kolmapäev, oktoober 03, 2007

Why Doudou Diene is Wrong

According to a Valgamaalane interview with President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Doudou Diene, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, told him that Estonia should adopt another official language.

Apparently Diene is busy drawing up a report where official languages should be determined on the size of a minority population. Ilves' response was predictable:

“If Diene recommended that several official languages should be adopted in Estonia, I will recall that there are 4 million Turks living in Germany. Why doesn’t that country have several official languages?”
Ilves is right to point out that the rest of Europe currently does not follow similar norms. But I think that the comparison to Turkish immigrants in Germany is misleading. If Estonia really wants to point out why Diene and others are wrong they should look farther west, to the Canadian Province of Québec.

Québec only has one official language, French, even though 8 percent of its residents are native English speakers (and it was 14 percent in 1951). English speakers have been living on the territory of Québec for a long time, even longer than the Old Believers have had their villages on the shores of Lake Peipsi. So why does Québec only have one official language?

Because if
Québec was forced to adopt English as an official language, thousands of guys with fleurdelisé flags would go apeshit and proceed to start blowing things up, let alone tearing down bilingual traffic signs. In another words it would be a politically and socially destabilizing event that would have severe repercussions for, say, Québec's status in Canada.

It would be a bad political decision that would do more harm than good and perhaps make gentlemen like Doudou Diene look bad for giving out such foolish advice. I know he means well, and solutions like these look great on paper, but they fail to factor in such important things as history amongst other things. And if the Quebecois had reasons to have one official language, the Estonians do too.

37 kommentaari:

peeterb ütles ...

I agree that Estonia should have only one official language. The example of Quebec is somewhat deceptive since all Canadian federal services (post office, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, customs, immigration, federal income and sales taxes,Transport Canada, etc) operate officially in both French and English and the courts are also officially bilingual. I reside in Ottawa and encounter this fact of life daily.

peeterb ütles ...

I suppose I should have added that in the last referendum Quebec came within a whisker of separating. The spread between "yes" and "no" was less than 1%. I very much doubt that there would be any violence or even unrest should they eventually go. The federal government has already worked out most of the terms of separation and it will be much like the velvet separation between Slovakia and the Czeck Republic or better, Norway and Sweden.
As a matter of interest, Estonia and Quebec share a similar history. Both were conquered occupied nations. The only real difference was that the English allowed the Quebecois to retain both their religion and civil law (Napoleonic Code)and did not murder their elites. Duplesis and Pats were both dictators.
The scenario of a mob taking to the streets now is far fetched and language is and has always been a provincial, not a federal matter under our constitution.

Lasse Nikkarev ütles ...

Norway and Sweden are bad axample since there was actually a significant chance that those 2 countries go to war in 1905 when Norway separated.
Quebec is a fine example of very strict language law in action. Their traffic sign for "stop" is "arrêt," because just stop is not French enough for them. Maybe we should change Estonian stop-sign to "seisa" or "pea kinni."

space_maze ütles ...

Well .. Quebec is misleading too. The French were hardly the "original" nation in that area. But in a way, it is a good example - they get to be monolingually French, basically, without having the Anglo Canadians yell "FASCISTS!!" in their face at every chance they get. In spite of having 500 times the "attitude" towards English Estonians have to Russian.

I got to spend a week in Montreal last year. I brushed up my French enough before going to say that I don't speak any French, sorry guys. Where did it get me?

A: "Blablablablabla"
B: "Excuse-moi, Je ne parle pas francais"
A: *pause* ... "Blablablablabla"
B: "Excuse-moi, Je suis Autrichien. ne parle pas francais"
A: *blinks* .. *hands in air* .. "IL NE PARLE PAS FRANCAIS!"

Not that I've been to Estonia as a Russian traveller. But the attitudes I have encountered in Estonia lead me to guess that you wouldn't encounter that kind of crap thrice a day in Estonia, like I did in Montreal.

Blogaddict ütles ...

