Financial Times ja The Economist Eestist 2008–2009



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Tartu Ülikool



Estonia in Financial Times and The Economist in 2008–2009 This master’s thesis analyses the coverage of Estonia in two major international newspapers. The research assignment focused on the construction of Estonia in international media during the years of economic crisis to determine if and how Estonian international success story had transformed. Financial Times and The Economist were selected for this assignment as two quality journalistic periodicals with global audience and focus on the European affairs. One of the main theoretical concepts used is transition society, which marks the process of societal change towards a certain endpoint. In the case of Estonia, transition society covers the structural transformation of different aspects of Estonian society during the shift from a communist/soviet society to a fully operating capitalist democratic western state, which has been thoroughly conceptualised by Lauristin et al (1997). The word western associates with the dimensions of cultural transition – Estonia is culturally a western country, as Huntingon (1999) has described. But in the core of Estonian transition lies the economic dimension, which has been the dominating indicator of Estonian transition processes. Kennedy (2002) has shown how Estonian economic reforms during the 1990-s constructed the Estonian success-story – Estonia was an ideal case of transformation to a free-market capitalist country modelled by international institutions like the World Bank. Ekecrantz’s (2004) analysis of the discursive construction of nation in the media with the example of mapping discourses of Estonia in Swedish media provided a useful research model. Ekecrantz’s research also showed how the Estonia has been normalised in western media through economic relations, while in other domains (e.g. culturally) Estonia has remained the representation of easterness or otherness. The empirical data included 345 articles mentioning Estonia, that were analysed with three methods, providing different levels of analysis. Content analysis showed the main dynamics of the texts; combined analysis (qualitative analysis with quantitative elements) supplied the data about the subjects covered in the texts; and discourse analysis presented the macrostructures in the texts, i.e the dominating logical patterns how Estonia was constructed. Three periods were drawn up from the two-year span of research material. The first period, preceding the outbreak of global financial and economic crisis in September 2008, dominant subject area in articles concerning Estonia was politics. Main events contributing to the coverage included visa row between USA, European Comission, new EU member states like Estonia and old member states; NATO summit in Bucharest, where Ukraine and Georgia were denied Membership Action Plan because of Russian protest (which Estonia condemned); Georgia-Russia armed conflict in August, after which Estonia pushed for a harder reaction and sanctions towards Russia by the EU. The armed conflict in Georgia marked a shift in Estonian security discourse. The danger of real Russian armed aggression reappeared in the Estonian security discourse, which had been “demilitarised” previously. This also brought along NATO contingency planning for the Baltics. In this first period, the problems in Estonian economy (big current account deficit, extensive lending in foreign currency, gap between wage rises and productivity gains) were laid out, but were not emphasized like in the next periods. Second period was marked with the disruption of world economic crisis as Lehman Brothers bank collapsed in USA. Huge instability followed across the globe, the main “marker events” concerning Estonia or giving comparison to Estonia were the collapse of Icelandic economy and the nationalisation of Latvian Parex Bank in autumn 2008. These events comprised the pattern against which Estonian economic outlook was compared. In this period, Estonia transformed into a symbol of crisis-ridden country, suffering alongside Latvia the biggest fall in GDP and increasing unemployment. The discourse of Estonian troubles constructed the “danger from Estonia” or “dangerous Estonia” which basically had two meanings. Firstly, possible devaluation of Estonian currency kroon (due to very large-scale contraction of economy, preceding devaluation in the neighbouring Latvia or the retreat of major investors) would have caused serious damage to Scandinavian finance sector and whole Scandinavian economy, which was heavily exposed to Estonia. Secondly, Estonian devaluation would have caused a wave of collapses or devaluations in the Central and Eastern Europe, as other countries would have needed to regain competitiveness. Estonia was portrayed as a contagious area that could affect others in a negative manner. The end of the second period was placed in June 2009, when a very high international pressure formed concerning the devaluation of Latvian lat and then dropped off. The third period, from June 2009 to the end of the year, was marked with some minor rises in attention paid to Estonia. The majority of coverage dealt with the adaptation of Estonian society to the crisis as the government had chosen the way of “internal devaluation” or severe austerity programme in public finances. Estonia dramatically reduced its public spending over time in a successful manner, which led to positive and astonishing articles. Specific discursive pattern emerged, as Estonia was characterized as “hardened under communist rule”. This pattern was popular in explaining how the government maintained its legitimacy after draconian cuts. Although a certain goal and a bonus was advertised in exchange for this suffering – namely the fulfilling of Maastricht criteria and joining the eurozone – the Estonian society stayed stabilised and consolidated because it had a collective experience of societal change during the collapse of Soviet Union and transition in 1990-ies. This gave a basis of comparison for suffering and made this crisis much easier to bare, the two papers suggested. As a conclusion, the research showed that Financial Times as well as The Economist establish Estonia as an implicit part of Europe. It is important to devote energy and attention to mediating news about Estonia. The years of economic crisis and the exhaustion of economic model that fuelled growth in Estonia marked an important shift in the way Estonia was portrayed internationally. While the economic logic had underpinned the Estonian success story during the transition in the 1990-ies, the same logic now created the picture of dangerous and contagious Estonia. Two major international publications consider Estonia as a nation, whose problems are not isolated but matter beyond borders. This means, that the challenge in finding a sustainable model for Estonia’s future development is not only a question for the country itself, but also a detail in the development of Europe.


magistritööd, ajakirjandus, välisajakirjandus, majandusajakirjandus, majandus, majanduskriisid, majanduslangus, üleminekuühiskond, Eesti