Cablegate: Goe Endeavors to Modify Integration Programs In


DE RUEHTL #0488/01 2071258
R 261258Z JUL 07




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) Summary. In a post Bronze Soldier riot Estonia,
integration of ethnic Russians is a hot topic. Once
regarded as having one of the most successful post-Soviet
integration programs, the GOE is now being forced to take a
hard look at the deep fissures that still exist within
Estonia's population. Integration will reportedly be a top
priority in the next budget, and program focal points will
likely look beyond language-based initiatives. The GOE is
conducting surveys and talking with focus groups to figure
out how to best update and rework its integration programs.
Meanwhile, plans to introduce Estonian-language classes in
Russian-speaking high schools this fall are moving forward
as scheduled. Combating Russian state propaganda remains a
big challenge; however, most believe a dedicated GOE
Russian-language television station is unrealistic. End


2. (U) In 2000, the GOE approved the "State Integration
Program for 2000-2007," which called for reducing the
number of Estonia's stateless residents, a "substantial"
breakthrough in teaching Estonian to Russian-speakers and
full participation of non-Estonians in all levels of
society. Although Estonia's integration programs have
achieved notable successes, April's Bronze Soldier riots
brought to light the deep fissures that remain between
ethnic Estonians and Russian-speakers. As dialogues
concerning follow up on the "State Integration Program for
2008-2013" continue in the wake of the riots, integration
discussions generally are taking on a higher profile and
are reaching beyond the Ministry of Education and Research
(MOE) and the office of the Minister for Population
Affairs. For example, in early July, the City of Tallinn -
governed by the Center Party, which has actively cultivated
Estonia's Russian-speakers - held the second part of a two-
part "Domestic Peace" program entitled "The Need for an
Integration Program in Tallinn." Discussions focused on
the need to draw up a Tallinn-specific program to ensure
security and stability, promote mutual understanding and
encourage peace in the city. Integration has been a common
theme in the Ambassador's meetings with GOE officials, and
a number of sources indicate that integration will be a top
priority in next year's budget.

3. (U) At a recent roundtable of national minority
representatives, Population Minister Urve Palo explicitly
stated that the government is planning big changes to its
integration policy and programs. Tanel Matlik, Director of
the Non-Estonians' Integration Foundation (NEIF), further
stated that it is clear the existing Estonian language-
based integration plan has not produced the desired
results. He emphasized that the new program must "bring
integration to the masses." In her effort to formulate a
new program, the Population Minister has commissioned
population research, surveys and expert focus groups
including participants from Tartu University, The Baltic
Studies Institute, the Praxis and Geomedia research
companies, the PR company Hill & Knowlton and a group of
Tallinn University social scientists led by Professor Raivo
Vetik. These experts are analyzing multiple aspects of
Estonian society and will submit an action plan and
integration strategy to the GOE by the end of the year.

4. (SBU) While work on the new strategies is ongoing, Post
has observed several common themes emerging in the media
and through conversations with officials. These themes
include: building a national identity, integration as a
"two-way street," and seeking to understand people's


5. (SBU) Future GOE integration programs will likely focus
less on language - teaching Estonian to Russian-speakers -
and more on building a common state identity. The Advisor
to Population Minister Palo, Eduard Odinets, told us that
it has become clear that identity building and social
integration must play a bigger role. He said his office is
working to develop specific programs to identify common
points between cultures as a basis for dialogue. He was
careful not to find fault with previous programs, instead
stating that times have changed and old programs need to be
revised. As an example, Odinets highlighted the term "non-
Estonian" as having negative connotations, noting it is
vital for people to realize that being an Estonian is not
an issue of ethnicity, but rather an issue of nationality.

6. (SBU) NEIF Director Matlik told us that his
organization has requested a 30 per cent budget increase
from the GOE to continue and enhance programs aimed at

building a common state identity among ethnic Russians who
make up the bulk of Estonia's minority population. (Note.
We expect the government is likely to agree to this
increase. End Note.) Specifically, he pointed to programs
that provide Russian children with opportunities to
interact with ethnic Estonians and visit Estonian state
institutions to learn more about Estonia's history and
political system. In addition, exchange programs in which
ethnic Russian children live with an Estonian family for a
period of time are increasingly popular both for their
language and cultural benefits. These exchanges provide
children the opportunity to dispel old stereotypes for
themselves. As one official pointedly told us, not all
Russians drink vodka and not all Estonians wear traditional
clothing and eat smoked fish.


