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An Estonian Kosovo

by NordicStorm Sat May 17th, 2008 at 06:44:32 PM EST

Like in most former parts of the Soviet Union, Russian is a widely spoken language in the Baltic state of Estonia, and a significant portion of the Estonian population are ethnic Russians who immigrated during the Soviet-era. Estonia is a small country, home to about 1.3 million people. Approximately 26% of those are Russians. Finnish author and journalist Leena Hietanen has written a book provocatively entitled Viron kylmä sota, Estonia's cold war, in which she takes Estonia to task for its treatment of the Russian minority living in Estonia.

Promoted by Migeru


In an interview with Finnish daily Hufvudstadsbladet (May 9th, 2008) Hietanen, who has worked in Tallinn for the past seventeen years, makes a number of notable claims that you rarely see in western media. Chief among them is the one hinted at in the title: the continued mistreatment of the Russophone minority in Estonia could potentially lead to a "Russian Kosovo in Estonia", that is ethnic tensions with "the west" supporting one side and Russia supporting the other that will ultimately lead down the same path as the ongoing Serbia/Kosovo dispute.

She further compares the situation of the Russophone minority to apartheid in South Africa or that of the Palestinian population, echoing Russian sentiment in the matter (see for example this 1993 article in the New York Times). Says Hietanen:

116 000 människor i Estland är statslösa och saknar medborgarskap. Ytterligare 130 000 är ryska medborgare. Vi har att göra med en minoritet på 250 000 människor utan medborgerliga rättigheter i ett EU-land. Och detta godkänner man i Bryssel!
116,000 people in Estonia are stateless and lack citizenship. Another 130,000 are Russian citizens. We are dealing with a minority of 250,000 people without citizen rights in a EU country. And this state of affairs is approved of in Brussels!

It should of course be noted that Hietanen is unabashedly pro-Russian, and makes no pretence otherwise. She explicitly states that she did not strive to be objective in writing her book. But this nevertheless serves to illustrate a contention often brought up at ET: whether extending EU membership to countries with significant shortcomings in human rights is at all a wise idea. Instead of being able to dangle the carrot of potential EU membership to encourage improvements and reforms, we have now internalised the issue, with seemingly little political will or ability to address it.

In a 2003 article (pdf), David J Smith of Glasgow University discusses minority rights in Estonia in the context of the then soon-to-be enlargement of the European Union. Smith sees a deliberate attempt by many of the driving forces behind the rebirth of the Estonian state in the early 90s to disenfranchise the Russian minority. Following Estonia's declaration of independence in 1991, a large portion of those who settled in Estonia during the Soviet-era became essentially stateless, and remain so to this day. Merely 35% of the Russian minority have Estonian citizenship, the rest have either Russian citizenship or "undetermined citizenship", as it is euphemistically called. This would make 65% of the Russian minority ineligible to vote in Estonian parliamentary elections and giving them a disproportionately small influence in Estonian politics. Smith notes that

In legal terms, Estonian minorities policy is entirely consistent with the [Council of Europe] [Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities]. In their approach to the settler issue, Estonian state-builders thus consciously sought to exploit the absence of any universal framework for minority rights, employing the very arguments that a number of EU member states had used in order to avoid any far-reaching minority rights obligations to their own immigrant populations.

Amnesty International issued a report in 2006, calling upon Estonia to end discrimination of the Russian-speaking population, while commending efforts to assist the Russophone population in learning Estonian. A significant amount of the Estonian populace has an inadequate knowledge of the sole official language of Estonia, which obviously puts them at a great disadvantage.

The ethnic tensions in Estonia received short-lived international attention after the bronze statue conflict of 2007, or Bronze Night as it has since been dubbed. The conflict was also the impetus for Hietanen to write her book; she views it as a missed opportunity for the Estonian government to engage and integrate the Russian minority. Instead, she fears the damage done by the Estonian government may be irreparable:

I dag är det osäkert om de 116 000 ens önskar bli estniska medborgare. De kanske föredrar att få ryskt pass.
- Och då uppstår frågan hur Estland ska hålla ihop sitt land om en betydande minoritet inom landets gränser inte uppfattar landet som sitt hemland?
Today it's uncertain whether the 116,000 even want Estonian citizenship. Perhaps they would prefer a Russian passport.
– And then the question arises how Estonia will hold its country together, if a significant minority within the borders of the country doesn't view the country is its home country?

