Glory to the Kremlin in Baltic Social Media

We looked at the top five social media pages, groups, and channels doing their best to convince the Baltics that Russia is really, really, really great

There are numerous Facebook pages, VKontakte (VK) communities, YouTube channels, and Twitter accounts that share messages glorifying the Kremlin and Soviet times at the expense of the Baltic states. These narratives repeated on such social media attempt to convey a bottom-line message that the Baltic states are weak and NATO is a threat. Each social media group creates a “community of interest” that helps justify the Kremlin’s actions in Russian language communities in the Baltic states.

Here is a list of the most noteworthy social media channels to keep an eye on.

“Latvia: Ship of Fools” on Facebook (8.1K likes)

(Source: Facebook)

This Facebook page shares satirical content, which is basically centered on the narrative that Latvia is a failed state. On the page’s “About” section, the group claims to have existed since 1991 — the year Latvia regained independence.

One post reads:

1 000 000 reasons why one needs to leave or stay in Latvia — choose yourself…

Most of the content is in Russian. The jokes depict a hard life in Latvia.

Left (Source); Middle — God: ”Welcome to heaven! Here there is no money! No jobs!” Angels: “We are in Latvia again…” (Source); Right — “After half a year in Latvia” (Source).

According to the results of the Facebook analysis tool Fanpage Karma, images shared on this Facebook page garner the most audience engagement measured in likes and shares compared to text, links, and videos.

(Source: Fanpage Karma)

“Russian Baltics — We are the first ones!” on VKontakte (2.4K members)

The title: “Russian Baltics — We are the first ones!”; Subtitle: “All countries border each other, but only Russia borders God!” (Source: VK)

This VK community was created in 2013, but has failed to gain significant membership over that time period. The community claims to be the best source for Baltic news, which makes the pinned post glorifying Putin somewhat questionable.

(Source: VK)

The lead sentence of the above post reads:

“The old KGB agent lived-out them all”: the media about the fact that US began to realize Putin’s superiority in the new cold war.

Nevertheless, the content spread within the community concerns the Baltic states, is highly political, and is always polarizing. Two prevalent narratives are NATO criticism and insistence that Baltic states have a hostile view toward Russia and Russians.

Left — “Expert: Gribauskaite worsens relationship with Russia through iron fearlessness” (Source); Middle — “NATO deploys hundreds of helicopters to Russian border” (Source); Right — “Latvia: forced assimilation, or the faith of an outsider” (Source).

Analysis of the VK community using the tool Popsters.ru showed the community administrator increased the number of posts since 2014 and kept activity stable since.

(Source: Popsters.ru)

In 2017 the highest number of views for a post was over 15,000. On average, a typical post on the group garners 5,000 views.

(Source: Popsters.ru)

“Lietuva” on Youtube (2.4K subscribers and 3,196,900+ views)

(Source: YouTube)

The YouTube channel “Lietuva”, which means “Lithuanian” in Lithuanian, shares content very similar to the VK community about the Baltic states described above. However, the use of a photo of Indian actress Aishwarya Rai as its avatar image is curious. Nevertheless, the channel is pro-Putin, anti-NATO, and shares content predominantly focused on illustrating the Baltics negatively.

Left — “Le Pen Putin brought back pride to a grand nation” (Source); Middle — “NATO get out of Lithuania” (Source); Right — “Russians in Latvia” (Source).

There is no original content published on the channel. All 424 videos originated from other video content providers — TV channels, amateur video producers, and other outlets.

YouTube analysis shows that the channel jumped in popularity in the last two years.

(Source: Socialblade)

“Russian Aggressor” on Youtube (2,105,600 views)

(Source: YouTube)

The name of the channel is, at least, very frank about what kind of content the channel shares. The channel published 13 video compilations of news stories about Russian military and technological achievements titled “Compulsory to watch for Russia’s western neighbors”.

The title of all videos read “Compulsory to watch for Russia’s western neighbors”. Left (Source); Middle (Source); Right (Source).

The other content shared on the page, included a curated compilation of news stories arguing about how bad life it the Baltics is today.

Left title: “The Baltics’ depression” (Source); Middle title: ”Economical “miracle” of the Baltics” (Source); Right title: “The Baltic freeloaders” (Source).

The channel does not show the number of its subscribers; however, it garnered over two million views since February 2015. YouTube analysis suggests that by now the channel has over 1,000 subscribers.

(Source: Socialblade)

“Lithuania, NATO’s training ground” on Vkontakte (900+ members)

Title: “Lithuania, NATO’s training ground”. (Source: VK)

The description of this VK community reads:

The group is about NATO’s military contingent in the Baltics. And about the political life of Lithuania.

As the name of the community signals, the page content focuses almost exclusively on NATO’s presence in the Baltic states with an overarching narrative that NATO uses the region and the Baltic states receive nothing in return.

Left post: “NATO troops do not like tents”, title of the shared link: “Barracks for NATO troops officially opened in Estonia” (Source); Middle post: “Another foolish act in the Baltic region”, title of the shared link: “American military helicopters Black Hawk arrived in Latvia” (Source); Right post: “Too expensive security, or how NATO is milking its cows”, title of the shared link: “NATO in Estonia is an expensive illusion of security” (Source).

Despite relatively low engagement and very few members, the administrator of the community posts daily since the middle of 2016, which was about the same time NATO decided to enhance its presence in the Baltic states and Poland.

(Source: Popsters.ru)

Conclusion

A number of social media channels constantly share hostile content about the Baltic states and glorifying Russia. Although the audience is not as big as Toma Joki (Tom’s Jokes), a satirical Facebook page in Latvia with 140,000,000 followers, or ZAG, a YouTube channel for Russian-speaking youth in the Baltics with over 14,000 followers, the administrators of the hostile social media channels do not slack in sharing daily content and promoting pro-Kremlin narratives about the supposedly failed Baltic states.


Nika Aleksejeva is a Digital Forensic Research Associate at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (@DFRLab).

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