neljapäev, veebruar 15, 2007

Resolving the Controversial

Is it just me, or does Prime Minister Andrus Ansip often get something of a crazy twinkle in his eyes? Anyway, it now appears that we are in the final phases of the Pronks blues. It's almost over. President Ilves says the law to remove the monument is unconstitutional. Very shortly the pet issue of this blog will be resolved.

Meanwhile, some interesting new laws were passed in the Riigikogu with hardly any mention.

The amendments clarify the rights of minority groups to communicate with state and local institutions in their language in areas where the minority made up at least half of permanent residents. They also allow for the minority language to be used on public signs, in announcements and advertisements, provided Estonian text stands first.

We've been discussing, primarily with Narvalane, the incompatibility of Estonia's minority policies in places like Narva, where Estonians are about 5 percent of the population.

Under the new rules adopted, Russian will be a de facto second language in Ida Virumaa county and all its cities, and will affect the following rural municipalities in Estonia: Kallaste, Mustvee, Kasepää, Vaivara, Aseri, Alejõe, Vaselemma, and Keila rural municipality. Several districts in Tallinn, like Lasnamäe and Põhja-Tallinn will similarly be affected, although Tallinn City will not. Two other Harjumaa cities that this law will affect are Paldiski and Maardu. And that's about it.

Of the 345,000 ethnic Russians in Estonia today, approximately 60 percent live in four muncipalities - Lasnamäe, Põhja-Tallinn, Kõhtla-Jarve, and Narva. Hopefully these laws make the integration process a little easier and make their lives easier too.

18 kommentaari:

Andres Sehr ütles ...

Do you really think that the Proksmees issue will be resolved soon? Seeing as it won't be moved now that the law was struck down it will remain a lightning rod for anyone (on either side of the debate) who wants to stir things up. Unfortunately I see this dragging on for a little while still.

Andres ütles ...

Uhm.. but minority groups communicate with state and local institutions in their own language even now. Russian is used on street name signs etc, announcements and advertisements are available in Russian too. I don't see what this law changes? Maybe it just smoothens some legal edges?

Giustino ütles ...

Uhm.. but minority groups communicate with state and local institutions in their own language even now. Russian is used on street name signs etc, announcements and advertisements are available in Russian too. I don't see what this law changes? Maybe it just smoothens some legal edges?

Yep. That's the thing. Estonia gets in NGO hot water because of what its laws say. Obviously, having dealt with the kind of people who don't care to speak Estonian, even though they live in Estonia, the language inspectorate isn't exactly breaking down everyone's door. But for those, like N-lane, who say that Estonia officially discriminates by, say, banning use of foreign languages in conversations with the authorities, people can point to the law and say, no, it doesn't.

a message from alternate reality ütles ...

I am watching Fox News O'Reilly Factor right now - guess what is the most important issue in USA right now? I hear you guessing ... Iraq War? Trade deficit? Health care? Presidential elections?

Nooooooo.

It's the fate of Anna Nicole's body!!!!

Anonüümne ütles ...

she deserves a mausoleum imho

Puu ütles ...

Maybe Anna Nicole's body can be cast in bronze and set up in Tallinn as a companion piece to the Frank Zappa memorial in Lithuania is it?
People could remember casualties to over aggressive commidification of people.
Maybe the Pronks man and Anna Nicole's cast bronze body could go out and adopt some Russian Estonian and Ethoipian kids.
It would be world peace.

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

Whilst Narva has very few Estonians -- some of the other areas this applies to do have some. How's their linguistic environment, in reality? Though specifics can sometimes be exactly what they are supposed to be, you may find that you are creating a Russian-speaking ghetto and designating these areas as such.

Anonüümne ütles ...

you may find that you are creating a Russian-speaking ghetto and designating these areas as such.
I agree. Atleast you wlll now have an indication when you are entering the Russian-speaking ghetto in some some suburbs of Tallinn, the street signs will be in cyrillic.

Must be silly season in the riigikogu, to pass this law and also that law on monuments with that unnessecary amendment that forces the president to veto it, and thereby displaying disunity in the Estonian body politic to the whole world. Well done.

Giustino ütles ...

