Soviet Roots of Anti-Western Propaganda

News | Memory and Disinformation Studies 10 May 2023

On May 4, 2023, at a meeting organized by the Telegram channel "О стране и мире", Anton Vatcharadze, the head of the Memory and Disinformation Research Department of the Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), spoke about the study "Soviet Roots of Anti-Western Propaganda”. The research was carried out as part of the "Roots of Anti-Western Propaganda" project, funded by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), in collaboration with the University of Georgia (UG) Investigative Media Lab.


Modern anti-Western propaganda, which the Kremlin produces in countries where it hopes to find allies, is based on Soviet narratives. The USSR was the first "propaganda state" where ideology permeated every aspect of life. Soviet and modern propaganda present the West as an eternal and irreconcilable enemy, demonizing it and exaggerating the problems of Western countries while downplaying their achievements. Propaganda presents Russia (USSR) as a bastion of morality and humanism, with values close to the "common man”.


Kremlin propaganda in other countries tries to divide and polarize society, discredit the government, and democratic institutions. The Kremlin needs this to make other governments more accommodating. Half a century ago, as now, Kremlin media wrote about economic problems and social conflicts in developed countries, their aggressive expansionist policies. Propaganda portrays Western societies as chaotic, unstable, anti-human, sowing hatred and death, and actively spreading conspiracy theories.


For the countries of Eastern Europe and the former USSR, modern Kremlin propaganda presents a false dilemma: they must remain in the orbit of Russian influence or join Moscow's enemies. Contemporary Kremlin propaganda also uses Soviet narratives to denigrate Ukraine: as it did after World War II, propaganda equates Ukrainian nationalism with fascism. Russia also uses the experience of the НКВД-КГБ in "combating national formations on the territory of Ukraine," organizing filtration camps, "preventing" political opponents, etc. What are the common and different characteristics of Soviet and modern Russian propaganda?


The following participated in the discussion:


— Anton Vatcharadze, Head of the Memory and Disinformation Research Department of the Freedom of Information Development Institute (IDFI), Tbilisi;


— Yevgenia Liozina, political scientist, researcher of the Potsdam Center for Modern History, author of the book "20th Century: Study of the Past," laureate of the "Политпросвет" prize;


— Ilya Yablokov, media and disinformation researcher, lecturer at the University of Sheffield, author of the book "Culture of Russian Conspiracy: Conspiracy Theories in the Post-Soviet Space";


— Boris Grozovsky, columnist, author of the Telegram channel EventsAndTexts.




See the full video of the meeting here.



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