Saturday, August 27, 2016


Russians Of Narva Not Seeking 'Liberation' By Moscow

A couple looks over the river from Narva toward Russia. Are Estonia's Russians looking wistfully toward the motherland as well?
A couple looks over the river from Narva toward Russia. Are Estonia's Russians looking wistfully toward the motherland as well?

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NARVA, Estonia -- Aleksandr Brokk calls himself an "Estonian patriot." His family has lived in the country for generations and he makes his living running a successful tech park.

Like the vast majority in the sleepy eastern Estonian border city of Narva, Brokk is an ethnic Russian. And while he's proud of his language and heritage, all he needs to do is look across the river at the dilapidated Russian fortress city of Ivangorod to know which side of the border he wants to live on.

"People come and go. When you cross into Ivangorod, straight away you can see the atmosphere there," Brokk says. "Who is going to want to join that?"

Brokk's opinions are not an anomaly here. In Narva, Russian is the lingua franca, Russian media is the main source of news, and orange-and-black St. George ribbons symbolizing military victory adorn cars.

But the Russians of Narva, who make up 88 percent of the city's population, call the European Union and NATO their home. And while they may feel the emotional tug of Moscow and certainly have their grievances with the Estonian government in Tallinn, few say they want to follow the example of Crimea and join Russia.

Most  here have become accustomed to their stable and predictable lives on the EU's eastern frontier.

Oleg Uglov, who heads NTT, a table-tennis-racket manufacturer, and is one of Narva's most successful entrepreneurs, praises the lack of corruption, the security of property rights, and the ease of doing business in Estonia.

"You can feel confident they won't come for your [business] tomorrow, they won't take anything away or change the laws in such a way that it's really difficult to do business," Uglov says. "In this way Estonia overall is a good country to live in and to do business in general. You can get insignificant problems or certain serious failings in any country."

How Would Narva Vote?

When Russia expressed "concern" in the UN Human Rights Commission on March 19 that Estonia was marginalizing its ethnic Russians, many took notice and worried that Moscow would expand its policy of stirring up its neighbors' Russophone populations for geopolitical gain.
Local journalist Roman Vikulov believes that a referendum would prove that Narva's Russians are loyal to Tallinn.Local journalist Roman Vikulov believes that a referendum would prove that Narva's Russians are loyal to Tallinn.
Local journalist Roman Vikulov believes that a referendum would prove that Narva's Russians are loyal to Tallinn.
Local journalist Roman Vikulov believes that a referendum would prove that Narva's Russians are loyal to Tallinn.
But local journalist Roman Vikulov, a reporter for the weekly "Viru prospekt," says he's certain that if Narva held an independence referendum similar to last month's in Crimea, the result would be very different.

His idea goes to the core of the sentiment in the Russian community: the wish to finally put to rest tensions between Russians and Estonians that have festered since independence. In fact, Vikulov believes that such a referendum -- although highly unlikely to take place -- would prove that Narva's Russians are loyal to Tallinn.

"There is a certain mistrust of residents of Narva and the northeast. There is an expectation that, one day, at some critical moment, local people will turn their back on Estonia and toward Russia and do exactly what they did in Crimea, that is, to vote to be in the Russian Federation," Vikulov says. "I am certain a referendum here would provide precisely the opposite result."

Good Citizens, Bad Citizens, ...Or Not Citizens?

To be sure, ethnic Russians in Estonia have their complaints -- most of which revolve around issues of language and citizenship.

The vast majority of ethnic Russians in Estonia moved there after Soviet forces occupied the county and forcibly incorporated it into the U.S.S.R. after World War II. In the 1940s, tens of thousands of Estonians were sent to Siberian labor camps, where many perished.

Prior to the war, just 9 percent of Estonia's population was ethnic Russian. Today about 25 percent is.

When Estonia regained its independence in 1991, those who moved to the country after World War II, mainly Russians, were not automatically granted citizenship. Instead, they were required to "naturalize," a process that includes passing an Estonian-language test.