Interesting, when I was in Quebec last year, I was so ready to get mistreated by those "horrible french fascists and nationalists" (to use a russian parlance) only to find the kindest people everywhere. We pulled over in the City of Quebec to study a map and people came knocking on the window to ask where we wanted to go. Same kind of treatment in stores, hotel, restaurants. Did I get lucky or do I have this idiotic face that makes people take pity on me or perhaps things are not that bad over there?

Pierre ütles ...

Jurisdictional differences notwithstanding (i.e., Québec is not a country... yet), the Québec analogy is apt. The real difference though is that the protagonists in the Québec context are more conciliatory than in the Estonian context.

It is interesting that you note anglophones account for 8% of the Québec population (8.3% to be exact), yet their language does not have official status. Someone rightly pointed out that this is true provincially, but not federally. I recall some years back, Canada's version of Times magazine, MacLeans, sent a unilingual francophone somewhere in central Ontario (St. Thomas I believe) and a unilingual anglophone to Chicoutimi (a separatist bastion if there ever was one) to find out how each one would fare. Well, lo and behold, the anglophone had very little problems settling in, registering with the various provincial and federal agencies, phone, hydro and cable bills, etc. The poor francophone in St. Thomas got nowhere fast! This is the reality of "bilingualism" in Canada. Many Québecois definitely feel the need to "circle the wagons" as it were.

In Finland, the Swedish minority accounts for 5% of the population and their language has official status. Yet, francophones in Ontario, accounting also for 5% of the population, do not have that right, or should I say priviledge.

I agree with you Justin about how the political expediancy of placating Québec's sovereigntist ambitions is playing out, but I seriously doubt that "forcing" Québec to have English as an official language, if this could actually be accomplished, would be as dramatic as you describe. It certainly wouldn't go over well, that's guaranteed....

Pierre

Pierre ütles ...

Space_maze and blogaddict,

The Québecois in Montréal are far more sensitive to the language issue, where 88% of Québec's anglophones reside and account for almost 20% of Montréal's population. It is not unusual to find anglophones who have lived all their lives in Montréal and never uttered a French word. I actually worked with a few of them in Ottawa. I guess in this context foreign tourists become collateral damage.

In Québec City, the situation is very different because of its much smaller anglophone population (I can't find a reliable proportion, but I would guess less than 5%). In fact, the most visible anglophones in Québec City are the hordes of foreign tourists which I would expect are treated well, if only to get at their dollars and euros.

In this context, many Québecois, when pressed, are likely to admit that many language policies in Québec were enacted to deal with issues specific to Montréal. This has caused some heartache in other parts of the province, the Outaouais and the eastern townships in particular, where anglo-franco relations are/were generally cordial (at best) or indifferent (at worst).

Coming back to the original thrust of Justin's post, I googled this Doudou Diene character to find out he comes from Sénégal, whose only official language is French. Considering that some 94% of Sénégal's population speaks Wolof, 40% of them being ethnic Wolofs, he might want to tend to his own backyard first...

Pierre

Giustino ütles ...

I agree with you Justin about how the political expediancy of placating Québec's sovereigntist ambitions is playing out, but I seriously doubt that "forcing" Québec to have English as an official language, if this could actually be accomplished, would be as dramatic as you describe.

It all would be context-dependent. But most reports I have read of Quebecois nationalists describe them as quite passionate.

In this context, many Québecois, when pressed, are likely to admit that many language policies in Québec were enacted to deal with issues specific to Montréal.

Ah, and language policies in Estonia have been enacted to deal with issues specific to Tallinn, especially with regards to the labor market.

In Tallinn, it would make sense that you would want to employ a fluent-Estonian speaker -- ~55-60 percent of the city is Estonian speaking. But in Narva, I am told, the only place they have SL Õhtuleht is at the library.

In Finland, the Swedish minority accounts for 5% of the population and their language has official status. Yet, francophones in Ontario, accounting also for 5% of the population, do not have that right, or should I say priviledge.

Finland is a misnomer. Swedish was the sole official language for centuries. It was only towards the end of the 19th century that Finnish became co-official and then in 1906 that Finnish became the primary official language.

