Spilnota Detector Media

Disclosure How Russia uses “active measures” in its propaganda abroad

Russia uses various means to influence public opinion both in its own country and at the international level. These means include not only “positive propaganda” but also complex “information operations”. The Jamestown Foundation wrote about this in more detail.

For a long time, the main line of Russian propaganda was to propagate the idea that truth is different or even non-existent. The main methods of such operations include spreading disinformation, manipulating ideas, exacerbating existing social conflicts, and discrediting the fundamental values and institutions of democratic societies.

The combination of cynicism and ideology led to the emergence of a unique Russian phenomenon known as “ideological cynicism”, where “geopolitics” became a cult without regard to moral guidelines or principles.

In addition, Russian propaganda uses contradictions in Western countries and between governments, as well as politicians' avoidance of real problems, to cause discord and deepening social polarization.

The most effective tools in these information operations have become “ideologies for export”, the essence of which is the creation of “mini-ideologies” — individual, often self-contradictory worldviews for different social groups. However, they can be countered through exposure and refutation.

By identifying the underlying strategies that underpin Russian propaganda, the West can develop more effective methods to counter Russian information operations and reduce global support for Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Disclosure Russia uses African media for disinformation

The Kremlin promotes disinformation through the Nigerian publication THE NATION, the Senegalese SENE NEWS, and the Egyptian El Mostaqbal. This was reported by the Center for Countering Disinformation under the National Security and Defense Council.

• THE NATION, for example, published an article about the alleged sale by the Office of the President of Ukraine of land to the Soros Foundation in order to bury chemical waste.

• SENE NEWS publishes “investigative articles” about Ukraine with links to anonymous sources or fictitious journalists.

• El Mostaqbal quotes Russian officials accusing Ukraine and spreading narratives about “biological laboratories” or that “Ukraine is a US puppet”, for example.

Considering that the fakes on the analyzed resources have not received significant publicity among the international community, unlike the Russian information space, we can conclude that Russian propaganda uses these media to increase the confidence of the Russian domestic population in false information. Like, “even foreign media are writing about this!”.

You can read more about how Russia promotes its narratives through African media in a joint study by the Center for Countering Disinformation and the Molfar OSINT agency.

Fake A historical film about how Ukrainians dug up the Black Sea will be shot in Ukraine

Propagandists spreading pro-Russian rhetoric on social networks claim that Ukraine is preparing a film “The History of the Black Sea”. They say that this film will show the Ukrainian myth that the Black Sea was dug by the ancient Ukrainians, who, according to assumptions, inhabited the territory of Ukraine. However, this is fake.

Analysts from the StopFake project drew attention to it. They found out that Ukrainian scientists had never put forward such a theory. Moreover, already 9 years ago they refuted a fake paragraph from a Ukrainian textbook, according to which the ancestors of Ukrainians allegedly dug up the Black Sea. Then the project specialists noted that the textbook and its author, to whom the propagandists referred, did not exist. Russian propaganda is trying to spread new narratives on this topic, using fake images and information, including fictitious data about the film's budget and ratings.

By spreading such fakes, propagandists want to create a false image of Ukrainians as a nation that does not have its own history, but invents it. They say that this is why such projects as a film about the dredged up Black Sea are being made, supposedly financed at public expense. Detector Media has already explained how else Russian propaganda instrumentalizes Ukrainian history for its own purposes.

Message A power struggle is allegedly unfolding in Ukraine

Russian Foreign Ministry representative Mariia Zakharova is promoting the narrative that turbulence in Ukraine is growing, and that election campaigns are even starting to gain power in the country. Officials and those in power allegedly do not take into account ordinary Ukrainians, many of whom are on the brink of survival, and think only about their own benefit.

This message was recorded by the Center for Countering Disinformation. Such statements from a representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry are nothing more than an attempt to root the opinion in Ukrainian society about internal conflicts among the top leadership of Ukraine. On the other hand, propaganda resources continue to discredit the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi and refer to the statement about the inappropriateness of elections in Ukraine under martial law. Finally, the enemy aims to sow fear, uncertainty and doubt among the Ukrainian society regarding the possible course of action in the country, using one of the propaganda tactics.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses anti-colonialism to achieve its goals

Anti-colonialism is a term used to describe various resistance movements against colonialism and imperialism. This is opposition to the policy of conquest of one country by another, its territory and peoples, political, economic and cultural enslavement. To become the leader of the Global South and anti-colonialism, Russia discredits Ukraine, although it itself is essentially the first among isolated dictatorships.

Russia instrumentalizes positive memories of the Soviet Union and its support for African wars of independence against Western colonialists. It uses positive memories of the past to enhance its influence now. On December 2, 2022, on the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, the official Twitter account of the Russian Embassy in South Africa stated the following text: “Russia was one of the few world states that did not have colonies in Africa or other places and did not participate in the slave trade throughout its entire history. Russia did its best to help the peoples of the African continent gain freedom and sovereignty”. However, they are silent about information about the conquest of the peoples of Asia and Eastern Europe, because this contradicts the agenda of Russia, which positions itself as a fight against colonialism. Not to mention the war of aggression in Ukraine. Moreover, Russian propaganda does not mention the significant presence of Wagner group on the African continent, representing the interests of Russia and defending the Kremlin’s plans.

After Germany announced its readiness to transfer Leopard tanks to Ukraine, Putin said that Russia was forced to “repel the aggression of the collective West”. This term appeared in Putin’s rhetoric in 2021, but in the public space back in the early 2000s. By contrasting itself with the event, Russian propaganda puts pressure on the painful past of African countries that were at one time enslaved by European empires. Russian propaganda was able to present Russia’s war in Ukraine not as an aggressive one, but as a defensive one, in response to Western aggression. Allegedly, the Russian people have a special task to save the Ukrainians, because they oppose them and are waging an anti-imperial struggle against “Western oppression” - the same as the countries of Africa are waging.

At the end of January 2023, Russian Foreign Minister Serhii Lavrov arrived in Angola on a working visit. Then he made a statement to the media in which he compared the war in Ukraine with the war in Angola. During a meeting with Angolan Foreign Minister Tete  Antonio, Lavrov emphasized that “Russian-speaking Ukrainians” need Moscow’s protection, because Kyiv is biased against them.

On August 3, 2023, the speaker of the Russian State Duma, Viacheslav Volodin, wrote in his Telegram channel that “the USA, Great Britain and France must compensate African states for the damage caused” and this issue should be considered by the UN. He also accuses the United States and a number of Western countries of the fact that “colonial interests have not disappeared anywhere. Only the methods change”. Russian propaganda uses reflection tactics to make the same accusations against the West that they make against Russia itself, and to divert attention from the subject matter, which is the war in Ukraine and Russia's occupation of Ukrainian territories and enslavement of the Ukrainian people.

It is worth mentioning the grain. Russia not only allegedly “protects” Ukraine, but also devalues it as a partner. For African republics, Russian propaganda spreads narratives that Ukrainian grain, which is supposed to save them from famine, does not reach countries in need, but ends up in Europe as animal feed. Such statements were promoted, in particular, during the Second Russia-Africa Summit, held on July 27-28 in St. Petersburg. Thus, Russian propaganda discredits Ukraine and the Black Sea Grain Agreement and seeks to worsen its relations with Africa.