In Narva, just 46.7 percent of the city's residents are Estonian citizens, while 36.3 percent hold Russian passports. An additional 15.3 percent are "gray" passport holders with neither Russian nor Estonian citizenship. In effect, this means that less than half of Narva's residents can vote in national elections.
Vladimir Cherdakov, a famous Russian musician from Narva, resents that his wife cannot acquire Estonian citizenship.Vladimir Cherdakov, a famous Russian musician from Narva, resents that his wife cannot acquire Estonian citizenship.
Vladimir Cherdakov, a famous Russian musician from Narva, resents that his wife cannot acquire Estonian citizenship.
Vladimir Cherdakov, a famous Russian musician from Narva, resents that his wife cannot acquire Estonian citizenship.
The citizenship issue has long been a bone of contention for ethnic Russians like local rock musician Vladimir Cherdakov. He says it is "very unpleasant" that his wife, who has lived her whole life in Estonia, cannot receive citizenship because she doesn't speak Estonian.

Aleksandra, a 22-year-old ethnic Russian university student who declined to give her last name, is studying to be a primary-school teacher. She says language requirements make it harder for her as a non-native Estonian speaker to get employment in the public sector.

As someone who has lived her entire life in an independent Estonia, she says she feels trapped between two worlds -- not quite Russian, nor fully Estonian. "We are an island, cut off from the world. We don't belong either to the Russians who live in Russia or to the Estonians here. We are a little community with its own order," she says. "Now I speak to some Russians from Russia and we have moments when we do not understand one another."
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And although they are not keen on joining Russia, many here say they supported Moscow's recent annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

Vladimir Alekseyev, 67, who heads the Narva Energia labor union, condemns the West's support for the Euromaidan uprising that ousted Ukraine's pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovych and praises what he calls Crimea's act of "self-determination."

"Everyone could see, and Europe couldn't help but see, that this was the will of the absolute majority of Crimea's residents to join and reunite with Russia -- to return to Russia," Alekseyev says. "There was no annexation here. That's a lie. This was a normal process. And the reaction of the West has not been constructive -- extremely unconstructive."

'I Love This Country'

With Russian television dominating the airwaves in Narva, some worry that ethnic Russians here could easily be incited.
Ants Liimets, a prominent Narva politician, doesn't think Estonia's Russians have become radicalized.Ants Liimets, a prominent Narva politician, doesn't think Estonia's Russians have become radicalized.
Ants Liimets, a prominent Narva politician, doesn't think Estonia's Russians have become radicalized.
Ants Liimets, a prominent Narva politician, doesn't think Estonia's Russians have become radicalized.
Ants Liimets, 59, a prominent member of the city legislature and leader of Narva's Estonian community, says Russian "propaganda" could create a problem. But he adds that the absence of street protests here shows Narva's Russians have not been radicalized.

Indeed, many feel themselves integrated.

Aleksandr Pavlov, a 56-year-old ethnic Russian who has lived in Narva since the 1970s, is a volunteer with the Estonian Defense League, the "Kaitseliit," a national volunteer paramilitary that is subordinated to the Defense Ministry. Pavlov does not speak Estonian well, and yet he calls himself an Estonian patriot in no uncertain terms.

Still, many worry what would happen if the current East-West tensions escalate into a broader conflict between Russia and NATO. How would they behave?

"How am I supposed to behave? I am patriot of Estonia. I love this country and I was born here," Brokk says. "I grew up and live here. I am a Russian man. If some kind of action was to start, how should I behave? Would it be civil war? No, we are different countries. This is why I don't even allow this thought into my head."

Tom Balmforth

Tom Balmforth covers Russia and other former Soviet republics.


This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Mamuka
April 04, 2014 12:54
Obviously these poor souls have been the victim of a Western disinformation campaign to alienate them from their true allegiance to Moscow. They should be shown the video from people in Transdnistria who have more correct views on NATO and the EU. Never mind that the folks in Eesti know what living under NATO and the EU really means and the Transdnistrians rely on their own dezinformatsiya.

