Kantaria’s “Nostalgic Memories” about ORT and Россия – Культура and Kremlin’s Usage of Culture and Entertainment TV Programs as a Tool

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In his interview with Obieqtivi TV on March 29, 2018, MP Nukri Kantaria of the ruling Georgian Dream party spoke about Russian TV channels and noted that Georgian culture as a diplomatic means of emotional influence is not properly used in the relations with Russia. Those persons and groups who travel to Russia as part of cultural events are subject to strong criticism. The Georgian Dream lawmaker said that in order to demonstrate cultural threads with Russia, Russian-language TV channels ORT and Россия – Культура frequently air Georgian films and programs with the participation of representatives of Georgian culture. Nukri Kantaria said that discussions on banning Russian TV channels are incorrect.

Russia itself uses cultural links and media as a means of political influence. For this purpose, it finances state-owned organizations and foundations, think tanks, as well as cultural and scientific events. According to the study conducted by the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence (NATO StratCom COE), Russian media outlets actively voice propagandistic messages in entertainment and comedy TV shows as well. In parallel with the aggression carried out in Ukraine and Georgia, Russian media portrayed invented and fake news as a reality.

Harvard University Professor and International Relations Scholar, Joseph Nye said that countries frequently use “soft power” to achieve a desirable result in pursuing foreign policy, which unlike “hard power” is built on cooperation and attraction mechanisms rather than coercion and pressure.

Joseph Nye explains that “soft power” is the ability to achieve a result through persuasion and attraction rather than coercion. Soft power involves the following components: culture, public diplomacy, media, as well as their reasonable use.

According to the study released by CNA in 2018 on mapping Russian media’s role in Russian foreign policy and decision-making, Russia tries to increase cultural influence abroad and uses various actors for this purpose:

  • Russian community and cultural institutions – government agencies such as Rossotrudnichestvo and government-sponsored foundations such as Russkiy Mir (literally “Russian World”) aim to promote Russian language and culture and to “consolidate Russians globally on the basis of their loyalty to the Kremlin.” The Russian government spends a considerable amount of time and money promoting its conception of a global “Russian world.”
  • Associations, think tanks, and events – various associations and think tanks are actively used to promote Russian foreign policy in European nations. For example, the Franco-Russian Dialogue and the Petersburg Dialogues operate as nongovernmental events or organizations despite the fact that each receives funding directly from the Kremlin. Both organizations encourage a deliberately pro-Kremlin worldview and advocate for Kremlin-friendly policies in many European capitals.
  • Russian Orthodox Church – it unifies Russians and compatriots living within Russia and abroad by promoting the idea of a greater ethno-cultural Russian state. Religious teachings of the Church shore up the Kremlin’s Eurosceptic worldview while framing Western liberal democracy as antithetical to Russian identity and security.

Russia’s Influence Abroad: Culture and Society

Civil Society, Think Tanks, Institutes

Associations and Events

Religious and Cultural Organizations

Institute for Democracy and Cooperation (France)

Petersburg Dialogue (Gemrany)

Moscow Houses (Baltic States)

Russkiy Mir

German-Russian Forum

Russian Orthodox Church

Valdai Discussions Club

Franco-Russian Dialogue



Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute (Germany)


Source: CNA

France Case Study: Russian Media as a Tool of “Cultural Diplomacy”

According to the paper “Russian Soft Power in France: Assessing Moscow’s Cultural and Business Para-diplomacy” released by the Carnegie Council, Moscow uses print media in France to develop and reinforce its cultural and business ties. Three main approaches were identified:

  1. Establishing partnership with reliable and authoritative French editions – Like many European daily newspapers, Le Figaro used to publish monthly Russian supplements in partnership with Russian state-owned newspaper Российская Газета. Since 2017, Valeurs actuelles, a French weekly news magazine with a liberal-conservative tendency, which represents a successful example of right wing press, also publishes Russian-language supplement. The French quarterly edition Conflicts, which specializes on geopolitics, clearly pursues a pro-Russian course.
  2. Links with alternative press – A lot of online editions are being created on Russian and French domains, also in partnership with far-right groups, whose audience is mostly small and involves that part of French electorate, which is skeptical about mainstream media outlets.
  3. Creation of a media product tailored to national context – Some platforms like RT and Sputnik are mainly oriented to disseminating biased views about France’s domestic and foreign policies and covering the positions of Russian officials. Their influence further increases through social networks and at the expense of web portals that are well-tailored to online search engines (Twitter: RT – 78 000 subscribers; Sputnik – 46 000 subscribers).

NATO StratCom study: How Russian media platforms use entertainment and comedy TV shows

The study released by the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence in 2017 provides a comprehensive analysis about the use of Russian media outlets’ entertainment and comedy TV shows in the Kremlin’s strategic communications.

The entertainment and comedy TV shows portray the world beyond Russian borders as a hostile world. Russian comedy shows voiced similar messages humorously in a period when the Russian government expressed protest over the deployment of defense systems in Eastern European countries.

Emphasis was also laid on individuality and uniqueness of Russian culture, as well as on “the mystic Russian soul” and “leading Russian culture” as a factor uniting “Russian world.” Discrediting western media through accusing it of Russophobia and disseminating parodic content that is homophobic in nature is yet another direction.

RT: Look at how cruel Russian propaganda is being created

КВН, 2015: The Americans propagandize LGBT issues

Fictional characters and fake stories

Amid an ongoing conflict in Ukraine, Russian televisions aired “news stories” which had nothing to do with the reality. In 2015, Russia’s Channel One broadcasted a report in which a woman told how a little boy from Slaviansk was crucified by Ukrainian soldiers.

“They took the child of three years, the little boy in shorts, in a t-shirt and crucified him as Jesus on a bulletin board. And then they took his mother, bound her to the tank and carried her out for three circles on the square,” she said.

Channel One eventually admitted that journalists had no proof that the story was true, but never apologized or officially withdrew the report.

In April 2015, Russian TV channels aired a story about a 10-year-old girl, who died after the Ukrainians opened artillery fire in Donetsk. Interviewed respondents were shocked about the death of the young girl and dubbed the Kiev government as “the Nazi Junta.” The BBC News team decided to check the information and found out that the girl actually had not died, as one of Russian TV reporters confirmed, and that they simply had to air the story, because “they had to act this way.”

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RT: Coverage of the 2008 August War

In their coverage of the 2008 Russian aggression against Georgia, Russian TV channels delivered a narrative that the Georgians carried out genocide of South Ossetian people and killed peaceful population. Later, Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of the English-language Russia Today said in the interview with Russian daily Kommersant that when “the Ministry of Defense was at war with Georgia,” RT was “waging an information war against the entire Western world.”

Prepared by Dali Kurdadze and Misho Korshia
Myth Detector Laboratory

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