Monday, April 14, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Putin Propaganda on Ukraine Threatens to Destabilize Russia , Moscow Commentator Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 14 – The Kremlin’s insistence that ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in southeastern Ukraine are acting on their own rather than under the direction of Moscow as seems to be the case could blow up in Vladimir Putin’s face by leading Russians in Russian regions to ask the same questions about how they are being treated and act on them.

            In “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” Aleksey Roshchin says that the Kremlin does not appear to understand at all that the events in Ukraine and especially the way Moscow media are covering them could be “destructive for present-day Russia itself” (

            If one accepts the idea that what is going on is entirely orchestrated by the FSB or the CIA, that is not the case, Roshchin says. But if one believes, as Russian government media insist, that the rising of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in southeastern Ukraine reflects real grievances, then it very much is or could be.

            Those who are watching Russian government television, listening to Russian government radio or reading Russian government controlled newspapers are being told to conclude that “ordinary peaceful people ... suddenly began to ask themselves: what in fact their native oblast was doing in this state? What is the sense of this FOR THEM PERSONALLY?”

            Putin-TV “with enormous enthusiasm” has suggested that this is exactly what happened and done so repeatedly.  But that same outlet has failed to recognize that its version of what is behind the events in southeastern Ukraine has some parallels with what people are thinking in the Russian Federation.

            As presented by Putin TV, “the meaning of the declarations in South-East Ukraine” is roughly the following: “’We give the center our blood, and they in return badly administer us and give nothing back. Well, let them go to hell. We will find a better Center, in this case Russia, and then we will begin to live independently.’”

            How much different – save for the reference to Russia – are such feelings than what many Russians have about Moscow and the way it spends their money? Roshchin asks.  None at all. Consequently, he says, he views Russian TV coverage of Ukraine as having at least potentially “an extremely positive” impact on Russians.

             Russians not just in the capital but in the regions are being shown a model of how to think about themselves as a collective rather than as a group of individuals, how to assess what the central authorities are doing to rather than for them, and how then to act in order to secure their rights.

            Putin’s agitprop workers do not understand that their treatment of Ukraine, however at variance it may be with the truth on the ground, can have a “boomerang” effect on Russia, that what the people in Ukraine are asking are “absolutely the same questions that residents of Russia’s regions can address to our native Center. That is, to the Kremlin.”

            “If tomorrow or the next day, the residents of Tambov or Irkutsk suddenly seized the building of the oblast administration and presented their demands to Moscow along the lines of wanting a local referendum, the adoption of a Constitution for the oblast, and the establishment of relations with you Muscovites on a different basis, what would [Putin’s] agitprop answer?”

Even more to the point, Roshchin asks rhetorically, “What COULD it answer?”

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