The Russian invasion is not only being fought on the battlefields in Ukraine. Russian media is also attempting to sway public opinion in favor of the Kremlin within Russia and elsewhere through disinformation and speculation. This is one of the reasons why several Russian media outlets have been blocked by Western governments with the outbreak of the war.
Turkey did not participate in Western sanctions to undermine the Russian war machine. Likewise, it did not confront Russian propaganda targeting Turkish public opinion. For instance, the Russian state-sponsored Sputnik News Agency and RS FM (Voice of Russia–Sputnik FM) continue to operate their Turkish-language editions as before.
Nonetheless, most of the Russian propaganda in Turkey is not overtly conducted by Russian state-affiliated media outlets. Eurasianists in Turkey carry out the Kremlin’s bidding to influence Turkish public opinion in favor of Russian war efforts. They blame the West, specifically NATO and the US, for instigating the war in Ukraine and causing regional instability. They also attack Turkey's political opposition for their milder views on NATO and the US and recommend that the Turkish government prioritize its relations with Russia. They also see the war in Ukraine as an opportunity to further undermine Turkey’s frail relations with the West.
In Chapter I, we begin with the history of Eurasianism in Turkey since the 1990s. We explore how President Erdoğan’s coalition with the Eurasianists rapidly reshaped Turkey’s political ecosystem and largely eroded the country’s once-promising democratic norms and rules. We also discuss how Eurasianist policies and ideas affect Turkey’s relations with the West in a way that will undercut its integration with NATO.
In Chapter II, we analyze the coverage of the war in Ukraine by Eurasianist media with a focus on the early days of the invasion. Since media has proven to be a valuable tool for disseminating Eurasianist ideological items, we examine how publication policies clearly aim to undermine Turkey’s ties with the West and advocate close cooperation with Russia by spreading disinformation and defamation about the West.
Our findings indicate that Eurasianist media employ a variety of strategies and techniques, such as amplification of genuine uncertainty, opportunistic fabrications, and multiple contradictory narratives. They spread biased and misleading ideas, information, or claims with the intention of advancing Russian interests in Turkey.
We believe that deconstructing these methods employed by the Eurasianists is essential to understanding how they endeavor to steer Turkey toward Russia and authoritarianism.