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The Independent: Don't let Russia bully the Baltics

One dead, hundreds arrested and the danger of more trouble to come. It's not what we have come to expect of Estonia, better known to Britons as a playground and a place to buy property. Some will shake their heads, the phrase "far-off country of which we know little" coming to mind. We should resist that temptation. Like it or not, the expansion of the European Union to the Baltic states means Estonia's crisis with Russia over the removal of a Soviet war memorial from the centre of Tallin is our concern, too. You wouldn't know that, however, from the evasive murmurs coming out of Brussels and Germany, the current holder of the EU presidency.

We have had the strange spectacle of the EU nodding with apparent respect as Vladimir Putin's ministers lecture Estonia on civil rights. This is hypocrisy on a grand scale, given Russia's treatment of its unhappy Chechens and its rough handling of recent anti-government protests in Moscow and St Petersburg.

Estonia re-erects Soviet statue at military cemetery amid protests

A statue of a Red Army Soldier, which has been at the heart of deadly riots in Estonia, gazed somberly over dozens of Russian war graves yesterday in its new location at a military cemetery in Tallinn.

Authorities re-erected the Bronze Soldier at the Defense Forces burial ground - which also holds remains of British, Estonian and German troops - three days after removing it from a downtown square, provoking protests by ethnic Russians.

In the next step of its contentious plan, the government plans to move the remains of Soviet soldiers believed to be buried near the statue's original site. Archeologists excavating the grave said they had found nine coffins, but had not yet opened them.


by das monde on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 02:39:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frst article is just full of distortions.


Like it or not, the expansion of the European Union to the Baltic states means Estonia's crisis with Russia over the removal of a Soviet war memorial from the centre of Tallin is our concern, too.

It's Estonia's crisis with its own population, and yes, strange that EU is silent. Population and authorities of Tallinn is against moving of the statue and for the whole country 49% are against and 37% for. Nevertheless, nationalist government proceeded with the move just before May the 9th.


We have had the strange spectacle of the EU nodding with apparent respect as Vladimir Putin's ministers lecture Estonia on civil rights. This is hypocrisy on a grand scale, given Russia's treatment of its unhappy Chechens and its rough handling of recent anti-government protests in Moscow and St Petersburg.

One might have expected officials from Brussels and Berlin to point out the discrepancy between the standards Russia that applies to its own minorities and those it demands of others.

Events in Estonia are not of Russian government doing, and Estonia's human rights obligations are not to Russia, they are international. To me sounds like the standards are exactly the same: no interference in local matters, right to language instruction in native language, no discrimination based on ethnicity or race, no state powers to deport or fire from private enterprises own citizens, no police powers to detain over certain period without bringing up the charges, and so on.

If The Independent needs to know the exact situation with minorities in Estonia, they can just check Amnesty International:

Estonia: Every third person a potential victim of discrimination

Why EU accepts this kind of behavior from its member? Were not those issues are supported to be sorted out before joining the union?

Estonia Linguistic minorities in Estonia: Discrimination must end

This one is more detailed report including specific cases of discrimination, similar to this one:


"I used to work as a taxi driver but lost my job thanks to the Language Inspectorate. They call you to the transport commission for the slightest infraction of the high way code where the ladies from the Language Inspectorate are waiting for you. Everything is well planned. They call only the Russian speakers. They can sack you not because you are a bad worker, not because passengers have been complaining but because you don't know Estonian well. I have three children, a mortgage and an alcoholic husband but nobody cares. I have to pay for language courses and they are not cheap -- two or three monthly salaries. I don't have a job and I cannot pay for the Estonian language courses. How am I going to live? Isn't this discrimination?"

On a lighter note, here is a video of today's car protest in Estonia.

This is video (some crowd control action near the end of the fragment) from now famous hangar D in Estonia were people were detained.

Police in Estonia prohibited any mass gatherings till May the 11, with May the 1st and May the 9th being traditional holidays.

by blackhawk on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 03:56:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why is it that papers think that it is impossible to agree with Putin on one thing and disagree with him on others: he can be right about Estonia and wrong about Chechnya at the same time, surely?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 04:11:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Actually, this is just another straw man in the article: Putin did not comment on Estonia at all, and I did not hear any government officials commenting on human rights situation in Estonia: looks like Russia is giving EU a free ride on the issue.

