No. 10




Linguistic Russians in Search of a New Identity

15 December 2004


RiTo No. 10, 2004

  • Kristina Ehrenpreis

    Ministry of Social Affairs analyst, Tallinn Pedagogical University administrative management master's program

An essential basis of identification has disappeared for many Russian-speakers of Estonia along with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The local Russian-speaking community is ethnically very diverse, but highly russified. This group is also defined as non-traditional minorities of Estonia. Their numbers increased explosively during the Soviet era, at a time when Estonia had no control over migration flows. Emigrants identified themselves mostly in terms of Soviet people – identity with amorphous borders and ethnic neutrality. This logic seems to have an impact on the patterns of local Russians’ identity transformation – process of reinventing meanings for this group’s social position and the purpose of its actions. This article deals with two aspects of the meanings’ potential sources, which apply conflicting conditions on to the rise of group consciousness. One of the aspects is a complex question of Russians’ ethnicity. Estonian integration policy emphasizes ethnicity as the basis for genuine identity’s formation that should contribute to minoritization goal. At the same moment the definition of Russian compatriots’ identity given by Russia leaves Estonia’s efforts without support. The dissonance between local Russians’ psychological attachments to Estonia and the official status, which disconnects them from the national community, undermines group cohesion of the Russians as far as the members’ geopolitical identification is different. Conflicting identities are recognized as constraining potential success of the national integration policy.

Full article in Estonian