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Occupied Thinking: Russian Propaganda on the Occupied Territories of Georgia

Have you heard about the second front?! This pervasive narrative is one of many Russian propaganda messages that create a complex web of Russian power, influence, and manipulation. The purpose of this study is to analyze the multifaceted features of the Russian narrative and its impact on the population living in the occupied territory. Russian narratives are rooted in the past, creating a distorted version of the future and poisoning the minds of the people living in the occupied territory. Russian propaganda strategies cover many aspects. Distorted messages serve to instill fear, escalate tension, and create aggression in society. Military cooperation, educational initiatives, and cultural events are intertwined in Russian narratives. Military cooperation is presented as a guarantee of security, while cultural initiatives and educational programs are portrayed as mutually beneficial activities. Both strategies rely on establishing a pro-Russian position through messages sent by Russia. These analyses highlight the need to examine information and understand broader strategic objectives. Tracking the formation of these narratives and understanding the military, educational, and cultural interrelationships is critical to uncovering and countering Russian tactics.

Main Findings

On the occupied territories: all the disinformation spread by Russia in South Ossetia and Abkhazia is ultimately aimed at fueling the "second front" strategy. Six main narratives are identified: the second front; Ossetians, Abkhazians, and Russians as colleagues; Georgia-Ukraine Alliance; Georgia as an aggressor; absence of pro-Russian power in Georgia; Common cultural heritage. Among the platforms surveyed, the most misinformation is spread on news websites (55%), Facebook (30%), YouTube (3%), TikTok (12%). Tools used - IBEX and Mediaspeech.


We researched and monitored a number of online platforms to uncover Russian propaganda narratives circulating in the occupied territories. Part of this extensive search was an in-depth study of Facebook, which includes 30% of our source data; 3% of the data comes from YouTube, 12% from TikTok, and the main 55% from various news websites.

Selecting and monitoring such diverse sources helped us isolate central narratives. After a thorough review, 73 different sources were methodically selected for further analysis. It is worth noting that as a result of this selection process, we have created a unique list of sources we have found that spread propaganda messages in the occupied territories. This list is a useful resource both for our research and for any researcher and investigative journalist interested in this issue in general. The efficiency of our research process was greatly improved by the strategic use of digital tools introduced during the project - IBEX and Mediaspeech. Through IBEX, we were able to filter out key narratives, extract keywords, pull up to 2,000 posts. This approach helped to reduce the voluminous data into a short list of 10 key terms, thereby simplifying the retrieval of relevant information. As a result, we collected 373 of the most popular and relevant posts in which Russian propaganda messages were clearly visible. We used MediaSpeech to process the data obtained using IBEX. We made transcripts of about 10 videos, which allowed us to analyze the narratives in a simpler and more detailed manner. The final stage of our methodological approach involves a comprehensive and systematic analysis of the collected data. The obtained data contributed to the creation of a comprehensive and detailed list of sources actively spreading propaganda in the occupied regions. This comprehensive methodological approach, combining a number of tools and platforms for data collection and in-depth analysis, provided a multidimensional and in-depth understanding of the prevailing narratives and views in these areas.

In Tlianov, we identified twenty keywords, which include - "South Ossetia", "Abkhazia", "colleagues", "second front", "Tskhinvali", "friends of Russia", "Ukraine", "war", "aggressor", "Ethnic cleansing", "Alliance", "Dialogue", and others. These phrases were carefully divided into several main categories.

Analysis of Research Results

Key findings include six main narratives that are intertwined. These six are the Georgia-Ukraine Alliance; the absence of pro-Russian power in Georgia; common cultural heritage; Georgia as an aggressor; Ossetians, Abkhazians, and Russians as colleagues; and the second front. After analyzing the abundance of information, we decided to present the narrative of the "second front" as the first conclusion, and the second main narrative as "Ossetians, Abkhazians, and Russians as colleagues," which unites the rest of the narratives. Although, in the end, all narratives are still used to intensify the strategy of the "second front."

The Second Front

A "second front" strategy aims to divide the adversary's focus and resources by opening a new front. This strategy is rooted in historical context, aims to move the escalation into a more active phase, and hints at potential future global instability.

Georgia-Ukraine Alliance

Propaganda articles strategically promote the idea that Ukraine is being bribed to initiate conflicts against Russia, emphasizing the notion of "territorial liberation" and suggesting a proactive military strategy against Russia. This narrative not only increases tensions in the region but also serves to portray these nations as potential threats, playing a larger role in the "second front" strategy.

