The small Balkan nation of Macedonia is increasingly a destination for the Kremlin’s political strategists, the ideologists of Russian exceptionalism and Moscow’s Orthodox mission in the Slavic world and in Eurasia.
The think-tank and instructors giving lectures and providing training in Macedonia are the same ones that the Kremlin employed in its hybrid war prior to the annexation of Crimea and later in the destabilization of the Ukrainian east, as well as an attempted coup in Montenegro.
As in Ukraine, Russia’s information warfare strategists identify the existing grievances in the target country portrayed in a way to promote Moscow’s interests. In Macedonia, Kremlin’s strategists highlight in their publications existing ethnic and political issues involving the Albanian minority, as well as issues accompanying Macedonia’s NATO/EU aspirations.
According to the Voice of America’s Macedonian service, the key strategist in Russia’s information warfare in Macedonia is Leonid Savin, who in late May provided training for 50 members of the far-right United Macedonia party, which opposes changing Macedonia’s name and views the country’s course towards NATO and the EU as the end of Macedonia’s statehood and independence.
Leonid Savin, according to his biography, is the “Commissar of the Eurasian Youth Union” -- a branch of Russia’s ultra-nationalist Eurasian Union, a movement created by Alexander Dugin and his ideological companions.
The “platform” of the Eurasian Youth Union includes such sections as:
- “Your goal”
- “You are a Man”
- “You are a Woman”
- “Our discipline”
- “Your Belief.”
There is also an “Our enemy” section, which is entirely devoted to the United States. The section ends with a paragraph that states, in boldface: “Our Union has an absolute enemy. It is the U.S.A. It is the alpha and omega of our hatred.”
Along with his affiliation with Alexander Dugin, Savin’s other connections further identify him as a key figure in the Kremlin’s expansionist policy.
Savin is listed as the chief-editor of two agencies: Katehon and Geopolitica, and a regular contributor at the state-backed Strategic Culture Fund.
Katehon is a website funded and owned by Konstantin Malofeev, a Russian multimillionaire sanctioned by the United States for his logistical, financial, ideological and material support of Russia’s operations in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
However, Ukraine is only a small part of Malofeev’s geopolitical interests.
An investigation by the German newspaper Die Zeit in 2015 revealed ties that Malofeev and Dugin had with Greece’s top political figures, all leading back to Vladimir Putin.
Malofeev, Dugin and Co. were reportedly involved in the attempted coup in Montenegro in 2016 and several other shadow Russian operations in the Balkans.
At a glance: Macedonia is a small landlocked country in the Balkans approximately the size of the U.S. state of Vermont. The country borders Greece, which is disputing the use of the name “Macedonia” because it has a region of its own also called Macedonia. Thus, the official name of the country is the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYRM). The FYRM aspires to membership in the European Union and the NATO, but Athens opposes Macedonia’s integration until it changes its name.