Russian nationalism has come into full bloom in Ukraine as Moscow engages in a propaganda war to win over its opposition and gin up support from pro-Russian nationalists.
Russia’s aggressive moves in Ukraine did not end with the retaking of Crimea–Moscow has been hurriedly spreading its messaging. Local media has been marching in lockstep except for a few independent outlets, according to Der Spiegel.A social media post critical of the Kremlin is enough to put someone under a harsh spotlight–a German teacher found himself singled out in his local newspaper after he posted a poem criticizing the Russian seizure of the Crimean peninsula.
“From a very early age, I have been accustomed to not telling lies. If Russia stole Crimea from Ukraine, then one has to speak openly about the fact that it was theft,” Alexander Byvshev told Der Spiegel.That was enough for local paper Sarya to publicly condemn Byvshev under a strident headline: “There’s No Place for Patriots Like This in Russia.”
“In these troubled times, when enemies outside the country are showing their teeth and preparing to take the leap of death, you can find people who would like to undermine Russia from within. People like A. Byvshev,” the paper printed.
Leading this latest front is Russian president Vladmir Putin, who enjoys 80 percent approval ratings from the Russian people.
Even Putin’s most dogged opponents have surrendering in the face of the propaganda onslaught.
The intelligentsia is divided–hundreds of artists and commentators are signing competing petitions either supporting or condemningPutin. However, their efforts towards open debate pale as the Kremlin threatens to pull the Iron Curtain back over Eastern Eurpose. The opposition party in Ukraine protesting the annexation takes a grim view as the propaganda war proceeds.
“It’s almost as if we’ve returned to the Soviet era, a time when all discussions about government decisions were prohibited,” said chairwoman Irina Prokhorova, who heads opposition party Civic Platform.
Critics of the Russian regime cluster in a handful newspapers that sustain themselves apart from funding from oligarchs. Although the daily paper Vedomosti was founded by a Russian media company, it houses a flock of intellectuals who routinely criticize Putin.
“[T]he atmosphere is getting more ominous,” he told Der Spiegel. “It already takes some courage to write that Kiev’s new leaders aren’t fascists. I wonder each day of there is anyone who is capable of putting the brakes on the hysteria in our country?”