site.btaRussian Online Propaganda in Bulgaria

Russian Online Propaganda in Bulgaria
Russian Online Propaganda in Bulgaria
The overtly pro-Russian, euro-sceptic, xenophobic and homophobic party Vazrazhdane, which is represented in Parliament, stages a protest (BTA Photo)

The number of Russian propaganda publications in Bulgarian online media averaged 39 a day in early 2022 before the start of the war against Ukraine and 397 a day immediately after that. This means that Russian propaganda in Bulgaria soared ten-fold after the February 24 invasion.

The finding comes from a study of the publications on 3,500-plus Bulgarian-language websites and blogs (excluding social media) over the last five years (2018-2022), conducted by the Human and Social Studies Foundation - Sofia (HSSF). It builds on a previous HSSF study of anti-democratic - national-populist and (pro)Russian - propaganda in Bulgarian online media, which covered the period from 2013 to 2017.

The HSSF research team, including Assoc. Prof. Milena Iakimova and Prof. Dimitar Vatsov, used the Sensika frequency analysis software to measure the saturation of Bulgaria's online media landscape with Russian and pro-Russian propaganda narratives until May 31, 2022.

Quantity and Quality

The measurements were based on a list of keywords varying by period. The study found that new keywords and phrases berating "Russia's enemies" were introduced back in 2018, while those vilifying "Nazi" Ukraine peaked in the first months of 2022.

A total of 36,156 publications containing one or more of the keywords on the current list appeared between January 1 and May 31, 2022. An overwhelming 80%-plus of these items used propaganda cliches quite literally. The remaining up to 20% either directly quoted Russian speakers (most often officials) or referred to their propaganda with modifiers like "so-called denazification", "self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic", etc.
While the number of propaganda publications gradually declined to nearly half of its February peak level, even in April 2022 it was still more than five times that in the pre-war period.

The HSSF researchers note that explicit Russian propaganda increased at the start of the war, muting the national-populist propaganda in Bulgarian media of which it formed an integral part in previous years. The voices of avowed Bulgarian Russophiles, pro-Russia media and political speakers and experts visibly gave way to President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Defence Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov, Russian Ambassador in Sofia Eleonora Mitrofanova and other official Russian speakers, who were quoted daily. "Foreign experts" with Russian and English names contributed another significant portion of propaganda. The ten-fold surge in disinformation and fake news came from an inundation of Bulgarian online space/media with copy-pasted Russian content.

In the ten days before the war (February 13-24), there were 6,037 propaganda publications - almost four times as many as in the previous 12 months and one-sixth of the total number for the January - May 31, 2022 period. They strictly followed the agenda of the Russian Federation and practically reproduced the official Russian media content almost 100%.

Notably, the propaganda barrage reached an unprecedented high of 1,785 articles on February 22, when Putin de facto declared war on Ukraine by recognizing the independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics within the administrative boundaries of the respective Ukrainian regions. On February 24, the day of the invasion itself, there were 1,262 propaganda publications.

Recurring "reports" of Bulgarian weapons being found in Donbas (124 publications altogether until the end of May) were the only local topic consistently present in the propaganda coverage of the war. These reports subverted the political debate and proactively poisoned public opinion in Bulgaria with the message that weapons were being supplied secretly to Ukraine.

Statements by Mitrofanova - for example, that the "special military operation" in Ukraine is an act of liberation in the same sense as the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War was a war of liberation for Bulgaria, that giving up Gazprom will be a very bad thing for Bulgaria, and that Russia takes credit for rescuing the sailors of the Bulgarian ship Tzarevna stranded in Mariupol - added other Bulgarian topics to the propaganda flow. A significant part of these topics were furnished with an interpretive key directly by the Russian Embassy and by the Ambassador herself.


Sensika identified 703 sources that disseminated Russian propaganda in Bulgarian online media from January 1 to May 15, 2022. More than half of the publications (19,066) appeared on 25 websites and blogs. These are outlets producing original media content (,,, and, or aggregators (bots) and groups of anonymous and semi-anonymous sites administrated and edited by the same person ( and five of the satellite sites of Blitz:,,,, and

Two-thirds of the Russian propaganda (68% of all publications) that was spread in Bulgarian cyberspace mechanically reproduced foreign content, while very few identifiable media and speakers articulated the Russian narratives "creatively" as authors in their own right. The front-runner in the latter category is, an overtly propagandistic Russian media outlet based in Crimea with ten language versions, including Bulgarian.

Effect on Target

Russian propaganda in Bulgaria is quite effective, to judge from the results of the European Parliament Eurobarometer Spring 2022 Survey, conducted between April 19 and May 16, 2022.

Bulgaria has the highest share of citizens feeling positively about Russia: 49% (compared to 40% about the US). Of the respondents in this country, 13% have a "very positive" attitude towards Russia and another 30% "more or less positive". Bulgaria is the only country where this is the majority view (vs. 43% negative, in contrast to 85% EU-wide).

In Bulgaria, more than 50% of the respondents aged 55-64 and over 65 have a positive image of Russia. At the other end of the scale, pupils and students and those in the 35-44 age bracket have a negative image of Russia.

People in this country who follow developments in Ukraine closely tend to be Russophiles, as are those who are more interested in politics. Of those who identify themselves as right-wing, as many as 42% like present-day Russia. Approval for Russia was expressed by 55-53% of those identifying themselves as workers and lower middle class, by 45% of those belonging to the middle class proper, and by 46% of those who never or almost never have had any problem footing their bills.

The majority of Bulgarians who believe that their voice does not count in their own country and who are dissatisfied with the way democracy works in Bulgaria hold pro-Russia attitudes. The 70% of respondents in Bulgaria who prioritize maintaining prices and the cost of living over defence of common European values such as freedom and democracy (the largest percentage EU-wide) are ardent fans of Russia.

Bulgaria recorded the lowest acceptance rate for the EU economic sanctions against Russia (44%), with 42% of respondents finding the measures too harsh. A significant 62% disapprove of financing the purchase and supply of military equipment to Ukraine (the EU average is 25%). One in two disagree with taking Russian state-sponsored media off the air (compared to just 22% in the EU). As many as 67% favour Bulgaria remaining neutral in Russia's war against Ukraine, compared to 16% who believe that Bulgaria should actively support Ukraine.

A Gallup International Balkan poll, taken between June 2 and 10, 2022, found that some 23 of Bulgarians rather approved of Putin's actions in Ukraine (against almost 59% disapproving). At the same time, approximately 51% regarded the Bulgarian media coverage of the war in Ukraine as on the whole untrustworthy, and 35% said they came across fake news every day or almost daily (12 percentage points more than four years ago).

A Flash Eurobarometer survey conducted between April 13 and 20, 2022 showed that 46% of Bulgarians disagreed that Russian authorities were responsible for the war against Ukraine: more specifically, 27% totally agreed, 19% tended to agree, 21% tended to disagree, 25% totally disagreed, and 8% didn't know. Respondents in that poll in Bulgaria were the least likely to trust the various information sources regarding the war in Ukraine (39%).




By 15:09 on 03.10.2023 Today`s news

This website uses cookies. By accepting cookies you can enjoy a better experience while browsing pages.

Accept More information