kolmapäev, mai 23, 2007

What is to be done?

In a few more days, the Estonian Statistical Office will publish population data for Estonia as of January 1, 2007. This happens once a year, and it provides us with info on the changing demographic information on Estonia in lieu of an official census, wich isn't scheduled until 2011. If the patterns of the past are correct, we'll probably catch a glimpse of a few interesting trends.

The first is the most obvious. The population in Estonia will decline again. The preliminary numbers show that as of Jan. 1, there were 1,342,000 people in Estonia, down from 1,367,000 five years ago. There are a variety of reasons for population decline in Estonia. One is that more people die than are born (duh), although in recent months that has been changing. Another is emigration. And finally, there's abortion, because at conception, there is positive population growth, but a good chunk of those potential babies never make it past the first trimester.

Another trend is a shift in nationality in favor of ethnic Estonians. That change is happening across the board. Russians, Belarussians, Ukrainians, Finns -- their proportion of the population continues to decline, while the Estonian proportion continues to rise. In 2001, Estonians made up 68.2 percent of the population. Last year they were 68.6 percent. Meanwhile every other group declined. Maybe they leave. Maybe they identify as Estonians. Or maybe they just have a larger number of elderly in their population group. Who knows?

This is not an unusual occurrence. The decline of Swedes in Finland followed a similar path. For whatever reason, Swedes in Finland went from being 15 percent of the population in 1800, to 6 percent of the population in 2005. Up until the 1890s, Swedish was the language of administration in Finland. In 1892, Finnish became co-official, and this carried over when Finland became independent. But despite Finland's official bilingualism, and attempts to "save" Finland Swedish, the language there is in decline.

This has happened so much so that when I inquired from Finns about their Swedish capabilities, I was met with a sort of shrug and told "they have their own newspapers and TV shows." Then when I asked an editor of Helsingi Sanomat if the paper intended to print news to serve any of Finland's lingusitic minorities -- the Russians in Helsinki, for example -- I was met with a cold stare and told unequivocally "no". Bilingualism was touchy-feely, official crap, apparently, but in Finland, the language was Finnish. At least that's the lesson I learned while I was there.

Still, the reality for Estonia is, no matter what historical spin you put on it, there will be a large Russian-speaking community in Estonia for many years to come. Because of recent events in Tallinn, many are wondering what can be done to better integrate this group. But nobody seems to have the answer. Some say relax school reform, others say ride around in a sleigh in Narva handing out Estonian passports, and some others talk of making Russian a second state language, "like they have in Finland", as if that would change the overall situation.

Meanwhile, Postimees and Eesti Päevaleht and Eesti Televisioon all have Russian-language versions. Even I can vote in municipal elections if I stay here for five years. You've got to take a test to get a passport. It's a bitch of a process allegedly for some, so I do hope they spend some of that surplus on that so Estonia can assign citizenship to the 118,000 people that still don't have it. Unemployment is 5.3 percent. Anecdotal evidence shows that Russians feel excluded or like they don't belong. But then I am reminded of the Finland Swedes "who have their own newspapers and their own television shows" and think, isn't the life of a minority like that in every country?

On the bus to Tallinn recently I witnessed two things. The first was a pack of young Russian-speaking kids, about 12. They all spoke in Russian and I even began to understand some of the stuff because they didn't shut up from Tartu to Tallinn (one even hit me in the head with a sneaker at one point. Boys will be boys). But then one's phone rang and he switched immediately to Estonian. He had a little bit of an accent, but it was very slight. And he was no older than 12.

Then at the bus station I was approached by a young man in his early 20s. He spoke to me only in Russian. I had a hunch that he wanted some money, so I decided not to answer him back in English, and I figured that Estonian was out of the question. So I just ignored him. And my sensitive and intuitive soul began to wonder if I had just made the young man feel less at home in Tallinn by ignoring him. Perhaps he felt leftout. Ignored by society. Maybe my sleight of hand would encourage him to join Nashi as a commisar and actively work to destroy the government of AndruSS AnSSip. What could I do about this, and furthermore, what could society do?

I tried to find a metaphor to help me sooth this linguistic dissonance that rattled around in my mind. And finally I decided that I could do nothing except not give him any money and go and buy my bottle of Värska to drink.