Hietanen also criticises the inaction of Estonia's northern neighbour Finland. It would probably be way too much to ask of the current Finnish government to play any sort of constructive role; Finnish foreign policy have recently taken a marked turn towards Atlanticism and NATO, likely to the detriment of its relationship with Russia. Though in light of Estonia's desire to be part of the Nordic community and close economic ties to Finland and Sweden, Finland could potentially be very influential.
In a sad irony, she claims that she is having ever greater difficulty getting her articles, which she characterizes as defending Russians, published in Finnish newspapers. It's funny, had she written an article criticising Russia and had difficultly publishing it, it would be considered "finlandisation".

This is not to minimise or trivialise the trials that Estonia had to endure during the Soviet-era. But, as Hietanen herself notes:

...ett förtryck idag [kan inte] försvaras med historiska argument. Gamla oförrätter kan aldrig motivera nya.
...oppression today cannot be justified with historical arguments. Old injustices can never justify new ones.

Display:
Tere õhtust.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Fri May 9th, 2008 at 02:35:50 PM EST
Thank you, NordicStorm! I was just today complaining in the Meta-ET story that we do not get enough diaries about Europe. And here they come. Very interesting diary. :-)
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 9th, 2008 at 02:45:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why, happy to be of service. Agree completely that it would be great to have more diaries on Europe, particularly as media coverage beyond the neighbouring countries and the larger ones is generally poor.
More diaries on the Nordic countries (and I would extend the definition to include Estonia) would be a personal goal, but alas time and energy seems to be in short supply...

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Fri May 9th, 2008 at 03:10:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tere

Thanks for this. I realise I was underinformed, or maybe misinformed by my Estonian friends.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri May 9th, 2008 at 03:21:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How did the new Estonian authorities determine who was a citizen after independence and who was not? I assume there must have been some criteria, and perhaps an explanation of why so many ethnic Russians are currently lacking citizenship rights. But has Russia offered any of them citizenship either? From your diary it sounds as though they could be Russian citizens yet remain in Estonia.

How come in post-Soviet eastern Europe, Estonia, Latvia and Konigsberg all still have significant numbers of Russian settlers, yet Lithuania and Poland don't?

Member of the Anti-Fabulousness League since 1987.

by Ephemera on Fri May 9th, 2008 at 03:24:08 PM EST
The criterion was essentially that anyone who was a citizen prior to 1940 or the descendant of such a citizen was granted citizenship. This would exclude those who immigrated during the Soviet-era and who had no prior connection to the Baltic states. Naturalization is possible, but it requires quite an in-depth knowledge of Estonian. Russia has been quite vocal about Russian minorities. Don't know if issuing 116,000 new citizenships over night would be the best tack to take.

I'll have to profess ignorance in the subject matter, but from my understanding Lithuania actively tried to minimize immigration, whereas Estonia and Latvia did not (thus explaining Lithuania's comparatively small Russian minority compared to the other two Baltic states).

And why wouldn't Kaliningrad have a significant Russian population? It is in Russia, after all...

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde

by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Fri May 9th, 2008 at 03:49:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...and Poland wasn't part of the Soviet Union.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri May 9th, 2008 at 04:18:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...but did anyone say it was?

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Fri May 9th, 2008 at 04:22:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I inferred it, which is the fault of my shaky history. Sorry, it was my mistake.

Member of the Anti-Fabulousness League since 1987.
by Ephemera on Fri May 9th, 2008 at 04:23:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not to worry, it seems a lot of people have Eastern Europe confused. I'm half-Hungarian, and if I had a nickel for everytime I've been referred to as Polish or Bulgarian or anything but Hungarian even by my friends, I'd be able to buy Budapest, or at the very least Pest ;-)

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Fri May 9th, 2008 at 04:35:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Would they take nickels in Buda or Pest?