For Chechnya, there are 150-160 thousand victims of the conflict, with only 30-40 thousands being Chechens. The majority of victims were claimed outside official "war" periods. Did you ever hear West asking Russia to stop ethnic cleansing on Russian territory? Why Chechnya is mentioned now, when it is more peaceful than ever in the last 20 years?

by blackhawk on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 04:29:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by blackhawk on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 04:12:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can only support you. I wonder why European intellectuals, media and politicians are silent on the Estonian problem with statues. I remember when Mr Jorg Haider was about to participate in Austrian coalition there was pan-European outcry.
by FarEasterner on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 04:49:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Like it or not, the expansion of the European Union to the Baltic states means Estonia's crisis with Russia over the removal of a Soviet war memorial from the centre of Tallin is our concern, too.

It's Estonia's crisis with its own population, and yes, strange that EU is silent.

I see this as one of many indications of the failure of the EU as a political project. I think this failure was consummated by the way the enlargement was carried out: it was a purely economic calculation and the political issues were brushed aside on the self-deception that they would sort themselves out once these countries were EU members. That was delusional because EU accession acts as a carrot which then vanishes after accession, and the sticks largely vanish, too.

But if you scour the EU's pre-accession documents related to Estonia the "stateless" people are barely mentioned. How many people in the EU know or care that about 9% of the population of Estonia are "stateless"?

According to the Estonian Statistical Office, ethnic Russians comprised 25.7% of the population in 2006. Of that 25.7%, approximately 27% of ethnic Russians in Estonia hold Russian citizenship, 35% hold Estonian citizenship, and 35% continue to have undefined citizenship. Residents without citizenship may not vote in Riigikogu (the national parliament) or European Parliament elections, but are eligible to vote in local (municipal) elections under Estonian law.
This, by the way, doesn't seem to be the case in the other Baltic states.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 05:15:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Lithuania did not have any citizenship limitations, Latvia still has 18% of non-citizens who are unable to vote in local elections.

Problem in Estonia is not limited to citizenship: non-native speakers can be fired from any job after repeat language commission inspection and there is open harassment. See case above when taxi driver (!!) was selected based on ethnicity and fired because of language law. People are afraid to speak their language. Witness the case in Amnesty International link I sent about Language Inspectorate triggering an inspection after officer called a company and employee continued conversation in Russian, which officer used.

Irene Khan's letter is in response to the amendments of the Law on Language, introduced earlier this month and taking effect on 1 March this year which extend the powers of the Language Inspectorate to recommending dismissals of employees for insufficient Estonian language skills, making people who already have a language certificate re-sit a language exam and nullifying the language certificates of those who fail a re-sit of their language exam.

Those dismissals are not only for government jobs, but for private jobs, too.

by blackhawk on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 05:50:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Latvia still has 18% of non-citizens who are unable to vote in local elections.

But these people do hold foreign passports?

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 05:59:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]

I think it should be simular to Estonia: some have Latvian Alien passport, some got Russian passport, some are stateless with no passport. EU was going to give people with Alien passports right travel in EU member states in 2007.

BTW, Estonia has several grades for citizens, too. There are regular citizens, naturalized citizens who can be stripped of citizenship and new citizens (no right to be in parliament and army, can be stripped of citizenship).

by blackhawk on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 06:23:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The being able to strip people of citizenship bit is a direct violation of their Human Rights. Not to speak of the juridical insecurity resulting from the State's ability to re-test people who have already passed their language tests, etc.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 06:50:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Estonia has ... naturalized citizens who can be stripped of citizenship and new citizens (no right to be in parliament and army, can be stripped of citizenship).
Do you have references? This seems to be a point of contention with das monde.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 07:41:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am not contending this. If this is their law, it is not acceptable. EU must know and decide.

