“Sorosyata” and “External Governance” of Ukraine – A Conspiracy Narrative Fuelling Anti-Western Discourse

  • Tetyana Demyanchuk
  • 25.1.2021 09:39

Both in Europe and the US, Mr Soros has been in the centre of different conspiracy theories, which displayed the tendency of moving from the fringes to the political mainstream. Such theories disseminate especially fast in the age of social media, even when they lack any credibility or evidence. Now Mr Soros is accused of governing Ukraine from abroad, with the help of his devoted accomplices.

In the last few years, hearing the surname of Mr Soros and the derivatives from his surname - “sorosyata” (“соросята”) - became a very frequent occurrence in Ukraine. Previously a marginal conspiracy, “sorosyata” has now become part of the Ukrainian political discourse. It is used in Verkhovna Rada (parliament) and mainstream media, it is used to discredit the opponents, curtail reforms and even to dismiss the government. It is true that “sorosyata” can be used in different contexts, however, this article concentrates on the most common conspiracy that Mr Soros and his “sorosyata'' seized power in Ukraine and established a regime of “external governance”.


So, who are “sorosyata”?

“Sorosyata” can be thought of as “minions of Soros” or “offsprings of Soros”. “Sorosyata” are presented as representing the interests of Mr Soros in Ukraine, or rather, more broadly representing the Western interests in Ukraine, with implicit insinuation that “sorosyata” do not have autonomy, because they rely on the will of Mr Soros and of their other patrons.

In this sense, Mr Soros is used in this formation as a collective image, a personification of the West and Western values, that are presented with negative connotation by the ones who have some anti-Western sentiments. With their actions, “sorosyata” are claimed to jeopardise Ukraine’s sovereignty in the interests of their patrons.

On the 9th of December, a website texty.org.ua that analyses big data and shows how Russian propaganda works, has published an article Fables about Soros. How Russian disinformation turned into an internal Ukrainian discourse that traced how “sorosyata” entered popular use in Ukraine.

The article traces how August 2019 marked a sharp increase in popularity of Soros and “sorosyata” on the Ukrainian manipulative websites (the ones containing texts with emotional manipulation and/or false argumentation) thanks to pro-Russian politicians led by Medvedchuk (pro-Russian Ukrainian politician, with close business and family ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin).


“Mr Soros is used in this formation as a collective image, a personification of the West and Western values, that are presented with negative connotation by the ones who have some anti-Western sentiments.”


For example, at the end of October, there was a surge in the use of the word “sorosyata”, especially on Ukrainian websites known for their pro-Russian position. One of those - strana.ua - published 6 texts in one day mentioning “sorosyata”. This cycle of articles was started thanks to the efforts of Oleksandr Dubinsky (a tv presenter and politician), who used the word for naming one of the factions in the ruling Servant of the People party. The appearance of Dubinsky's quote created a bright "label" and legitimized the use of the term under the guise of journalistic impartiality. Mostly, the term is being used by the representatives of the faction Opposition Platform – For Life (OPZZh).


Ukraine under “external governance”

After 2014, as Ukraine sought closer relationship with the EU, Russian media presented this as being instigated by the West. In Ukraine, a window of opportunity for new narratives appeared after the presidential elections, with several new disinformation campaigns trying to expose “Western influence” and “external governance".

The narrative of “external governance” originated in Russia, and was effectively exported to Ukraine. Mr Putin can be seen using the narrative back in 2015, when speaking from the Crimean city of Yalta about the situation in Ukraine: “I mean this huge European country is under the external governance, with foreign citizens holding the key positions in the government and in the regions”. Infographics from Ukraine Crisis Media Center, collected a couple of citations both from Russian politicians and Kremlin proxies in Ukraine to demonstrate that thanks to the support of pro-Russian politicians, such narratives became internal to Ukraine, rather than imposed through dozens of Russian manipulative websites.

Later, “sorosyata” became the personification of the actors inside of Ukraine, who help the West/Europe/US to govern Ukraine.

This anti-Western discourse reached peak, when it became one of the arguments against the government of Goncharuk and its reforms agenda, which consequently led to its dismissal. In December 2019, in a speech in the parliament, an MP from the opposition party OPZZH uttered his position on the land reform and supporters of it: “…they want to hide the main thing - that Ukraine is now under external governance, and today, the majority of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine works not in the interests of Ukraine, but in the interests of the owners who are outside Ukraine…in fact, by this law you introduce the export of capital from Ukraine in the interests of "sorosyata" and other agents of foreign influence.”


Danger of popularisation of conspiracy narratives

Metaphors and increased emotionality that are used in the texts and speeches of people using the name of Mr Soros and the derivatives from it, aim to appeal to people even in the absence of arguments to support the claims. This is why, interestingly enough, “sorosyata” can be a wide range of different people – from those who are affiliated with “International Renaissance Foundation” and George Soros, to those who are associated with the West and grants. In this way, anyone can be added to the list of “sorosyata” when there is a need to discredit them.

What we see is that the "sorosyata" narrative spreads beyond the agenda of manipulative websites and the speech of pro-Russian politicians, and absurd political demonstrations, reproduced by the pro-Russian media, lose the trail of absurdity. The conspiracy enters the common domestic discourse.


“Such conspiracies implicitly hint that Ukraine should choose a different vector of development and a different partner, in this case, Russia.”


When the term of "sorosyata" gradually loses its quotation marks and shifts from the category of anti-Western neologisms into common language, it discredits the work of the people contributing to reforms, which is especially problematic given that many reforms are at their start, and some unfortunately get curtailed. The public support for the reforms decreases, and furthermore, the trust for international organisations/Western governments diminishes. Such conspiracies implicitly hint that Ukraine should choose a different vector of development and a different partner, in this case, Russia.

About author: Tetyana Demyanchuk


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