esmaspäev, oktoober 12, 2009


Autumn in Setomaa to me is more appealing than summer. Sure, summer is just like one big sõir* and sauna party. But you can barely get any work done without being harassed by sweat and insects.

In autumn, you are alone with your thoughts and the pleasing cool colors of the northern foliage. From an American perspective, you might as well be somewhere deep in the mountains of Vermont. You develop a sudden urge to hear pedal-steel guitar licks and twangy vocal harmonies, even if you've never really enjoyed country music.

This is the mindset that sweeps in as you put up one wall of an outhouse. I said I was going to build one, and I am building it, even if it takes a really long time. Even if it falls over after its first Christening. I am building the outhouse to prove to myself that I am not only useful for writing funny blogposts and changing diapers. I am building it to show that I am capable of building an outhouse. Other people do sillier things -- run marathons, scale buildings, sail solo around the world -- to test themselves. And here I am with my powerdrill and saw. This is my test. The outhouse will be built. I can feel it.


Poor Indrek Teder. The chancellor of justice stepped it in earlier this month. He got up in front of the Riigikogu and did the Estonian political equivalent of asking for diarrhea. He suggested Estonia change part of its citizenship requirements for stateless persons. The procedure for naturalization in question concerns minors born to stateless parents. At the moment, the parents must request that their stateless child be given citizenship in order for the child to receive it. Teder suggested that the child be given citizenship automatically. Why deny the Estonian-born child a passport if his or her parents are too lazy to do the paper work?

Now, to be fair, it's not like it was his idea. When Thomas Hammarberg, the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, last visited Tallinn, he suggested the same change be made. That is because, in most of the world, statelessness is viewed as a problem. Diplomats undertaking human rights missions are mandated to urge countries to reduce it. Estonia officially says it is working hard to cut its number of stateless persons. It has, slowly and steadily. Over the past six years, the number of stateless persons has been reduced from 12 percent to 7.5 percent of the population, or around 100,000 people. An issue, though, is that many of the newly naturalized do not acquire Estonian citizenship. They acquire Russian citizenship which, if you take the Russians' moral imperative for intervention in Georgia last year, can cause big headaches for a state trying to maintain its sovereignty.

But proponents of the current policy say that they cannot force Estonian citizenship on anyone, even children without a passport. The Estonian state is run by nice people. They don't even force ice cream on anyone. It's up for the parents to decide, they argue. Of course, they might force an Estonian integration program on you in schools, or mandate a certain level of linguistic proficiency for you to hold certain jobs. But, that's just their way of helping you get along so that one day you can get that passport. According to this line of thinking, an Estonian passport is like the ripe, sweet cherry atop the multi-layered cake of integration.

The argument against naturalizing more people at a faster rate through the years has rested on several concepts. One is legal continuity and the idea that those who are currently stateless did not enter Estonia with the permission of its citizens, who were under a military occupation (and they were, you needed special permission to visit Hiiumaa). Plus many of those stateless persons were born in Russia and did not have longstanding ties to Estonia. A significant chunk of them went back to their mother country in the nineties (about 150,000 people, off the top of my head). But, from the vantage point of 2009, it looks like those who are still here are here to stay. They're not going "home." They are "home."

Another argument rested on loyalty. How could Estonians know that those stateless people were not Intermovement-backing saboteurs? How could they be trusted with the right to vote for the parliament at such a critical time in the nation's history? This argument also made sense, considering the large number of Russian military personnel and pensioners in Estonia in the early 1990s. And Estonia was trying to navigate its way into the EU and NATO, two Western clubs that didn't especially want it, but seemed like the best antidote to post-Soviet detritus.

That argument made sense for a long time. But then came the Herman Simm case, where a birthright Estonian citizen traded security secrets to the Kremlin so that he could buy up more land in Viljandi County. Those who opposed the merits of the "loyalty argument" in the citizenship discourse suddenly found themselves with a powerful counterargument: citizenship does not guarantee loyalty. Just look at Herman Simm.

