Staunton, January 29 – The political parties ethnic Russians in Estonia and Latvia have long identified as “theirs” have lost the support of this community, polls show, because party leaders are now trying to be accepted as part of the political systems in those countries rather than serve as challengers to it, Aleksandr Nosovich says.
The pro-Moscow Baltic commentator argues that “Latvian and Estonian Russians are massively disappointed in ‘their’ political parties which are sacrificing the defense of their interests … in an attempt to become part of the nationalistic Russophobic regimes of the Baltic countries (rubaltic.ru/article/politika-i-obshchestvo/20210129-russkie-partii-pribaltiki-poteryali-podderzhku-russkikh/).
According to a new poll in Estonia, only 43 percent of Estonia’s Russians now support the Center Party, down from 60 percent a year ago, 70 percent from the year before that, and 80 percent not much earlier (rus.err.ee/1608088714/podderzhka-centristov-sredi-russkojazychnyh-izbiratelej-upala-do-rekordno-nizkogo-urovnja).\
This shift is “good news for the political system of Estonia,” Nosovich says, “but bad news for the Center Party which earlier was considered as having a monopoly on the ethnic Russian electoral field,” a position it acquired because Tallinn succeeded in suppressing other, more explicitly “Russian” parties.
Ethnic Russians as a result felt they had no choice but to turn to the Center Party, but that party has pocketed their support and pursued its own goals, which all too often, Nosovich says, have resulted in the sacrifice of Russian interests. Now Russians are turning away from that party but do not have any other party they can count on.
Something similar is happening in Latvia with the Harmony Party and for equally the same reasons, Nosovich continues. The ethnic Russians turned to it as the only party that could support their interests, but the party, recognizing they had nowhere else to go, often sacrificed these interests in the pursuit of its own.
The ethnic Russians of Latvia have been deserting the Harmony Party as a result, but for the time being, they have nowhere to go and thus stand outside the Latvian political system, the Russian analyst argues. The only way these parties in Estonia and Latvia can recover is to represent the interests of local Russians more clearly. Otherwise, they will continue to fade.
Nosovich does not discuss what this fading means for these countries. On the one hand, it could lead ever more of the local Russian community to identify with other parties who represent some if not all of their concerns. Or on the other, it could mean that there may soon be attempts, perhaps backed by Moscow, to create new “Russian” parties that could mobilize these communities.In the first case, these countries will have passed a major test in integrating the Russians; in the second, it means that there may be a new time of testing for them, even though the percentage of ethnic Russians in both countries continues to decline