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by DAVID AXE
In August 2008, Russia and Georgia fought a brief, bloody war over Georgia’s pro-Russian region of South Ossetia. After hundreds of casualties, Georgia withdrew its forces, essentially ceding the breakaway province to Russia. Moscow’s overall aim was to ensure “that Russia’s power is respected both within and outside the post-Soviet space,” according to U.S. Army Lt. Col. Robert Hamilton, a fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
While the bulk of the fighting in South Ossetia pitted tanks against tanks and infantry against infantry, the conflict also featured sophisticated propaganda efforts, on both sides. Russian and Georgian officials alike spun the facts to portray their respective nations as the victims of aggression. A year later, it’s still not clear who fired the first shot. “We may never have an unambiguous picture of how the initial conflict unfolded,” Hamilton wrote.
While the war’s physical damage — and, to a lesser extent, the global diplomatic fallout — has mostly healed, the propaganda campaign continues to be controversial, especially in Russia. A widely viewed TV documentary produced by Russia’s government-sponsored Channel 1 has sparked a bitter debate over Russia’s manipulation of the media. “The War of 08.08.08 — The Art of Deception” purported to dissect Georgia’s propaganda tactics. But it did so with manipulated interviews and translations that themselves comprise propaganda, according to critics.
(Video: David Axe)