Krister Paris, ETV's former ERR correspondent in Moscow, said that a recent poll that showed that Estonia is ranked fifth as the least friendly country to Russia is more of a result of blowback from the situation in Ukraine and Estonia's success in the face of the Kremlin's broad narrative against independent, but formerly Soviet, states.
The annual poll (in Russian) was conducted in May by the Levada Center, a non-governmental polling and sociological research organization, which Paris called "one of the more independent organizations that you will find in Russia, although it used to be much more independent."
"Estonia is the antithesis of everything Putin stands for," he told ERR News. "He claims that countries that were once dominated by the Soviet Union can't get along on their own. That's the narrative he is pushing in Ukraine - that it's a failed country without Russia's model. Estonia has gone a quite different direction than Russia, and that invites hysteria against us."
Ukraine finished second in the "least friendly" poll at 30 percent, following the US, which has a 69-percent unpopularity rating. Lithuania (24 percent) finished third, with Latvia (23 percent) fourth. Georgia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Poland and Canada also made the top 10.
Paris was the ETV correspondent in Moscow from 2008-13, and is the current head of the opinion department at Eesti Päevaleht. He said that the current propagandist media environment against Ukraine is allowing Estonia and the other Baltic states be painted by the same brush.
"You are currently unable to distinguish between the Russian media and the Russian government," Paris said. "The media sites, even the ones that I trusted, are currently echoing the Kremlin's line.
"Russians don't think in terms of Estonia as a category, and we are minor players right now in this. They only respond to crises that 'fascists' have invented, actually that Russian propaganda has invented. Internal problems [of Russia] are due to foreign enemies. And it has worked to a large degree, and it's pushed Putin's popularity ratings to its highest levels."
Estonia was at a 21 percent negative rating last year. The nation topped the list in 2007, after the Bronze Soldier riots, with 60 percent.
In this year's poll, Belarus (51 percent), China (40), Kazakhstan (37), Armenia (15) and India (13) were the Russians' most favorite countries.