RUSSIAN INFLUENCE CAMPAIGNS AGAINST ESTONIA
Johns Hopkins University
The current crisis between Russia and Ukraine is being exacerbated by the leveraging of the ethnic Russian population in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions by the government of the Russian Federation. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, newly established countries were formed along historically ethnic lines. Because of forced migration by the former Soviet government, many new nations had to incorporate ethnic Russian populations into citizenship programs. Significant research has examined the impact of non-aligned ethnic populations on the prevailing new governments. This study has found various successes and failures at integration across a variety of nations. Historic and current trends of the Russian Federation influencing Russian ethnic populations present a problem for governments. The Baltic country of Estonia (population 1.220 million) is uniquely susceptible to Russian influence because 24.8% of its residents are ethnic Russian or speak only the Russian language. When factoring in other ethnic groups, only 68.7% of the national inhabitants are Estonians. To investigate this problem, historical research based on empirical data already established was used to identify media trends to analyze the Bronze Soldier incident in 2007 along with removal of the T-34 monument located near Narva in 2022. By reviewing these two case studies, an understanding was gained of the impact Russian Federation soft power influencing operations have in the media on the Russian speaking population living in Estonia. In the results of this research, an unexpected observation was also uncovered on the Russian Federation’s capabilities that might have future implications.