This was the situation when Finland became independent in 1917 and has stayed ever since. It has nothing to do with magnanimously giving Swedish official status because Finns are so nice.

andres kahar ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
andres kahar ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Giustino ütles ...

Andres,

You and the others think too much.

There is no perfect analogy that explains Estonian language policies, just as there is no perfect analogy that explains any nation's linguistic policies. Latvian and Estonian policies aren't even 100 percent alike, nor their circumstances 100 percent similar.

Finnish policies and Canadian policies evolved in their own way to accommodate different realities and political climates.

That being said, my main point was not that Estonia is Quebec on the Baltic Sea. It's that the argument that Russians in Estonia are like Turks in Germany is rather weak, because most people interpret Soviet population transfer and Western European immigration differently.

What I am saying is that the core ideas behind Quebec linguistic policies are more similar to Estonian ones (protection of mother tongue at expense of large minority surrounded by their native language in adjacent country/provinces) than the German ones (official state that *burp* digests all immigrants the same).

So next time, President Ilves might point to Quebec, rather than Germany, when explaining Estonian language policy.

And no, I cannot gauge how Estonians would react should everything in their view become Estonian and Russian.

In many places this situation already exists. For example:

* In Hansapank, many advertisements on the wall are in both languages. At Ehitus ABC in town, the signs inside are in both languages.

* When I walk into Kaubamaja in Tartu, the little TV sets suspended from the ceiling are showing me offers on products that I can't understand because it is written in Cyrillic.

* When I go to the supermarket, every magazine rack and book rack has Russian language titles. At the Tartu Library, I have a real problem finding books sometimes in the children's section because the number of Russian titles is enormous, considering this town is only 15 percent Russian-speaking.

But would Estonians blow things up like the FLQ? I don't know. If Tiit Madisson and the boys could get so worked up about a Red Army statue, would they get equally as worked up when all the signs in Lihula go up in Russian? I think they could.

Everyone thinks of Estonians as bashful, peaceful, respectful people. I don't think they fully grasp how dangerous Soviet population transfer really was.

peeterb ütles ...

Great commentary on this blog. I wish that Estonian Life could somehow bring itself up to this standard. Keep blogging Giustino. I find your insights into present day Estonia most interesting. Sinu eesti keele kiri on ka palju arenud.

Raido ütles ...

Anyways, it was bad example from Ilves.

Only 21% of germans are from turkey, but in Estonia, almost 40% are from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

Nothing is Free ütles ...

lulz! a negro lecturing white people on how to treat their asiatics. priceless!

andres kahar ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Giustino ütles ...

Only 21% of germans are from turkey, but in Estonia, almost 40% are from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

That was true in 1989, but isn't the case today.

In 2007, 69 percent of Estonian residents are ethnic Estonians. 29 percent of the population is from Russia (26 percent), Ukraine (2 percent), and Belarus (1 percent). 1 percent of the population is also Finnish.

I'll remind you that Russia is only 79 percent ethnic Russian, yet has one sole official state language. Ukraine is similar. 78 percent Ukrainian/18 percent Russian -- only one state language. Lithuania too. So Estonia isn't really off the mark in its unilingual state policy.

Heli ütles ...

Raido,
sinu arvud on natuke vanad. Praegu käib jutt 30%st laias laastus, mitte 40%st ja eestlastest sünnitajate osakaal elanikkonnast on 70% nii, et iga aastaga me protsent suureneb kui just hiiglaslikku immigratsioonilainet ei tule.

Wikipedia:
Estonian 68.6%, Russian 25.7%, Ukrainian 2.1%, Belarusian 1.2%, Finn 0.8%, other 1.6% (2006)

Have to agree with Giustino that many here think too much and got worked up because of this comparison with Quebec.

Richard ütles ...

The BBC's Europe correspondant is in the Baltics. His take on citizenship.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/

Blogaddict ütles ...

I really enjoyed Andres Kahar's comment.

andres kahar ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
andres kahar ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Blogaddict ütles ...

(Tskt-tskt G!)