For example, EurAsia Daily, one of the main Russian disinformation online newspapers, wrote(1) in an article published on October 20: "In order to ease their own situation, the Kyiv authorities called on Moldova and Georgia to start fighting against Russia to 'liberate their territories from Russian occupiers.'" According to Danilov, the third world war started in 2008, during Georgia's attack on South Ossetia, and is now in its hot phase. As reported by EADaily, the leader of the Kyiv regime, Vladimir Zelensky, recently also called on Georgia to start a war, which would help increase the security of Kyiv. According to him, "new security prospects will emerge thanks to the changes in the South Caucasus region, neighboring the Black Sea."

The number of similar articles (2) after the start of the Russia-Ukraine war has significantly increased. Dozens of articles are published every day, where the phrase "second front" dominates, emphasizing the daily attempt to put the Russian narrative on the agenda and to weaken Ukraine in the heat of the war through the use of soft power. Thus, killing two birds with one stone—that is, at the same time, stirring up fear in the occupied regions and starting the war on the part of Georgia.

Also, the articles use language that belittles the opposing force, particularly criticizing the leadership of Georgia and Ukraine, portraying certain figures in a negative light, and comparing them to alleged Western politicians who do not prioritize the interests of their nations. This tactic serves to sow internal discord and weaken the unity of the target nations, the goal of the "second front" strategy of dividing the adversary.

Georgia as an Aggressor

Historical events, particularly the 2008 conflict with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, have been strategically framed as a starting point for broader global conflicts. This narrative not only supports current aggression but also potentially justifies present and future actions. By intertwining historical conflicts with present-day situations, these articles contribute to the formation of a narrative that portrays Georgia as the aggressor.

On October 9, the State News Agency of South Ossetia "RES" wrote (3) that Georgia is trying its best to avoid signing the document on the non-use of force, as stated by the State Adviser to the President of the Republic of South Ossetia and the head of the working group on Geneva discussions, Konstantin Kochev, during the Sukhum-Tskhinvali video bridge discussion on the Sputnik-South Ossetian platform. He noted that South Ossetia has been working on this issue for a long time, "but so far it has not been possible to achieve results." Kochiev recalled that there was a period when Georgia practically agreed to sign this document but finally refused again.

At the same time, such articles aim to incite nationalistic sentiments, portray the target nations as victims, and emphasize the need for the return of territories. The connection between historical conflicts and the current situation fuels patriotic fervor, contributing to the population's sense of urgency and purpose. This emotional manipulation aligns with the broader objectives of the "second front" strategy to create an environment conducive to escalation.

Absence of Pro-Russian Power in Georgia

The articles imply that all forces in Georgia are pro-Western, and therefore, there are potential threats from the West. In particular, the US and its allies are accused of pressuring Georgia to engage in a conflict with Russia. This leads to fears of an imminent confrontation and accusations of fomenting tension in the West:

"There were a lot of people in Georgian politics who danced to the music of the West." An article published by EADaily on October 18 (4) has the following content: "The current leadership of Georgia is undoubtedly more pragmatic, less ideological than the National Movement, and differs from the National Movement in only one thing—it uses the situation more skillfully... For me, the increase in the activity of President Salome Zurabishvili is somewhat staged. I think this is one of the elements of the game of the current leadership of Georgia, which is aimed at fragmenting the opposing electorate. There are no pro-Russian voters in Georgia on such a scale that it should be taken into account. In Georgia, there is a strict anti-Russian electorate and there is a moderate anti-Russian electorate, whose representatives are the current rulers who do not like Russia but understand that it is here and we must trade with it and, if possible, get each other's help in restoring "territorial integrity," - Respublika quotes Gobozov's words (5).

That is, Gobozov explained, the current leadership of Georgia is as pro-Western as any.

In the text, we also find attempts to denigrate the ruling power, for example: "Zurabishvili, who was barely elected as president," or directly denigrating the opposing force, in this case, Georgia: "Russia, even if it leads five air defense forces, will always have enough power to fight Georgia." However, Gobozov emphasizes again that South Ossetia has no way to relax in any case because Georgia "is our danger."

Emphasis on Russian intelligence reports in such articles (6) and accusations of revanchist sentiments in Georgian society create an aura of fear. Citing the readiness of the intelligence service of the occupied regions to defend against danger serves to legitimize the narrative of imminent danger, consistent with the goal of the "second front" strategy - to increase tensions and justify aggressive actions.

"Abkhazians, Ossetians, and Russians are Colleagues"

This narrative is the second main finding. Propaganda portrays Abkhazians, Ossetians, and Russians as collaborators, participating in educational programs, cultural events, and intelligence cooperation. The multifaceted approach includes education, cultural enrichment, and security initiatives, demonstrating community engagement and partnership strategies in the occupied regions.

