31 December 2018
Whatever happened to the great tradition of Russian literature which had its heyday in the 19th century, with intellectual giants such as Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and Pasternak? Then, Russian creativity and artistic excellence was admired, and the fairy tale genre also had cultural significance in Russia with the publication by Alexander Afanasyev of collected folk tales. Russian literature was world famous for capturing the essence of philosophical ideas, stimulating thought about moral values and demonstrating inspired imagination.
But the fairy tale genre fell out of fashion during the Soviet era, to be replaced by an altogether more sinister form of fiction, in the shape of the dark mantras of the massive propaganda machine of modern Russia. 21st-century Russian writing characterised by a lack of imagination, disregard for factual information, manipulation of fear and blatant lies. This approach appears to have had a similar compelling impact on the international community as Hoffman’s notorious stories about “Struwwelpeter” and the frightening Scissorman had on Victorian children, causing morbid fascination and horror whilst casting irrational doubt on what reality to believe in any more.
Today, lies and false news are so pervasive in Russian news that it is impossible to differentiate fact from fiction. The only safe presumption one can make about news from Russia is that any stated facts cannot be relied on and that further research is necessary to check the motives behind the published statements in order to understand what is the impact that the KGB controlled media is trying to achieve.
One country that has been at the heavy receiving end of Russian propaganda in recent years is Ukraine, which has been constantly accused of inadequate public policy, incompetent law enforcement authorities, poor democratic processes, and unsteady political, administrative, and military reforms. Kremlin propaganda has been styled on the work of Goebbels who infamously stated that the bigger the lie, the faster it would be believed.
With Presidential elections only 3 months away in Ukraine, Russian propaganda efforts now appear to be moving into warp drive. A standard by-the-book KGB tactic has always been to seek to blacken the Ukrainian military, with false accusations of war crimes. Lately, it has taken the form of strangely recurrent warnings that the Ukrainian Army is preparing to use chemical weapons in the war in Eastern Ukraine, although bizarrely Ukraine does not actually possess any chemical weapons.
Nonetheless, the allegations being made are very detailed, and the descriptions are both professional and superficially plausible. But then, Russia knows exactly what it is talking about. The latest evidence of chemical warfare involved the actions of the Russian military in Syria. The evidence was so strong that Russia sent special agents to the Netherlands to try to hack the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague in order to seek to compromise their investigation.
The Kremlin is very insistent on predicting that “very soon the Ukrainian military will use chemical weapons in Donbass,” which raises suspicions about Russia’s reputation for the use of chemical weapons. Russia’s top specialists in chemical warfare, who were most likely responsible for the chemical attacks in Syria, have recently been relocated to Donbass, where they have been spotted, and their presence has been reported in the media. Chemical suits have been distributed among Ukrainian separatists in Eastern Ukraine and the rumours are grim. Could it be possible that they are considering to initiate such an attack themselves?
In reality, it is unlikely that Donbass insurgents are seriously anticipating any chemical attack from the Ukrainian military; they have no reason to suspect that. By gaining war experience in the Donbass conflict, the Ukrainian military and law enforcement officers are known to learn to use force precisely and discriminately, without giving the insurgents a chance to portray military activities as brutal. Therefore the only explanation for the Kremlin’s repeated predictions that the Ukrainian military is preparing to use chemical warfare, is that this is just an example of one of the Kremlin’s false flag operations.
The situation today looks as though seasoned KGB agents have been left to themselves to lead their nation, without any political agenda or strategic government goals other than the self-preservation of their own institution. Increasingly the KGB is playing with global processes using unsophisticated means and manuals without any clear end. By its actions, Russia is testing national governments’ authority and human values across the globe.
One can only wish that Russia would devote more state funds to the patronage of the arts and literature, and leave the routine business of delivering factual news to trusted professional journalists. A resurgence of artistic and literary excellence in Russia would quickly deliver the international respect and admiration that the current leadership seems to crave, and certainly more effectively than any propaganda strategy that tries to control global information through clumsy brain-washing.