by: Jack from: US
April 04, 2014 14:52
People of Estonia and other East Europeans are looking forward for Russian President Putin to liberate them from subjugation by Washington mafia. As EU crumbles and bankrupts itself by propping up corrupt governments, like that in Ukraine, more and more countries will want Russia to liberate them
In Response

by: Barb from: Estonia
April 04, 2014 18:48
Jack, thank you for talking FOR Estonians but it is not necessary. We are living peacefully as European country, russians and estonians together. Believe me, non of us seeks for truth from Russian channels (LOL) and there is absolutely no way that we would turn our heads to east instead of west.
But thank you so much for your your kind thoughts of our need for another "liberation" by Russia. We ourselves over here, call it OCCUPATION.
In Response

by: Volodya from: Canada
April 05, 2014 04:18
I sure hope that Jack is joking in his comment: "will want Russia to liberate them". Not in a million years. Having been twice "liberated" during the Second World War, I don't think there's any chance of the wish a third time. I'm tired of the predictions of the EU crumbling. Hogwash.
In Response

by: saucymugwump from:
April 05, 2014 19:13
Whatever, Jack. Please explain why all of the countries of Eastern Europe have museums dedicated to the occupation by Soviets/Russians, with none of these museums being sympathetic to the occupiers. The one in Budapest is typical, with large photos of Russian troops leaving Hungary as late as 1994. All restaurant, even Russian ones, have English menus. People in Eastern Europe are learning English as quickly as they can; they are not learning Russian, except for children of Russian occupiers. I have never met a native Eastern European (excluding Russians, of course) who pined for the "good old days" of occupation.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
April 04, 2014 17:14
The article has it all wrong. It's Estonia that has a crippling economy that is being ruined by Frau Merkel, while in Russia the future is bright due to Putin's glorious leadership and foresight.
In Response

by: saucymugwump from:
April 04, 2014 18:06
In terms of GDP per capita:
- Germany: #29 with $39,500
- Estonia: #66 with $22,400
- Russia: #77 with $18,100
In Response

by: AJV from: Vienna
April 06, 2014 00:14
Also, according to the 2012 World Bank ratings (GDP per capita):
44 Estonia: #44 with $23,631
45 Russia: # 45 $23,501
I don't see much difference. So what's your point?
In Response

by: Jack from: US
April 07, 2014 15:28
Given Russians have to subsidize millions of peaceful Muslims in Daghestan and Chechnya, and millions of nomads in vast expanses of Siberia, would these numbers mean Russians actually earn a lot more than Estonians?
Would these numbers also mean that Russians in core Russian cities earn in average more than citizens of most of EU countries? BTW, you should have mentioned that the GDP per capita in EU-aspiring Ukraine and Moldova are somewhere around $5,000, i.e. less than in Angola, and 3-4 times less than in non-EU-aspiring Russia
In Response

by: Petrik from: Kuressaare
April 04, 2014 21:24
Indeed, we are ALL being ruled by nazis and our economy is falling apart like a collapsing building.. It's SO sad
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
April 05, 2014 05:39
Thank you, RFE/RL, for presenting your insightful comments under my name. Here in Austria many people were amused to see how some people - such as Latvians and Estonians - joined the Eurozone inspite of the fact that this wonderful currency already plunged 5 Eurozone member-states (Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Slovakia) into deflation. The media in those Baltic countries must be brainwashing people pretty well.
In Response

by: saucymugwump from:
April 05, 2014 23:25
Still the same old Eugenics, I see. Whenever someone points out that you are spewing nonsense, you devise completely new nonsense.

Why do you use that name? Why not use your real name: Sergei, Boris, Vladimir, Ivan, etc?

P.S. The reason the Baltic countries are welcoming the euro, warts and all, is that they want to be an integral part of Europe.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
April 06, 2014 14:09
Dear saucymugwump, may I point it out to you that you are the one talking nonsense which reveals that you must have studied economics at the George W Bush School of Economics (and probably never learned to count till four): only complete IDIOTS choose a currency on the basis of wanting to be "an integral part of Europe".
The people of Sweden and Denmark, for example, voted in referenda and REFUSED to drop their national currencies in exchange for Euro (for quite logical macroeconomic reasons). And what now, accoring to you, they are not "an integral part of Europe"?
Switzerland and Norway also voted in referenda to REFUSE joining the EU - again for strictly macroeconomic reasons (why would they want to go bankrupt like such EU member states as Greece or Cyprus?).
Keeping a national currency is an essential part of macroeconomic management and has nothing to do with wanting to be "an integral part of Europe". And the examples of such states that are currently experience SEVERE ECONOMIC DIFFICULTIES because they adopted Euro as Greece, Cyprus, Portugal or Spain substantiate this point.

by: Anonymous
April 04, 2014 19:14
and ....

what about the refusal of citizenship to Russians?

