In Estonia, a glimpse into the reach of the Russian World - Globe & Mail (3)
Eestlased Eestis 07 Mar 2015  EWR
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Spectators watch a tank during a parade as part of an event to celebrate 97 years since first achieving independence in 1918 on February 24 in Narva, Estonia.
(RAIGO PAJULA/AFP/Getty Images) - pics/2015/03/44536_001.jpg
Spectators watch a tank during a parade as part of an event to celebrate 97 years since first achieving independence in 1918 on February 24 in Narva, Estonia. (RAIGO PAJULA/AFP/Getty Images)
MARK MacKINNON, The Globe and Mail

Elvira Nyman walks each day along the ancient fortifications that mark the end of the European Union, as well as tiny Estonia’s border with Russia. What she sees across the narrow Narva River is a “strong country,” she says, with a “beauty” of a leader, President Vladimir Putin.

Ms. Nyman resides in Estonia, but lives in a world created for her by Kremlin-controlled television news. In the mind of the 77-year-old retired laboratory technician, and many others in this Russian-speaking corner of Estonia, it’s the West that’s to blame for the war in Ukraine. Crimea always belonged to Russia. Boris Nemtsov was shot dead in the centre of Moscow last week because he was involved in some shady business that had nothing to do with his political opposition to Mr. Putin.

The city of Narva became part of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) along with the rest of Estonia 11 years ago. But with 94 per cent of the city’s 60,000 residents identifying themselves as Russian-speakers, Narva also remains firmly part of what the Kremlin calls the Russkiy Mir, or the “Russian World.”

When Kremlin-owned media offered a slew of eyebrow-raising theories this week for Mr. Nemtsov’s murder, the goal was not to convince politicians or viewers in the West of their narrative. The goal was to provide a version that Mr. Putin’s supporters in the Russkiy Mir can cling to.

Through its television channels, the Kremlin has retained the hearts and minds of not only the majority of its own citizens, but also many Russian-speakers in places such as Narva that were left outside the borders of the Russian Federation when the Soviet Union fell 24 years ago. What was viewed as a political nuisance by the governments of Estonia, along with other ex-Soviet republics who inherited these pro-Moscow populations, is now seen as a major security threat, providing the Kremlin with a potential platform to destabilize its neighbours as Russia’s confrontation with the West continues to grow.

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