‘Standing up for the oppressed’ 

The Kremlin’s newest propaganda guide suggests likening Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to the First World War. Story by Andrey Pertsev. Translation by Sam Breazeale.

Source > Meduza

In early August, Meduza reported on two Kremlin-issued guides that told Russia’s pro-government media outlets and politicians exactly how they should speak publicly about the war in Ukraine. One guide suggested comparing the war to the 988 “baptism of Rus,” while the other focused on the 1240 Battle of the Neva. Now, Meduza has obtained a third propaganda guide, this one prepared especially for the anniversary of Germany’s 1914 declaration of war against the Russian Empire. The guide culminates with predictions of a “new world order” that its authors say Putin “prophesied” back in 2007. Meduza recaps the Kremlin’s latest talking points.

The Kremlin’s best minds have been hard at work preparing guides on how Russia’s pro-government media outlets and politicians should portray the war in Ukraine. Meduza previously reported on two manuals that were issued by the Putin administration in July. They recommended drawing parallels between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the 988 “baptism of Rus,” and the 1240 Battle of the Neva.

Meduza has now obtained a copy of a third media guide. This one explains how to compare the war against Ukraine to the First World War, a message meant to coincide with the August 1 anniversary of Germany’s declaration of war against the Russian Empire.

The guide’s main argument is simple: in both wars, its authors claim, Russia was “dragged” into a military conflict by Western countries. The West, they explain, regularly starts wars due to its “colonial aspirations,” while Russia has repeatedly been forced to take part in the West’s conflicts in order to defend its “brotherly peoples”; after all, Russia “doesn’t abandon its own” and “stands up for the oppressed.” In 1914, for example, the Russian Empire “couldn’t forsake” Serbia.

A propaganda poster from 1914 Fine Art Images / Heritage Images / Getty Images

The guide refers to the war in Ukraine as the “modern Ukrainian crisis.” The authors “trace” the roots of the conflict back to the Maidan Revolution and the war in the Donbas:

Residents of a number of regions [of Ukraine] who continued speaking Russian and were thus persecuted by Ukrainian radicals and by the official Kyiv authorities didn’t support the coup and didn’t want to live in a Ukrainian state that was hostile to Russians. Crimea announced its desire to become a part of Russia, while the former Donetsk and Luhansk regions declared independence. In doing so, they exercised their international right to self-determination.

The guide also “recommends” that media outlets tell audiences that after 2014, Western countries decided to “sponsor” the “cultivation of hatred towards Russians and a desire to kill Russians in several generations of people by means of misanthropic ideologies and Russophobia.”

The document then asserts that Russia’s role is exclusively peaceful. It claims that the Russian authorities tried to tamp down the conflict in myriad ways before the war, but that “the U.S. turned Ukraine into the front line in the West’s confrontation against Russia” — and Russia “was forced to launch the SVO [special military operation].”

‘National traitors’

A separate section of the guide is dedicated to the West’s “interference” in Russia’s internal affairs. The authors recommend that propagandists point out how Germany “sponsored the Bolsheviks” in the early 20th century.

The document goes on to claim that the West is employing the same strategy today by “financing non-system opposition, protest movements, and anti-Russian media,” and that “this process has intensified since the start of the SVO.”

The guide even mentions Russia’s “foreign agents” registry, saying, “Many ‘liberal’ media sources and thought leaders have been legally designated as foreign agents because their financing comes from foreign entities, which, though often noncommercial and nongovernmental, have connections to the governments of Western countries.”

As Meduza has previously reported, this is false: the Russian authorities have the ability to declare anybody they choose a “foreign agent.” The authors of the propaganda guide deny that reality, writing that “all organizations, media outlets, bloggers, and journalists that receive foreign financing advocate exclusively against the SVO and against Russia’s position.”

The West provides [the foreign agents] with media support, helping them promote false stories. Almost all of them have taken not only an anti-war stance but also an anti-Russian stance, openly welcoming the deaths of Russian military servicemen. These are true national traitors, bred by Western intelligence agencies.

The guide concludes by predicting that an “anti-American wave” will soon spread around the world, and that the U.S. will “be unable to find not just military allies but even serious trade partners.” The authors neglect to explain exactly why this will be the case.

The guide then goes even further, predicting that a “new world order” will follow the end of the war in Ukraine. Bringing about this “more just and safe world order,” it asserts, is “Russia’s mission in the international arena.”

The world order, it says, will be based on these principles:

  • “No country’s national security should come at the expense of another’s.”
  • “No country should achieve well-being for its people at the expense of another country or people.”

This, the guide claims, is what Putin was talking about in his 2007 “Munich speech,” when he criticized the United States, NATO, and global unipolarity. Even back then, the authors write, “Russia was the prophet of the coming de-hegemonization of international relations.”

“Russia proposed an approach to international relations that was acceptable to all players — one that would consolidate much of the world around Russia and its foreign policy,” they continue. The authors fail to mention that Russia is currently the global “leader” in being targeted by foreign sanctions.

Who comes up with this stuff?

Sources close to the Kremlin told Meduza that “historical” media guides like this one are compiled by the Social Research Expert Institute (EISI), a “think tank” closely linked to the Kremlin. According to the sources, State Duma deputy Oleg Matveychev oversees the guides’ preparation directly.

Matveychev is one of the founders of the Bakster Group, a political strategy agency. Before his Duma career, he worked in the Putin administration, and then as deputy governor of the Vologda and Volgograd regions.

Matveychev is known for making shocking public statements. In 2010, for example, he called for protesters to be mowed down by tanks, and in 2020, he wrote that he “has strangled and will continue to strangle those opposition fuckers.” At the time, Matveychev was a professor at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, though after the “strangled” statement, he was reprimanded and soon left the position. In 2021, he was elected to the State Duma.

After this article was published in Russian, Oleg Matveychev told Meduza that he was not involved in writing the Kremlin’s media guides. 

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