What I say actually, the principle of not granting unconditional citizenship is not "soft ethnic cleansing".    Not much more or less. Beyond that, Estonia's measures may indeed be insupportable. But I did not really discuss  actual details.

by das monde on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 07:53:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"We'll call you a foreigner now, you're free to leave" is soft ethnic cleansing.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 07:59:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"We just restored our state. You had came here with an occupational force. If you understand our history and aspirations, if you wish to learn our culture and language, you may stay. Otherwise you are a visitor in our country."
by das monde on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 08:13:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Unto the nth generation. And the sins of the fathers shall be visited upon their children and their children's children and their children's children's children.

Such nationalist crap.

Ah well, a couple of violent civil rights movements should sort it all out, as is normally the case. A bit of terrorism, a few thousand dead here and there and it'll all shake out. It's all good so long as it's about national self-determination, eh?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 08:20:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This does not always go so far. Far from always. Haven't you noticed?

Can a nation have one chance to negate some of unjustice and killings of a greater power, still with enough respect to casual participators, but with full concern for its own future? Or not?

by das monde on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 08:30:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Negate injustice" doesn't mean "cause symmetric injustice". And I don't see any "respect" for minorities here.

This kind of stuff is what gives me the creeps when people talk about Basque or Catalan "self-determination". Self-determination doesn't seem to be complete unless you can stomp on someone else.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 08:37:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In principle, the Balts did not care about "symmetric injustice", nor even "negative injustice", nor they saw a need to stomp on anyone. All they wanted is to do some justice to themselves. And don't say they ran into tons of unintended consequences!

In practise, they might have been more polite or so. But unneeded disrespect is a two-way feedback process.

by das monde on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 08:59:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They do use "linguistic normalisation" (to borrow a term from the Spanish "peripheral nationalists") as a way to harass people nearly two decades after independence.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 09:02:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
    This trend is amazing. You stand for ethnic ownership of the land. The notion of civic nation goes out of the window. You don't find anything unreasonable in discrimination and even de-facto segregation (one of my colleagues, labor economist, says that it's a widely accepted fact in the professional circles that Estonian labor market is segregated, and it is evident even in the aggregated data). You mention "causal collaborators" even though these are usually children and grandchildren of people who worked at newly built industrial enterprises (whose ownership Baltic states happily assumed after independence), rather than evil KGB men - should I say "group punishment" aloud?

Should I continue? You have repudiated almost everything I like Europe for. The biggest contributions of its mind to the database of human ideas. Congratulations!

One suggestion: try replacing "stateless" with "women", and "Soviet occupation" with "original sin". It would make for a fascinating reading!

by Sargon on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 09:20:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My concluding response is here.
by das monde on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 02:27:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Does Latvia or Estonia have to grant citizenship just because a person does not want to leave?

The countries do have a determined policy, aimed to protect a national (and nationalistic) interest in the face of occupation consequences. Lithuania would have done the same with similiar demography.

The stateless persons have clear choices if they want full political rights. In particular, they must be just as much concern for Russia as for the Baltics. By all aspects, Russia inherits responsibilities of the USSR. What has it done for the stateless individuals?

The particular laws of Estonian language seem too harsh to me, from the example and particular details you provide. EU must look whether the law and practises are acceptable. Apart from that, there are stories of ordinary citizen in Russia no less harsh.

by das monde on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 06:13:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know why Russia dropped the ball on the Russian speakers in the Baltic countries, though it may have something to do with the collapse of State power around 1990 and the fact that the USSR had zero negotiating power at the time of Baltic independence.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 06:26:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It did not drop the ball. It did not consider rights of individuals at all, but took up a "minority" issue as a pressure instrument.

On the other hand, Latvia and Estonia probably did not have the clear idea of pushing Russian citizenship for their non-citizen.

by das monde on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 06:45:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It did drop the ball 17 years ago. Russia didn't seem to exert any pressure back then, and the issue has stayed dormant because of that.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 06:47:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Irony of the situation is that Russian population there was supportive of Baltic states independence, and voted for it.

