This summer’s propaganda heat record was broken


Last week, two issues related to Estonia were widely covered in the Russian media. The monitoring robot Propamon, which monitors reports related to Estonia, was “red” for two days, and a record was set for the last six months with 57 mentions of Estonia per day.

Expulsion of the Estonian consul
One heated topic of news concerned the Estonian consul in St. Petersburg, Mart Lätt, his detention by the FSB and his being declared persona non grata with our Eastern Neighbor. Together with the Estonian response – the expulsion of a Russian diplomat from Estonia – the issue peaked in the media on July 7.

However, this is not an event that attracts attention in terms of its potential propaganda coverage. No more details or perspectives were published in the Kremlin media about the circumstances of the case than in the Estonian press.

“Estonia demands the return of ancient Russian lands”
Henn Põlluaas, a leading politician and EKRE’s presidential candidate, received a much more colorful response for his speech at the congress of his political party. Põlluaas emphasized the validity of the post-peace treaty borders defined by the Tartu Peace Treaty and called the situation in the areas behind Narva as well as in Petserimaa as a continuation of a criminal and illegal occupation.

The thoughts of Põlluaas filled the Kremlin’s propaganda media with emotional headlines. “Estonia demands the return of land from Russia!” “Estonia has lost their senses – they demand something from Russia,” “Occupation of Petserimaa!” Members of the Russian Federation Council, who commented on the case, also poured fuel on the fire. The case, which did not receive any attention in the Estonian media, was heated up with news, analyst opinions and other comments in the Kremlin’s propaganda media. It also reached Rossija 24 TV news, which is a sign of an important event.

Direct links to the articles can be found on the Propamon webpage, by looking for reports from the corresponding period.

Biased Narratives
There are a number of factual errors in the stories that add momentum to the biased approach. Põlluaas is named as the Estonian Parliament’s Speaker of the House and his views are presented on several occasions as the official position of the Republic of Estonia. In actuality, Põlluaas is a former Speaker of the House.

They also lessen the extent of the Tartu Peace Treaty border. That it would change five to six kilometers from the Narva River – in fact, the border reached at least ten kilometers east of the current border near Narva. In addition, the impression is left that EKRE’s views (which in the stories are called an ultra-fascist party that hates Russians) are characteristic of the whole of Estonia.

Several stories mention a case from the 1990s without referring to the sources. “Estonian Nationalist Hooligans” allegedly had taken the Estonian-Russian border posts from their locations and moved them to the Tartu Peace Treaty borderline several times, from where Russian patriots then moved them back each time. Propastop has not found any sources to confirm this rumor.

The coverage offers an interesting insight into the Kremlin’s propaganda media argumentation. There is no right to demand the abolition of current borders according to the Tartu Peace Treaty, because the items listed in the Tartu Peace Treaty expired in connection with Estonia’s “voluntary” accession to the USSR in 1940. The Tartu Peace Treaty was actually invalid from the beginning, because Lenin had not legally ratified it at the time. In addition, according to the Uusikaupunki peace agreement signed in 1721, the territories of Estonia belong to Russia; consequently, Estonia has no right to speak about territorial matters at all.

The governor of the Leningrad region, Vladimir Drozdenko, makes an interesting comment on a TV show, which probably best reflects the self-image of Russians: the case demonstrates the difference between a large nation and a small nation. The people of a great nation, i.e. the Russians, are good and generous and do not demand anything from their neighbors. On the other hand, a little nation’s small population is sure to do so. Unfortunately, the governor did not manage to comment in the same spirit on Russia’s occupation of Crimea.

It seems that Põlluaas and the Kremlin media have developed a kind of symbiotic relationship, where an Estonian politician talking about restoring the borders of the Tartu Peace Treaty gives the media of our Eastern Neighbor material for propaganda stories and in turn receives news coverage. The statements of Põlluaas last received attention in November 2020.

Denial of occupation
Another news item from the second half of the same week is related to the so-called “Põlluaas Case”. Namely, the Russian Foundation “Historical Memory” announced that it has published for the first time scans of the originals of the Base Agreement documents. These documents show that the occupation of Estonia by the USSR in 1940 did not take place, but everything happened legally. The latest statement was also reported in several headlines in the Kremlin’s propaganda media.

It is probably a false claim that these documents were published for the first time. In any case, scans of the same document from the Estonian State Archives have been publicly available on Estonian Wikipedia since 2007. In addition, according to Propastop’s analysis, the documents do not say anything about the occupation, but rather confirm the illegal annexation of Estonia. Quite probably, the Kremlin’s media hopes that their readers will not bother to study the original documents, but will blindly believe the wrongful headlines.

You can read the Mythbreaker’s article on the occupation of Estonia here.

Images: screenshots of articles related to the case.