London Metropolitan University Research Institutes

Integration of Soviet migrants as a factor shaping identity and citizenship awareness in Estonia

Author(s) Edgar Krull  
Publisher CiCe Publications  
Year 2001  
Editor A. Ross, Learning for Democratic Europe  
Language English  
Age group -  
With the restoration of its independence in 1991, Estonia inherited demographic situation significantly different from the time before the occupation. When the former Soviet Union occupied Estonia in 1940, Estonians made up about 90% of the population. Half century after annexation, Estonians comprised only 62% of the population. Almost one-third of the population could not speak the Estonian language. Furthermore, for most of the non-Estonians, the restoration of independence was unacceptable. Hence, in addition to problems like building up a new state structure and starting the reforms orientated to market economy experienced by all post-socialist countries, the young Estonian state had to find solutions to the problems, tensions and fears caused by ethnic relations. The efforts of the Estonian Government and various organisations, including many international organisations, helped non-Estonians to adjust to Estonian society and directed them towards integration. Estonia has developed without significant violent ethnic and political conflicts. Nevertheless, by the mid 1990s it became clear that the condition of peaceful co-existence achieved by the two communities no longer satisfied the real interests and needs of either group. Continuing confrontations between Estonians and non-Estonians became a major obstacle to the further development of the country, internal as well as internationally. A new ideology and more radical measures were needed to support and speed up integration. A comprehensive mega-project on ethnic relations was prepared and launched at the Estonian Open Foundation (EOF) in 1997 (Laius, 2000b) to implement such ideas This, alongside other serious initiatives within Estonian society, transformed the potentiallt risky demographic situation which had characterised the early 1990s. By the end of the decade it had created a basis for co-operation between the Estonian and Russian communities, at least at the level of political parties. This paper introduces some theoretical principles drawn from the experiences of the integration of minorities in other countries, gives a short survey of the mega-project, and reports on its outcomes as described by sociological and statistical surveys of both non-Estonians and Estonians.

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