The Orthodox Oligarch


Igor Gurkin, a colonel in the Russian military intelligence GRU, was employed by Konstantin Malofeev known as the Orthodox Oligarch. He was an important person in Russia’s movement to quash Ukrainian resistance. According to Timothy Snyder, he was “an anti-sodomy activist and an outspoken Russian imperialist.” He believed, like Putin that Ukraine is part of Russia and he could not consider Ukrainians as other than Russians. He thought


“Ukraine had to be saved by Russia from Europe because otherwise Ukrainian citizens “would have to spread sodomy as a norm in traditional Ukrainian society. This was not true in any factual sense. Malofeev was expressing the orientation of Russian policy: to present Europe as a civilizational enemy, homosexuality as the war, and Ukraine as the battleground.”


Before the invasion of Ukraine in 2024, and after spending 2 weeks in Ukraine, Girkin recommended that Russia invade and then dismember Ukraine. A memorandum based on Girkin’s work brought forward the same ideas that Russia later used in 2022. This memorandum said that 3 propaganda strategies should be used to cover their intervention in Ukraine:


  1. Demand that Ukraine bow to the wishes of a supposedly oppressed Russian minority;
  2. Define opponents of the Russian invasion as fascists;
  3. Characterize the invasion as a civil war stoked by the West


As Snyder pointed out, The Russian propagandists “proposed that Russian television channels justify the intervention in Ukraine by the deliberate, premeditated fiction that ‘a fascist coup is coming; this would be a major line of Russian propaganda once war began.”


When I re-read Snyder’s book The Road to Unfreedom in 2022 after Russia invaded Ukraine again, I could hardly believe that he had written that book in 2018. Russia used exactly the same lies over again! And even more amazingly, they worked again! Many in Russia were convinced and a few American conservatives, but few others.


Putin’s propaganda genius, Vladislav Surkov arrived in the Ukrainian province of Crimea and then flew to Kyiv to “formalize the idea that Russian civilization was an innocent body defending itself from Western perversion.”

Remarkably, Russia’s foreign Minister Lavrov repeated the ancient and similar claim of the fascist philosopher Ilyin that “society is ‘a living organism’ that had to be protected from Europe’s hedonistic ‘refusal of traditional values.’


Some of us may think such propaganda is absurd (which it is) but we should not forget that it is quite similar to Republican propaganda in the US.


As Snyder said, summing up what happened,


“Even as Russian troops were mobilizing to invade Ukraine and overturn its government, Lavrov presented Russia as the victim. The true aggressors according to Lavrov, were the international gay lobbyists who “propagated with missionary insistence both inside their countries and relations with neighbors.”

Once more what is most striking is how effective the propaganda was, proof, that when the ground is fertilized with enough lies, any lie can bloom.

 1 day after Surkov left Kyiv for Russia, the protesters on the Maidan were met with stunning violence. And many in the west were confused enough by the propaganda that they did not know what to believe. That is the modus operandi for Russian propaganda and is surprisingly effective.

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