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Cablegate: Snapshot: Growing Up Russian in Estonia

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RR RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHTL #0405/02 3331148
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 281148Z NOV 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY TALLINN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0940
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 2634
RUEHRA/AMEMBASSY RIGA 3010
RUEHVL/AMEMBASSY VILNIUS 6756

UNCLAS SECTION 02 OF 03 TALLINN 000405

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR EUR/NB MIGUEL RODRIGUES

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV RU EN
SUBJECT: SNAPSHOT: GROWING UP RUSSIAN IN ESTONIA

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Russians and Estonians. Stanislav Tserepanov, head of
one of Estonia's tiny ethnic-Russian political parties,
believes the riots made what was once 'historical'
tension between Russians and Estonians a "new, current
issue" for youth. While students we spoke to said they
view themselves as Russian, they also noted they are not
considered purely Russian in Russia. Instead, they are
something new: "Russians living in Estonia,- a concept
which is not fully accepted in either country.

Russians' Place in Estonia

6. (SBU) Russian-speaking students and their teachers
said they feel that Estonian society does not easily
accept them. AmCham's Sotskaja believes Estonians are
focused on preserving their nation and identity.
Tserepanov echoed this sentiment noting he believes
Estonians have become engulfed in a new wave of
nationalism that excludes Russian-speakers. Developing a
national pride that could unite Russians and Estonians
would serve Estonia better, Tserepanov asserted. Some
older members of the Russian community we spoke with said
they feel that Estonians often do not separate "Russian"
from "Soviet," though many of the Russians now living in
Estonia also suffered under the Soviet regime. Younger
students had a different view. Even though none of them
remember Soviet times, they expressed nostalgia for its
"easier and calmer" lifestyle.

7. (U) Language remains one of the most divisive issues.
Students and other members of the ethnic Russian
community complained that in Estonia "integration" has
seemed more like "assimilation." While none of our young
interlocutors complained about having to learn Estonian
language and culture, they expressed frustration that
Estonians don't reciprocate Russian-speakers' efforts.
(Note: In February, Estonian President Ilves said in an
interview to the BBC that he does not study Russian
because it would be "recognizing 50 years of Soviet
occupation." However, in November, Ilves visited
schools, worksites and a church in ethnically-Russian
Ida-Virumaa county and promised to return soon and
address the public in the Russian language. End Note.)
Many students worried about their ability to preserve
their mother tongue and national identity. On this
issue, however, students in Tallinn and Narva differed.
Russian speakers in Tallinn insisted on the importance of
preserving the Russian culture and community throughout
Estonia. Students in the border city of Narva (98
percent ethnic Russian), expressed a belief that Estonia
only needed to preserve Russian culture and language in
areas where the majority of the population is Russian.

8. (U) Some of the students we spoke with complained that
the GOE's program to increase the number of subjects
taught in Estonian at Russian-language high schools will
not help significantly. One asked, "How can a Russian
learn physics in Estonian, if the subject is hard enough
to understand in his first language?" While their
feelings were sincere, this is a much different view from
the majority opinion expressed in a recent major survey
of Russian-speaking students (Ref A). Several students
and one teacher we spoke with felt Estonian textbooks
portray Russians negatively and cited this as the reason
Russian students are hesitant to attend Estonian
schools. Jevgeni Krishtafovitsh, chairman of the youth
integration organization Open Republic, and Vjateslav
Konovalov, of Narva College, said that the recent
establishment of Russian-language instruction at the new
St. Catherine's College at Tallinn University is not a
positive step. The students would benefit more from
being forced to speak Estonian, they said. (NOTE: St.
Catherine's College instruction does lead to full
instruction in Estonian. END NOTE.)

9. (U) The students we spoke with generally view the
benefits of being 'stateless' as relatively equal to
Estonian citizenship. Most viewed Russian citizenship as
the least preferable option. However, they acknowledged
that the Russian Federation's recent decision to allow
visa-free travel for stateless Estonian residents will
reduce the incentive to apply for Estonian citizenship
(Estonian citizens must have a visa to travel to Russia).

What the Future Holds

10. (U) While all of the students identified themselves


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