pühapäev, märts 23, 2008

põlvkonnad

I recently read through the Estonian Human Development Report for 2007, and the section on integrating non-Estonians -- one of the four main sections, which gives you an idea of how important this topic is in Estonia and abroad -- gave me a new insight into the dynamics of Estonian integration policies and current politics.

The most helpful figure was a breakdown of Estonian residents by age group and ethnic identity. You may be surprised to know that the 25 percent of Estonia that is ethnic Russian is not equally distributed along the age groups. Instead the Estonian side of the graph resembles an hour glass. Ethnic Estonians are about 75-80 percent of the over 60 and under 45 set. But for the middle aged generation, the split is actually 60 percent ethnic Estonian, 40 percent ethnic Russian.

Why is that important? Step into my time machine, and let's revisit the lifespan of the generation of Andrus Ansip (age 50) and Mart Laar (age 47). They were born post-Stalin, so they have no memories of brutal deportations or wars in the woods. Instead, they were raised by the broken survivors of the Second World War, entering adolescence during the Brezhnev stagnation, and becoming young men during the Russification campaigns of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

They must have also noticed that 40 percent of their peers were not ethnic Estonians. And as members of a Soviet society, it was they who were expected to adapt to the majority, Russophone culture, not the other way around. They may have pondered sometime during the tenure of Karl Vaino, the ethnic Estonian Russophone head of Eesti NSV, that if their generation was split 60-40 with Estonians on top, would the next generation have the same split, except with the ethnicities reversed? Were they all just Karl Vainos in waiting?

So you could say that this generation is deeply concerned (not paranoid) about Russian influence in Estonian society. They are the ones that gave you the language law and the law on aliens. They are the ones who form the core of the right-wing leadership. Most importantly, it is this age group that will remain in power for some time to come. The Human Development Report states that it is this age group that is most likely to oppose any liberalization of the current laws. I wonder why.

That's one generation, but how about another? Of those aged 15-19, 78 percent are ethnic Estonian. To give you an idea of what kind of majority that is, it might help to recall that 79 percent of the Russian Federation identifies as Russian. Around the same number of Lithuanian residents identify as Lithuanian. So it's not a simple majority. We're talking nation state.

It's also a majority reinforced by a state culture that favors it, a mass media culture that produces the majority of its products for their consumption. This is an Estonia absent of the bold, Slavic touches of the USSR, and instead covered by the cute, clinical, and nordic. This Estonian majority has grown up with almost no living memory of the USSR. Rather than feeling threatened by the onslaught of Soviet population transfer, they instead feel confident about the future. According to the report, because of this security, they are more 'integration friendly' than their parents' generation. But what of their ethnic Russian peers?

It is their peers who ironically find themselves in a situation not unlike the rising generation of Estonians found themselves in during the late 1970s. Instead of feeling confident, they feel weak. As pointed out previously, their numbers are smaller. In cities like Tartu, Pärnu, and Tallinn, where sizable ethnic Russian minorities have existed since the 1950s, their proportion of the population is shrinking. Instead of coming to Estonia to rebuild it, confident in the mechanics of the Soviet state, as their grandparents did 50 years ago, they instead have grown up poorer than the rest, living in shadow of the collapse of the USSR.

Some may have been intimidated by those who were out in the streets last April smashing windows and burning flags. But the sad reality is for all that damage, there were only a few thousand young people willing to 'go to war' over the Bronze Soldier in Tallinn. Instead of the anger, what one might have seen is the desperation. Because they have no power and their world is determined by a bunch of middle-aged ethnic Estonian men. And, as we have discussed, they have their own phobias and agendas.

Despite this, the report left me hopeful. If the younger half of Estonia really does look like a nation state, and they are less encumbered by the baggage of the Soviet era, then they may be more amenable to an 'open and inclusive debate' about its domestic policies. What I came away thinking after reading the report, was not that Estonia needs any more suggestions from traveling bureaucrats or prodding from Brussels or Moscow. Instead, this country just needs more time to work out its issues by itself. I find that conclusion not only convincing, but also relieving.

25 kommentaari:

Andres ütles ...

Nice post.

Frank ütles ...

Fine arguing - as we are used to - but could anyone point out to me which nation / society would have dealt better with a minority like the Russophones than Estonia has done and will do? The discussion is sort of academic, isn´t it?

The quality of this blog - from my point of view - was proved once more these days when posters gave examples of ethnic "Russians" or "Ukrainians" or "Ingushians" fully integrated and accepted by their ethnically "pure Estonian" peers - speaking and dreaming Estonian making them Estoninans ...

