Once the Georgian political and public space showed a mixed, ironic attitude towards the personality of Levan Vasadze, he decided not to stand in the limelight. He brought together young people whose current activities and aspirations are more in line with Russian interests than with the needs and goals of the Georgian state.
It is about a union that calls itself “Alternative for Georgia”. Konstantine Morgoshia registered it as a non-governmental organization on January 30, 2019. Zurab Makharadze, Shota Martinenko, Irakli Kizilashvili, and Giorgi Kardava were chosen as co-founders. Two days earlier, Alt-Info Ltd. and NNLE “Youth Alternative” were registered.
Later on, dozens of pages of this Union appeared on Facebook. The leading page was “Alt-Info”. They also created a website with the same name, where they share materials taken from unknown sources, which constantly highlight the vices of the Western world. Alt-Info has young leaders. They are actively engaged in anti-Western propaganda through the Internet. They record vlogs, host TV shows where they discuss domestic and foreign policy. They follow conservatism and therefore they support Donald Trump. They oppose liberalism, which they say undermines conservative values in the country. They are discussing topics such as LGBTQ propaganda, church harassment, abortion ban, migration, Turkish occupation, Russian strength, and the weakness of the Georgian armed forces against it. Alt-Info leaders also discredit NGOs and civil society.
The ideas outspoken by Alt-Info often coincide with the messages of the Russian hybrid war in Georgia. Researchers, who have been watching Alt-Info on the social network since its appearance, recall events when their “messages” accurately repeated the points of Russian propaganda. They say that Alt-Info uses the conservative ideology as a mask as if this is their key principle, but in fact, they are pursuing the interests of the Kremlin.
Alt-Info stated that the United States was pushing us into certain politics and it interfered in the domestic politics of the country. The Georgian government cannot oppose them and in fact, we are under American dictatorship. Definitely, this is a pro-Russian message. amidst the pre-election period, the group and its affiliate pages systematically attacked the U.S. embassy and ambassador. Like openly pro-Russian groups, Alt-Info stated that Kelly Degnan forces her opinions on us and treats us like a colony. These messages deepen anti-Western disinformation. “Spreading anti-Western disinformation and propaganda means promoting Russia’s interests in Georgia and pouring water on their mill,” said Mariam Tsitsikashvili, a researcher at the Association for the Reforms Development.
“They consider their activities from a conservative point of view, but in reality, it is an attempt of masking. If we read their narratives or watch the videos, we will see that their rhetoric is in line with the Kremlin rhetoric. For example, regarding the Karabakh War, “Alt-Info” said that Georgia is completely vulnerable, no Western partner will help it in case of aggression from Russia and Russian aggression is unavoidable. How does this match Russian narratives? The fear is planted and spread in society, and Russia is doing this by saying that if you join NATO, conflict is unavoidable. “Alt-Info is repeating this and convincing people of what Russia wants them to believe,” said Givi Gigitashvili, a researcher at the Digital Research Laboratory.
To better understand the origins of this Union, the reason for its creation, and its future goals, we need to see what is happening in Europe. There are also ultra-right groups in Germany, the Czech Republic, Spain, Bulgaria, and Sweden with the same name as in Georgia. We meet the word “alternative” in their name as well. For example, “Alternative for Germany” was created in 2013. Their leader is Marcus Frohnmaier, who also meets with Alexander Dugin, the main ideologue of the Russian Information War. In 2019, the BBC wrote that the “German alternative” might be controlled by Russia. All “alternatives” in Europe appeal to the same issue, mainly the issue of migrants and the LGBTQ community.
The creation of Alt-Info echoed a trend that has strengthened anti-Western sentiments in Europe. Researchers familiar with the activities of ultra-right groups in Georgia believe that the growth of such groups in the West has encouraged the founders of Alt-Info. Their ideas already matched those of European organizations and hope for success was born.