For some one with nasty social democratic tendencies like myself -- and they are hard to shake -- I tend to be attracted to the idea of the state as a steamroller, or even a crazy monster from a Japanese science fiction movie. The Estonian Godzilla emerges from the Baltic Sea. Everywhere you hear air-raid sirens. People are fleeing this way and that. There's chaos on the streets of Tallinn. But the Estonian Godzilla does not care. It does not ask its stateless victims if they want to be citizens or not. There's no paper work. With a determined, pissed-off look on its face, it grabs them, tosses them towards its killer jaws, and gobbles them up. "Mmm, tasty," it belches as it breaths fire and heads towards Lasnamäe. "Who's next?"

And you can't help but cheer on Godzilla. I mean, why should the lizard just stay there lounging in the ocean when real fun can be had on the streets of Eestimaa? Sometimes, you need a little bread and circus. Entertain us, oh Estonian state. Then again, I never get eaten in those movies. I'm always sitting safely with my passport and loved one in the theater.

But Teder didn't sell the proposed change to his skeptical audience that way. He's too polite. He said that Estonia is too "nationality-centered" right now, and that he wants to build a happier country where citizenship, or state identity, is paramount. You're not defined by your language or the folk costume hanging in your closet, according to this line of thinking. You are defined by your nifty, society-leveling state-identity card. That's a sweet, bureaucratic thought, but the current coalition isn't going to change anything related to citizenship laws. And why would they? These are the kinds of issues that elicit hundreds of angry comments on Postimees' online edition. As I said, it's like asking for an intestinal disorder. Anybody who opens up that shit box is destined for ruin.

An interesting aside is that Estonia is "nationality centered" because Estonians actually are the largest group of people in Estonia. Seven out of every 10 individuals on the soil of this land speak Estonian with their mom and/or dad. And one of those 10 is loyal to Dmitri Medvedev or some other president -- typically Yuschenko, Lukashenka, or Halonen, so they aren't part of the parliamentary equation. That means that people speak Estonian in the Riigikogu because that's the language that most people speak. These days, the official language is de facto, not just de jure. But don't tell anybody that. It'll be our little secret.


When you are building an outhouse, you learn that life is a series of compromises. Oh yeah, you think you measured those posts correctly and spaced them evenly apart. You think that your outhouse frame is a model of geometric perfection. But then you take a few steps back and realize how badly you've messed the whole thing up.

So you hammer a bit here, and dig a bit there, and screw in an extra piece of wood here, and lean on it a bit there, and, when you look at it again, it's not perfect, but it's standing. It might even last the winter. And you see that every last piece of it is a compromise. The whole structure hangs on slight alterations, each fixed to the other. To put in another way, the sturdy whole is built on interlocking flaws.

I turn over mismatched concepts as I saw another piece of wood. Russia claims a "sphere of privileged interest" in the post-Soviet space, which includes Estonia. NATO reiterates that the cornerstone of the treaty is collective defense, which includes collective defense of Estonia. Nuclear-armed NATO also does not see little Russia as a real security threat, supposedly because if Russia did threaten NATO, the organization would drop an Article 5 bomb on Moscow. At the same time, Russia has decided that Ukraine will not join NATO, and there are some tremors of badness originating from the Crimean peninsula. I read about this everyday. I read about geopolitics so much I even dream about it.

Our friends regularly make the pilgrimage to the Russian side of Setomaa. I've even thought of getting a multiple entry visa so I can see what life is like over there in Asia. Supposedly, the bake shops in Petseri are not to be missed! But I'm worried they've got me in their secret files. I'm worried Russian Ambassador Nikolai Uspenski has a dossier that reads, Giustino: Enemy Blogger.

"I haven't written nice things about Putin," I told my spouse. "I'm sure they'll deny any application I put forward."

"Then why don't you write something good about him for a change?" she suggested.

"Good? About Putin?"

The other night, I dreamed I was in a beautiful European city filled with canals and fountains and outdoor cafes. I thought I was back in Turku, or Stockholm, or Amsterdam, but no, I was in St. Petersburg drinking beer at an outdoor cafe with Putin.

"I read your blog all the time," Putin says and guzzles his beer. "It's pretty funny, but why do you write so much nasty shit about Russia all the time, eh?"

"Nasty? Like what?" I feign innocence.

The waiter comes and asks if we want another round. Putin tells him we do, and that it's on him.

"You said our ambassador Nikolai Uspenski is incapable of smiling," Putin glares at me. "How would you feel if I said that your Estonian ambassador is incapable of smiling?"

