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Can Russia “Export” Its Conspiracy Theories?

June 22, 2022
Scott Radnitz


In analysis for Political Violence At A Glance, an IGCC-supported blog dedicated to political violence and its alternatives, Scott Radnitz, associate professor of Russian and Eurasian studies in the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington, analyzes the Kremlin’s attempts to disseminate conspiracy theories about the Russia-Ukraine war.

Ukraine is run by Nazis. NATO is arming Ukraine as a proxy to invade Russia. America has been funding biolabs in Ukraine to create viruses that can infect Russia. In the past few months, Russian state media has been putting out lies and conspiracy theories like these in order to justify Russia’s war on Ukraine. In fact, for years the Kremlin has promoted conspiracy theories that depict Russia as a victim of various geopolitical machinations. The audience for these narratives is primarily domestic—even autocracies prefer to have popular support—but the Kremlin has also sought to disseminate its messages abroad through various media channels. How effective has this effort been?

My recent article in International Studies Quarterly points to barriers in the spread of conspiracy theories through the media but highlights the importance of geopolitical affinities among states as a basis for shared beliefs. I surveyed 1,000 people each in Georgia and Kazakhstan in 2017 and found that people who consume news from Russia are not more conspiratorial overall. However, when it comes to the conspiracy theories the Kremlin has pushed most aggressively, respondents in pro-Russian Kazakhstan, and especially ethnic Russians who live there, are most likely to endorse them.

Read the full blog post at Political Violence At A Glance.