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Title: "Russia Interferes With Their Brain": Understanding Russian Foreign Propaganda Strategies, 1980-2022
Authors: Scott, Rachel Bailey
Advisors: Bass, Gary
Contributors: Politics Department
Keywords: Disinformation
Information warfare
Soviet Union
Topic modeling
Subjects: International relations
Political science
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Popular rhetoric among Western policymakers and observers holds that contemporary Russian information warfare is a continuation of the old Soviet foreign propaganda tactics, orchestrated by the former KGB officer, President Vladimir Putin. To what extent is this legacy argument true? How have contemporary Russian propaganda strategies evolved (or not evolved) from the late-Soviet period? Moreover, what has caused this evolution? This research tests this legacy argument through a comparative lens and uses a mix of qualitative process tracing, empirical data-driven text analysis, and unsupervised machine learning. I assess Moscow’s foreign propaganda content, propaganda institutions, propaganda personnel, and overarching strategies in the late Soviet Period (1980-1991) and in the current era (2014-2022). I find that by focusing on the legacy argument, scholars overlook the crucial institutional and strategic shifts that have transformed Russian propaganda and disinformation strategies. I argue that there has been a significant structural and personnel change within the contemporary Russian propaganda machine. I find that the experience of privatization and political fragmentation in the 1990s alongside the technological transformations of the modern era have provoked a shift away from the Soviet era’s highly structured, vertical propaganda machine. In its place, today’s propaganda machine is more fragmented, chaotic, ideologically varied, and insidious. Overall, this shift between the two eras calls into question our assessments of Russian propaganda through a Cold War lens. In effect, by focusing so much on the Soviet legacies, we overlook the important distinctions that make today’s Russian propaganda a unique force unto itself.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Politics

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