A survey conducted by Caucasus Research Resource Centre (CRRC) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in August 2015 showed that a 44 per cent of Georgians believe Russia’s influence in the country has increased since 2012.
According to the CRRC’s blog, this number is all the more alarming considering that only 17 per cent think that the EU’s influence has increased during the same period.
“Paradoxically, all this is happening against the backdrop of Georgia’s declared EU aspirations and a number of important EU-related foreign policy achievements. This blog explores how recent a spike in the amount of Russian propaganda flowing into Georgia may have contributed to a decline in support for EU membership,” it reads.
The European Initiative – Liberal Academy Tbilisi (EI – LAT) recently conducted a research on Moscow’s soft and hard power policy in Georgia. Their findings highlighted the specific mechanisms used by Russia to exert influence on Georgian public opinion.
“Political myths are one of Russia’s most important propaganda tools in Georgia. Russian propaganda is often built on emotional messages to create and strengthen negative stereotypes of ethnic, religious and sexual minorities, discrediting the Western political or cultural space and supporting homophobic and xenophobic opinions among the public. By cultivating these myths, Russia presents itself as Georgia’s only ally with a common identity, religious faith, history and culture. Simultaneously, it portrays the West as a threat to all the above-mentioned values,” the initiative said in its report.
From 2009-2015, the CRRC conducted four surveys funded by the Europe Foundation under the title The Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia.
These surveys showcased that overall support for the Georgia’s EU membership had sharply decreased between from 2013-2015.
According to the EU survey, the fear that the EU will harm Georgian traditions had increased 12 per cent over the past seven years, especially after 2013.
“Since 2013, there has been a significant change in tone that indicates the existence of a mechanism aimed at amplifying this fear” the CRRC blog reports.
“Based on both CRRC/EF and EI-LAT findings regarding Russia’s propaganda, we can assume that the information disseminated by Russia was not only well informed and well planned, but also successful to a certain extent. The fear that the EU will harm Georgian traditions appears to have contributed to a decrease in the number of supporters of Georgia’s EU membership. This result is likely facilitated by the public not being well informed about the EU and its commitment to preserve national traditions and supporting cultural heritage,” the CRRC report said.