War

Propaganda leaflets in modern-day Russia and Nazi-era Germany: Suspiciously Similar

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The world is rapidly becoming digitised, yet printed propaganda leaflets are here to stay. The history of world wars proves that this tool of influence is one of the easiest to produce and distribute. We selected several examples of German propaganda leaflets from the World War II and compared them to present-day Russian leaflets, to illustrate just how similar they are.

Besides changing the course of the history of book publishing and education, the invention of the printing press also became a tool for provoking religious confrontations and extending political influence. Enter the propaganda leaflet.

Propaganda leaflets were a popular form of mass media, used for propaganda and counterpropaganda. Short messages printed on leaflets helped politicians to promote their image and manipulate public opinion. During the two world wars, propaganda leaflets became a weapon of information warfare that affected the results of the actual armed confrontations. It is interesting that until August 1918, the German government officially had been prohibiting the publication of propaganda leaflets, believing that their use did not conform to the rules of warfare. However, realising the massive impact of the propaganda leaflets produced by their opponents (the Entente Powers), the Germans created the Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda of the Third Reich, which was based on the British model and was headed by Joseph Goebbels.

Propaganda leaflets served to demoralise or disorientate the enemy on the information front, to incite civilians to revolt against their authorities, or to promise them a better life in the enemy country. In his book “Propaganda as a Weapon in War”, the historian and World War Two propaganda expert Rudolf Sulzmann wrote that the most terrible Allied information campaign during the First World War – but also the most effective – was a fabricated story about the Germans processing the bodies of dead soldiers (both their own and their opponents’) into food for pigs. This caused a global wave of indignation and became the reason for China’s involvement in the war on the side of the Entente Powers.

Political technologies and printing technologies have significantly developed since then, but propaganda leaflets remain an integral attribute of the information front in any war. Russia has also used them on the territory of Ukraine, both before and during this year’s full-scale invasion. Since early March 2022, copies of Russian “messages” have been found by soldiers from the Ukrainian armed forces, as well as by civilians in various Ukrainian cities, including Chernihiv, Kherson, Mariupol, Melitopol, and Svitlodarsk. Back in 2014, propaganda leaflets became a popular means of “zombifying” the population in occupied Crimea and in the east of Ukraine.

Modern examples of Russian propaganda look like a “cosplay” version of a similar information product from the Hitler regime in Germany, which itself was inspired by American propaganda. The Russian authorities and law enforcement agencies are trying to get their message across to Ukrainians by partially or completely copying Nazi leaflets.

Russian propagandists do not waste their efforts on seeking fresh ideas for their leaflets; nor has the Russian army invented any new methods of distribution. As in the First and Second World Wars and later armed conflicts, the Russians drop their propaganda leaflets from planes. They also stick them to posts and walls in the temporarily occupied territories. Russian propagandists also resort to information attacks via emails, trying to spread fake information or collect recipients’ personal data.

However, where hypocrisy and cynicism are concerned, the Russian army seems to be ahead of everyone else. On May 10, 2022, artillerists of the so-called DNR published a video about how they “congratulated” the residents of the city of Svitlodarsk and the village of Luhanske in Donetsk region on May 9 (WW3 Victory Day – tr.). They sent their leaflets inside a projectile, which hit a local residential building. In these leaflets, the Russian “liberators” encouraged civilians to wait for them and not to let the Ukrainian armed forces in, adding instructions for the Ukrainian military on how to surrender. Fortunately, these “greetings” only got as far as the roof of the building.

Propaganda leaflets for civilians

#wearenotguilty #wearenotfighting #weareforpeace #weguaranteepeace

German leaflet

Modern Russian leaflet in the city of Melitopol

The text of a German propaganda leaflet:

People of Moscow!

Germany did not want a war.
The German army is not the enemy of the people.
It is fighting only against communist anarchy and the criminals sitting in the Kremlin.

Your Jewish-communist rulers caused the war. They forced the Red pilots to bomb the defenceless capitals of Finland and Romania: Helsingfors and Bucharest.
Hitler ordered his armed forces to make an immediate response to the provocative raids of the Red bombers.

Now you are forced to suffer as a result of the criminal policies of Stalin and his henchmen.

Rise up against the swindlers who have been oppressing you for 24 years.
Cast them out!

IF YOU GET RID OF THEM, THE GERMAN PILOTS’ RAIDS WILL NOT HAPPEN AGAIN!

The text of a modern Russian leaflet:

DEAR RESIDENTS OF MELITOPOL!

Russia is not fighting against the Ukrainian people!
Power belongs to the people, not to the Kyiv junta!
Russia guarantees you peace and security!
The civilian population of the country is not under threat!

