The destruction of souls through propaganda in Putin’s Russia

By Dr Françoise ThomSource: Desk Russia – 22 October 2021 [1]

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In no Russian regime has propaganda played such a large role as in the Putin regime.

During the Soviet period it was very visible, but it had not penetrated souls and minds as it does today.

From now on, propaganda is replacing diplomacy, including in relations with France.

Why this evolution?

The weakness of the opposition in Russia today can be explained less by repression than by the hold of this propaganda, which has been largely internalised by Russian society. Dissidence was powerful in the Soviet era, despite its small numbers, because it had preserved something of the humanist heritage: dissidents defended the truth (the « refusal of lies », as Solzhenitsyn put it), the law, including that of small nations, freedom of conscience, and the idea of a community of interests within the human race. All this baggage has been destroyed by Putin’s propaganda based on the cult of force. Those who have had the courage to publicly disapprove of the annexation of Crimea can be counted on the fingers of one hand: they are fewer in number than the dissidents who in 1968 demonstrated on Red Square their disagreement with the intervention in Czechoslovakia.

BS_Russie_Moscou_Miliray-Music-Festival_Spasskaia-Tower_144955664_Maria-Moskvitsova2
Moscow Military Music-Festival_Spasskaia-Tower – Photo BS © Maria Moskvitsova

For the past twenty years, Russia has been undergoing an unprecedented moral catastrophe, of which official propaganda is both the instrument and the expression. Let’s take a look at some recent examples to see what levers this propaganda uses, what passions it feeds on to acquire this formidable effectiveness, and not only in Russia, but in the rest of the world where it is tirelessly distilled by the Kremlin’s networks.

Take the article by Dmitry Medvedev (former Prime Minister, now Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council), published on 11 October, entitled « Why contacts with the current Ukrainian leadership make no sense« . This opus breathes hatred of the neighbouring country, starting with its leaders. President Zelenski is doubly treacherous: he is « someone with certain ethnic roots [sic], who has spoken Russian all his life. Moreover, he has worked in Russia and received important funds from Russian sources« . Now this Jew has gone over to the side of the Ukrainian « Nazis« ! « It is as if members of the Jewish intelligentsia in Nazi Germany, for ideological reasons, had volunteered to serve in the SS, » Medvedev choked with indignation. And this is not out of conviction, of course, but because Ukraine’s ruling elite is afraid of a new « Maidan ». Zelenski is howling with the wolves, passing « stupid » laws because otherwise « they would be made mincemeat of », says Medvedev. It is all the more useless to enter into negotiations with « the Ukrainian leaders of the current generation » because they « are absolutely dependent people« . Because « the country is under direct foreign control« . But US support « is extremely fragile and will eventually crumble« . « Hopes for NATO and EU membership are also ephemeral for obvious reasons. […] There will be no fools fighting for Ukraine. And it makes no sense for us to deal with vassals. It is with the suzerain that we must deal. « At the head of Ukraine are weaklings who only want to line their own pockets. Preferably through a foreign offshore« . Conclusion: Russia must « wait for the emergence of a healthy leadership in Ukraine, which does not aim at a total confrontation with Russia. […] Only with such a leadership in Ukraine is it worthwhile to enter into talks. Russia knows how to wait. We are patient people.

Moscou : Le palais du Kremlin à Moscou - © BS
The Kremlin Palace in Moscow – © BS

This opus says a lot about the mentality of the men in the Kremlin. First of all, the equivocal reference to Zelenski’s Jewish origins, a discreet appeal to the anti-Semitism still present in Russian ruling circles, and at the same time an indication of a desire to manipulate this factor in order to sow division in Ukraine and use it in the West to discredit Ukraine. There is also the idea that someone who has received Russian money must serve Russia for the rest of his life. And finally the fundamental assumption in Putin’s entourage that people do not act out of conviction, but either out of fear or because they are bought.

