A guide to Russian propaganda. Part 1: Propaganda prepares Russia for war


The Russian propaganda machine produces endless streams of fakes and manipulative stories. While at times they may seem outrageous or silly, they are far from being random. Russian propaganda for both domestic and foreign audiences follows techniques that stem from Goebbel’s times. Ultimately, it is a weapon of war. In our series A guide to Russian propaganda, we examine how propaganda works, and how one can avoid falling for it.

In our first series, Propaganda prepares Russia for war, we use Kseniya Kirillova‘s classification of strategies of Russian propaganda for Russians, and illustrate it with disinformation episodes gathered by EU Stratcom’s Disinformation Review (we would like to thank Oleksandr Nykonorov, Pavlo Spirin, East StratCom Network, StopFake, and others for their excellent work in monitoring Kremlin disinformation.)

Russian propaganda for Russians has a very different tone than the stuff the Russian state serves up to foreigners. This is partially because they serve very different purposes. The Russian state lacks the ability to coerce foreign populations (well, outside of occupied territories) and therefore propaganda is mainly a tool of division. Russia tries to persuade western audiences about Russia’s reasonableness, create grassroots or even political lobbies for pro-Russian positions, or sometimes just confuse people and muddy the waters about key issues.

Russia’s rulers use propaganda in Russian to direct their populace, squash dissent, and instruct them in the core political beliefs that Russia’s rulers find most useful. One of most useful ideas they push on their populace is a particular Russian form of anti-Americanism. The use of anti-Americanism may be partly the result of Cold War propaganda, but even if the Russian people totally forgot their Soviet indoctrination, Russia’s current rulers would probably use the same idea. As America is the most powerful nation on earth with a tremendous amount of cultural influence, it is the perfect candidate for the role of the villain in paranoid nationalist propaganda. Below are examples of propaganda and an explanation of the role they play in influencing the Russian population.

Graphic by Ganna Naronina

Graphic by Ganna Naronina

In our second part of this series, A guide to Russian propaganda. Part 2: Whataboutism, we explore one of Russia’s #1 propaganda strategies – whataboutism, which allows to deflect any criticism of Russia by saying “what about…”
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  1. Avatar Lev Havryliv says:

    Excellent analysis. The Russian state propaganda apparatus is massive, relentless, and thoroughly mendacious.

    Goebbels would have been proud of it. It has taken propaganda and disinformation to new heights.

    Fortunately more and more people are seeng it for what it is. A tool to keep the Putin mafia regime in power.

  2. Avatar Quartermaster says:

    At present, the only military threat against Russia is what it is creating for itself.

  3. Avatar Archibald_Bomwitz says:

    Just remember that sooner or later Fact and Fiction will collide and when that happens Fact will always preavail! Putin needs an outside threat to maintain his power. And he knows that he can’t win an all out war against the West. A war would also mean that he would risk losing his power. He has apparently realized that he made a very big mistake with attacking Ukraine and that he is in trouble at home. And that is the reason that he collected all troops that are responsible for internal security under his personal command. He has also purged the army of some thirty generals because he could not trust them to give the order to shoot at Russian citizens. It was in fact the reluctance of the generals to shoot at their own people that ultimately derailed the coup d’etat in August of 1991. You can say many things about Russian generals but only very few of them would be ready to shoot at protesting Russian civilians.

    And the West should keep up the pressure on Putin because sooner or later he will be removed by internal forces.

    1. Avatar David McClintock says:

      Outside threat is real. He not attack Ukraine. He occupy Ukraine after 95% of population vote for Russia annexation in democratic election.

      Navy access to Black Sea was put in danger by West. West support insurgents in Russia just as they did for Arab Spring and Libya. NATO surround Russia with EU and missile bases in Poland.

      Putin was just re-elected. Huge election victory. Fair is square.

      1. Avatar Archibald_Bomwitz says:

        BS! Putin started the war against Ukraine by occupying Crimea! Then he arranged a referendum that was supervised by Russia’s armed forces! Putin broke the UN charter, the OSCE protocol and the Budapest accord.

        By the way “David”, I suggest that you brush up on your english, your native language Russian shines through!

        1. Avatar David McClintock says:

          95% Crimea vote to go with Russia.

          Yes or no.

          1. Avatar Archibald_Bomwitz says:

            Under the guns of Russian soldiers that were “securing” the voting! A referendum that the UN has not accepted. Only Syria, Cuba, North-Korea, Belarus, Nicaragua and Afghanistan have recognized it!
            So the “referendum” and its outcome are irrelevant! Crimea is still part of Ukraine in the eyes of the rest of the world! And what Russians think is also irrelevant!

  4. Avatar Alex George says:

    It only works for so long when people are starving and young men are coming home in wheelchairs or body bags.

    Especially when Russia doesn’t do anything to support its wounded veterans.


    Yuri Bezmenov (former kgb) Psychological Warfare Subversion & Control of Western Society

    talks about the Hollywood useful idiots and how easy it was and is to manipulate the Hollywood idiots!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Avatar David McClintock says:

    Russia is acting defensively. Any “propaganda” is with good intentions to save Russia from USA NATO Israel alliance against all Western nations who are being racially and culturally mixed out of existence.

    Russia tell TRUTH about Hillary Clinton to USA population which help Donald Trump get elected. Thank you Russia for telling truth not propaganda.

    The people writing this website “see the trees not the forest”. They see what happening on ground from Russia’s side – but the not bigger picture why.

    If you want real propaganda watch news in United States.