During the special operation of the armed forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine, we ask you to observe the following rules:

Do not leave your homes and places of permanent residence if it is not necessary to do so.
Do not approach armed individuals or military equipment.
Do not cross the road in front of moving military vehicles.
Before attracting the attention of Russian military personnel, first demonstrate to them that you are unarmed.
Do not carry any weapons. Remember that in combat situations, an armed person is perceived as a threat.
Do not leave children unattended. Do not let children leave home alone.
In some areas, there may be short-term power outages and delays in the supply of medicine and food.

Together, we have to prevent the atrocities committed by armed gangs of marauders, robbers and nationalists who received weapons as a result of the authorities’ criminal decision to distribute them to the population without any form of control.

DO NOT BELIEVE THE PROPAGANDA AND DISINFORMATION FROM KYIV!

Read up-to-date information on these Telegram channels: (the list has been blurred).
Watch the latest news on the “Russia 24” TV channel in analogue format.

For decades, Russian propagandists have been developing an “us vs. them” discourse, contrasting the USSR – and now the Russian Federation – with Western countries, constantly reminding the population (both in Russia and the country on whom they are waging war) who their “real enemy” is. The concepts of Russia’s supremacy as a “liberator from Nazism” and a “peacekeeper” are still key elements of its “soft influence”policy.

#everythingwillbegood #findajob #forabetterlife #betterlifewithus

German leaflet

Modern Russian leaflet (distributed to citizens of Mariupol who were forcibly displaced to Russia)

Text of a German propaganda leaflet:

Residents of Kyiv!
Germany is calling you!
Millions of German soldiers are fighting on all fronts. They left behind jobs that need to be filled.
Register for voluntary migration to Germany.
You will work in agriculture or manufacturing, forging weapons against Bolshevism.
You will be fine in Germany!
Your families who stay behind in Kyiv will receive support.
Work voluntarily in Germany while the German Army is fighting against Jewish Bolshevism!
Citizens of Kyiv! Germany is waiting for you.
Prove that you want to help by contributing your labour. Sign up in your districts for voluntary migration to Germany.
Welcome to Germany!
Commissioner of the city of Kyiv
ROHASH

The text of a Russian leaflet:

Ministry of the Russian Federation for the Development of the Far East and Arctic

Far East and Arctic Development Corporation

The Russian Far East is waiting for you!

Special conditions for participants of the State program for the resettlement of compatriots from abroad who have chosen to settle in the Far Eastern regions of the Russian Federation.

170,000 roubles
Lump sum (to cover your resettlement costs)
up to 10 monthly payments to cover minimum living costs for each migrant

600,000 roubles
Housing certificate
for 6 square metres for each migrant

Up to 3 months
Accelerated acquisition of Russian citizenship

8.5 thousand roubles
Financial support for those whose income is less than half of the subsistence minimum

Up to 2% per year
Far Eastern mortgage

1 hectare
Free land
Far Eastern hectare

Consultations on resettlement to the Far East
Far East and Arctic Development Corporation
Tel. +7 925 196 06 06

Telegram group
Let’s go to the Far East
(QR code)

Luring the victims of war to enemy territory is not an exclusively Russian tactic. During any war, the aggressor country encourages the population of the temporarily occupied territories – who feel extremely vulnerable due to an unstable or difficult financial situation – to migrate to the occupying country for work.

History shows us that there were several waves of labour migration in the inter-war and post-war periods. Escaping hardship and often persecution, people migrated for work to the USA, Brazil, Canada, Australia as well as to Western and Eastern European countries. The Germans forcibly deported people for work during the Second World War; these deportees were called “ostarbeiters” (from the German term for “eastern workers”).

Now, unfortunately, there are also cases of Russia forcibly transferring Ukrainian civilians and prisoners of war to its territory, recruiting them without consent or “offering” them work. Such actions are a war crime and a crime against humanity, as well as a violation of the international norms of humanitarian law (Article 49 of the Geneva Convention and Article 85 of its Additional Protocol). And again, the Russians cannot get by without political agitation.

Propaganda leaflets for soldiers

#prisonersofwar #surrender #saveyourlife

German propaganda leaflet

Modern Russian leaflet in the city of Mariupol (dropped on Azovstal)

Text of a German propaganda leaflet:

Fighters of the Leningrad Front!
A month ago, you were awarded medals for liberating “the city of Lenin”, and now, once again, you are suddenly being sent to die liberating the very same city, Leningrad?
In the spring, 250,000 Russian soldiers paid with their lives and health for this so-called liberation, and look how many of your comrades have fallen now, in these few days of your new offensive!
What are you dying for? So that your wives, children, your fathers and mothers continue to starve? So that Jews and their henchmen continue to take the last grain away from the starving workers on collective farms?

Put down your weapons! Switch sides and join us!

