The Internal Security Service (ISS) writes in its yearbook for 2017 that Russia has increasingly been concentrating on young people and also teachers to expand its influence abroad. Several institutions closely associated with the Kremlin have recently increased their efforts to include Estonia's Russian-speaking youth.
Examples are the World Games of Young Compatriots, organized for schoolchildren up to the age of 15, held in Kazan in May 2017, and the Third World Youth Forum of Russian Compatriots, titled “Destiny of Russia: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” in Sofia, Bulgaria in September last year, which targeted Russian-speaking people in the 18–35 age bracket who live outside Russia.
The biggest event for different schools and youth organizations was last year's 19th World Festival of Youth and Students, held in Sochi in October. Young people from Estonia participated in all these events.
Activity in terms of language, culture, and educational competitions, youth camps, and workshops is also on the increase. The events are very attractive, as the organizers often take care of travel and accommodation as well.
Russia working against integration of Russian speakers into Estonian society
On top of its intensified concentration and spending on youth projects, Russian organizations have also been trying to hamper the integration of Russian-speaking youngsters into Estonian society. To that end they are building up a new generation of influencers.
According to the ISS, "the organisers of divisive-policy events and the Russian authorities gather personal data on the participants and those close to them," aiming to establish where exactly they have to invest to push their foreign policy goals this way.
In doing this, the Russian authorities are thinking about the future, as a March 2017 speech in the State Duma of Oleg Malginov, in charge of the Russian foreign ministry’s Department for Relations with Compatriots Abroad, makes rather clear: "Maintaining contacts with these young people of high potential, and supporting their ambitions and plans for success, is without doubt in our interest, as they may soon become influential."
As this is an increasing trend, the ISS writes, there is little sense in "expecting or hoping for the relationship between the two countries to become amicable, or for a reduction in Russian hostile influence in our direction."
Editor: Dario Cavegn