How differently are the individual Baltic nations perceived?


Propastop published a list of myths called propagandabingo a year ago, myths that the Kremlin media machine uses against Estonia. Today we look into whether there are any differences among the three Baltic nations in these narratives. What topics unite and what differentiates Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in Russian Media propaganda?

The main topics overlap
In the overall big picture for our eastern neighbour, the Baltic nations are one region, which they call Pribaltika. Kremlin propagandists wish to show, that all three are failed nations, which are governed by a barely legitimate and undemocratic clique. All are depicted as having a weak economy, a poor demographic situation, a lack of desire for self-defence and – empowerment as a society. In accordance to the mentality of large nations, the smallness of the Baltic nations is considered as proof of their non-importance.

The most frequently written about topic in the Russian media on the three nations is about NATO and the allied forces deployed in the Baltics. The three are shown as victims that the USA is using and even occupying via NATO against Russia. Secondly there is a narrative, that depicts the three as war hawks, that are agitating NATO against Russia. Contradictions in the topics are usual in propaganda messages; a demonized enemy can be at the same time a defenceless weakling as well as a warmongering aggressor. The NATO topic is a particularly hot item right now just before the military exercise Zapad-2017.

Moreover, of course they are fascists! In the view of the Kremlin all three histories are falsified, conniving with neo-Nazis. The most recent such media attacks were the articles on the forest brothers video, where all three were accused of fascism.

Russian speaking residents create differences
Individuals whose mother tongue is Russian are under 5% of the population in Lithuania but approximately 25% in Estonia and Latvia. Latvia is also characterized by its large Russian population – nearly half a million – as well as their active roll in politics. The percentage of non-citizens in Estonia is 6.5% and in Latvia nearly 12%. In Latvia non-citizens cannot vote in Seaima (Parliament of the Republic of Latvia) or in local elections.

Because of the situation regarding the nationalities of the population in Estonia but more so in Latvia, the media is targeted with propaganda messages, that discuss the harassment and ethnic persecution of local Russian speaking individuals. Propastop is overflowing with propaganda incidents directed towards Estonia. In Latvia, the media reported on the Raimonds Pauls Russian language speech incident, trying to find international support using accusations of persecution. There is an attempt to show, in both countries, that a gap in nationalities exists in society and to assist in this gap occurring. The prosecution of Russian speaking individuals is not a topic in Lithuania but the harassment of Polish individuals is reported occasionally. The marginal roll of Russian media in Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia reinforces the difference but the channels of our Eastern neighbour are monitored a lot.

Fighting, arguing soldiers and Latvian treats
The Russian media took notice of contrary problems between NATO allies and local residents in Lithuania where inebriated Czech, German and Dutch soldiers have been arguing and fighting. We have been alert to any of this type of provocation incidents in Estonia but there have not been any – aside from the attempt at elevating a non-story topic that British soldiers did not give up their seat to an elderly lady.

The latest more frequent stories in regards to Latvia has been that of Russia praising them as having the best economic ties with them in the Baltics. Is this a tactic, whereby a breakup of a small nation is attempted through stick or carrot methods, the future will tell? For example, the June list of Estonian Russian enemies had our southern neighbour in last position.

We consider every mention of Estonia as being important but overall Baltic topics in Russian media are actually of very small interest. The focus of Kremlin propaganda is elsewhere. We hope that the total attention of this machine does not materialize, the last time we felt their very uncomfortable interest was 2007.

Pictures: Baltic chain commemorative event, Riga 2012. Photo Pablo Andrés Rivero / Flickr / CC. Screen shot from the article mentioned in the story.