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Dmitri Medvedev and Vladimir Poutin in the Kremlin – Photo © BS

For Medvedev there are no patriots among the Ukrainian leaders, only corrupt ones. The desire to demoralise is clear: the Ukrainians, of course, to whom it is suggested that sooner or later, dropped by their Western protectors, they will fall back into the Russian clutches; but also the Russians, who are made to believe that the Putin system is universal. All are rotten, all are liars, wherever they are. The ideal of the « revolution of dignity » that was the ideal of the Maïdan, for which Ukrainians shed their blood, is being ignored.

This anti-Ukrainian symphony reaches new heights before the visit to Moscow of US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. The Svobodnaya Pressa website, for example, headlines: « Crushing the bugs: Nuland’s herring has come to return the exasperating Ukraine to Putin« . Since the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, Kremlin propagandists have been telling Ukrainians that they too will be abandoned, by the Americans after the Europeans. The article insinuates that Nuland, being of Jewish origin, can only hate Ukrainian « Nazis« : « She did not come to Russia to negotiate a ‘rescue of Zelenski‘, although her [ethnic] origin is the same as Nuland’s. She came to seek a consensus with the Ukrainian government. She came to seek a consensus with Russia on the Ukrainian problem, which would allow the United States both to get rid of the ‘ball and chain’ of Kiev and to save its face on the international stage. […] These ultra-radical, Soviet-carpeted, Holocaust-denying nationalist bugs are simply dangerous to the United States, according to Nuland, so it would be appropriate to scald them politically. » The article concludes by recommending the dismemberment of Ukraine, allowing Russia to annex the east and south. Note the filthy vocabulary in this opus, which is unfortunately common in the Russian media. We are not far from the « lustful vipers » of the Stalinist prosecutor Vychinsky.

We have mentioned one of the most powerful engines of Putin’s propaganda, hatred, in connection with Ukraine. Ukraine is not the only one to attract heaps of filth. Macron and France have been high on the Kremlin’s hit parade for some time, so to speak. The Russtrat Institute openly mocks Emmanuel Macron: « How much a bad president ‘costs’ a state – today everyone can see this from the example of Emmanuel Macron. It is under him, or rather as a result of his action, that the visible collapse of the vestiges of the international greatness of the Fifth Republic is beginning. » The Kremlin’s propaganda is not far from a contradiction. While hypocritically pretending to deplore the lowering of France, it contributes powerfully to it by intriguing in Africa against France and denouncing French « neo-colonialism ». And the article concludes: « We are on the eve of a massive arrival of Russians in North Africa. And we could advise the French to replace their president. »

Photo prise le 31 janvier 2021 à Moscou lors d'une manifestation en faveur de Navalny - Photo © Elena Rostunova
Moscow during a demonstration in favour of Navalny (31 January 2021) – Photo © Elena Rostunova

In another interview, political journalist Roman Romanov called Macron « a political corpse for refusing to admit France’s failure in Mali« . It says: « The best thing Macron could have done was to show the world what happens to leaders who value economic benefits over respect for the sovereignty of other states. » It’s not just about President Macron. Thus our eyes are drawn to this headline in RIA Novosti of 13 October: « France has learned the truth about itself: its elites raped children » summarising the recent pedophilia cases that have hit the headlines but presenting things as if the French elites had only one dream, to hand over their offspring to social paedophiles or to practise pedophilia themselves.

In addition to hatred, the Kremlin’s propaganda draws on a whole range of feelings that feed on the baser passions of humanity.

