Pro-Kremlin media spins Lithuanian history and reaches out to a younger generation with no memory of the events of the 1990s.
On the eve of the 11 March celebrations marking the 27th anniversary of Lithuania’s restored independence, the country’s pro-Moscow media—in both Russian and Lithuanian—advanced a Kremlin disinformation strategy that seeks to deny
key historical events in Lithuania while promoting Russia’s current foreign policy agenda.
The latest example of Moscow’s attempt to rewrite Lithuania’s modern history is a translation into Lithuanian of the controversial book “Who Betrayed Whom?” by Galina Sapozhnikova, a Russian journalist with the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda. The book claims that Lithuania’s independence was restored not as a result of the 1990-91 popular movement, but thanks to a deal between the United States and Mikhail Gorbachev, whom many Russians blame for the collapse of the USSR. The book denies proven facts about the victims of the 13 January 1991 uprising, when Soviet troops killed 14 people and injured 700 after Moscow took measures to retain control. Sapozhnikova’s book argues that Lithuania became “the first territory” on which the United States used the technique of “colored revolutions” to further its dominance in the region, and that these revolutions later spilled over into the other Baltic states as well as Ukraine and Georgia.
The Lithuanian police seized the book’s entire print run in early March, just before it was ready for distribution. On 9 March, the Lithuanian-language, pro-Kremlin website ekspertai.eu reported on the case and offered its readers a chance to download the book. Two other pro-Kremlin websites— rubaltic.ru and newsbalt.ru in Russian—also reported
on the book’s confiscation, while newsbalt.ru also offered a download of the book.
The Kremlin approach in this case is to apply classic propaganda methods. First, it chooses a sensitive issue for its target audience: the Soviet occupation of Lithuania and the fight for Lithuania’s independence. Second, it selectively uses information tailored to advance a preferred narrative. Third, it relies on biased interviews such those in Sapoznikova’s banned book to look more persuasive. And finally, it pinpoints an enemy to blame.
The pro-Kremlin media tries to propagate the view that Lithuanian authorities are paranoid, and that their decisions are inadequate. The Kremlin also likely calculates that these false narratives may resonate among younger Lithuanians and Russians with no memory of the January 1991 events in Lithuania, or that of the Soviet regime itself.
Many experts expect Kremlin propaganda to continue to deny facts about Lithuania’s independence by offering alternative versions of what actually took place. The intensity of disinformation activities against Lithuanian history likely will vary depending on the dates of national celebrations and the course of an ongoing judicial investigation into the events of 13 January 1991 that began last year.
Photo: REUTERS/Ints Kalnins