The condition of Russian speakers or minorities abroad has been a marginal topic outside of the Russian-language disinformation outlets in the Baltic countries and Georgia. Such disinformation has primarily revolved around accusations of 'Russophobia' due to the demolition of Soviet monuments.
The following summery analysis is based on extracts from the Interim Report (June-September, 2022) of the Ukraine War Disinfo Working Group, which represents a team of researchers from Debunk.org and our partners. The Interim Report collates insight drawn from the monitoring of narratives trending across pro-Kremlin sites and social media across eleven countries in Central and Eastern Europe, as they relate to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Narratives about the alleged victimization of Russian and Russian-speaking minorities abroad is most frequently found in the Russian-language segment of Baltic media outlets, where they constitute 19% of all the analysed messaging.
Attention to the topic in the region rose dramatically in late July when local governments began to demolish Soviet documents and many individuals called for Schengen visas given to Russian citizens to be revoked.
At the same time, Russian proxies and some pro-governmental voices in Georgia began to claim that Russian ex-pats and tourists in the country are being mistreated. In other states (and in the national language segments of the Baltic states), the topic is rather marginal and constitutes only about 4% of the messaging.
The Baltic state governments are Russophobic
This old narrative has been applied to numerous events, from the Kaliningrad transit issue to the demolition of Soviet monuments.
A key element of this narrative is that the Baltic governments have been portrayed as being at odds with a large share of the local population – those who are ethnically Russian, speak the Russian language, or simply don’t share anti-Russian sentiment. These individuals are claimed to be ignored and marginalized by their states.
The citizens of the Baltic states do not support the demolition of Soviet monuments
Pro-Russian voices in the Baltics claimed that the local publics were outraged and offended by their governments’ destruction of “beloved” monuments.
Naturally, disinformation actors were unable to present any actual sociological evidence beyond general statements and selective vox populi.
The West is plotting to drag Georgia into the war by attacking Russians tourists
This conspiracy theory has been so prevalent since early August that it is now part of the mainstream discussion among Georgian media. According to local pro-Kremlin voices, Western proxies in the country (i.e., the liberal opposition and CSOs) are preparing attacks on Russian citizens in Georgia in order to escalate tensions with Russia and provoke a military conflict.
The popularity of this conspiracy theory can be explained by the fact that it contributes to the narrative that the West seeks to open a second front against Russia in Georgia – the most prevalent narrative in the country.
The Ukraine War Disinfo Working Group unites 10 think tanks and research groups, which are working non-stop to monitor Kremlin propaganda in 14 countries.
Our partners: Civic Resilience Innitiative (Lithuania), Analyses and Alternatives (Bulgaria), Prague Security Studies Initiative (Czechia), GRASS (Georgia), Atlatszo (Hungary), MOST (North Macedonia), Fakenews.pl (Poland), Slovak Security Policy Institute (Slovakia), Detector Media (Ukraine), Press Club Belarus (Belarus), GlobalFocus Center (Romania), European Western Balkans (Serbia).