"He probably is. I mean, he is Estonian."

Putin laughs, and when Putin is drunk and laughs, he really loses it. He's slapping his knees. He's pounding his fists on the table. After a minute, he wipes the tears of laughter from his eyes.

"You're not so bad, Giustino," Putin says. "You should spend more time in Russia. We have pretty girls. Old buildings. Great literature. Here," Putin rummages through a knapsack. "have you ever read The Brothers Karamazov?"


"Take it, take it," he hands the book to me. "How about," he dips again into his bag, feeling around, "Anna Karenina?"

"I haven't read that either."

"You haven't read it? My God. Here, here, take it. It's yours." Putin pushes the other thick book across the table.

"Thanks," I say, flipping through the Cyrillic text, "but I don't know Russian."

"Don't play with me, Giustino," Putin sneers. "Everybody knows Russian."


"Wait, I think I have something written in fascist, I mean English," Putin chuckles, feeling around in his book bag. "Here!" he thrusts a third book in my hands. I look down. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.

"You'll love it," Putin says. "It's right up your alley. Sick," he chuckles again, "sick." He chugs his beer and slams the glass on the table.

I put the books aside and finish my beer. "You know, Putin, you're not so bad," I say, wiping the foam from my mouth. "You should come to Tartu sometime. We've got pretty girls. Old buildings. Great literature."


It snowed yesterday in Tartu and I was a little annoyed. I am enjoying autumn. I want it to extend for as long as possible. Some people are summer people. They're hedonists. Their idea of a good time is grilling meat in their swim trunks eight days a week. Other people like spring. The river ice is melting. The pollen's in the air. The girls are apt to try out exotic fashions. It's mating season. A third group of oddballs enjoy winter. It's so dark and sinister, and yet, by withstanding all that pressure, you are ultimately enlightened. For them, winter is like a really good Radiohead album.

But me? I am enjoying autumn, especially autumn in Setomaa. I want it to last. I want the trees to stay the way they are. They soothe me. Yes, I think I've decided. I am an autumn person. I want to finish the outhouse before it's too late, before it starts snowing every day from now to April 1.

In the distance, I hear a the muffled explosion of a gunshot. Our neighbor and some of the other locals have gone off hunting deer. It's all supervised by the state. When you drive into this corner of Võrumaa, you can see the hunt supervisors, dressed in neon orange vests, making sure nobody gets out of line.

I know I am not like the locals. They are country boys. They build outhouses that actually are geometrically perfect. The Estonian giant mythological figure Kalev himself could use it. The locals are different. They speak Võro language, albeit only when they are drunk or joking. But they don't mind me. Maybe they'll even compliment me on the outhouse when it's finished. Nothing like a New York tenderfoot greenhorn trying to manage in the Montana of Estonia. But I enjoy it. I could just stay here in this moment for a long time, powerdrill in hand, having a meaningful dialogue with a half-finished outhouse.


* Sõir is a kind of cheese popular in Võromaa and Setomaa,. The word sõir is of Slavic origin (the Czech word for 'cheese' is sýr) . The local varieties of sõir are soft, often with caraway (not rye) seeds mixed in. The Estonian word for 'cheese' is juust. It is of Germanic origin (the Swedish word for 'cheese' is ost). The etymologies of these words could be seen as examples of the different influences on Estonian and Võro/Seto culture.

37 kommentaari:

Pierce Bacchus ütles ...

Send some of that snow up here to Tallinn. I'm one of those winter loving oddballs in Estonia.

Regarding the Russian Visa, I'd be more paranoid that it would be approved just so they could get me inside Russia where I would be promptly arrested.

I think I read somewhere there is some law the Russians passed or are trying to pass against writing negative things about the government and they plan to enforce it on anyone that sets foot on their territory.

I enjoyed this blog post, especially the conversation with Putin.

Pierce Bacchus ütles ...

Actually, this is what I was thinking of:

...the government has announced that it is considering passing a law to criminalize statements and acts that deny the Soviets won World War II, or claim it used poor tactics in battle or did not liberate Eastern Europe.

When Russia's law "Against the Rehabilitation of Nazism" is passed, "the presidents of some countries who denied [the Soviet victory] would not be able to travel with impunity in our country.,8599,1896927,00.html

Giustino ütles ...

