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Narva college director: Russian influence attempts not very successful

Kristina Kallas.
Kristina Kallas. Source: ERR

In its review of 2017 published on Thursday, the Internal Security Service points to Russia increasingly concentrating its propaganda and manipulation efforts on young people. Director of the University of Tartu's Narva College, Kristina Kallas thinks Russia's efforts have not been successful.

Kallas told ERR's "Aktuaalne kaamera" newscast on Thursday that although Russia's attempts at influencing Estonian society are quite visible in Narva, she couldn't say that they have been successful.

"Looking at my students, I see that these attempts haven't been particularly successful," Kallas said. "And my own study two years ago showed that Estonia's Russian-speaking youngsters are looking towards Estonia and Europe rather than to Russia."

Kallas added that of course she couldn't exclude the possibility that there are groups among them that see things differently, but that in her opinion Russia's activities haven't had a broader impact.

That Russian-speaking youth are attending events and camps in Crimea and Moscow doesn't automatically mean that they are taking over a Kremlin-directed mindset, Kallas stressed. Plenty of them likely don't make that connection.

Estonia could do more to make sure that young people of both language groups get to know each other better, and to teach them in the same schools, she added. Instead of blaming Russian-language schools for students' bad performance in some subjects, efforts should be directed towards having Estonian and Russian speakers study in the same schools.

Teachers attending seminars in Russia not in Estonia's interest

Teachers at Russian schools in Estonia attending history and social studies seminars in Russia is not in Estonia's best interest, Kallas said. But even here, a change of attitude towards teaching Estonian and Russian-speaking youngsters would help.

Barring teachers from attending those seminars would likely cause a backlash. Instead of such extreme measures, a softer approach better integrating the country's young Russian and Estonian speakers would likely get better results.

"This would have to start in the schools, where they spend four to five hours a day," Kallas said.

Another thing that helps are activities outside school, she added, which is something that in Narva has worked better and better over the past years. "Sports have had a lot of interest over the last five years, and that has presented our young people with an opportunity to realize themselves. I think that sport is one of the areas where young Russian speakers can integrate very well. Another area is culture, where more cross-cultural events are needed," Kallas said.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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