During Soviet times, citizens of the USSR and those of the Warsaw Pact countries were encouraged to report “enemies of the people” to the authorities.

In a speech on March 16, 2022, barely three weeks after the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin reignited the flame of denunciation, saying that “a natural and necessary self-cleansing of society will only strengthen our country” adding that Russians “will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors and will simply spit them out like an insect in their mouth.”

This was taken as a call to report on those who expressed any sentiment that was against the so-called “special military operation.”

According to the Russian news outlet RIA Novosti, within a week the political party A Just Russia – For Truth launched a website to meet Putin’s call, “sprosim.srzapravdu.org” where Russians could submit reports on “activity that could have been planned to harm the state.”

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These reports would be sent to the Chairman of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Alexander Bastrykin, for further investigation.

This in turn unleashed a flood of mechanisms for Russian people to inform on their neighbors and, in further echoes of Stalin’s days, family members who spoke out of turn.

In St. Petersburg, the ruling United Russia party launched a Telegram-based campaign to counter “fake news.”

British Defence Intelligence Update Ukraine 24 February 2023
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British Defence Intelligence Update Ukraine 24 February 2023

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The pro-Kremlin propagandist and TV host Vladimir Solovyov and his team created the UralLive Telegram bot that called on residents to report instances of “anti-Russian” activities.

Authorities in Kaliningrad set up the Za Pravdu (for the truth) Telegram bot because of “increased cases of provocations and fraud” linked to the war in Ukraine.

Similar digital reporting sites were quickly created in the Altai, Belgorod, Penza, Saratov and Samara regions, as well as in Moscow.

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In Soviet times the motives for informing against “politically incorrect” neighbors and colleagues were attempts at ingratiating oneself with the government, protecting yourself, or simply out of personal spite.

Alexandra Arkhipova, a Senior Research Fellow at the US-based Wilson Center told the Meduza news outlet that many of the current informers, fueled by feelings of patriotism and trust in state propaganda, believe they are helping to bring “some kind of justice.”

She says that over 5,000 individuals were denounced and prosecuted for various actual or implied criticisms aimed at the Russian military – for which some have lost their jobs, received fines or even jailed.

According to the Moscow Times there were almost 300,000 denunciations recorded in 2022, for a range of “crimes,” many of which have nothing to do with the war or protecting the wider interests of the state but follow the patterns of earlier times.

People reported recalcitrant children, noisy neighbors, someone playing Ukrainian music, an old lady for growing blue and yellow flowers in a window box, swapping supermarket price tags, fighting and swearing in public, and so on.

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In September the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Roskomnadzor created a new website specifically aimed at preventing the promotion of “LGBT propaganda, pedophilia and gender reassignment” in response to the new Russian law on those issues that was passed in December 2022.

The aim was to monitor, control or close down all social networks, media, cinema, advertising, and video games that promote “perversion.” Roskomnadzor, defined propaganda as “the use of certain means of influence, popularization, and imposition of information in order to form certain positive, distorted views of a destructive phenomenon.”

According to the website Poligon.media, an expatriate Russian IT specialist created a parody application for Russians who want to snitch on each other called “My Denunciation” in January.

Although clearly intended as a joke the site received almost 10,000 hits in its first four months, almost half of which appeared to be genuine denouncements that contained full personal information and other details of the “violators.”

The independent human rights defense and media group, OVD-Info, cites numerous cases of denunciation, saying: “We are dealing with distorted reality. In general, there’s nothing wrong with reporting offenses or crimes, but most cases are very politicized.

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“This trend is worrying, though we don’t have the same scale of snitching and repression as in the USSR. The authorities perhaps would like us to think that other citizens are taking part in such repressive practices.”

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Comments ( 1)

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Joseph Swanson
This comment contains spoilers. Click here if you want to read.

The soviet times...NEVER left, russia is still communist.
I could give a laundry list of evidence but the kyiv post would mark my comment as spam OR not post it.

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