30 Years of “Colour Revolutions”
Historical revisionism gets a modern spin as the pro-Kremlin media label the events of January 13, 1991 in Vilnius a “colour revolution”.
An otherwise mediocre mouthpiece of state-sponsored pro-Kremlin disinformation, “BaltNews” did something remarkable last November. In just one headline -“The first colour revolution in the USSR took place in Lithuania(opens in a new tab)”- it managed to sum up the core tenets of pro-Kremlin disinformation.
The headline, followed by an “interview” with a former propaganda specialist in the Soviet army, indeed ticked all the propaganda boxes:
- engaging in historical revisionism – check;
- discrediting democratic movements by labelling them as orchestrated “colour revolutions(opens in a new tab)” – check;
- hammering the same old disinformation narratives year after year – check!
Thirty years ago, on January 13, 1991, thousands of Lithuanians gathered at the TV tower, the Radio and Television headquarters and the Parliament building in the capital, Vilnius, to take a stand against Soviet troops deployed to crush Lithuanian independence. The Freedom Defenders Day, as it is known now, was one of the key moments(opens in a new tab) leading up to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Three decades later, it is a major target(opens in a new tab) of pro-Kremlin disinformation.
This year, pro-Kremlin outlets alleged that “American fascists” and “local collaborators”(opens in a new tab) used the events of January 13, 1991 to destroy the USSR. Such claims seek to revise not only Lithuanian but also Russian history, ignoring the fact that thousands of Muscovites took to the streets in January 1991(opens in a new tab) to support Lithuanian independence.
Baltic States in focus
According to pro-Kremlin media, the independence of the Baltic States is a historical nuisance or an American “plot” at best. This week we saw claims that the Baltic States receive instructions on how to react to key international events from the US state department via fax(opens in a new tab), that the US is pushing Lithuania to buy American gas(opens in a new tab) and that Lithuania, guilty of strained relations(opens in a new tab) with Russia, is not even an independent state(opens in a new tab)!
One may be surprised, then, that Lithuania, along with Poland(opens in a new tab) and Ukraine(opens in a new tab) – which according to the pro-Kremlin media lack any kind of meaningful political agency – were accused of continuing their alleged active interference in Belarus.(opens in a new tab) In the world of pro-Kremlin disinformation, logic and consistency are optional.
Colour Revolution in America
Unconstrained by facts, pro-Kremlin media uses the moniker of “colour revolution(opens in a new tab)” every time it seeks to undermine democratic movements around the world. Usually, a “colour revolution” implies that malicious external forces – most frequently the US – are fuelling the popular protests. We have seen such claims in the cases of Ukraine(opens in a new tab), Georgia(opens in a new tab), Armenia(opens in a new tab), Hong Kong(opens in a new tab) and Belarus(opens in a new tab).
This week, following the storming of the US Capitol building(opens in a new tab) by an angry mob, Russian state-controlled TV turned to the familiar trope and tried to convince its domestic audiences that a colour revolution, orchestrated by the “Washington swamp”, took place in the US(opens in a new tab) itself. Multiple pro-Kremlin outlets operating in Spanish, English and other languages relayed the message and claimed that the “deep state” orchestrated election fraud(opens in a new tab) and lured the protesters to the Capitol(opens in a new tab) building in order to impose a one-party system(opens in a new tab) in the US and usher in an era of neo-liberal fascism(opens in a new tab). The disinformation concepts of “swamp” and “deep state” were not invented by pro-Kremlin media, nonetheless it shows a remarkable ability to appropriate and amplify them.
Anti-Semitism, never too far away from conspiracy theories and apocalyptic predictions, also proved appealing to pro-Kremlin outlets, which claimed that Zionists control both political and military leaderships of the US(opens in a new tab).
The events in Washington last week showed, once again, the real-life consequences of disinformation(opens in a new tab). For pro-Kremlin media it brought not only moments of glee(opens in a new tab), but also an opportunity to discredit democracy(opens in a new tab) in America in the eyes of both domestic and international audiences, and reinforce disinformation attacks(opens in a new tab) on Joe Biden(opens in a new tab), the president-elect of the United States.
Vaccination disinformation competing for attention
Busy covering global events through a lens of disinformation, pro-Kremlin media nonetheless found time to reinforce its narrative of “vaccine wars”. The West, it said, is against the Sputnik V vaccine as it is afraid of competition(opens in a new tab). The European Union was accused of refusing to buy the vaccine for political reasons(opens in a new tab), NATO allegedly aimed at containing Russia by(opens in a new tab) discrediting the Russian vaccine and Ukraine was blamed for what pro-Kremlin media described as the planned destruction(opens in a new tab) of its own people.
Yet despite the lies and vitriol spread by pro-Kremlin media, the vaccination against COVID-19 has already started (opens in a new tab)across the EU, which is conducting talks with more companies to secure an even greater number of vaccines. Meanwhile Lithuanians are commemorating their victory against Soviet occupation(opens in a new tab) and the next president of the United States will be inaugurated(opens in a new tab) next week.