We continue covering Kremlin’s agents of influence in the West who push the messages of Russian propaganda, through social media, rallies, mass media or events of their nonprofits.
Please meet the Suvorov Institute (Suworow Institut) in Vienna, Austria, and its cast of characters. Patrick Poppel is the past Secretary-General. This nonprofit seemed to consist of two people, Patrick himself and his wife. Now the Institute website lists Alexander Markovics and Darko Djordjevic (Đorđević) as the new head and treasurer of the organization.
The name “Suvorov” is meant to remind the Austrians about a Russian commander who led the joint imperial troops against the expansionist French Revolution in 1799. Alexander Suvorov did get the land and the title of an Italian Prince after capturing Milan. However, his infamy and sneakiness towards the allies transpired through his “strategic withdrawal” tactic that led to a collapse of the Austrian army. Baron von Hotze, the Swiss-born commander of the Austrian imperial army was killed near Zurich in September 1799.
Suvorov’s name also signifies the oppression of Cossacks, the non-nobles, for their limited self-governing autonomy.
25 years before his Alpine strike and strategic withdrawal, in 1774, between the 1st and 2nd Russo-Turkish wars, Suvorov was the commander of punitive expeditions against the Cossacks who had been on campaigns with him just a year earlier. During that time of intense military campaigns, at least 20% of the Russian army consisted of the Ukrainian Cossacks.
In 1775, Catherine the Great ordered another one of her generals, a Serb by name Peter Tekeli, to destroy the Cossack capital – near today’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant that is under the Russian occupation – and to steal the state treasury and the archives. The mercenary Serb nobles were establishing a mini fiefdom on Cossack lands at that time, and some of them were notoriously corrupt. Catherine the Great was so pleased with dismantling of the Cossack autonomy that she commuted the punishments for corruption. Suvorov wrote fondly of Tekeli: “I do remember this dear comrade-in-arm of mine, a mustachioed hussar, swordsman and rider who was proud of his resemblance to Peter the Great.”
Putin’s Russia takes imperial history seriously. We wrote yesterday about Alexander Rahr, a prominent Kremlin propagandist in Germany. Born to the family of staunch anti-communists, he has been getting inspiration from the Russian imperial history and the conservative elements of the Russian Orthodox Church. Natalia Poklonskaya, a traitor who had a stellar prosecutor career in the Ukrainian Crimea but flipped to Russian side in 2014, becoming the poster child of Crimea annexation, was recounting excitedly about her ancestors who came to Ukraine from the Balkan in the imperial Russia. Her imperial zeal disturbed even rich Moscow elites because she tried to ban a movie about the Russian tsar and his lover, a Polish ballerina that was based on a true story…
The Suvorov Institute in Vienna doesn’t seem to produce a whole lot of stuff. On its YouTube channel you’ll find the cast of characters, the German-speaking ones, that we covered before. “German journalist” Alina Lipp is among them, by far the leader with over 30k views as of today. Their retweets would lead to people like Keaten Mansfield, who positions himself as a leftwing Texan with the affiliation to the Center for Political Innovation. The Center website reads that “As of 3pm CST August 21, 2022, the executive committee of the Center for Political Innovation has unanimously voted to dissolve the organization in its entirety.”
The Suvorov Institute’s Patrick Poppel is 37. He was born May 19, 1985 (alternative first name spelling Patrik). He has been an anti-Ukrainian propagandist. In 2014, 29-year-old Patrick Poppel started to act as if he was an independent election observer in Russia-occupied Crimea and pro-Russian separatists-occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Apparently, his task was to promote the rapprochement with Russia and the protection of Christian values.
In 2019, he added Abkhazia to his project portfolio. He met with Foreign Minister of Abkhazia Daur Kove and promised that the Abkhaz-Austrian society would encourage EU tourists to visit this internationally unrecognized territory. His task was to promote Abkhazia whose separatists seceded from Georgia and arranged for Russian citizenship for the remaining locals. Russia has been behind Abkhazia as a way to pressure Georgia. The separatist rationale for leaving Georgia and turning to Russia was the following: Abkhazian Muslims do not want to be a part of Christian Georgia. No matter that Russia is not exactly a Muslim country, while in Georgia, there are Muslim-majority regions that used to be more exposed to Turkish influence in the past. Overall, there are 10% of the Georgians who are Muslims.
Alexander Markovics is 31. He was born on May 9, 1991 in Vienna. When he was barely 19, he ran unsuccessfully to represent the extreme-right FPÖ in Vienna’s 3rd district where the Belvedere Palace is located. He was among 17 people who were charged of inciting hatred and later acquitted at the Graz Regional Court in 2018. That same year he received an award from the Kremlin Putin for engagement at the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students in Sochi that took place a year earlier.
Markovics has been a fan of French academic outcast Alain de Benoist and Putin’s imperialist commentator Alexander Dugin whose daughter died in a car explosion in Moscow on August 20, 2022. Pushed together by hatred towards the US, Dugin who turned 60 this year and de Benoist who approaches 80 y.o. have collaborated since 1989, affording the New Right a cache of philosophers with Parisian coffee-drinking photo sessions. Just like many other extreme right youth, Markovics tries to mimic them, positioning himself as a New Right thinker and writing books that no one reads or downloads, and becoming an editor-in-chief of the Agora Europa magazine that advertises itself as the platform for discussing rightwing “metapolitics.” Enticing as it seems, this activity rarely brings money.
And that is how a grant from the Russian government agency “RosSotrudnichestvo” can help. Led by Yevgeny Primakov Jr, the grandson of prime minister Primakov (1929-2015). The aforementioned traitor Natalia Poklonskaya was his deputy till recently. When RosSotrudnichestvo was launched in 2008, it tried to pretend to be an aid and public diplomacy agency with work program similar to the ones in the USAID and the British Council. In reality it has been closely tied to Russian propaganda center of which comes from the Kremlin directly and is channeled through the MFA and intelligence/security agencies (see our articles about the Russian PsyOps). After Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, RosSotrudnichestvo has been caught organizing rallies in support of Russia held simultaneously in many countries across Europe.
Ukraine really needs moral support from the West. Messages from Austria about sanctions against the former-foreign-minister-turned-RT-commentator Karin Kneissl (b.1965) and her husband entrepreneur Wolfgang Meilinger are very encouraging. She ended up feeling so much condemnation and censure from her fellow Austrians that she decided to immigrate in Australia. She did’t pick Russia for her new home because she doesn’t believe these good things that she was saying about it and its government.
Ukrainians also appreciate the swiftness with which the Austrian MFA reacted to “No mercy for the Ukrainian population” by Mikhail Ulyanov, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to International Organizations in Vienna, a few days ago.
And yet, the covert and overt operations of RosSotrudnichestvo and nonprofits like the Suvorov Institute remain without functioning. One can argue that the Austrian government should focus on big fish such as Karin Kneissl. This argument is flawed because one cannot know the size and the danger of the Russian intelligence services that ultimately direct the network of agents of influence. Besides, the money aspect of the likes of the Suvorov Institute is not that difficult to figure out, even if Russia hands out cash.