I agree. Atleast you wlll now have an indication when you are entering the Russian-speaking ghetto in some some suburbs of Tallinn, the street signs will be in cyrillic.

You probably already noticed because people were all speaking a strange language and they ignored you when they spoke to them in Estonian.

The remedy? Just keep speaking to them in Estonian. That's what I do in New York when people speak to me in Spanish. I just keep answering back in English. Eventually - it may take a long time - but eventually, they'll cave. It's a test of will power.

Anyway, signs and menus and advertisements don't matter. It's school that matters. School reform should be the focus in Estonia right now. They took thousands of minorities in New York in the 1920s that spoke Italian or Polish or Turkish, and, by virtue of the school system, all their kids cameout speaking English.

They could have just retreated into their own little ghettos. It could happen today - the Dominicans in the Bronx, the Koreans in Flushing, the Russians in Brighton Beach. But once they go through the school system, all are made equal communicators in the majority language.


Must be silly season in the riigikogu, to pass this law and also that law on monuments with that unnessecary amendment that forces the president to veto it, and thereby displaying disunity in the Estonian body politic to the whole world. Well done.

The Riigikogu is entirely dysfunctional ever since Reform and Res Publica had their little sacking contest in 2004 and 2005 and the government fell because Juhan Parts was too principled to kill Ken-Marti Vaher's anti-corruption program.

Now you have a situation where the political minority, IRL, has the most seats and drives the agenda, while the coalition essentially does nothing.

Let's all hope for a genuine colaition government in a few weeks.

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

Anyway, signs and menus and advertisements don't matter. It's school that matters. School reform should be the focus in Estonia right now. They took thousands of minorities in New York in the 1920s that spoke Italian or Polish or Turkish, and, by virtue of the school system, all their kids cameout speaking English.Anyway, signs and menus and advertisements don't matter. It's school that matters. School reform should be the focus in Estonia right now. They took thousands of minorities in New York in the 1920s that spoke Italian or Polish or Turkish, and, by virtue of the school system, all their kids cameout speaking English.

Please forgive me -- but I totally disagree with you, Giustino.

I came to live in Daugavpils, "the Narva of Latvia," fifteen years ago (it's not really "the Narva of Latvia," of course -- it's a much larger city that's much more multilingual and multicultural than Narva, historically, and there are many more Latvians and Lettophones here by comparison... nonetheless, this is considered the Russian-speaking pit, and in some ways I suppose it is).

There is no comparison whatsoever between New York in the 1920s or whenever and Narva or Daugavpils. English is a major language. Russian is a major language. Estonian and Latvian are minor languages. Estonia and Latvia were German colonies that became parts of the Russian Empire, achieved a brief independence, were occupied and colonized anew, and are now independent again. These shifts affect what's called "the language of prestige." One would learn much more about language politics in the Baltics by looking at the Navajo, not to mention Catalonia, than one would by looking at English in America, Puerto Rico included.

Language is... language is a lot of things. It is personal, it is a mother tongue, it is a means of communication, it is an incantation, it forms a linguistic environment, etc. I haven't yet been to Narva, but I can assure you that Daugavpils is Dvinsk, pretty much -- the lingua franca is Russian, and if you turn on cable or visit a magazine stand or a bookshop it is... well, let me be generous, nine-tenths Russian. There is nothing wrong with that ipso facto. That's how language works. Most people here are Russophones, even if the number of Lettophones has doubled. The Russian world is a lot bigger than the Estonian or Latvian world and always will be -- it is much richer, it offers much more material.

School reform is vital, as you say. There are a couple of Russian schools here that graduate a few students who score better in Latvian than Latvians here, in fact. Terrific! The thing is, though, that you need to use a language for a language to live. I know ethnic Latvians who lost their Latvian down here.

Signs matter an awful lot. Before the language law here was liberalized, everything was in Latvian. Then bilingual signs were permitted. Well, lo and behold -- the signs the babushki draw in my local market are in Russian only now. Personally, I have no problem with said babushki. But there goes the linguistic environment, and that's how it usually goes. In fact, that's how it went.

