esmaspäev, juuli 16, 2007

Stateless Persons Down to 8.5 Percent

Those of you who actually reside in Estonia may not think about it on a daily basis, but for those outside of Estonia 'the citizenship issue' is often on the tip of their tongues when talking about Estonia.

The Estonian Foreign Ministry recently updated its page to reflect that as of July 2, 115,274 people still have undetermined citizenship in Estonia. That is 8.5 percent of the population. In 1992, 32 percent of the Estonian population had undetermined citizenship.

Like a good open liberal New Yorker, when I first heard of Estonia's citizenship laws five years ago I said, 'well why don't they just given them citizenship then?' It has been since then that I have begun to understand the painful reality is that there was no 'silver bullet' for statelessness in Estonia in 1992 and there still isn't one today.

The reality is that the Republic of Estonia existed de jure from 1944 to 1991. It did. That's why guys like Toomas Hendrik Ilves received Estonian citizenship in the early 1990s. Because their status of citizens never ceased, even if they were born in Stockholm or Berlin or London.

Couple that with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of people from the USSR to occupied Estonia in the 40s through 80s, and you have a problem. Those people had Soviet citizenship. On December 25, 1991, their country ceased to exist. At that point they became stateless.

How was Estonia supposed to handle these several hundred thousand stateless people when it already had citizens. How do most people become citizens? Through naturalization. Some of these stateless persons had been in Estonia since the 1940s. Others had been in Estonia since the 1980s. Who was to judge which ones had to naturalize. And could living in a country for two years without any knowledge of the local language or culture really guarantee one citizenship? If so, why would someone that immigrated in 1994 not have those same rights?

Ay, it's a conundrum with no easy answer, other than naturalization. Over the past 15 years the policy has been molded and reshapen and tweaked and, lo and behold, as of today 145,470 people have naturalized. That's not great but you can't say that it's bad and you also can't say that the policy doesn't work because it appears that it does.

20 kommentaari:

klx ütles ...

i'm not sure i 100% understand how this "de jure" business effects citizenships.

how was citizenship denominated for estonian citizens during this time, and in what way did it differ from or was separate from the soviet system?

i guess my question is how did estonia manage to keep track of who was who while occupied?

AndresS ütles ...

From my understanding they didn't keep track of everyone. Simply, when Estonia regained independence anyone who could prove direct ancestry from a parent or grandparent who left Estonia before 1944 was given citizenship.

For instance in order to get my Estonian passport, I had to prove that my grandfather was born in Estonia, that my mother was legally his daughter and that I was legally her son. With documents proving that family line the Estonian government gave me a passport.

Giustino ütles ...

i guess my question is how did estonia manage to keep track of who was who while occupied?

It has more to do with the idea that citizenship existed since 1918, not 1991. If citizenship was scrapped in 1944, then Andres wouldn't be eligible for a passport.

ARK ütles ...

I'll leave real explanations to someone who knows better, and closer to a real source. (KMR??)

But I understand many parish records were quite preserved and intact. The Esto Citizens Committees (Eesti Kodanike Komiteed) did some good work in the late 1980s: gathered up records and registered Esto citizens. The legal restorationist position G alludes was not a fait accompli: early on, some in the Popular Front (Rahvarinne) were in favour of the "Third Republic" idea; that softer line vis-a-vis Moscow would've meant starting from scratch in 1991.

I've been told by those who were there that, back then, in the late 1980s, there were some tense strategic and historical debates over which way would be best. Some "Third Republic" proponents also plumped* for the so-called zero option or blanket citizenship, and said things to that effect in order to keep more moderate Russians on side during those early days.

By the time Esto emigres and their kids (and grandkids) began popping over in the 1990s, it was as simple as visited state archives/family archives or showing up with proof. That is, if the emigres didn't do so via embassies or consulates already.

Having access to your father's lederhosen really sped up the process. That is, until Citizenship bureau head Andres Kollist's "No Stain Policy."