Russia, for its part, did (and does) provide citizenship to the residents of ex-USSR and those in Estonia and Latvia who could have left for one reason or another (mostly family and other connections is Russia) already did it.

This article gives some of the attitudes to recent Putin's plan that includes incentives for moving.

by blackhawk on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 07:18:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Back in 1992 Russia was in no position to exercise political pressure, or to offer economic incentives for moving.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 07:22:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Was it only in a position for wild privatisations?.. There was enough rhetoric pressure then, believe me. But no one really cared about individuals. There was much agitation between the states, and "unnoticed" potential for an agreement acceptable to every side.
by das monde on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 07:42:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You don't really care about individuals now, either. It's all about which "nation" people belong to.

On the rest, I don't have access to sources on whatever debates happened around the 1992 citizenship law, nor was I following the debate back then. But the "wild privatisations" are evidence that the Russian State was not in a position to stand up for anything. Now they are, and everyone is scared of Russia and crying foul.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 07:57:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do see a clear solution helpful to individuals (and acceptable to the states). But the authorities did not "see" it clearly back then.

Russian authorities might have been deeply emerged in "partiarchial" privatisations, but not blatantly obviously yet. Politicians and the media did seem "concerned" about the "unthankful" Baltics and compatriots there. Not everyone got "new Russian" games equally fast or clearly at once.

by das monde on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 08:08:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Spell out the "helpful solution".

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 08:38:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If it is not obvious from our iterative discussion, here is it:

T-h-e m-i-n-o-r-i-t-i-e-s s-h-o-u-l-d h-a-v-e b-e-e-n g-i-v-e-n R-u-s-s-i-a-n c-i-t-i-z-e-n-s-h-i-p.

by das monde on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 08:42:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
H-o-w-w-o-u-l-d-t-h-a-t-h-e-l-p?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 08:44:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It would eliminate the "stateless" problem.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 08:55:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not helpfully.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 08:55:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And then populations should have been transferred out of Estonia.

Hey, that works for 2007, too! Estonia will deport these people to Russia, and Russia will grant the refugees citizenship. Great plan.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 08:45:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I-a-m-n-o-t-a-m-o-r-o-n-a-r-e-y-o-u-?

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 08:46:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought you knew my answer.

Good night, if it is 10pm.

by das monde on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 09:01:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry for the outburst.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 09:03:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
non-native speakers can be fired from any job after repeat language commission inspection

Let's all boycott Quebec.

by MarekNYC on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 03:55:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I do not recognize the humans rights issue in the particular measure of monument removal. In Lithuania, which was lucky to keep comfortable demographic proportions (80% Lithuanians, 8% Russians, 8% Poles) up till independence, monument removals and reburials of Soviet soldiers happened without controversy or Kremlin's concerns.

Estonia and Latvia inherrited 30-50% of non-native population from the Soviet occupation. To undo that, the two countries took some exceptional measures. They may indeed work discriminatorily, or pushed too far. Yet they became members of the EU - was that undeservedly?

The position of Estonia and Latvia was (and in effect, continues to be) that they do not wish to accept the Soviet era newcommers as their citizen. How controversial is that? For example, how does this differ from living in Japan for 30 years without a real chance to get citizenship?

To put it bluntly, all Russians were "welcome" to leave from the Baltic nationalistic point of view. In practise, they were free to stay as well, but with a lesser status or tough naturalization procedures. That is not shocking by itself.

Sizeable Russian-speaking population is still a problematic group for Estonia's and Latvia's self-determination. The governments will continue making political and symbolic statements, just as Russia (being Russia) will continue to sustain the unsettling minorities' force. I have more understanding of Baltic desire to diminish symbolic Soviet heritage than Russian "entitlement" to keep it.

As for individual situations: if a non-native person  want to stay, he/she ought to realize that he is staying in a particular country, not in a "frontier" teritory. I can imagine that naturalization pressure can be unneccessarily harsh, even discriminatory. But every person is free to decide where he would have more freedom: can't they figure out if Russia would give them more rights?

