A joint statement by the Estonian and Latvian Ministers of Justice on August 21st, in which compensation from Russia for the Soviet occupation was discussed, did not offer much interest to the Estonian press. Äripäev and Delfi, wrote about it with the latter quoting news feeds from the Russian news agency TASS.
The relatively passive reception in Estonia is not comparable to the attention paid by Russia. The monitoring robot Propamon shows that on the 22nd of August, the Kremlin media covered the occupation losses compensation topic extensively. The incident was not comparable to the lost rocket media storm, but there was still quite a lot of coverage.
Who wrote what?
The topic was taken up by the Russian Ambassador to Estonia, Aleksandr Petrov, the Kremlin’s press secretary, Dmitri Peskov, the Speaker for the Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Federation Council, Konstantin Kosatšjov and member Oleg Morozov. A number of background analyzes were released. All the press releases can be read on the Propamon website on the posted news for 22 and 23 August.
The statements explicitly deny any type of payments, the claim is called absurd and topic has been closed for a long time. Several stories talk about the factories and infrastructure projects built and started during the Soviet Union era, trying to infer that there was a lot of contributions to the region during that period. One article even gave statistics showing that Estonian residents ate on the average 90 kg of meat in 1988, while the whole Soviet Union’s average at the same time was only 64 kg.
The most distressing part is the total denial of the term „Soviet occupation“. In reading the statements, they use quotation marks extensively around the word occupation as well as using the wording „ just as if occupied“. Denial of the fact of occupation is an important issue for Russia and the serious and even controversial tone of the testimony testifies to this fact. Still, the topic has generated caricatures, memes on Twitter and Youtube as well an ironic Ostap Bender quote from the Russian Embassy in Latvia.
Propastop has written why the denial of the occupation is at the heart of Russia’s nationalistic self-image as a large nation in the world. Russia wants to be perceived as a liberator who has never done anything wrong. At the same time, similar acts are justified today: recognizing that Estonia was occupied would be cause to recognize the same in the case of Crimea.
The image of Estonia in the Russian media
This incident raises a topic that has been repeatedly discussed by Propastop – In the press of our eastern neighbour, there has been a lot of uproar over the statements of Estonian political leaders recently. The timeline of outspoken officials causing media storms in 2018 is as follows:
-The demolition of the Maarjamäe memorial, Urmas Reinsalu 6. January
– Communicating with Russia from a position of strength, Sven Mikser 30. April
– The loss of Omsk and Tomsk, Toomas Hendrik Ilves 4. June
– Demanding the suspension of Nord Stream II, Sven Mikser 2. July
– The death of Russians in Tallinn, Riho Ühtegi 11. July
– Compensation for losses caused by the occupation, Urmas Reinsalu 22. August
It is clear that Estonia lacks significant opportunities for influencing Russian media content. It can be argued, that if these statements had not occurred, then probably something else would have been found that could also be greatly amplified. You can also say that the colourful words were meant for a different audience than the Russian media and its reaction is an aside. However, recognizing that such media storms are not in the interests of Estonia, their existence can be avoided to some extent. For example, such topics and statements should be checked in advance.
We note that in the last year, there have been two stories from Estonia in the Russian media that have received much positive attention: The re-exporting of Sprats fish to the marketplace of our eastern neighbour and the victory of Elina Nechayeva in the local pre-contest of Eurovision.
Also read the research of Latvian historian, Gatis Krumins on the losses resulting from the occupation
Pictured: screenshot from the propaganda channels “Russkie v Germanii live TV” and Ria.ru.