Putin Verstehen: The Pro-Russian Presence on German Facebook
July 5, 2021
A wide network of German-language public groups and pages on Facebook shares Kremlin narratives about NATO, the U.S. and Ukraine.
When UkraineWorld studied the activity of the popular Ukrainian news website strana.ua, we discovered that some of its manipulative articles were shared in German-language public Facebook groups Russlandversteher (The Russia Understander) and Gegen Defender 21 (Against Defender 21). We decided to study the activities of these groups further and tried to find similar communities on Facebook.
If one takes a look at the content shared in the Russlandversteher and Gegen Defender 21, there are quite a few similarities:
1. Articles from Russian state-owned outlet RT are shared quite often.
2. NATO countries are portrayed as aggressors, while Russia is portrayed as merely defending itself from the West. In particular, posts in both groups blame the U.S. for pushing NATO expansion eastward and causing a war between Ukraine and Russia.
3. Both groups depict Ukraine as the aggressor in the Donbas war.
4. Both groups often share content posted by pages and politicians from Die Linke, a German left-wing party with pro-Russian rhetoric. In particular, Die Linke call for closer ties with Russia, criticize sanctions against Russia, promote the Russian coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V, and support the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Die Linke also criticize Germany’s cooperation with the U.S. and NATO.
5. Content from pro-Russian Facebook pages is often shared both on Gegen Defender 21 and Russlandversteher. Notable examples of such pages are Voicedonbass, a page dedicated to the “people’s republics in Donbas”, as well as Wir erinnern uns, an anti-fascist page. UkraineWorld looked at the groups linked to these pages and found even more German-language pro-Russian groups.