Saturday, November 4, 2023

New Russian-Speaking Arrivals in Estonia Highlight Existence of Just How Many Kinds of Russians Exist, Shtepa Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 1 – The arrival in Estonia of some of those who have fled Russia because of Putin’s war in Ukraine and the dangers that they might be compelled to fight in it has highlighted the variety of those who speak Russian and shown that being an ethnic Russian doesn’t necessarily one if tied to the Russian state or pro-Russian, Vadim Shtepa says.

            According to the editor of the Talllinn-based regionalist site, Region.Expert,  this reality is increasingly recognized not only by scholars but also by others in Estonia and shows that those who speak Russian are part of a single nation  ( reposted at

            He reports that investigators at Estonia’s Tartu University are now studying the differences in identity “between ‘Estonian Russians, who often have lived in this country already for several generations and recent ‘relocators.’” Their research suggests that these two groups are in fact “different peoples despite having a common language (

            Some of those conducting this research, Shtepa notes, are themselves Russian-speaking, but the fact that they are carrying out such an investigation only underscores how different they are from those they are doing research about. They are truly “’Estonian scholars,’” although “they will never become ethnic Estonians.”

            Instead, they are part of a larger group of Russian speakers in Estonia who are called “Estonian residents,” who include representatives of other groups who have come to that republic; and they can and are properly designated by Estonians as “Estonian Russians” (eestinevelased in Estonian).

            Indeed, Shtepa says, one of their number, P.I. Filimonov has noted that “Russian in the ethnic sense does not necessarily mean Russian in terms of recognition of being part of the Russian Federation, or even pro-Russian in terms of that community” (

            Within the Russian speakers who have been in Estonia for a long time, there is a basic division between those who came in Soviet times and don’t have Estonian citizenship, a group forming less than five percent of the country’s population, despite all the Moscow propaganda about how much they suffer.

            Not only will the children of these people automatically become Estonian citizens with full rights, but many Russian speakers who have been in the country for a long time have learned Estonian and now identify with Estonia rather than with Russia. That puts the latter group at odds with the former and makes the former more like the new arrivals who still focus on Russia (

            The Russian speakers who have not taken Estonian citizenship and the new arrivals have much in common: they are obsessed with Russia and its problems and pay little attention to Estonia and its diversity. This sets them apart from Russian speakers who have become Estonian Russians and are far more interested in the country in which they now live than in Russia.

            It is thus entirely appropriate to say, Shtepa continues, that “despite the fact the the majority of Estonian Russians and Russian relocators speak the same language, in fact, they represent different peoples.” Such a divide is not unique. Colonists in America became Americans even though they continued to speak English.

            And those that did focused on the development of the country they were creating rather than spent their time dreaming about whether it might be possible to replace a bad king in their former homeland with a good one instead.


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