European Union, for its part, should take a clear position: Are Estonian/Latvian measures discriminatory, in principle or implementation? Do particular actions hurt basic human freedoms? Or do they just touch a collective longing that does not have to be granted? In this sense, the episode is a case of EU internal concern. Either EU has to make clear that Estonia does something wrong, or offer fitting support in the pressure game against Russia.

by das monde on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 05:43:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The position of Estonia and Latvia was (and in effect, continues to be) that they do not wish to accept the Soviet era newcommers as their citizen. How controversial is that? For example, how does this differ from living in Japan for 30 years without a real chance to get citizenship?

I think ius sanguinis is absurd, because it leads to people whose grandparents were born on Estonian soil 60 years ago being denied citizenship. Japan is notoriously racist and xenophobic and should not be considered a model here. And Germany only recently relaxed its position a bit.

To put it bluntly, all Russians were "welcome" to leave from the Baltic nationalistic point of view.

This is the kind of point of view that makes me distrust nationalist parties everywhere even if the rest of their platform is progressive. What, if the Basque Country gains independence, will50% of its people be "welcome to leave"?

Sizeable Russian-speaking population is still a problematic group for Estonia's and Latvia's self-determination.

That position is contrary to the Council of Europe's convention on regional and minority languages.

The EU is stuck, because once Estonia is a member state there is not really much legal basis for using human rights or minority rights or stateless people as an issue. That's possible before accession because the EU can set a number of conditions on acceding countries over and above the implementation of the acquis. In case this is not clear, human rights are under the purview of the Council of Europe, not of the Eurpean Union.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 05:56:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The EU is stuck, because once Estonia is a member state there is not really much legal basis for using human rights or minority rights or stateless people as an issue.

DoDo has mentioned the case of gypsies in the former Czechoslovakia. If I remember correctly, the Czech republic assumed gypsies on its territory were Slovak, but you actually had to take proactive steps to claim the other nationality if you were on the "wrong" side after partition, and so lots of Czech gypsies are not stateless.

Another human rights issue in an accession country that the EU ignored. I though the people working for the European Commission were paid to research this kind of stuff.

Oh, and this is a human rights issue:

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 15.
(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.


Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 06:09:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why aren't these breaches actionable in the ECJ?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 06:11:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Does the ECJ act statutorily, or do people need to bring the case to them?

In any case, look what I just found... Council of Europe Convention on the avoidance of statelessness in relation to State succession (Strasbourg, 19.V.2006)

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 06:22:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think someone has to sue. It sounds like there should be lots of people with grounds to do so.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 06:25:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As Russia is the inheritant of USSR responsibilities, it should take care of individuals without citizenship on the former teritory. The care should be not just instrumental for achieving political points, but providing citizenship rights as well.

When national determination is at stake, the nicest models is not always an option.

What, if the Basque Country gains independence, will50% of its people be "welcome to leave"?

If Basque state would be forcefully created... (hypothetically...) I would not be shocked if it would grant its citizenship just to 50% of population. The others would have Spanish citizenship (presumably), and they could stay or leave as such.

Sizeable Russian-speaking population is still a problematic group for Estonia's and Latvia's self-determination.

That position is contrary to the Council of Europe's convention on regional and minority languages.

Formulation of my proposition is very general. Is it encoded the same way by the Council of Europe? Does it insist on no problematic aspects anyhow? What is a concrete issue?

by das monde on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 06:39:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's why I said the ball was dropped 17 years ago leaving up to 25% of the population of Estonia stateless.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 06:52:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sizeable Russian-speaking population is still a problematic group for Estonia's and Latvia's self-determination.

That position is contrary to the Council of Europe's convention on regional and minority languages.

Formulation of my proposition is very general. Is it encoded the same way by the Council of Europe? Does it insist on no problematic aspects anyhow? What is a concrete issue?

You make it sound like it is the very existence of Russian speakers that causes "self-determination" problems. Estonia is already independent and denies these people many rights. What more "self-determination" do  you think they need?

