Russian propaganda presents Ukrainian Autocephaly as a threat to Armenia, Georgia and Moldova – study finds

1 October 2019, 09:32 | International relations | 2 |   | Code for Blog |  | 

On September 30, the civic association “Internews-Ukraine” presented the study “More than religion: what the mass media in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine report about the autocephaly of the Church of Ukraine”.

Analysts conducted cross-border monitoring of the presence of Russian propaganda messages in the media of four countries that reported on Ukrainian autocephaly throughout September 1 - November 30, 2018. 

“The most common narrative in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine speaks of the obligation to unite the Orthodox world in the face of Western intervention. The independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine is featured as a threat to this unity and one of the tools used by the West in the geopolitical confrontation with Russia,” said Andrey Kulakov, Program Director of “Internews-Ukraine”.

Vitaly Rybak, an analyst at “Internews-Ukraine”, said during a press conference that the founding of the OCU led to fundamental changes in the context of Russian influence and the structure of soft power in post-Soviet countries. "This fact casts doubt on Moscow's status as the leading spiritual center of the Orthodox Church, which it has been striving to be for more than 300 years,” Rybak stressed.

Analysts chose to monitor two TV channels and two online resources with a balance of pro-European and eurosceptic, pro-government and opposition-backed media in each country.

Strana.ua stands out from among the analyzed Ukrainian media - 37.9% of the materials of this publication are very close to the messages distributed by Russian propaganda against the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church. They are as follows: “Civil conflict on religious grounds is looming in Ukraine,” “United States governs the political and religious life of Ukraine,” “Ukrainian authorities launched persecution against the priests of the Moscow Patriarchate.” Strana.ua calls the Ecumenical Patriarchate the "Istanbul Patriarchate" in order not to emphasize its superiority over the Moscow Patriarchate.

In Georgia, the UOC autocephaly was often presented in the context of the problem of autocephaly of the Abkhazian Church. “There was a certain propaganda narrative: recognition of Ukrainian autocephaly will inevitably lead to recognition of the autocephaly of other churches — such as Abkhazian,” said Nugzar Suaridze, senior program Manager of Journalism Resource Center (Georgia).

Armenia hinted that there would be no Tomos, as the Turkish government had concluded an agreement with Russia and would not allow the Ecumenical Patriarchate to recognize the autocephaly of the OCU. Boris Navasardyan, President of Yerevan Press Club (Armenia) noted that “Ukraine was represented in the Armenian media as an ally of the Ecumenical Patriarchate located in Turkey, which is important in the light of the tense Armenian-Turkish relations.”  

In all these messages, one thought runs like a red thread: the establishment of an independent Orthodox Church in Ukraine is a dangerous event for your country (Armenia, Georgia or Moldova), and therefore it should not be supported. 

Russia's efforts can be countered if the national government, media and civil society of Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine work together. The recommendations include the sanctions against the information influence agents, improvement of media literacy of citizens, creation of anti-ratings of mass media and self-organization of journalists.

View the study in electronic form in Ukrainian, Russian and English. 

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  • erinms | 3 October 2019, 18:37
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    Putin and Russia are simply exerting their will over anything Ukrainian in order to control the situation. Their tool is the Russian Orthodox Church in this matter which only proves is is a state church under the complete control of Putin. The "evidence" that Putin presents is laughable and is a further insult to Armenia. Georgia and Moldova. When will Russia finally be rid of its dictatorial nature and elect a truly independent government where religion is free from political control?

  • enzian | 1 October 2019, 11:03
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    strana.ua - це не 37,9, а 100 % російської пропаганди.

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