Colm ütles ...

What I came away thinking after reading the report, was not that Estonia needs any more suggestions from traveling bureaucrats or prodding from Brussels or Moscow. Instead, this country just needs more time to work out its issues by itself. I find that conclusion not only convincing, but also relieving.

I definetely agree here. Estonia should be given time to sort its own issues out and Western Europe can spend more time on her own affairs as well. It would be highly hypecritical for France to turn around and slap Estonia on its palm for last April as when I was living in France in 2005/6 we had 'lovely' bonfires in the middle of the streets in Lille. Saves on the gas bills I guess...

Kristopher ütles ...

But Estonia's 2nd most populous county is 20% Estonian and 70% Russian, and that's not changing much.

The age categorization is largely statistical -- a 29-year-old Estonian raising a family in Võru might go his entire life without speaking to a 20-year-old Russophone in Kohtla-Järve.

Kristopher ütles ...

Frank, I believe Kazakhstan moved its national capital to Russophone territory -- a peaceful, non-aggressive way to address a demographic imbalance.

So you could say that this generation is deeply paranoid about Russian influence in Estonian society.

Paranoid? If anything, Estonian "nationalists" are pedantic, or historically rigorous beyond what is practical.

I think everybody would concede that if Estonia had been in charge of its borders and immigration from 1944-1991, there is no way so many Russian workers would have been imported in the northeast.

Look at bilngual Canada -- like Estonia, it is also overall about 65% native majority language and 25% native minority language.'

We need the middle generation to remind us that Ida-Virumaa isn't exactly Quebec.

Flasher T ütles ...

Dude, I told you ages ago - the only solution to the problem is to ensure a period of stability long enough for a generational switch. Then the issue will resolve itself.

Giustino ütles ...

But Estonia's 2nd most populous county is 20% Estonian and 70% Russian, and that's not changing much.

Let's assume that things continue along the present course. Where does it take the country? How does that region develop? The only way to bring it 'more' into Estonian culture is to create greater movement among people, so that people from Narva study in Tartu and vice versa; people from Tallinn vacation in Saaremaa and Narva-Jõesuu.

Paranoid? If anything, Estonian "nationalists" are pedantic, or historically rigorous beyond what is practical.

Maybe it's a poor choice of words. But take this issue that came up two years back in Narva. The local government wanted to build a statue to Peter the Great. The rightwing parties though opposed this.

Now I understand that 'Peeter Hirmus' isn't recalled fondly in Estonia, but there is a Rootsi Lõvi in Narva, and Peter did take Narva, and Estonia was part of the tsarist empire for two centuries. So, yes, Peter is part of the history of Narva, and I personally wouldn't give a crap if they erected a monument to Peter the Great in Narva.

But the rightwing middle aged historians would never see that point, because it's a symbol of foreign domination. Even though there are a lot of symbols of foreign domination in Narva, including the Rootsi Lõvi. This is sort of what I was referring to.

I think everybody would concede that if Estonia had been in charge of its borders and immigration from 1944-1991, there is no way so many Russian workers would have been imported in the northeast.

I agree with that. Most of the newer residents were brought into to replace the old residents who were evacuated from the front by the German army. At best, it resembled brute Soviet population transfer. At worst, it resembles German plans for the French frontier.

Look at bilngual Canada -- like Estonia, it is also overall about 65% native majority language and 25% native minority language.'

We need the middle generation to remind us that Ida-Virumaa isn't exactly Quebec.


As I explained, their perspective is the natural outcome of their place in the chain of history. Their commitment to history is the bedrock of the reborn Estonian state. This country would not be what it is without them.

That being said, Estonia doesn't need another political generation of Laars, Lukases, and Langs. The younger generation has grown up in different circumstances. While one could see the role of Laar's generation as 'setting the record straight' on Estonia's history and objectives, the younger generation bears the burden of making the state actually work the way these gentlemen devised. That's why it's good that they are more confident and less burdened by the Soviet past.

If the ultimate goal is, in Ilves' words, to make the Estonian state seem like it has always existed, to create a force of inertia, if you will, that will make it unthinkable in the West that Estonia would not exist, then the younger generations must carry out that goal, and stop dividing one another along the lines of ethnicity.

I mean can you imagine that in 10 years time, the main domestic political dialog is over the relocation of a Soviet war monument? God I hope not.

Giustino ütles ...

Dude, I told you ages ago - the only solution to the problem is to ensure a period of stability long enough for a generational switch. Then the issue will resolve itself.

