Propastop works hard to protect Estonia’s information space from hostile propaganda that seeks to divide Estonian society and undermine Estonia’s international reputation. At present, this overwhelming originates from Russia. But working within Estonia’s information space is not enough to reduce the impact of this information war. These activities should also be transferred to the Russian information space in order to challenge propaganda closer to its source.
This is why Propastop has proposed a new project called ‘Valerian’ (“Palderjan” in estonian) would significantly contribute to the growth of Estonian security.
Estonia remains united
Russia’s full-scale war on Ukraine has coincided with an escalation of its information conflict against Estonia as well. Our country is regularly accused of Russophobia, falsification of history, Nazism and now terrorism. These narratives are strategically chosen by the Kremlin to fulfill hostile objectives. The intensity of these information attacks has increased to a level not experienced since the creation of Propastop in 2016.
Despite this, Estonia continues to show resilience against this onslaught and maintain a high level of unity, which has significantly developed since the end of the Soviet occupation. Our country has implemented countermeasures, such as by limiting access to propaganda channels, championing Estonian language education for all, and relocating occupation monuments away from public spaces where they can become potential conflict hot spots. Disagreements, sometimes heated, are normal in a democratic society like Estonia but have not developed into the kind of dangerous divisions last seen amidst Kremlin-encouraged riots in 2007.
However, all these activities are limited to Estonia’s information space and do not get to the root of the problem. As a result, Estonia is always waiting for the next accusation from the Kremlin in order to endlessly smooth out the consequences.
Valerian gets to the root of the problem
Propastop’s proposal is a new set of activities that would challenge those from whom this propaganda originates in their own information space. We have named the project Valerian, a reference to a natural sedative.
Valerian must be directed primarily to the people of Russia with the aim of providing them with accurate information and a better understanding of the war in Ukraine and Russia’s involvement in it. That would include the level of casualties and damage, and Russia’s role in inflicting the destruction, war crimes and suffering. The senselessness of the attacks and those responsible must be emphasised.
The secondary aim of the project should be the promotion of media education and information literacy in Russia. It should empower Russian people to critically analyse sources and gain access to propaganda-free Russian-language channels.
It is not about arguing directly with the Kremlin or engaging in hostile propaganda of our own, such as spreading anti-authority messages and mocking Russian leaders. Instead, it is important to keep a calm and balanced tone when sharing information based on the standards and professional presentation of quality journalism.
Reaching our neighbours
Russia is a home to a wide audience that is too large for Estonia to attempt to communicate with in this project. However, activities should be focused on audiences more familiar with Estonia. This would include:
Propastop’s volunteers have suggested the following possible activities for Valerian:
This list is not final, but hopes to serve as the start of a conversation about how to make Valerian work.
Estonia’s security is growing
Propastop volunteers are well suited to initiate this project, but a contribution and support is needed primarily from Estonian state structures, such as the Strategic Communication Department of the State Chancellery, the Defense Union, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and possibly also from the public broadcaster and private media. Support can also be sought from allies across the Baltic states, Europe, and beyond, as Valerian’s goals overlap with those of the entire free world.
Supporting this initiative is one more way to contribute to the end of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. But the impact of the project is much wider. If media literacy, awareness and access to free channels can increase in Russian society, it will make it harder for the Kremlin regime to continue the information war and this may lead to more fundamental change and a more harmonious future among neighbours. As a result, these developments directly contribute to the growth of Estonian security.