Russenfrei: a new word in the Kremlin propaganda lexicon


While keeping a regular watch on Russian language propaganda media, Propastop volunteers noticed the word russenfrei appearing in texts late last year. We first saw it on December 16th on the local Kremlin minded portal Spravedlivaja Estonija (e Fair Estonia), where Dmitri Klenski wrote about Russian language schools. The same author’s article was then reprinted in blogs, portals and somes throughout January, with slightly different wording, but always using that strong meaning word in the title. You can see it in print at least a dozen times to date.

Why did this word attract Propastop’s attention? Russenfrei is a rewording of the Nazi German term judenfrei (free of Jews) during World War II, which the Nazis used to denote an area where all Jews had been exterminated. For example, after the murder of 979 Estonian Jews in 1941, the Nazi Security Police reported in Berlin that Estland (Estonia) was now judenfrei.

In the term Russenfrei (in Russian руссенфрай) Russians have replaced the Jews. This is an attempt to convey the idea that Estonians treat Russians living here in the same way as Jews were treated in Nazi Germany.

Russenfrei is not a news word created by former journalist, now co-author of Kremlin minded portals, Dmitri Klenski, but it has been used in various propaganda texts since at least 2010. It has been used, for example, in texts on Russia’s own developments as well as in relation to Latvia. In German language social media however, the term russenfrei is used when there are few Russian tourists at a travel destination.

Nor is it Dmitri Klenski’s first time in trying to associate Estonia with hostile regimes. For example, in an article that appeared four years ago, he draws parallels between Estonia and the apartheid regime of the Republic of South Africa.

In conclusion, the use of the word re-activates the two main narratives about Estonia that the Kremlin has constantly kept alive: the persecution of Russians and the accusation of being Nazis. We have listed these narratives in this posting or for your own entertainment; you can play propaganda bingo by trying to find these same talking points in various propaganda texts.

It is perhaps too much to point out that the accusations that hide behind the word russenfrei have no truth. It is worthwhile to read articles in the Mythbreaker section, which prove that the persecution of Russians in Estonia and the States enamouring of fascism are malicious fiction.

Pictures: Screenshots of propaganda articles that used the word in the title.