Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Tishkov May Not Be as Upset about Being Blocked from Entering Estonia as He Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, October 14 – Tallinn’s decision to block Russian Academician Valery Tishkov from entering Estonia to give a speech at a conference there has sparked an angry reaction on his part, but the director of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology probably is not as upset as he suggests.


            That is because the Estonian action has the effect of undermining the criticism Tishkov has received from Russian nationalists over the past decade that he is insufficiently supportive of ethnic Russians and that his promotion of the civic identity of “Rossiyane” undermines the ethnic Russian nation.


            From now on, Tishkov will be able to point to the Estonian action as evidence that his critics are wrong, something that likely guarantees his retention of his position in Moscow for as long as he wants it -- especially if he follows through with his threat to reduce the access of Estonian scholars to Finno-Ugric nations within the Russian Federation.


            In “Izvestiya” yesterday and “Rossiiskaya gazeta” today, Tishkov talks about what happened and speculates about why the Estonians took this step, using the occasion to present the ethnic scene in the Russian Federation in the most favorable light and that in Estonia in the most unfavorable one (izvestia.ru/news/577919 and  rg.ru/2014/10/14/tishkov.html).


            The Moscow ethnographer said he had been invited to Estonia to speak about Russia’s nationality policy and, given Estonia’s interests, on the situation of the numerically small peoples of the North and the Finno-Ugric nations more generally. He insisted that “there was no political subtext” in any of this.


            On his arrival at the Tallinn airport on Sunday, he was denied entry and forced to spend the night at the airport until he could take the next flight back to Moscow.  He said that the decision to block his entry had been taken late last week by the Estonian interior ministry but that he had not been informed of it before leaving the Russian capital.


            Tallinn’s decision to declare him persona non grata, Tishkov said, was “a mistake” for which “there was no basis.”  But he did suggest there was a pre-history to this. Last year, his institute published a book on ethnic policies in the Baltic countries, and many of the things said there, he suggested, “did not please the Estonian leadership.”


            Tishkov noted that he has long been a supporter of “official bilingualism in countries like Latvia, Estonia or Ukraine” and said that “it is possible” that in the minds of “certain ultra-nationalists” in the Baltic countries, any call for official bilingualism is equivalent to a call for the legalization of pedophilia.


            Although Estonian law offers him the chance to appeal this decision, Tishkov said he has no plans to do so.  But he did say he would respond by “more attentively” focusing on the work of Estonian specialists who “are involved with the Finno-Ugric peoples and do not always write objectively about them,” preferring instead to put forth what he described as “the lie about the genocide” of those peoples in Russia.


            In the past, “no one banned them from travelling to various regions of our Russia and say what they wanted,” but that is going to change, Tishkov suggested. He said he “wanted to invite our Estonian colleagues to a congress of Russian ethnologists and anthropologists in Ekaterinburg in 2015 but now would not do so.”



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