This post wasn't written out of pleasure, but because I believe that people outside of Estonia -- ie. not us -- need a little extra insight into the dynamics of how things work in this society. I have no doubt you influenced it, but I am not sure to what degree any of us are capable of having original ideas.

stockholm slender ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
stockholm slender ütles ...

A new try...

Well, I think much of that outside "interest" on this issue is just lip service to Moscow, not really very deeply felt. It might feel different on the receiving end but most of this pompous rhetoric is just that, pompous rhetoric. Estonia is fundamentally seen as a secure nation state securely integrated to the Western structures. Perhaps the best thing to do then is to have impressive sounding programmes and projects not actually intended to do that much expect to please the outside parties so "concerned" about this issue. Some empty symbolical gestures could also be done towards the eastern direction. (Yeah, a cynical Finn speaking here.) Healthy integration as such is important for Estonia itself for a multitude of reasons, but it has to be implemented on Estonian terms and timetables. And here the absolutely most important part is simply to continue maintaining a successful Western style society which Estonia is actually doing, so there.

Andres ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Puu ütles ...

Good job.

leena ütles ...

I found your blog few weeks ago and it has become one of my mane readings...thank you for that and for that perspective offering post.

Though I feel the future not so black-n-white. And the actual Rootsi lõvi vs Peeter issue here is that Estonians are a bit afraid of Russia, Russians, Russian statues, politics and Russian media. The fear starts from rohujuuretasand - i mean, have a slight view into the Estonian jails...and then the history factor..and also the demagogic nowadays media - and HOPLAAA: of course you get fear, paranoia and hate. And i am not so sure that it will change with the generations.

Armand Hammer ütles ...

Bravo. I approve of this posting.

Giustino ütles ...

Thanks for the support. Ethnicity is an icky subject and I actually didn't want to write this post, but felt like if I didn't write it, no one would.

Randy ütles ...

I think everybody would concede that if Estonia had been in charge of its borders and immigration from 1944-1991, there is no way so many Russian workers would have been imported in the northeast.

Agreed, if there had even been an Estonian People's Republic instead of an Estonian SSR. Communist states guarded their borders jealously. Maybe there'd be a certain number of Vietnamese as in Poland and the Czech Republic, or Chinese as in Hungary.

Instead of the anger, what one might have seen is the desperation. Because they have no power and their world is determined by a bunch of middle-aged ethnic Estonian men. And, as we have discussed, they have their own phobias and agendas.

Estonian Russophones do seem to fit many of the contours of a marginalized gastarbeitar group, complete with the first generation of immigrants having been recruited to work in industries which either no longer exist or have been radically transformed.

Triin ütles ...

Indeed, it is an icky subject, but you have your point. And your argueing is good. I'm part of the so called under 40 generation and definitely feel differently about some matters then my parents for example.

Although I believe time will heel some wounds, I'm a bit concerned it will take longer than one generation or even two. I'm currently writing my BA thesis on the matter, to see if schoolbooks still represent hate and anger (haven't got the results yet, but I'm afraid the answer won't make things easier). Schoolbooks as a part of civic studies. So if children are taught at school and they are told at home, that Russians for example are "bad", then time might heel way too slowly.

But you inspired me to get my thoughts together as well. So far I have been avoiding the subject in my blog, due to the fact that many of my friends are the so called minority and I'm not sure, how they feel about it. But I'll see soon, I guess.

Giustino ütles ...

Triin,

The only way forward is to be straightforward. I think the fears of the younger Russian community are mostly unfounded. Almost every linguistic report I have read says it's nearly impossible for them to lose their language because they live right next door to Russia. They are more in the situation of German-speakers in northern Italy, who have probably been bilingual for generations. In my family, there were Albanians from southern Italy who had been bilingual for centuries, speaking both an ancient Albanian dialect and Italian.

Giustino

Randy ütles ...

Almost every linguistic report I have read says it's nearly impossible for them to lose their language because they live right next door to Russia.

The geographical separation of Russophones from Estophones is also a major factor. Half of Russophones live in Ida-Virumaa alone, another 40% in Harju (disproportionately in Soviet-era settlements, I'm guessing). With that kind of territorialization of the language divide, apart from intermarriage and language shift to Estonian the only factor that could change the language balance would be differing demographic trends.

They are more in the situation of German-speakers in northern Italy, who have probably been bilingual for generations. In my family, there were Albanians from southern Italy who had been bilingual for centuries, speaking both an ancient Albanian dialect and Italian.

