Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Work of Russian Propagandists in Belarus Backfiring Because Belarusians aren’t Russians, New Study Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 16 – Disinforming the population in Belarus is “more difficult than doing that in Russia,” a new study by Britain’s Sociolytics agency says. Belarusians have long been more distrustful of the official media in their country than Russians are of theirs and far more inclined to turn to the Internet for news and information.

            Anna Lyubimtseva, a Sociolytics partner, says Lukashenka invited Russian propagandists in because he thought his population and that of Russia were so similar that tactics that worked in Moscow would work in Minsk. The research her organization conducted, she says, shows he is wrong in four ways (

            First of all, “Belarusians trust their own state television significantly less than Russians trust theirs.” Belarusians no longer trust the channel Russian propagandists rely on. Instead, they have turned away from traditional media to the Internet.  Just over half of Belarusians prefer independent media, and less than 30 percent. The remaining 16 percent use both.

            That is a dramatic contrast to the situation in Russia. According to one poll, only 20 percent of Russians prefer independent media, while more than three out of five prefer state media. (18.1 percent use both.)

            Second, “not only young Belarusians rely on the Internet for news.” Young Belarusians basically ignore state television and state media and rely on the Internet and especially social media.

            Third, “more than have of the citizens of Belarus capably distinguish fake news from real news.”  One consequence of this is that as Belarusian state media have become more like Russian state media, ever more Belarusians are not relying upon it at all. The Russian propagandists Lukashenka brought it typically have failed to take note of this.

            And fourth, “after the start of the work of Russian propagandists, the media preferences in Belarus have changed but not in their favor.” As these Russians expand their presence in Belarusian state media, ever more Belarusians have stopped paying attention to those media and turned instead to the Internet.

            In short, the Russian propagandists had an impact on Belarusians but hardly the one Lukashenka or Moscow wanted.

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