Russia plays the role of the poor heir to the former USSR empire. It has never recognized that the territories it has captured are colonies, and always justifies its actions by “voluntary annexation”, for example in the case of the Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk and Kherson regions temporarily occupied by Russia, or by the spread of the so-called “progressive Russian culture”, the fight against Nazism, etc. However, no matter what words Russian propaganda chooses, in fact, Moscow’s policy is the genocide of Ukrainians, the destruction of Ukrainian culture and the seizure of territories.

Russia now acts as a champion of justice and defender of enslaved peoples and victims of colonialism due to the fact that it is still not perceived as a colonial empire, and falsely pretends to be a friend of the African continent. Russian propaganda spreads anti-colonial messages that are pleasant to hear for African leaders and residents, and therefore gain adherence and can manipulate their opinions.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses economic problems to achieve its goals

Russian propagandists use the themes of economic problems in the world, increasing tariffs in Ukraine and energy costs to intimidate Ukrainians and force them to end the war in any way (on Russia’s terms, abandoning territories seized by Russian occupiers) and to increase the spirit of the pro-Russian audience.

Last year, propaganda cables spread the message that the world economy would collapse unless sanctions against Russia and Russian businessmen were lifted and conceded on the front. Russian propaganda uses intimidation tactics to cause fear in people and get what they want: sanctions were lifted from Russia, and Ukraine recognized the occupied east and part of the south as Russian territories. It seems that this will help maintain the economy and prices. However, the whole world and Ukraine adapted to the new conditions, of course, not without increasing tariffs, but the economy turned out to be more flexible than the Russians expected. However, Russia itself has learned to circumvent sanctions.

Russian propaganda spread messages to Russians and residents of temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories about improving life in contrast to the “decadent” and supposedly impoverished Ukraine. Allegedly, with Russia, utilities become cheaper, Ukrainian companies that took out loans during the occupation may not repay them, and people who need medical care in Nova Kakhovka travel for free to a safe place for treatment. Here propagandists use love bombing tactics. Russian propaganda is trying to convince people that they need to support Russia, because it cares about them. Propagandists also use the tactic of repeated repetition - they repeat the narrative many times about the “piece of paradise” that populated areas supposedly become after the arrival of the Russians. They just keep silent about the fact that they are destroying Ukrainian cities and killing Ukrainians. About those territories that the Russians failed to occupy, propaganda deliberately spreads narratives about crisis, decline, and describes the worst-case scenario, causing fear among people. “Financial problems in Ukraine indicate that in the fall the economy will go into a steep decline and default”, they wrote in one of the telegram channels.

Russian propaganda also tried to show that the sanctions imposed on Russia for allowing a full-scale war in Ukraine are disadvantageous for the whole world, because protests are taking place in different countries, especially in the countries of the European Union. Propagandists spread many versions that “soon gas will be at $4,000 and oil at $200”, “in the coming days the price of gas in Europe will be very interesting” and disseminated information about what saving measures can be taken in connection with the rise in prices of energy carriers. Moreover, sometimes Russians even equated economic means of pressure on them with the destruction of the Russian people. Thus, Russian propaganda tried to manipulate and make the audience feel guilty, to intimidate readers, to impose the opinion that Russia influenced the world agenda and without cooperation with it, Europe and the whole world simply cannot exist.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses the Hasidic pilgrimage theme to achieve its goals

Every year, thousands of Jewish Hasidic pilgrims come to the city of Uman, Cherkasy region, to celebrate the Jewish new year Rosh Hashanah at the grave of Rabbi Nachman, the founder of Bratslav Hasidism, who died in 1810. Ukraine was expecting 50,000 Israeli believers this year, despite the Israeli Prime Minister urging them to postpone the trip. The reason for this clause was Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Russian propagandists use the Hasidic pilgrimage theme to portray Ukrainians as anti-Semitic, intimidate pilgrims, and worsen relations between Ukraine and Israel.

Last year, Russian propaganda stated that it could not ensure the safe stay of Hasidic Jewish pilgrims in Uman. That same year, Russian propagandists came up with a new message: Ukraine would deliberately attack pilgrims in Uman in order to obtain military assistance from Israel, including air defense systems. On April 28, 2023, Russia fired rockets at a 9-story building in the city of Uman, killing 23 people. Thus, Russian propagandists are trying to make a scapegoat out of Ukraine, absolving themselves of responsibility for the crimes of the Russians. Ukraine does not resort to terrorist methods to obtain weapons from Western partners, but acts exclusively along the diplomatic path.

The Russian Ministry of Defense disseminated information that Ukraine allegedly uses synagogues for military purposes. It is not true. This statement was commented on by the head of the Rabbi Nachman International Charitable Foundation, Nathan Ben Nun, and the head of the Jewish rescue organization Hatzalah Ukraine, Rabbi Hillel Cohen, who noted that “all shrines and religious objects of the Hasidic society are used exclusively for their intended purpose, namely for carrying out religious rituals and helping people”. Thus, Russian propaganda is trying to discredit the Defense Forces by disseminating information that Ukrainian military personnel are based in religious buildings, and to legitimize attacks on civilian infrastructure, residential buildings, and cultural monuments.

In Moldovan anonymous telegram channels broadcasting pro-Kremlin rhetoric, a message appeared that supposedly all conveniences were being created for Hasidim, while other citizens were not allowed to visit the airport. “Smacks of discrimination, doesn’t it?” – they wrote in one of the telegram channels. In fact, in order to eliminate all risks, access to the airport is currently limited to airport employees and passengers with airline tickets. Thus, Russian propaganda is trying to cause a negative attitude towards believers and stir up anti-Semitic sentiments, and discourage Hasidim from ever coming to Ukraine again.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses the “40 to 60” method to achieve its own goals

“40 to 60” or “60 to 40” is a propaganda method in which 60% of the information is true, and 40% is manipulative. Propagandists create media that work on this principle and position themselves as an objective, independent or alternative source of information. By spreading true news, propaganda media ingratiates themselves with the reader, which encourages him or her to turn off critical thinking and swallow the other 40% of misinformation. It is often presented as something that the authorities are hiding from society and conspiracy theories. The proportion of truth and misinformation can vary in one direction or another depending on the media.

During World War II, this method was used by Joseph Goebbels, who headed the Ministry of Propaganda and Public Education of the Third Reich. On his instructions, an “anti-Nazi” English-language radio station was created, the announcer of which was William Joyce (a British man who supported Nazism and fled to Germany with his wife). At the time, radio was vital to the British public and the BBC was heavily censored, so English-language radio was seen as an alternative. William Joyce began broadcasts with the phrase “Germany is calling, Germany is calling”, read out genuine news from newspapers purchased in neutral countries (60%), and disseminated information about the dizzying successes and victories of Germany (40%). He reported that Germany wanted peace and was not going to bomb women and children in Great Britain, but the British left no choice and forced the Reich to violence. He also ridiculed Winston Churchill and tried to convince the British public that only the destruction of the British Prime Minister would save them from violence and give them a chance to reach an agreement.