The United States had never had an official (or even a state!) language until last year's fuzzy legislation -- that wasn't an accident. The US is a melting pot set upon stolen land, as I'm sure you know. The heat below the pot is what, exactly?

This is Europe -- "unity in diversity" and all that jazz. Irish is becoming an official language in Brussels, and Latvia and Estonia try to save the practically extinct Livs. You can speak Russian from here to Alaska, and everybody is learning English. But we have these tiny nation-states that can't even implement the laws Québec does, regulating language in the workplace (note that Québec is not sovereign, that French is a major language, that the demographics there look a lot better, etc.).

Advertisements matter an awful lot. When I see the streetcars recently emblazoned with Cyrillic ads -- I cringe even though there's Latvian there, too. And hey, I'm pretty liberal. The thing is that we are talking about public space, and everybody here had an extremely bitter experience with faux bilingualism. Upon the restoration of independence, maybe one in five Russophones knew Latvian. In Estonia, with your Fenno-Ugric complexities, that figure was even lower. So what's it like to be an Estonian in Narva today?

martin ütles ...

What Peteris said is absolutely correct. To think that the Estonian language has any level of parity with a language of 140 million speakers with its vast print and electronic resources, such that the country can allow public signage in Russian, are really kidding themselves.

This is a cultural issue, language is a part of the culture. The constitution states that the Estonian culture is to be preserved throughout the ages. I don't see that this law helps do that. I sure hope the next Riigikogu repeals these amendments.

andres o ütles ...

I voted today. My vote was cast in electoral district #6 (Valimisjaoskond nr 6 Rakvere.) My father was born in Rakvere. I still don't understand. Does it matter which electoral district you cast your vote in? Does parliamentary election hinge upon which election district you vote in, or is parliament simply determined by the total votes cast as per popular vote of the entire nation?

Giustino ütles ...

Pēteris Cedriņš:

I apologize for simplistic American metaphors. I am from there, so it is my first point of reference.

Here are some of my basic thoughts about language in Estonia.

1. Estonia is mostly made up of Estonians, both demographically and geographically. Estonians are today 69 percent of the population, and they are more than 80 percent of the population in 13 of Estonia's 15 counties.

That means that Russians in Viljandi and Tartu and Põlva (yes, there are several hundred there) live in a unlingual environment. My wife is from Viljandimaa. She has a childhood friend that was from a Ukrainian family, but to you and I, she is an Estonian. She's married to an Estonian, she speaks to her child in Estonian.

2. The true Russian Estonian population is composed of two geographic islands. One is the Tallinn group, the other is the ida Virumaa group.

Because of Tallinn's economic needs, the Tallinn Russian Estonians, or at least the younger ones,must learn Estonian to compete in the local job market. Want to work at the post office? At a good restaurant? You've got to learn Estonian. That's because Estonians are the majority in Tallinn. By ignoring that language, as a businessperson, you write off more than half of your customers.

As for the Ida Virumaa group, they are a floating island of Russia in Estonia. It should be mentioned that Narva is pretty far away from Tallinn and it is right on the border with Russia. I wonder of Turku is closer to Tallinn than Narva. Anyone want to do the math?

Anyway, it's going to take more than language laws on signage to reach them. It's going to take the lure of the Estonian economy and the school system to do that. Pass all the laws you want, the language in Narva will still be Russian until some major demographic changes occur.

3. Generational changes are in the works. Russophones in Estonia have gotten a free pass since independence because of widespread knowledge of Russian from Estonians. Estonians are more than happy to drop their language and switch for the sake of efficiency, because Estonians value efficiency and getting things done above all else (Nordic bastards).

That's changing because the post indpendence youth generation doesn't speak Russian. For my 18-year-old brother in law, Russian might as well be Portuguese. And it might as well be Swahili for my eight-year-old niece. They don't know it because they don't need to know it and because there is no Soviet school system to teach it to them.

As the post-independence generation ages, the linguistic "free pass" for Russian-speakers will go away.
They won't be able to get by with Russian as much anymore, and so there will be a much greater force in Estonia creating a broader language environment.