This is a violation of human rights

so big

and so obvious

within the iper democratic EU

that it is better to ignore it

and talk about gay rights ..

we know
we know
Russians are always wrong
however everywhere and in any times...

there are millions and millions of Russians?

not as migrants or visitors

but as EU citizens

Russian is by far the largest minority language in the EU

minority ....
speak Russian more Eu citizens than how are speaking
Maltese, Danish, Irish, etc. etc.

but for the EU champions of human right all this don't exist
In Response

by: saucymugwump from:
April 05, 2014 19:00
Anonymous wrote "Russian is by far the largest minority language in the EU"

Anonymous' incorrect comments are a logical consequence of exclusively watching jingoistic television stations like RT, Russia 1, and Vesti / Russia 24.

According to the official EU document listed below:

"In accordance with the EU population, the most widely spoken mother tongue is German (16%) , followed by Italian and English (13% each), French (12%) , then Spanish and Polish (8% each)."

"The five most widely spoken foreign languages remain English (38%), French (12%), German (11%), Spanish (7%) and Russian (5%)."
In Response

by: Anonymous
April 07, 2014 22:03

I do not know which television you see
but it must be much worse than RT
while you can't understand the term

I wrote that the Russian
" is by far the largest minority language in EU"

understand the term MINORITY?

and you know why it is a minority language in EU?

Because it is not official language in any country of Eu

try to understand before to replay

by: Alins from: Moscow
April 04, 2014 19:53
Eugenio!Maybe you want to live in Russia?You're wellcome!!I would see how long you would stay there!Shame on brain washed Putin's russians...
In Response

by: Anonymous
April 05, 2014 19:01
3 among my kin

emigrate from italy to russia
in last 5 years
an they are happy .

Every time they speak me to go with them
but i am afraid of Putin
and of all what RFE wrote
of so bad about russia .

They still eat children in russia ?

by: Dirck from: Kiev
April 04, 2014 20:48
Actually, people in Crimea also had no desire to leave Ukraine. Polls taken before the russian invasion show that only a minority wished to join Russia. However, at the point of a gun every referendum can provide the desired result, in Crimea or Latvia, it doesn't matter.
In Response

by: Volodya from: Canada
April 05, 2014 15:37
Right on, Dirck. The free poll results before the invasion was 41% for Russia. 97% approval from a referendum at the end of a gun is meaningless. As for all the Putin apologists claiming that the EU is on it's last legs, tell me why the oligarchs from the FSU all have huge estates in Europe, and send their children to live/study there. Now if things were so fabulous in Russia, wouldn't they want to stay at home?
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
April 06, 2014 07:58
You are absolutely right, Dirck: not only the Crimean people - just like everyone wants to live in Ukraine :-)).

by: elvis from: praha
April 05, 2014 12:13
While I desire that all Russians living in Estonia for many years already do receive estonian citizenship (just one way of getting their loyalty for example), I am however surprised that very few Russians, born in Estonia and living there, do not speak estonian at all. The same as many Russians who were in Moldavia, never picked up the local language either.

Is this simply because they lived in dominant russian communities, went to Russian schools, were friends only with Russians?

Or is there something else here?

Would Americans, if they were an en ethnic minority in Mexico, speak spanish or not?

I don't know... but I wish for the Estonian russians to get their citizenship and to know some local language. It would be better for everyone. Where is the EU minorities integration program now? How about some Estonian language classes?

