Raising Awareness of Russian Soft Power in Central Europe

The project was primarily designed as a response to Kremlin’s growing appetite for interference into domestic affairs of European states. It seeks to analyze and raise awareness of Russia’s influence activities to disrupt democratic transitions in Central Europe and undermine European unity. Together with partners from the Visegrad countries PSSI conducted an in-depth country monitoring and examined the variety of influence measures being leveraged by Russia.

The research aims to build a better understanding of the Kremlin’s regional ploys and compare the different approaches Russia uses for the Central European countries, especially regarding country-specific strategies. It focuses on three discrete but related areas: economic and financial tools, including asset purchases and acquisitions by Kremlin affiliated businesses, that foster trade and energy dependencies; political and cultural tools, including the activities of Russian Centers of Science and Culture, as well as financial support for local NGOs, political parties, and other pro-Kremlin groups; and disinformation tools, including support for illiberal outlets and coordinated online trolling activities, but analyzed within the broader context of other influence activities.

Read the final publication "United We Stand, Divided We Fall: The Kremlin's Leverage in the Visegrad Countries," which maps out Kremlin’s regional ploys and compares the different approaches Russia uses for the Central European countries. Executive summaries in English, Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Slovak are also available.

This project was supported by the National Endowment for DemocracyIt was realized between September 2016 and November 2017.

Project partners included:

The first brainstorming session with project partners related to research methodology and timetable of activities took place on 21st September at the PSSI premises. 

In the course of the project, a series of short videos with project experts were published.

· Interview with Ivana Smolenova (PSSI) about Russian disinformation in the Czech Republic. Language: English, Subtitles: Czech.

· Interview with Petr Lang (PSSI) about Russia’s influence activities in the Visegrad countries and how we should face them. Language: Czech, Subtitles: English.

· Interview with Dusan Fischer (SFPA) by Ivana Smolenova (PSSI), Language: Slovak, Subtitles: English. 

· Interview with Alexander Duleba (SFPA) about Russian influence in Slovakia.  Language: Slovak, Subtitles: English.

· Interview with Andras Deak (CEID) about Russian economic footprint in Hungary. Language: English, Subtitles: Hungarian. 

· Interview with Daniel Bartha (CEID) about Russian influence in Hungary. Language: English, Subtitles: Hungarian.

· Interview with Antoni Wierzejski (CSM) about disinformation websites in Poland. Language: English, Subtitles: Polish.

· Interview with Andrzej Turkowski (CSM) about Russia's meddling in Poland. Language: English, Subtitles: Polish.

Four events were held in the V4 Capitals.

·      February 27 - Conference in Bratislava

Watch the video recording of the public event in Bratislava.

·      April 5 – Conference in Budapest

Watch the full video from public discussion in Budapest.

·      April 28 – Conference in Warsaw

·      May 10 – Conference in Prague

Each of the four events had a similar structure. They consisted of public and closed-door sessions.

Closed-door sessions consisted of two roundtables. The first roundtable focused on economic relations between Russia and individual V4 countries. The second roundtable aimed to comprehend Kremlin's regional ploys and compare the different approaches it uses for the V4 countries. Speakers concentrated on cultural tools, activities of Russian embassies, media or propaganda.

Numerous events in regional cities were also organized.

By PSSI (Czech Republic)

· August 29, 2017, Ostrava, Czech Republic. "Pro-Russian Propaganda and Disinformation”

· July 25, 2017, Plzen, Czech Republic. "Pro-Russian Propaganda, Disinformation and Parliamentary Election 2017”

· June 20, Prelouc, Czech Republic. Debate with Czech high school students.

By SFPA (Slovakia)

· June 07, 2017, Trnava. Slovakia. Discussion with Dusan Fischer from SFPA together with Radovan Branik, Slovak expert on extremism. 

· June 08, 2017, Nitra, Slovakia. Discussion of Dusan Fischer from SFPA with Mario Nikolini, President of the Euroatlantic Center.

· July 21, 2017, Dolny Kubin. Discussion with Dusan Fischer from SFPA and Peter Markovic from Center for Open Society.

By CIR (Poland)

· August 10, 2017, Kraków, Poland. Event focusing on fake news.

· September 25, 2017, Poznan, Poland. Who is behind the fake news?

By CEID

· May 25, 2017, Eger, Hungary. Public discussion focusing on Russia and its disinformation campaigns.

· March 2, 2017, Szeged, Hungary. “European Café – Buffer Zone: Russian Propaganda in Central-Europe”

·​ October 4, Pécs, Hungary