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The Impact of Ethno-Linguistic Minority Populations on De-Russification in Post-Soviet Estonia and Lithuania

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The Impact of Ethno-Linguistic Minority Populations on De-Russification in Post-Soviet Estonia and Lithuania. Douglas Buchacek SLAV 167. We will examine 2 Baltic countries: -- Estonia -- Lithuania. Estonia’s ties to Western/Northern Europe Hanseatic League Lutheran Religion. Estonia

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The Impact of Ethno-Linguistic Minority Populations on De-Russification in Post-Soviet Estonia and Lithuania

Douglas Buchacek

SLAV 167

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Estonia’s ties to Western/Northern Europe
  • Hanseatic League
  • Lutheran Religion
slide8
Estonia
  • There are two major languages spoken in Estonia: Estonian and Russian
  • Estonian
  • Russian
slide9
Estonian
  • Estonian is a Finno-Ugric language.
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Estonian
  • Estonian is a Finno-Ugric language.
  • Speakers of Estonian make up about 70% of the current population.
slide11
Estonian
  • Estonian is a Finno-Ugric language.
  • Speakers of Estonian make up about 70% of the current population
  • Contemporary Estonian descends from North Estonian.
slide12
The transformation of North Estonian into the dominant vernacular:
  • Bible was translated into North Estonian in 1739.
  • Development of a distinct Estonian language developed
    • modest industrialization,
    • Estonian universities,
    • blossoming of a homegrown intelligentsia.
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By the time of the Soviet occupation in 1940, literacy levels approached 100%
  • Southern Estonian continued to be spoken in the rural southern regions of the country, and experienced a brief resurgence in the final years of the Soviet Union.
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Russian
    • Russian is the dominant language of the East Slavic group of Indo-European languages.
    • Russian-speakers comprise nearly a quarter of the population.
  • Narva, an industrial border city in northeastern Estonian, is 96% Russian
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Other minority populations include
    • Slavs, such as Ukrainians and Byelorussians
    • Two indigenous groups: the Võro and the Seto, both of whom speak Finno-Ugric languages closely related to contemporary Estonian.
      • Võro and Seto are the descendents of South Estonian.
soviet occupation and russification
Soviet Occupation andRussification
  • At the time of annexation, Estonia was a relatively ethnically pure nation-state. Nearly 90% of the population claimed Estonian ethnicity.
  • The Russian population was negligible.
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Post-War Migration: 180,000 immigrants, predominantly Russians, moved to Estonia from other parts of the Soviet Union.
impact of soviet occupation
Impact of Soviet Occupation
  • Agriculture to Industry required more manpower.
impact of soviet occupation20
Impact of Soviet Occupation
  • Agriculture to Industry required more manpower.
  • Ideology – Lingua Franca
impact of soviet occupation21
Impact of Soviet Occupation
  • Agriculture to Industry required more manpower.
  • Ideology – Lingua Franca
  • By 1989, the ethnic Estonian population had fallen to 61.5%, whereas Russians constituted at least 25%.
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-- Lithuanian belongs to the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European language family.

--Along with Latvian, it is the only surviving language from this Balto-Slavic group.

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Developed as a literary language in the mid-1600s
  • Much of this development was concurrent with its status as a major language of the union of Poland and Lithuania in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
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The dissolution of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with the partitions of Poland over the period between 1772 and 1795.
  • Lithuania was annexed at this time by Russia, which in time developed harsh policies of russification.
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Not only did these policies severely limit the public use of Lithuanian, they also saw the repression of the Catholic Church, a dominant force in Lithuanian society.
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Harsh policies of russification were responsible for the first development of a strong Lithuanian nationalism -- the Lithuanian language became a centerpiece in the development of Lithuanian national consciousness.
soviet occupation
Soviet Occupation
  • Perhaps due to the history of harsh russification experienced under Tsarist control, the Lithuanians fiercely resisted the Soviet occupation which began in 1939 with the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
slide30
The Lithuanians resisted Soviet Occupation, with some partisans battling the Red Army into the 1950s.
  • Perhaps due to the fierceness of resistance, Soviet oppression in Lithuania was markedly more intense than in Latvia and Estonia.
  • At least 250,000 Lithuanians were executed or deported under Soviet rule
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Russification II: The Sequel

This time, it’s Soviet.

slide32
Centralized Soviet Control: an increasing emphasis on Russian as the dominant language of government.
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Centralized Soviet Control: an increasing emphasis on Russian as the dominant language of government.
  • Russian was taught in all schools.
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Centralized Soviet Control: an increasing emphasis on Russian as the dominant language of government.
  • Russian was taught in all schools.
  • This process was accelerated at the university level, as the Soviets claimed that a standardized language was needed in order to foster communication across the breadth of the multi-ethnic Soviet Union.
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Soviet emphasis on Russian coincided with repression of Lithuanian national symbols: University of Kaunas, harassment of Catholic Church.
  • Use of Russian was not only for “better communication.”
  • Anti-Soviet Backlash to a great extent stressed Lithuanian language. Sajudas had Lithuanian language as a central part of its anti-Soviet platform.
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“It should be remembered that we did not invite the Soviet army and that the questions over citizenship for our large Russian minority stem from the period of illegal occupation and immigration. Don’t forget that most Russians in Estonia have chosen to remain here to benefit from economic, social and human rights advantages.”

