Russian schools in Estonia to begin switch to Estonian language in 2007
TALLINN. March 9 (Interfax) - Estonia's Russian-language schools
will start switching to instruction in Estonian language from September
1, 2007, Science and Education Minister Mailis Reps told a news conference.
"Sixty percent of all subjects will be taught in the Estonian language," the minister said.
"First come the subjects that are intended to broaden schoolchildren's language skills: the Estonian language and literature, social sciences, the history of arts, geography and history," she said.
Reps also aid that the switch will be gradual - one subject each year. But the reform could proceed faster depending on the schools'readiness and the availability of additional funding, the minister added.
The language issue is a very interesting one, because, depending on which historical view you take, the solution to Estonia's linguistic dilemma can be found in different approaches.
In one world view, perhaps the view of the Russian government, the Estonian state did exist between 1918 and 1940, but the state that came into existence in 1991 is not the continuation of an occupied country, but a brand new one that didn't exist before. Therefore, no matter if you'd been living in Estonia for 2,000 years or 2 years, you were an "Estonian." Hence the current set-up, where immigrants who came to Estonia following the invasion must pass tests to qualify for citizenship in the republic violates the rights of a "national minority." That is, the 30 percent of the country that arrived during the Soviet period are now indigenous to their country.
The second world view, embraced by the Estonian republic, is that the current republic and the older republic are one in the same, and that the 30 percent of the country that arrived to the Estonian SSR from 1940 to 1991 are not indigenous, or a traditional minority, but are actually immigrants - the equivalent of Somalis in Denmark, Turks in Germany, or Mexicans in the US.
The Estonian government therefore plans to integrate the immigrant population of Estonia via creating 100 percent fluency in the majority tongue, Estonian. The rationale is that Estonian is not so much an ethnic group, as a linguistic group. Indeed, many Estonians have roots in Finland, Sweden, Russia, Germany, and Poland.
Just look at their names. The hero of the Liberation War was named Jaan Kuperjanov. One of Estonia's most popular writers is named Jaan Kaplinksi. Do these strike you as Finnic-derived surnames?
And if the residents of Estonia are to be treated by the Estonian state as Estonians, and not "Russian compatriots" as they are called in the Kremlin, then the second policy makes sense. There are many Estonians that probably disagree with that policy. But it cannot be argued that the naturalization policies aren't working. In 1991, some 40 percent of the population had no citizenship. Today it's less than 10 percent.
Those are pretty significant numbers. But they aren't enough to assuage the big nextdoor neighbor. Regardless of facts, it's great ammunition for the human rights gun. And it's a nice chip to lay down on the bargaining table in discussions with the EU. Sometimes I wonder if, in about 6 or 7 years when the number of non-citizens has dwindled to 2 or 3 or 4 percent, if it will still be an issue. Chances are, unless there are some far reaching changes in the Russian government (or Estonian government) it will be.
It is today. RIA Novosti put out the following hit piece.
Some key segments:
MOSCOW, March 9 (RIA Novosti) - No progress has been made in improving the rights of ethnic Russians living in Latvia and Estonia, a Foreign Ministry official said Thursday.
Compulsory knowledge of the national language is legally enforced not only by the state, but by the private sector, which amounts to a prohibition to jobs. The system of schooling for children of ethnic minority families is being dismantled, and Russian schools are being closed.
Estonia has held parades involving former Nazi Waffen-SS officers, while the Latvian Cabinet has approved tax law amendments granting bigger tax breaks to surviving members of the Forest Brothers guerilla movement, which collaborated with the Nazi regime during World War II.
Can you believe there are - somewhere in Russia - kids (and it has to be kids) that are paid to type this shit up? I feel sorry for them. The first sentence is demonstrably false. The second part is a no-brainer. If you live in a country where the overwhelming majority of the people speak one language, you are going to need to know that language to work a service job. You wouldn't hire someone right off the boat to be a waiter in New York without some command of the English language would you? No, that person would have to work a low-skills, labor intensive job. That's just how it works. How can reality be seen as discrimination? Do you think I could get a high paying job here in New York if I only spoke Polish or Russian or Portuguese? No. And even from the perspective of the national minority, I was raised speaking only Gaelic in the West Highlands of Scotland and I wanted a job in Edinburgh - do you think I could pass muster with limited knowledge of English. Or even in Russia's home territory, can you get a good paying job in Moscow speaking only Votyak or Chechen? Didn't think so.
The last section is of course great. This shows that they still cling to the Soviet interpretation of history even while they deny being responsible for the crimes of the communists. Basically, they are not sorry that they killed your grandparents, and you should be sorry for celebrating the lives of the people that tried to stop them from doing so. In other words, they did your country a great service by murdering and deporting your relatives. You should be grateful for the kind way in which the NKVD took care of your family. Does that make sense to you? No, I didn't think so.
Other than in China, I don't think you can get things more backward than that. That's why I started this blog. Because somewhere out there needs to know that the hit sheets put out by RIA Novosti and Interfax and Itar Tass are 90 percent jama.