The Art of Brainwashing: Russia’s Mass Media’s Successful Project

Foreign Policy Brief #146 | By: Yelena Korshunov | August 30, 2022

Header photo taken from: Radio Free Europe




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Old woman in Russian Village vs. Putin’s alleged palace in Gelendzhik.

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Policy Summary

“But all are afraid of us!”

Since the day when Russia started a so-called “special operation in Ukraine”, the iconic phrase of the average Russian has become “But all are afraid of us!” When a Siberian grandma tells you that she doesn’t have heating, water, and electricity in her old house in February when the outside temperature falls to -13F and the air in her unheated bedroom is freezy, and her family still uses a wobbly wooden toilet in the backyard, she will proudly add “But all are afraid of us!” This mantra means that the Western World, especially America, is trembling at the thought of Russia’s military power.

“How can the entire nation be so zombified?” you will wonder. The answer is easy peasy. Russia’s mass media succeeded in brainwashing millions of minds who sacredly believe that all Ukrainians are “nazi” that need to die, and that calling the war a war is a mortal sin. And also that they must line up in the shape of a letter “Z” to demonstrate who is the mightiest nation in the world. And that Russia is a great empire that has to expand its borders, and that Putin is a mighty Lord, and whatever he says is set in stone. And that the entire world that does not support Putin is their enemy.

Policy Analysis

“Ukraine is just an intermediate stage”

Russia’s mass media is extremely convincing. They convinced people that the reason for their poverty is the hostile Western forces. “If you think that we will stop in Ukraine,” says Russian media star Vladimir Solovyov,” think 300 times. Let me remind you that Ukraine is just an intermediate stage in ensuring the strategic security of the Russian Federation.”

Putin’s propagandist Vladimir Solovyov.

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“Opposing the West, Russia is fighting against the unipolar world with the US dictatorship and the spread of Nazism. Anti-Russian sanctions failed to affect the daily life of Russians,” echoed by the passionate speakers of the Russian special issue TV series “Za Mir” (For Peace).

“Russian society is uniting around support for the special operation, the President, the mission of Russia and the new opportunities that are opening up today. Citizens of Russia are increasingly united by the belief that their country will cope with any problems and will inevitably occupy one of the central places in the world.”

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Not just Putin: Most Russians support the war in Ukraine. The influence of tightly controlled media plays a role.

Photo taken from: The Atlantic Council

(click or tap to enlargen)

“Strengthen the economy”

And that is what is told about economics to a wide Russian-speaking audience: “Russia creates and strengthens economic ties with the most dynamically developing part of the international economic community. The basis for the future economic development of Russia is the support of entrepreneurial initiative. 

The President once again stressed that the government-supported initiatives of active and conscientious people will be the key to the growth of the domestic economy. The plan of the President of the Russian Federation is to use the maximum opportunities provided by the current situation and the accumulated internal reserves to significantly strengthen the economy, form technological sovereignty and improve the living standards of people.” 


That is what the Russian nation digests instead of nutritious meals, and actually that is what has motivated the Russian mentality throughout the centuries of serfdom, despotic rule, famine, and Stalin’s personality cult. 

Yes, we are hungry and cold, but the tzar says that everything is fine, so the bright happy future is around the corner. We will fight our enemies, demonstrate our power to the whole world, and prosperity will come to us.

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On the cohesion of Russians against the backdrop of a special military operation.

Screenshot taken from:

“Resisting evil”

This propaganda is literally proclaimed on Russia’s TV channels today, inspiring the zombified audience listening to their eloquent idols: “National cohesion is especially important in resisting evil. Russia demonstrates multinational unity and respect as opposed to world Nazism, a readiness to defend together its history, values and aspirations. 

The record number of participants in the Immortal Regiment processions in 2022 – about 12 million people – is clear evidence of the unity of Russian society. The “Donbass Consensus” is an effect of rallying Russian society, uniting citizens of different views, supporters of various political forces in Russia around the figure of the president and his decisions to protect Russia, its people, as well as those who feel themselves involved in Russian culture. Eight years after the “Crimean Consensus” – unification against the backdrop of the return of Crimea – a new impetus for unification arose” – confidently asserts another speaker in a popular political TV show.

Back to Dark Ages

This style of contemporary Russian mass media propaganda exactly copies TV speeches of the darkest years in the USSR, pronounced on the same pitch from the stands of the Communist Party Congress. The torrential word-flow from people who are rich, who are close to Putin’s royal court, favors and generosity, brainwash millions of Russia’s residents and those Russian emigrants who are still glued to Russia’s TV channels. There are no longer the few opposition mass media sources that were allowed to exist previously, before February 24, 2022. They are now declared the enemies of the nation and banned. 

The smaller part of Russia’s residents who see through the government lies and propaganda mostly keep silent to save their and their families’ lives. Many oppositionists, along with Alexei Navalny, are thrown in prison. Some objectionable oppositionists like Boris Nemtsov were murdered throughout years, one by one, or were forced into hiding abroad. The Cold War dark ages have now finally come back to Russia, and Orwell’s “1984” is their new reality. The Iron Curtain of lies and isolation is down again.

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