Disinformation review: Latvian historian debunks myth of 'ungrateful Balts'

Historian Gatis Krumins.
Historian Gatis Krumins. Source: (Youtube screen still)

Soviet propaganda glorified the occupation of the Baltic states as an industrial and economic golden age. This was twisted into the myth of the "ungrateful Baltic states" after the USSR's collapse, a concept enthusiastically perpetuated by Russian state media—and now debunked by Latvian historian Gatis Krūmiņš.

During its occupation of the Baltic states, the Soviet Union’s propaganda told Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians that investment in its people, social needs, and construction were priorities. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, this propaganda myth was twisted into a reason to keep repeating that the “ungrateful Baltic countries” had experienced their golden age under Soviet rule, and that the Soviet Union “tore out a piece of itself and gave it to them”. 

Variations on this theme include saying that the “Estonians, who produced nothing, were fed by the Soviet Union”, or, as could recently be heard on a talk show on Russian state TV, Russia should “hand a bill to Latvia for constructing ports, industry, and economy” (more on these claims in the video below).

The European Union’s East StratCom Task Force, which produces a weekly disinformation review, reported already last month that there were claims that “people in the Baltic states were better off in the Soviet Union compared to nowadays” (a table with detailed claims and original sources can be found here).

Latvian historian Gatis Krūmiņš has recently delivered further evidence against these claims. Krumins reviewed detailed accounting reports of the State Bank of the USSR (Gosbank) from 1946 to 1991. Examining some 45,000 pages, Krūmiņš found that during the period in question the main investments in the Baltic countries went into Soviet military spending, and that the Baltic countries were subsidising other regions of the Soviet Union rather than at the receiving end of investments in their industries.

In the case of the Latvian SSR, Krūmiņš calculated that a total of 24,684 billion rubles of the republic’s budget was spent on the republic itself, while 40,645 billion went into the state budget of the USSR. The situation was similar in the Estonian and Lithuanian SSRs.

Krūmiņš's conclusion: “The spending of all the profit generated in the economy outside the territory of the Baltic states, and the simultaneous disproportionate military expenditure from the revenue generated in the Baltic states largely explains the year-to-year increase in socio-economic underdevelopment in comparison with other developed Western countries; the inhabitants of the Baltic states were able to match these countries in terms of quality of life prior to the Soviet occupation”.

According to Krūmiņš's research, the Soviet Union and its prescribed budget allocations drained the economies of the three countries rather than adding to them, and led to economic underdevelopment compared to the growth experienced by the European candidates among which the three republics were counted before World War II.

Gatis Krūmiņš's study is available online in English. The short documentary below sums up his work.


The European Union’s East StratCom Task Force was set up after the union’s heads of state and government stressed the need to challenge Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns in March 2015. Every Thursday, its Disinformation Review brings news and analysis on the topic and lists the latest cases of news that make for key examples of how pro-Kremlin disinformation finds its way to the international media.

The review focuses on key messages carried by international media that have been identified as providing a partial, distorted, or false view or interpretation, and that are spreading key pro-Kremlin messages.

The original article is available here.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

Source: Disinformation Review

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