7. (SBU) Another common theme is the idea that successful
integration must be a "two-way street." Until now, most
ethnic Estonians saw integration as a process whereby
Russians became more like them. At the same time, most
ethnic-Estonians still have great difficulty with the
concept that non-ethnic Estonians can be good citizens of
Estonia. Commenting on this now popular phrase, Population
Advisor Odinets emphasized the importance of dialogue and
mutual understanding. He gave the example of teacher
training programs, which are currently conducted separately
for Russian and Estonian-speaking schools. Odinets has
advised Population Minister Palo that common training
programs - even if they required the use of translators -
would give teachers from different backgrounds a better
understanding of both their differences and their
similarities and help them find common ground. He noted
that Estonians need to understand that they cannot detach
Russians from themselves - that Russian-Estonians are a
part of Estonian society.

8. (SBU) Odinets identified the police as a positive
example of ethnic Russians and Estonians working together
harmoniously. Conversely, he described the cultural events
that frequently take place to highlight Estonia's various
ethnic groups, noting that these events are rarely attended
by anyone outside of the particular ethnic group being
featured. Odinets suggested tying state funding of these
kinds of activities to the involvement of outside groups.
In a separate meeting, MP and former Minister of Education
Peeter Kreitzberg, a Social Democrat, emphasized that
ethnic Russians cannot be expected to renounce their
Russian heritage. At the same time, he continued, the idea
of two state languages (Estonian and Russian) is
unacceptable. He believes that while cultural
understanding on both sides is important, having one common
language is vital for educational and professional


9. (SBU) Shortly after the riots, President Toomas Hendrik
Ilves stated that unfortunately many Estonians think of
Russians as looters and rioters. Population Minister Palo
has also noted the danger in this type of thinking.
Population Advisor Odinets further noted that sometimes
things have to get worse before they can get better, and he
is hopeful that the riots at least brought certain issues
to light that can no longer be ignored. One of the focus
groups initiated by the Office of Population Affairs is
studying the questions surrounding the motivations of
ethnic groups and possible programs to help people learn to
better understand one another.


10. (SBU) Although the GOE is looking to expand beyond its
emphasis on language-based integration, the MOE is moving
forward with plans to phase in Estonian language classes at
Russian high schools - grades 10-12 - this fall. Katri
Raik, Deputy General Secretary for the MOE, told us that
all of Estonia's 63 Russian-language high schools are ready
to go forward with the first phase: teaching Estonian
literature in Estonian. The phase-in program will add
additional Estonian-language courses to the curriculum each
year: Civics (2008), Music and Art History (2009),
Geography (2010), and Estonian History (2011). In addition
to fulfilling the minimum requirements, MOE Deputy Raik
noted that starting this fall about half of Russian-
language schools will teach physical education classes in
Estonian, and a third will teach music in Estonian.

11. (U) A major concern with the Russian-language school
reform continues to be the availability of teachers who can
teach fluently in both Russian and Estonian. This is of
particular concern in the heavily-populated Russian areas

in north-eastern Estonia. To address the bilingual teacher
deficit, Education Minister Lukas plans to launch an
extensive program to increase the number of Estonian-
speaking teachers at Russian-language secondary schools.
For example, the GOE will award ethnic Estonian teachers
approximately $17,000 after one year of teaching in a
Russian-language school. Meanwhile, teachers without the
requisite knowledge of Estonian fear losing their jobs.
MOE Deputy Raik largely dismissed this problem, pointing
out that many unilingual Russian teachers are near
retirement age, and younger teachers are taking Estonian
language classes in addition to their regular workloads to
prepare them to teach in Estonian. Whether these teachers
will ultimately be adequately equipped to teach class in
Estonian is unclear.

12. (SBU) While Estonia's Russian-speaking population
seems to have more or less accepted the idea of language
reforms in their schools, there is still some pushback.
MOE Deputy Raik noted this, emphasizing the need for more
information for students, their parents and teachers, and
better "packaging" of the program and its benefits. She
indicated to us that she plans to personally travel to
Russian-language schools to promote and better explain the

13. (SBU) MP Kreitzberg, a former Education Minister
himself, told us that he thinks the language integration
program is all wrong. Instead of focusing on high schools,
he said the GOE should concentrate on the pre-school,
primary, and basic school levels. The ideal solution,
Kreitzberg noted, would be for ethnic Russian students to
know Estonian well enough to study in all-Estonian high
schools. This would eliminate the need for Russian-
language schools altogether and facilitate social
integration. However, Population Minister Palo has been
careful to point out that a full transition to Estonian-
language education in Russian high schools has never been
considered by her office.


