The fate of the Russian minority in Post-Soviet Estonia

Twenty years ago the Baltic States regained their independence from the Soviet Union. They thereby inherited many things: a dysfunctioning economy on the verge of collapse, an authoritarian political system suffering from widespread corruption, and a highly polarized nation divided by ethnicity and language proficiency. The Singing Revolution may have brought the Baltic States independence, but this was only the beginning of their relief. What followed 1991 was a slow and painful process that not only involved a political and economic transformation, but more importantly the collective embracement of a new identity. In 1991 the Balts switched allegiances: East became West, Russia became Europe. Yet not all parts of Baltic life could be so easily interchanged from Russia to Europe. There remained the minority issue. What to do with the Russo Baltic minorities, who composed up to 34% of the population, who were often poorly integrated in society and who showed no inclination of leaving? This question has been answered differently over time by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, partially in response to economic realities, partially in response to EU and Russian demands for minority protection. This essay investigates the situation in Estonia.

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