Professor V. Pugačiauskas: after the Crimean occupation, three negative images of Lithuania were being formed

V. Putin on Russian television

The recent major scandal which arose after Rūta Vanagaitė‘s attempt to slander the post-war partisan leader Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas and with him cast a shadow over the entire post-war partisan movement is one of the topics which Russia is using for its propaganda in order to create an image of Lithuania as a falsifier of history, writes.

This image is being created by employing other topics as well: Lithuania’s entry and exit from the Soviet Union, the Holocaust, commemorations of World War II, veterans, the events of January 13, 1991. This was the topic of discussion at the General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy Strategic Research Centre Lithuania strategic review, aimed at Lithuanian security issues 2016-2017.

The Russian confrontation with the West after the events in Crimea and later Eastern Ukraine were marked with increased propaganda activity not just abroad, but also in Russia itself. And Lithuania, which supported Ukraine, was met with increased promotion of anti-Lithuanian moods in Russian media.

Professor Virgilijus Pugačiauskas, who analysed Lithuania’s image in the Russian media after the Crimean occupation, highlighted three consistently and consciously formed negative images of Lithuania – the aforementioned historical falsificator, Russophobe and anti-Russian, collapsing and lacking influence. Professor V. Pugačiauskas commented on the topic on the show Savaitė on Sunday.

He emphasises that the formation of a negative image of Lithuania as a hostile state is nothing new, but has intensified. 42% of Russians believed that Lithuania was a hostile country in 2005, when Lithuania acceded into NATO and the EU. In comparison the number declined to 17% in 2013, but rose a whole 7% following the events of the Crimean annexation and Maidan revolution. “This may not appear that much, we have not reached what we had in 2005, but if we look mathematically, this 7% means that around 10 million citizens returned to seeing us as a hostile country,” V. Pugačiauskas pointed out, highlighting that the media is highly influential in Russia; within error margins, some 80% of viewers trust the television broadcasting.

Of the three images of Lithuania being formed in Russian media, according to the professor it is the Russophobe image that is the most dominant, with emphasis on Lithuania as an active supporter of the Maidan revolution, Lithuania being supposedly the main former and implementer of sanctions and also there being an emphasis on military issues, with Lithuania supposedly being a platform for assault on Russia by the West.

President D. Grybauskaitė‘s image is also being formed in a particularly negative light. V. Pugačiauskas points out that highly emphasised points are her refusal to appear at May 9 celebrations and in particular, something which will never be forgiven, that the president described Russia as a terrorist state, which has provoked outcry.

Regarding Lithuania’s image as a falsifier of history, the professor explains that it is less prominent because it relies on two things – the Second World War, which is the Great Patriotic War to Russia and the great geopolitical catastrophe as described by Russian President V. Putin. Lithuanian entry to the Soviet Union is being posited as a fully legitimate event done completely legally and democratically, and analogously the events of January 13 were supposedly illegitimate, with a handful of nationalists inspired by foreign intelligence overthrowing the legitimate government. The Holocaust has also been included in these topics, but it is a more recent approach, trying to tie the partisan movement with German fascists, rather than freedom fighters.

The third, economic image, V. Pugačiauskas says, had not been articulated broadly earlier, but is now appearing as a tie-in to sanctions. The presentation is that the Baltic States, Lithuania in particular, were the most harmed by the sanctions, that Lithuanian farmers are supposedly going bankrupt, having nowhere to put their dairy produce, which was popular in Russia. With such bankruptcies failing to emerge, a new mythos is being created that supposedly the bankruptcies aren’t happening due to illegal export through third countries.

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