Ukraine: Countering the Russian Propaganda

05:04 PM 21-5-2014

Deputy Director of the IWP Kateryna Zarembo for EuobserverIt is not easy for Ukraine to tell its story to the West and especially to counter Russian propaganda machine. The reasons for it are complicated and go back to the past centuries.\
As many Central and Eastern European countries, which underwent the so called «white colonization», Ukraine was deprived of its narrative tradition. For several centuries, and especially during the Soviet times, its story was told by the Soviet Empire in a convoluted and untruthful way. Ukraine was depicted as a weak and incompetent entity, its history was distorted and its heroes were defamed. Its statehood was negated. Soviet Ukrainians were neither allowed to produce authentic scholarship regarding their own statehood, nor could they travel abroad to gain access to alternative information sources or ways of thinking.

American scholar Ewa Thompson underlines that if the knowledge about a certain subject is distorted during the life of several generations, it becomes deformed and cannot be easily corrected in one article, lecture or book.

That is why so many in the West still think that Ukraine is a part of Russia. That is why Russian propaganda machine is still so effective in the West – because the ears it falls on are receptive to the information it offers.

Ukraine works hard on countering this legacy. And many Europeans and Americans help. I am really happy that this week was celebrated by two prominent events aimed at bringing the objective information about what’s going on in Ukraine to the West.

The Institute of World Policy in partnership with CIDOB (Barcelona Center for International Affairs, Spain) has brought twenty experts from the most influential European think-tanks to meet Ukraine’s top decision-makers and important stakeholders on May 15-16. CEPS, European Stability Initiative, Centre for Liberal Strategies, EU Institute for Security Studies, ECFR and many others will bring back the unique first-hand expertise about Ukraine and transmit it to the national and EU decision-makers.

Simultaneously, a huge international event “Ukraine: Thinking Together” is taking place on May 15-19. It was initiated by two profound thinkers Timothy Snyder and Leon Wieseltier and brings key European intellectuals to Ukraine’s capital for a 5-day intellectual marathon. Snyder’s recent publications made immense input into the understanding of what’s going on in Ukraine in the last months and this local initiative looks like a pinnacle of his efforts. It has always impressed me how precise his understanding of Ukraine’s situation is, despite observing it from the distance. I equally appreciate his profound understanding of Ukraine’s instrumental role for the future of Europe and only wish all European and American decision-makers took in his arguments.

Snyder started his opening lecture yesterday with Faulkner’s quote “The past is not over”. Indeed, the past is not over for Ukraine, it haunts it in the incarnation of Putin’s imperial complex, in Ukraine’s own real complexes and fears. But it’s ok, we are working hard. As Ukraine’s national poet, symbol of Ukraine’s resistance Taras Shevchenko bequethed: “Strive, and you will succeed! God helps you!” (“Борітеся – поборете! Вам Бог помагає!”).

Visit of European think-tanks to Kyiv is organized with the support of the International Renaissance Foundation and “Ukraine National Initiatives to Enhance Reforms” (UNITER) project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by the Pact in Ukraine; Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Ukraine.