Our ANALogies must be good so that our friend Mr. Doo-doo can understand them.

Giustino ütles ...

With all due respect to G, I think the Québec analogy is a false one. And thus misleading.

Andres, you are perhaps the only one to 'get' that the idea of thousands of French Canadien guys with the fleurdelise blowing things up was a bit of a gag. I was also going to add that they would all have mustaches and fur hats, but that would be racist and anglophone of me.

Still, this debate is about what analogies one can draw in debates about Estonian language policies.

Believe it or not, TH Ilves is not the first person to use the Turks in Germany analogy when defending state policies.

But my point is that it is misleading. How so?

1. Turkey is not next to Germany

2. Turks came to Germany (mostly)of their own free will as immigrants.

3. German as a sole state language was established prior to the arrival of Turks.

How is the Quebec reference more similar?

1. Russia is next to Estonia (Ontario, US are next to Quebec)

2. English-speakers came to Province Quebec as part of British Empire

3. Current language regime in Quebec was established after their arrival.

So Quebec is a *better* analogy than the often-used Turks in Germany one. As previously discussed, most analogies are bad, even ones in between Estonia and Latvia. As you correctly pointed out the Estonia = Quebec one is slippery when wet. I also apologize for not making my humor more obvious.

As for political destabilization, yes, I think that automatically granting ~114,000 people citizenship in a state with 1.3 million people might be destabilizing to national politics. Changing signage, etc, could also contribute to ill will.

I also have met with/read the comments of the young and dumb Estonian right, and know that even though they have their state language, NATO and EU membership, and a full stock of Saku Gold in the fridge, they still have one big chip on their shoulders.

Are they FLQ crazy? Probably not. But think about the Bronze Soldier and "cyber war". Millions of EEK worth of damage, and most of it organized by a handful of Russian nationalists. Maybe the idea of the FLQ seemed preposterous in 1950s Canada as well.

As for destabilization, here's a question. If English was imposed on Quebec as a second official language by virtue of suggestion by supranational organization, do you think the next referendum on sovereignty would pass or fail?

G.

Pierre ütles ...

As for destabilization, here's a question. If English was imposed on Quebec as a second official language by virtue of suggestion by supranational organization, do you think the next referendum on sovereignty would pass or fail?

Anglophones have taken their grievances to higher authorities, including the United Nations, all to no avail. Québec has all the constitutional powers it needs to block such notions. This then makes your question somewhat moot, but interesting nonetheless.

The separatist movement is in total disarray these days. but fear not, talk of separation is a "national" pasttime in Québec. It tends to rise in good economic times, i.e., nothing else to bitch about, and wanes in economic downturns, i.e., people perhaps afraid to suffer further in a split Canada.

I just can't keep up with the speed of posts today. I'll try to comment further in the evening.

Pierre

space_maze ütles ...

Thanks, Pierre, for the clarificiation on attitude differences between Montreal and the rest of Quebec. I almost figured that I was collateral damage to another issue - local anglophones that won't speak French.

I got better reactions, actually, when not even trying to speak French, which was completely contrary to anything I believed about French lingual pride. I guess it helped that my English sounds so .. Euro .. that people instantly knew I wasn't local.

andres kahar ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
andres k ütles ...

G,

It went without saying, but I probably should've said at the outset: whether I quibble with the argument/analogy or not, I do appreciate and enjoy the discussion you raise -- because it is interesting to think through and challenge. Otherwise I probably wouldn't get exercised nuff to yammer away.

Like you, I think the idea of imposing another official language on Estonia is ill-considered, and unjust to boot. The history and practical/cultural reasons why it's wrong have been discussed a few times in this forum, and many readers probably mutter them in their sleep.

As for Québec: too many differences -- historical and present-day -- to sustain comparative analysis. That's my modest take from over here, and I spit it out there.