This method is used by media that position themselves as independent, but from time to time they disseminate Russian propaganda. Meduza, which positions itself as an independent and reliable international Russian-language publication registered in Latvia, does not support Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and provides truthful news. However, in July 2022, analysts at the Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy conducted a study of Meduza media publications for the presence of pro-Russian narratives, and they were found in 47 publications (more than 55%). The online publication disseminated messages that “Ukraine has betrayed the residents of Donbas”, “The Ukrainian army is shelling civilian targets in the occupied parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions”, “The drama theater in Mariupol was blown up from the inside”, and also repeated statements by the Russian authorities about a “preemptive strike on NATO”  and the narrative “not only Putin, but also Western politicians are to blame for the war”. Such statements were balanced with actual true news. So, consciously or unwillingly, journalists from the Latvian media help Russia justify its crimes. Consumers of the content that Meduza creates may have the feeling that “everything is not so simple” and they will not try to find a truthful version of reality.

Just like the media, some opposition Russian bloggers and politicians, whose content is consumed by Ukrainians, also pose a danger. Maksym Kats, a politician and blogger who left Russia after the start of the full-scale invasion and posts supposedly counter-propaganda videos on YouTube every day, expressed the opinion that “the Russian opposition does not owe anything to anyone, especially the Ukrainians” or “we need to share blame and responsibility. The one who shot and who gave the orders is to blame. The one who did not overthrow Putin is not to blame”. His colleague, politician and blogger Illia Varlamov, who is also watched by Ukrainians, denied Russia’s 2014 invasion of the Luhansk region and Donbas, traveled to occupied Crimea and filmed videos from the annexed peninsula, and made a film against Ukraine, where he distorted historical facts.

Bloggers in opposition to the Putin regime appeal to emotions and create the false impression that they were persecuted by the regime, they are for justice, against war and support Ukraine. For external audiences and some Ukrainians, they look like victims of global injustice, but they continue to broadcast, in measured doses, like supposedly independent media, consciously or unconsciously Russian narratives that can be picked up by content consumers.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses clichés with no gist to achieve its goals

Clichés without gist are short, commonly used phrases that are supposed to alleviate cognitive dissonance and break critical thinking. It is used to stop arguments, discussions, to move away from difficult issues, or to turn attention to other things.

American psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton coined this term in his book Brainwashing Technology: The Psychology of Totalitarianism to describe the language used by the Chinese Communist Party as “the beginning and end of any ideological analysis”. The Chinese government used clichés without gist to prevent people from questioning the party's actions and prevent dissent or rebellion.Lifton explained that by using these phrases, interlocutors “disrupt the conversation and prevent people from thinking deeper about important issues”.

This method of propaganda was used in both the Soviet Union (which inspired George Orwell to write 1984) and modern Russia to impose conformity on people, to compress the most complex and serious problems into short, simplified and clear phrases with which to end an unpleasant conversation. During a full-scale invasion, the use of clichés is actively used by Russians who support Putin and the war against Ukraine and by Ukrainians who are influenced by Russian propaganda.


- “We will never know the whole truth”, “everything is not so simple” - clichés used as an answer to any real fact. An example of practical application can be seen during large-scale Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities, when Russian propaganda creates opposing versions of the incident (for example, a missile attack on Chernihiv), causing cognitive dissonance. A person under the influence of propaganda and in order to avoid cognitive dissonance will not try to find a truthful version of reality.

— “Life will put everything in its place” — a response to evidence of crimes committed by Russians in Ukraine. This cliché negates any possibility of discussion, because a person does not perceive facts and arguments, and does not want to think about the problems being discussed.

- “Where have you been for eight years?”, “Kyiv regime”, “Ukrainians are Nazis” - these clichés are used to redirect attention to an inconvenient issue, that is, “turning the tables” on the fictional shortcomings of opponents.

- “This won’t change anything”, “I’m out of politics” - is used to reject a person’s participation in some matter, as if the person is insignificant and nothing depends on his or her actions. With this phrase, Russians answered the question why they did not go out to rallies after the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

— “Politicians want to quarrel us” is the answer of people who are trying to dissociate themselves, to remove collective responsibility for the actions of Russians or for missile strikes, shelling of infrastructure and the death of Ukrainians as a result of their actions.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses euphoria to achieve its goals

Euphoria is a psychological state in which a person experiences elation, happiness and joy that are not justified by objective conditions. It can occur during listening to music, dancing and synchronized activities, including religious rituals, parades, and public celebrations. Russian propaganda uses states of intense emotion, including feelings of intense happiness and well-being, to manipulate public opinion and promote a particular agenda or ideology. The goal of the tactic is to create a positive emotional association with a certain phenomenon or political leader, often to sway public opinion in favor of a particular point of view. Russian propaganda uses this tactic to raise morale and greater unity of certain social groups by holding mass events, spreading fake news about the unprecedented successes of the Russian army at the front, the mass deaths of Ukrainian military personnel or the destruction of equipment.

Every year on May 9, Russia celebrates Victory Day on a grand scale - loud parades are held with the participation of military equipment, concerts with military songs, flash mobs and events like the “Immortal Regiment”, where participants walk in columns holding photographs of their relatives who participated in World War II. At the same time, Russia calls this war the “Great Patriotic War”, blurring reality and leveling the role of Ukraine and other countries in the fight against Nazism. All these measures are aimed at inducing euphoria and a sense of greatness among Russians - they say those are they who defeated Nazism, flew into space, had super-powerful nuclear potential, etc.

Russia also pompously celebrates Defender of the Fatherland Day on February 23, a legacy of the Soviet past. This day is a day off; there are solemn ceremonies near the Kremlin, parades, mass celebrations, laying flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, concerts and spectacular fireworks. All this is intended to cause euphoria in people and fuel patriotism, as well as unite them into a strong social group, which thus heroizes the Russian military and encourages them to defend Russia from imaginary enemies. On February 24, 2022, Russia began a full-scale war in Ukraine. This happened the day after Defender of the Fatherland Day. As propagandists systematically spread fakes and manipulations promoting the narrative of the dangerous “Kyiv regime”, this prompted Russians, on a wave of euphoria, to take up arms with great enthusiasm and fight against the far-fetched Nazism on the territory of a foreign state.

In 2023, in the occupied cities of Luhansk and Donetsk regions, Russians also celebrated Defender of the Fatherland Day. “In the Novoaidar district, after 8 years, schools again held lessons dedicated to Defender of the Fatherland Day”, wrote in the pro-Kremlin media. Let us remind you that Russian troops occupied Novoaidar in early March 2022. In the temporarily occupied territories, Russian propaganda is trying to bring back the holidays that Ukraine canceled in order to give people a feeling of euphoria and create the illusion of joy and a happy life. They say that Russia will return both the holiday and pleasant emotions to the residents of Luhansk and Donbas.

In this context, it is worth mentioning the concerts in the Russian “Luzhnyky” on the occasion of the annexation of Crimea, which the Russians call “annexation” and “return to their native harbor”. Since 2015, March 18 is a day off in Crimea, and flash mobs and public events are held in a number of Russian cities. In particular, a large concert-meeting is being held in Moscow, at which Volodymyr Putin gives a speech and to which Russian show business stars are attracted. In 2022, the concert was called “For a world without Nazism”; its characteristic feature was the justification of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, patriotism, love for Russia and support for the Russian military. Celebrations are held every year to consolidate the positive impressions of the holiday and to ensure that the public does not cool down and systematically feels the euphoria of capturing new territories.

