USA, Great Britain, France, etc.), as well as sections of the population within the country that the Soviet regime considered hostile to itself: nobles, capitalists, kulaks, peasants ), priests, etc. The Pravda newspaper had a whole satirical magazine Krokodyl (Crocodile), which was an integral part of Russian propaganda and published most of the authors mentioned above.

With the progress of information technology, propaganda with the help of humor only intensifies and develops already in modern Putin's Russia. Perhaps the most famous propagandist from humor was the deceased Mykhailo Zadornov. Many of us remember his anti-Western narratives about supposedly “stupid Americans” that were his hallmark as a comedian. After the Revolution of Dignity in 2014 and until his death in 2017, Zadornov repeatedly used anti-Ukrainian jokes. He did not even hesitate to joke about the downing of a Malaysian Boeing by Russian terrorists in 2014 in the Donetsk region.

Another source of Russian humorous propaganda is the KVN program. The show is a powerful tool for strategic political communications through access to various distribution channels. The program is broadcast in prime time on federal and international Russian TV channels, distributed on social networks, on the website, jokes are reprinted in the press and broadcast on the radio. The founder of KVN, Oleksandr Masliakov, has close ties to the Kremlin. This is evidenced, in particular, by the state financing of the construction of the Planet KVN concert hall in Moscow, support for KVN competitions abroad, participation of top levels (including Putin and Medvediev) in filming programs. In addition, on June 1, 2016, the Gazprommedia holding launched a separate KVN television channel with an almost round-the-clock broadcast of this show. Masliakov also received the state award “For Merit to the Fatherland” of the third degree. Of course, the authors of KVN do not forget to thank their sponsors for their generosity - the show constantly shows a positive image of President Putin and his team. Such friendship with politicians allowed the owner of KVN Oleksandr Masliakov to create not only his own program, but also a large business empire to support it.

Other well-known Russian comedians also support Putin and are the mouthpieces of his propaganda. Among them are Mykhailo Halustian, Yevhenii Petrosian (Ukraine imposed personal sanctions against them), Harik Kharlamov, Yurii Stoianov, Ivan Urgant, Volodymyr Vinokur, Volodymyr Moiseienko and Volodymyr Danilets (the last two are known as the creative duet “Rabbits”).

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