Lviv is Poland!
- In Poland, territorial revisionism or territory-related narratives which are relevant to this day include the issue of historical conflict between Poland and Ukraine between 1918 and 1919, and the historical territorial affiliation of Lviv city and Western Galicia, which for more than 300 years were Polish territories. Lviv was one of the main Polish cities after independence was regained in 1918; on the other hand, home to a significant number of Ukrainian citizens, it was also a key city in plans for a reborn Ukraine.
- Another driver of influence operations aimed at creating tension between Poland and Ukraine is the Volhynia killing, when Ukrainian troops and citizens executed between 40,000 and 60,000 Polish civilians during World War II. The most remembered event is the Volhynian Bloody Sunday. On July 11, 1943, OUN-UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army ) death squads, aided by the local Ukrainian peasants, simultaneously attacked at least 99 Polish settlements within the Wołyń Voivodeship, with a well-orchestrated attack on people gathered for Sunday mass at Catholic churches.
- Although there is and has been no official or mainstream revisionism in Polish politics since the 1990s, tensions between Kyiv and Warsaw intensified in the period analysed. Both governments, Law and Justice (PiS) in Poland, and Petro Poroshenko’s in Ukraine, were trying to expand their electorate pools to include right-wing and nationalist groups. Such attitudes created a chance for the Kremlin to drive a wedge between the two nations and heat up the historical sentiments and conflicts without being visibly present in the Polish media space.
- In Poland, far-right, nationalistic and extremist movements were targeted with strong anti-Ukrainian narratives. The representative sample analysis revealed that four out of five revisionism-related narratives targeting Ukraine and bilateral relations are all shared across mainstream and fringe discourses. This attests to both Polish resilience to direct Russian disinformation messaging, as well as to the vulnerability to the fringe, indirect reinterpretation of the same narratives concerning current and historic conflicts between Ukraine and Poland – while remaining seemingly unrelated to Russian interests.
- In line with our narrative analysis, the pro-Kremlin media network and the respective social media channels and fringe forums were also hijacking official commemorative events, such as the 75th anniversary of the Volhynia Killing, which served as an outstanding pretext for (mis)information actors to revive the memories of war crimes and conflict between Poland and Ukraine.
- The Polish narratives about Volhynia and Lviv were full of hate speech against the Ukrainian nation, also suggesting that Kyiv is becoming increasingly anti-Polish, and sometimes even creating an image of Ukraine as a failed state, which has no capability of independent existence.
- Fringe messaging about revisionism could often be found on “independent”, “patriotic” and pro-Kremlin sites in Poland. Interestingly, and similarly to Hungary, almost all Polish far-right actors, parties, paramilitary movements and media can be considered anti-NATO, anti-U.S. and anti-EU at the same time. What is even more relevant is that most of them are also anti-Russia, even though they are replicating the Kremlin’s geopolitical agenda.
- Fringe disinformation dissemination strategies were, therefore, not only utilising a distorted Polish national identity rooted in revisionism against Ukraine and a dismissal of Polish membership in Western structures, they also employed a tight network of fringe Polish-language sites with strong connections to the Polish far-right subculture and only a few to official Kremlin mouthpieces.
The full study is available here (pdf, 3,296 KB).