Briefs

Estonia - 22-28 August 2016

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Pro-Kremlin propaganda website baltnews.ee has argued that Estonia was liberated—not reoccupied—by the Red Army in 1944.

Event:
A 25 August article published by the pro-Kremlin website baltnews.ee suggested that the Estonian town of Tartu was liberated by the Soviet Red Army 72 years earlier, in 1944.

The false fact or narrative: The claim that the Red Army liberated Tartu—and therefore all of Estonia—is false.

Reality on the ground:
The Red Army reoccupied, not liberated, Estonia in 1944. The Soviet occupation is a historical fact resulting from the Nazi-communist Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact of 1939. Both the Welles Declaration—issued 23 July 1940 by then-US Secretary of State Sumner Welles—and the European Court of Human Rights confirmed this. According to the latter, “the Court notes, first, that Estonia lost its independence as a result of the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (also known as “Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact”), concluded on 23 August 1939, and the secret additional protocols to it. Following an ultimatum to set up Soviet military bases in Estonia in 1939, a large-scale entry of the Soviet army into Estonia took place in June 1940. The lawful government of the country was overthrown and Soviet rule was imposed by force. The totalitarian communist regime of the Soviet Union conducted large-scale and systematic actions against the Estonian population, including, for example, the deportation of about 10,000 persons on 14 June 1941 and of more than 20,000 on 25 March 1949. After the Second World War, tens of thousands of persons went into hiding in the forests to avoid repression by the Soviet authorities; part of those in hiding actively resisted the occupation regime. According to the data of the security organs, about 1,500 persons were killed and almost 10,000 arrested in the course of the resistance movement of 1944-53. Interrupted by the German occupation in 1941-44, Estonia remained occupied by the Soviet Union until its restoration of independence in 1991.”

Technique: Facts or statements are false or manipulated.

Analysis: This is a good example of how historical narratives are used for propaganda. Russia claims the Red Army liberated Estonia from its Nazi invaders, yet this narrative does not align with history. The fact is that the Soviet Union occupied most of the territory of the three Baltic states in its 1944 Baltic offensive. After World War II ended, the USSR re-established control over the Baltics in line with its forcible annexations as communist republics in 1940.

Description of sources: Baltnews.ee is a Russian-language propaganda site in Estonia; it and similar portals for Latvia and Lithuania were launched in 2014. According to the Annual Review of the Estonian Internal Security Service, all three Baltnews portals are funded by Media Capital Holding BV, a Dutch-registered company controlled by people related to Rossiya Segodnya—a news agency wholly owned and operated by the Russian government. It also says one of the project’s founders was Vladimir Lepekhin, director of the Eurasian Economic Community Institute, which attempts to influence policy in Russia’s neighboring countries. Aleksandr Kornilov, who belongs to the local Coordination Council of Russian Compatriots and heads the propaganda portal baltija.eu, manages baltnews.ee.