As for dealing in counterfactuals -- 'what if a supranational body imposed or pressure Québec...?' -- I dunno. Maybe someone else wants to weigh in with some speculations or snapshots from an alternate reality? It remains a mystery to me (and surely others) why certain peoples, societies and states act in certain ways. Why didn't the Baltics go Balkan? As you suggest, G, many ingredients were there for things to turn ugly; maybe they're still there. Fun as they are, counterfactuals make my head spin.

I'd hazard that regional context makes all the diff. The Balts ended up with lousy real estate in some ways (bears!). But they also got lucky being in Europe, where things like human rights, preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution have become elements of a secular organized religion that was founded by war-spooked Frenchmen (and some Germans, too). Being part of this regional club means that playing rough -- or even legislating rough -- is not kosher. And that's cool.

I suspect that a similar principle's at play in Québec as well: much less incentive to play the thug or terrorist -- which ruins business, loses profit and upsets people -- when you can get your way by negotiating and compromising with bureaucrats... all the while doing business and living everyday life with family/friends, which is where most people probably choose to live their lives anyway.

Turning the dial:

An idea for a forum: Baltic counterfactuals. Cyborg Jean Chrétien (ex-Canadian PM) versus Cyborg Savisaar. Both armed with laser arm-cannons, x-ray vision and super-cyborg strength. Venue: Narva castle. Stakes: loser must attend Eurovision, front row. Billed as: The Struggle at Sinimäed. Tagline: 'Two cyborgs enter, one cyborg leave.'

Pierre ütles ...

Giustino,

The FLQ "experience", or the notional use of violence in Québec's struggle, was a total abheration and completely backfired. Although it did bring the matter to the fore in the minds of Canadian anglophones, all Canadians, anglophone and francophones alike, could not stomach such tactics and they have been denounced ever since by both sides, despite occasional verbal outbursts from "extremists" on either side of the divide.

But frankly there was no avoiding the separatist movement and its coming to power in Québec. Although anglophones had always been a relatively small minority in Montréal (I should check, but I can't imagine it ever was more than 30-35%), it was pervasive in imposing the English language on the majority. Most big businesses were "foreign" (I mean from outside Québec) and expected (to be polite) their workforce consisting mostly of local francophones to speak English at work. When English-only external signage started encroaching on Montréal's main arteries, obviously only a symptom and an easy symbol of the malaise, something had to be done to bring the French language back to its predominant position in Québec. All of this dates back to the 50's, 60's and early 70's. Many things have been exagerated over the years, but the French language has always faced an uphill struggle to survive in North America, even today, but the situation looked rather bleak back then.

The first set of language laws enacted in the mid-70's were draconian and were eventually toned down some. For example only children of parents who had attended English schools in Québec could send their children to English schools. This was broaden to include parents who when to English schools in Canada and a few exceptions for some categories of temporary foreign workers. But they served their purpose, perhaps too well, because the French language is now thriving. Mind you, with some 6 million francophones (I'm talking Québec only here) in an ocean of some 330 million anglophones, there is little room for complacency. This definitely softens the raison d'être of the separatist movement, to preserve the French language and culture. This still remains, but more and more economic arguments are brought forward and it becomes apparent to me that it is now mostly just another political party vying for power, albeit with a rather dramatic platform.

Ok, coming back to the Estonian situation. Québec's language policies were enacted to deal with a 20% minority in Montréal. I believe Russians account for nearly half of the population of Tallinn. There are slightly more than half of Russians in Rīga. Latvia and Estonia have arguably more of a reason to enact language laws than Québec ever did (just my opinion).

Yes, Québec's separatists are VERY passionate, and in some ways I like it. When a referendum comes around, I believe the majority of Québecois are not separatists, although they like some elements of their rhetoric. I know I do. Afterall, there is something warm, fuzzy and romantic about the French language and Québec culture. I am passionate about Québec's artists. As a result of this, Québecois can have major mood swings, our latin heritage I guess. It only takes one federalist moron, usually an Ontarian or an Albertan, who will invariably make one stupid derogatory remark about Québec to make me and my fellow denizens turn into closet separatists. It also goes the other way, the separatist cause is not immune to having morons in its ranks. Many of us keep an even keel come referendum time (I hope!), but Shirley (sic!) referendum outcomes are affected by these mood swings.

