Lies in Russia exist as a way to put off and ignore change, change that has long demanded attention, change that must be initiated. Lies in Russia are an attempt to shift responsibility of the state’s actions onto others, to whitewash the state’s misdeeds. Lies in Russia are dangerous for Russia herself, because they generate an unescapable hatred which will consume her from within. Russia will be cut off from the surrounding world and as a result will become a danger to our world because of her lies.
Russia’s information war against Ukraine
Current sociological data which examines Russian attitudes towards Ukraine and vice versa highlights a striking imbalance. If we examine several different pieces of research a broadly cohesive picture emerges:
1) Nearly 90% of Ukrainians in Eastern Ukraine and around 60% of those in Western Ukraine have a positive attitude towards their Russian neighbours; and over several years their attitude has shown almost no change.
2) More than 50% of Russians have a negative attitude towards Ukrainians, and this figure shows no signs of decreasing.
These results confirm the peaceability of Ukrainians, and highlight Russian aggression. Furthermore the Ukrainian government has historically shown its peaceful nature towards Russia. Evidence of this can be seen in Ukraine’s renunciation of Nuclear Weapons, the severe reductions in the fighting capability of the Ukrainian army, and Ukraine’s continued obsequious relationship with Russia.
How has this inbalance, of love on one side and hatred on the other, come about? Why do Ukrainians love Russians more than the other way around? If I can answer these questions honestly, which neither those in power in Russia or Ukraine have ever attempted to do, then I would say that the current situation is the result of an information war waged by Russia upon Ukraine; a war built upon lies. This war has created a rising wave of Ukrainophobia and this would have been impossible without lies, it is these lies that pushed the Russians to hate the Ukrainian people. They serve as the foundation of the information war; they constituted Russia’s main ammunition as it set off for war.
The war declared by Russia is taking place on several fronts; there are battles being fought over trade, information, history, and technology. If economic damage is the result of trade and technological warfare, then the presence of historical and informational ‘fronts’ tells us that there is more at stake here than money.
The principal reason for the human casualties in the Ukrainian civil protests of 2013-14 is firmly rooted in the huge ongoing, widely published, cynical and unbridled information war against Ukraine whose lifespan extends further than 10 years.
And the reason for this information war? The sheer unwillingness of Russians to stand up to the Russian elite and to recognise the rights of Ukrainians to their own independence and self-determination.
The results of the Russian state’s information war against Ukraine would not be so deplorable if it had not coincided with the oligarchical, police, bandit state of Viktor Yanukovich. The effects of Yanukovich’s particular brand of politics were such that the East and West of Ukraine, plus the Crimea, grew disconnected and increasingly split off from one another. This was expressed in the reach of television; Ukrainian television was not accessible to those in the East and the Crimea while the Ukrainophobic Russian television enjoyed a presence throughout the country.
Members of the Ukrainian police subdivision ‘Berkut’, sent from Eastern Ukraine and the Crimea, shot at people on the street of Kyiv precisely because they considered the protestors on the Maidan a bunch of Banderovites and Fascists. The members of this law enforcement agency spoke and expressed themselves purely with the words of Russian state propaganda. The shouts of hatred directed at Ukrainians derive directly from Russian state television.
I am not trying here to wrest responsibility for the informational inbalance between Ukrainian and Russian television in Ukraine from the bloodied hands of Yanukovich’s government however it is our task to rectify this inbalance. Nevertheless let it be said that here we are not solely talking about the former Ukrainian government.
Indeed it is not only the former president Yanukovich and his cronies that should be made to answer for the spilt blood of the Ukrainian people. Responsibility for this lies too at the feet of Vladimir Putin, Dimitri Medvedev, Sergei Lavrov, Dimitri Kiselev, Vladimir Zhirinovski, Sergei Glaz’ev and Dimitri Rogozim. The actions of these men, enemies of Ukraine, led to serious human casualties, and for this, we shall hold them accountable.
It is precisely these people who unleashed and oversaw the war of information against Ukraine. It is these people, along with Yanukovich, that bear the responsibility for the blood of those Ukrainians that have died. They cannot hide behind their verbose and deceitful declarations of faith in Russia’s relationship with Ukraine. Their actions have spoken louder than their words. Putin’s rewarding of Dimitri Kiselev on the basis of his lies about Ukraine, while the bloody events on the Maidan were still unfurling, surely transcends any simple binary of good and evil. 
