May 9 in Kremlin’s propaganda: messages spread and what is wrong with them

May 9 in Kremlin’s propaganda: messages spread and what is wrong with them

In Russian propaganda, “May 9,” that is, Victory Day over Nazi Germany, takes a prominent place: propagandists sacralize it and elevate the role of the USSR; any dissenters are branded “Russophobes” and “fascists.” 

However, those who keep boasting of their “deeds” in World War II have themselves started a war against Ukraine and the entire democratic world.

How Russian propaganda shape its disinformation campaigns around “May 9”

As a rule, Russian narratives and messages on “May 9” are cyclical, that is, the same statements are reproduced every year, with only local and time contexts being adjusted.

In particular, Russian propaganda in March-April 2023 began to shape frames for the May 9 campaign, focusing on the context of the ongoing war against Ukraine.

For example, the Pridnestrovets Telegram channel published a post alleging that “Ukrainians are going to attack Moscow’s Red Square on May 9.” According to the “Without Lie” project, in fact, propagandists used the video of Ukraine’s ICTV Facty, which remains in the public domain. However, neither the caption to the real video nor the video itself says anything about the “attack.”

Before that, in March, Russian propaganda used for its manipulation Ukraine’s draft law on amending Article 73 of the Labor Code of Ukraine to establish banking days and stated that, instead of May 9, Ukraine introduced a new holiday, “Victory over Muscovy.” StopFake also refuted this “report,” explaining that the bill, which had not yet been put to a vote in parliament, proposed not to cancel the existing holidays but only to establish others. In particular, the bill’s sponsors want to introduce a “Day of Peace” on September 21 to celebrate “peaceful life after Ukraine’s victory over Russian military aggression” on this day. May 9 is to remain a regular working day.

Messages concerning “May 9,” as a rule, strengthen the narratives about “Russophobia” and “Nazi policies” in certain countries. 

For example, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia are most often referred to as “Nazi countries,” which cancel “remembrance days” and even “prosecute people for any attempts to violate the rule.”

In addition, Russian propaganda claims it’s Ukrainians who provoke an even more hostile attitude toward Russia. A 2022 publication of the Russian Baltnews, which is part of the Russia Today media group, says: “At the same time, literally by default, anti-Russian aggression expressed by some Ukrainians who arrived in Estonia is not considered a provocation, apparently.”

In addition, Russian propaganda does not stop trying to spread its basic narratives about World War II, which are also supported by the self-proclaimed President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko. For example: “We remember all the innocent victims of the cynical experiments and the terrible brutality of Hitler’s executioners. And we will not tire of reminding the peoples of Europe of those who put an end to the bloodiest war in the history of mankind.”

An example is the statement of the speaker of Russia’s State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, who said in 2022 that “the current generation of Western politicians wants to rewrite history and cross out the heroic act of the Soviet people in World War II.”

What is wrong with the Kremlin’s messages about “May 9,” and why Russia is not better than Nazi Germany?

With its messages, Russia seeks to monopolize Victory. At the same time, significant contribution was made by Ukraine, which was part of the USSR, and its brave people.

In addition, at the moment, it is Russia that is a Nazi state, which follows the Third Reich even in aesthetics, and the obvious parallels of the modern Russo-Ukrainian war with World War II are in no way in Russia’s favor:

1)    Hitler started the war over his own imperial ambitions. Putin is also trying to revive the empire and capture Ukraine, which he sees as his colony.

2)   Nazi Germany, led by Hitler, waged a war of annihilation, committed genocide, and questioned the right of other peoples and states to existence. Russia, led by Putin, is doing the same thing now. Putin claims there are no Ukrainians, and that the Ukrainian state has no right to exist.

3)    Nazi Germany forcibly removed the population from the occupied territories. Russia is doing just the same. In March, the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Putin’s arrest for abducting Ukrainian children.

What are the threats posed by Russia’s war against Ukraine?

Russia is destroying the post-World War II global order. If Putin is not stopped, the reality may become an even more terrible World War III.

In addition, the Russian president declared his adversary not only Ukraine, but the entire Western world (in fact, all democracies in general). According to his plans, Ukraine had to fall first and pave the way for further aggression. If Putin is not defeated in Ukraine, he will attack other European countries as Hitler did after conquering Poland.

History has proven that attempts to appease the aggressor only boost his appetites. In the 1930s, the world turned a blind eye to the Anschluss of Austria and allowed Germany to dismember Czechoslovakia. Given the lack of a resolute international response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and occupation of part of the Ukrainian Donbas, Putin was convinced that Russia would avoid accountability for unleashing a full-scale war. Only by uniting can the world stop Putin and prevent a new global war.

Center for Strategic Communication and Information Security

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