14. (SBU) One key issue made clear by the April riots is
that Estonia's ethnic Estonian and Russian populations
still have very different interpretations of history. GOE
officials have emphasized to us that countering
misconceptions among Russian-speaking residents is one of
the biggest challenges it faces with respect to
integration. NEIF Director Matlik compared teaching
history in some Russian-language schools today to teaching
the history of the Communist Party in Soviet times - when
people studied what they were told to study but did not
believe it. He noted that while most teachers in Estonia's
Russian-language schools are loyal to Estonia and use
state-authorized texts, some are having trouble leaving the
past behind. Many may be intentionally or unintentionally
leaning toward the old Soviet view of history. Director
Matlik pointed out that this problem is compounded in some
ethnic-Russian homes as parents give their children less-
than-accurate takes on history. (Note. Teachers can
choose among a variety of texts, but all must be approved
by the government. However, teachers have a great deal of
flexibility in choosing "supplemental" information for
their courses. One significant concern is that teachers in
Russian-language schools use materials from Russian
Federation newspapers and other less-than-objective
sources. End Note.)


15. (SBU) MP Kreitzerberg explained that Estonia's young
ethnic Russians have a new identity, separate from Russians
living in Russia and the older "Soviet" generation living
in Estonia. He believes that ethnic Russians are
increasingly western-oriented, and went so far as to say
that most of the problems associated with the riots will
disappear on their own within 50 years. Despite the youth-
oriented nature of the riots, both Population Minister
Advisor Odinets and MP Kreitzberg believe that, as a whole,
Estonia's youth are among the most integrated segment of
the population. Population Minister Advisor Odinets
believes that young people are the most likely to see the
benefits of integration, i.e., learning to speak Estonian
and doing well on exams will result in better employment
opportunities. Further, young people realize that
obtaining Estonian citizenship means being able to live and
work elsewhere in the EU. (Note. Stateless persons who
are resident in Estonia can travel in the EU without a visa
starting this year; however, they are not entitled to the
same work and residency privileges as Estonian citizens.
End Note.) In fact, MP Kreitzerberg stressed that unless
Estonia is especially accommodating to its young Russian

population, they will eventually lose them to western


16. (U) Russia's ability to influence Estonia's Russian-
speaking population during the riots highlighted the fact
that most Russian-speakers in Estonia get their news
directly from Moscow. (Reftel) During the riots, Russia
was able to manipulate and inflame ethnic Russians through
television and other media outlets, easily countering
Estonian-based news reports.

17. (U) Although locally-produced Russian-language
television is available in Estonia, programming is limited
and there is no single dedicated channel. Meanwhile, a
wide variety of Russia-based programming is readily
available via cable television. Russia's propaganda push
leading up to and following the April riots renewed
discussions about the importance of reaching out to
Estonia's Russian-speaking population. Countering the
propaganda issuing from Russia will be an especially
important challenge in the years to come.

18. (U) The possibility of creating a GOE-funded Russian-
language channel has been considered, but largely deemed
implausible due to high costs and competition. Estonia's
Russian speakers - who watch an average of more than four
hours of television a day - report that Russian Federation
TV stations have an advantage over local programming
because they offer better entertainment. These programs
draw viewers who are then more likely to stay tuned for the
Russia-based news in lieu of changing channels. Others are
thinking about more creative solutions. Kadri Liik,
Director of Tallinn's International Center for Defense
Studies, told us that instead of starting an independent
channel, the GOE could alternatively buy air time on
already popular Russian stations. When we asked her why
the Russian stations would agree to this arrangement, Liik
replied that their ability to air programming in Estonia
could be hinged on such an agreement.

19. (SBU) Comment. In an effort to support the
integration process, Post plans to continue to participate
in events that promote integration both locally and through
our regional outreach program. We will continue to monitor
the dialogue on the topic and the evolution of integration
programs in Estonia, including the development of the
"State Integration Program for 2008-2013." While the
Bronze Soldier riots have generated a lot of discussion,
only time will tell if these discussions will produce
tangible results. End Comment.


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