Since regaining independence in 1991 Estonia has become the reform star of the post-communist world. Its booming economy, law-based state and robust democracy are all the more impressive given their starting point: a country struggling with the huge forced migration of the Soviet era. The collapse of the evil empire left Estonia with hundreds of thousands of resentful, stranded ex-colonists, citizens of a country that no longer existed.
Some countries might have deported them. That was the remedy adopted in much of eastern Europe after the second world war. Germans and Hungarians—regardless of their citizenship or politics—were sent “home” in conditions of great brutality.
Instead, Estonia, like Latvia next door, decided to give these uninvited guests a free choice. They could go back to Russia. They could stay but adopt Russian citizenship. They could take local citizenship (assuming they were prepared to learn the language). Or they could stay on as non-citizens, able to work but not to vote.
I am very pleased to hear Edward Lucas, and by Mr. Lucas I also mean The Economist, smack down the Amnesty Report. I don't think the report is as bad it seems from the title, but I do get a little sick of the sensitivity with which some people approach the topic - yearning not to offend. It's nice to see someone call a spade a spade for a change. I personally know a German that was sent "home" from Poland to West Germany after World War II, so the comparison is not lost on me.
These are real things. We live in a real world of living history. Congrats to Edward Lucas for giving us a quick, in-your-face history lesson in response to a report from an NGO that really should be working on something more important. Is there room for improvement in Estonia? Always. Is it worth Amnesty's time while it works on reports about Sudan and Afghanistan? I am not so sure about that.