Matvijenko organized an accusation of discrimination firestorm


The II International Anti-Semitism, Racial and Xenophobic Conference „Protecting the Future“ was held in Moscow at the end of last week, which gave the speakers an additional impetus for attacks against Latvia and Estonia on issues of non-citizens’ discrimination.

Valentina Matvijenko, Chairperson of the Russian Federation Council, at the conference, said that ethnic segregation and apartheid zones have been initiated in the middle of Europe. „I am talking about 300,000 Russian –speaking people that are separated from the rest of the population by a humiliating „non-citizen“ status. They are not only prevented from participating in politics but also a number of their rights are limited.“

This statement was enough to formulate stories in the Russian-language media titled „ Latvia and Estonia have created zones of apartheid in Europe“, “the Latvian authorities have created segregation zones in order to restrict the rights of Russian-speakers“, „Valentina Matvijenko blames Estonia and Latvia in apartheid and segregation zones,“ etc.

Matvjenko’s statement was the gunpowder for the headlines in other European accusations. She also introduced the theme of Russophobia, saying that there is a perception of the growth of Russophobia that is used by „certain forces“ in some countries to counter Russia and with that policy create a varied world.“You do not need to go far to find examples. We all know and can name the countries where they are publicly hostile and even use hateful propaganda against other people, where Nazi criminals and their lackeys are considered heroes. Where the right to study and get information in the mother tongue is limited as well as hindering access to the value of national culture“.

Several headlines on Russophobia and Nazism originated from these sentences. For example, „ Matvijenko: we cannot allow democracy to hide the rebirth of Nazism“, “Matvijenko: Anti-Semitism does not exist in Russia, but in the West „promoters are seen“ distributing this concept“. „Matvijenko announces the growth of Russophobia in the world“.

Publications have used this „golden“ material quite creatively. Several have brought in the criticism of the music critic Artem Troitski, who left Russia in 2014, when he created waves comparing Estonia with South Africa during the period of time when apartheid existed there.  Several publications have mentioned stories on similar topics from previous years citing Lavrov, Peskov, Bäckman and others in their articles.

In order not to let the created context to go to waste, some publications in the Russian propaganda network deemed it necessary to publish stories whose heading and main message was that Russia does not have anti-Semitism, xenophobia or racism.

It is noteworthy that the concept of segregation is made public again. Is this the cornerstone of Matvijenko’s election campaign, time will tell. A significant increase in the use of the concept of Russophobia has been documented by a DFRLab analysis, stating that this concept began being widely used after the conquest of Crimea in 2014.

Valentina Matvijenko, who has held both the post of Deputy Prime Minister of Russia and the Mayor of St. Petersburg, appeared last in regards to Estonia last May , when she expressed the opinion that moving forward with the ratification of the Estonian-Russian border treaty is an issue in Estonia, not in Russia.

Photo: Raido Pajula/Scanpix/Postimees; Matt Barber/Flickr/CC