Political and institutional developments

The years 2014 and 2015 were remarkable in several respects in regards to national minorities and integration. One of the most important milestones was the publication of the integration plan for 2014 – 2020 or the “Integrating Estonia 2020”.[1] Drawing up of the plan was initiated already in 2013, however, its final adoption kept being put off for much longer for various reasons.[2] Even though the new integration plan has been accused of lack of ambition and concentrating on activities that will be carried out anyway,[3] it is still an important and stable continuation to integration activities that have been carried out so far.

The new integration plan also focuses more heavily on adaptation of new immigrants.[4] An adaptation programme was created in 2014 on the initiative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which aims to support new immigrants in their migration process, the adaptation and also their subsequent integration.[5] The first adaptation training started in autumn of 2015 and in the course of various modules the new migrants are given knowledge of functioning of the state and society, organising daily life, on topics related to work and family; they are also supported at acquiring basic Estonian language skills.[6] Parallel to the integration plan and the adaptation programme the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications also initiated work on action plan on including foreign specialists and adaptation, or drawing up of the talent policy.[7]

Legislative developments

On legislative level a significant change too place with the 2014 amendment to the act of law (draft act 737 SE), which made giving citizenship to the elderly and to the underage easier.[8] The amendment prescribes that children born into the family of parents of undetermined citizenship is automatically granted Estonian citizenship by naturalisation, without his or her parents having to specifically apply for it.[9] Essentially this ended the decades long uncertainty which continually reproduced undetermined citizenship.

The same draft legislation brought on another change which allows minors to possess citizenship of another country besides Estonia, despite whether Estonian citizenship has been acquired at birth or by naturalisation. According to the Citizenship Act multiple citizenship was previously allowed only for children who had acquired Estonian and another citizenship by birth. The topic of multiple citizenship has been actively on the agenda since 2012 and also during the period under observation for the purposes of this report this has been the topic for several discussions.[10] It is still important to note that Estonia is becoming more international despite the Citizenship Act and more and more children that are being born have multiple citizenship by birth.

Another important amendment to an act of law regarding national minorities has to do with children under 15 years of age, who, through inactivity of their legal representative, have been left without residence permit for staying in the country (draft act 586 SE).[11] Children in this situation have no opportunity to apply for Estonian citizenship despite the fact that factually they have fulfilled the requirement of residence necessary for applying for citizenship.[12] The amendment added an exception to the Citizenship Act in applying for citizenship for children who have resided in Estonia for at least eight years before turning 15, despite whether they had a residence permit, a right of residence, at the time or not.

Statistics and surveys

A large scale monitoring of the Estonian society is carried out every 3 or 4 years and it thoroughly observes various angles of the integration process in Estonian society. The results of the new monitoring which was published in spring of 2015 show that in comparison to previous years the Estonian language skill and the positive symbolic meaning of Estonian language have increased noticeably among persons of other nationalities.[13] Also, the trust for Estonian state institutions among young persons of other nationalities is approaching that of Estonian-speaking youths, however, it is remarkably higher than among the older Russian-speaking generation. Still, the trust for Estonian state institutions among Russians in Estonia as a group continues to be much lower than among Estonians; it is especially low in Ida-Virumaa, in comparison to other counties. Perception of socio-economic and political inequality has also increased among Russians in Estonia.

In addition to monitoring of integration adaptation of new immigrants in Estonia was also researched in 2014.[14] The results of the survey showed that providing services to new immigrants in Estonia is fractured, the cooperation between recruiters and the public sector is marginal and a lot of the services are doubled. In addition, the information about general services provided by the state and local governments, as well as services aimed specifically at foreigners in support of adaptation is not well accessible; the survey also points out the Police and Border Guard Board’s low level of client-centeredness at applying and processing residence permits.

The survey on diversity in Estonian companies analysed the situation of diversity in boards if Estonian companies, assessing connections between diversity and the companies’ economic results.[15] The results of the survey show that in comparison to general population indicators there are more members of Estonian nationality on boards of Estonian companies. In terms of nationalities 91% of Estonian companies have either only Estonians or only persons of another nationality on board, in other words, only 9% of companies have Estonians on board along with representatives from another nationality.

