No. 34




Image of Estonia in Russia’s online-media in 2015 from security perspective

14 December 2016


RiTo No. 34, 2016

  • Andrus Tamberg

    Andrus Tamberg

    Staff Officer of the Defence Forces, Captain Master of Social Sciences (internal security)

Today, media is ever more actively and effectively used as an instrument for exerting influence on public opinion and political decisions. Non-democratic countries like Russia use media as means of propaganda in shaping ideological attitudes. Russia has also considerably increased military activities near the Baltic States, and continuously declared NATO its main enemy. Information field that distorts reality may damage the cohesion of different groups of population and create instability in the society, therefore Estonia should pay more attention to attacks targeted against the cohesion of the society, and develop psychological defence and resistance against anti-Estonian propaganda activities. In order to ensure the security of the society and the state and the sense of security of the people, and to prevent crises and increase confidence in the activities of the state, it is necessary to develop the psychological defence of the state more than it has been done so far. From the point of view of Estonia’s strategic communication and psychological defence, it is important to know how Estonia is depicted in Russian media. Unfortunately it has been assessed only empirically.

The study of the image of Estonia in Russia’s media, conducted by the author, enables to analyse the dynamics of Russia’s aggressiveness more effectively. Summary of the research results and generalising conclusions on the image of Estonia would be a contribution to national security policy decision-making and implementing the measures taken on their basis in the context of information space.

Analysis of Russia’s online media showed that in 2015, the image of Estonia in Russia’s media portals was predominantly negative; the themes and tone of the articles, and thus also the image, did not differ significantly in different news portals during the year. The issues that were discussed the most concerned enhancing the presence of NATO, exercises of the alliance, Russia’s threat and aggressiveness, energy independence, production of life threatening food products, sanctions against Russia, economic hardships, discrimination and Eston Kohver, who had been convicted of espionage. The frames that appeared most often in media texts characterised Estonia as a country where “Russia is seen as a mythical threat, and therefore Russia is spied against and continuous NATO exercises are held on the western border of Russia”. The study reached the conclusion that the purpose of Russia’s anti-Estonian propaganda activities was connected with bringing down the feeling of security of the people of Estonia, i.e. it was tried to split the European Union and NATO, and to spread confusion in the society and prevent integration. Therefore Estonia should pay more attention to attacks targeted at the cohesion of the society and develop psychological defence more than it has been done until now. “Soft power” as a means of influencing meets its purpose less if the impact of Russian media on its target audience is studied more and the Estonian collective identity is enhanced. In addition to developing e-services, the state should also promote and manage the image of a successful e-state and the general positive image, because the image of a country has a wide impact both from the perspective of international relations and the domestic development.