Self-determination in the Baltic states seems to involve apologia of Nazi collaborationists, too, which is not unrelated to this removal of Soviet war memorials, of course.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 07:08:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ughh... Existence of Soviet occupation consequences is a self-determination problem. Estonia and Latvia could not afford the same policies as Lithuania, with or without "apologia to Nazi".
by das monde on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 07:14:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So you think stripping 30% of the population of their rights and then saying they are "free to leave" is a necessary part of self-determination and national construction?

"Soft ethnic cleansing" is right.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 07:21:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not giving citizenship might be a necessary part. Beyond that, I do not see much "stripping" in the principle.

The only thing that the Baltic states had do more back then was to request Russia to give its citizenship to those they did not wish to grant.

by das monde on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 07:28:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Stripping of citizenship happens today, apparently.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 07:36:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Not giving citizenship might be a necessary part. Beyond that, I do not see much "stripping" in the principle.

Check Amnesty International report I gave above. It details the stripping.


The only thing that the Baltic states had do more back then was to request Russia to give its citizenship to those they did not wish to grant.

Russia grants citizenship to ex-USSR citizens. Just some do not have the means or ties to relocate, and some do not want to run on principle when country is taken over by nationalists.

by blackhawk on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 07:39:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Removal was a trigger in a long string of government action worsening the conditions for minority population.

As for your argument for soft ethnic cleansing, it can be fine for Europe 50 years ago, but is it fitting for EU country in XXI century? If you see this pressure fitting for Soviet newcomers, what is your individual plan for half-breeds, have-nots, minorities that lived in the country for centuries, minorities that was born in Estonia, territories that have majority non-Estonian population?

by blackhawk on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 06:06:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Removal was a trigger in a long string of government action worsening the conditions for minority population.

Hmmm... Can you spell out the long string? What conditions are worsenend particularly because of the "trigger"?

Soft ethnic cleansing? The measures are directed not against Russians particularly, but to preserve national identity. If minority individuals or organizations do not understand that, well, things can turn unneccesary tough indeed.

I may wonder though, how many exemplary Russian-speaking inhabitants does Estonia recognize?

Laws have specifications for "half"-cases - that is not an issue.

by das monde on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 07:06:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The use of "preserving national identity" to justify abuses is the main reason why I dislike nationalists as much as religionists.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 07:15:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Let me correct this:

Removal was a trigger after a long string of government action worsening the conditions for minority population.


Soft ethnic cleansing? The measures are directed not against Russians particularly, but to preserve national identity. If minority individuals or organizations do not understand that, well, things can turn unneccesary tough indeed.

They don't.


I may wonder though, how many exemplary Russian-speaking inhabitants does Estonia recognize?

Looks like none, because citizenship it grants is conditional.

by blackhawk on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 07:17:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is the problem, apparently Estonia reserves the right to strip its existing Russian-speaking citizens of citizenship.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 07:24:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here I reply to this  representative post. In general, this can be considered as a morning-after response to the whole of this discussion.

This trend is amazing. You stand for ethnic ownership of the land. The notion of civic nation goes out of the window. You don't find anything unreasonable in discrimination and even de-facto segregation (one of my colleagues, labor economist, says that it's a widely accepted fact in the professional circles that Estonian labor market is segregated, and it is evident even in the aggregated data).

You read way too much into my lines. All I am saying (over and over) is that a state can have its policy who can be its citizen, also at a moment of inception of restoration. I am not arguing about worse complications (economic discrimination, draconic language requirements) - if they happen, there must be enough evidence and EU action.

This is not about "ethnic land" - both Estonia and Latvia "lost" some land of the prewar period, by the way. Foremost, the Balts seeked some continuation of civic societies of their pre-war periods - somewhat naively perhaps, but not without realistic adoptions.

Up till 1990, Russian newcommers did not have to feel like minority at all in the Baltics. It was rather the Balts that were feeling like a regional minority in a western corner (not for the first time). They regained independence not for the purpose of providing most comfortable citizenship to anyone liking Baltic beaches, food or economy. Whether you dislike it or not, a national state is one way for a "regional minority" to self-govern effectively, without relying on political correctness of "strangers".  