Many of your commanders have already defected to us, because they know better whether or not your political agitators are lying about the brutal treatment of the Red Army men in German captivity.
The more of you join us, the sooner this cursed war will end, the sooner the hated Bolshevik regime will fall and a new, joyful life will begin for the entire Russian people.

This leaflet is valid as a pass.

The text of a Russian propaganda leaflet:

Soldiers and officers of the armed forces of Ukraine!
Kyiv deceived you and left you to die.
More than 600 marines in Mariupol were not frightened by the Nazis’ threats; they made their choice and surrendered to the Russian army.
They are safe and will see their families soon.
Your only chance to survive is by laying down your weapons.
In case of further resistance, you will be doomed to death!

THERE WILL BE NO HELP!
FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS ON THE REVERSE SIDE

INSTRUCTIONS

Detach the magazine from your gun.
Hang your gun on your left shoulder with the barrel down.
Raise your hands with a piece of white cloth above your head.
Slowly approach the positions of our troops, following their commands.

The servicemen of the armed forces of the Russian Federation are familiar with these signs, which testify to your voluntary refusal to resist.

We do not want senseless bloodshed! Save your life!

#captivity #death #armedforces

German leaflet

Modern Russian leaflet in the city of Mariupol

Text of a German propaganda leaflet:

DEATH IS APPROACHING YOU WITH OUTSTRETCHED ARMS
Think of your family!
Surrender!

Text of a Russian propaganda leaflet:
Soldiers and officers of the armed forces of Ukraine!
The city of Mariupol is completely surrounded.
The entire coastline from Mariupol to Odesa is controlled by units of the Russian armed forces. The troops of the Russian Federation and the DPR have reached the administrative borders of the Donetsk region.
THERE WILL BE NO HELP!
In case of further resistance, you will be doomed to death.
Your only chance to survive is to leave Mariupol through the humanitarian corridor in the direction of Novoazovsk!

FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS ON THE REVERSE SIDE

INSTRUCTIONS
Detach the magazine from your gun.
Hang the gun on your left shoulder with the barrel down.
Raise your hands above your head and slowly approach the positions of the troops.
Hold a piece of white cloth, a handkerchief, or this leaflet above your head.

The military personnel of the armed forces of the Russian Federation are familiar with these signs, which testify to your peaceful intentions.

After having surrounded the opponent’s troops, destroying telecommunications and removing personal means of communication (thus limiting access to information), the aggressor country distributes leaflets calling for surrender. In a situation where such propaganda leaflets are the only available source of information, they can be effective. During the Second World War, German soldiers who surrendered said that they had been pressured into this decision by Soviet propaganda leaflets. However, the current full-scale war has shown that the Ukrainian military cannot be taken in by this kind of provocation: they carry out their commanders’ orders till the very end, and use any opportunity to break through the information isolation, either independently or with the support of volunteers.

#liberators #betterlife #lifeafterwar

German leaflet

Modern Russian leaflet in the city of Melitopol

Text of a German propaganda leaflet:

CITIZENS!
The Bolsheviks have been expelled!
The Germans have come to you.

24 years of the Soviet regime have passed and will never come back: 24 years of impossible promises and impressive phrases, and as many years of disappointment, growing poverty, continuous surveillance, terror, poverty and tears!
A terrible legacy has been left by the international Jewish-communist criminals — Stalin and his henchmen!
Economic life has been frozen, the land devastated, the cities destroyed.
The Germans have come to you not as conquerors, but as liberators from the yoke of Bolshevism.
Wherever possible, the organs of the German military will help everyone who treats them with faith and hope.

CITIZENS, MEN AND WOMEN!
Bravely help to heal the wounds caused by the war. Work on building a new, better life without Jews, communists and the NKVD, without collectives, without forced labour and without the Stakhanov system, without collective farms and without landlords.

The text of a Russian propaganda leaflet:

ADDRESS OF THE PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN TO THE CITIZENS OF UKRAINE
In 2014, Russia was obliged to protect the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol from those whom you yourself call “Nazis”. The people of Crimea and Sevastopol made their choice – to stay with their historical Motherland, with Russia, and we supported this. I repeat: they simply could not do otherwise.
The current events have nothing to do with any desire to harm the interests of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. They are connected with the protection of Russia from those who have taken Ukraine hostage and are trying to use it against our country and its people.
Our actions are a form of self-defence against the threats posed to us, and against an even greater calamity than what is happening today. However difficult it is, I ask you to understand this, and I call for cooperation in order to turn over this tragic page as soon as possible and move forward together, and not to allow anyone to interfere in our affairs, in our relations, but to build them independently, so as to create the necessary conditions to overcome all the problems and – despite the existence of state borders – make us stronger from within, as a single entity. I believe in this; I believe in this exact future for us.
I must now address the servicemen of the armed forces of Ukraine.
DEAR COMRADES! Your parents, grandfathers and great-grandfathers did not fight against the Nazis and defend our common Motherland in order to let the present-day neo-Nazis seize power in Ukraine. You swore an oath of loyalty to the Ukrainian people, not to the anti-people junta that is robbing Ukraine and abusing its people.
Do not follow their criminal orders.
I urge you to immediately lay down your weapons and go home. Let me explain: all servicemen of the Ukrainian army who fulfil this requirement will be able to freely leave the combat zone and return to their families.
Once again, I strongly emphasise: all responsibility for the possible bloodshed will fully and completely lie with the conscience of the regime ruling the territory of Ukraine.