Intelligence Cooperation and Security Measures

News reports (7) clearly highlight the cooperation of South Ossetian intelligence officers with Russian intelligence services and emphasize their role in providing operational intelligence on the situation in Ukraine. The positive tone of coverage underscores the perceived impact of these efforts on the security of the states concerned. The involvement of volunteers from the occupied territories in Russia's war against Ukraine has been particularly praised, portraying it as a cooperative and laudable effort. This narrative aligns with Russia's strategic interests in shaping regional security dynamics through intelligence cooperation. Even "South Ossetian intelligence officers are helping their Russian counterparts in the Northern Military District"(8) or "the operation to prevent the export of secret documents from Mariupol is the result of the interaction between the foreign intelligence service of the Republic of South Ossetia and the intelligence services of other friendly countries."

Common Cultural Heritage

News (9) coverage also focuses on educational initiatives in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, particularly Russian language teaching and cultural events. This effort is designed to be mutually beneficial, with an emphasis on strengthening language capabilities, promoting cultural exchange, and expanding educational access for local populations. The support of these initiatives by the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation adds a layer of institutional support, reinforcing the narrative of joint educational efforts that help strengthen ties between the regions and Russia.

In addition, the articles focus on local cultural events, such as the "My Motherland" competition, which is usually sponsored by Russia. Coverage highlights these initiatives as mechanisms for community engagement, celebrating cultural identity, and encouraging the participation of teachers and creative centers. This emphasis on cultural events is a kind of soft power tool that promotes a positive image of Russian influence in the region by increasing the sense of community, shared identity, and participation in cultural activities.

The killing of Tamaz Gintur from the perspective of South Ossetian media

The articles (10) contribute to the introduction of a narrative wherein Tamaz Gintur is portrayed as a potential threat or provocateur from the standpoint of South Ossetia. This narrative is used to justify the actions taken to preserve the security and territorial integrity of the region. When discussing the articles, Tamaz Gintur is depicted as a villain from the viewpoint of South Ossetia, with several key points being emphasized. The articles seem to frame the incident as a security threat, concentrating on Gintur's military background and his actions during the border crossing. Through the use of emotive language and portraying Gintur as a potentially dangerous individual who resisted border guards, it can be assumed that the aforementioned articles aim to justify the use of force to maintain regional stability.

Based on the analysis, it is important to highlight several aspects:

Wrapping up the incident: The entirety of the incident, characterized as an illegal border crossing, underscores Gintour's background as a former special forces soldier and a veteran of the 2008 war, categorizing him as a potential threat.

Political Connections and National Security: The mention of Gintur's brother as a member of the United National Movement, an opposition party founded by ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili, is pointed out to highlight potential political motives behind the illegal border crossing.

Government actions and border security: The articles assert that South Ossetia, in collaboration with Russian forces, is taking necessary measures to protect its borders from potential threats. 

International feedback: The condemnation of the EU monitoring mission in Georgia is presented as an attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of South Ossetia, emphasizing the right of South Ossetia to protect its borders.

Protests and national solidarity: Mentions of protests such as the "No Bloody Occupation" campaign are interpreted as an orchestrated effort against South Ossetia, with Gintur portrayed as a symbol of resistance.

The articles selectively present information that supports the narrative of Georgian aggression, incorporating claims by the Russian military that they are taking action against the display of the Georgian flag at Lomisa Cathedral, thereby justifying the necessity for heightened security.

The absence of a Georgian perspective or response is also crucial. An unbiased analysis should consider the viewpoints of all parties involved. Essentially, the articles exclusively present the Ossetian (Russian) point of view.


The analysis of the "second front" strategy in the context of the Georgia-Ukraine alliance and the strategic soft power approach in South Ossetia and Abkhazia reveals complex webs of geopolitical maneuvers, narratives, and initiatives. Rooted in historical context and multifaceted in their execution, these strategies reflect the complexity of contemporary global politics.

The "second front" strategy, as seen in the narrative of the Georgia-Ukraine alliance, demonstrates a deliberate effort to divide the adversary's focus and resources. Propaganda articles strategically promote the idea of starting conflicts against Russia, denigrate the opposing forces, create historical events to justify current aggression, inflame nationalist sentiments, and instill fear of provocation by the West. Intelligence reports and allegations are used to sow fear, helping to escalate tensions. The overall goal is to destabilize target nations and advance a narrative that justifies aggressive actions.

The strategic soft power approach in South Ossetia and Abkhazia demonstrates Russia's use of non-military means to consolidate its influence. Military cooperation, educational initiatives, and local cultural events are intertwined in shaping regional dynamics. Positive coverage of intelligence cooperation emphasizes security measures, while educational initiatives and cultural exchange projects are presented as mutually beneficial instruments. Local cultural events sponsored by Russia serve as soft power tools that promote a sense of community and shared identity.



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