On August 13, 2019, Sputnik Georgia released a video about alleged population decline in three Baltic states – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. According to the video, unemployment prompts young people to leave the Baltic states, while the state-funded programs on attraction of migrants actually do not work. The video also notes that the UN has already put Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia on the list of countries, which may become depopulated in coming decades.
Lie N1: According to the UN, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia may become depopulated in coming decades.
Fact N1: The UN makes no forecasts about the countries, which may become depopulated in coming decades.
The UN reports do not include any list of endangered countries. According to the UN data booklet on world population prospects, the population of the Baltic states will decline in 2050 and 2100, but they are far from “extinction.” The tendency of population decline has been observed in Eastern Europe, as well as in other parts of the world.
According to the UN forecasts, the population of Estonia will decline from 1,310,000 in 2017 to 891,000 in 2100. Moreover, 1,904,000 and 1,149,000 people are expected to live in Lithuania and Latvia, respectively, in 2100.
Lie N2: Unemployment prompts young people to leave the Baltic states.
Fact N2: The unemployment rate decreased in the Baltic states in 2005-2018.
According to Eurostat data, the unemployment rate, as well as the youth unemployment rate decreased in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in 2005-2018. For example, unemployment rate in Lithuania among young people aged 15-24 decreased from 15.8% to 11.1%. As for Estonia and Latvia, the unemployment rates in the same age group decreased by 3.3% and 2.9%, respectively. Considering these statistical data, it can be said that unemployment is not the cause of youth migration. Emigration has been caused by a global “brain drain” tendency typical for the Baltic states, as well as for Eastern European countries. According to the report released by the European Committee of the Regions, “brain drain” in the region is largely driven by Four Freedoms of the European Union (free movement of people, services, goods and capital) and growing competition. In 2017, there were almost 17 million EU28 movers, of which about one-third (32%) were in the 15-34 age bracket. The majority of EU28 movers head towards Germany and the UK, which are also the two top destinations for younger (15-34) European movers.
Unemployment rate by age in Lithuania
Unemployment rate by age in Estonia
Unemployment rate by age in Latvia
After providing manipulative statistical data, Sputnik video ends with two conspiratorial questions. What will be the fate of the depopulated territory? Sputnik promotes a conspiracy theory and offers two versions – NATO military bases may be deployed on the depopulated territories of the Baltic states or it may become a shelter for Asian and African migrants.
For Sputnik, the Baltic states are not the only nations put on “the list of endangered countries.” In 2016, Sputnik spread the same disinformation regarding Georgia that was later reposted by Georgian online editions. The Myth Detector wrote about this myth in its earlier publication.
Exaggeration and generalization: Causes a groundless alarm, generalizing a particular occasion / information to dramatize events.
Conspiracy Theories: platforms exert huge influence on target audience through using conspiracies and pseudo-science. Similar methods promote sowing fear and doubts among the population. Scientific and expert opinions, as well as authentic scientific papers are totally neglected. It is difficult to break through the circle of conspiracies, because the propagandists depict the facts debunking conspiracies as yet another “proof” of conspiracy.
Prepared by Zhanara Kangtarbay
Intern at Myth Detector