Propaganda messages hidden behind the Golden Mask festival


The Golden Mask is a theatre festival in Russia, which recognizes our eastern neighbour’s top theatre performers with their performances. As of 2005, the festival has been held in Estonia as well, bringing selected pieces to the public. This years Golden Mask was held on the 5th to 17th of October in Tallinn, Tartu, Narva and Sillamäe. It is an example of the inter action of two neighbours, seeking understanding through culture, leaving behind politically cool relations as well as propagandistic subtexts.

The television channel Pervõi thought otherwise. The news brief on 14. October about the festival showed a surprisingly monitored episode that was filmed by the Bronze soldier at the Defence Forces’ cemetery. Journalist Aleksei Zotov explains in the video that the monument is one of the wounds in Estonian- Russian relations; it is not simply the moving of the statue of a liberator of Tallinn but the desire to alienate themselves from Russia and cause personal pain to people. The entire episode became especially ironic and ambiguous due to the monitored stormy applause of the audience after the Bronze soldier video clip followed by an interview with Jüri Ratas, where the Prime Minister says he is very pleased with the strong ties between our two countries.

The cultural story that was changed to a propaganda message also has an exiting sequel. After the clip being aired on 14. October, the organizers of the Estonian festival spoke about the Bronze soldier episode. „We expressed our disappointment that a political message was added to the news about a cultural event“ said the head of the Estonian festival, Svetlana Jantšek to Propastop. The pressure exerted by the Moscow partners and the PR team on the Pervõi television channel was successful and the Vremya evening news aired the same story broadcast but without the Bronze soldier episode.

Propastop has two conclusions about the incident. When it comes to Kremlin propaganda channels, you have to be ready, that your neutral message can be morphed to have an alternative propaganda meaning. It is not enough to check your words or avoid sensitive topics. A malicious channel can modify the text and material selection on each theme exactly to suit their agenda. We have published a code of conduct for communicating with propaganda channels and we recommend that individuals and organizations follow it when interacting with such media, regardless of the topic.

Another lesson learned is that so-called ordinary people and not just the state can successfully fight against propaganda. In the case of the Golden Mask, the propaganda portion of the video was purged from the episode. In the case of the dismissed woman in February, her appealing to the media enabled propaganda influence to be reduced in the media. We can place the education of Western Media by the Foreign Ministry in that same area, which can already be found in Propastop, researched so-called national overturning elements. Such a request for correction of errors does not negate the damage of the original message but will help in reducing negative consequences.

Propastop has already included Pervõi over a year ago unto its propaganda channel list. Pervõi is the most viewed channel in Russia, whose owners are the state of Russia, Kremlin associated National Media Group and for example the owner of the Chelsea football club, Roman Abramovitš.

Pictures: screen shots from Pervõi news briefs mentioned in this article.