Saturday, June 24, 2023

Two-Thirds of Ethnic Russians in Estonia Now Define Themselves as Estonian-Russian, Russian-Speaking Estonian or both Estonian and Russian, Survey Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 22 – While only three percent of ethnic Russians in Estonia now define themselves solely as Estonians and 28 percent define themselves solely as Russians, 68 percent say they are Estonian-Russian, Russian-speaking Estonian, or simultaneously Estonian and Russian, according to a government-ordered survey last month.

            These numbers show that ethnic Russians in that Baltic country are changing their identities not all at once but over time and adopting a variety of intermediate identifications that mean those remaining purely Russian is now extremely small (

            The poll asked all residents of Estonia about their ethnicity. Of the total, 65 percent define themselves as Estonian alone, and only eight percent defined themselves as only Russian. Five percent identified as members of other nationalities. But what is striking is the large share of Russians who have adopted an intermediate position.

            At the same time, the survey found that among Russian citizens who live in Estonia, 38 percent define themselves as Russian only; but 51 percent of these citizens of the Russian Federation now living in Estonia also identified with one of the combined identities found among all Russians.

            Vladislav Gulyevich says that such reidentifications were entirely natural if they are voluntary; but he suggested that in the case of Estonia and some other post-Soviet states, the governments had pressured Russian people to reidentify if not all the way than in part (

            The Russian commentator urged that Moscow take steps to actively promote Russian identities among ethnic Russians now living beyond the borders of the Russian Federation because, he said, nations like the Estonian unlike the Russian don’t really allow for multiple identities.

            Specifically, Gulyevich adds, “Estonian identity does not have the ability to include within itself other peoples while allowing for the preservation of their national self-consciousness – unlike the Russian” which he argues does make such arrangements at the level of law and social practice.

            “In Soviet times,” he continues, the words russky and rossiisky acquired a different meaning; but in tsarist times, russky meant rossissky at the same time because russky by nationality were called the Great Russians.” That needs to be remembered now and guide Moscow’s actions in the future.

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