* Speaking of "plump," Edgar Savisaar was a leading member of the Popular Front. Quite instrumental at the time.

Savisaar bit the head off a kitten during a song festival performance in 1989.

Wahur ütles ...

For those who care leaa about de jure and more about de facto things. There was one major factor, why not to give citizenship to "new" population - Soviet army. There was no control over the numbers and movement, plus together with army lived and worked many civilians, e.g. officers families. Also this was time when army started to fall apart, many officers and professional soldiers retired and were desperately looking for a chance to stay in Estonia. Many or all of those would have got citizenship as well, if 0-variant would have been used. Having 100 000 citizens (or around 10%) voting according to direct orders from unfriendly country was serious enough security risk to not even think much about 0-variant seriously.

Giustino ütles ...

So basically, Russia has preferred to think Estonia founded a third republic, even though it restored the first republic.

Of course going back to the Principality of Estland, one can argue about how many incarnations of Estonia there have been.

Kristopher ütles ...

The cutoff date was 1940, not 1944. Otherwise, a hypothetical Nazi officer on a tour of duty in 1942 could also claim that they received Estonian citizenship. But no. Just because you have the keys to the cabinet where the official stationery is kept does NOT mean that you get citizenship of the country you are having your totalitarian polka party in.

1944 was just when some people (my grandparents included) said, damn, here we go with yet another occupation, and decided not to push their luck but rather leave the country -- originally for a few months, until, I guess, Otto Tief and his cabinet got things under control again.

1918 is indeed the key date. Those couple thousand ethnic Estonians who left for the US around 1905 aren't eligible for citizenship, either.

I am clueless on how the records were kept and why Savisaar didn't send them to kingdom come when he was burning other files. But I did not need to flash any lederhosen. The records were all there.

I got my Estonian passport in Dec. 2003 (incidentally, when Kollist was still the boss). I admit unpatriotically that the reason I waited that long was to avoid the draft.

I had a phobia that the Centre Party elements in the governments of the mid-1990s would take away my citizenship but this was unfounded.

Kristopher ütles ...

One could well think about how many incarnations of Eesti there have been. But there has to be a cutoff somewhere, just like there is for civilization and religion. Despite the use of Estonian maidens as cornerstones for occupants' castles and all that, most of us still say unhesitatingly now that we are a Christian nation. It isn't perfect but it keeps everybody sane. They (let us refer to them politically correctly as "the Knights") did give us our civilization in a roundabout way. Go back far enough and you don't know what you are getting into -- sacred groves seem very idyllic indeed, but only until around late October. Ugala and Sakala are 13th century names dripping with the spirit of the olde days but a daily life of clan infighting each other, and no universal healthcare? Ugh.

ARK ütles ...

Thanks for fleshing out the facts, Kris. Nicely summed.

As for your phobia, not so silly.

Back in the day, Savisaar was head of Estonia's so-called Gosplan. Note the root "gos," as in "gosling." Savisaar was obsessed with extinct species in the 1970s, and by the 1980s he figured his way to fame would be via species extermination. His mother used to sing a Russian lullaby to him about a gosling who brought vodka and peanuts to the Tsar or some such thing. Doesn't matter.

So, sort of inexplicably, Savisaar chose goslings as the creature to exterminate. He appealed to Moscow. They looked at "Fast Eddie's" stellar Party record: Perfect attendance! Never ever the first to stop clapping! They gave him his very own plan: "Gosplan."

So, Savisaar's habits of latter years shouldn't have taken anyone by surprise.

All that to say: you were right to be worried.

Kristopher ütles ...

All I can say, Andres, is thank God for oral historians.

Seriously, did Savisaar head Gosplan? Because I can't seem to find what anyone did back in the Soviet days. It has been scrubbed even from Wikipedia.

Take Siim Kallas. His delightfully concise Wiki page CV begins in 1991. What was before that -- high school? Resume gap?

