Why “war” is a forbidden word in Russia?

Michal Martinka / Reportage

The whole world is watching the doble-war of Russian federation during this three weeks. War with guns and missiles against Ukraine in their own territory and not as visible war against truth and free speech in Russia. Putin’s main weapons are image of rotten west and good Russia, eliminating sources of different opinions and creation of false reality.

According to Sergej Sumlenny, former director of Heinrich Böll’s Foundation in Kyiv, the purpose of propaganda is to create impression that entire world except of Russia is perverse and rotten. This propaganda is intense for whole years in Russia.

State television Russia-1 has enormous influence to Russian people. As Sumlenny said: “In the west we can hardly imagine that. The Russians are told literally every day that it is honorable to destroy the West and Ukraine by nuclear weapons, to murder people, to occupy and divide countries.” According to Maria Matchkevitch – sociologist from Russian Academy of Sociology – “to watch TV in Russia is a political decision”. The great part of Russian populace think that attack to Ukraine is a “holy war where Russia stands against all the others”, she added. In fact, Russia-1 does not speak of war. Mostly offers news of growing fear from Russians in the West and messages of crisis of West economy.

Russian president V. Putin said: “Ukrainian resistance was only evidence of the population being brainwashed by Western propaganda and by neo-Nazis.” Putin himself referred to the government in Kyiv as Nazis about 10 times during his meeting with the female flight staff, and the word is repeated endlessly on every broadcast. The Kremlin portrayed this war as a continuation of World War II as a conflict between Soviet army against invading Nazi-Ukrainians.

Putin can cover causes of Russian economy crises, but it is much more difficult to cover its consequences. Russians are surprised of quick impact of the war to their economy. Airlines canceled flight to Europe. The ruble hits its lowest level ever against the dollar. Suppliers from whole world are stopping their deliveries to Russia, which will lead to much deeper gap between Russia and Western world.

Cutting from sources – eliminate those with different opinion

Last week was subscribed law proposed a 15-year prison sentence for people who post “fakes” about special mission in Ukraine. A senior lawmaker, Sholban Kara-ool said that “We’re going to punish those who spread panic…” during World War II such people “were shot on the spot”.

Byelorussian web Nexta has informed that Russia is in active phase of preparation to cut out from global internet network. Roskomnadzor, Russia’s internet regulator, said in a statement that Facebook would be blocked for what it said were 26 cases of discrimination against Russian media. BBC said it had suspended all its operations in Russia. CNN International, the global arm of CNN, said it had stopped airing in Russia, and ABC News said that it would not broadcast from the country on Friday. Then the government said that would block access to media produced outside the county: the websites of Voice of America, the BBC, Deutche Welle, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, news outlet Meduza. TikTok and Netflix asre suspending their services in Russia. Twitter is partly blocked.

Echo of Moscow, Russia’s liberal-leading radio station, was taken from air. Website of Dozhd – last independent television channel in Russia – was blocked and its members left the country after that. Russia’s last major independent newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, said it was deleting its content about the war in Ukraine. The Village, a digital lifestyle magazine, said it was retroactively editing its content to change the word “war” to “special operation”. As Dmitri A. Muratov, holder of Nobel Peace Prize from journal Novaya Gazeta said: “Everything that’s not propaganda is being eliminated.”

Creating of false reality

Words as “war” and “invasion” are forbidden in Russia. It is “special operation for denazification of Ukraine”. Education Ministry scheduled a video lesson to be shown in schools in Russia that described the war against Ukraine as “liberation mission”.

“They want to give the population the impression that this is a short, effective, operation without a lot of victims,” said Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center.

According to a survey of state-owned pollster in Russia, 68% of Russians support the war. But in the survey wasn’t any mention of the word war. They asked Russian citizens if they support “special operation” aimed among “denazification of Ukraine”.

“It is not a war on Russian TV,” said Stanislav Kucher, a veteran Russian television host and former member of the presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights. “You will not see explosions, you will not see strikes on neighborhoods where civilians live, you will not see a lot in terms of troops, soldiers, heavy armored vehicles or anything like that,” he added. After the battle for Kyiv on 6 March, the Russian state news channel Russia-1 published footage of a peaceful day in Kyiv to try to counter the videos of violence spreading on the social network Telegram. “As you can see, the situation in the cities is calm,” the anchor said. “No explosions, no bombings…” There was possible to see Russian soldiers helping people. They were giving them warm clothes and food.

Glory to heroes

Propaganda has enormous effect on Russians, but still there are many examples of heroes who have courage to stand up against the Kremlin. Dmitri Alekseyev, owner of one of the Russia biggest electronics retailers, had posted on Facebook: “For the life of me I can’t understand why Russia needs a war.” Thousands of Russians have been arrested during peaceful protests in various cities in Russia. The whole world saw journalist Marina Ovsyannikova rushing onto the set of a TV broadcast with an anti-war sign. It is an opportunity for everyone now to become a hero in his own way and defense the truth.

Disegno: “Censored” – Yevgeny Tonkonogy /

Foto: The office of the independent television station Dozhd, or Rain, after the news came that it would suspend operations indefinitely. The New York Times