reede, september 05, 2008


If there's one thing I despise, it's journalists lecturing other journalists. But what can I say when so many news outlets have begun irresponsibly reinterpreting the Russian-Georgian conflict through the prism of potential ethnic strife in Estonia.

Among the latest events in the annals of stupidity, a gang of
supposedly ethnic Estonians in northeastern Estonia banded together to declare an "Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic" on the territory of their two farms and request recognition from the Russian Federation. A reporter from Russian state-owned news portal RIA Novosti generously reported the "news."

And the "news" went from RIA Novosti's lips to your ears. Postimees made it the top story on their website. Not only the Denver Post and The Olympian of Washington State in the US reprinted the story, but others followed suit.

"Rumors are circulating, for instance, that two groups of Russians in Estonia will soon try to secede," warns Investors Business Daily.

"The veracity of the report is dubious — 'bourgeois' is not exactly common vernacular beyond the world of Soviet propaganda — but that is not the point. Roughly one-third of the Estonian population is either ethnically Russian or linguistically Russophone," cautioned the Financial, a Georgian paper.

Except that the leader of the "Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic" quoted in the RIA Novosti piece was named Andres Tamm, about the most Estonian name a person can have. How we got from kooky Estonian agrarian communist PR stunt to ethnic revolt in Ida Virumaa, is hard to guess.

The only answer is that somebody took a few pieces of information from an untrustworthy source -- Estonia, Soviet, northeast -- and decided to disseminate news of their own creation. Supposedly, the media has gate keepers. Yet, in this case, the editors were asleep at the wheel. RIA Novosti's mental sewage was released untreated into the rivers of communication.

The new penchant for predicting problems for Estonia based on what happened in Georgia -- which, I remind you, is as far from Tallinn as Barcelona -- has been adopted by some more mainstream media sources though. In several of its recent articles, The Economist has interpreted Russia's actions in Georgia as having ramifications for Estonia's Russian minority.

"NATO needs to reassure all its members, including places like Estonia and Latvia with large Russian minorities, that they are protected by the alliance’s mutual defence guarantees," it writes in a recent editorial. "An alienated minority of stateless people, and tens of thousands who carry Russian passports, are a potential nightmare for the Baltic states and their friends," it writes in another.

Except the Abkhazians and the South Ossetians aren't ethnic Russians, nor do they claim to be. How we got from these Caucasian separatists to "Estonia is next" is almost understandable. 6.9 percent of Estonian residents hold Russian passports. The stateless -- many of them deep in middle age -- certainly have a license to gripe. But one must have a will to separate, plus a separatist movement, before one can embark on the perils of triggering World War III in Europe.

Yet, without so much as lifting a finger, let alone an AK-47, Estonian Russians have been rendered suspected enemy number one in the EU and NATO by English-language media merely by what language they choose to speak to their children.

It's not only disingenuous to infer that they are ready to shatter the sleepy landscapes of eastern Estonia for some yet-to-be articulated, hypothetical, and, in my opinion, meaningless goal. It's also a great disservice to them. The more they are demonized by irresponsible writers, the less possibilities exist for integration measures in this country. Who really wants to be friends with someone from a group that's allegedly out to stab them in the back?

I really don't know. I went to Sillamäe and other places in Ida Virumaa today, and I didn't exactly get the sense of looming conflict over anything except maybe a parking spot in front of the local Selver shopping center. The 'city' of Sillamäe is looking better; it certainly did not live up to the ominous reputation of the Russophone cities of Estonia's northeast. People go to the bank; they go to the store; they go to the park; they go to work. To steal a few words from Dirty Harry, they get up and they put their pants on.

Words to live by.

15 kommentaari:

LPR ütles ...

Non-estonians usually do not understand our dark and mostly absurdist humour.

It is hard to relate to something like that without having the weird and absurdist history like ours.

Like we say: Estonia! We are all here because we are not all there.

Unknown ütles ...

Wasn't the Estonian SSR thing a hoax by fun-loving St Petersburg communists or smth? Because the "news" first appeared on a marginal St Petersburg communist organisation's web page and was then delivered to the world by RIA Novosti. Also the posters those "revolutionaries" are holding have spelled the word "nõukogude" as "nookogude". Estonians indeed.

Unknown ütles ...

Also one of the letters "s" in "sotsialistlik" was a cyrillic "s" (aka "c"). So this has probably nothing to do with Estonia at all.

Kristopher ütles ...

Nokugude -- sounds like Priimägi's boys are at it.

LPR ütles ...

Today is Freddie Mercury's Birthday.

Giustino ütles ...

Has the Estonian media even followed up on the story they themselves reported?

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

What I see:
1.It is easy to make people outside of Estonia believe that there are breakaway areas within the country.

2. In Germany there were 1000 comments on a related blog entry of the ARD tv channel who broadcast a Putin interview, but they aired only 10 or 15 minutes. The majority of the 1000 were crying foul and wanted the whole piece.

3. Estonia might gonna lose in a upcoming media war exactly this way.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Ah, missed it, related to the Georgia issue.

langust ütles ...

Giustino ütles

Has the Estonian media even followed up on the story they themselves reported?

It maybe would be good to translate THIS into English, and turn to it the attention of irresponsible idiots:

Not only Estonian sources should think about possible results of printing whatever sounds interesting. Unexistent critical mind IS dangerous, whilest at the Internet-era each jerk can produce "news", the spread of which results in growing anxiety and hystery - and that's what they want.

To who knows russian: "sources" here:

As the mentioned-in-article zaks

Well, sure: "Ajne Saar" from conty of "Indru" - very estonian. And "Comissaire of defence" comerade Viktor Perov from Slancy - well-known psychiatric case, redbrown activist, wannabe-spaceflyer and blatant provocateur (he was one of the few who during bronze-nights propagated - unsuccessfully - ethnic pogroms against estonians). NATO aircraft fighting against the Soviet rabbits ... well, as well as other stuff RIA, Lenta and Co censored out to avoid complete discreditation of this "material".

P.S. About the photo - somebody has obviously internet-friends in here who know some estonian, but an embarrasing mistake is still in: "Nookogude" resp. "Nõukogude".

Giustino ütles ...

3. Estonia might gonna lose in a upcoming media war exactly this way.

I think you are right, Jens. I don't think most people, including me, could give you an accurate timeline of what happened in Georgia.

And, as we all recall from the Winter War, Finland attacked the Soviet Union first.

plasma-jack ütles ...

Not only Estonian sources should think about possible results of printing whatever sounds interesting.

Censorship does not work.

Giustino ütles ...

You should be able to confirm something before you run it. RIA Novosti is a highly unreliable source.

Unknown ütles ...

If I translate "Nokogude", it will be "A collection of penis" or something like that.. "Noku" (penis in children talk) and "kogu" (collection, in plural) ;)

If foriners just knew, what idiotical "news" has the Russian official press released about Estonia... Estonian spies marching in to Russia... Estonian she-snaipers on skis, killing Russians... Estonians selling kalashnikovs to IRA etc etc. The official, Putin-approved history book for schools says - Estonians are to blame for Leningrad blocade!!!

Unfortunately some of our "own" people buy it and seriously start to debate over it, I don't know why.. they just probably want to be as adequate as possible and as fair as possible. So they are afraid of getting blamed as "russophobe", if they ignore Russian official news channels' junk. My impression is that many of Estonians desperately need to believe in Russian official (I mean blessed by the government) news channels and they truly want to trust those, while they still believe in democratic Russia. Russians don't, probably.

Anonüümne ütles ...

They did this for the lulz, didn't they? Because the media response was so lulzy.

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