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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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We will examine 2 Baltic countries: De-Russification in Post-Soviet Estonia and Lithuania

-- Estonia

-- Lithuania


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  • Estonia De-Russification in Post-Soviet Estonia and Lithuania

  • There are two major languages spoken in Estonia: Estonian and Russian

  • Estonian

  • Russian


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  • Estonian De-Russification in Post-Soviet Estonia and Lithuania

  • Estonian is a Finno-Ugric language.


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  • Estonian De-Russification in Post-Soviet Estonia and Lithuania

  • Estonian is a Finno-Ugric language.

  • Speakers of Estonian make up about 70% of the current population.


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  • Estonian De-Russification in Post-Soviet Estonia and Lithuania

  • Estonian is a Finno-Ugric language.

  • Speakers of Estonian make up about 70% of the current population

  • Contemporary Estonian descends from North Estonian.


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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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Russian levels approached 100%

  • 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 levels approached 100%

      • 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.


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    Soviet Occupation and levels approached 100% Russification

    • 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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    Impact of Soviet Occupation Russians, moved to Estonia from other parts of the Soviet Union.

    • Agriculture to Industry required more manpower.


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    Impact of Soviet Occupation Russians, moved to Estonia from other parts of the Soviet Union.

    • Agriculture to Industry required more manpower.

    • Ideology – Lingua Franca


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    Impact of Soviet Occupation Russians, moved to Estonia from other parts of the Soviet Union.

    • 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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    Lithuania: Background Russians, moved to Estonia from other parts of the Soviet Union.


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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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    Soviet Occupation first development of a strong Lithuanian nationalism -- the Lithuanian language became a centerpiece in the development of Lithuanian national consciousness.

    • 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.


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    • 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 partisans battling the Red Army into the 1950s.

    This time, it’s Soviet.


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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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    Post-Soviet Estonian Language Policies Lithuanian national symbols: University of Kaunas, harassment of Catholic Church.


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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: 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.”

    • 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 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.”

      • 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.


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    • EU Accession 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.”

    • 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.


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    • Conclusion the importance of the Russian-speaking minority to become proficient in Estonian.

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


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    Post-Soviet Lithuanian Language Policies the importance of the Russian-speaking minority to become proficient in Estonian.


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    2. the desire to integrate fully into the European community, and the adoption of associated language policies to that end.


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    1995 – Lithuanian the state language. political, economic, and social rights of its citizens, irrespective of their nationality.

    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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    • 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: economic and social rights of all Lithuanian citizens, regardless of ethnic identity. Among those rights granted included mother-tongue education.

    • Despite a harsh Soviet past, and two brushed with Russification, Lithuania’s language policies are rather inclusive.


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    • Grenoble, Lenore A. population, not due to any positive feelings for the Russians, Lithuania is able to adopt these progressive policies.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: population, not due to any positive feelings for the Russians, Lithuania is able to adopt these progressive policies.

    • 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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