Kremlin Using Popular Russian Shows as Propaganda Machine to Own Eastern Europe – Is Stalin Era Coming Back?

  • KVN phenomenon consists of a number of leagues of people who gather to play the game.
  • The show specifically mentioned unification of the former Soviet Republics into one nation.
  • A call for the Slavic nations to unite.

On February 22, 2020, a new episode of the KVN show aired, a Russian humor TV show and an international competition where teams compete by giving funny answers to questions and showing prepared sketches. The show originated in the Soviet Union. The program was first aired by the First Soviet Channel on November 8, 1961.  The show is very popular and often Russian President Vladimir Putin is in attendance. Especially, during the finals.

The KVN phenomenon consists of a number of leagues of people who gather to play the game. There are both official and unofficial leagues, but only teams in the official ones can make it to the highest leagues—the Highest League (Высшая лига) and the Premier League (Премьер лига), which are the ones that air on TV.

The format of the show is that various teams compete in humorous games: they try to give the funniest answers to questions asked, perform skits, and do improv comedy. There are a few constant games—the introduction/visiting card; the “warm-up” (разминка), or the game of funny answers to questions; various acting games; and a musical game. The show’s host, Aleksandr Maslyakov (Александр Масляков), has been leading the show since 1964.

The show was initially live, but switched to being recorded at some point, since many of the show’s jokes were ideologically questionable and needed to be censored out. The first iteration of the show was canceled in 1971, signaling an end of Khrushchev’s thaw.

After watching the Saturday episode, it solidified my belief that it’s a giant push of social engineering propaganda on Russian TV.  It is clearly part of the Kremlin’s agenda and indoctrination of the younger generations, since many teams on that show are university students.

One of the improvised songs was very catchy and as a result was adored by the audience. The words in the song specifically imply unification of the former Soviet republics into one country. Belarus is white Rus and should be part of Russia. However, what was completely surprising, even to myself, was the part of the chorus suggesting Czechoslovakia should be unified (instead of two separate nations) and that Slavs should join one big Slavic Russian family. It was actually a team from Belarus who was singing those lyrics. At this time Vladimir Putin wasn’t in the audience. It was concerning when all the audience erupted with agreeable claps and the jury on the show continued to compliment the so called “creativity.”

The show was used the same way during the Soviet era, but has been tame for some time now. Nevertheless the recent episode clearly shows a trajectory and the reach of propaganda to a new level in this century. It is no longer just former Soviet nations and unification to reclaim Soviet Union. It is more of the era of the Ribbentrop Pact and the Soviet hold in eastern Europe. Hence, the Kremlin’s plan to go much further than that.

It is not surprising that last year’s poll also suggested Russians were glorifying Stalin again.

The message is clear and we can see the trajectory of Putin’s grandiose plans ahead.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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