TO CREATE HELL IN HEAVEN: RUSSIAN HYBRID WARFARE IN GEORGIA’S PANKISI GORGE
Hafez, Mohammed M.
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Since August 2008, Russia has increased the use of soft power tactics in Georgia. Disinformation, propaganda, and fake news have become part of the everyday narrative spread by Russian media. Many scholars have studied Russian soft power and concluded that it mainly targeted Georgia after that country’s strong intention toward integration with the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Russia’s aim was to alter public opinion of Georgia and threaten the country’s image in the international society. However, one vulnerable region in northeastern Georgia has not received much attention. This study takes a closer look at Pankisi Gorge, a valley that borders Russia’s breakaway republic of Chechnya and populated mostly with ethnic Kists of the Islamic faith. Through the analysis of Russian media stories about Pankisi, this thesis finds that the valley is often presented as a “nest of terrorism,” creating a false sense of threat in the entire region. Additionally, this thesis discusses how Russia can destabilize Pankisi through fake news and actually use the situation for its possible military intervention in Georgia.
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