Euphoria paralyzes the ability to think critically, so when this state begins to pass, Russian propaganda tries to feed it with fake news about an inevitable victory over Ukraine and all Western countries or to hold another concert and mass event. Thus, Russian propagandists used the “euphoria” technique, spreading fake news that the United States welcomed Russian troops with the conquest of Bakhmut, the head of the Main Intelligence Directorate Kyryl Budanov and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhnyi allegedly “died” - they say, the “special services” work so skillfully. This tactic is not only designed to instill joy and a sense of expected victory among the Russians and boost morale, but also to demoralize the Ukrainians.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses environmental control to achieve its goals

Environmental control (Milieu control) is a tactic that involves the influence of a social group on a person so that, as a result of social pressure, he or she changes their beliefs, values and begins to act, think or behave in a certain way. The term was popularized by American psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton. He noted that various tools, in particular specialized language and slang, can be used to isolate members from the rest of society and deepen connections with a group of people.

Russian propagandists widely use environmental control tactics in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. The occupiers are trying to isolate local residents of the occupied regions by limiting access to the Internet, Ukrainian media and television, mobile communications, and in some cases, even turning off Russian communications and the Internet. Almost the only source of information remains Russian television, which broadcasts Kremlin narratives around the clock, and the group of people who find themselves in the occupied city also do not have access to information externally.

For example, after the liberation of Kupiansk by Ukrainian troops, a group of people from other temporarily occupied cities picked up Russian disinformation that the Ukrainian Armed Forces allegedly drove over Russian teachers in tanks, whom the occupiers brought from Russia to brainwash Ukrainian children. Such messages were distributed in local telegram channels, rumors were transmitted orally and repeated many times. And since the search for alternative sources of information in the temporarily occupied territories is impossible or requires significant effort, people were subjected to social pressure (after all, this is what the social group thinks, and the information was repeated by several sources, which created the effect of objectivity) and began to believe in fakes. Therefore, some people might have fear that when the Ukrainian army comes to de-occupy their city, it will commit the same crimes.

As for the use of a common language that helps identify members of a social group, Russian propaganda uses newspeak - inventing new words and phrases, redefining existing terms. The Russians launch missile attacks on civilian infrastructure, residential buildings, hospitals, schools and kindergartens, but broadcast that they are targeting “decision-making centers” - supposedly the location of the Ukrainian military. Hiding behind this term, Russia is trying to normalize the shelling of Ukrainian territory (even if these are military targets) and hide the murder of Ukrainian civilians. By picking up the newspeak, residents of the temporarily occupied territories not only identify their own kind, but are also influenced by Russian narratives. They begin to think that Russia is only hitting the “decision-making center” and is not doing anything wrong. The use of a newspeak unites these people into a certain social group, which then puts pressure, in conditions of information isolation, on Ukrainians who have the opposite opinion.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses opposite versions to achieve its goals

Russian propaganda uses the tactics of opposite versions - it presents mutually exclusive explanations for a certain event or phenomenon. The use of this tactic causes cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is an internal conflict that arises as a result of a collision in the human mind of incompatible judgments, ideas, beliefs that negate each other. Russian propaganda deliberately spreads versions that deny each other in order to make people feel confused, insecure and impose the impression that “not everything is so simple”, but “we will never know the whole truth”. A person in whose mind a cognitive dissonance has arisen is unlikely to try to find a true version of reality. This is what Russian propaganda is counting on.

After the Russian military blew up the Kakhovka HPP on June 6, 2023, propagandists promoted conflicting messages: that the dam collapsed on its own due to improper maintenance; the dam crumbled as a result of shelling by the Ukrainian military; only the upper part of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station was destroyed, and the dam was not damaged: the “Kyiv regime” committed “undermining the structures of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station”.

Messages with mutually exclusive versions appeared about the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhnyi. In May and June 2023, Russian propaganda wrote that Zaluzhnyi allegedly “died”; he was allegedly removed from the public space because he “did not deserve Zelenskyi's trust”; he was seriously injured and underwent surgery; he actually went abroad.

Russian propaganda spread similar versions about the head of the Main Intelligence Directorate, Kyryl Budanov: he allegedly “died” from a missile strike; is in a Berlin hospital after a Russian missile “hit” the office next to his; after a Russian missile attack, he is in a coma, although this is “hidden”.

Russian propaganda provides information in a way that confuses the person and creates contradictions that will create anxiety, guilt, and pressure that they want to get rid of. Since propagandists spread many versions of the same event, it is difficult for a person to determine which one is true.

When previous representations do not agree with new information, it causes discomfort. There are several ways to overcome discomfort and get rid of cognitive dissonance: change one’s own beliefs and correct behavior; justify one's own beliefs by discounting the phenomenon that causes cognitive dissonance, or by avoiding information that may cause it.

Russians try to get rid of cognitive dissonance through the slightest resistance - not to change their minds, but to justify their beliefs so that they seem logical. To do this, they search the Russian media and social networks among friends with similar views for information, for example, that Nazism reigns in Ukraine. Using cognitive dissonance, propagandists try to arouse doubts and paranoia in people, so that they can later use this state of confusion to their advantage - to encourage them to be inactive or, on the contrary, to take specific actions that are beneficial to Russian propaganda, for example, to mobilize into the Russian army and commit genocide against the Ukrainian people.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses ignoring the topic to achieve its goals

This tactic is to ignore the topic of discussion when it changes to the opposite. Ignoring the topic is used by Russian propagandists. After an event occurs that is unfavorable to Russian propaganda, official sources keep silent about it or selectively cover certain aspects. This tactic is used to reduce or minimize the negative aspects of a situation, divert attention from important issues, and create a false narrative. Propagandists hide information, sharing only news that supports their false thesis, while ignoring or blocking the content that hangs them. This contributes to the echo chamber effect.

Even under the Soviet Union, Russian propaganda used the tactic of ignoring the topic. For most Russians, the Second World War is called the “Great Patriotic War” and it allegedly began on June 22, 1941 with the attack of Nazi Germany troops on Poland. However, the fact is hushed up that the Nazi troops invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, and the Soviet Union itself occupied Poland on September 17, 1939. Prior to this, Nazi Germany occupied the territories of the Czech Republic and Austria, and the Soviet Union did not call it an aggressor.

During the Soviet period, ignoring the topic was actively used by the then press. The Chornobyl tragedy, which occurred as a result of the explosion at the fourth power unit of the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant on April 26, 1986, was kept silent by the Soviet media for several days. Only on April 28 at 21:00 did the Vriemia (Time) television program very succinctly report on the accident, which was supposed to create the illusion of safety for people, and events for the May 1 holiday were also not canceled. They tried to hush up the greatest man-made disaster in the history of mankind: the real diagnoses of people who received radiation damage were hidden. However, due to the scale of the disaster, which affected a number of European countries and foreign media, it could not be ignored. Soviet traditions and ignoring the topic were inherited by modern Russia, which on February 24, 2022 started a war against Ukraine. In May 2023, Russian propagandists disseminated information about the serious injury of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhnyi, due to which he would no longer be able to perform his duties. Murdered versions even appeared on anonymous telegram channels and in media broadcasting pro-Kremlin rhetoric. However, already on May 25, Colonel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, blogger and journalist Anatolii Stefan “Stirlitz” published a video with Valerii Zaluzhnyi, and from that moment all the pro-Kremlin media and telegram channels took it in their mouths: no one denied the information about the death of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, but the fact of his public appearance was ignored.