“When Trump was elected and when the referendum was held in Britain, ultra-right groups were then active. When this wave hit all the world, the “Alt-Info” phenomenon was part of this wave. They saw that even in the West, being the cradle of liberal-democratic values, phenomena appeared that became involved in politics. It was the stimulus for Alt-Info to be more successful. They can cite examples from the West, where the same topics are “lobbied,” said Mariam Tsitsikashvili, a researcher of the Reforms Association.
According to a study by the Hungarian organization “Political Capital Institute”, European ultra-right groups are divided according to their attitudes towards Russia:
1. Anti-Russians who are historically in countries in conflict with Russia; 2. “Open groups” – agree with Russia only on specific topics; 3. “Loyalists / Followers” – openly pro-Russian forces, such as the parties of Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini.
Givi Gigitashvili, a researcher at the Digital Research Laboratory, says that according to these categories, Alt-Info, as an ultra-right force, should be hostile to Russia, but it is vice versa.
Georgian “Alt-Info” and other right-wing forces differ from the Eastern European right-wing forces in the main principle – the attitude towards Russia. The first group includes countries such as Ukraine, Poland, the Baltic States, having conflicts with Russia historically. If closely look at the categorization, you come up with an idea that as Georgia is occupied by Russia and this conflict is still current, perhaps the ultra-right forces here should be anti-Russians. Georgia is an anomaly from the methodology created by this institute. Instead of presenting Russia as a threat, they help it with its narrative.
In July 2020, Alt-Info broadcasted an interview with Alexander Dugin, the Kremlin ideologue, the founder of the Eurasian Movement. In the interview, Dugin explains that if Georgia rejects pro-Western aspirations and chooses a neutral path, then Russia will welcome its territorial integrity. The interview with Dugin was posted on 26 pages of the “Alt-Info” network. The video was also shared on Alexander Dugin’s Facebook group and his personal account.
In 2016, the founder of “Alt-Info”, Konstantine Morgoshia was campaigning as the majoritarian candidate of the “Alliance of Patriots” in Mtskheta. By then, he was one of the key players and financiers in the “Alliance of Patriots”.
Alt-Info co-founder and speaker Shota Martinenko (and his brother Irakli Kizilashvili) are relatives of Irma Inashvili from her mother’s side. Even so, the ideological unity of Alt-Info and “Alliance of Patriots” is obvious: they often share the same vocations; they attend political rallies of each other; they encourage their own supporters to join the statements or actions of the other Party.
Content and channels for spreading it
Georgian “Alternative” is a union of people with anti-liberal, anti-Western, conservative values. The members of the Alt-Info team show themselves as educated, with state-oriented judgment, physically less aggressive people. They write vlogs, run shows, publish articles, run a media website. They collaborate with other media outlets and NGOs.
However, according to ISFED research, their main editorial tool is lies and manipulations. The Alt-Info editorial team shares far-right, conservative views and often relies on rhetoric similar to President Donald Trump, the leader of the French right-wing National Union party, Marine Le Pen, and former Italian Foreign Minister Matteo Salvini. Their anti-Western rhetoric is directed against globalization, the European Union, and liberalism.
In October 2020, Facebook blocked 50 Alt-Info accounts, 49 pages, 4 groups, 8 events, and 19 Instagram accounts. The reason was the orchestrated dissemination of propagandaistic materials from different pages.
This was not the first case of Alt-Info being blocked on Facebook. Since 2016, their activities have been caught five times in various cleanups. Sometimes their pages were deleted and sometimes the personal accounts of the members of the organization were deleted.
Facebook accomplished its last “cleanup” in November. Nevertheless, “Alt-Info” didn’t stop the work. In the first stage, they tried to restore their own resources as before. They created a new page, groups, accounts and started sharing them actively. The group was administered by close friends and not directly by the leading figures of the organization. Facebook soon blocked these pages and groups as well.
Alt-Info group met the new cleaning with a new strategy. Now they started to spread the materials via Viber, Whatsapp, Telegram groups. They started the chats there, urging fans to download videos and upload them to their Facebook profiles. They also asked them not to share from a single source so that in case of cleaning the materials to keep them on the social network.
