August 31 - September 6, 2023 | Issue 30 - EUCOM and CTSC Teams
Sophia Ritscher, Gabriel Helupka, Jayde Dorland, Barbara Batycka
Mia Sadler, Editor; Evan Beachler, Senior Editor
Russian Ministry of Education and Science
Date: August 31, 2023
Parties involved: Russian President Vladimir Putin; Russia; Russian government; Russian Ministry of Education (MESRF); Kremlin aide and author of the history textbook Vladimir Medinsky; deputy head of the political consulting firm Center for Political Technologies (CPT) Aleksei Makarkin; CPT; Russian students; Russian educators; Russian educator Dima Zitser; Russian historians; Russian citizens; Ukraine; Western nations
The event: The Russian government has reissued 11th-grade history textbooks for the new school year, distributing 650,000 copies across the country depicting an updated version of Russian history from the 1970s to the present day. Makarkin criticizes the updated textbooks’ as a way to “return to Soviet-style practices of ideological indoctrination aimed at youths,” using the form of text to communicate with young people who do not watch television. Images posted online of the textbook display messages alluding to Ukraine being a neo-Nazi and ultranationalist state controlled by Western nations, whose sanctions on Russia are illegal violations of international law. The textbook is the next installment of the “patriotic education” program implemented throughout Putin’s leadership, following the creation of the “Important Conversations” program last year that reinforces a weekly meeting to discuss international and domestic patriotic themes. Zitser believes that the new textbooks will not shape 11th-grade students’ minds as they “probably” possess preconceived views on Ukraine and Russia’s relations with the West, but warns that updated textbooks for younger students may follow.
Analysis & Implications:
New history textbooks containing propaganda and disinformation about historical events will very likely threaten the development of independent and critical thinking skills among young Russian adults. MESRF almost certainly distributed educational material containing altered facts to portray Russian foreign policy and history in line with Putin’s justification for the invasion of Ukraine. Distributing new books almost certainly aims to reduce the potential of young people’s political opposition and solidify support for the war in Ukraine. Younger generations will almost certainly be limited in forming opinions about Russia’s politics without access to historically accurate educational material in school.
The new textbook distribution will very likely lead to rewritten versions for younger grades, likely creating long-lasting alternative perspectives on historical events that persist into their adulthood and future family generations. Younger learners will almost certainly be taught pro-government theories at earlier ages, likely creating lifelong supporters of the Russian government’s views on patriotism and foreign policy. Children will very unlikely refute teachings at earlier ages, likely adapting toward a pro-Russian mindset in adulthood based on the disinformation taught to them as students. Disinformed education will very likely reinforce Russia’s patriotism and hostile views of the West and Ukraine, very likely encouraging students to maintain government-portrayed beliefs into adulthood and abstain from opposition against structured teaching for future generations.
Date: September 3, 2023
Parties involved: Russian President Vladimir Putin; Russia; Russian government; Russian army; Russian conscripts; young Russian citizens; Russian citizens; Russia state-owned television platforms; pro-Russian social media influencers known as Z-bloggers; Z-blogger Semyon Pegov also known as WarGonzo; deceased Z-blogger Vladen Tatarsky; Ukraine; Ukrainian soldiers; Ukrainian citizens; Ukrainian analysts; Western analysts; encrypted messaging platform Telegram; non-war related advertisers on social media
The event: Z-bloggers are receiving significant advertising revenue, increased followers, and public praise from Putin after sharing posts supporting the war in Ukraine and Putin’s government. Z-bloggers often accompany the Russian army and share images and videos from the front line to encourage young Russians to enlist. Evidence suggests that this recruitment tactic is working, with some young Russian enlistees citing Z-bloggers like Tatarsky and WarGonzo as their influences for enlisting. Mainly active on Telegram, Z-bloggers reach a broad audience, including pro-war nationals alongside Western and Ukrainian analysts trying to understand front-line activity in the war. Z-blogger posts also spread propaganda and disinformation, including fake videos of Ukrainian soldiers mistreating Russian civilians to portray them negatively.
Analysis & Implications:
Viewing Z-blogger content is likely to increase interest in military conscription compared to educational material like the new textbook, very likely because of influencer content and messaging appeal. Younger Russian audiences will very likely resonate with entertaining video-based content, likely drawing interest to front-line reporting compared to traditional book-based propaganda they likely perceive as uninteresting. Putin will very likely continue legitimizing Z-blogger content through special access to war efforts and awarding official government positions, very likely increasing the appeal of the content based on unique perspectives the government cannot officially disseminate as effectively.
The Russian government will almost certainly continue engaging with Z-bloggers, likely aiming to increase government popularity among younger audiences. Involved parties will almost certainly maintain the relationship as it provides mutually reinforcing benefits, very likely sustaining support from younger generations in exchange for fame and financial gain for the war influencers. The growing popularity of Z-blogger channels and heightened engagement among younger demographics will very likely result in increasing partnerships with non-war companies. Forming partnerships will likely target unsuspecting Telegram users, likely piquing interest with trending content and slowly exposing them to government-related and pro-war content to sway public opinion.
There is a roughly even chance that the Russian government will increasingly grant Z-bloggers the opportunity to broadcast their advertisements on Russian state television, likely placing the adverts strategically to increase their Telegram audiences. Exploiting television outlets alongside Telegram almost certainly boosts Russian government narratives in controllable environments, very likely targeting a broader age demographic with pro-war messaging. Featuring popular influencers on state television will likely reinforce preexisting national campaigns, with broadcasters very likely pairing influencer content with prior campaigning material to boost citizen receptivity to government-supporting narratives.
 “Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation” by Ivtorov licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
 Books To Boots: Critics Say New Russian History Textbook Is Propaganda, Preparation For War, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, August 2023, https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-history-textbook-propaganda/32572916.html
 “Pro-Putin influencers cashing in on war propaganda in Ukraine”, BBC Brasil, September 2023 (Translated by Sophia Ritscher) https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/articles/c72n1589npro