Another topic Russian propaganda ignores is strikes on Russian cities. On July 30, 2023, there was a drone attack on Moscow, which resulted in the destruction of the facades of two Moscow City towers, where Russian ministries are located - the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, and the Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications. In connection with this event, the air zone over Moscow was closed for flights. However, Russian federal television channels ignored this incident and focused on covering the Navy parade in St. Petersburg and a conversation with Putin’s journalists following the Russia-Africa summit.

Intentionally or unintentionally, by ignoring important information, Russian propaganda prevents the spread of unwanted news among the population. By taking technical measures, Russian propagandists manage to prevent their popularization and prevent the emergence of an undesirable negative reaction among citizens.

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”).

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses anonymous telegram channels to achieve its own goals

Telegram is a Russian multi-platform messenger that also provides optional end-to-end encrypted chats (better known as “secret chats”) and video calls, VoIP, file sharing, and some others. Its author is the co-founder of the social network Vkontakte, Russian IT specialist and businessman Pavel Durov. The service is based on the MTProto correspondence encryption technology developed by his brother Mykola. Telegram shows stable growth in the number of users around the world. On June 20, 2022 the company announced the achievement of a figure in 700 million users.

Anonymous telegram channels first appeared in Russia in the second half of 2016. Their appearance and growth was facilitated, in fact, by the complete destruction of independent media in the country and censorship by the Putin regime. At the beginning of its existence, anonymous telegrams were used more in Russian domestic political conflicts than for pro-government propaganda. Due to the monopolization of power in the Russian Federation by the United Russia party, representatives of the Russian establishment have very limited opportunities for mutual public criticism. In mid-2018, anonymous telegrams began to rapidly gain popularity in Russia and were used for Kremlin propaganda. Initially, subscribers were cheated at the expense of false users - “bots”.

At the end of 2018 - beginning of 2019, new and a sharp increase in existing anonymous telegram channels aimed at Ukrainian readers took place. These channels, both engaged in covert Russian propaganda, masquerading as pro-Ukrainian ones, were also used in the internal political struggle among Ukrainian politicians. At the beginning of 2021, the SBU exposed a network of Russian intelligence agencies spreading enemy propaganda through a number of telegram channels. These were both pseudo-pro-Ukrainian channels engaged in covert propaganda, as well as openly pro-Russian ones, oriented mainly to the south and east of Ukraine. Among the “pseudo-pro-Ukrainian” channels, such large and well-known ones as Lehitymnyi (Legitimacy), Resident, Cartel, Splietnitsa (Gossip Girl), etc. should be singled out. Russian propaganda channels for certain regions of Ukraine are represented by such ones as Odessa fraer, Trempel Kharkov, Dnepr live, Atypical Zaporozhie and others. The Russians expected to seize more territories than they managed, so they created separate channels for the largest cities of Ukraine, which were supposed to operate under the conditions of occupation and justify it. When the occupation did not take place, these Telegram channels did not close, but are still active, spreading manipulations, fakes and disinformation to undermine the credibility of the central and local authorities. Also, Russian propaganda in early 2022 created a new network of telegram channels intended for the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.

Pseudo-pro-Ukrainian channels present information, at first glance, supposedly in the interests of Ukraine. They can call Ukrainians “ours”, and Russia an enemy, and even harshly criticize its government. But the Ukrainian authorities are always positioned as inefficient, corrupt and dependent on the West, or even worse than Russian ones. Anti-Western narratives are also promoted to discredit our allies in the eyes of Ukrainians. Anonymous telegram channels are distinguished by “convincing” storytelling and original text style, emphasizing that information from the highest echelons of power is “closed” to the average reader, which everyone probably wants to own; that only they, an anonymous telegram channel, tell the people the truth, while traditional media lie. If you see the words “source” and “insider” in an anonymous telegram channel, it is most likely disinformation.

Some Ukrainians still trust these telegram channels, despite all the efforts of organizations and media that counteract disinformation, and there are several reasons for this. First, the global trend of declining trust in traditional media and centralized formats for presenting information. Trust in bloggers, opinion leaders (so-called LSD) and anonymous information channels is growing. Secondly, before the war, most of the Ukrainian media belonged to the oligarchs and broadcast messages that were beneficial for them. Thirdly, it is the low level of media literacy and critical thinking of some journalists and editors. Links to anonymous telegram channels legitimize the disinformation posted there and make fact-checking more difficult. These channels may also contain misinformation (false information without the intent to harm), however, it can also have dangerous consequences: for example, causing panic in society.

Tactics and tools How conspiracy theorists explain events in Ukraine and the world: the theory of “cultural Marxism”

Propagandists are constantly trying to justify Russia's actions in various ways, using and fueling the theories and concepts created by right-wing radical movements.

We have already written about the “world Jewish conspiracy” theory and other anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. The theory of “cultural Marxism” is no exception, as it depicts Marxism and its “creators” as the main threat to the world. In particular, its fans believe that in the twentieth century, a number of Jewish intellectuals allegedly conspired to destroy “Western culture and traditions”. Like, LGBTQI +, feminism, multiculturalism and other progressive phenomena are really promoted as part of the process of “destruction” and are artificially planted all over the world.

This theory is an example of how conspiracy theories can harm society and cause tragedies. She inspired the Oslo attacks in 2011, when Anders Breivik planted explosives in the government quarter of the capital and shot young people who participated in a youth camp on the island of Utoya. To explain his own intentions before committing the attacks, Breivik published his manifesto for the “liberation of Europe”, in particular, from “cultural Marxism”, where he quoted books from the 1990s that spread the theory. Breivik's attacks were tried to be repeated in a number of countries around the world, in particular in Poland and the Czech Republic, and the terrorist who fired at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, called himself a follower of Breivik’s ideas. Now, however, right-wing radical figures in the US and Europe are constantly using the “bulk of cultural Marxism” in their public speeches.

Mentions of the theory can also be found in Russian anonymous telegram channels, especially among “military correspondents”. They justify Russia's aggression against Ukraine by fighting Western values, generalizing them with the term of cultural Marxism. Like, in Ukraine they are deliberately instilling a policy of multiculturalism and tolerance, which contradicts “traditional values”. Russian propaganda does not hesitate to use the statements of right-wing radical figures on this topic, fueling anti-Ukrainian rhetoric. Despite the fact that it positions itself as the legal successor of the USSR and announces a course towards “denazification”, in this way Russia is simultaneously struggling with leftist ideology and “manifestations of Marxism”. By resorting to spreading the ideas of this theory, Russia once again confirms its imperial ambitions and neglect of the Ukrainian people.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses the “foot in the door” tactic

“Foot in the door” is a psychological technique that shows the pattern between a person first fulfilling a minor request, and then being forced to fulfill other, more burdensome requests. The use of this phenomenon for practical purposes is often called the “foot in the door” method, another name for it is the method of gradual amplification of requests.

