Front Line is a club active in social media, which deals with the topics of World War II. Propastop noticed the club’s activities when it analyzed the growth of Facebook activity at the Russian Embassy in Estonia this year. The active sharing of the club’s posts and their connection with the Kremlin’s propaganda narrative “75th Anniversary of the Great Victory” was striking.
What does the club do?
The NGO Front Line was founded in 2004. Its leader and active leader is Andrei Lazurin, who works with the armored car manufacturer Combat Armory Group. The leaders of the club also include Dmitri Kononenkov and Lembit Hiie.
The club has a history of problems with the police. In January this year, Maaleht published an article about their controversial activities in Saaremaa. The club is divided; it should not be confused with another club with a similar name Front Line Eesti, which focuses on topics about the Kuperjanov Battalion and the Waffen SS.
Front Line presents itself as a club with only historical interests. When introducing itself, it states that it is not a political organization. It declares distancing from criminal ideologies and does not support anti-state movements.
A grateful source for Kremlin propagandists
Contrary to their declarations, the actual actions of the club may reveal patterns that call its impartiality into question.
For example, the club focuses primarily just on the glorification of the Red Army and their activities in World War II. If you look at about a few dozen statue restoration posts posted on Facebook over the past year, three-quarters of them are related to Soviet soldiers. Some posts relate to tombs dating back to the time of the tsarist state. We found only one that could be called related to the history of the Republic of Estonia.
Other posts of the club are also inclined towards the soviet past, such as a series introducing soldiers who served in the Soviet army.
An important ideological inclination is the way in which the historical narrative is presented in Front Line posts. The activities of the Red Army are called “liberation” and “the fight against fascism”. The occupation of Estonia by the Soviet Union, the crimes of the Soviets and the deportation are not mentioned at all. Soviet soldiers are presented unilaterally as heroes who fought against fascism and freedom.
Posts with this attitude are appreciative material to Kremlin propagandists. Consequently, the Russian embassy regularly distributes club posts. The embassy staff are also present with carnations at the opening of memorials arranged by the club. Members of the club perform at embassy events. Russia awards national medals to the propagators of the Soviet past.
The club is not a passive victim of Kremlin media interest, but Front Line activists themselves are looking for common ground with propaganda publications. For example, Lazurin has been involved in intensive cooperation with Sputnik’s Estonian editorial board, as well as with the propaganda portal Baltija. Such contributions directly supports the activities of propaganda channels with anti-Estonian agendas.
Funds from Russia
As the club’s activities are in sync with the Kremlin’s propaganda messages, the question arises as to whether funding also comes from behind our eastern border. In 2013, Lazurin himself stated in the media that he operates only on a voluntary basis. However, he said at the time that he was receiving help from the embassy in the form of petrol and building materials.
Such support is likely to continue to this day. In any case, this year’s renovation of the memorial monument of the Red Army in Tartu relied on Russian money, and Lazuring was active in the unveiling of it. In addition, the Kremlin’s soft power tool abroad, the Russki Mir Foundation has used the club’s people in its activities.
The club also has support schemes related to Russia. This is what Sputnik wrote about Gratshi Pogosjan, a Russian citizen who has supported the activities of the Front Line.
Propastop does not consider the activities of the club to be neutral
According to Propastop, the activities of the Front Line are not neutral, but are related to the Kremlin’s influence activities, narratives and propaganda media. It is this connection that makes the role of the club problematic.
In itself, the interest in history and the care of the graves of soldiers that fell in the war is a commendable activity. However, if this is accompanied by active participation in the interweaving of anti-Estonian narratives and Information influence activities, this interest is not without risk to us. The restored soviet monuments will also most likely become the triggers for future propaganda attacks against Estonia.
Images: screenshots from linked web pages.