For example, Amnesty makes it clear that it supports the scheduled school reforms, but it points out areas where the Estonian government should focus to end discrimination, as the NGO deems it. For example, Amnesty recommends:
The Estonian authorities to monitor levels of drop-out rates in secondary schools where Russian is replaced by Estonian as the language of teaching; to provide more support for teachers who will be required to replace Russian with Estonian as their language of teaching; to provide additional and adequate resources (including necessary psychological and learning supports) for all students who are required to replace Russian with Estonian as their learning language to successfully manage this transition.
Amnesty also takes a hard look at Ida-Virumaa:
In many parts of Estonia, notably the north-eastern region of Ida-Virumaa, Estonian is not spoken by the majority of those residing in the region. This means that Estonian language skills are de facto not necessarily needed in all professions. The result is that although many persons belonging to the Russian-speaking linguistic minority would be able to carry out several functions in the labour market without endangering public safety or order, they find themselves unemployed with no or limited realistic opportunities to gain legal employment in the formal sector as they do not have the appropriate Estonian language certificate.
I advise anyone who is interested to read this report. My first reaction is "easier said than done" but when you have Amnesty International essentially agreeing with Estonia's integration policies - agreeing with its unitary language policy in the public sphere, I can't say there is much to complain about. Can Estonia's integration policies be steamlined or made more effective? Of course they can.
I think Estonians are still very frightened by the Russian language. They feel as if there is a seven-ton linguistic elephant hovering over their small land at all times. But the reality is that *physically* most of Estonia is populated by Estonians that speak the Estonian language. And it takes two and a half hours by bus to get to the overwhelmingly Russian-speaking portion of Estonia in Narva and Sillamäe.
There are neighborhoods in Tallinn where people only speak Russian - but there are neighborhoods in New York and London also where people only speak Russian too. In some ways you could consider these minorities - the Narva minority versus the Tallinn minority - to be in very different situations. The Tallinners are undergoing a pretty stereotypical "immigrant experience." Like Italians in New York's Little Italy of the 1900s, they live in communal neighborhoods, preserving their culture, but using the language of the majority - in that case English, in this case Estonian - to interact in the private and public spheres.
In Narva, you have much more of a "national minority" situation. This is where you have an ethnically different community residing at some distance from the national ethnic majority. The Russian Estonians of Narva, unlike those of Tallinn, therefore find themselves not unlike the Swedes of the Aaland Islands, or the Sami of Finnmark, or the Bretons of France (bear with my comparisons here, for my sake). They are more of a national minority or cultural isolate than an immigrant community.
Now, I've heard some people tell me that Russian is a "stronger" language. That if it isn't kept in check it will overtake Estonian - turning Estonia into the next Ingria or Karelia - Finnic lands that have been colonized by Slavs. This is a deep-seated, territorial fear. I respect it.
Yet even when 25 percent of the residents of Estonia speak Russian as their native tongue, the language somehow hasn't caught on. In fact it's the Russian teenagers in Tallinn that correct MY bad Estonian when I attempt to order something or pay for tickets. And the younger generation of ethnic Estonians - those younger than 25, even in Tallinn, barely speak Russian at all.
Amnesty International is an NGO. It does not know all and does not command the moral respect of a God. However, they have invested time into preparing this report, and I am not afraid to reconsider some of the questions that exist regarding Estonia's minority policies.
Your thoughts are always welcome.