32 kommentaari:

Nothing is Free ütles ...

Pray the economy keeps growing in Russia. Some will integrate, rest will emigrate. Some will do both (Eesti --> Eire). In case of labour shortages, you can count on Mart Laar's swarthy macho friends. (If they bear inebriating gifts, make sure they drink first.)

stockholm slender ütles ...

Well, theoretically (and much in practice also) Swedish is "toinen kotimainen", the other "home language". Swedish speakers are then not considered to be ethnic Swedes but Swedish speaking Finns. Swedish is an obligatory language at schools which is these days a bone of contention as in many parts of Finland it doesn't feel like a very practical language to have. (And we have those Suomalaisuuden Liitto weirdos sprouting oldfashioned anti-Swedish propaganda - btw, interesting to see if we get them here to this thread).

But by and large it has been a wildly succesful language strategy, which even then has not stopped continuous assimilation into the Finnish speaking population (partially I suppose because traditionally Swedish speaking urban areas have gotten large Finnish majorities as the country industrialized). In any case they have been in the country for 700 hundred years and fought for its independence, so comparison with the Russian speakers in Estonia is maybe not totally fitting...

Giustino ütles ...

In any case they have been in the country for 700 hundred years and fought for its independence, so comparison with the Russian speakers in Estonia is maybe not totally fitting...

No comparisons are fitting. But I just wanted to point out that the Swedish example is often pointed out as a possible path for Estonia to follow and that despite the Finn's efforts, Swedish language use has declined and bilingualism is common among Finnish Swedes, aside from Aalanders.

stockholm slender ütles ...

Sure, I would think that more integration (with some concessions to cultural and linguistic status) would actually in practice be at the very least neutral as to the proportion of the minority or actually lead to its gradual diminishing. Very rigid policies could just enforce the strength of minority feeling and reluctance to accept the independent and Western oriented Estonia.

somebody ütles ...

Another important issue is immigration. I am sure that if economic growth is to be sustained, Estonia will very soon need immigrants. Labor shortage at some sectors is a reality already. As soon as Estonia joins the euro, poor people will be looking to Estonia as a source for hard currency send to their relatives.

Where will all those immigrants come from? Probably, from the CIS countries. And they speak Russian. That is one of the reasons why Russian cannot be made an official language, as linguistics professor Martin Ehala has pointed out.

Giustino ütles ...

Where will all those immigrants come from? Probably, from the CIS countries. And they speak Russian. That is one of the reasons why Russian cannot be made an official language, as linguistics professor Martin Ehala has pointed out.

Why import labor? The idea seems stupid. Instead, Estonia should just build its factory in Ukraine and pay taxes in Estonia if need be. The idea of moving humans for the purposes of work seems backwards. Why not let the humans stay where they are, and bring the work to them?

Reinumag ütles ...

Some time ago you mentioned surfing stat.ee as a time spending option. I had done the very thing just a week before, and that is what I found out from the 2000 census:
The population pyramide for Estonia look bad, shrinking in the bottom.
The population pyramide for Estonians looks bad too, but much better than the previous one.
Most strinkingly, the pyramide is more like a triangle standing on it's top, when it comes to the minorities.

Why?
Perhaps the people who left in early 90ies were the most vital part of the population - the young adults. That could result in such effect.

Looking forward for the 2011 figures.

Thomas ütles ...

"Why import labor? The idea seems stupid. --- The idea of moving humans for the purposes of work seems backwards. Why not let the humans stay where they are, and bring the work to them?"
Not fully right, usually its cheaper to move the work but for many reasons is also cheaper to move the labor some time...work moved to Estonia too...but not so much anymore...declining population, labor shortage and so on are the reasons...talking about moving labor, look at elcoteq, they just brought the first bus of 50 hungarians to estonia, the second bus shall follow...ask the guys from the recuitment agency's...they are busy with seducing bulgarians, romanians, polish and hungarians to Estonia...

dresolve ütles ...