I don't know, you tell me..
In Response

by: Volodya from: Canada
April 06, 2014 03:45
To Elvis: Why don't Russians learn the local language? Because they never had to. Under the Soviets, they were always a privileged class (Russian speakers), while all other languages were that of the uneducated peasant. I was always amazed how arrogant Russian speakers were to me speaking Ukrainian. Not all, but very common for them to sneer at me, which really never happened the other way around. Good for Estonia, I say. If you want to be an Estonian citizen, then for heaven's sake, learn the language. I don't have any sympathy for those too lazy or arrogant to learn, or even attempt to learn the language of the country. The Soviet Union is gone. Get used to it. Mr Putin, do you hear? No one wants to turn the clock back, and especially not the people of Eastern Europe. As for the young learning English, I totally agree. Tried speaking Russian in Poland a few years ago, and got a lot of puzzled looks. English, no problem! Same for Ukraine in recent years. English is in very high demand there.
In Response

by: parvenu from: US
April 07, 2014 02:06
Narva was never really part of Estonia by the way. Peter the Great took it from Sweden's Charles XII not Estonia. (Name an Estonian king if you can). Before and after that it belonged to Denmark, Germany etc.
But my question is- is the mayor of Narva Russian?
In Response

by: emma from: estoina
April 07, 2014 15:34
@parvenu from: US

What the hell are you talking about? Narva has always been part of Estonia. All these times when it was under Sweden, Denmark, was ALL of Estonia's territory. All of our territory together with Narva was occupied by these different foreign powers. And before ww2 Narva was about 80% ethnic estonian, after the occupation and destruction of the town, russian migrants were brought in who now make up about 90%.
In Response

by: Tallinner from: Tallinn
April 10, 2014 20:46
Narva has always been part of Estonia, old Virumaa county.

As to Estonian kings, estonians practiced confederacy before the northern crusades and thus did not have kings per se (neither does EU). Estonian counties at that time had a common parliament at Raikküla and a joint army when necessary. The St. George's Night uprising in 1343 was led by 4 Estonian kings, but they were traitorously butchered during peace talks in Paide castle by the germanic knights.

The article itself has some inconsistencies.
[ Prior to the war, just 9 percent of Estonia's population was ethnic Russian. Today about 25 percent is. ]

That 9% was with the Vadja lands to the east of the river Narva and with Seto lands which Stalin took away from Estonia right after WWII and gave to the Pskov oblast. The first census after WWII (which was also after the land grab of Stalin) showed that 97-98% of Estonia's population was ethnic estonians. By 1990 that had declined to 60-61%. Nowadays it is back up to 69%.

As to the opinions of interviewed russians, the impression is not overly convincing. Vladimir Alekseyev thinks that what happened in Crimea was justice and Aleksandr Pavlov does not really answer the question (at least that is the impression).

As to the city of Narva itself, its value for estonians has greatly diminished after the soviets bombed the old city to the ground in 1944 and forbid estonians to resettle there. Estonia already lost 1000-1500km to the east of the river Narva due to Stalin's land-grabs, so the city of Narva itself (85 km2) would hardly be a large loss. It might even be viewed as a gain because it would balance the ethnic proportions of Ida-Viru county and of Estonia as a whole. I stress that here I am only talking about the city of Narva and nothing more.
In Response

by: everard tossel from: Australia
April 07, 2014 06:33
Are the Russians who do not speak Estonian perhaps concentrated in heavily russified Eastern Estonia (Narva, Sillamae, Kohtle-Jarva) or is this the case also in TRussian and English? Would it not be good policy for ALL Estonians to be trilingual in Estonian, Russian and English?
In Response

by: lennart from: estonia
April 10, 2014 15:05
Good policy for all Estonians to be trilingual in Estonian, Russian and English? Would it not be good policy for all Russians in Estonia to be at least bilingual?
Like my father said, if there's a group of 5 Estonians and a Russian hanging around, all of the people speak Russian, because Russians are arrogant imperialists who are reluctant to study other languages.
Btw, Ivangorod (Jaanilinn, ancient Estonian town across Narva river belonging to Russian Federation) officials have several times asked Russian authorities to let them join Estonia, because they can see that life is much better over here. Third time in 4 years. Coincidence? Western propaganda?

by: everard tossel from: Australia
April 06, 2014 22:18
If Ivangorod had a referendum whether to join Estonia or stay in Russia, what would the result be?

by: PADRAEG from: USA
April 08, 2014 00:08
Russians are LEAST free in their homeland, which will remain true so long as Putin clings to power to protect his wealth. Any doubts? Read Politkovskaya!

by: tania from: cluj, romania
April 16, 2014 19:48
I think it's normal to not receive citizenship if you don't know the language of that country.

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