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri May 9th, 2008 at 04:39:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A couple of years ago, maybe. But I will not let the impending death of a currency affect my figures of speech! I'm drawing a line in the sand here, people!

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Fri May 9th, 2008 at 04:43:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was trying to make a semiotic connection to the Nickel deposits of the Kola peninsula, but the brain flagged.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri May 9th, 2008 at 04:49:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The where? Where do you find peninsulas in Hungary? Or a large island?
by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 07:57:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Where do you find peninsulas in Hungary?

Tihany, in Lake Balaton, with a smaller lake on top.

Or a large island?

Well, large or not, there is a prominent one between Buda and Pest (Margit-sziget = Margharet Island).

</thread hijack by the Hungarian Tourist Office>

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 08:31:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was referring to this Kola peninsula, which is somewhat closer and better known to NordicStorm and myself.

It s not a place that is attractive to tourists, unless you enjoy seeing the rotting hulks of undecommissioned nuclear-powered ships and submarines sitting in the tidal river in downtown Murmansk. Or the obliterated nature within 50 kms of the nickel smelters. Or the people with an average life span below 50.

It's the most depressing place I've visited.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 08:52:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The tourism bit was in jest. I know about the Kola peninsula. (Though I think I first learnt of it in literary class when we had some Russian short story about a boy's holiday titled "On the White Sea" or something, so I originally had a more romantic picture it.)

But what I'm not sure about is how your circle was supposed to close around buying Budapest-nickel-Nickel mines-Kola peninsula; or why PIGL sees peninsulas or islands necessary for closing the circle :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 08:59:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As I admitted above to NS, I started out wih the intention of making a leap to bring in the Kola nickel smelters in some wild triple allusion, but the 'brain flagged' ie failed to perform as required. It smelted. What a pest!

Those acid pollution caused by those Kola smelters have had a rather disastrous effect on N. Finnish forests. In fact that was why I was there in Kola in '95, with a team of forest scientists. I just found the book based on the research while clearing out some dusty shelves.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 10:05:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Could you diary?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 01:36:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I will think about it. It is an interesting subject, especially since the Finnish paper industry is in deep shit - about a million tonnes of paper will be removed from production. But, as I have said, that is only 20% max of total fibre usage - most of the rest going into packaging.

The latest move is to increase the amount of timber burnt domestically for energy - currently running at about 5 million tonnes, with about 70 million cubic metres surplus currently reaching maturity annually. (I am not sure how to correlate those figures)

The technology for burning fibre has made huge strides regards water/air pollution by-products. Boiler techonology using fluid beds + highly efficient scrubbers has seriously reduced pollution - but only at the most modern plants. The same can be done for coal - but it requires the building of new plant. Circularized Fluid Bed technology decimates almost anything ecept for heavy metals that are easier to catch with the latest scrubbers. I am not a coal advocate, but there is technology to handle it's fairly clean use for energy production.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 03:32:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for the lovely photos. I've never been to Hungary, though I have a nice oil of a 1920s Budapest street scene hanging on my wall.
by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 09:30:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Incidentally, where does Eastern Europe begin for (most) Finns? (Considering that Finland is to the East of most of the Visegrád countries = Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri May 9th, 2008 at 05:11:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In a strictly geographical sense, I would consider "Eastern Europe" to be central Europe. Can't speak for most Finns, but I have the feeling they generally have a vague notion that Russia is in the east and Germany is somewhere in the center.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Fri May 9th, 2008 at 05:33:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In a strictly geographical sense, I would consider "Eastern Europe" to be central Europe.

I can't parse this :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri May 9th, 2008 at 05:56:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think he means: geographically, Europe has been said to start at the Atlantic cost and proceed to the Ural mountains. Starting from the Biscay coast, the westernmost third of this region is pretty much France and Germany, and the might Duchy of Luxembourg and cheese eating Danes. The middle part is Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and such. The eastern part is all Russian.

The western-centric notion of "Eastern European" includes any one who cooks with sour cream, knows what is slivovitz, and (hates the Russians exclusive-or started WW1). We've never heard of Belorus or Moldavia, so don't know how to account for them.

