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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Inside Russia, it’s easier to believe lies than seek truth

As Russian President Vladmir Putin chokes the flow of information in-and-out of Russia, many citizens of the country are inclined to believe the state’s propaganda about the Ukrainian war. 

Many journalists in Russia have fled or have gone underground to ensure the truth of Russian activity in Ukraine to their nation, with mild success, according to media reports.

“Russia has always been an authoritarian society,” said University of Arizona Professor Adele Barker, who specializes in Russian and Slavic studies. “Even in the best of times, media has been controlled from the center.”

In February, independent media, such as TV Rain, and anyone else criticizing the government were removed. This was the beginning of repelling any notion the invasion was anything but justified. For example, the word “war” is banned in Russia; anyone caught using it could face 15 years in jail.

“The first thing authoritarians try to do is control the media,” said UA Professor of Practice Margaret E. Zanger, who teaches in the UA School of Journalism. “Now we see the Russian government is trying to control various internet platforms: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. They have all been taken offline in Russia.”

While some journalists in Russia are using apps such as Telegram or getting the news through other independent outlets such as Meduza, running out of Latvia, they have limited reach within the country. Only a fraction of the country can gain access to independent media. Those within the cities and closer to the sources of independent outlets may be able to gain the truth, while the rest are left in the dark.

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“A lot of Russians don’t know what’s going on,” Zanger said. “There’s a lot of small towns and rural villages. [There are] people living in very rural areas with only access to TV and radio. If you’re not internet savvy, or computer savvy, you can’t get any of this information.”

According to Barker, the older generation is more inclined to listen to Putin’s propaganda. The message geared towards them reminds survivors of the Battle of Stalingrad what they went through. Putin creates the need to hit his manufactured aggressor before Russian suffering happens again.

“[Putin] is playing to people’s collective memory,” Barker said. “I think memory dies hard, and there’s a lot of animosity still on the part of Russians over Ukrainian collaboration with the Nazis during World War II.”

Within the Russian population, there are divisions between generations, geography, education, and gaps in collective historical memory; many don’t seek to speak out and simply look to keep their head down until the crisis comes to an end. 

“Fear is a powerful motivating force. A lot of people are simply afraid to come out and protest,” Barker said. “The propaganda machine is effective not in that it’s convincing people, as it is in creating fear. A lot of people are taking shelter with Putin because it is safe.”

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