On integration of Russian-speakers in Estonia and Latvia historian and journalist Anatol Lieven states today in an International Herald Tribune editorial :

…the European Union needs to do far more to defuse the situation on the ground in Latvia and Estonia. While the Union has softened the most discriminatory aspects of these states' behavior towards their Russian-speaking minorities, this policy is still overwhelmingly directed to assimilating these minorities, not to integrating them. This applies especially to the area of Russian-language education, where both states have been allowed by the West to flagrantly break promises made before independence.

Lieven is someone whose analysis I generally understand and respect, but he has lost me here. Does anyone else understand what the hell he’s talking about when he says:

1. …the Union has softened the most discriminatory aspects of these states' behavior towards their Russian-speaking minorities
&
2. … the area of Russian-language education, where both states (Estonia and Latvia) have been allowed by the West to flagrantly break promises made before independence.
?

Estonia in World Media (Rus) ütles ...

Well written and entertaining.

Andres Sehr ütles ...

Why import labor?

Seriously? A country and economy cannot grow if the labor market is capped and the population is shrinking. Look at the US, they import labor from the south to keep the economy growing. Opening factories in other countries is a half solution but since the estonian economy is becoming less and less manufacturing oriented and more services and knowledge based you need local employees. Tourism, IT, banking, government, construction, etc which are the fastest growing sectors need employees.

If the Estonian government doesn't look into solutions to the labor shortage the economy will start to grind to a halt.

Giustino ütles ...

Lieven is someone whose analysis I generally understand and respect, but he has lost me here. Does anyone else understand what the hell he’s talking about when he says:

Forgive me here but Anatol Lieven is British. That means that he has something of a fondness deep down for empires and great power that others don't have.

Brits take no responsibility for Iraq, even though they are the ones that set the borders for that country. They see it as America's war, and Blair as Bush's lapdog. How wrong they are.

Many Brits honestly cannot understand (still) why Ireland would leave the United Kingdom, or why the Scottish Nationalist Party won in recent elections.

Besides, look at the rest of his analysis. Western European troops sent in to Estonia? Moving the Bronze Soldier dishonored the memory of WWII soldiers? What's he smoking?

Last time I checked, the statue was standing in the same cemetery where Konstantin Päts is at rest, minus his presidential regalia I might add. Unless of course you think the bones of Päts are unworthy of the company of the sacred statue that must adorn a knoll in the center of Tallinn.

I mean, I like his solutions.

Sure, invite stateless people to work in Germany or the UK. We forget that many were brought here to work jobs that don't exist anymore. Makes sense that they would move on to another place where they can get work, as they moved to Estonia for work -- right?

Yeah, put some pressure on Estonia. Maybe dip into your vast EU cash reserve and fund some free language classes. I hate that there are stateless people here too. I want them to naturalize or find a better home too. And I wanted it done quickly as well.

But it's also important to remember that Estonia didn't create this situation, the USSR did. Of course that country was so crazy at its inception in Estonia that you can't really hold it responsible for anything. You can only shrug your shoulders and plug forward.

Giustino ütles ...

1. …the Union has softened the most discriminatory aspects of these states' behavior towards their Russian-speaking minorities

Well, I guess he means extending visa free travel to those holding gray passports. Having to obtain a visa was I guess the most discriminatory aspect, according to Lieven.

2. … the area of Russian-language education, where both states (Estonia and Latvia) have been allowed by the West to flagrantly break promises made before independence.

I believe that somebody in Latvia may have promised citizenship to all residents in the late 80s. But that's Latvia and I wasn't there so I can't vouch for it.

Andres Sehr ütles ...

One more point to my post above: Without more imported labor Estonia will continue to see increased inflation and continue to miss it's Euro targets.

Giustino ütles ...

One more point to my post above: Without more imported labor Estonia will continue to see increased inflation and continue to miss it's Euro targets.

Well if we are ordering labor, Estonia would be better off importing some IT talent. From what I understand it's hard for Indians and Chinese to come and work in Estonia. It's better to invest in a sustainable economy then truck in a few thousand Hungarians to meet temporary needs.

Andres Sehr ütles ...

Agreed, there is no need for temporary importation of a lot of labor. What is needed is a planned approach to help grow the knowledge based economy and allow trained foreigners to live and work in Estonia.

Pekka Eskimo ütles ...

better analogy would be the finnish immigrants in Sweden.

