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Soviet origins of Russian information warfare 

Section 1 from “Old Wine in a New Bottle: Russia’s Modernization of Traditional Soviet Information Warfare and Active Policies Against Ukraine and Ukrainians”. 

Taras Kuzio, the Department of Political Science, National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy, Kyiv, Ukraine

Russian President Putin has not invented anything new, but he has used modern technology and social media to revive Soviet era propaganda and information warfare against Ukraine. During Putin’s service in the KGB, ‘Subversion, disinformation and forgery, combined with the use of special forces, were at the heart of the Soviet Union’s intelligence services’.25 The KGB included a special department responsible for ‘active measures’, which is used today with broader capabilities. KGB chairman and Soviet leader Yuri Andropov, ‘one of Mr Putin’s heroes’, was instrumental in setting up ‘special courses to train operatives in the use of active measures. At the height of the cold war 15,000 officers were working on psychological and disinformation warfare. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the department was renamed but never dismantled.’26 Growing tensions with the West after the Rose and Orange Revolutions, Putin’s turn to great power nationalism, the appearance of new social media, the expansion of Internet capabilities and 24-hour news, and creation of troll factories served to revive what had been Soviet ‘active measures’ in a more aggressive format.27 

Fake news, the information war against ‘Ukrainian fascists’, and all man- ner of hybrid warfare (assassinations, poisonings, paid political agitators and vigilantes) were first used by Russian political technologists during the 2004 Ukrainian elections before the launch of Twitter and Facebook when they were working for the Viktor