In that sense, the geographic central Europe and the cultural eastern Europe are the same.

by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 08:11:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That still doesn't add up. Is in this view Russia (and Ukraine and Belarus and the Caucasus) "culturally" part of Eastern Europe or not? E.g. is this "western-centric cultural Eastern Europe" the exclusion of Russia or the merger of the real cultural Central and Eastern Europes? If the first, do Finns exclude the big neighour and onetime overlord from Europe (and see cultural Eastern Europe to the geographical West of most of their country)?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 08:40:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Finns see all these as simply neighbours ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 08:54:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo, I was just being flip early on a Saturday morning. As a Canadian, I can't speak to this, except to mention the geographic relativism. For example, when I grew up on  the prairies, people in my family used "down east" in reference to southern Ontario, from whence they had quite recently migrated to Sakstatoon by rail and red-river-wagon (the remains of these wagons can still be seen all over the Prairies). But everyone knows "eastern Canada" really means the Maritimes and Newfoundland, about 1500km east of "down east."

Am I missing something important here?

by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 09:24:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not sure you miss anything, but assuming you're new to this issue, a little run-down on it.

Geographically, depending on who did the calculation, the center of Europe is somewhere between Southwestern Lithuania and the Northwestern edge of the Carpathian Basin [today in Slovakia and the Westernmost tip of Ukraine].

Historically, "Central Europe" used to be the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Prussia, and the Habsburg Empire (was earlier Austria and Kingdom of Hungary, became later Austria-Hungary). Culturally, this made some sense for the following reasons: Eastern border roughly the Eastern extent of Western Christianity (which meant very real political alliance systems and exchange beyond religion), these continental countries were off East of the dominant maritime nations making up Western (and Northern) Europe, and there was the Ottoman Empire to the Southeast. With German unification in the 19th century, all of Germany shited into "Central Europe".

To give some evidence, Central European Time (CET, the timezone today extending from Spain to Hungary, but originally only from Germany and on to Transsylvania and Galicia, areas then in Austria-Hungary but today in Romania resp. Ukraine) was established at the request of the Hungarian State Railways (see here).

In all the descendant countries, the region is called thus to this day. In the West, however, after the Iron Curtain descended across the continent, "Eastern Europe" became what was beyond.

After the fall of 'communism', there was confusion. Finding that the locals are confused and aren't that enthralled by their "Eastern Europe" terminology, some Westerners (especially those immigrating fro here...) had no trouble with the old terminology (see the Soros-funded Central European University). Then there are the new 'compromise terms', used on international fora to please us but apparently unknown to most Westerners: Central-Eastern Europe, Eastern-Central Europe (CEE/ECE), the same with "and".

But Western usage is confused also for reasons entirely unrelated to our sensitivities. What complicates the picture is

  1. EU accession: no one says "Eastern EU", instead, the mostly Central European new members (and immigrants from there) became "Eastern Europeans".
  2. the Russia question: Russophobes of various degrees wouldn't even see Russia as culturally European, or just ignore the ex-USSR-minus-Baltics - so the Eastern border of the EU is really the cultural limit of Europe for them.
  3. Poemless would also want me to add to the previous a parallel trend among Central European Russophobes, insisting on differentiating themselves as Central European to distinguish from the 'russkies'. (Though I honestly don't know how much, if any, role that plays.)


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 02:12:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Poemless would also want me to add to the previous a parallel trend among Central European Russophobes, insisting on differentiating themselves as Central European to distinguish from the 'russkies'. (Though I honestly don't know how much, if any, role that plays.)

Quite a bit in the genesis of the modern use of the term if you look at the debates in the seventies and eighties.  Quite prominent a theme in fact in the contributions of your co-national, Gyorgy Konrad. To be fair this part of the argument was at least as much intended to counter anti-East European prejudices among Westerners as an expression of anti-Russian prejudice. But the latter is a real factor.

by MarekNYC on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 03:33:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Quite a bit in the genesis of the modern use of the term if you look at the debates in the seventies and eighties. Quite prominent a theme in fact in the contributions of your co-national, Gyorgy Konrad.

