The Morozov Case and Russian Propaganda’s Strategic Narratives in Estonia


Updated version: factual mistake corrected

Viacheslav Morozov, a professor of international political theory at the University of Tartu, has come under scrutiny from the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS) for suspected actions against the Republic of Estonia. ISS Director Margo Palloson disclosed Morozov’s detention on January 3, citing suspicions of intelligence activities that favored Russia. The ISS emphasized the ongoing interest of Russian intelligence in Estonia, including potential infiltration into academia.

Morozov, a Russian national, is accused of sharing information with Russian special services during his regular visits to Russia. 

Russian propaganda reacts 

The Russian press has predominantly expressed disapproval of Morozov’s arrest, though the tone and perspective vary across different news sources. Notably, major propaganda channels surprisingly maintained a relatively neutral stance, offering only brief coverage of the current events.

Professor Nikolay Mezhevich, President of the Association for Baltic Studies and a member of the Valdai Club, has asserted that Morozov’s arrest amounts to discrimination. Mezhkevich claims that the arrest is solely based on Morozov’s non-Estonian status, alleging that a rival wrote a denunciation to eliminate Morozov as an academic competitor. There is no factual proof that such claims were provided.

Baltnews, an information media outlet sponsored by Russia Today, suggests that the Estonian leadership is using its security apparatus to combat individuals deemed undesirable, particularly if they are Russian citizens. The article raises the possibility that these actions are an attempt to divert public attention from domestic policy failures, notably amid a prolonged economic crisis in Estonia.

Delovaya Gazeta Vzglyad reports that the primary basis for accusing Professor Morozov involves his frequent visits to St. Petersburg to visit his parents, arguing that Morozov does not fit the stereotypical image of a “Russian spy.” The article questions the standing of the Estonian Internal Security Service (KaPo) within NATO and challenges the necessity for Russian intelligence to send spies to Estonia, stating that there is no sensitive information in the country worth gathering.

“Runaway Russian liberals are scared by Estonian intelligence”.


What do such statements indicate?

Russian propaganda is exploiting Morozov’s detention to achieve multiple objectives. Firstly, it seeks to amplify the perception of Russophobia in the Baltic States, portraying Estonia as unfriendly to Russian nationals, irrespective of their views on Putin or the Ukrainian conflict. Furthermore, the narrative suggests that Estonia may not be a fully democratic country, insinuating the use of security apparatus against Russian citizens deemed undesirable. Additionally, the statements aim to undermine confidence in Estonian security services, questioning their ability to detect and counter special service activities and casting doubt on the Baltic States’ capacity to manage security challenges independently.

The handling of the Morozov case in other prominent Russian propaganda outlets has drawn attention due to its notable neutrality. This approach suggests a reluctance to alter the narrative, signalling potential reservations within these media channels.

Most famous espionage cases in recent Estonian History

It is essential to note Estonia’s history of dealing with espionage cases. Over the last 20 years, several Russian spies have been caught and sentenced in Estonia, including notable cases such as Aleksei Dressen and Vladimir Veitman. The most infamous case is that of Herman Simm, who shared classified documents with the Russians over a decade, leading to his conviction for treason. Simm’s case highlights the persistent challenges posed by espionage in the region and the ongoing efforts to safeguard national security. 

Aivo Peterson and Dmitri Rootsi are currently facing charges of treason against the Republic of Estonia, and Russian citizen Andrey Andronov is accused of non-violent activities against the Republic of Estonia. The indictment claims that, from October 2022 to March 10, 2024, Peterson and Rootsi knowingly assisted Russia, acting on instructions from the Russian Federation, in activities against Estonia.

So far, Estonia has convicted over 20 people for working with Russia and two for working with China.

The used images are screenshots from the referenced pages.