'Drinking with Putin' could be a classic comedy sketch, right up there with Cheech and Chong's 'Tripping in Court.'

Sharon ütles ...

The Brothers Karamazov... Why do I always picture a travelling group of tumblers when I see that title? Someone writes The Brothers Karamazov, and in my head I'm watching Dimitri shout "Heppa!" as he does a backwards somersault and lands on Ivan's shoulders. Then they both start juggling...

Sharon ütles ...

Two thoughts occurred to me whilst reading that bit on automatic citizenship for children of Stateless people born in Estonia.

1) Yep the same old argument - if I can be an Estonian citizen when I've spent three weeks in Estonia and can barely read a sentence in the language (and can't speak it at all), then surely anyone born in the country and capable of holding a conversation in the language is entitled.

2) This could actually be a wise move, politically speaking. Okay, a lot of the Stateless people have the option of getting Russian citizenship, right? Well, if they've already got Estonian citizenship, and can still get Russian citizenship, then we'll be building a bank of people who are both Estonian and Russian. This means, deep down, they'll feel as if they have a foot on both sides of the border, and will therefore be less likely to feel comfortable with one side being mean to the other...

It's a step towards a future where every Russian has an Estonian cousin, and when certain once-were-imperial forces think about flexing their muscles, the people will be more likely to say "but that's my cousin over there - we can't send tanks into his town!"

Kristopher ütles ...

I hope this is devil's advocacy and not a particularly depressing case of moral relativism.

Sharon, you would have probably been born in the country and would speak Estonian had Estonia not lost control of its borders during World War II. As it stands, you were not fortunate to be able to learn the language. I don't know how much your family lost in the war, but you did inherit one of the most valuable assets in your family: Estonian citizenship.

There's no statute of limitations on invasions and war crimes. The country may have been raped, but the Framers, in 1990 and thereafter, made sure that at least you would have citizenship.

I don't think there should ever be any political games involving citizenship, whether they are "wise moves" or not. Citizenship is a privilege and a great responsibility. The citizenship laws were not created to create a particular favourable environment. These laws should not be changed to match the political status quo, certainly not only 20 years since they were enacted.

There's only one Estonia in the world and citizenship should come at a very high price, much higher than it is right now. We can be friends to Russian Federation Russians if they choose, but if they want cousins, they're going to have to marry in or shop elsewhere.

LPR ütles ...

Heard on the NPR last week that the hole for the outhouse has to be 6 feet deep to be sanitary. Turns out the bad stuff that lives there can crawl a foot a day and they live 4 or five days. They found that out a hard way in the South. Maybe in the northern countries this does not apply.

Good luck with the project. I have never built one. I am envious. (Note to self - start thinking about your legacy)

Giustino ütles ...

The citizenship laws were not created to create a particular favourable environment. These laws should not be changed to match the political status quo, certainly not only 20 years since they were enacted.

According to the Constitution of 1938, citizenship is acquired by birth or "later legal procedure." This is the source of the jus sanguinis principle that was affirmed when the new constitution entered into force.

But "later legal procedure" leaves a lot of room for lawmakers to craft policies as they wish. Teder's suggestion is to amend that procedure. He doesn't question the whole policy. Nor did Hammerberg. Nor did Amnesty, actually.

notsu ütles ...

As for "sõir" - it normally has caraway seeds in it, not rye. And northeners use the word as well. "Juust" and "sõir" are two different things after all. "Juust" is done with rennet, "sõir" without.

MikkS ütles ...

This summer I went and had a look whats going on on the other side of the border. First, none of the border guards speak english (this was in Koidula), luckily one local briefed us what to expect when we were waiting in the long line of cars. Secondly, be prepared to wait, our border crossing took 5-6 hours but it can take longer (no point coming earlier in the morning, line is there around the clock). I had russian classes for 13 years (starting in kindergarten) but my speaking level never got any better after 5th grade (I was in 5th grade when SU collapsed) but somehow we managed to do all the paperwork and follow the orders of russian borderguards.

Giustino ütles ...

Uh oh, I guess the sõir/juust question ranks right up there with leib/sai. To me, it's all cheese (and bread), but the Estonian language is more specific.

