Information manipulation and historical revisionism: Russian disinformation and foreign interference through manipulated history-based narratives
Background: Disinformation and historical revisionism have been acknowledged as tools for foreign interference that belong to the landscape of hybrid threats. Historical revisionism plays an essential role in Russian foreign policy towards the post-Soviet space and is in strong relation with the concepts of Near Abroad and Russkii Mir (‘Russian World’) and with certain ideas contained in the neo-Eurasianist Movement. This article examines Russian revisionist narratives disseminated in information and influencing campaigns in Europe and against the West. Methods: This study uses a mixed methodology combining desk research, including literature review, and analysis of the EUvsDisinfo database of cases identified before the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Results: The manipulation of historical events has been largely employed by the Kremlin as a tool for foreign interference to achieve strategic objectives. First World War treaties, mainly the Trianon Peace Treaty, as well as the Second World War and the communist and fascist historical experiences in countries within the post-Soviet space, are the pivotal topics from which hostile influencing narratives are built. From the analysis of the EUvsDisinfo database, the article identifies seven topic themes. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that pre-emptively elaborated counter-narratives based on historical evidence and sound historiography can be an effective tool against hostile revisionist narratives that exploit vulnerabilities and specific target groups within European societies.
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