neljapäev, november 15, 2007

Katariina Kolledž

If you've been following the Eesti news recently, you'll see that the latest scandal is over the establishment of a branch of Tallinn University called Katariina Kolledž that will offer students bachelor's studies in the Russian language.

According to some members of Isamaa-Res Publica Liit, the establishment of a Russian-language college in Tallinn will undermine the school reform legislation that seeks to increase Estonian language competency in high school graduates. The logic is that students that get a degree in a Russian-language college will be at a greater disadvantage in the labor market.

My opinion is, so what? If they already take their high school Estonian-language classes and are able to enroll in Tallinn University and choose freely to do a Russian-language bachelor's, then that's their decision, and they can reap what the market has to offer them upon graduation.

The reality though is that the market could offer them something good. A lot of foreign businesses like doing business in Estonia because they can operate in mostly clean, manageable, EU-approved, NATO-protected business environment while at the same time serving sectors of the northwestern Russian market.

I know that parts of the business class in Russia absolutely adore the strong hand of Vladimir Putin, but Russia is a corrupt country. Boyscout Finns and Swedes and Germans might prefer to do their business in Estonia even if their main market is next door in St. Petersburg. The multilingualism of Tallinn's residents makes it a more attractive hub.

Also, as great as your second language skills may be, there are simply some students that might find higher education in Russian more attractive, even if the Estonian-language universities -- and English-language ones too, I might add -- are technically better. That is in fact the only real legitimate critique here. Isamaa calls Katariina an institute that will create a more segregated society.

When I think of segregation, I think of Plessy vs. Ferguson. I think of the lovely phrase, 'separate but equal.' And I have to wonder, is it possible to achieve such a thing? Will the queenly Katariina Kolledž really become 'crappy, second-rate kolledž'? I'd be lying to you if I wrote that it wasn't possible.

Beyond that though I think that the idea that bottling up a Russian-language college is going to hurt Eesti more than help it is misguided. It's rooted in the Estonian experience with Russification -- that creating enough obstacles will force people to integrate, like it or not.

One of the chief criticisms of Estonia -- though poorly researched -- is that it doesn't offer enough Russian-language higher education. It does offer it, but this addition could dispel that criticism. Moreover, it could act as a social safety valve for people that wish to pursue higher education in their native language -- and Russian is the native language of about 40 percent of Tallinn.

I personally think that the best way to integrate people is establish institutions that reinforce the dominant culture, but at the same time give people the freedom to choose and to preserve their culture too. That way you invite people into the majority culture without creating negative or reactionary feelings by demanding that they enter it.

Anyway, the icing on the cake is that the college's name reflects indirectly Estonia's tsarist past. I wrote earlier how Estonia could use its tsarist past as a tool for integration. That is, rather than have Russian Estonians imagined as 'Soviet remnants' set adrift on the seas of Estonian nationalism, they see themselves simply as a national minority that maintains links to their Russian, not Soviet, past.

The irony here of course is that Catherine the Great didn't speak Russian as a native language. She spoke German. Catherine I was the daughter of a Livonian serf and also spoke German. She was also illiterate. Perhaps they want to name the college after another Russian monarch? May I suggest Nicholas II?

18 kommentaari:

Matis ütles ...

Would the college really be named after Catherine the Great? I rather think that it will be named after the first Russian empress Catherine I, who according to some sources was born in Rõngu, Estonia…

plasma-jack ütles ...

Btw, KK's idea was initiated by Sergey Ivanov, the guy that is considered a traitor by his Russian-speaking compatriots.

Frank ütles ...

Tallinn and Tartu should see to it, that they play up to their role as lighthouses for (at least) Northwestern Russia: higher education in Russian that is more attractive than higher education in Russia seems to be a very good idea that does credit to Estonia, also to business-minded people.

Flasher T ütles ...

Your point, if I understand correctly, is that even though KK will most likely be useless, the general ideal of personal freedom dictates that we allow people to make that choice if they want to.