The foot in the door technique shows a tendency where a person first agrees to give someone a small favor or help, but one step leads to the next, and they become involved in a case that is sometimes completely unnecessary to him. Sometimes such a “mini-service” requires much more time, energy, effort from a person and may even contradict their convictions (conscience, common sense, saving money). An interesting fact here is that a person would probably never agree to burdensome or contradictory requests if they had not fulfilled the first, seemingly completely insignificant. This phenomenon is used in marketing, trade, the service sector, management, internal political struggles, as well as in propaganda.

The psychological technique “foot in the door” requires compliance with the following rules:

• start with appeals, requests that, at first glance, do not oblige to anything, are not burdensome for the person involved in the interaction;

• create a favorable emotional background for people's interaction. Communication (even a single one) should evoke emotions in a person, form a tendency to repeat contact. The person involved must feel the participation on the part of the other person, the satisfaction from his or her insignificant act or the solemnity of the moment;

• it is important that the person involved in the interaction does not have the feeling that he or she is being pressured or forced to do something. In this case, the effect will be minimal, because a person is not inclined to consider actions performed under pressure as a manifestation of his or her own convictions.

The Russian state propaganda machine uses this tactic against large masses of people. As an example, we can mention the increase in the level of Russia's territorial claims to Ukraine since 2014. If at first the Russians allegedly demanded only the recognition of the illegally occupied Crimea, then further propaganda began a discourse on the recognition of the so-called DNR and LNR as independent republics (at first within the actual demarcation line of 2015, and then within the full borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions). In 2022, the demands of the Russians have become tougher: we are talking about the alleged full-fledged inclusion of Crimea, Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions into Russia, even though Russia has never controlled parts of the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions.

The Russians are also trading in the case of a possible extension of the grain deal. Their primary requirement was the launch and stable operation of the Togliatti-Odesa ammonia pipeline passing through the territory of Ukraine. After it was damaged in the fighting, the requirement lost its meaning. So the Russian authorities and propaganda started talking about another demand, this time to Western countries: the connection to the SWIFT global payment system of Rossilhosbank, a financial institution through which international trade in Russian grain takes place.

In addition, the aggressor state uses this tactic in sports. Since at international tournaments in most sports the Russians are suspended due to the war unleashed by their government, they are trying to remove the suspension with the help of gradual concessions: first, they are speaking in a neutral status without a flag and an anthem with an obligation to sign a declaration condemning the war, and then the Russian propaganda machine begins to gradually oppose these restrictions, up to the complete restoration of the rights of athletes, noting that allegedly “sport is out of politics” and complaining about the worldwide “russophobia”.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses corruption in Ukraine to achieve its goals

Russian propagandists constantly and systematically use the topic of corruption in Ukraine. News about the “most corrupt state of Ukraine”, which will destroy itself, was in the Russian media ten, five or two years ago. That is, the topic of corruption in Ukraine is one of the most common narratives of Russian propaganda. Russia uses corruption scandals in Ukraine to discredit it. In particular, Russian propaganda assures that corruption is the ideology of the Ukrainian people. It seems that corruption permeates Ukrainian society: from education, medicine, services, sports to the level of law enforcement officers, courts, municipal and central authorities.

Russian propagandists argue that if Ukraine still somehow struggled with corruption, into which it slipped after the collapse of the Soviet Union, at the beginning of the 2000s, then after the Euromaidan it is gone. According to propaganda, after 2014 Ukraine has slid to the level of Latin American states that are under the destructive influence of kleptocracy. After 2014, a number of anti-corruption agencies appeared in Ukraine, and propaganda sources were skeptical about this trend and decided that Ukrainians were monkeying with the American model, even a foreigner was appointed deputy head of NABU. Propagandists often cited then U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, who suggested that corruption is sometimes worse than Russian tanks. They also speculated on the words of the then Vice President Joe Biden, who called corruption in Ukraine a cancer. It seems that corruption sits too deep in the liver of the West. It seems like a few more things will happen and it will stop supporting Ukraine.

The constant focus on the corruption of the authorities causes society, on the one hand, to distrust the leadership of the state and state institutions, and on the other hand, to the effectiveness of the fight against corruption on the way to membership in the EU and NATO. Russian propaganda here works at the same time for the domestic consumer: it demonstrates the absurdity of Ukraine, which the West is about to “throw”. Like, one sees what the game of democracy and European integration leads to. Russian propaganda also promotes messages to the Ukrainian audience, trying to affirm the opinion that the system of power in Ukraine is so rotten that nothing can change it; the state has no future, let alone the prospects for membership in the EU or NATO.

Russian propaganda systematically speculates on anti-corruption investigations by Ukrainian journalists and public figures into alleged corruption in the Ministry of Defense. The most famous case was the possible overpricing of food purchases, including chicken eggs. Recently, propagandists have been hyping the topic of non-critical spending of the state and local budgets during the war. They are trying to add a corruption component to these costs, even where it does not exist.

However, when writing about corruption in Ukraine and the fact that our state seems to have no chance for the future because of this, Russian propaganda avoids mentioning corruption in Russia. For example, from January to July 2021, 24.5 thousand cases of corruption were recorded in Russia. In 2017, the head of the Russian Accounts Chamber, Oleksii Kudrin, said that the department had identified a violation of 1.865 trillion rubles. That is, there is also corruption in Russia, moreover, there is also a fight against it. For example, opposition leader Oleksii Navalnyi “stepped on the Kremlin's toes” by making a series of high-profile revelations of large-scale corruption acts of officials, for which he was imprisoned. Also, Russian propaganda avoids mentioning that even in the conditions of a full-scale war, Ukraine is trying to fight corruption.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses cartoons to achieve its goals

One of the necessary conditions for the existence of any totalitarian or authoritarian regime is the education of citizens in the spirit of devotion to power, the ruling regime and ideology. With adults, this is sometimes quite difficult to do, because they have their own well-established principles, attitudes and life experiences that may contradict what a non-democratic regime needs. Also, at least some adults have critical thinking, which further complicates the task for propagandists.

So the ideal option in this regard for such regimes is the education of “correct” citizens “from scratch”, that is, from childhood. That is why animation has become a powerful weapon of Soviet propaganda since the 1920s.

The beginning of propaganda cartoons in the USSR was laid by such films as “Soviet Toys” in 1924 and “China on Fire” in 1925. The first animated film ridiculed the “bourgeois way of life” and the gluttony of the so-called “Nepmen” - Soviet entrepreneurs of that period. In the second, support for the revolution in China was expressed and the alleged interference of Western states in its internal affairs was condemned. After that, the animation was firmly entrenched among the main means of Soviet propaganda.

As with many other propaganda tactics and methods, modern Russian propaganda follows its Soviet predecessors in the field of animation as well. Back in 2018, opposition Russian journalist Arkadii Babchenko explained in detail why the Russian animated series Masha and the Bear is propaganda and dangerous for the psyche of Ukrainian children. The cartoon is promoting Soviet symbols and Russian militarism, imposing unhealthy behavior patterns on children (hysteria, unwillingness and inability to conduct a dialogue, radical stubbornness and self-righteousness, etc.). All these features are inherent in the propagandists and ordinary sympathizers of the Putin regime.