Sweden had very rigid policies and the finns there seem to be very assimilated. Sweden Finns don't usually read their own newspapers or go to finnish-speaking schools.

Until 1980's Swedes had negative attitudes to finnish immigrants but that didn't stop the assimilation.

Scott ütles ...

Giustino said…

Last time I checked, the statue was standing in the same cemetery where Konstantin Päts is at rest, minus his presidential regalia I might add.


You might want to check again.

Päts is buried in the cemetery out in Pirita, near the botanical gardens. I know because I've biked there several times, the last on Mother's Day. I left a candle on Lydia Koidula's gravesite -- I'm very cool that way ;-) -- and it's stone's throw from both Päts and Meri.

But beyond the warmth in my heart I get from poking Giustino with a sharp verbal stick at least once a week, I will say this about Lieven:

One, his book "The Baltic Revolution: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Path to Independence" should be required reading for all foreigners in the Baltics. It's dated now, but I learned more about the local history, culture and politics from that book than any other that I've read up to now.

Two, he considered the main two obstacles to the progress of Estonia to the West to be the right-wing parties (Isamaaliit) and the ethnic question, most notably any 'vengeance' these right-wing nuts would put on the ethnic Russian population.

Personally, I understand a little where he's coming from. The language exam, for example, has definately become less stringent in the last 5-8 years.

But Lieven's predictive powers, as I remember, were less than good. He didn't think EU or NATO membership would happen because of these trends.

Ari ütles ...

Re the drop in the percentage of Swedish-speaking Finns, do people who advocate for something akin to the Finnish language policy in Estonia really do so because they want to stop assimilation?

I think that government policy probably shouldn't be the driving force behind assimilation, because if it is, the chances are that the remaining non-assimilated minority isn't receiving equal treatment from the state. But if assimilation is happening for other reasons, it doesn't necessarily indicate that government policy is failing.

dresolve ütles ...

Why is there a pie image for this post? And don't think for a second I'm buying the 'linguistic dissonance' argument. Some dude came up to you at the Tartu bus station and you kept walking. And it wasn't because your 'sensitive and intuitive soul' was wrestling with the same issues that are currently affecting the still developing Estonian nation. You walked because a Long Islander developed the same instincts that any New Yorker does. When someone comes up to you looking for money you keep walking. You don't engage them in any way. If you were truly curious and if this guy wasn't all that threatening, you just might have replied to him in eesti keelt. I'm glad that your better NY instincts took over and you went and bought a water instead of giving this guy the time of day.

Thanks for the insight on Lieven. I'll admit, I'm still puzzled why a scholar who has a great deal of respect in the Baltic community is resorting to a specious 'allowed by the West to ... break promises made before independence' argument.

martintg ütles ...

I loved this bit from Lieven's article:
While the Union has softened the most discriminatory aspects of these states' behavior towards their Russian-speaking minorities, this policy is still overwhelmingly directed to assimilating these minorities, not to integrating them. This applies especially to the area of Russian-language education, where both states have been allowed by the West to flagrantly break promises made before independence.

The European Union also should help reduce this problem in the long term by granting the broadest possible rights to Russian-speakers at the level of the Union as a whole and, in particular, by encouraging members of the Russian-speaking minorities to move to Western Europe to work.


Hmmmm... So Lieven is suggesting that in order to escape assimilation pressure in the Baltics, Russian speakers should be allowed to move to, say, the UK or France. Yes, I'm all for it, there is definitely less pressure to assimilate in the UK or France, isn't there? LOL

Giustino ütles ...

To Scott:

You might want to check again.

Päts is buried in the cemetery out in Pirita, near the botanical gardens.


I read somewhere that they put Pronks in the metsakalmistu. I guess my source was wrong. I haven't gone on a cemetery tour of Tallinn yet. Forgive me my inaccuracy.

I liked and read Lieven's book as well. But there aren't a great deal of books out there on the subject, Scott. So I am going to pass on saying it's "the best."

I was frustrated because it ends in 1994. I would really like to read a book that dealt with more contemporary issues and didn't dwell on the '88 - '91 period.

To Dresolve
Why is there a pie image for this post?

If you've played enough Pacman and looked at enough piecharts, you'll get my point.