The problem is, people make the choice because it's the convenient choice. Lasnamäe kids just out of high school can delay having to deal with the real world for another three years - maybe five - by going to a Russian college, along with all their Russian friends, taking the number 35 bus home to their Russian parents in the Russian ghetto.

Eventually they graduate with a degree in Russian literature. And find that their career choices range from cement mixer to Maxima cashier.

And then they blame us. They go on Russian television and cry about the nazi Estonians who discriminate the poor Russians, about glass ceilings and evil, horned and tailed nationalists drinking the blood of Slavic babies.

Personal freedom is a great thing, but it has to be accompanied by personal responsibility. The real estate boom is over, and there is only so many cement mixers we can employ.

Flasher T ütles ...

Btw, KK's idea was initiated by Sergey Ivanov, the guy that is considered a traitor by his Russian-speaking compatriots.

Sergei Ivanov is a political prostitute, and always has been, long before he joined the Reform party. To seriously consider him a traitor is redundant.

In NY state ütles ...

I think it would be a mistake to offer Russian language Bachelor's degrees in subjects other than the Russian language.

One's proficiency with a language is determined by what language one is educated in.

My father was very upset to realize how rudimentary his Estonian had become upon return to Estonia in 1991. He ALWAYS speaks Estonian at home here in the U.S. He went to school in Estonian up through high school, the last part in DP camps. However, he attended college here in the United States.

If Estonia truly wants some level of integration by the Russian community, the Russians need to be educated on one level or another in Estonian. This does NOT mean that all vestiges of Russian are to be wiped out. Just as here in the US, ethic groups should be free to form organizations to retain cultural identity.

However, some level of loyalty to the overarching state is necessary for the country to operate in a secure manner. If true paranoia begins to seep in, then the state will begin to take repressive measures in the name of security.

At that point, democracy, a truly desirable system of government, stops being viable.

Giustino ütles ...

Your point, if I understand correctly, is that even though KK will most likely be useless, the general ideal of personal freedom dictates that we allow people to make that choice if they want to.

I have two points. 1) People should be able to succeed or fail on their own. If you do most of your high school education in Estonian and then decided to go to the Russian college and wind up being a cement mixer, that's your fault.

Since we already have a situation where there are plenty of Russophone cement mixers and no Katariina Kolledz, then how would this hypothetically change the situation?

Consider that my 'pro' part of the argument.

Point 2 was that I can see how this could result in a segregation situation where the level of Russian education is less because there are fewer students with less choices/competition.

Consider that my 'con' part.

Personally, I am not voting on this matter. But I don't really see why it's so controversial, especially when there are other places offering higher education in Russian.

And then they blame us. They go on Russian television and cry about the nazi Estonians who discriminate the poor Russians, about glass ceilings and evil, horned and tailed nationalists drinking the blood of Slavic babies.

I am convinced that there is a certain proportion of this population that will whine no matter what. They cannot be reached. They are doomed by their own idiocy.

MaitUus ütles ...

The idea has been badly presented. IRL, etc. would accept KK more readily if it was sold to them as an center of higher education for students from Russia, Belarus & Ukraine wishing to study in EU.

margus ütles ...

To study Russian philology?

Frank ütles ...

Maituus, that is the point - in one of if not in Germany´s most important Baltic Port, Rostock, they have just opened a (private) Hansa University, in order rather to earn money than to spend it. I guess the business model might make sense, and a similar higher education institution appealing to native speakers of Russian in Estonia might make sense as well. I doubt that Lasnamäe is the place where you would find many alumni of such an institution ...

Juan Manuel ütles ...

In Tartu I attended Russian literature classes in Russian. All the students where Russian. There was a separate group of Estonians who studied Russian literature in Estonian. They even read Juri Lotman in Estonian. Isn't that pushing segregation too far?

Part of the idea of segregation is having separate schools, and that's what we have now. Even in segakoolid, Estonians and Russians attend different classes. If Russians and Estonians don`t want to lead parallel lives, they should share a common space at some time before they arrive to the labor market (and meet each other for the first time in their lives).

