Intelligence Yearbook Warns of Russian Influence in Language Transition Issue
Introducing its annual report at a press conference on Thursday, the national security agency again addressed the issue of Russian political meddling, this time through the influence of a Tallinn deputy mayor.
Since 2007 Estonia has developed a plan for its Russian-language schools to switch to Estonian-language curriculum. A major part of that policy became effective at the beginning of the current school year, when Russian-language high schools started the transition to 60 percent.
The policy initially instigated protest among teachers and parents, but this soon alleviated, according to KAPO. The agency is now concerned with the efforts of Deputy Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart, who has allegedly adopted hidden tactics in addition to his public opposition.
Despite the allegedly lukewarm interest of teachers and parents, the Security Police said Kõlvart organized several failed protests in October, November and December, which were smeared by the presence of the Kremlin-minded extremist group Night Watch.
Kõlvart has, nevertheless, received considerable coverage from the city government's newspaper Pealinn and the Russian TV channel PBK.
While bringing Kõlvart and several other elected officials to the forefront of the media limelight, KAPO said he has done nothing illegal.
“Currently, Kõlvart has clearly acted in accordance with constitutional rights and freedoms, and has not crossed the line,” said Raivo Aeg, director of the Security Police, at the press conference on Thursday.
Nevertheless, the agency felt it necessary to include photos in its yearbook of an obscure meeting, in which Kõlvart handed a bundle of Estonian grade school history books to a Russian Embassy diplomat, Juri Tsvetkov. The two train in martial arts together.
The report said Kõlvart's private contacts with the Russian Embassy are alarming. “On his [political level] there could be reason [for a relationship] with the embassies of other countries, but we have not noticed such significant activity by Mr. Kõlvart with the representatives of the embassies of any other countries,” said Aeg.
But the agency regards Kõlvart's activities as part of a larger issue - which it termed the preservation of Soviet Russification.
Since the beginning of 2012, the Russian Federation operates a national fund established for the defense and support of “compatriots” living abroad. According to the report, seeking official status for the Russian language in foreign countries has become a priority for the Russian Federation.
“Russia's aim is not to maintain cultural links with these people nor invite them to return to Russia. Rather its goal is to influence the sovereign decisions of other countries and to divert attention away from its own problems through the manipulation of these groups,” the report finds.
KAPO also blamed the Russian Embassy in Estonia of supporting the activity, as well as the Legal Information Center for Human Rights, which allegedly pressured Russian-language schools in Tallinn to fight the curriculum transition last September.
“Education is an emotional issue that encompasses a lot of people, children and parents. It is very easy to manipulate people's emotions here. This has been used quite masterfully,” said Aeg.