In my experience, sõir is a Võro thing. Nopri Talu, a major producer of commercial sõir, is based in Võromaa, and their sales people always wear Võro folk costumes at fairs.

Kristopher ütles ...

But local sõir has eggs in it. Basically you take the curds and heat them gently with butter, then whisk in eggs until barely set, then pour it in a mold. It's almost custard.

So my question: is there a separate word for just plain old cheese? Juusto?

Unknown ütles ...

In other news: Tallinn's city council wants to make the square in front of the harbour's passenger terminal Helsingi square and erect a monument for Kekkonen.

Myst ütles ...

Yes, and wisely, Helsingin Sanomat is stressing that this is not meant as mockery of drunken Finns. :-D

notsu ütles ...

Another major producer of sõir is OÜ Merriba, established in Tallinn. They make quite good suluguni as well.

Lingüista ütles ...

One question I always had about the problem of non-citizens in Estonia is: is it better, or worse, for the Estonian state that it is easier for these people to acquire Russian citizenship? If all (or most) of them became Russian citizens, would this be better, or worse? (I'm actually curious. If it's better for them to be Russian citizens than to have no citizenship, then maybe the government should encourage them to apply for Russian passports).

Sharon ütles ...

I know it's a hot button issue, but I can't help but feel it is better if everyone who intends to live permanently in a country has the option of becoming a citizen of that country more readily available than the option of becoming a citizen of another country.

Especially if the "other country" is rather large, right next door and has a tendency to *ahem* "advocate" for it's citizens using large items of military hardware.

This is also my home country's policies expressing themselves through me, though - we have a strong desire to encourage permanent residents to become citizens sooner rather than later.

There are all sorts of political, social and legal reasons why it makes life easier for the authorities if they're dealing with citizens of their own country. Much easier to throw you in gaol than have you deported... Much easier to justify paying you unemployment benefits if you're "ours"... Much easier to convince pollies that spending money in your neighbourhood might benefit them come the next election if you're entitled to vote...

Here's an idea, though: what if, in addition to making citizenship a little bit more available to permanent residents, the government sponsored a "programme" that was available to all citizens to teach the basics of Estonian history and language - and offered tangible rewards for people who completed it (in order to encourage people who need extrinsic motivation)?

A programme supported online with downloadable material and teachers available for consultation.

A programme that comes with a range of resources, like television programmes, movies, books and comics - all accessible from anywhere in the world.

A programme that can supply would-be Estonian citizens and speakers with a way to gauge their reading level and can supply an extensive/narrow reading programme to assist with vocabulary acquisition.

A programme that used the best features of interactive and collaborative technology to give learners the opportunity to use and play with the language while learning about the history, literature and culture.

A programme with the aim of creating fluent, literate Estonian citizens who know their language, history and cultural works...

Actually, I just want them to do this anyway. You know, for me. I know I've asked for this before, and I'll probably ask for it again. Whatever. You have any idea how hard it is to teach yourself Estonian? Especially when you work full time, study part time and the nearest Estonian community is over a thousand kilometers away?

Sharon ütles ...

Sharon, you would have probably been born in the country and would speak Estonian had Estonia not lost control of its borders during World War II

Ah, not so much. I probably wouldn't have been born at all. Little things like my grandmother never meeting my grandfather, hence my mother never being born... They tend to get in the way.

Anonüümne ütles ...

The US has citizenship classes.

Martasmimi ütles ...

Giustino ütles...
'Drinking with Putin' could be a classic comedy sketch, right up there with Cheech and Chong's 'Tripping in Court.'

Too bad you don't have Satuday Night Live there...

Lingüista ütles ...

Sharon, there are already some resources, like or the Janku Juss cartoons that you can find on Youtube. But I see what you mean.

Indeed. Maybe everybody, including Estonian Estonians, would be better off if it were a tad easier for all those passportless people to get citizenship.

Kristopher ütles ...

"little things like my grandmother never meeting my grandfather, hence my mother never being born..."

Fair enough. It's like the old time machine question - do you see yourself (as in Back To the Future) or do you remain yourself and reverse-age... Who knows. It's too much of a reach on my part.

Good ideas, Sharon...

LPR ütles ...

Winds of change in Russia ...

Justin ütles ...

