Baltic states will pay for failure to forgive and include

I would imagine it was a bit like visiting Northern Ireland in 1964. On the face of it, it was a reasonably prosperous place. There was this thing about Catholics suffering poorer housing, higher unemployment and something close to a lock out from some senior offices, but they seemed to have accepted their lot (and an attempt at a terror campaign had ended in total failure). It was a little odd that symbols were so obviously British and even Royal when so many of the population didn’t really support those things, but life seemed to go on. Yet there would just have been a nagging doubt that this exclusion may come back, some day, to bite.

This was in fact Estonia in 2004, and the minority was not Catholic but Russian-speaking – specifically, people from elsewhere in the Soviet Union whose families had been moved to Estonia post-War. They accounted for a third of the population (similar to Northern Ireland’s in 1964, actually), yet held just seven of the 101 seats in Parliament – a much worse proportion, in fact, than Nationalists in the old Stormont. Locked out of power, they were subject to citizenship laws which they were not involved in passing which required them to learn Estonian; to symbols which were entirely from the Estonian Nation’s past; and to a West-leaning (pro-EU, pro-NATO) foreign policy which they had no role in shaping. In many ways it was a super, innovative country… and yet there was this nagging doubt…

Now the problem is very, very real. And it is much more relevant to global security than Northern Ireland ever was post-War; or indeed that relative side shows like Scottish referendums. In Estonia now nearly a quarter of the population have a vote in Russian elections, which they almost universally cast for Vladimir Putin; they watch Russian television (which is just mass propaganda which makes Fox News look genuinely fair and balanced); they do not yet consider themselves Russians in a citizenship sense (note foreign correspondents re-assuringly), but you know what, they probably soon will…

With Russian cyber-attacks on Estonian computing (essential, as all government data and business is carried out on screen) and even now incursions into Estonian territory to kidnap soldiers, that nagging doubt has been realised multi-fold.

Compromise. Why do they never compromise? Why do they always think minorities can just be wished away? I’d like to think it’s not too late now…


3 thoughts on “Baltic states will pay for failure to forgive and include

  1. Scots Anorak says:

    Truly shocking expecting people living in Estonia to learn Estonian.

  2. Scots Anorak says:

    As you are aware, Scots and English are closely related languages, and the former might well have developed with Southern English as its written form even had Scotland remained independent (cf. Hochdeutsch in Switzerland). Estonian, on the other hand, is not merely not Slavic but not Indo-European. It is also the case that any English people living in Scotland today moved there with the full consent and approval of the Scots. They were certainly not transplanted there to create facts on the ground, stifle self-determination and strangle the native language or languages; the Scots were quite proficient at all that themselves. Having said that, I’d probably support banning English- (and Scots-) medium education on the Western Isles because I feel that that’s the sort of drastic affirmative action that’s needed to save Gaelic. I’d also support legal moves to ensure, as soon as it became practically possible, that everyone in Scotland acquired a knowledge of Scots and Gaelic while at school.

    You have suggested that ethnic Russians should not have to learn the national language of the country in which they live. The inevitable result would be that the indigenous population would instead be obliged to use a language forced upon them during 40 years of occupation as the lingua franca in order to communicate with those people. Conversations with strangers in shops and on the street would start in Russian by default as the lowest common denominator. Those same ethnic Russians enjoy enormous advantages through living in Estonia rather than Russia, including massively higher incomes and the right to live and travel in the EU. While I agree with you wholeheartedly that it is unjust to deprive someone of citizenship or a vote on linguistic grounds, merely asking them to acquire a knowledge of the majority language of the country in which they have chosen to live seems to me an inherently reasonable request.

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