2020 became the year of the coronavirus, and the fight against the pandemic left it’s mark on all activities, which is why it can also be considered an intermediate year of influence activities against Estonia. The topics were different and many of the planned actions did not receive the desired attention or did not take place at all.
We are looking towards the beginning of 2021 and we will try to predict what this will bring to Estonia on the propaganda battlefield.
The first quarter shows how vaccinations will start in Estonia, and it depends on whether the Sputnik V vaccine created by Russia has the power to divide Estonian society. If vaccinations in Estonia should be hindered or be slower than public expectations, the Sputnik V topic will reappear in public awareness.
The growing influence of social media environments in propaganda
Last year brought a number of new social media initiatives to the public. New Facebook groups and webpages were created to entice the local Russian-speaking population.
In 2021, we will see the development of this topic. These type of groups are growing and are being tested with several news portal initiatives. These are launched by local pro-Kremlin activists.
The development of the Telegram channel
In 2020, several Estonian Russian-language information channels also created an account in the Telegram environment. We will see the continuation and development of this activity in 2021, as the popularity of the platform in Russia is growing.
Russian language school education
In 2021, the discussion of Russian-language school education in Estonia is expected to be renewed. The Russian ambassador to Estonia has also suggested this in interviews. In December 2019, we saw the revival of activists as they gathered at Keila School to prevent the ending of Russian-language education.
Russia’s soft power influence in Estonia during 2021 will definitely increase. In recent years, we have already seen various cases of the use of language, culture and religion in disseminating the Kremlin’s messages, and in the coming year we will see it intensifying. Due to such activities, local pro-Kremlin NGOs are also gaining momentum.
Continuation of the Maarjamäe memorial theme
Developments in the Maarjamäe memorial complex will continue to be discussed in 2021. There is a keen interest in this site both with the Russian Embassy in Estonia and with the Tallinn City Government. It is likely that the embassy will try to push this process towards their wants and desires and will do so both in public and through lobby work.
The rewriting of history is gaining new momentum
In recent years, there have been increasing actions to warp and change history in a way that suits Russia, and we will see such developments continue next year. It is part of a larger and more detailed plan of the Kremlin, making such actions even more aggressive.
Elections in Estonia
In 2021, we will have both local elections and presidential elections. There is no reason for the Kremlin to intervene directly in either election. We will probably see efforts to keep the voting turnout of non-ethnic Estonians as low as possible. It is likely that we will see speeches in public intimating that since no one really represents or cares about the Russian-speaking population of Estonia, there is no need to participate in the elections.
Depending on the fight against the coronavirus, we can foresee attempts to launch such actions in Eastern-Virumaa.
Aleksander Nevski 800
May 30, 2021 marks the 800th anniversary of Alexander Nevski’s birth. This anniversary provides an opportunity to present various Kremlin narratives to the public and to organize attention-grabbing actions. Individual fragments of this venture have already appeared to the public, and time will tell how it will all be fully realized in Estonia.
The revival of traditional themes
It will be interesting to observe in what form and implementation the activities and themes that were not utilized or were overlooked during the coronavirus year will be restored in 2021. How will the celebration of May 9 be brought back to the focus of the local Russian-speaking population and what new actions will be initiated for the restoration of monuments.
Most certainly, the traditional attention related to any military activity will be back in force – the Allied forces are located here and exercises are taking place in Estonia.
Photo: Jernej Furman/Flickr/CC