Topeltstandardid Eesti Televisiooni partei-algorganisatsioonis aastatel 1968–1988 / Double Standards at the Communist Party Sub-organisation at Eesti Televisioon 1968 –1988
It has been thought that Soviet society was characterised by a phenomenon that only the truth sanctioned by the authorities was talked about in public, even in cases when the real, diametrically opposite truth was actually known. Such dualism and duplicity were also characteristics of Soviet journalism. For example, Peeter Vihalemm and Marju Lauristin (2004) have drawn attention to ambivalence as one of the characteristic features of Soviet Estonian journalism: on the one hand, it was a part of the totalitarian ideology and propaganda system, but on the other hand, it was a bearer of the cultural sphere, cultural identity and opposition. However, according to the Marxist-Leninist canons, journalism was only a means for achieving the political and ideological goals of the Communist Party. Therefore, from the time it was founded, Eesti Televisioon (ETV) (Estonian Television Company) was highly controlled by the party. ETV was granted the status of an ‘ideology institution’ and the party treated TV journalists as ideology workers. Consequently, the requirements for them were high, e.g., they had to have the ability to “evaluate social phenomena from Marxist-Leninist viewpoints” and the skill to defend this ideology and to expose hostile ideologies. Hagi Shein, having researched the history of ETV (2004), has argued that journalists could express themselves more freely on apolitical areas of TV programmes, and although self-censorship was strong, they learned to make use of different situations, to balance on the edge between the allowed and the prohibited, to deceive the censors, and to use different contexts.
The author of this article researched the minutes and records of the party meetings of the Teleradio Committee of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic and ETV to find the double standards of Communists working at ETV. The period under examination started with the year 1968 when events in Czechoslovakia caused the strengthening of controls over the Soviet media system, and ended with the year 1988 after a few years of perestroika and glasnost policies. It would be misleading to think that there were no true Communists at ETV. However, the article concludes that the ETV party sub-organisation was by no means composed of only committed and principled Communists who absolutely obeyed those positioned higher in the party hierarchy. Rather, the Communists tried to do as little party work as was barely necessary. This was the mentality that could have reduced their presentations, discussions, decisions, plans and reports to an empty formality. A party organisation that was internally weak and two-faced could not effectively assure the realisation of expectations and tasks, such as ideological supervision, political educational work or control over carrying out decisions made by party leaders. This, in its turn, created favourable conditions for preserving cultural identity and for opposition. We can conclude that ETV did not justify its status as a Soviet ideological institution, at least not in those categories that the Communist Party required of an organisation that held as important a place in the propaganda system as did ETV.