Briefs

Lithuania: 22-28 August 2016

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A Lithuanian-language, pro-Kremlin website claims that “the Soviet ghost” of nostalgia present in Lithuania is due to the “absence of a clear perspective of life.”

Event:
 On 26 August, the Lithuanian-language, pro-Kremlin website eskpertai.eu referred to an opinion poll published by the website delfi.lt the day before, in which 42 percent of respondents disagreed that life during the Soviet era was better than today, 26 percent agreed and 23 percent weren’t sure. Journalist Vadim Volovoy concluded that something—he didn’t say exactly what—is wrong with Lithuania if even a quarter of its population is nostalgic about Soviet times. The journalist did not present either data analysis or explanation.

The false facts or narrative: 
Valovoy said “the absence of a clear perspective of life in Lithuania” is the reason 26 percent of Lithuanian residents think life was better during Soviet times than today. He teased that very soon only the “optimists” would remain in Lithuania because those who still remembered Soviet times would die and others would emigrate. Valovoy also quoted a 2013 Gallup poll carried out in 11 former Soviet republics on whether the breakup of the USSR helped or hurt their countries. In seven of the 11 nations surveyed, residents were more likely to believe the Soviet collapse harmed their countries rather than benefitted them. The Baltic states were not included. Valovoy presented the numbers without further explanation.

Reality on the ground: 
The same poll cited by Volovoy and delfi.lt also found that Lithuanians with higher incomes and more education do not think life was better under Soviet rule. The 26 percent of respondents who do yearn for Soviet times receive about €200 a month—the lowest per-capita income in Lithuania, live in rural areas, are 47 or older, and have little education. These people can generally be grouped into those whose opinions shift depending on their well-being, and those who truly believe things were really good under the Soviets. Attitudes of this latter group are supported by Soviet-era movies and TV programs, as well as visits to Lithuania by musicians such as pop singer Gozmanov who were popular during Soviet times. These polls reveal a rather large and vulnerable segment of Lithuanian society—those with poor education and low incomes who watch only Russian TV, who have not taken advantage of Lithuania’s EU membership and who romanticize the old days.

Technique: Half-truths false interpretation, no proof.

Audience: Lithuanian society.

Impact and analysis: The pro-Kremlin website continues its theme of diminishing Lithuania’s reputation among Lithuanian society. It uses data from opinion polls as proof that Lithuanian society is dissatisfied with the country, does not believe in its future and perceives Soviet times as positive. The website does not analyze opinion-poll data.