In November 2020, Alt-Info received a broadcasting license and moved its activities to television. They aired for the first time on January 8 at 14:00. As they say, they will have a “reality show” format. Every day, they discuss the news of other media outlets with the audience, and simultaneously, they will tell the public what is right and what is not in their opinion.
“We will turn on the news and see what the media is doing, who is being attacked, who is being defended, what was damaged, etc,” said Zurab Makharadze, who previously had vlogs and is now one of the TV presenters.
“It’s time and the Internet allows us to find out which information is true and which is false, what your reaction should be, how the information should actually be digested. This is the time to reveal all this,” says Irakli Martinenko via the first Alt-Info broadcast.
Irakli Jankarashvili is an active supporter and activist of Alt-Info. He works in Batumi. He is a blogger for anti-Western and pro-Russian websites, “Point of View” and “Newsfront”. He is a supporter of the Alliance of the Patriots. He participates in rallies organized by this party and is an active supporter of Irma Inashvili on her personal page or blogs. For the pre-election period, his pages and accounts, along with Alt-Info pages, were removed by Facebook. On one of the new Facebook accounts, Irakli Jankarashvili posted, “I don’t even take my mask off at home so as not to be removed. Jankarashvili currently has four Facebook accounts: irakli irakli; Irakli ’Irakli; ираклий джанкарашвили; irakli jankarashvili. The main picture on all four is a photo of Irakli Jankarashvili.
Besides all of this, he also had fake accounts. For example, Lasha Modebadze, who was one of the initiators of the anti-5G movement in Georgia on Facebook. He created the groups “stop 5G” and “Coronamafia and Georgia as an experimental country”. These groups included materials on the negative effects of 5G, the disadvantages of the Covid vaccine, and the so-called “getting chipped”. Apart from Lasha Modebadze’s report, these false stories were also spread by nina marji. She was one of the first to post photos of antennas and birds that allegedly died due to the effect of 5G on Facebook. Today Nina marji is one of the administrators of Irakli Jankarashvili’s group, “politikos”. Presently, neither Lasha Modebadze’s fake account nor “stop 5G” group can be found.
The founder of Alt-Info is Konstantine Morgoshia, a businessman and former March member, former Mtskheta majoritarian candidate of the Alliance of Patriots. Morgoshia is also the main “financier” of the organization.
In an interview with iFact, Morgoshia said that he finances various activities of Alt-Info with the income of his business and this amount is not enormous. Prior to that, Morgoshia was the sponsor of the “Georgian March”. Sandro Bregadze said that he and Konstantine Morgoshia also paid the office rent.
Morgoshia himself does not own real estate and a big part of the business. As he tells us when he was arrested during Saakashvili period and his business was taken away, “he has learned to be smart and he feels more comfortable this way.” The major part of his business is registered in the name of his father and aunt.
Konstantine Morgoshia is a shareholder in two companies, a director of two companies, and a founder/chairman of two other companies. These organizations are Grande Group Georgia Ltd., NNLE Caucasus, NNLE Alternative for Georgia, Kem Construction Ltd., and Magnus Design Ltd. According to him, he is a “Case Manager” and cooperates with 5-6 companies, where his partners are Georgian businessmen living in different CIS countries and foreign partners associated with them.
Alt-Info strives to cover the whole territory of the country with its activities. They have members from the regions and their activity is well encouraged. Levan Vasadze and members of the “Alt-Info” team were meeting with the population of Samegrelo and Adjara before the pandemic.
The organization has active supporters in the regions who share the material posted on their Facebook pages on their accounts, pages, and groups; they attend group meetings. Alt-Info has regional leaders from Kakheti, Imereti, Samegrelo, Adjara, Guria, and Samtskhe-Javakheti.
Beka Vardosanidze, a blogger who spreads conservative ideas, Dimitri Lortkipanidze, chairman of the Primakov Georgian-Russian Community Center, Guram and Alexander Palavandishvili, NNLE national-religious Institute and NNLE “Nation and State” (Zviad Tomaradze is the chairman of both organizations).