Vladimir Putin’s Historical Disinformation – State Department

Putins history

‘); }); jquery(‘.entry-content p.watermarked > div.watermarked_image > img’).each( function() { if ( jquery(this).hasclass(‘alignnone’) ) { jquery(this) .parent().addclass( ‘alignnone’ ); } if ( jquery(this).hasclass(‘alignleft’ ) ) { jquery(this).parent().addclass( ‘alignleft’ ); } if ( jquery(this).hasclass(‘alignright’) ) { jquery(this).parent().addclass( ‘alignright’ ); } if ( jquery(this).hasclass(‘size- medium’) ) { jquery(this).parent().addclass( ‘has-size-medium’ ); } if ( jquery(this).hasclass(‘aligncenter’) ) { jquery(this) .parent().addclass(‘aligncenter’ );jquery(this).parent().children().wrapall(”); } }); } }); });

For decades, Russian President Vladimir Putin has attempted to appropriate history and exploit it to further his geopolitical goals. After the collapse of communism in europe in 1990 and the breakup of the soviet union in 1991, one of the remaining sources of national pride for the people of russia was the ussr’s victory over fascism in “the great patriotic war” – the The evocative name Russians is used to refer to the part of World War II that was fought in Europe between 1941 and 1945. Possessing and controlling Russia’s collective memory of this war is one of Putin’s greatest obsessions.

World War II had a profound economic and cultural impact on Russia and other countries in the region, including stories of trauma, sacrifice, and heroism. tens of millions of soviet soldiers (including ethnic ukrainians and others) and tens of millions of civilians in the ussr were killed during world war ii. Today, through speeches and articles, Putin, along with his ecosystem of disinformation and propaganda, invokes images of World War II to justify the expansion of his autocratic powers at home and Russia’s aggression toward Euro-Atlantic and democratic connections and aspirations. from neighboring countries. This includes Ukraine, where Putin repeatedly invokes false World War II narratives as justification for his full-scale invasion. In fact, Putin, and by extension the Kremlin, often claim that those in Ukraine, including democratically elected leaders, who oppose Russia’s invasion of their country are “Nazis” and “Fascists.” Lacking a legitimate reason to justify his unprovoked war against Ukraine, Putin and his disinformation machine use WWII footage to fabricate pretexts.

putin tries to manipulate history to alter the future. uses visceral images from world war 2 to harness deep emotions for its campaign of disinformation on ukraine to achieve geopolitical goals. Andrei Kolesnikov, Carnegie Moscow Senior Research Fellow, wrote: “The regime seeks to restore the country’s lost empire, at least in the public mind, through these historic reinventions.” scholars and historians agree that the kremlin’s portrayal of history is often misleading and attempts to serve its current political agenda.

memorial: accurate history as threat

A notable example of the Putin regime’s attempt to suppress and censor history for its own purposes is the relentless crackdown on the Memorial Kremlin, a respected Russian NGO that documented crimes against humanity committed in the Soviet Union (especially during Stalin’s government) and contemporary Kremlin abuses (including current political prisoners and conditions in the North Caucasus region). in December 2008, masked men stormed Memorial Street. Petersburg with a warrant signed by the city prosecutor’s office and seized computer hard drives and other materials representing 20 years of archives on Soviet repression, including during World War II. In December 2021, just two months before Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russian courts ruled that two key legal entities that made up the core of the memorial had to close, in a move that Russian and international organizations Human rights groups denounced it as politically motivated, incommensurable with the alleged crimes, and a severe blow to independent civil society in Russia. Controlling the historical memory of Stalin, Russia’s leader during World War II, is central to Putin’s own identity.

Putin’s article on World War II

To mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in 2020, Putin published an article in which he attempts to reframe the events of the war to suit his current political goals. His lengthy article sought to clear the Soviet Union of blame for its collaboration with Nazi Germany under the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which divided most of Eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence. There were notable differences between the Kremlin’s interpretation of the war and that of independent historians. The Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian governments spoke out against Putin’s suggestion that they voluntarily ceded their sovereignty to the occupying Soviet forces. Poland denounced Putin’s claim that he was responsible for his own invasion by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939.

later, the russian embassy in berlin sent an email to several historians suggesting that they “use vladimir putin’s article when preparing future conferences on history.” many German historians spoke out against the Kremlin’s attempts to distort the historical truth. One historian suggested that the article could be used as a primary source to teach students about “Putin’s exploitation of history and his clumsy and shameless attempt to force historians into his service.” >

putin’s article on russia-ukraine relations

In July 2021, Putin wrote a 5,000-word article explaining his longstanding belief that Ukrainians and Russians are “one people.” the article said that ukrainian soldiers fought alongside russians for “their great common homeland” during world war ii, but putin provided no evidence that ukrainian red army soldiers believed that russians and ukrainians are the same people. His article also denigrated Ukraine’s persistent independence movements, which Soviet leaders were unable to stamp out for decades. Many notable historians and scholars denounced the article as a poor and amateurish retelling of history, with the sole purpose of furthering Putin’s geopolitical goals. Historian Anne Applebaum called the article “essentially a call to arms,” ​​and researcher Anders Åslund called it “one step short of a declaration of war [on Ukraine].” Just seven months later, Putin’s forces went ahead and launched an all-out and brutal war against Ukraine. The falsehoods about Ukraine and Ukrainians that Putin trumpeted in his article played a significant role in his justification for the full-scale invasion of Russia.

