Are Relations between Russia and the Baltic States improving?

February 12th, 2012 → 3:02 pm @ // No Comments

Laas Leivat writes in Eesti Elu (Estonian Life) on February 3, 2012 that, “In an interview with the Baltic News Service, Valeri Fjodorov, the director of the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (VtsIOM), stated that amongst the residents of Russia there is a noticeable lessening of negative attitudes towards the Baltic states.”

Leivat quotes Fjodorov several more times in his article and then concludes, “It seems that Russian public attitudes towards the Baltic countries to fluctuate from year to year depending on issues current at the time. The controversies between Estonia and Russia have been many over the last 20 years: the departure of Russian troops from Estonia fully three years after independence was regained; the Orthodox church controversy; the unsettled Russian-Estonian border issue; language and citizenship questions of Russian residents of Estonia; Moscow’s accusations of fascism against Estonia; Russia’s resentment of Estonia’s accession to NATO and the EU; the relocation of a Soviet war monument in Tallinn; Russia’s 2007 intention of stopping all oil transit through Estonia; cyberattacks from Russia; Estonia’s exhibit dedicated to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army; Russia’s regular protests on gatherings of Estonian war veterans who fought with the Germans etc.

The causes for forming attitudes have been plenty. Certainly the Russian media here plays its central role. An anti-Estonian pejorative neologism, eSStonia, appeared in the Russian media and at street protests during the Bronze Soldier incident in 2007. In fact in November 2007 the largest daily in Russia, the Komsomolskaya Pravda ran a campaign asking readers to boycott Estonia, its goods and services. The slogan “I don’t go the eSStonia” was prominent. President Ilves was spelled IlveSS and Prime Minister Ansip as AnSSip. Obviously all of these neologisms were meant to portray Estonia as a Nazi state.

Fjodorov seems to leave the impression that the Russian population`s sentiments towards the Baltic states change organically, uninterrupted by artificial stimuli. It`s more likely that systematic manipulation from the Kremlin is often the cause. Some even insist that the Russian leadership always needs a foreign enemy as a diversion from domestic problems and as a way to stimulate nationalistic fervor.”

So, is Russian hostility towards Estonia and the other two Baltic States really on a decline? Don’t hold your breath!

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