Kommunistliku partei propagandastrateegiad ja “kodanliku televisiooni neutraliseerimine” Eesti NSV-s 1968–1988 [Abstract: Propaganda strategies of the Communist Party and the “neutralization of bourgeois television” in the Estonian SSR from 1968–1988]


  • Marek Miil




Keywords: Soviet Union, Cold War, Estonian SSR, Finnish Television, Estonian Television, propaganda, media history, Communist Party, psychological warfare, ideological warfare. Immediately after Germany capitulated to the Allies in 1945, a new confrontation was born in international politics – the opposition between the United States of America and the Soviet Union, generally known as the Cold War. Relations between the two superpowers and their satellite countries saw highly tense periods threatening to culminate in a nuclear war, alternating with more relaxed times when the opposing parties wished to revise their overly intense attitudes for the sake of avoiding such a nuclear conflict. Although the policy of coexistence sometimes improved the relations between those two blocks, neither of them was willing to back off from their ideological positions. Soviet propaganda theorists believed that the ideological war would be won by the side having the most effective propaganda, and mass media was considered to be the most important weapon of that war. One of the battles of the propaganda war was held in a province of the Soviet Union on the shore of the Baltic Sea – the Estonian SSR – as Finnish television appeared to be a developing “center of bourgeois propaganda” directly across the border of that Soviet Republic, extending its reception area more and more. Finnish TV was viewable in the Estonian SSR beginning at the end of the 1960s and offered alternative, independent information with a very different selection and commentary compared to the Soviet Union’s own TV and radio programmes. Moreover, Finnish TV broadcast images of daily life in the West, which inevitably showed the overall welfare and abundance of goods in stores. This was cardinally different from what Soviet propaganda was conveying: capitalism being near collapse and socialist economy being highly progressive. This paper uses mainly archive materials to research the decisions made by the Communist Party to direct the battle against Finnish TV in the framework of the propaganda war. The researched period starts with the year 1968, when the formerly friendly cooperation between Estonian TV and Finnish TV was interrupted because Finnish TV had commented on the events in Czechoslovakia in a manner unacceptable to the Communist Party. The researched period ends with the year 1988, when the Communist Party officially called an end to the battle against Finnish TV. The results of the research highlight the factors that influenced the development of Soviet Estonian journalism, place those factors in the context of the Communist Party’s campaign against “bourgeois television”, and expand on what we know of the methods used by the totalitarian regime to mobilize journalism for war. The paper also provides an overview of the measures employed by Soviet propaganda to increase its effect and decrease that of the enemy’s: careful personnel selection for ideology agencies and improvement of training for ideology employees, coordination of collaboration between various ideology agencies, systematic monitoring of the enemy’s media and undermining its authority in the eyes of Soviet citizens, surveying the Soviet population as a target audience, technological attempts to stop Finnish TV’s signal from spreading into the Estonian SSR, improving the quality and content of Soviet television to compete with Finnish TV programs. The decisions and processes described in the paper indicate that new elements of the Soviet order of governing and society were constantly being implemented in the Estonian SSR, thus it can be said that that the ideological war had a significant role in Sovietizing the Republic. From 1968–1988 the Communist Party applied classical countermeasures of a propaganda war, for example attempting to retain control of information. In modern military terms, the measures taken against “bourgeois television” at the time can be called a party-led “psychological defense” with the purpose of keeping its citizens from being influenced by the information or propaganda of the enemy’s media channels. The large scale and complexity of the propaganda war are evidenced by the volume of secret instructions issued in the course of managing the war, and the volume of decisions, speeches, interviews, presentations, etc. published in the mass media. Ultimately, all the so-called complex measures in the media, cultural and educational institutions and other organizations and fields were intended to ensure the continuing power of the Communist Party and the governing order of the Soviet Union. Marek Miil (b. 1976) is a Ph.D. student at the Institute of Journalism and Communication, University of Tartu.


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