Tug of tags: Moscow aims to hijack Lithuanian hashtag campaign in spat over Nazi collaborators
The nationalist militias in the Baltic fought against Soviet forces during and after World War II. Following the collapse of the USSR, nationalist governments in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia started reevaluating the role played by the guerrillas, depicting them as freedom fighters and deflecting attention from the atrocities they had committed.
Moscow views this as an attempt to rewrite history and undermine the contribution of the Red Army in defeating Nazism.
The conflict was reignited last week, after NATO published a documentary titled 'Forest Brothers – Fight for the Baltics.' And while the short video was condemned by a number of Russian officials, the foreign ministry has upped the ante and responded with an online educational campaign exposing the crimes of the militias.
In Lithuania alone, these units killed thousands of civilians, including 1,045 children, out of which 52 were toddlers under the age of 2, the Ministry noted in critical Facebook post.
The Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to the Russian social media campaign by publishing a number of infographics accusing Moscow of collaborating with Berlin and partitioning the Baltic States just prior to the launch of Operation Barbarossa, the code name for the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union.
The social media confrontation escalated further Saturday, when Lithuanian TV personality, Andrius Tapinas, initiated a social media campaign asking Lithuanians, Estonians, and Latvians to go online and swamp the Russian Foreign Ministry social media pages by dumping the hashtag “#Kremlinyouwillnotrewriteourhistory” in Russian. Tapinas also asked activists to leave a one-star review for the page.
On Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry made its move in the ongoing social media battle. The goal of the hashtag campaign, it stated on Facebook, is to redact the true nature of “explicit murderers and terrorists,” who butchered civilians, including ethnic Lithuanians, “who just wanted a calm, peaceful life in the USSR.”
The atrocities committed by the 'forest brothers,' the Russian ministry underlined, are well documented, both in archive material and history books, which have been published in Luthiania in the post-Soviet era. The Ministry also lashed out at their Lithuanian counterparts over what it called attempts to distort history.
“All these speculations we attribute to historical fiction,” the ministry said, urging the Lithuanian diplomats to familiarize themselves with the judgment of the Nuremberg Trials.
Moscow also reminded that just two days before the launch of Operation Barbarossa, Alfred Rosenberg, the German theorist and influential ideologue of the German Nazi Party, suggested cleansing the Baltic States of its population.
The ministry also mocked the campaign, saying the hashtag should have read, “Kremlin: You will not rewrite our history.”
“You should pay more attention to US State Department briefings. Remember how [former spokesperson] Jen Psaki said that the Russian foreign ministry hijacks hashtags? This what will happen this time too,” the ministry promised.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova added fire to the spat, saying that Russian diplomats “simply love to hijack” others' hashtags.