I must admit I had no clue. Intrigued, I started off for a search; and so far I find there was apparently a so-called "Central Europe Debate", in which Konrád participated; kicked off by Milan Kundera's 1984 essay "The Tragedy of Central Europe", positing that in Central Europe is a part of the West kidnapped by the East, where intellectuals fight for European values against Soviet-Russian "de-Europeanisation", and that Central European intellectualism was the real center of European civilisation. That's strong tobacco indeed. Apparently, his strongest critic in the ensuing debate was emigrant Russian poet Joseph Brodsky. I am still reading.

(At any rate, while I may have absorbed Cewntral Europe myths created by the eighties dissident movement, I doubt my geography class curriculum was influenced by Konrád & co.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 04:58:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's when it hit the Western mainstream but the talking points began getting developed in the late seventies samizdat. Interestingly the mainstream Polish dissidents tended to be less Russophobic in that way. That might have something to do with the dueling Polish historical traditions of left nationalism - politically very Russophobic, but culturally Russophile and identifying strongly with the Westernizer tradition and right nationalism - politically Russophile but seeing 'real' Russia as the Slavophile one and thus as something utterly alien from and inferior to 'the West'.
by MarekNYC on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 05:24:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I just found an essay (sorry, in Hungarian) giving a historical overview of the meanings and political uses of Central Europe, as well as Eastern-Central Europe and Eastern Europe. It appears that all the meaning variations I named for post-1990 existed earlier: ECE appeared in German schemes for Central European hegemony, an Eastern Europe West of Russia-Belarus-Ukraine appeared in between-world-wars Polish-Czech nationalist historiography. The article also claims that (all of) Germany was counted into CE from the emergence of the term in the late 18th century.

On the Central Europe Debate, this article both connects and separates it from a debate among historians about Central Europe as separate cultural region, which started in the seventies.. E.g. the intellectuals were really for the re-joining of the two sides of the Iron Curtain, not an identity separate also from the West (but a purer essence of it if we look at Kundera).

Hm, maybe I should write a diary.

Or maybe you are already better-read for that :-)

At any rate, thanks for sending me on this search.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 05:20:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, as I said it was also push back against the longstanding 'othering' of 'Eastern' Europe that started with the Enlightenment. (See Larry Wolff's Inventing   Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment This trope reached its most virulent form in the German Ostforschung tradition. Interestingly, if you look at the Adenauer period, you see the notion of Germany as a bulwark against the Asiatic Slav hordes being reconfigured into a tool of furthering European integration and opposition to traditional national-konservativ and voelkisch constructions of German national identity.
by MarekNYC on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 05:33:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
it was also push back against the longstanding 'othering' of 'Eastern' Europe that started with the Enlightenment.

That must have been muddled up with the German factor at least since the  rise of Prussia in the Seven Years' War. If my source is right, the Central Europe idea got traction in the West in the form of the German Threat (and in Prussia/Germany Mitteleuropa became popular in the form of natural hegemonic area for regional dominance). Then again, it also claims that the East-West division idea finally supplanted the North-South idea (in which Russia was the Giant of the North) only with the Crimean War.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 05:44:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I hope NordicStorm won't get angry at me for this thread hijack, but I can't pass up another thing I now read.

Apparently, a central theme in the historians' debate on Central Europe from the seventies was the development of feudalism as something separating out such a region, in particular the second serfdom. Which brings me to thing about an earlier era. Catholics contend that what connects Europe historically above all is its common Christian past. But the spread of Christianity was just as much the spread of the then modern society model of feudalism.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 05:35:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yup. Serfdom never really fully recovered from the Black Death west of the Elbe, but it came back with a vengeance in Prussia and points East. A good starting point on it if you're interested is a classic collection of essays The Origins of Backwardness in Eastern Europe ed. Daniel Chirot.
by MarekNYC on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 05:39:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Shouldn't that subthread be compiled in a diary sooner or later ?