An overview of the results of the annual opinion polls on national defence and integration of Russian-speaking residents focused to a significant extent on the 2014 results in connection to the events in Ukraine.[16] The analysis indicates that in regards to security guarantees the opinions of Estonian-speaking residents and residents speaking other languages clearly differ: for Estonians the main guarantee of safety is the NATO membership, for Russian-speaking respondents it is creating and developing good relations with Russia. However, similarly to the Estonians the Russian respondents are of the opinion that in case of an attack the state must be protected and the younger Russian-speaking persons are ready to take part in state defence on equal terms with the Estonians.

Several fascinating surveys and analyses were published on the topic of migration related to integration, the most important of which were the overview of choices of state of Estonia’s migration policies by the National Audit Office,[17] the analysis compiled by the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences on possible risks of resettlement programmes for persons who have been granted international protection on internal security (the survey also touches upon integration of refugees);[18] and opinion poll ordered by the Open Estonia Fund of Estonians and not Estonians on topical events and following media coverage and importance of information channels, which is vital in defining opinions on the Ukraine conflict in various national groups.[19]

Good practices

A new Russian language television channel ETV+ started broadcasting in September of 2015.[20] A Russian language television channel and the Russian population in Estonia living in another information sphere has been talked about for decades. This was especially topical after the bronze night and the events in Georgia (culminating in creation of ETV2 and production of a few programmes in Russian), but the real steps towards creating a Russian language channel were predominantly driven by the 2014 events in Ukraine. Even though it is still early to evaluate the effect and results of the channel it can be considered a good additional activity in supporting the Russian population in Estonia in integration.

Lack of timely information and it (not) reaching the population in Estonia who do not speak Estonian has been one of the main conclusions of integration surveys of the recent years. The regular and free provision of legal aid is an extremely important topic in integrating the Russian speaking population, as in the appraisal of experts the Russian-speaking population also lives in another information sphere in regards to legal aid.[21] Upon initiative of the Ministry of Justice, a website was opened in spring of 2014 www.juristaitab.ee/ru in order to improve the situation, where, for the first time, legal aid can be accessed in Russian. The website also provides Russian translations for more important acts of law.

Noteworthy public discussions

The main public discussions on integration and national minorities were divided between three events: the first in connection with Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, the second in connection with the Charlie Hebdo terror attack in Paris, and the third in Connection with the Mediterranean crisis or refugees of war from Syria and other conflict sources.

The Ukraine events once more raised the question of loyalty of Russians in Estonia to the state of Estonia. The diametrically opposite coverage of the conflict in Russian and Estonian information space raised the question on how many Russians in Estonia actively follow Russian media, how many support Russia’s military activity in Ukraine and why, and first of all, to what extent are Russians in Estonia loyal in case of a conflict in Estonia in guise of “protection of Russians”. Even though the last question – “Is Narva going to be next?” – was largely reduced to speculations, it was the topic, which was discussed in Estonia, but more actively in foreign media.[22]

Another public discussion regarding national minorities had to do with the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. The Estonian media covered the events mainly from the point of view of security, but also from conflict of cultures due to (excessive) immigration and the “impossibility” of integration of Muslims.[23]

It is important to note that the media publications framed the attack as not only the matter of radical Muslim movement, but also often created contextual links with Islam, Muslims and immigration in general,[24] thereby reaffirming the image of Islam and Muslims as potential terrorists.

The third public discussion on national minorities and integration had to do with the Mediterranean crisis. Numerous speeches on ability/inability of asylum seekers and refugees to integrate into Estonian society were published. Even though weighty arguments were presented in support of both views, an new trend in Estonian public must be pointed out – significant increase in speeches based on subjective emotions, fear and manipulated facts.[25]


When in previous years there had been very few incidence related to racism, hate speech or aggressive xenophobia in Estonia,[26] then the period under observation in this report denotes a noticeable change. Due to probably largely the three previously mentioned events, it can be noted that there are first manifestations of more active expression of such attitudes in 2015. There have been notably many more instances of notifying about incidents related to intolerance and xenophobia: the hate speech letters sent to Estonian Muslim community after the Paris events,[27] setting fire to Vao centre for asylum seekers,[28] hate speech sent to the web constable in relation to the refugee topic,[29] and threats and racist remarks aimed at dark-skinned persons on the streets.[30] In addition to that, disguised or circumstantial inciting of xenophobia via manipulating or misinterpreting facts, and wilfully playing on people’s emotions and fears has become more rife (see the previous footnote).