Give them automatic citizenship, and make it easier for current stateless citizens to become citizens.

The population of Estonia has been on the decline for years (2009 will be the first year of a slight uptick, and I attribute that to economic conditions -- you can't lay off a woman who is pregnant or with small kids, thus an incentive to get pregnant now rather than later). Eventaully there will be 2x as many people receiving pensions as in the workforce.

If there's one thing the country needs, it's more people. Make it as easy as possible to get citizenship.

Personally, I'd say Estonia should adopt Russian and English (in addition to Estonian) as national languages, or drop the national language altogether. Many countries manage fine with many national languages (Singapore, Hong Kong SAR, Finland), or with English as the language of government and commerce (India, Philippines).

I realize there is concern for preserving the Estonian language and so on, but there is not much thought being given to demographics. Just last week in Postimees, they said the number of 12th graders will drop from 10.8k in 2008 to 6.8k by 2020. The country needs to do whatever possible to discourage emmigration and encourage population growth.

Meelis ütles ...

"The country needs to do whatever possible to discourage emmigration"
I totally disagree with this statement. Emmigration is not at all solution. On the contrary, emmigration creates new problems.

notsu ütles ...

leaving everything else aside, I don't think that automatic citizenship would change anything in terms of demographics. They live here anyway. If there is any emigration now, it rather happens towards richer countries, not to Russia, and for economic reasons, not for citizenship issues.

matude ütles ...

"I'd say Estonia should adopt Russian and English (in addition to Estonian) as national languages, or drop the national language altogether. /.../ The country needs to do whatever possible to discourage emmigration."

I totally disagree. I'd rather see Estonia with a smaller population but still a national country. Iceland can manage with a population of 300k, I think we're fine off with our 1,4 million even if it declines to Iceland's level over time. 2008 graders were born on the "babyboom" (~1988), it's only normal that it will drop by 2020.

Justin ütles ...

I don't think that automatic citizenship would change anything in terms of demographics. They live here anyway. If there is any emigration now, it rather happens towards richer countries, not to Russia, and for economic reasons, not for citizenship issues.

I do see your point, and it's a good one. What I wonder is -- would feeling like the country is welcoming you (no difficult exams to become a citizen, and so on) make you feel more part of it rather than as an outsider?

I spoke at a high school recently, where all the students (11th and 12the graders) were native Russian speakers. My impression from speaking to them was that they did not feel connected to Estonia and did not feel like the country cares about them. The were indeed interested in emigrating to countries like the UK, though mostly for economic reasons. It's this type of emigration we need to stem (stop) and it seems to me that citizenship is one thing that may help.

I'd rather see Estonia with a smaller population but still a national country.

Well besides scale issues, who pays for all the pensioners? If the population continues to decline, then there will be 1 working person for every 3 pensioners. (The current workforce is around 600k).

Also expect schools to close, towns to disappear, and so on. I suppose this in itself isn't so bad, as long as the people in the disappearing towns (which are likely to be the smaller ones) don't mind.

LPR ütles ...

I personally bought into this monoethnic format for estonian society big time. But that was when I was about 14 to 18 years old. Later life experiences have convinced me that Estonians are not such a sweet bunch of folks I'd like to share the public and private space with during my entire life. Since then I have chosen not to actively advocate anything estonian whatever that even is or means. This is because by and large, estonians continue to embarrass me and I prefer to stay luke warm toward "eesti asi". Be the problems with russians as it may, estonians themselves fail to convince me that this is how I want to live and with whom I want to share this life.

Agreed, that this is not the most admirable situation I find myself in, but that's a fact. Maybe I am too biased by not living in Estonia for years by now, but I'd argue that on the contrary - I am very balanced in my view and understanding of things and how they are. The only consolation I have is that in my self imposed isolation due to this rahter unpopular worldview, I stand proud as a humanist. Not as an Estonian, but as a human being.

With this I just wanted to say that I agree with Justin. That's all. Sorry for getting personal.

Giustino ütles ...

Iceland can manage with a population of 300k, I think we're fine off with our 1,4 million even if it declines to Iceland's level over time. 2008 graders were born on the "babyboom" (~1988), it's only normal that it will drop by 2020.

