Russia accused of literally toying with ex-Soviet neighbour

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Distressed Lithuanian shoppers are asking questions about a game that surfaced in the market. The board game includes four military figurines and a peculiar cat that children are meant to paint as they play at military occupation. The Russian-made game is named ‘Polite People’, a not-so-subtle reference to the so-called ‘polite’ Russian soldiers who appeared in Crimea shortly before it was annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

The toy has been a cause for anxiety across the Baltic country as many see it as political aggression from Moscow. The government in Vilnius is mulling enacting laws that ban products that “distort Lithuanian history” and a debate in parliament is expected to take place in mid-June.

“Russia has been using ‘soft power’ for a long time to target people’s minds, and in this case toys are the means of shaping people’s point of view,” Lithuanian MP Rasa Juknevičienė told Politico.

The proposed law, however, has created a controversy with critics arguing that such move would be nothing short than censorship. Among them is writer Rūta Vanagaitė who in January published a book challenging the view that Lithuanians were passive bystanders in the Nazi decimation of Jews during World War II. The Lithuanian narrative is that only a handful of rogues were involved in the crimes.

To Vanagaitė, the planned change in consumer law would also limit the distribution of her work since it clashes with the authoritative historical record. The publication, ‘Our People’, was denounced by many in her country, including the country’s first post-Soviet head of state, Vytautas Landsbergis, who wrote a scathing op-ed against the writer saying Vanagaitė should go into the forest, find a tree and pray for her sins.

Dispatch based on report on Politico

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