You walked because a Long Islander developed the same instincts that any New Yorker does.

Yeah, everyone is a criminal, right? The sensitive interpretation went on after I bought my bottle of värska. The kneejerk reaction was, "leave me alone."

Sometimes in Europe I have found that I am a bit too harsh on people asking me questions. Sometimes they really do want to know where the Post Office is.

An Italian couple came up to me outside the Postimees office here in Tartu and asked me if it was the post office. :)

to Ari

But if assimilation is happening for other reasons, it doesn't necessarily indicate that government policy is failing.

As per the pie reference, it could be argued that one segment of society is always "eating" the other. Which is the underlying point of my post, that either way -- Finnish language policy or Estonian language policy -- minority speakers develop bilingualism and shift their identity over time to the majority.

Assimilation, or integration, whatever you want to call it -- goes on, government policy or not.

martintg ütles ...

What's the big deal about assimilation anyway? Roughly 350 million Americans are decendants of assimilated immigrants.

tomia ütles ...

Here's, by the way, a radio interview of Ilves by the Swedish "BBC".

http://www.sr.se/laddahem/podradio/SR_Ekots_lordagsintervju_070519010032.mp3

Do I hear an "attitude problem" there or am I just used to the "Finlandized" way of speaking about foreign issues without saying really anything? "Looters", "Amnesty International complaining about nothing" ...

But don't get me wrong, I agree with Ilves and understand his frustration.

As for Russian immigrants, there were several Russian youngsters - who had been living in Finland all or most of their lives - interviewed by Helsingin Sanomat some time ago. They all told that they'd probably move back to Russia as adults. My guess is that the reason behind it was that they didn't feel accepted in Finland. There is also strong patriotism among some Russians - advanced by the Russian government, too.

It all makes you wonder how many of the Finnish Russians would turn against Finland if something like the Bronze Soldier thing happened here. 10%? 50%?

Anyway, the number should be brought down to as low as possible. But that's not an easy task in a country whose national "founding myth" deals with a heroic fight against Stalin and his puppets - vaguely thought as the age-old enemies, Russians.

PS. The biggest reason for the decrease in the number of Finland's Swedes is emigration from after the WWII to the early 70s.
http://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuva:Ruotsinkieliset.PNG

tomia ütles ...

The link I gave is not showing. Here's the link divided in three different lines.
www.sr.se/laddahem/podradio/
SR_Ekots_lordagsintervju_
070519010032.mp3

Giustino ütles ...

Do I hear an "attitude problem" there or am I just used to the "Finlandized" way of speaking about foreign issues without saying really anything? "Looters", "Amnesty International complaining about nothing" ...

Estonia has a problem in general of accurately diagnosing the situation and creating a remedy. The policies that were put in place were at a time when Estonian self-confidence in its national future was low.

In 1992, the modern Estonian culture that we see today everywhere -- on TV, in magazines, in newspapers, at the store -- barely existed.

The cultural engine that facilitates the ability to learn Estonian or integrate into society was not then what it is today. As far as I can tell.

But the policies that are in place now are from that era. And as Urve Palo has pointed out, 143,000 people have naturalized. Why shouldn't the other 118,000? And what message would it send to those who studied hard just to see those less motivated get the same reward in the end?

So, warts and all, Estonian integration policy moves forward. I do think Ansip is right. In eight years, there won't be any stateless people in Estonia. If it went from 12 percent in 2003 to 8.7 percent in February 2007, well ... you do the math.

Domestically, I think Ilves hasn't been a divisive force. He's been out there spreading a "let's all get along" message.

And here's the thing -- just as some Estonian politicians need an attitude adjustment, some Estonian residents need an attitude adjustment.

If you sit around all day drinking beer and you are unemployed, is that really the state's fault? If I go to Tallinn in the middle of the week and some drunk teenagers throw beer cans at me, am I really supposed to cry for their plight of being unemployed alcoholics?

So, honestly, it's not really all the fault of those radical right-wing Estonians and their crazy leaders Mart Laar and Andrus Ansip.

But I think that if things just go on as "normal" then the Estonian government will have lost an opportunity. They have to make some extra efforts towards reconciliation in Estonia, and I don't know where to begin (see the title of this blog post).