Of course, the Baltic states had to take care of all their residents. What eventually happened in Latvia and Estonia was not nice: many people were left in ignorant limbo, with emphatic lack of attention from the Baltic and Russian governments. I talked with non-citizen "aliens", and their status indeed sucks. It is a human rights issue - some official discussions must be going on - though the Baltic states do not necessarily have to be main defenders of their interests.

Looking back, the way to solve the problem was for the Estonia and Latvia to require Russia to accept Soviet passport holders, not qualifying for their citizenships, to accept as Russian citizen. (Sorry for bad-mannered spelling, Migeru.) Things would have been indeed different:

  1. Clarity of the Baltic position would have facilitated a structured dialogue between the Baltic and Russian governments. With more "hands on" dialogue, problems could be efficiently recognized and solved. Instead, we got agitated finger pointing match, with people completely ignored.
  2. Most importantly, the people would be having a citizenship and basic political rights. They would be having representatives (embassies, consulates), and perhaps even a representative in the Russian Duma.
  3. There would be institutions and ready procedures to handle problems or conflicts. Russian embassies and consulates would be representing both individual and collective "non-citizen" interests.
  4. The scope of acceptable interests from both sides would have been easier to define and discuss.
  5. Eventual target situation, and policies to achieve that, could be agreed between the Balts and Russia. For example, if Estonia would have found halved Russian population (15%) generally acceptable for citizenship, quota policies like "one-citizenship-for-one-repatriation" could be agreed. Instead of draconic language pressure, there would be a competition of Russians to seek citizenship. Above that, Estonia and Latvia would have a legal excuse to deport criminal "non-citizen" misdemeanants. The Balts could also provide some "starting up" help to the leaving persons, to encourage desired demographic shifts.

Of course, the situation would still be exceptional: the populance of "Russian" citizen would need a special resident status, at least for some years; and activity of Russian embassies and consulates would be above normal intensity. But the whole process could be really civilized.

At the end, Estonia and Latvia would possibly be approaching comfortable proportion of Russian-speaking populations fast, while Russian speaking residents could have well-defined chances for full citizenship  - at expense of solidarity, perhaps, but this is hardly controversial.

The current situation got gradually worse, since mutual agitation was never "countered". The two parts of population are clearly antagonized - and the Estonian "non-welcome" message could grow further, just as Russian collective wish to resist. It is high time to end "random" drift of ignorance; the sides should define clearly their positions, objectives, methods, so to approach "missed" dialogues.

You mention "causal collaborators" even though these are usually children and grandchildren of people who worked at newly built industrial enterprises (whose ownership Baltic states happily assumed after independence), rather than evil KGB men - should I say "group punishment" aloud?

Please, do you need to put words like "casual collaborators" into my mouth? As for enterprises, the flip sides are nationalized buisinesses in 1940, opportunity costs of the 40 years, and contribution of Baltic hands all over Soviet Union (including Siberia), with above avergae earnesty.

The change in 1990 was a stressful moment, as any other political change. But do you relieve think the Balts were up to "group punishment"? This core interest to ensure least chance of new Russian takeover does not contradict human rights by itself. Yet, maximum comfort to everyone wishing to stay is not requisite for the same basic rights, nor it is a neccesary purpose for a revived government. The Baltic handling was almost as civilised it could be. Even with the pointless ignorance of non-citizen's non-representation, choices of those people were typically less tough than of most others further East.

My main point is just so much wide. Yet is is constantly countered, with the implication that it is already terrible to refuse citizenship on a condition crucial to national interest, regardless how a person is (dis)interested in the historical culture, or how clearly he demonstrates alternative loyalty. I am amazed with the implication that a recovering nation must have no way to recognize and promote its own interest. Why Russia can use its power to pursue its interests without objections, but the Baltic states cannot counter that? If you deny the most reasonable (ans still decent) measure of self-assertion out of fear of a slippery slope, you already slipped pretty much down towards worser things: dominance of pure power, more desperate counter-measures, and such. That's when poeple loose their freedoms for real and painfully.

by das monde on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 02:26:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Someone needs to let The Independent know that 1 in 11 people in Estonia is "stateless".

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 05:18:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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