Ok, that's all for me. Did some of Andres' posts disappear?...

Pierre

Giustino ütles ...

I believe Russians account for nearly half of the population of Tallinn. There are slightly more than half of Russians in Rīga.

For the sake of future arguments, my trusty Statistical Office is telling me that in 2007 Estonians made up 54.9 percent of the population in Tallinn.

Ethnic Russians actually comprise 36.6 percent in Tallinn. Some 5.3 percent more are Ukrainians and Belarusians. Then you can factor in the Tatars, Koreans, Georgians, Armenians, Finns, Swedes, Germans, drunken Brits ...

I wonder what the demographic breakdown looks like on a Saturday night in August.

stockholm slender ütles ...

Well, about the Finnish situation, there actually was not much stopping the 90% majority imposing its will once we got independent, but language relations were dominated by political co-operation and social integration, so the nationalist radicals (of which there were plenty at times) were always in the minority. This is not at all applicable to Estonia, though of course the importance should be placed on marginalizing the threat of Russian nationalism and anti-Estonian feeling in any which way, and in some areas flexibility can work better than rigid refusals. (Though certainly not with this absurd "official language" business.)

Laura ütles ...

I am a second generation Estonian-American -- and even I got very angry thinking about Mr. Diene's remarks. He needs a bit of a history lesson.

Giustino ütles ...

He travels around the world and probably thinks that simple political gestures can fix decades of things being f*d up.

Mårten ütles ...

Giustino wrote:
*
Finland is a misnomer. Swedish was the sole official language for centuries. It was only towards the end of the 19th century that Finnish became co-official and then in 1906 that Finnish became the primary official language.

This was the situation when Finland became independent in 1917 and has stayed ever since. It has nothing to do with magnanimously giving Swedish official status because Finns are so nice.
*
Of course the situation is different, but I feel the parallel is stronger than you let on. The Finnish situation is close to the Esto-Russo situation:
From the beginning of the 18th century (1710...1721), Estonia was ruled by tsarist Russia. The official language being whatever the Tsar decided. (Since the tsarist language policy has shifted drastically over the centuries, I don't want to name one language here.) From the Finnish and Estonian perspective, they were both ruled by foreign masters and only in mid- to late 19th century did the national awakening take place.

The big difference is that the Swedish minority in Finland is older than the Narva-russian population. But only a few centuries older than the old-believers on the shores of Peipus.

Anyway, all that for history, my point is something completely different: (I defend the Finnish example because it holds something valuable for the Estonian case, I believe.)
The key here difference today is that the Finnoswedish minority has its own identity which is very separate from a Swedoswedish ethnicity.

I believe the way forward in Estonia is to pave way for a separate ethnic identity for Esto-Russians. An identity that would be very separate from a Russo-Russian identity.

Only with a firm sense of who you are and where you belong can you move on with accepting your neighbors. As long as someone considers himself a Russian in a kind of diaspora, that person would never have to deal with his neighbors. He/She is just passing by, so to speak.

Now, this would not address the issue of Estonians holding a grudge, but it would definitely reduce the classical:
"Hitler and his Sudetengermans"
"Putin and his Narvarussians"
if the Estorussian minority had its own strong political voice and didn't "need" Putin's protection.

I know this goes somewhat against the classical line of "integration" in Estonian debate, but the fact of the matter is that the people in Narva are Russian speaking with a different origin than Viljandimaa. Estonia needs to deal with it, and I don't think "integration" as I have seen it depicted will work.

Mårten ütles ...

Oh my god, I have been living here too long (Tartu). I am starting to have problems with the definite and indefinite article.

(Apart from all the typos originating from lack of editing, of course.)