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 08:19:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, see one of ther above comments. But so many interesting issues came up in my reading yesterday, I fear it could turn into another 4,000-word diary if I write it...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 05:04:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, that's 4000 words I'd like to read... Few diaries would be more topical on ET than stuff about European identities

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 05:33:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just thought it would be delightfully self-contradictory to write that "eastern Europe is central Europe". Nothing  significant to parse there ;)

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 10:17:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's Ålanders for you. The subtleties of self-contradiction are virtually unknown on the mainland ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 10:21:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bah! I submit most human beings are self-contradictory. Stadin kundit in particular ;)

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 10:46:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wa self-contradicting myself...in demonstration

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 11:30:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Way too hot apparently. Didn't register ;)

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 11:57:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow. If the Serbs had appied the same rule to Kosovo in the 1980s, over 80% of the 2 million "Kosovars" would only have had Albanian citizenship.
Why didn't NATO bomb Estonia to safeguard human rights ?
by vladimir on Wed May 21st, 2008 at 04:31:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Some data on the size of the ethnic Russian minorities in the three Baltic states (this includes the descendants of both old and new immigrants, citizen or stateless):

  • Estonia: 25.6% or 344,280
  • Latvia: 27.3% or 620,000
  • Lithuania: 5.1% or 170,000


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri May 9th, 2008 at 04:27:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Lithuania kept immigration low by economic development policies. Not only Lithuania has not one but three big cities (Vilnius, Kaunas, and the port Klaipėda). Other big towns were distributed rather uniformly as well (since the times of Marienburg rights), with Šiauliai, Panevėžys in the North, and Alytus, Kapsukas (now Marijampolė again) in the South, etc. New factories were distributed across the country just as uniformly. In particular, the Sniečkus government built agro-chemical plants in Jonava, Kėdainiai (rather central); a petro-chemical plant in Mažeikiai; a big power plant in Elektrėnai, etc. Workforce for those factories could gathered from neighbouring villages; there was no need for "friendly" immigration. Only construction of the Ignalina nuclear plant required a significant influx of Russian-speaking specialists.  

The policies meant that overall industry grew rather slow in Lithuania; there were few industrial wonders to brag about. At the breakup in 1990, Lithuania was still a very agricultural country, with over 30% of population still rural. But the upside was, of course, minimal minority worries.

by das monde on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 11:26:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I believe the Russian minorities in quite a few of the former Soviet States are pretty much in the same boat as in Estonia.  I don't know the stats (should be possible to obtain some "semi reliable" ones, but I recall hearing similar tales of woe regarding poor treatment, disenfranchisement, loss of opportunity to obtain/retain jobs. One has to feel for these minorities who often have nowhere to go.

It also should not be difficult to find similar situations throughout the world historically. As often repeated, two wrongs do not make a right; however, avoiding the first wrong would often preclude the later one. Alas, human nature is what it is.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Fri May 9th, 2008 at 09:01:07 PM EST
From my understanding, what's special in Latvia and Estonia is the large number of stateless ethnic Russians.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 06:18:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I believe you are right.  There were problems in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and perhaps others.  We were surprised by the numbers of Russian speakers in the  former Soviet States when we visited most of them several times 1995-99.  One could pretty much get along in Russian, but the problems were building even then.  

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 09:27:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 

What makes this a special case is that on the one hand these weren't really immigrants, but rather folks who moved to a different part of their own country and suddenly found themselves screwed over when the borders changed. On the other hand they are also the settlers from the former imperial power, a category which does not tend to fare all that well following decolonization.  So this isn't really like the Kosovo situation where you had a region with a longstanding bi-national population where the local majority sought to gain independence from the ethno-state of the local minority and initially the minority imposed a highly repressive and discriminatory rule, and then when the majority won a bloody civil war, it proceeded to ethnically cleanse a large chunk of the minority population.

However, I don't see how the EU can fairly act unless it imposes a uniform obligation of citizenship by birth and a ban on using any language or cultural criteria in the naturalization process.

NB Anybody know how the proporations of citizens/stateless/Russian citizens have changed, if it all over the past fifteen years?

by MarekNYC on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 03:06:31 PM EST
NB how many non citizens with permanent resident status does Finland have and do they automatically give citizenship to those born there or who have lived there for a certain number of years?
by MarekNYC on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 03:08:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know. My personal experience was of being first an alien with residence that kept getting extended, and then finally learning Finnish, passing an obligatory language test, and finally acquiring citizenship signed by the then President himself - Mauno Koivisto.

