April 22, 2015

Maria Przełomiec asks about the East: Are Minorities in the Baltic States becoming a Russian Fifth Column?

President Vladimir Putin is often quoted as having said that “the breakup of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century”. Therefore, the Kremlin wants to challenge the widespread view that the Baltic States are a success story, as they are the only republics previously occupied by the Soviet Union that are today members of the EU, NATO and the Eurozone. Moscow continuously spreads this message through its state controlled media.

President Vladimir Putin is often quoted as having said that “the breakup of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century”. Therefore, the Kremlin wants to challenge the widespread view that the Baltic States are a success story, as they are the only republics previously occupied by the Soviet Union that are today members of the EU, NATO and the Eurozone. Moscow continuously spreads this message through its state controlled media.

Russia´s current regime certainly exploits the fact that a quarter of Estonia´s population and a third of Latvia´s consist of ethnic Russians. However, one should not fall for the temptation to view Russian speakers as one homogeneous group. According to research, Russian speakers in Estonia could be divided into five different groups depending on their level of integration. Loyalty to Estonia is not necessarily dependent on Estonian language proficiency. More than one third are relatively well integrated and consider themselves part of Estonian society, whereas the rest are less attached to Estonia and are to various degrees more oriented toward other countries, among them Russia. This larger group of Russian speakers, many of whom are blue-collar workers, retirees or unemployed, may be receptive to Kremlin disinformation.
It is nevertheless important to distinguish between efforts aimed at increasing the well-being of this group of less integrated people, and attempts to exploit them in order to discredit Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It will take more than the 24 years that have passed since the Baltic States regained independence to overcome 51 years of deliberate colonisation that was initiated by Joseph Stalin. Putin´s current rhetoric only worsens the situation of Russian speakers in the Baltic States.
Read more: PISM

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