The Experience of Propaganda against Russia
By 1918 the AOK at Baden was convinced that propaganda, used to undermine the morale of enemy troops, could be a very effective weapon of warfare. This belief owed something to all the belligerents’ sporadic dabbling in front propaganda from the beginning of the war. On the Western Front, from September 1914 the Germans were dropping manifestos over enemy lines, eliciting a response from the British and French, even if a full campaign by either side would have to wait until 1918. The Balkan and Italian Fronts too in the early years had witnessed some intermittent front propaganda, in the Italian case of an increasing sophistication under the influence of their army Intelligence officers. The Austrian military’s own commitment to the propaganda weapon, however, required time, and above all, months of futile campaigning with traditional armaments before they would even consider employing such an ‘unchivalrous’ instrument against the enemy. Their outlook changed perceptibly only after the experience of 1917. In that year the Central Powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary, launched the first coordinated propaganda campaign of its kind on any front. They did so on the Eastern Front against the Russians with the purpose of accelerating the Russian army’s desire for peace. The campaign was later belittled in the official histories and in memoirs, and historians have continued to underestimate or simply ignore it, thereby focusing attention all the more on the sophisticated Allied propaganda campaigns of 1918.1
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