Global Challenges

Battle of memes in Russia’s war on Ukraine

The war on Ukraine is not only fought on the ground—cyberspace has become an important battlefield for winning ‘hearts and minds’. 

Collage of memes

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In the context of armed conflict, memes turn from innocent and funny images into propagandic devices. The use of memes has for over a decade become an effective instrument of war, for example as employed by ISIS. 

In Russia’s war on Ukraine, internet warriors on both sides have taken the propaganda war to social media platforms like Twitter to win the narrative.

Against that backdrop, this panel will explore memetic warfare and how it is used.

Eva Johais works as a postdoctoral researcher at the Chr. Michelsen Institute. Her research focuses on war as experience, and different types of intervention, including politics of state building, electoral assistance, and humanitarian aid.

Johanne Kalsaas is a PhD fellow in Russian media and communication studies at the University of Bergen. Her research focuses on online commentary and user-generated content on the Russian-language Internet, with a particular interest in how participatory media environments affect contemporary propaganda practices.

Liliia Oprysk is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Bergen. Liliia is Ukrainian. Her main research interest is digital copyright law.

Kristian A. Bjørkelo is a folklorist who holds a PhD in media studies, and an assistant professor teaching communication at the University of Bergen. He has written on online culture and the far right, and is interested in contemporary online memes as folklore and rhetorical tools.