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

I would question whether the major differences between the Finlanders (or Finland Swedes) and Swedes and the Russian (or, really, Russophone) minority in the Baltic states are merely those of length of time -- it's more about what happened in that time, the nature of the minorities, etc. In some ways the Baltic Germans are (were) more similar to the Finland Swedes. And even then... as John Anderson, who often writes about these comparisons at soc.culture.baltics, points out: "certainly the Baltic barons were much more oppressive than our own Swedish-speaking upper class, many of whom were very ardent promoters of the Finnish language!" Here, for example, is a list of Finland-Swede promoters of Finnish. See the entry on Snellman, one of the foremost leaders of Fennomania. "He feared that Russian would soon replace Swedish as the official language of Finland if not Finnish could establish itself as the replacement even sooner. He also thought that a common language for the whole population was a condition for a sentiment of national unity..."

Finland is bilingual in Swedish and Finnish -- not Russian. The small percentage of Swedish speakers and their geographical concentration means that the language doesn't pose a threat to Finnish. Sweden was not totalitarian and has long no designs upon Finland.

I believe the way forward in Estonia is to pave way for a separate ethnic identity for Esto-Russians. An identity that would be very separate from a Russo-Russian identity.

This sounds okay in theory, I guess -- but how would this work in practice? One could maybe "pave the way" -- but the Russophones themselves would have to decide whether or not they're Russians, and what being Russian means (and in what degree). Bear in mind, for instance, that many in Estonia are Russian nationals (unlike in Latvia).

The Estonian Russians/Russophones are too small a community to develop their own identity, I think -- if you mean collective identity. On a simple practical level -- they will always read many more Russian books and watch much more Russian TV than they will read Estonian books, even if those are in Russian, or watch Russian-language Estonian TV, even if money was to be poured into Russian-language broadcasting.

There are those who integrate into Estonian or Latvian society and become Estonian-Russians or Latvian-Russians, which is a sort of separate identity. There are degrees in this, too, of course.

In Latvia, the two "Russian parties " are significant political forces -- but they're in the opposition so far (rumor has it that this could soon change, for the first time -- the governing coalition could jettison the far-right and take in the "moderate" Harmony Center... the trouble is that Harmony Center includes the ex-Communist dinosaurs, i.e., the hardcore capital-S Socialists).

The "Bees," i.e. the holdovers who barely made it across the threshold but sent Tatyana Zhdanok to work against Latvia in Brussels, do complain that the Kremlin has abandoned them in favor of more moderate forces, for pragmatic reasons.

But how do these political forces lessen divisions in Latvian society? I don't think they do. So long as Harmony Center dances with the Socialists, calling them "moderate" is sort of a joke -- this despite the fact that many in it are indeed moderate.

The Sudeten Germans were also in the Sudetenland for a very long time -- from the 14th C, I think. The Sudetenland had never even belonged to Germany. Again, though, significant differences -- the Germans had a major role in society there, before, and lost their privileges. The Czechs were hardly angelic -- they tried to "integrate" the Germans. Feeling oppressed, the Germans increasingly turned towards Nazism.

But this couldn't work without Nazism, which became the dominant ideology in a berserk Germany. It wasn't a rational ideology. The same happened amongst the Baltic Germans here -- though the older generation had in large part reconciled itself to the Republic, the Nazis took over the institutions.

The Nashi (or "Putinjugend") are increasingly part of a broader Kremlin plan for how to use its diaspora, and I don't think catering to Russian demands is an answer. Not a few people in the minority realize that they're being used. We're still talking, or we should still be talking, about the real -- the language laws, the citizenship laws, etc. Even the "moderate" "Russian party" in Latvia would still hope to divide society into linguistic groups (even subtracting Latgallians from Latvians).

There's a notorious phrase overheard in these parts when the Soviet tanks rolled in, among the Old Believers -- "they may be Bolsheviks, but at least they're ours." I understand the idea that a separate identity could work against this, but that becomes exceedingly difficult when you have a hyper-imperialistic state denying history considering its "compatriots" "theirs" -- this is especially hard if a large part of the imperial minority falls for the rhetoric. It's partly a chicken-and-egg question -- if we'd handed out passports to everybody and declared ourselves officially bilingual sates, would the lessening of resentment have meant so very much? Some say yea. I say nay.

Giustino ütles ...

Thanks for your thoughts.