Another example of Russian propaganda in cartoons is the Three Bogatyrs (Heroes) series. In it, Kyiv Rus appears as an integral part of the “Russian world” with a large number of Russian symbols, authoritarian power is popularized (and, of course, Prince Volodymyr is the ruler, although there were many princes in the history of Kyiv Rus). Bogatyrs are blind executors of the will of the prince and completely obey all his whims, even if his ideas and actions look absurd. Everything Russian in the animated series is extolled, and everything Western and European is portrayed as evil. So, Baba Yaga dreams of living like in Europe, but the “valiant heroes” drive her out of Kyiv.

The most recent and well-known example of propaganda in animation is the Tale of Vania and Mykola, released in 2022, after the start of a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. This is direct propaganda: children are explained in a language they can understand why Russia attacked Ukraine, thus justifying the aggression, killings of civilians and massive war crimes of the occupiers. The cartoon uses an old Russian narrative that supposedly Ukraine “bombed Donbas and killed its children for 8 years”, and Russia only “defends its compatriots”.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses the cult of personality tactics

A “cult of personality” occurs when a person uses the mass media to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through undeniable flattery and praise. Usually these are the authorities in authoritarian and totalitarian states and religious leaders. To form a cult of their own personality and propagate their ideas, they use such methods as censorship and oppression of freedom of speech, playing with symbols, rewriting history, creating the idea that only one person controls the state, etc.

As one example of the personality cult and its use in state propaganda, one can mention the King of France, Louis XIV, who ruled in the 17th-18th centuries. It was this ruler who called himself the “Sun King”, and he is also credited with the famous phrase “The state is me”. He concentrated extraordinary power in his hands and is considered one of the founders of the absolute monarchy as a form of government. Despite the fact that Napoleon Bonaparte was an army general of Revolutionary France and, in fact, a political opponent of the Bourbon dynasty and absolute monarchy, in 1804 he proclaimed himself Emperor of France and established his own cult of personality, although he was very different in entourage, he was analogue of the image of Louis XIV.

The 20th century gave the world such mass murderers and war criminals as Adolf Hitler, Volodymyr Lenin, Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin. They all had their own personality cults and powerful propaganda systems that justified the atrocities. Moreover, the cult of Lenin was perhaps most developed during the reign of Stalin, who thus wanted to exalt himself as if he were the closest ally and follower of Lenin, although this was not true.

Modern Russian propaganda does not lag behind Soviet predecessors. So, the British edition of BBC News back in 2001 wrote about the beginning of the development of the personality cult of Volodymyr Putin. Only a year had passed since Putin was officially elected to office and two years had passed since the beginning of his actual reign. The personality cult of the President of Russia developed rapidly due to the fact that the collapse of the USSR and the partial loss of imperial greatness became a tangible psychological blow to Russian society. The 90s of the XX century became a difficult test for the Russians: the economic crisis, the rise of corruption, the inability of law enforcement agencies to cope with rampant crime, and the army with the freedom fighters of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. The late ex-president Borys Yeltsyn had the image of a relative democrat and could not overcome these problems. He often got into comical situations related to alcohol abuse, which did not give Russia as a whole respect in the international arena, but personally - within Russia.

Against the background of the old and sick Yeltsyn, Putin had many competitive advantages: young, intelligent, educated, with a strong character, an athlete, a native of law enforcement agencies. Such a person ideally met the needs of the then Russian society. This allowed him to gradually clean up the political space in Russia, become a dictator and establish a totalitarian regime in the country.

The fact that Putin’s personality cult is only growing and strengthening is eloquently evidenced by the conflict that arose in the Russian authorities in 2023 with a potential new leader, whose authority in Russia “grew up” in the bloody war against Ukraine – Yevhenii Pryhozhyn, who was defeated during his rebellion. Moreover, Putin could not even tolerate such a nonentity who does not pose any threat to him, like the ex-leader of the terrorists of the so-called DNR Ihor Hirkin (Strielkov), who was imprisoned.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses the tactics of appeal to the people

Appeal to the people, or argumentum ad populum, is a propaganda tactic based on a logical flaw. It consists in the fact that a certain statement or idea is considered correct because it is considered as such by all or most people. And most people do not seem to be wrong. Propagandists often use this method when the process of gathering evidence and constructing rational arguments to support their position is too long or costly.

This argument can be misleading for two reasons:

a) The person who puts it forward does not always have complete, exhaustive and reliable data on the “majority”. Speaking of the “majority”, a person usually relies on his personal experience and the experience of their acquaintances, often representing a very limited socio-economic profile, unacceptable from the point of view of statistics;

b) The generally accepted opinion on this issue may be erroneous. For example, in Ancient Greece, the vast majority of its inhabitants believed that the Sun revolved around the Earth, but this does not mean that it really is.

 Russian propaganda does not always give a logical argument and tactics of “appeal to the people” to this example. Yes, anonymous pro-Russian telegram channels regularly publish videos where Ukrainians are dissatisfied with something, and transfer the opinion of one or several people to the whole nation in the lead-in to them. This may relate to the provision of the army, treatment and social guarantees for veterans, mobilization, tax and price increases, corruption of officials, arbitrariness of law enforcement agencies and other sensitive topics during martial law. We should also mention one of the most vivid images of Russian propaganda of the beginning of a full-scale invasion of Ukraine - “grandmother with a red flag”. The purpose of this myth is to show that allegedly the inhabitants of Ukraine support and rejoice at the Russian occupation. In fact, the Ukrainian pensioner Anna Ivanivna came out with a Soviet flag to, as she thought, the Russian military, in order to convince them “not to smash Ukraine”.

Russian President Volodymyr Putin said in February 2023 that the majority of Russians supported the war against Ukraine (the so-called special military operation). This statement has no grounds, because it is impossible to conduct impartial sociological studies of this issue in a totalitarian society. Here Putin appeals to the Russian people, trying to keep their favor and support.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses “inescapable victory” tactics

This propaganda tactic is based on the constant and systematic belief of the target audience that the side represented by the propagandists will certainly win and achieve their goals. This may happen soon or sometime in the future, but it seems to happen for sure. In this way, people affected by this manipulation are persuaded not to “be late” and join the ranks of the winners while there is still such an opportunity. Along with this tactic, another similar tactic is almost always used - “multiple repetition”.

Russian propaganda used this tactic as early as World War II. Everyone is well aware of the phrase “our cause is righteous, the enemy will be defeated, victory will be ours”. It was said in a slightly modified format by the then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR Viacheslav Molotov on June 22, 1941, the day the Nazi troops invaded the USSR. Further, Soviet propaganda very often used it as a mantra in order to raise the morale of the army and the civilian population. Throughout the war, the “chief announcer of the USSR” Yurii Levitan ended with this slogan each of his radio messages to the population of the USSR with important news from the front.

Modern Russian propaganda also systematically uses this tactic. Back in 2014, Russian President Volodymyr Putin threatened the EU leadership that he would take Kyiv in two weeks. At the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, propagandists shouted with one voice that the Russian army would “capture Kyiv in three days”. But the situation turned out quite differently, and thanks to the Ukrainian Defense Forces, this phrase has become a meme and a tool of ridicule from the occupying army and Russian propaganda.

