September 16, 2019

Teperik at the XXIX Krynica Forum: „Over-securitization of a language harms national resilience“

ICDS Chief Executive Dmitri Teperik participated in the discussion panel „Deep Shadow of Moscow – Information War against Europe“ held under the auspices of the XXIX Krynica Economic Forum in Poland on 3-5 September 2019.

In his remarks, Dmitri Teperik noted that pro-Kremlin propaganda spreads often semi-truth or even uncovered lies about the situation of local Russian-speakers in the Baltic states. Key messages from these fabricated stories refer usually to non-existing problems, exaggerate minor non-issues or misinterpret complex social processes. A typical examples are “wide discrimination of Russian-speakers in all sectors”, “oppression of the Russian language in socio-economic life” and “complete extermination of Russian-language schools”. Such malicious narratives are being disseminated not just in Russian for domestic audiences and global Russian compatriots, but also in many other languages internationally.

There are networks of vocal marginal activists and pseudojournalists who keep pro-Kremlin narratives on informational agenda, also by providing feedback on societal vulnerabilities, resonating issues and other potentially dividing topics which could be used in disinformation. Since 1991, Russia has adhered to a rhetoric accusing Estonia of violating rights of the local Russian-speakers, while at the same time making many efforts to prevent its self-declared “compatriots” from integrating into Estonian society.  The war in Ukraine added another dangerous dimension to already complicated situation in Estonia.

“We should remember that disinformation not just creates chaos or ambiguity but also distracts, distorts and diverts attention. Therefore, we must be careful about labelling of certain language, social group or ethnicity. Since Russia started the war against Ukraine, the position and perceptions of the local Russian-speakers in Estonia have been publicly discussed and presented through the prism of security both on a national and international scale. The effects raise the social and political salience of cultural issues leading to linguistic and ideological confrontation. Moreover, local Russian-speakers are considered particularly vulnerable and persuadable by Kremlin-backed influencing activities”, added Teperik.