Those are my thoughts. Now, back to hard work and cold efficiency. ;)

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

Thank you for the reply, Giustino. Those are good points, and I realize that Estonia is considerably different demographically from Latvia because of the geographical concentration of Russophones. Still, the ghetto issue remains -- perhaps an even greater danger in Estonia than in Latvia, for that reason and because of the difficulty of learning Estonian.

Education is certainly the primary means to a cure, but you cannot change demographics to dilute the numbers deliberately. The Russophones have a right to education in Russian, and the Estonians who live in majority Russophone areas have rights, too.

In my view, language laws are necessary. It's quite true that they don't solve everything and many resent them, but they've had a tremendous effect here (and elsewhere -- e.g., in Québec; in Belgium, where the country is divided along geographical lines linguistically, Flemish has "lost" in Brussels, which is ostensibly bilingual).

People resent being linguistically oppressed, too, and people live in neighborhoods and towns and specific rural areas, not "at a national level" most of the time. Daugavpils serves as a regional center, too -- people from the countryside (which is much more Latvian than the city) come here for everything from schooling to shopping to wading through red tape.

The visual environment is often regulated -- São Paulo has banned almost all advertising, period, even from the sides of taxis and public transport. I'd be delighted if we followed suit.

Meanwhile, children in the streetcars here point to the signs and learn Latvian. Considering the fact that Russian is overwhelming here, signs and menus and advertisements are among the few things that remind people that they aren't in Russia. A lot of people from the more "Latvian" parts of town don't like this place, and that discourages change here -- it turns off Lettophone investors, tourists, potential students, etc. I even know a couple of people who wouldn't raise their children here. I have nothing against Russians and other Russophones maintaining their language and culture here -- but it dominates automatically, more like English rather than the immigrants' tongues in New York. It makes it difficult for those Russophones who do try to integrate to do so.

Québec has had stringent language legislation for a long time, and they've transformed the province. Even so, plenty of people still live in their own worlds (e.g., most Anglophones don't ever read the French-language press). Making it easier for Russophones in the few realms that we do regulate does nothing but preserve the tremendous divide in our societies, in my opinion.

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

Erratum -- should have been "people from the more Latvian parts of the country," not "of the town."

martin ütles ...

Québec has had stringent language legislation for a long time, and they've transformed the province. Even so, plenty of people still live in their own worlds (e.g., most Anglophones don't ever read the French-language press). Making it easier for Russophones in the few realms that we do regulate does nothing but preserve the tremendous divide in our societies, in my opinion.
Fully agree. French is a major world language, however Quebec has to implement stringent language laws to preserve and protect it. What hope would a tiny language like Estonian have, if it atleast similar laws are not implemented?

plasma-jack ütles ...

Does it matter which electoral district you cast your vote in? Does parliamentary election hinge upon which election district you vote in, or is parliament simply determined by the total votes cast as per popular vote of the entire nation?

Dunno how good your Estonian is, but you'll get the idea if you know that "8 mandaati" means eight seats in Riigikogu and "valimisringkond" means electoral district. You scored 6. But the whole system is very complicated so I'm not able yet to explain how are they calculating this, must check it out. Anyway:

Riigikogu valimise seaduse § 7 lõike 1 alusel Vabariigi Valimiskomisjon otsustas:

Jaotada mandaadid Riigikogu 2007. aasta 4. märtsi valimisteks valimisringkondade vahel järgmiselt:

valimisringkond nr 1 - 8 mandaati;
valimisringkond nr 2 - 11 mandaati;
valimisringkond nr 3 - 8 mandaati;
valimisringkond nr 4 - 13 mandaati;
valimisringkond nr 5 - 7 mandaati;
valimisringkond nr 6 - 6 mandaati;
valimisringkond nr 7 - 8 mandaati;
valimisringkond nr 8 - 8 mandaati;
valimisringkond nr 9 - 7 mandaati;
valimisringkond nr 10 - 8 mandaati;
valimisringkond nr 11 - 9 mandaati;
valimisringkond nr 12 - 8 mandaati.

plasma-jack ütles ...

https://www.riigiteataja.ee/ert/act.jsp?id=12752486

the system is explained here in Estonian, after the keyword "Näide" in the end of the document, my English isn't fluent enough to explain it, but maybe a foreigner could make some sense to these numbers, too.