--Estonian president Lennart Meri, 1994

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Two competing forces:
  • the desire by Estonian to enter the European Union.
  • the continued resentment towards Russia for the Soviet legacy.
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Anti-Russian Sentiment
    • Estonia was not establishing itself as an independent nation-state, but was reestablishing itself.
    • Citizenship Law of 1990 – Three year waiting period, but Russian speakers were not eligible until after 1992 elections.
slide41
EU Accession
  • The Law on Cultural Autonomy, a legacy of the pre-Soviet Republic, was readopted in 1993, which allowed ethnic minorities to establish educational and cultural opportunities in their native language with a degree of state support.
  • With EU financial support, Estonia continued to emphasize the importance of the Russian-speaking minority to become proficient in Estonian.
slide42
Education continued to be offered for Russian speakers, although the emphasis is clearly on assimilation.
  • By 2007, all graduates of non-Estonian language schools will be required to know Estonian.
slide43
With EU financial support, Estonia continued to emphasize the importance of the Russian-speaking minority to become proficient in Estonian.
slide44
Conclusion

Estonia’s post-Soviet language policies have largely been discriminatory, and by and large moderated by the desire for EU accession.

slide46
The population of Lithuania in 1989 was 81.6% Lithuanian, with Russian and Polish populations comprising between 7 and 8 percent each
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Language policy in Lithuania is governed by two schools of thought concerning integration:

1. the desire to form a cohesive Lithuanian nation-state that recognizes the centrality of Lithuanian language and culture, while stressing the importance of multiculturalism and multilingualism

slide48
2. the desire to integrate fully into the European community, and the adoption of associated language policies to that end.
slide49
Lithuania, unlike Estonia, is free to enact Lithuanian-first policies without echoing the repressive linguistic policies of the Soviet era. Still, Lithuania has taken steps to not oppress its Russian minority.
slide50
The 1989 Law on National Minorities guarantees the equal political, economic, and social rights of its citizens, irrespective of their nationality.
  • It recognizes their national identity, continuity of culture, and fosters their national consciousness and its self-expression.
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1995 – Lithuanian the state language.

This law actually was the re-enactment of a law passed in 1989, prior to official recognition of Lithuania’s independence.

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Upon passage of this legislation, the Lithuanian parliament moved to provide provisions for non-speakers of Lithuanian to acquire competency in the official language, as well as the standardization of the language itself.
  • Additionally, the parliament moved to ensure that Lithuania’s language policies corresponded to the language rules governing accession to the European Union.
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Citizenship rights were granted to all persons living within Lithuanian territory in 1989.
  • Unlike in Estonia, there were no hidden tricks in this policy.
slide54
The Law on National Minorities guarantees the political, economic and social rights of all Lithuanian citizens, regardless of ethnic identity. Among those rights granted included mother-tongue education.
  • There are Russian and Polish-language schools, all of which provide instruction not only in the ethno-linguistic minority language, but in Lithuanian as well.
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Conclusion:
  • Despite a harsh Soviet past, and two brushed with Russification, Lithuania’s language policies are rather inclusive.
slide56
Because of a rather small ethnic (Russian) minority population, not due to any positive feelings for the Russians, Lithuania is able to adopt these progressive policies.
slide57
Grenoble, Lenore A. Language Policy in the Soviet Union. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003.
  • Peck, Bryan T. and Annabelle Mays, Challenge and Change in Education: The Experience of the Baltic States in the 1990s. Huntington: Nova Science Publishers, Inc. 2000.
  • Poleshchuk, Vadim. “Estonia, Latvia and the European Commission: Changes in Language Regulation in 1999-2001,” http://www.eumap.org/journal/features/2002/jan02/languagereg (accessed 28 September 2005)
  • Rannut, Mart, “Language Policy in Estonia,” http://www6.gencat.net/llengcat/noves/hm04primavera-estiu/docs/rannut.pdf, (accessed 26 September 2005).
  • Woods, Shirley A., “Ethnicity and Nationalism in Contemporary Estonia,” in Ethnicity and Nationalism in Russia, the CIS and the Baltic States. Christopher Williams and Thanasis D. Sfikas (eds.). Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999.
  • 2002 Regular Report on Estonia’s Progress Towards Accession. http://europa.eu.int/comm/enlargement/report2002/ee_en.pdf.
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Photo/Map Sources:
  • http://depts.washington.edu/baltic/papers/hansa.html#map
  • http://www.internationalspecialreports.com/europe/01/estonia/prez.jpg
  • http://balticgen.com/photos_latvia/tallinn%20estonia%20pan.jpg
  • http://ssnider.com/RUSSIA/moscow_StPete/kremlin_winter.jpg
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