Some investigation is needed to find out what has happened between 1982 and today.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 03:16:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't know about permanent residents, but all told approximately 130,000 non-Finnish citizens live in Finland. You're only a Finnish citizen at birth if at least one of your parents is a Finnish citizen. To become a Finnish citizen, you have to have been a resident for at least six years and be able to communicate in either Finnish or Swedish.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 03:39:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If I give myself a little time to discuss this...

Existing "legal" situation is utterly ugly. What is even more unfortunate is that the precedent... works.

Here is a slow clarification: it certainly works for the Baltic governments and their national interests.

It works for the settlers in the sense that staying in the Baltics remains their best (objective) option or (subjective) preference. They won't be doing better back in Russia - fewer economic opportunities and no less unpleasant prejudices are waiting there.

I know the Russian-speaking population bemoans the lack of status and full rights, rightfully. But what would they do to change that? They can organize themselves because of a monument to be moved, but you don't see them acting together for a rightful status. Is their situation and everyday difficulties a high priority to anyone, including themselves or the Russian government?

They know that their situation is unfair, but they would rather go along with those extra little injustices and difficulties than do anything about it. Their situation is not generally worse than those legally just contracts of "competitive" employment all around the world. I can imagine that they might "fight" for it and achieve a rightful status, but the price is not worth it. Achieved justice would likely to leave them poorer and with less opportunities and friends.

Sometimes I think that perfect justice is an agreeable but somewhat unnecessary goal. People can live with some injustice, be it legal or "emergent". They would rather adopt, and very frequently reasonably so.

by das monde on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 02:11:52 AM EST
But this nevertheless serves to illustrate a contention often brought up at ET: whether extending EU membership to countries with significant shortcomings in human rights is at all a wise idea. Instead of being able to dangle the carrot of potential EU membership to encourage improvements and reforms, we have now instead internalised the issue, with seemingly little political will or ability to address it.

Those were my thoughts during the negotiations on Estonian membership in the European Union. Estonians surrounding the current president of Estonia were just biding their time for revenge on anyone and anything Russian, and it was just a matter of time before their crusade against Russians could go into full swing. The president himself immigrated to the US as a small child and grew up in America among Estonian refugees thirsting to pay "the" Russians back. I thought the European Union should make settlement of the Russian minority issue in Estonia a condition for Estonian membership in the EU. I saw time and time again that Estonians didn't care what anyone else in Europe thought, for example, when a member of the Estonian government marched in a celebration in Tallinn with former Estonian SS men in their uniforms. Now the Estonian government has the bit in its teeth with its minority problem, and the EU can just sit by and watch.
by Anthony Williamson on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 02:18:57 PM EST
I´m somehow tired of repeating this: Estonians are the original people in Estonia, not Russians. Therefore it´s quite absurd to use the word aparheid, what it comes to Russians situation in Estonia.

Crimes against humanity during the Soviet occupation in Estonia, they are not solved at all. And those persons, who were involved with those crimes, are considered to be big heros for Russians in Estonia. Russians are not willing to learn Estonia, though they´d be living in the country for a long time.

I don´t think it´s a very big task, if You want Estonian nationality - just to learn a little bit Estonian language.

by Bets on Sun May 25th, 2008 at 03:20:40 PM EST
Wait, are you saying that if South Africa wanted to strip whites of citizenship it would be okay?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 17th, 2008 at 10:09:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And it should be also known, that Leena Hietanen is not considered very professional journalist in Finland - she has been kicked out from many newspapers, because she doesn´t make a difference between fact and fiction. The book she wrote about Estonia is full of things, that are non-true.

I´m very sorry for Russians in Estonia, that they got speking for themselves a person, who is completely unreliable.

by Bets on Sun May 25th, 2008 at 03:29:39 PM EST
European Tribune - An Estonian Kosovo
Instead of being able to dangle the carrot of potential EU membership to encourage improvements and reforms, we have now instead internalised the issue, with seemingly little political will or ability to address it.
We have done exactly the same with Romania and Bulgaria and the concerns about corruption.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 17th, 2008 at 09:59:33 AM EST


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