Putin uses WWII images to justify his war of aggression against Ukraine

To rationalize his current war of choice against Ukraine, Putin invoked the language and imagery of World War II, specifically the words “Nazi” and “genocide” (a term coined by Raphael Lemkin, a Jewish lawyer who studied at Lviv, in what is now western Ukraine) to evoke the Nazi party’s policy of systematic murder of Jews and other groups destined for annihilation. The Kremlin has turned the word “Nazi” into a catchall for anyone who disagrees with Putin and his regime, insulting the memory of all who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators.

in his february 24 speech declaring his war of choice against ukraine, putin falsely claimed that “the purpose of this operation is to protect people who, for eight years, have faced humiliation and genocide perpetrated by the kyiv regime. To this end, we will seek to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine.” Invoking his debunked “one people” narrative, Putin directly addressed members of the Ukrainian military, stating: “Your fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers did not fight against the Nazi occupiers and did not defend our common homeland to allow neo-Nazis from Today they will seize power in Ukraine.”

Russian officials have even used the word “Nazi” against Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Jewish president of Ukraine, whose family members were murdered by the Nazis. Experts on genocide, Nazism and World War II have expressed their strong opposition to Putin’s attempt to compare Ukraine and his democratically elected government to that of Nazi Germany. Hundreds of historians and academics signed a letter condemning the “cynical abuse of the term genocide, the remembrance of World War II and the Holocaust, and the equating of the Ukrainian state with the Nazi regime by the Russian government to justify its unprovoked aggression.” . The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum also issued a statement saying that “Vladimir Putin has misrepresented and misrepresented the history of the Holocaust by falsely claiming that democratic Ukraine needs to be ‘denazified.'”

Russia’s Disinformation And Propaganda Ecosystem Drives Putin’s Fake Story

putin is just one player in russia’s ecosystem of disinformation and propaganda. While he may be the primary purveyor of false WWII narratives, his claims are amplified by others within that ecosystem.

  • state-funded global messaging: rt and sputnik news, two Kremlin state-funded news outlets, have repeatedly promoted the narrative that modern Ukraine is a Nazi state . for example, the arabic version of rt pushed the conspiracy theory that ukrainian nazis, not russian forces, were to blame for murdering people in bucha, and has made accusations that ukrainian schools teach nazi beliefs.
  • Cultivation of Proxy Sources: Several proxy websites also spread narratives that invoke images of World War II, serving as unofficial mouthpieces for the Kremlin. Some proxy sites have direct links to Russia’s intelligence services, some are firmly enmeshed in Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem, and others are less connected. the connections are often intentionally murky. For example, the website’s news front, linked to Russian intelligence, promoted the same false Arab narrative about Ukrainian Nazis participating in bucha assassinations.
  • weaponization of social media: Russian social media accounts have promoted fake photos showing Ukrainian soldiers holding Nazi paraphernalia or pictures of Hitler. the number of russia-linked tweets linking ukraine to the nazis increased significantly after russia’s full-scale invasion of ukraine began.
  • Cyber-Facilitated Disinformation: Attribution of cyber activities takes time. That being said, experts have already identified multiple deepfakes, cyber hacks, and malware-defaced websites that Russia is believed to be responsible for.
  • The Future of Russia’s Understanding of World War II

    Although Putin has not been successful in changing the views of scholars and historians, he continues his attempts to institutionalize his historical review of World War II and Ukrainian identity. in april 2022, putin signed a law imposing up to 15 days in detention and fines for anyone who draws parallels between the actions of the ussr and nazi germany or denies the ussr’s decisive role and humanitarian mission during world war ii. Russia’s education minister also announced a policy in April to teach children an official, government-approved version of history, starting in first grade. the minister stated that by teaching history in russia, “we will never allow [to be written] that we somehow mistreat other nations, our sister nations of ukraine and belarus. We will do everything in our power to preserve the historical memory”. This means that schools in Russia will not be able to teach accurate information about Putin’s current war against Ukraine, or about historical atrocities and abuses against Ukrainians, including those associated with the Stalin-era man-made famine known as the Holodomor.


    On May 9, 2022, Vladimir Putin led Russia’s celebration of Victory Day, the 77th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. he did so even as he continues his brutal war of aggression against ukraine, a war that has killed at least two holocaust survivors and thousands of other civilians in ukraine. putin continues to try to twist history to serve his own political goals, but he cannot change the truth. In the end, history will judge Putin for bringing the horrors of war back to Europe on a scale not seen since World War II. Putin’s disinformation campaign to justify his war against Ukraine is an egregious manipulation of history and a violation of the sacred memory of the many people who suffered, died and fought against tyranny in that war.

Related Articles

Back to top button