Russian Minority in Estonia

 

Nationalism is a term that has and continues to be debated. Many historians, social scientists, and philosophers have debated what nationalism is and its effect on the state. Nationalism is the notion that one group of people belong to a nation, this much of the definition is generally agreed upon. The problem arises when considering who belongs to the nation, what their duties to that nation entail, and if with nationalism comes patriotism. Nationalism is the term that applies to a nation’s citizens and residents, and it requires them to continuously work to improve their nation. Nationalism does not require them to have pride or love for their nation, as long as they fulfil the duties of a critical and engaged citizen.
Rogers Brubaker has written many works discussing both the ideas of nationalism and citizenship. Nationalism and citizenship are related topics in that a nation is the overarching body that has a relationship with its citizens. The relationship between the citizens and the nation exists through Nationalism. Brubaker debates both what the definition of nationalism is and what rules regarding citizenship are. Brubaker focuses on the Nationalism debate in his book Nationalism Reframed: Nationhood and the National Question in the New Europe. In this book, Brubaker begins by noting the soviet definition of nationhood: that a nation has territorial borders, but a state with borders is not necessarily a nation01)Roger Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed: Nationhood and the National Question in the New Europe. (Cambridge University Press: New York, 1996), 34.. Brubaker ends his debate on nationhood by looking at the conflict between Russia’s expectations of the people who live within their nation and their lack of desire to grant those people Russian citizenship02)Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed: Nationhood and the National Question in the New Europe, 54..
This confusion on what the duties of the people living in a nation have through nationalism is debated by Brubaker in his book Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany. Brubaker outlines the two major opposing ideas of citizenship, Jus Sanguinis and Jus Soli, coming from Germany and France respectively03) Roger Brubaker, Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany, (Harvard University Press: Boston, 1992), 81 – 84.. In Jus Sanguinis, citizenship is given out based on birthright meaning that citizenship is passed down and is based on ethnicity. Even if a person does not live within the borders of a nation they can still maintain citizenship to that nation, so long as they still fall into that nation’s ethnic group. Likewise, if a person is born within the borders of a nation but does not have the ethnicity of a native to that nation, they cannot be citizens. Jus Soli is the opposite. Jus Soli gives out citizenship based primarily on the borders of a nation, rather than on ethnicity. Meaning no matter your ethnicity, if you live inside and are born inside the nation, you are granted citizenship rights. If you are born outside the nation, you do not retain citizenship rights. Many countries have a combination between Jus Soli and Jus Sanguis, depending on the needs of their nation.
In Estonia, there are many ethnic minorities, including the Russian ethnic minority. Estonia largely follows the concept of Jus Sanguis when it come to citizenship rights. The Russian Ethnic minority that was relocated to Estonia during the soviet occupation is unable to claim citizenship rights for the most part. Estonia has a path to citizenship, but it is extremely hard for Russians to complete the path for citizenship. The pathway to citizenship requires a rigorous Estonian language test, which is incredibly hard for native Russians to pass. In this sense, the citizenship is mostly limited to ethnic Estonians. Those people who are of the Russian minority residing in Estonia have limited rights04)C. J. Levy, Soviet Legacy Lingers as Estonia Defines Its People. (New York Times, 2010).. Because of the lack of rights these people have, it makes nationalism hard. Estonians, who enjoy the rights they are offered in Estonia support their country, however the Russians who are not offered these same rights do not have the same nationalistic feelings toward Estonia. Some Russians even feel bonds to Russia, though they do not wish to move there. In a nationalist discourse, citizens and those belonging to a nation would need to fulfil the duties of a citizen, such as military service, which is conscripted in Estonia. The question of nationalism is taken into consideration when considering the status of the Russian minorities citizenship. They do not need to be faithfully dedicated to Estonia, however, they do need to be willing to faithfully serve Estonia and follow Estonian rules and regulations.
The question of language and its relationship to nationality comes up when discussing the Russian Minority in Estonia. Many of these people do not speak Estonian fluently, they speak Russian, and to Estonia, that makes them ineligible for citizenship. It also makes having any sense of nationality for Russian Estonians difficult when they do not speak the same language. This is a barrier for Estonians, but it is not a barrier in all countries, as Karl Deutsch points out in Nationalism and Social Communication, the Swiss are a multilingual country, but because they all have similar understandings as to how society operates, they are able to function as a nation with a sense of nationalism. The Swiss provide support that a national identity and nationalism can be formed without a common language05) Karl Deutsch, Nationalism and Social Communication (Oxford University Press: New York, 1994)..
Nationalism is a debated and confusing concept. Nationalism is directly tied to citizenship, whether the citizens feel a sense of nationalism to their country of residence, or whether non-residents feel a sense of nationalism to their home country when they live outside that country. Nationalism requires fulfillments of duties to the countries of which people hold citizenship. It does not require pride or love for the nation, instead it requires a shared mindset with a common goal. Nationalism does require citizens to work to better the country as a whole and to follow the rules set out by the country. The Russian minority in Estonia are not included in Estonian nationalism because they do not hold citizenship and do not have duties that they need to fulfill for the good of the country.

References   [ + ]

01. Roger Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed: Nationhood and the National Question in the New Europe. (Cambridge University Press: New York, 1996), 34.
02. Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed: Nationhood and the National Question in the New Europe, 54.
03. Roger Brubaker, Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany, (Harvard University Press: Boston, 1992), 81 – 84.
04. C. J. Levy, Soviet Legacy Lingers as Estonia Defines Its People. (New York Times, 2010).
05. Karl Deutsch, Nationalism and Social Communication (Oxford University Press: New York, 1994).