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In psychology, there is the concept of protective mechanisms of the psyche. This is what helps a person adapt to one’s environment or reduce levels of stress and traumatic experiences. For example, a person can push unpleasant thoughts out of the mind or attribute his/her feelings and desires to others. Using the example of r*ssia’s attack on Ukraine, we can see how the entire people of the aggressor country resort to defensive mechanisms, and with them, to the manipulation of meanings. r*ssia not only commits crimes against humanity every day with the hands of its military, but it also distorts the information domain in its favor. For years, it has called black – white, war – a desire for peace, and its population – either “great nations” or “little people” on whom nothing depends.

In this material, we clearly show that the typical statements of r*ssian figures about greatness and peacemaking are manifestations of unconscious mechanisms of the collective psyche. And the r*ssian clichés, which are used to justify the attack on sovereign countries, in particular Ukraine, are not only lies, but also irrefutable proof that all the people of the aggressor country need psychotherapy.

“It was Ukraine that was going to attack the r*ssian federation”

This statement is a manifestation of a projection, a phenomenon when a person unconsciously attributes his feelings, thoughts, desires, and needs to other people. Thus, he/she removes responsibility for his/her own behavior and desires, which seem unacceptable. Not very comforting news: one of the extreme manifestations of projection is paranoia, a mental disorder characterized by various obsessions. These can be imaginary feelings that a person is being persecuted and targeted for assassination, everyone around is a conspirator, etc. That’s precisely what we see in the case of r*ssia: r*ssians believe that the whole world is hostile to them and wishes them harm and that all their issues are not their responsibility.

“Ukraine forced r*ssia to attack, we had no choice”

This is a manifestation of projective identification — a person not only projects something on another, but also pushes her to conform to this projection, that is, her expectations or desires. The aggressor state cannot accept that Ukraine is not only independent, but also ready to defend its independence. r*ssia itself provoked and started the war, but it is more comfortable to live with the idea that Ukraine is the aggressor. Thus, for the r*ssian federation, the war acquires a special meaning and an almost sacred significance.

“r*ssia brings peace to the people of Ukraine”

This is not just an allusion to Orwell’s famous phrase, “war is peace”, but also an example of reactive formation. This is a mechanism that replaces unacceptable things with the opposite, often exaggerated ones. For example, obsessive love can be transformed into hatred, and pity or caring — a manifestation of unconscious cruelty or indifference. This is the case when the hug can be firm, but actually unkind. And this is another example of how r*ssia, by changing the facts, tries to give meaning to its actions and “overplay” reality.

“r*ssia does not bomb cities”

This is an example of denial — a mechanism for rejecting thoughts, desires, needs, or reality that are unacceptable on a conscious level. A person behaves as if the problem does not exist. This is a fairly simple mechanism, often characteristic of children. Thanks to it, they cope with information about various troubles. For example, with disasters: if you hide under the blanket, the terrible reality seems to cease to exist. This mechanism prevents us from realizing and lamenting over the tragedy. In r*ssia, it works like this: the people pretend that there is no big war (because the Ukrainians are bombing themselves, and the r*ssian army is helping to establish peace), and the impact of sanctions does not affect their lives in any way.

“Greatness of r*ssia”

This is a manifestation of the mechanism of idealisation — a person’s overestimation of his/her or someone else’s personal qualities. For example, when a child sincerely believes that his parents can do anything for him, even turn off the rain. This is how r*ssia idealises its imperial past and the constant expansion of its borders at the expense of seizing the territories of sovereign countries. This helps her maintain the myth of her alleged omnipotence (“I am a r*ssian, I fear nothing”, “we will defeat everyone”). However, these illusions also prevent r*ssia from soberly perceiving reality.

“If r*ssia really wanted to, it would have destroyed Ukraine a long time ago”

Here is p*tin’s “we haven’t even started anything.” This devaluation is a mechanism that helps a person to more easily experience moments when he/she cannot get what he wants. He/she does not recognize her own shortcomings, and as a result finds many reasons to devalue another person and his/her actions, or some phenomena. In the example of r*ssia, we see that they devalue not only the power of the Ukrainian army and the rear, but also their losses (equipment and manpower). So r*ssians seem to live in an information looking glass, unable to critically assess their state of affairs and prospects.

“Nazis and drug addicts seized power in Ukraine!”

This is a manifestation of rationalization (protective motivation). It occurs when a person, realising the inaccessibility of what one wants, begins to underestimate its value. Or when something bad happens, that person tries to prove to oneself or someone that it’s not so bad, that there is some benefit in it. This is how people begin to justify anything, even war crimes, as we can see with the example of r*ssia.

“Where were you 8 years ago?”/”Where have you been all these 8 years?”

This is not just a fake that the Armed Forces of Ukraine have been allegedly shelling the east of Ukraine since 2014. This is a moralization, a close relative of rationalization. But unlike the previous mechanism, here a person is not looking for a rational, but a moral and ethical basis to justify his/her desires or actions. An example of moralization in history is the Inquisition, the Crusades, and missionary work. Adolf Hitler also moralised his motivation to create a pure Aryan race. Now r*ssia is also trying to prove to itself and others that “protecting the people of Donbass” (and in fact simply invading Ukraine) is its moral duty to its alleged brothers and sisters. Of course, even a primary analysis proves that there is no sense in these actions, but we still need to learn how to analyse r*ssia.

“We are small people, we cannot be responsible for the actions of the authorities”

This is dissociation — a psychological defense mechanism, when a person does not identify with the situation and withdraws from it. In the case of r*ssia, we see: r*ssians who are not directly in Ukraine distance themselves from the horrors of their compatriots. Some of them are horrified when they realise that by being inactive they have allowed this to happen, so this defensive mechanism kicks in. They say: “we have nothing to do with it, we are outside of politics, everything is not so straightforward.” It is the comfortable role of the victim who refuses to take responsibility.

“Why didn’t anyone say anything when NATO bombed Yugoslavia?”

This is a shifting mechanism, that is, refocusing attention from one object to another. For example, a person was scolded at work, but he/she cannot answer the management in the same way, so he comes home and lashes out at loved ones. It is the same with the r*ssians: when they are asked about Bucha, Mariupol, Kharkiv and other Ukrainian cities that suffered from r*ssian war crimes, they have nothing to answer. But there is aggression, so they switch their attention to other wars. A similar tactic is used in rhetoric – whataboutism. It does not refute the original arguments but disrupts the discussion of the key issue, forcing to discuss another one instead.

There are many examples proving r*ssia’s toxic attitude towards Ukraine. In addition to physical injuries, Ukrainian society also has a number of psychological injuries caused by r*ssia. But just as individual people can successfully break up toxic relationships and have a peaceful life afterward, so can entire nations. Ukraine has been resisting r*ssia’s influence for years, and victory in a major war will be an important step in the final separation from the aggressor country.

The material is prepared by

The author of the project:

Bogdan Logvynenko



Anna Yabluchna


Natalia Ponedilok

Compilation of information:

Eleonora Chornomorchenko

Photo editor:

Yurii Stefanyak

Content manager:

Kateryna Minkina


Oleksii Martson


Sharon Henning Garland


Yuliia Tymoshenko

Project manager:

Hanna Uraieva