It's really hard to gauge what Estonia's population should be. Population transfer dumped hundreds of thousands of people in Estonia. Estonia's population did not exactly grow organically from 1940 to 1991. Can Ida Viru really sustain 170,000 people? Lääne Viru only has 67,000.

I totally disagree. I'd rather see Estonia with a smaller population but still a national country.

Estonia is a national country. 70 percent of its residents consider themselves to be Estonians by ethnicity. 85 percent consider themselves to be Estonians by citizenship.

Personally, I'd say Estonia should adopt Russian and English (in addition to Estonian) as national languages, or drop the national language altogether.

I'd rather see more municipal control, because any other way would mean amending the constitution, which isn't going to happen. Estonia does not need to change its constitution to add confetti "official languages" to "protect." (Like you can protect the world's largest languages).

If there is a language issue, it should be up to the local governments to deal with it. And they do, most of the time.

During the elections, it was apparent that Tallinn was (at least) a bilingual city. Every sign seemed like it was in two languages. In Tartu, though, the use of Russian was less apparent. In Haapsalu, I saw no Russian signs (but you do see Swedish signs in the shops). And in Võrumaa, I saw election advertisements in võro kiil!

Ain Kendra ütles ...

Argument against russian citizenship - this gives to Putin easy cause to step in as to protect their citizen
I am absolutely against russian as official language - then the result is what we have seen 30 years ago, when at the shop in Tallinn you had to ask in russian because the fat lady on the other side refused to speak or even understand estonian. Working here in service sector.
Same way I do not see the need to enforce english - ability to communicate in several languages increases your business.
No problem if the public sector or even service sector speaks whatever language, even chinese - but one is a MUST. They have to be able to speak estonian too.

Pierce Bacchus ütles ...

Tallinn is a bilingual city already. All adverts come in the mail bilingually. You can be served in any business in Russian. All legal forms are available in Russian. Russian if already virtually universal alongside Estonian in Tallinn.

As such, you don't have to make Russian language legally official, demographics have taken care of that. English isn't an official language in the U.S, but a Spanish speaker could live in Miami and get along just fine without it.

I would be interested to see birth records that tracked the number of births between Russian speaking Estonians and Estonian speaking Estonians.

I would think, judging from my Tallinn neighborhood, that Russian as a first home language is going to overtake Estonian in short order. The Estonians around here are having no kids or just one/two while the Russian speakers are producing larger numbers.

Lingüista ütles ...

Bacchus, where in Tallinn do you live? Lasnamäe?

I don't think more national languages are going to help. As others have pointed out, Russian is an important language in Tallinn and in Ida-Virumaa, and it's likely to remain as such in the foreseeable future; and there, everything is already in both languages (pragmatism wins).

A lot of the feeling by some Russian speakers that Estonia is not "supporting them" comes, it seems, from Russian-language TV channels and media from the Russian federation. I don't think any gestures to win the hearts of the Russians who still look up to Putin as their leader will really work.

Pierce Bacchus ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Meelis ütles ...

"I would be interested to see birth records that tracked the number of births between Russian speaking Estonians and Estonian speaking Estonians"
First: Ethnic Russians are not at all Russian speaking Estonians, they are Russians.
In 2008 in Tallinn 5425 children were born, 3244 them had ethnic Estonian mother (59,8 %). So that birth rate among Estonians is a bit higher than among Russians.

Pierce Bacchus ütles ...

Bacchus, where in Tallinn do you live? Lasnamäe?

No, I live downtown near the A. Le Coq stadium.

Unknown ütles ...

Citizenship should be based on affinity, birth-right and loyalty. Even more, it might be argued that it should be based on love for a country (not necessarily the country of birth). Like the mentioned case of Herman Simm, many passport-carrying Estonians do not love their country.

At the same time, it should also be allowed for double citizenship which the law currently does not allow (it exists only for those who accidentally happen to acquire several nationalities, like children from multinational families).

Estonia does need its own loyal and dutiful citizens as well as new people be they born here or who move here and have the right skills and/or ties. (I'm thinking about the new people who have moved here during the last 10-15 years).

Regarding Hispanic people in the US, contrary to Russian emigres to Estonia during the Soviet period and some of their children, they do not go to their own schools with instruction in Spanish nor do they feel as pawns in geopolitical games. They learn English and become mainstream in US society.