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Russian Riot police in Moscow (31 january 2021) – Photo Bs © Szurag

The intoxication of power first, the will to humiliate the other

This is how the « red-brown » writer Alexander Prokhanov, nicknamed the « Nightingale of the General Staff« , celebrates the gas empire: « Putin is the patriarch of gas. It is by his will that Russia’s grandiose gas civilisation has been created. He extends his pipes from the Atlantic to the Pacific. All he has to do is raise one eyebrow – gas prices soar and European factories shut down. He frowns with the other eyebrow – and the prices go down, and Europe thanks God for the mercy of the Russian patriarch. » And now some eloquent headlines taken here and there from the Russian press in recent days: « Europe has fallen into the Kremlin’s gas trap« , « Europe is preparing to freeze. In any case, the coming winter will force the EU’s Russophobes to come begging to Moscow« , « The Chinese are full of admiration for Putin’s latest warning to Europe« , « Ukraine will have to crawl to Moscow » to get gas, « Ukraine has been frightened by the Kremlin’s clear signal« , « The Rada recognises that capitulation to the Kremlin is inevitable« , « Gazprom is pushing Moldova away from Ukraine« , « Moldovans are being offered a freeze. Moscow is not against it« .

Ecstasy over the misfortune of others

What joy is expressed in the Russian media at the idea that the Germans risk, for lack of gas, to freeze in winter this year, like the Wehrmacht in front of Moscow in December 1941! With what delight the press reports that in Ukraine the hospitals are not heated! President Putin is in unison: Europeans will have to replace fuel with ice skates, he joked that soon the Dutch would have to visit each other on skates to keep warm. And what a treat the EU’s tussle with Warsaw is: « Poland is becoming the ‘gravedigger’ of the European Union, » triumphs Russtrat!

Image BS © Dalebor

We have given a small glimpse of the output of the Kremlin’s propagandists. And this is only the written press, the written press, the television is much worse.

This propaganda, as we can see, is essentially for internal use.

If Westerners were to follow the Russian media more closely, the number of Putinophiles in Russia would quickly fall. Moreover, it often happens that the boastfulness of the court propagandists plays a trick on the Kremlin’s strategists and comes back to them in a boomerang: thus, they have been swaggering for several months about how Gazprom will reduce the Europeans to gritting their teeth this winter and submitting to Russia.

These hijinks have become known in Europe and the Kremlin is now obliged to mobilise « friendly » foreign experts to explain that Putin has nothing to do with this situation! Russian diplomats make a point of adopting the Kremlin’s usual foul language and rudeness to show that Russia is powerful enough to get away with anything. It will be recalled that Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, almost put Russia on a collision course with Serbia when she mocked Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić’s meeting with US President Donald Trump on her Facebook. She posted a collage with a photo of the meeting of the two presidents at the top and a frame of the famous scene from the film Basic Instinct, in which Sharon Stone seduces her interlocutor by showing off her crossed legs, below. In 2008, Foreign Minister Lavrov elegantly challenged David Miliband, his British counterpart, in English after the latter remarked on the invasion of Georgia: « Who are you to fucking lecture me? » In 2015, asked to comment on the possibility of the Iron Curtain returning to Europe, Lavrov replied, « If they [the West] bring down an iron curtain on us, they might get something stuck. » In 2016, he insulted a Reuters cameraman by calling him a « moron ».

Le 31 janvier a sonné le glas des manifestations en Russie - Photo © Elena Rostunova
31 January was the death knell for protests in Russia – Photo © Elena Rostunova

If this propaganda is detrimental to Russia’s real interests and undermines the efforts of its diplomats who are forced to adopt the thuggish idiom of the Kremlin’s occupiers, why does it continue to flourish? The answer is distressing: it is to preserve the regime in place, to control society. But only in the sense of destruction. It should be noted that the Russian population massively refuses to be vaccinated against Covid, despite the wishes of the authorities. Because the Kremlin’s propaganda can only have negative objectives. It is ineffective if it serves the public good. Channelled evil passions are a factor of stability that no dictatorship can ignore. Socrates said that the criterion for defining a good leader is that he leaves his countrymen better off after his time in power than he found them. If we apply this criterion to Putin, which has lost none of its topicality, even if it is unfortunately forgotten, the record is overwhelming.

Françoise Thom

[1] « La destruction des âmes par la propagande dans la Russie poutinienne » by Dr Françoise Thom – Desk Russie, 22 octobre 2021.