If you have time, the history of the Kallas page is also a laugh riot -- five minutes after someone added that he had been investigated for fraud a well-meaning viglant editor had erased all reference to it.

I liked this one too:

(cur) (last) 12:40, 21 April 2007 Intgr (Talk | contribs) (2,912 bytes) (remove copyrighted and *biased* information taken from (undo)

Savisaar's page at least has a Controversy section.

klx ütles ...

thanks for the explanation, guys.

the government link explains continuity of state fairly well too, and it all seems to have happened in the only way it could have, really (short of becoming a dictatorship like belarus, or threatening non citizens like moldova).

Frank ütles ...

Historians have it that Estonia as a political entity was born in 1252 when the Danish king Christopher acknowledged the corporation of his vassals in Harju and Viru as representative body for Estonia "universitas vasallorum suomm per Estoniam constituta".

For those who like to delve in history:

Wahur ütles ...

To kristopher:
I remember two pre-independence jobs of Kallas. For a while he was the boss of local Savings Bank branch. What is more interesting, is that he has been also head of Rahva Hääl, no.1 Estonian daily. To my knowledge this position required one to be a member of top-level nomenclature (soyuznaya nomenklatura) while for most (but maybe couple in the very top) party positions in Estonia only local nomenclature was enough. This fella was playing very-very high level game. And being a host of Mnemoturniir guaranteed popularity among Estonians as well... Really slick.

plasma-jack ütles ...

# 1975-1979: Specialist at the Finance Ministry of ESSR
# 1979-1986: Chairman of the Central Authority of the Saving Banks
# 1986-1989: Deputy chief editor of the newspaper Rahva Hääl
# 1989-1991: Chairman of the Central Union of the Estonian Trade Unions
# 1989-1991: Member of the Supreme Council of the USSR

I also added this to the Wikipedia article, somebody should check out if I got the names of the organizations right.

Wahur ütles ...

Poor guy, could have been standing on the right hand of the leader of the mighty world power... And now, mere EU councellor.

Kristopher ütles ...

And being a host of Mnemoturniir guaranteed popularity among Estonians as well....

Kallas was a host of a game show?

Like Jeopardy? This may explain the origins of the moustache.

Wahur ütles ...

Mnemoturniir was extremely popular radio show, where Wise Men Club answered trivia questions sent in by the public. It still continues with minor format changes in Vikerraadio every Sunday morning. Yes, Kallas was a long-time-host of that show. And no, I don't think that moustache has anything to do with it. Even if Wise Men were all men, they were mostly quite old.

ARK ütles ...

I have a vague memory of Kallas being a Komsomol or Young Pioneer leader at some point. Perhaps I'm all wrong, and memory sucks. Anyone?

If I'm right, the wise man thing holds. Siim Kalls: the Baden Powell of the Estonian SSR.

That would explain the sudden profusion of moustaches in ECP ranks in the 1980s.

Kristopher ütles ...

Plasma - So Kallas became a specialist at the ministry at age 26 or 27. That seems to square. Figure a graduation at 22 or 23, maybe a lsst year, and then a few years for quiz shows, giving out Marxist-Leninist Merit Badges (seems to ring true, Andres) -- and of course, growing and pruning.

(Lest people get the wrong idea, with all these stories, I should note that my only addition to Wikipedia to date is a couple subs and a bit on the Kaali meterorite under Lennart Meri).

Ain Kendra ütles ...

On Savisaar - yes, he lead the Estonian Gosplan unit. This was equivalent of deputy prime minister's chair as well. Before that, he worked in local government of Tallinn (nomenklatura-posts) and organized student's summer-job-camps - õpilasmalev was popular way of schoolchildren for summertime to work in agriculture and earn some pocket-money. Important aspect of this job was linked to the ideological training of young generation, a task which wasn't easily given to people with no faith into official ideology....

well, his past is well documented in estonian wiki.
it is somehow hard to tell, who were seriously believing, who just acted all the red circus necessities. anyways, all these jobs were still linked to some brainwashing activities...