The Manipulation Of Historical Memory Is A Potent Form Of Hybrid Warfare

The Manipulation Of Historical Memory Is A Potent Form Of Hybrid Warfare

By Andrew Korybko

Any people who’ve sincerely become convinced of the supposedly existential threat posed to them by another will automatically react with hostility towards the latter, so much so that the external party that manipulated their consciousness to that end doesn’t have to intervene any further beyond that. All that they have to do is simply let the self-sustaining cycle of distrust and destabilization that they catalysed continue taking on a life of its own in order to perpetually divide and rule the two targeted people.


Hybrid Warfare in its simplest form refers to the external exacerbation of preexisting identity fault lines within a targeted state aimed at weakening it from the inside-out. The purpose of this pressure is to coerce that state’s leadership into complying with the aggressor’s demands that they unilaterally concede on their interests in any given issue in order to advance that foreign party’s own. Hybrid Warfare thus manifests itself in many ways, and the manipulation of historical memory is one of them.

President Putin recently spoke about precisely that form, which is among its most potent, in the speech that he gave on the occasion of Russia’s Unity Day. According to the leader of this newly restored world power, “It is known that if someone wants to deprive a state of sovereignty and turn its citizens into vassals, they begin by rewriting the history of the country, depriving people of their roots, condemning them to oblivion.” He then predictably elaborated on how this relates to the Ukrainian Conflict.

The way that he sees it, the US-led West’s Golden Billion “managed to instil in the minds of millions of people (in Ukraine) the pseudo-values that led to the fact that they created an anti-Russia on this territory, sowing hatred, raping people’s consciousness, depriving them of their true history. Everything was done to reshape the consciousness of millions, and they very skilfully tried to light the fuse to cause the fall of our country.”

That’s certainly true, as is what he shortly thereafter added with respect to observing how “It is Ukraine and the Ukrainian people that have become the first and the main victims of breeding hate towards Russians and Russia.” Observers should recall President Putin’s magna opus “On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians” from July 2021 where he explained the historical evolution of the latter’s self-identity, which he importantly said that he fully respects contrary to the Western media’s false reports.

The gist of the insight that the Russian leader shared on his country’s Unity Day is that the external manipulation of historical memory is nowadays an extremely potent form of Hybrid Warfare because it has the possibility of misleading literally millions of people into becoming a foreign state’s proxies. In the Ukrainian case, the indisputable Russian roots of this fraternal people’s self-identity were erased from their consciousness and twisted to appear in their minds as an existential threat that must be opposed.

Any people who’ve sincerely become convinced of the supposedly existential threat posed to them by another will automatically react with hostility towards the latter, so much so that the external party that manipulated their consciousness to that end doesn’t have to intervene any further beyond that. All that they have to do is simply let the self-sustaining cycle of distrust and destabilization that they catalysed continue taking on a life of its own in order to perpetually divide and rule the two targeted people.

The one who they’ve actively manipulated will eventually even reach out to that same external party on its own after mistakenly thinking that this was an original idea that came about naturally instead of a predictable scenario that was set into motion long ago by the one who they’re now reaching out to. Some Westerners might scoff at the preceding insight and arrogantly dismiss it as a conspiracy theory even though the reality is that a variation of this strategy supposedly formed the basis of Russiagate.

According to those who believe the US Intelligence Community’s telling of the 2016 election, some Russians allegedly sought to exacerbate political – and especially identity/racial – tensions ahead of the vote through sock puppets that they set up on social media to disguise themselves as Americans. In the best-case scenario, this was the innocent (but perhaps immoral) work of social researchers, while the worst-case one is that they were so-called “trolls” who were trying to “meddle” in the election.

The US Intelligence Community ascribes to the second-mentioned interpretation, which they insist proves that Russia is supposedly waging Hybrid Warfare on Americans by actively attempting to exacerbate preexisting identity differences with a view towards dividing and ruling them. Regardless of whatever the reader’s personal views are about this contentious topic, the fact of the matter is that it’s thematically no different than what President Putin accused the West of doing in Ukraine for decades.

Both the West in Ukraine (according to the Russian leader) and Russia in the 2016 election (according to the US Intelligence Community) are accused of manipulating a foreign society’s identity – be it ethnic-national, political, racial, regional, etc. – in order to weaken them from within ahead of certain policy demands. The West wanted to turn Ukraine into an anti-Russian springboard for waging Hybrid War on Russia while Russia is accused of wanting to manipulate Trump into letting it control Ukraine.

One can acknowledge the US Intelligence Community’s interpretation of Russiagate but still disagree with it while extending credence to President Putin’s thematically similar accusations against the West in Ukraine. One cannot, however, agree with the US Intelligence Community’s interpretation of Russiagate while refusing to recognize President Putin thematically similar accusations against the West in Ukraine even if they ultimately disagree with the latter.

The fact of the matter is that the US and Russia have accused the other of waging Hybrid Warfare against them, albeit through different forms and to different extents but which nonetheless have the common denominator of manipulating preexisting identity fault lines in the targeted foreign society. This doesn’t mean that every allegation of Hybrid Warfare is factually true, but just that no objective observer can dismiss the possibility out of hand without first looking into it and reflecting on the claim.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Voice of East.


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Categories: Geopolitics, International Affairs

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