There is a thin line between inciting fear and inciting hate, although a remarkable one in regards to legal and penal power. Such trends are dangerous as the creators of it are knowingly balancing on the border between the two, while responsibility for possible real actions is in the end placed on the person who goes along with the provocation. Talking about possible dangers and real fears of people in regards to immigration, national minorities and their integration is in itself a necessary part of any reasonable discussion – they shouldn’t be denied or depreciated, but making generalisations about the entire target group based on a single case, manipulation, and playing on people’s emotions cannot be considered to be a part of reasonable discussion.


  • More attention should be paid to framing the topics in media. Far too often, when covering a piece of news – whether knowingly or not – connections are made with conflict, violence and terrorism and specific national groups or religions.
  • Also, even though there have been several activities on raising the awareness of the population and the journalists in the past few years, the results and effect of these activities must be evaluated and seen what could be done better than before so that media would not focus on provocations and the people would not subject to manipulation.
  • Although multiple citizenship is now legalized for minors it is necessary to initiate discussion in order to enable multiple citizenship also after becoming an adult. Multiple citizenship is allowed for EU citizens for example in Germany as well as Latvia (as of 2013); Denmark legalized multiple citizenship on 1 September 2015.
  • Estonia’s security is guaranteed only if the entire population is united and integrated. Even though the activities of the integration plan and the newly initiated ETV+ are actively working towards that objective, strengthening the Russian language information space in Estonia continues to be important, especially with the aim of producing local Russian-speaking opinion-formers, who are listened to and trusted by people belonging to Estonian as well as Russian language information space.
  • The state needs to adopt a far greater and more active role in delivering communication in conflict situations. For example, an open and frank discussion needs to be entered into with the population on the topic of immigration, otherwise the people will be convinced that the state has no control over or strategy for dealing with immigration. Trust for the state can only come about if the residents understand the rules regulating immigration and are sure that the state is capable of enforcing these rules.


Kristjan Kaldur, Institute of Baltic Studies
This chapter was published in the annual report of “Human Rights in Estonia 2014 – 2015” by the Estonian Human Rights Centre



[1] Lõimumise meede [Method of integration]. Ministry of Culture. Available at: http://www.kul.ee/et/loimumise-meede.

[2] Nurk, Mari. Lõimumiskava eelnõu sai kooskõlastusringi tulemusel veelgi sisukamaks [The draft for integration plan became even stronger in content at the coordination round]. 18.11.2014. Lõimumisvaldkonna arengukava “Lõimuv Eesti 2020” [Integration plan „Integrating Estonia 2020“]. Available at: http://integratsioon.ee/uudised/loimumiskava-eelnou-sai-kooskolastusringi-tulemusel-veelgi-sisukamaks-3.

[3] See for example the non-coordination of the integration plan by Estonian Ministry of Education and Research in spring of 2014. „Jevgeni Ossinovski: lõimumiskava on sel kujul täiesti ebarahuldav“ [Jevgeni Ossinovski: the integration plan in this form is entirely unsatisfactory]. 26.05.2014. Available at: http://epl.delfi.ee/news/eesti/jevgeni-ossinovski-loimumiskava-on-sel-kujul-taiesti-ebarahuldav?id=68746305.

[4] New immigrants are defined as foreigners who have arrived in Estonia in the past five years.

[5] Kuigi välismaalaste kohanemist on koostöös Integratsiooni Sihtasutuse ja Tallinna Ülikooli poolt toetatud alates 2009. aastast, näitavad läbiviidud uuringud, et nii välismaalaste endi kui ka neid värbavate organisatsioonide teadlikkus programmist on olnud väga madal (vt pikemalt käesoleva ptk uuringute alaosast) Even though adaptation of foreigners has been supported since 2009 in cooperation with the Integration and Migration Foundation Our People and Tallinn University, the surveys indicate that the awareness of foreigners themselves as well as organisations recruiting them of the programme has been very low (see this chapter’s subheading Statistics and surveys for further discussion!).

[6] Read more at: https://www.siseministeerium.ee/et/kohanemisprogramm. The website aimed at the target group in English is available at: www.settleinestonia.ee.

[7] „Work in Estonia – välisspetsialistide Eestisse kaasamise tegevuskava 2015–2016“ [action plan for including foreign specialists in Estonia for 2015–2016]. Available at: https://www.mkm.ee/sites/default/files/work_in_estonia_tegevuskava.pdf.

Work In Estonia is a web environment initiated by Enterprise Estonia in the course of talent policy, which gathers all the information regarding working in Estonia, recruiting foreigners, including adaptation. Available at: http://www.workinestonia.com.

