It is the Year 1989.
If you follow the Chinese calendar, it was a year of the Snake.
A year which would change the European and World political landscape forever and 30 years later, the East would clash with the West in Ukraine.
Now imagine a wall. I mean a really big, long, high thick wall, built 13th August 1961.
On top of the wall are barbed razor wires. Every few hundred meters, guard towers, manned by East German military and supported or rather, supervised by the Russian military. (Please bear in mind that the USSR had almost 400,000 of their own troops stationed in East Germany).
In 1962, the Soviets and East Germans added a second barrier, about 50 metres behind the original wall, creating a tightly policed no man's land between the walls.
You may ask yourself why do I need to understand 1989? Yes, we know the USSR collapsed, the Eastern Bloc and Warsaw Pact dissolved a year later and countries like Hungary, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia transitioned from communism to democracy. While one country from the Eastern Bloc, Romania - well they had a little bit of a turbulent uprising which showed signs of what a communist system had on their disposal and why.
Without a doubt, they had security intelligence apparatuses which were able to fight the military, police and citizens like in the case of Nicolaou Ceausescu. We know how that ended.
Shot, after a brief trial in some old village house on the 25th December 1989. Some 2 weeks later Romania abolished the death sentence, conveniently, right?
Maybe you didn’t know but Nicola Ceausescu was signing “The Internationale” just before he was executed.
I do remember we as a kids used to sing that song, “like it or not, it was good for our health”, you know what I mean.
Then we come to 1991 and the civil war in Yugoslavia, well more like the Yugoslavia People’s Army, decided that there will be no democracy within Yugoslavia and that 6 republics and 2 territories will be crushed if they dare opposed.
Croatia did dare and we went to war to free ourselves from communist enslavement, hence me spending almost 1800 consecutive combat days in war.
But that is a story for some other time.
Now let’s sum up what actually did happen to communism when the communist states crumbled and were crushed by the weight of their own people, workers etc.
Citizens wanted revenge on those who spied on them, put them into prisons, and killed their loved ones. So voila, Hungary, Poland and others opened their secret archives to the public.
I mean they really opened secret archives, after of course some files had been removed, just in case.
Most of the security intelligence apparatuses stayed intact, at least at the top but the rest of them, well they needed to find new employers.
Just to give you perspective, here’s what I am talking about:
- Romania “Securitate” 11,000
- Hungary “State Protection Authority” – 33,000
- Bulgaria” Committee for State Security” – Sector 7 ( Smersh type hit squad around the world) – 1981 attempt to assassinate John Paul II – approx 10,000
- East Germany “STASI 91,015” regular employees and you know who was one of their supervisors? Yes, that guy Vladimir Putin.
This number is just a fraction of a few countries, whose agents are now in their late 40s or mid 50s with a sour taste in their mouth looking to cash in on their knowledge, allegiance to communism and the list goes on.
But, in reality, the West didn’t want to see two things:
Hundreds of thousands of ex-intelligence officers working under the umbrella of communism, supervised by the KGB, and secondly is the book.
Potemkin villages from Grigory Potemkin.
This book is important for one reason, disinformation, or how to utilise disinformation as a part of psychological warfare and deceiving enemies.
A part of the origins of disinformation and one of the most famous examples of disinformation is Grigory Potemkin (1739-1791), who orchestrated the building of fake villages to impress his former lover, Empress Catherine the Great, when she visited newly conquered territories in 1787.
It is a beautiful story, but a fake one. The idea of the Potemkin villages was designed to disinform the Ottoman Empire into believing that the Russian Empire was weak and that they just built wooden facades. It encouraged the Ottoman Empire to go to war with Russia over Crimea. They lost, resulting in the Treaty of Jassy that confirmed Crimea as a part of the Russian Empire.
Modern age disinformation was widely adopted by the USSR under the term, dezinformatsiya. According to Ion Mihai Pacepa, a high-ranking official in Romania’s secret police, who defected in 1978, there were many examples of how the USSR utilised disinformation against the West.
Definitions of disinformation and misinformation are easy to find. The important distinction between the two is the intent that sits behind them.
Misinformation is the sharing or publishing of information that is more or less accurate. It can be spread by anyone, by any means and without the intent to deceive. We see this daily on our social media platforms, through the continuous arguments and counter arguments, which may even include some facts.
Disinformation, on the other hand, is created deliberately with the intent to deceive. Its deceptive nature is designed to cause problems within countries, organisations and the general public.
It is often directed against prominent members of society. It is a common tactic employed by foreign countries and their intelligence agencies, who use friendly, reliable supporters to help distribute disinformation on a large scale.
Disinformation is usually based on true events, so it will include facts around which a false story will be built. These typically use sources, like social media platforms, where misinformation is flowing.
Disinformation is a part of daily life, alongside misinformation. It is important for corporations to understand the modus operandi of both, in order to protect their brands and reputations by maximising trust and confidence within their consumer and supplier communities.
Now imagine the year 1989. Hundreds of thousands of sacked ex-communist secret intelligence agents are looking for a highest bidder for their services, and perhaps a utopia of communism coming back.