The Finnish situation is close to the Esto-Russo situation:
From the beginning of the 18th century (1710...1721), Estonia was ruled by tsarist Russia. The official language being whatever the Tsar decided. (Since the tsarist language policy has shifted drastically over the centuries, I don't want to name one language here.)


The language of the authority was German. I have seen parish record books. From the earliest dates through the 1880s they are in German. Then around 1885 they switch to Russian, and then in 1918 they switch to Estonian.

I believe the way forward in Estonia is to pave way for a separate ethnic identity for Esto-Russians. An identity that would be very separate from a Russo-Russian identity.

That's for them to figure out. They need to have their own dialogue. A successful integration strategy would probably stress values over language. But again, that's for them to work on. The Estonians can't tell the Russian Estonians who to be.

I know this goes somewhat against the classical line of "integration" in Estonian debate, but the fact of the matter is that the people in Narva are Russian speaking with a different origin than Viljandimaa.

There are Estonians in Narva too, some of whom have lost their language. The language laws are there to protect more people in those situations from losing their language. The availability of Russian services in Narva is a given. The availability of Estonian services in Narva is not so easy to count on.

Anyway, that's the official logic behind the laws and the evil language inspectorate. If the officials there were capable of providing their citizens services in both languages, there wouldn't be a need for such bureaucracy, would there?

Estonia needs to deal with it, and I don't think "integration" as I have seen it depicted will work.

Estonia is dealing with it. You don't just takeover a country, kill its intelligentsia, keep it under mind numbing communist propaganda for 50 years, fill it full of newcomers who are told the native language is dying out, then hand the keys over to a bunch of 30 year olds and tell them to fix it.

I think the laws are already there to protect minority languages. I think the government is wary of institutionalizing Russian in Narva for aforementioned reasons.

But is that the real question isn't it, a question of institutionalizing a minority language? In Finland they institutionalized the language, and the proportion of native Swedish speakers still shrunk.

Would Narva Venelased feel more included if they had some kind of official recognition? Would they be more included? Perhaps on a simple level of enjoying some kind of status, but at a realistic level no. Because if they wanted to climb up the political or economic ladder in Estonia, they'd encounter those badly needed Estonian language skills.

If you want to produce an Estonian citizenry that's capable of befriending one another and studying together and working together, that isn't segregated, then wouldn't language acquisition be a primary tool of that?

If you want a kid born in Narva and a kid born in Kuressaare to have an equal chance to grow up to be peaminister, then you do things like institute school reform. Because ultimately that's the question. To integrate or to segregate. I am not sure if the Narva Venelased themselves can answer that question.

Giustino ütles ...

One more thought:

I have been in and out of this country for five years. And I think that the real 'integration' issue isn't so much about language.

Yes, there are obnoxious guys at the bus station in Tallinn who presume everyone has a knowledge of Russian.

But apart from them, most Russian Estonians I have met have spoken Estonian fluently. Way better than I probably ever will.

I did an interview once with Andrei Korobeinik, the founder of www.rate.ee. Andrei, is, as you can tell a native Russian speaker.

After the interview, he was on the phone talking to one of his employees in Estonian and I was on my phone talking to someone in Estonian, and we were both sort of straining to decline our verbs properly. And afterwards we both had a good laugh because we realized that we were in the same boat -- this small group of people who must master a Finno-Ugric language.

Later when I talked to some young Estonian kids in Viljandimaa about Rate and the founder though they seemed a bit cool when it turned out the founder of their favorite website was a venelane, you know, one from the same tribe that killed great-grandpa.

This is a country where you can be named Andrus, Andres, Andero, and any other combination, but call yourself Andrei and you are suddenly foreign.

And that's the big hurdle this country needs to overcome. To let down the defenses internally a bit more and see all the Andreis and Andruses as equal. To be a bit less protective and more welcoming and cosmopolitan.

During the Soviet era I guess the Estonians strove to protect themselves. Now, to be successful in integrating people so that they don't slip through the cracks, they need to stop dividing people up into eestlane and venelane.