Information vs. Propaganda: The Ukrainian Experience


In the National Museum's Lapidarium at the Exhibition Grounds the Czech literary public was introduced to two interesting guests from the Ukraine. One was Stanislav Fedorchuk, political scientist and journalist from Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region, who had been involved in organising the feebly attended Maidan in Donetsk. As a result he was forced to move to western Ukraine via Georgia. The second guest was Artem Chech, writer and essayist from the country's central part. He had been mobilised and during his participation in the hot phase of the conflict kept a diary, the "edited version" of which was published as a collection of essays under the title Point Zero. Initially his essays had been highly critical of the goings on in the Ukrainian army, believing that by unveiling all the shortcomings he is aiding their correction. Then, however, he was paid a visit by military psychologists who issued him with a strong warning that by doing so he is revealing the weaknesses of his own army to the enemy. This made him understand how dangerous honestly meant information can be in a military conflict.

Stanislav Fedorchuk described the stealthy spread of destabilising propaganda in the Donetsk region. Even long before the Ukrainian civil war, newspapers started printing more and more short articles about what a relief the return of the old Soviet times would bring, or stating that the Ukrainian state's administration cannot manage and maintain the state in the long run anyway. Then entire periodicals featuring this sort of opinion started appearing, but still these remained on the margins of social impact. Stanislav Fedorchuk kept wondering how these titles could survive, given the tiny readership they enjoyed. Nonetheless, some local businessman always appeared, prepared to give them a new lease of life. Now he understands that all this had been a coldly calculated plot that has paid off for its perpetrators. Mr. Fedorchuk personally knew many of the journalist writing for this type of media. When he asked them whether they really believed what they were writing, all their answers were negative. They all saw it as a way of earning a living in a job that pays well and believed the effect of their articles to be insignificant. However, when the first military confrontation occurred, everybody was surprised how the opinions of these marginal periodicals all of a sudden gained landslide prominence in the society. "The moment the war began it was clear that the most important battles had already been lost. These were the battles that had taken place in the heads of the people," Stanislav Fedrochuk summed up the chilling truth about successful propaganda.