In last week's Jutusaade, Anna Levandi, a Russian skating instructor that happens to be a member of Isamaa, suggested that there should be at least some common classes at school where Russians and Estonians could interact.


http://www.vikerraadio.ee/index.php?lang=est&main_id=939&PHPSESSID=4dbee482a71b61551b373984ccbc9bbf


As to this new Katariina Koledž, everything depends on the way they implement the idea. I have read that it will not be free. Im not sure about where I read this but I thought they intended to attract (rich) students from CIS countries. So it is not about creating a parallel higher education system in Russian, but about using existing resources in a way that could bring money to the school.

Max ütles ...

Giustino wrote [re the proposed name of the college]:
'May I propose Nicholas II'?


Excellent. That would necessitate a strong English linguistic quotient. Nicholas and Alexandra always spoke to each other in English. Alexandra was raised primarily in England, by her maternal grandmother, Queen Victoria. So English was her native language, which she spoke with a British accent. Nicholas had a British accent as well, since he learned English from his English nanny -- and the fact that his aunt was the Queen of England probably didn't hurt. Their letters to each other were also all in English. They have been published, and make facinating reading. Indeed, when Nicholas visited England and appeared in public with the then Prince of Wales, the future George V, whom he closely resembled, even people close to the royal household mistook one for the other, especially as they delighted in dressing up in similar outfits. There is one famous photo (monochrome of course) of cousins "Nicky" and "George" in yachting caps, navy blazers and white ducks looking for all the world like identical twins.

plasma-jack ütles ...

Nicholas II would be a bad idea also because of 1905. They put up that statue in front of Estonia theatre with a good reason.

plasma-jack ütles ...

On 16 October the army opened fire in the Tallinn city centre at the participants of the political manifestation, organised by social democrats. 94 were killed, over a hundred wounded. [...] To suppress the revolution in the Baltics, the government used an army consisting of 19 000 soldiers. Special punitive troops, aided and abetted by the Baltic German landlords, shot over 300 hundred people in 1906; without trial or inquest. The court martial additionally condemned about 300 persons to death. About 600 received corporal punishment, hundreds were imprisoned and sent to Siberia. More than a half of all those executed in the Russian Empire, were inhabitants of Estonia and Latvia. Fearing the repressions, a great part of Estonian political leaders fled abroad. Besides other reactionary punitive measures, the central government vetoed the left-wing parties and organisations, and closed down the trade unions and progressive newspapers.
link


So, Alexander II would be a much better idea.

plasma-jack ütles ...

the "300 hundred" is an obvious typo, of course, they meant to say three hundred.

Giustino ütles ...

Even in segakoolid, Estonians and Russians attend different classes.

I know. It's very 'us' and 'them'. I don't like it and I wish there were more integrated educational measures beyond "school reform", but I don't think the Education Ministry can really interfere that much at that level.

At the same time, in Tartu I see a lot of people of various ethnicities working side by side in Estonian -- at the bank, at the post office, in the police, et cetera. Integration is happening. It's not all bad news.

Nicholas II would be a bad idea also because of 1905. They put up that statue in front of Estonia theatre with a good reason.

It was a joke. Perhaps they should call it Boris Yeltsin Academy? After all, he could both read and write in Russian!

Janek ütles ...

I think that the Katariina Kolledz is a very bad idea unless it is only for Russia's russian speakers. Social networks are very important and when one is promoted to a management then his/her friends (or fellow university graduates) are inevitably more likely to get better jobs.

And Andrei or Katja from Lasnamäe will end up in Maxima. Or uncle Vasja's illegal drug/alcohol/metal bizniz.

Giustino ütles ...

And Andrei or Katja from Lasnamäe will end up in Maxima. Or uncle Vasja's illegal drug/alcohol/metal bizniz.

How are they not winding up there already, even without Katariina Kolledz?