Additionally there are also instances where Ukrainophobia has been spread amongst the general public in a thoughtless and irresponsible manner. For example Mikhail Zadornov, Ivan Okhlobystin, Sergei Luk’yanenko, Iosif Kobzon, Vladimir Lanovoi and Elena Bystritskaia among others. However every one of them (with the exception of Ivan Urgant) found, in their own time, the bravery to confess their error in propagating Ukrainophobia. From the moment of Russia’s provocation in the Crimea, a true understanding of the situation started to form amongst the Russian intelligentsia (for instance Makarevich and the repentant Okhlobystin, not to mention others who, one hopes, will too, see the light).
Even if these people’s words were thoughtless, that does not mean they were empty and without impact; their words have brought much grief and pain to Ukraine. During the course of the full scale information war waged by Russia, what they said and wrote about Ukraine took on the form of fully fledged acts of war which in their turn helped lead to blood on the Maidan.
Russia’s provocation in the Crimea can thus be understood as a direct continuation of Russia’s informational war on Ukraine. It is, in short, a war of nerves, in which Russia plays antagonist, baiting Ukraine to a violent response, upon which Russia gains the justification to unleash a full-scale war. From a political point of view this brinkmanship has been a failure for Russia because Ukraine has not and will not bite, and the Crimeans will see first-hand what is waiting for them come the transfer of the Crimea into the larger whole of the Russian federation.
Before the events of February 2014, Russia’s information war provided Russians with the opportunity to feel pity for those provincial philistines, for politicians to sure up their poll numbers, for TV ‘experts’ to push up their ratings, and for academics to research and write their doctoral theses. However after the bullets and the blood in Kyiv the ground shifted. Following the events spanning 2013-14, Russia’s information war against Ukraine ceased to be just unacceptable but became downright dangerous. The danger generated began too to threaten the Russian residents of the Crimea and indeed Russians themselves.
Ukraine is doing everything it can to make Russia accountable to the rest of the world. A declaration of zero tolerance for Ukrainophobia will be broadcast on Russian TV channels in Ukraine. After all to shut them down would not be right. Russia’s lies need to be exposed and shown both across the world and in Russia. We know how the internet can trump television, though Russia has yet to find this out.
The war declared on Ukraine is founded on the basis of the destruction of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, up to and including the absolute liquidation of Ukrainian identity. In light of this we will fight relentlessly and ruthlessly, and we will do so with not a spot of blood on our hands.
Lies are destroying Russia.
Ukraine is not Russia. Even during the most primeval periods of the dictator Yanukovich’s rule, thankfully there were just two sources of lies in Ukraine. The first was made up of Russian television stations (including the local ‘Inter’), the second of pro-government stations (‘UT-1’, and more recently ‘112 Ukraina’). In 2004 when Ukrainian TV channels promised to no longer accept nor accommodate censorship, they in effect successfully inoculated themselves against the brewing information war. It is this that has essentially saved Ukraine today; the truth about those in power slowly, but surely, cast light into the shadows of the corridors of power. This is not the case for Russia.
If one can say that in Ukraine it was truth that destroyed the former government, then in Russia the opposite will be true. Those in power in Russia, those who stand apart from, and indeed against, the country’s people, will be destroyed by their very own lies.
In order to rid Ukraine of Russia’s lies, it is first necessary to cleanse the source itself: Russia. In this context, the idea of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s essay ‘Live not by lies’ requires rethinking. How does one rid Russia of lies in the first place?
Solzhenitsyn wrote that ‘Violence has nothing whatsoever but lies to dress itself with, and lies have nothing but violence to hold them in existence’. The modern-day Russian government has invented a rather modern scheme for implementing violence where said violence masquerades as concern for the wellbeing of the state and the country. It essentially consists of shifting the focus and the blame.
It works like this. The Russian authorities have been, for many years, committing acts of economic violence in their own country (bearing in mind that Russia’s energy resources lie in the hands of a few dozen families). The money earned from this violence is quickly spirited out of reach of the national budget to be privately used by those in power and those around them. This understandably causes the Russian people to hate those in power.
But if this hatred is redirected towards different nations (i.e. it is they who are guilty and our lot is not all that bad) then the hatred generated can be redistributed and those in power in Russia are cast in a different light. They are now occupied with the important task of fighting external enemies, and subsequently hold the moral right to use unaccounted-for public resources, and to whip up aggression and hatred towards these so-called enemies.
Thus the Russian state’s lies about itself become less visible as they are slyly obscured by lies about the foreign. Russia thus becomes a generator of lies, pumping hatred into the wider world, expelling hatred from within itself.
