The penetration of pro-Kremlin propaganda narratives into the Slovak information space has been occurring since 2014, when the emphasis on deceptive narratives about the alleged oppression of the Russian minority in Ukraine, the Western political and societal decadency, or the allegedly strong background of the far right in Ukrainian society and politics, intensified.

To achieve its goals, the Kremlin uses not only its own resources (embassies, spies, oligarchs), but also local actors who are willing to cooperate and spread Russian propaganda for various incentives. The multiplication of Russian influence in Slovakia is facilitated by domestic sympathizers and disinformation actors who willingly adopt the content of pro-Kremlin channels, as well as the official positions of the Russian military and political establishment. Slovak disinformation actors are thus deliberately helping Russia to legitimize its policies and discredit Ukraine, the West and democratic and international institutions.

In terms of the techniques used, the pro-Russian propaganda machinery and its narratives are primarily characterized by the efforts to incite information chaos and distortion of reality by fueling disinformation campaigns and creating false interpretations of events. Thanks to the efforts of pro-Kremlin actors, several main motives persist in the Slovak public. In particular, there is the misleading interpretation of the relation between Moscow and the West (or NATO), where Russia is presented not only as a victim, but also a protector of traditional values. The idea is associated with the supposed peacefulness of the Russian people, which are being referred to as a brotherly nation to Slovaks, thus fueling the idea of pan-Slavism. The historical parallels are being misused as a tool for increasing positive sentiment towards Russia. Pro-Russian narratives also build on reinforcing the notion of an external threat, with the challenge in 2022 supposedly being the so-called expansion of NATO and the alleged pressure on Russia’s national borders, assessed by Russia as an obvious provocation by the West.
Part of the victimization model of Russia is also the labelling of opponents as ‘Russophobes’. This line of argument was already present in 2014, where critics of annexation of Crimea were labelled as xenophobic or even Russophobic. Nowadays, similar tactics are mainly linked to the allegedly ineffective EU sanctions imposed on Russia after the start of the full-scale military invasion in Ukraine. These are said to seek the destruction of the Russian state on grounds of hatred and Russophobia, a narrative propagated by, for example, Slovak MEP Milan Uhrík, chairman of the far-right Republika party. Strategies of Russian information operations remain mostly the same, but what changes are the ways in which they are applied to specific topics, and the local actors willing to disseminate particular narratives. Also, these actors cover a lot of topics, fragmenting the attention of the target audience and creating information chaos.
Another of the tactics that has long appeared in the Slovak disinformation scene is the distortion of historical facts and the creation of false interpretations of events. For example, the role of the Soviet Union in the suppression of nazism and in the Slovak National Uprising, which contributed significantly to the defeat of Nazi Germany in the Second World War, is being exploited. Individual actors neglect the role of the Western Allies or smaller groups that were active in the uprising, and present events in line with Soviet propaganda. The promotion of such distorted versions of USSR credits contributes to a generally more positive attitude towards the current Russian regime. It should be also noted that some of the narratives aligned with Soviet propaganda are still present in Slovak information space, primarily through the topics such as the aforementioned Soviet fight against nazism or the emphasis on the so-called “traditional values”.
The Russian embassy itself, continuously influencing public opinion in Slovakia, serves as the main channel for the information operation. The Russian embassy in Slovakia is particularly active in terms of the content published on social media compared to other Russian embassies in countries across the globe. Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the Russian embassy in Slovakia has generated almost 6,000 Facebook posts, putting it in first place among the list. Narratives serve to divert attention and deny responsibility of the Kremlin, presented not as an aggressor but as a victim of Western oppression.

In December 2022, analysts from VoxCheck monitored 13 Slovak media outlets and found 144 cases of disinformation about Russian aggression in Ukraine. They recorded 21 narratives, with the most numerous being the narratives claiming that Russian aggression is justified, that the West controls Ukraine and uses it for its own purposes, and that Russia is not committing war crimes in Ukraine. Similar narratives are also present in the Slovak information environment in 2023. The following false claims appeared most frequently: 

  • European sanctions are causing high energy prices and must therefore be lifted, 
  • Russia is not to blame for civilian casualties in Ukraine, 
  • Moscow wants peace while Kyiv wants war, 
  • the West has been planning war with Russia for a long time.

In addition, the narrative about the allegedly strong presence of fascist ideas in Ukraine is not absent.

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