In some ways I don't think that anything can be done. That integration cannot be micromanaged, and that it should be allowed to progress without too much input from the state. Estonian language skills are an asset to have in the marketplace here. That's a reality. Language laws or no language laws.

tomia ütles ...

According to Ilves the language requirements for a citizenship are easier in Estonia than in Sweden. My guess is that the same goes for Finland or the USA, say. How easy should they be made then to make the "foreigners" satisfied?

Is it true that people have to pay for language courses? That could be one difference between Estonia and Sweden, Finland.

Do the older folks, too, have to meet the requirements? I mean, if your sixty something and living in a place like Narva, it's a bit over the top to demand them to learn a new language.

Most of the younger ones will learn Estonian the way you describe, I guess, because it's pretty impossible to get ahead in life if you don't, unless you move to Russia. And besides, an EU passport should be a pretty strong incentive for anybody who has the least amount of ambition and dreams.

Giustino ütles ...

According to Ilves the language requirements for a citizenship are easier in Estonia than in Sweden. My guess is that the same goes for Finland or the USA, say. How easy should they be made then to make the "foreigners" satisfied?

Is it true that people have to pay for language courses? That could be one difference between Estonia and Sweden, Finland.

Do the older folks, too, have to meet the requirements? I mean, if your sixty something and living in a place like Narva, it's a bit over the top to demand them to learn a new language.


As far as I know, Sweden doesn't have a language requirement. But Germany, France, and Finland do.

I don't think 60 year olds in Sillamäe should have to take a language test to get the right to vote in parliamentary elections. Maybe they should just take an oath of loyalty. Maybe Narva and other places where Russian-speakers mostly live shoud have greater minority rights.

But who am I to change legislation? I am just some guy on the Internet.
Moreover, no one in Estonia is asking for it. Amnesty International tells Estonia something, but no political party in Estonia has that in its platform.

This government isn't going to change it. Savisaar hasn't made anyone any promises. As far as I can see, the non-citizens issue will disappear by 2015 as the government predicts.

Ilves told a very good story about how his son was in the hospital in Tallinn and he could not tell the nurse that something was hurting him because the nurse did not understand Estonian.

That's an issue I grapple with as a parent. What do I do if a Russian-speaking kid runs in the street in front of a car? Do I yell "vaata ette?" or do I yell "watch out?" Because Russian-speaking kids don't wear signs that say what language they speak, I just don't know.

I presume Estonian language skills because most people who live here speak that language. But then how am I supposed to act responsibly as a member of society in that situation? That second could be the moment between life and death for that kid. As an adult I take responsibility for other kids that do stupid things around me. What should I do?

It's a conundrum you see.

space_maze ütles ...

I don't think 60 year olds in Sillamäe should have to take a language test to get the right to vote in parliamentary elections. Maybe they should just take an oath of loyalty. Maybe Narva and other places where Russian-speakers mostly live shoud have greater minority rights.

I do think that the situation of older people at the end of the Soviet Union is regrettable, yes. Less so now than then, as people that are "too old to learn" today were almost two decades younger when the Soviet Union ended.

However, similar things happen here too. Especially to women in conservative (commonly muslim) families.

Families come to Austria as a whole. The kids learn German, obviously. Also the fathers will generally be forced to learn some moderate amount of German in order to get a job.

The mothers, though, that do not hold a job? Nope. Quite often, they need German so rarely that they just take one of their kids with them to translate whenever they do need German.

As such, though, they never become eligible for Austrian citizenship - you need to pass a language exam for that.

Has the state neglected such people? Possibly. Maybe more could be done (though I honestly don't know WHAT, if they actively choose not to learn German).

Has the state created this problem? Definitely not.

Urmo ütles ...

I'm probably too compfy with our current economic situation but ... why do we have to keep up with this marvelous economic growth we had all the time?

Growth needs more people, more immigrants, more problems inside the community and also need for new growth. A kind of vicious circle targeted to make some more pennies and completely irresponsible towards the future.

I would go with enhancing the efficiency, it still has a lot of way to improve here. But i'm a dreamer, I know.

Scott ütles ...

tomia:

Thanks for the MP3 file.

Good listening.

Architectse ütles ...

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