Voices from Russia

Monday, 9 June 2008

Amnesty International Calls on Estonia to Stop Discrimination against Russian-Speakers

Filed under: Baltic states,diplomacy,politics,Russian — 01varvara @ 00.00

A street scene in the Old City section of Tallinn

Unemployment among Russian speakers in Estonia is nearly 2.5 times higher than among Estonians. According to a report by Amnesty International, this is the result of linguistically-motivated discrimination against Russian-speakers. If we compare them, the reports on the issue made by Amnesty International in previous years differ little from this one. Discrimination against the Russian-speaking population has been a hot issue ever since Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania declared independence. Unlike Lithuania, where Russian speakers have full civil rights, Estonia and Latvia practise discrimination on ethnic grounds. By dubbing it linguistic, Amnesty International is distancing itself from politics, even though it is clear that this ethnic discrimination stems from a political agenda.

Riga and Tallinn have been taking it out on so-called non-citizens for the years they spent within the Soviet Union. Home-grown historians describe the Soviet period as a national tragedy, even though it was due to that period that the two countries managed to preserve their national identities. As for reprisals and deportations, other peoples of the USSR, Russians included, suffered from them as well. Nadezhda Arbatova, an expert in European problems and Doctor of Political Science, said that Latvia and Estonia are thus trying to re-write history, holding the USSR solely responsible for the tragedies of the past, and, on top of that, they link it to contemporary Russia by portraying it as a new version of the bygone empire.

Latvia and Estonia thus continue to lament about past grievances, the so-called Soviet occupation, the injustices of the USSR, and the guilt of Western Europe and the United States for allowing this to happen. Psychologically, they think that, by pressing these hot buttons, they shall boost Latvian and Estonian prestige in western venues.

As long as the political climate in the Baltic countries stays unchanged, the annual criticism of Amnesty International calling for ending discrimination and recognising Russians as an ethnic minority will be no more than an empty mantra. Along with employment restrictions and obligatory requirements to know Estonian and Latvian, the two countries should do something to guarantee elementary human rights regardless of residence and workplace. This is a huge problem in Estonia and Latvia, to say the least.

6 June 2008

Aleksandr Vatutin

Voice of Russia World Service



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