After that, Russian propaganda changed the approach to using this tactic. Now they note that Ukraine is allegedly losing the “war of attrition” in the long run due to the fact that the Western allies are tired of the war and seem to be about to significantly reduce the size and volume of both military and financial assistance to Ukraine. Russian propaganda places great hopes on a possible change of power in the United States, the victory of the Republican candidate in the presidential election, ideally Donald Trump, known for his populist rhetoric.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses “expanding the range of acceptable” tactics

The tactic of “expanding the range of acceptable” is used in cases where the propaganda message is unacceptable to the target audience. It is used when most persuasion techniques can backfire: the audience will perceive the message even worse.

There are two ways to expand the boundaries of perception. First, it is possible to take a more extreme position, which will force the audience to accept, without resistance, more moderate positions, which they would not approve of if the propagandists “upped the stakes”. Second, put forward more modest demands, and then gradually bring the audience to the acceptance of the desired position.

This tactic is based on the sociological concept of the Overton Window. According to Overton's model, at each moment in time, certain ideas constitute the current norm in society, forming a reference point. The rest of the ideas may or may not be within the acceptable range. The boundaries of the window of neutral political discourse are ideas that fall into the category of acceptable. Acceptable statements can be considered politically safe to be voiced in public or by politicians who care about their image and continue their political career. Supporting ideas outside the window, Overton himself considered it risky and potentially harmful to a political career.

The tactic of expanding the range of acceptable was used by propaganda in Nazi Germany. After Hitler came to power in a relatively democratic way, they, along with Goebbels, increased hatred and xenophobia in the politically divided German society of the Weimar Republic. The Nazis did this to maintain their power and consolidate supporters against the “common enemy”. And the enemy changed at different stages of the consolidation of power by the Nazis. At first, their own National Socialists fell under repression. The destruction of the leadership of the SA assault squads became known as the “Night of the Long Knives”. Then the political opponents of the Nazis became victims of repression: communists, socialists and social democrats. Then the turn came to various social and national groups in Germany: representatives of the LGBT community, freemasons, Jews, Roma, Aphronim, people with disabilities and mental disorders, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. As a result, German society accepted the beginning of the Second World War, the “death factories” and the extermination of millions of people without significant resistance. It took several decades to prepare to take the brutality for granted.

The Russians also use the tactics of “expanding the range of acceptable” and approving military aggression against other states. Various odious statements that Putin cannot broadcast directly in order to maintain respectability as head of state are broadcast by other Russian politicians, such as the late Volodymyr Zhyrynovskyi, as well as former head of Roscosmos Dmytro Rohozin and Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmytro  Medvediev. Not far behind them are the so-called ideologists such as Oleksandr Duhin and Timofii Serheitsev, who have repeatedly called for the destruction and partition of Ukraine and the murder of Ukrainians. Thus, all of them are gradually morally preparing Russian society and the international community for the worst scenarios.

Ukraine also uses the tactics of “expanding the range of acceptable” when lobbying for an increase in military assistance from allies. Our diplomats gradually got the allies to agree to supply Ukraine with modern artillery and air defense systems, tanks and cluster munitions while in the first months after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Western societies and politicians were not ready to provide Ukraine with any of this.

In Ukraine, this tactic is also used on controversial internal political issues. Through constant communication, medical and electoral reforms, the opening of the land market, the legalization of medical cannabis and the legalization of civil partnerships for LGBT couples became possible in Ukraine. Advocacy and further implementation of these reforms was carried out gradually due to significant resistance within Ukraine, but changes were no longer perceived as impossible.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses “brilliant generalizations” tactics

“Brilliant generalizations” is a manipulative tactic that consists in attributing positive characteristics to the phenomena or events that propagandists talk about. At the same time, the details of phenomena or events that contradict the vision of the propagandists are declared “not peculiar” to what is being discussed, “insignificant” or “invented by enemies”.

Tactics is based on the exploitation of people's positive attitude towards such concepts as freedom, democracy, patriotism, peace, happiness, love, truth, order, etc. Propagandists adapt these concepts to justify decisions, points of view and actions that are beneficial to them.

For example, four weeks after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a concert and flash mobs were held in Russia in honor of the 8th anniversary of the illegal annexation of Crimea. The concert was held under the slogan “For (Za) a world without Nazism”, and the flash mob was “For (Za) the world, for (Za) Russia, for (Za) the President”. With slogans about peace, unity in the fight against the “Nazis” and support for the authorities, the organizers of the event tried to divert attention from the fact that “the special operation, which was supposed to end in three days”, dragged on for weeks.

The Putin regime equated the concept of “patriotism” with the support of the authorities. Only people who support Putin and the aggressive war he unleashed in Ukraine can now be considered real patriots of Russia. So, many Russian athletes who publicly support the dictator justify this with “patriotism”.

Also, the soldiers of the occupying army who commit war crimes in Ukraine are called by the Russian propaganda media “new heroes of Russia” who are “ready to give their lives for the sake of victory over Nazism and for the sake of world peace”.

We have already talked about the opposite of “brilliant generalizations” propaganda tactics. It is called “labeling” and is used to highlight the negative aspects of what propagandists are talking about.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses scarecrow tactics

“Scarecrow” is a propaganda tactic in which the arguments of opponents are replaced by weaker ones. After that, it is they who are refuted, and not the primary, stronger positions. This tactic exploits a logical flaw called “thesis substitution”.

A classic example of this tactic being used is this dialogue:

A: “Sunny days are good.”

B: “If all days were sunny, there would never be rain, and without rain there would be drought and starvation”.

In this case, B replaces A's statement with the fact that supposedly only sunny days are good and refutes it. In fact, A says that sunny days are good, without mentioning anything about rainy days.

Although the “scarecrow” is considered a rather primitive manipulative technique, it is often used both in domestic political battles and in international propaganda. For example, opponents of the legalization of medical cannabis in Ukraine, which has an exclusively analgesic effect for the seriously ill and wounded, say that Ukraine will become “one of the leading drug hubs in the world” and “a second Afghanistan”, etc. Against the legalization of civil partnerships, including for same-sex couples, there are arguments like “I don’t want my son to become gay” or “the church and God are against it”. Or, for example, reproaches about the adoption of children by same-sex couples, although the profile bill does not provide for this.

Russian propaganda also constantly uses this manipulative technique. So, in the assertion that Ukrainians are a nation separate from Russians with their own language, history and culture, there are answers like “the Black Sea was dug up by ancient ukry (Ukrainians)”  or “and Jesus Christ was Ukrainian”, etc.

If someone dares to criticize the “cult of Victory” in Russia, they are accused of supporting Nazism. If someone demands democratic freedoms and rights, they are accused of inciting unrest and destroying order in the country. Under the dictation of the West, of course. When Ukrainians accuse Russia of illegally annexing territories and a war with many victims, they are answered that “you have Nazis in power who illegally overthrew the legitimate Yanukovych” or “and who bombed the Donbas and killed children for 8 years?”. This is how substitution, monkeying and depreciation of strong and rational arguments with outright nonsense occurs.