The Russian Federation depicts itself as a country liberating its “brothers and sisters” (meaning Russian-speaking Ukrainians) from Ukrainians who are supposedly suppressing their rights. This way, the aggressor state injects its propaganda leaflets with widely-disseminated ideas about the “Russian World”. In these leaflets, Russian propagandists remind their readers of their brotherly attitude, which, by their logic, should undermine the resistance of Ukrainians in the temporarily occupied territories or in zones of active hostilities, where they have been cut off from the Ukrainian mass media.

Propaganda leaflets from 2014 to 2022

Even before the start of the full-scale invasion, Russian propagandists had been “working on” the east of Ukraine, which they invaded in 2014. The “Ukrainian junta”, “neo-Nazis” and “Banderites” – this is the image of Ukrainians (and especially of the Ukrainian military) that they tried to impose on the residents of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, whom Russia was allegedly liberating from the so-called “junta”. Propaganda leaflets were distributed by unidentified individuals, or dropped from helicopters.

There also were clumsy Russian attempts to pass off handmade leaflets as propaganda produced by Ukrainian soldiers, who were supposedly using the symbols of Nazi Germany.

In modern-day Russia, another flashback to the history of Nazi Germany is the threat of punishment for the distribution of propaganda leaflets. For reading Soviet leaflets, German soldiers were subjected to unplanned checks, and later to execution. But in 2014, the self-proclaimed mayor of the occupied Sloviansk, Viacheslav Ponomariov, announced that he would shoot any civilian in possession of a leaflet encouraging people not to support the illegal authorities, or including instructions for how to behave during an anti-terrorist operation.

In 2014, Crimea was full of propaganda leaflets calling for participation in the so-called referendum, which was organized to legitimize the peninsula’s accession to Russia. Today, there are leaflets promising a better life with Putin and within the Russia, yet the local residents have been waiting for this to happen ever since the territory came under temporary occupation (and are still waiting).

The propaganda leaflets that the Russians distributed on the territory of Ukraine years before 2022 did have some influence on the population. This clearly gave the occupiers false grounds to believe that this form of political agitation would work in 2022 as well.

Russian leaflet in the village of Zolote-4 in Luhansk oblast

Text of the leaflet:

Residents near the demarcation line: demand the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from towns and villages. Ask the authorities to facilitate the withdrawal of Ukrainian military equipment from residential areas. Do not allow the soldiers of the Ukrainian armed forces to use you and your children as a shield. Because in case of return fire from the other side, you are the ones who will suffer!!!

Russian leaflet distributed in Moscow in 2015

The text of the leaflet:

DEATH TO THE UKRAINIAN JUNTA!
Every day during the so-called truce in Donbas, civilians are being killed by shelling by the punitive Ukrainian forces. Hundreds of people who disagree with the Bandera regime are being tortured in the torture chambers of the SBU (Security Service of Ukraine — tr.) and in prisons and basements belonging to all kinds of “right-wingers” all over Ukraine. May the Kyiv junta be damned!

We cannot sit back and watch what is happening — millions of Russian people, our brothers and sisters, our own flesh and blood, are living and suffering in Ukraine. Russia is responsible for their fate.

Our state must take tough and decisive action to protect them. It is necessary to recognise the independence of the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, which broke away from Ukraine, and to guarantee their protection.
If aggressive actions persist, we must cast the Banderites away to Lviv. We couldn’t care less about sanctions — the lives of our brothers are more important! As long as Ukraine does not let go of the Russian lands that they are holding by force, the horror of the civil war will not end.

Russians do not abandon their brothers!

Another Russia

Do you support us?
Join our fight to protect Russians. There is enough work for everyone.

War
The material is prepared by

The author of the project:

Bogdan Logvynenko

Author:

Віталій Побережний

Author:

Anna Yabluchna

Editor-in-chief:

Natalia Ponedilok

Editor:

Yevgeniya Sapozhnykova

Photo editor:

Yurii Stefanyak

Content manager:

Kateryna Minkina

Translator:

Maria Bunko

Translation editor:

Claire Little

Editor-in-chief (English):

Yuliia Tymoshenko

Translation coordinator:

Hanna Uraieva