To help Slovak authorities and citizens with countering Kremlin propaganda during the ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine, we're publishing a list of top pro-Russian information sources in Slovakia.
Edit: We've noticed that our list of pro-Russian sources is sometimes wrongly interpreted as a list of "Russian agents" or "Russian trolls". It is important to understand, that many sources on our list spread pro-Russian narratives for authentic reasons, without coordination with Russian state or even unknowingly. Words "troll" or "agent" imply intentional action, and therefore are not correct descriptions of what many of the sources on the list are. We're adding this clarification because we strongly believe in staying factual and precise.
Opportunists, trolls and useful idiots
The list contains a diverse mix of different information actors. There are far-right, far-left and populist politicians that spread pro-Russian propaganda for authentic reasons or for opportunistic political gains. There are disinformation media outlets that are sometimes directly connected to Russian state interests and others that are only eager to spread any kind of controversy. And then there are Russian state-controlled trolls and proxies.
Putin good, the West bad
We've analyzed the sources' activity years back. Not surprisingly, most of the content is from the past few months, but most of the sources in the list are consistently pro-Russian over a long period of time, some going back all the way to the Russian annexation of Crimea.
Historically, the narratives were focused on criticizing the sanctions, portraying the west as a decadent, declining civilization and contrasting it with Russia, the bearer of traditional values and praising Russia's military strength, economy and the wisdom of their political elites.
In times of crises, such as in the aftermath of the Vrbětice incident, the pro-Russian actors tried to undermine the official version of investigation, blaming it on some kind of secret play by western intelligence community.
In December 2021, the announcement of the defense cooperation agreement between Slovakia and the United States (DCA) sparked a never-seen-before wave of anti-Americanism and anti-NATO and anti-EU narratives. The pro-Russian actors managed to spin the DCA as a threat to Slovakia's sovereignty and the peace in the region and we've once again seen calls for neutrality, exiting NATO and other attempts to undermine the security architecture of eastern Europe.
In the first days of the Russian aggression in Ukraine, some of the most radical pro-Russian actors tried to defend or justify it - echoing Kremlin's lies about a "limited special military operation" and "denazification of Ukraine". Confronted with the reality of the sheer scale and brutality of the invasion, many actors soon realized that approving the war openly is not viable with the audience and quickly reacted by spreading a toned-down version of propaganda. We've captured many attempts to relativize the war (e.g. by comparing it to NATO operations), to play part of the blame on the West and to undermine the western support for Ukraine (saying it only fuels and prolongs the war).
We've started with a manually annotated dataset of (mostly) Facebook pages, that was created by merging our internal Gerulata Technologies data with data from our partners.
We've applied our Universe graph technology to discover additional pro-Russian actors based on how they share content and how they coordinate with sources from the base dataset. These additional sources were also manually reviewed by our team for presence of pro-Russian narratives.
Then, we've evaluated each source based on the following three criteria:
- Activity - how active the source is and how much content it produced in the last year
- Impact - how many interactions does the source generate
- Influence - how often is the content from the source spread further into the pro-Russian network
Combining these three metrics we've produced a threat level value, and sorted all the actors in the list into 5 threat categories based on z-scores of the threat value.
This methodology doesn't evaluate how strongly pro-Russian the source is. Some of the sources focus solely on the pro-Russian narratives, for others it is only a fraction of their overall content. Some are very radical in their statements, others are more subtle and sophisticated. Some are blunt and brutal, others present their narratives in pseudo-intellectual ways. We don't think such distinction would be relevant for the purposes of this list.
Get the list
We're publishing a list of top pro-Russian web sites and Facebook pages. Please follow the following link to download the list in PDF format:
Gerulata Top Pro-Russian Sources (Web and FB) [128kB]
Important: Please note that this list is not a "list of foreign agents" or "list of trolls" as it was wrongly interpreted by some on the internet. It is a list of sources spreading pro-Russian narratives and it is important to understand, that many on the list do so unknowingly or for authentic reasons.
We've also compiled a more comprehensive list including Telegram channels, Youtube channels, and selected user accounts, that is available to the Slovak law-enforcement and security authorities.