After a week of self-explanatory panic, Russian propaganda all but acknowledged the Ukrainian advance and the Russian retreat in Kharkiv Oblast. However, propaganda – especially in its primitive form as practiced in Russia – must necessarily be able to hide the bad news in a big box of pink cotton candy. These days, the first attempt in this direction has appeared: the disgraceful escape of the Russian army has been called the “great withdrawal”, roughly translated – the “great retreat”.
The clash of civilizations
From the first hours of the war we see what we see these days on the battlefield. Two different civilizations collide. One, the Russian-Soviet one, is built on lies, shams, violence and more lies. The other, the Ukrainian, although otherwise deformed to a large extent, reveals itself as Western-democratic.
The differences in the information methods used by the two countries are obvious. From day one, Ukrainians have invited all possible world media to cover their version. The Russians do not invite such media into their conquered territories. Dozens and hundreds of video materials of eyewitnesses and participants emerge from Ukraine every day. On the Russian side – almost zero, until these days, when the discipline collapsed and individual clips began to appear.
Where the Russians succeeded in conquering territories, they instantly lowered what Churchill as early as 1947 called the “Iron Curtain” – a dense information blackout replaced by propaganda. The Ukrainians bet on something else – maximum openness aimed at winning the “hearts and minds” of the world.
“Hearts” were won in the opening minutes as Russia invaded Ukraine without declaring either war or casus belli. And it started with the bombing of residential areas. “Minds” began to peruse from the moment Ukrainian President Zelensky declared that he did not ask the EU for asylum, but for weapons.
Today, half a year after the outbreak of war, we see the difference between the primitive propaganda of the early 20th century and the struggle for hearts and minds with the means of the 21st century. The image of many of the Russians involved in the war is that of ragged and wild marauders, valuing a stolen washing machine more than human life. The image of Ukrainians, on the other hand, is not only of people of the 21st century, but it is a colorful, even sparkling image. Soldiers loaded with all their ammunition breakdance as good as Michael Jackson. They sound the videos of their attack with AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Metallica. They stop a jeep to push a stray hedgehog off the road (which the Russians would crush as they crush their own men in their panicked flight). They burst into hearty laughter when in front of them a Russian soldier throws the “Kalashnik” into the bushes and walks away, cursing the whole world over his shoulder (they neither capture him nor do anything to him – they are too busy laughing).
Every inhabitant of the 21st century, looking at the Ukrainians, says to himself: “These are my people…” Looking at the Russians – shudder: “These from the darkness of which century invaded?”
The world will ask: what will Russia be transformed into?
Let’s go back to the “great departure”. Few people know that in White Guard mythology this is the name given to the chaotic retreat of Admiral Kolchak, who set out from Siberia to conquer Bolshevik Moscow, but was pushed back behind the Urals by the Bolsheviks. For months, his soldiers and officers in smaller and smaller groups and finally alone wander the steppes of Central Asia until they finally disappear. Apparently, today’s Kremlin propagandists are not familiar with this story. If they were, they would have been aware that after a “great departure” there is no “great victory” but only a humiliating and painful death.
By the way, in the Russian language “waste” has another meaning: production waste that can be used for something useful after processing (“neftyanoi othod”). Busy in its “great retreat,” Putin’s Russia is about to become just such a “retreat.” Before long, the world community will be faced with the question: what and how should Russia be transformed so that it can serve for something useful?
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