Many countries, as of today, have been successful in repulsing Russia’s imperial hatred: the Baltic states, Georgia, and now Ukraine. All the same Russia continues its poisonous externalisation. Such externalisation is only partially successful however; there is hatred which is impossible to redirect onto another, and which builds up, rotting Russian from within. If the production of lies and hatred is not stopped, Russia will not be left alive.
To refer back to one’s rethinking of Solzhenitsyn’s 1970s proposal: how possible is it to stop lies and hatred on an individual level in this contemporary scenario? Today, Solzhenitsyn’s method of personal withdrawal and non-participation in lies appears inadequate. Of course it is tempting to sit at home and just watch the TV channel ‘Dozhd’’and to write honestly and openly on social networking sites.  Such is the temptation to just communicate through virtual means, and to end up disconnected from the world around you.
Non-participation in lies outside of times of crisis only really speeds up the onset of crisis and the destruction of the system of lies. But once in a global context, in a global crisis, individual non-participation in lies is no longer adequate. Without personal acts of social protest, that cause and push change forward, a state which is committing theft on a monumental scale and offers no plans for social reform itself will only be aided by those who choose not to participate.
Our situation demands a public intellectual who is focussed not just on speaking short, quick truths about the now, but to tell a larger truth, a truth that relates to the future. If they place truth in perspective, with intelligence and insight, if they contextualise it, the possibility of a sense of communality between Russian and Ukraine can emerge.
Russia needs its own Maidan. A place where there is no hatred, where the truth is sought, where together an understanding and formulation of the future can be built. To live ‘not by lies’ means as much as to avoid individual lies as it means to avoid collective ones- those of agitation and propaganda, veiled as TV news by the Russian state.
Television news sets the parameters and assumes the role of creator in our modern reality. In comparison, the influence wielded by social networking sites and internet news is not of the same magnitude, they lack the informational resources and thus the same ability to shape opinion and thought.
The distribution of news and information on the internet is utilised by a very small circle. Its influence has indeed been growing, but it still not even a close second to Television. The Maidan in Ukraine was able to overcome Russia’s media influence because, in this case, the internet was able to overcome the television. On the Maidan the internet succeeded in fulfilling its dynamic and powerful ability to educate and inform.
Today there are virtually no TV news outlets in Russia that are of any quality. In place of news there is just agitation and propaganda. If one permits a little generalisation, the essence of such agitation and propaganda can be summarised as follows:
- There is a positive depiction of Russia and her government (Russia is the coolest, and that’s down to her awesome leaders)
- Russia is surrounded by enemies (the worst of whom are the USA, Europe, the Baltic states, Georgia and Ukraine) and the government is bravely fighting them to create a grand imperial Russian empire
- The Russian empire is heaven on earth and if only the former Soviet states were to return to the fold then a kingdom of worldwide justice would reign supreme and Russia would once again be a world power.
Ahh the Empire! Also, don’t forget that old archetype, dear to the hearts of all Russians, the ‘Great Mother’ who forces all before her to sacrifice their rights and freedoms. But this victimhood would sadly be in vain – the empire will not return. At least not in the form as dreamed of by the Russian political elite.
It is here that we now lower ourselves into another lie; the lie of the Russian elite to its people, and what’s more, to itself. The Big Lie about the possibility of an empire. How can they not see that states the world over are collapsing only to be replaced by corporations; how can they not see that the future of social organisation lies in self-organised communities and it is these communities alone that are capable of fighting the corporations.
Despite this, the Big Lie lives on in Russia. The Lie kills any conception of a future which does not feature the grand Russian empire, and its inevitable rebirth. The resulting vacuum of original thoughts and ideas acts as nourishment for the lies of the Russian elite. From the vacuum a fundamentalist orthodoxy arises followed by a rejection of secular education. Those in power in Russia are continuing to lie about the most important thing of all, the future’s form; they deny it of any flexibility, of any options, variants. The path is straight. The Big Lie must be destroyed first because it sits at the heart of the Russian lie making machine.
My message to the Russian elite is simple. The Empire will not return. Start looking for a different future. Stop lying to yourself and stop lying to the Russian people.
 [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapons_and_Ukraine] & http://www.startribune.com/world/253417511.html
 It should be pointed out here that it was not only Ukrainians that were killed in the protests.
 See above.
 (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26839216. A reference to his appointment as managing director of RT?)
 A reference to the end of the Orange Revolution of 2004 where most media outlets began to ignore government direction and influence in matters of news reporting (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_the_press_in_Ukraine).
 My direct translation from the article, but here is the larger piece the quote comes from, in a slightly different form: http://voluntaryist.com/articles/solztwo.html#.U0GQroXWE80.
 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dozhd: relatively speaking an independent Russian media outlet)