The situation of Swedophones in Finland might be a model for the position in Russophones in Estonia in a generation's time. Sweden is just across the water from western Finland and Swedophones were concentrated in certain territories, but that hasn't kept the proportion of Swedophones in Finland from halving since independence.

Katrin ütles ...

I agree with that. Most of the newer residents were brought into to replace the old residents who were evacuated from the front by the German army. At best, it resembled brute Soviet population transfer. At worst, it resembles German plans for the French frontier.

I don't understand your statement. The new residents were NOT brought to replace old residents. The "old residents" were departed mostly by Soviet power, and yes, then they STARTED to bring in new residents from other USSR countries. Massive departing of Estonians stopped long before the peak of introducing new residents form USSR was reached in 1950-s and 1960s.

You probably know that USSR re-structured the economy of Estonia. Suddenly giant factories and industrial p+ants started to emerge - Volta, Talleks, RET etc etc. These fatories were actually not producing for Estonia, these were ment to meet the needs of the enourmos USSR market, especially the Russian Federation. And some of those factories and industrial plants were planned to serve as military plants also, if needed. To build a tractor is not so different from building a military vehicle.

Of course, there was not enough qualified workers in Estonia, to meet the needs of these enourmous plants. Also the structure of agriculture was changed into planned, large-scale and intensive collective farming. These large facilities needed workers too. Foreign workers were brought to Estonia and they were given appartements, build actually just for them. They got those appartements for free. Locals had to wait for decades in lines in order to get a proper flat. They started to build suburbs just to accomodate all these foreigners. Estonian villages were destroyed, so they could build another bunch of ugly houses. That process had a "magnificant" impact on future - it ended up with a boom in real estate market a few years ago - just imagine, all these people, who were forced to live in one appartement (sometimes 10 people in a 3 rooms flat, gran'mas and gran'pas and their children and grandchildren) had a chance to get a home of their own... I know, because we have gone through all of the processes I've just described above. And I know the reasons for departing and fates of the departed-by-force people, because my parents and grandparents were among them.

Okey, so much about demographic. About integration - first of all, we don't need Russians to forget about their native language or traditions. We need Russians, we love Russians. What we don't need is "Homo soveticus", a person without nationality and roots and without a common understanding about one's personal moral obligations in a democratic society.

Just imagine - these few hundred stupid Russian boys and girls, demolishing the city - they know nothing about estonian history. They have not excperienced brutalities and cruelties of the USSR. And their paremts also have not - because their paremnts belong to a generation, who got it all - they came here, to a beatiful country, they got appartements, they got a job, they had several advantages that local inhabitants didn't. Everybody was speaking Russian, even in a local health centre you hardly ever could here doctors speaking Estonian. Of course they feel bitter. They had a nice life here, much better then those of their nationality in Russia. Estonia was held to be a country of wealth and culture in USSR. And then they loose it all. A catastrophy.

That is what they tell to tehir children - that in USSR the life was good and everything was for free. And the children have no reason not to trust their parents. They dont't know abot the context, about the other side of the story. They don't know about the other side, because in local Russian schools the textbooks and programs have been different.

Like David Vseviov said - Russian Youth has to learn about the TRUE history of RUSSIA and the USSR first, in order to understand the history of Estonia. These Russians have to learn to be Russians, rather then beeing "Homo soveticus". They have to get interested in their own history and roots first, only then we can start talking about real integration. While integration does not mean forgetting about one's roots, but blending into a society and learning to function as a part of it.

Katrin ütles ...

I apolgise for sluppy writing...

Giustino ütles ...

I don't understand your statement. The new residents were NOT brought to replace old residents.

Katrin, a very excellent post. What I meant is that Estonia lost 25 percent of its population during the war. As you said, the new Soviet workers were brought in because there weren't enough Estonian workers. It reminds me of what they used to say during Vietnam: "We're destroying the village ... to save it."

n-lane ütles ...

To give you an idea of what kind of majority that is, it might help to recall that 79 percent of the Russian Federation identifies as Russian. (Giustino)

I think, Russia is not a good example in this case. It is a federation where 'the individual republics have the right to make their native language co-official next to Russian' (Wikipedia). And many of them use this possibility (Wikipedia).

Giustino ütles ...

Fair enough. I should have used Slovenia as an example instead.

n-lane ütles ...

As for the main idea of your post, I don't agree that Estonia should be left alone "to work out its issues by itself". It cannot be left alone because it's part of the EU now. On the contrary, it needs even more criticism from other EU members in order for the younger generations of ethnic Estonians to understand what's really wrong with the language law, the law on aliens and some other products of the 'ethnodemocracy'.