[8] Kodakondsuse seaduse ja riigilõivuseaduse muutmis seadus 737 SE [Act to amend the Citizenship Act and the State Fees Act]. Available at: http://www.riigikogu.ee/tegevus/eelnoud/eelnou/e0669e30-f9d1-4a51-86d3-77232eba1eb9/Kodakondsuse%20seaduse%20ja%20riigil%C3%B5ivuseaduse%20muutmise%20seadus/.

[9] It was also often not done by the parents for lack of knowledge.

[10] „Liina Kersna: Mathéol on õigus jääda eestlaseks“ [Liina Kersna: Mathéol has the right to remain an Estonian]. Eesti Päevaleht. 1.10.2014. Available at: http://epl.delfi.ee/news/arvamus/liina-kersna-matheol-on-oigus-jaada-eestlaseks?id=69852397. See also opinions of experts and politicians on this topic in the previous annual report.

[11] Kodakondsuse seaduse muutmise seadus 586 SE [Act to amend the Citizenship Act]. Available at: http://www.riigikogu.ee/tegevus/eelnoud/eelnou/ad2a7136-962c-41c7-b6ed-606c3f1ee5a4/Kodakondsuse%20seaduse%20muutmise%20seadus/.

[12] Ettepanek Riigikogule: kodakondsuse taotlemise tingimuste kohaldamine isiku suhtes, kelle õiguslik staatus jäi alla 15-aastasena määratlemata [Proposal to the Riigikogu: application of conditions for applying for citizenship for persons whose legal status remained undetermined while they were less than 15 years of age]. Chancellor of Justice. 20.11.2012. Available at: http://oiguskantsler.ee/et/seisukohad/seisukoht/ettepanek-riigikogule-kodakondsuse-taotlemise-tingimuste-kohaldamine-isiku. Also see an example from life: „Ametnikud ei halasta: lapselt võetakse Eesti kodakondsus.“ [The officials show no mercy: Estonian citizenship is taken from a child] Eesti Ekspress. 23.01.2014. Available: http://ekspress.delfi.ee/news/paevauudised/ametnikud-ei-halasta-lapselt-voetakse-eesti-kodakondsus?id=67662145.

[13] Eesti ühiskonna integratsiooni monitooring 2015 [Monitoring of integration in Estonian society]. Institute of Baltic Studies, Tallinn University, PRAXIS Center for Policy Studies. 2015.

[14] Uussisserändajate kohanemine Eestis: valikud ja poliitikaettepanekud tervikliku ja jätkusuutliku süsteemi kujundamiseks [Adaptation of new immigrants in Estonia: choices and policy proposals for creating a comprehensive and sustainable system]. Institute of Baltic Studies. 2014.

[15] Uuring mitmekesisusest Eesti ettevõtetes [Survey on diversity in Estonian companies]. PRAXIS Center for Policy Studies. 2015.

[16] Ülevaade venekeelse elanikkonna lõimumisest ning

riigikaitse alaste arvamusuuringute tulemustest [An overview of integration of Russian-speaking population and on the results of opinion polls on national defence]. International Centre for Defence and Security. 2014.

[17] Ülevaade riigi rändepoliitika valikutest [Overview of choices of state migration policy]. National Audit Office. 2015.

[18] Rahvusvahelise kaitse saajate ümberasustamise ja – paigutamise programmides osalemise võimalikud riskid Eesti sisejulgeolekule [Possible risks of resettlement programmes for persons who have been granted internatonal protection on internal security]. Estonian Academy of Security Sciences. 2015.

[19] Päevakajalised sündmused ja erinevad infokanalid [Topical events and various information channels]. SaarPoll. 2014.

[20] Available at: http://etvpluss.err.ee/.

[21] „Juristide liidu juht: venekeelne elanikkond on ka õigusabi osas teises inforuumis“ [The head of Estonian Lawyers Association: Russian-speaking population also lives in another information sphere in regards to legal aid]. ERR News. 28.07.2014. Available at: http://uudised.err.ee/v/eesti/cf5eb1bc-bc55-451d-b22b-5a65d052eab1.

[22] Raik, Katri. „Lääne vaade meie Narvale“ [The West’s view on our Narva]. The Journal of the Estonian Parliament. Available at: http://www.riigikogu.ee/rito/index.php?id=16804. Hurt, Martin. „Kas kõik Baltimaade venekeelsed elanikud on Venemaa sõbrad?“ [Are all Russian-speaking residents in Baltic states friends of Russia?]. International Centre for Defence and Security. Available at: http://www.icds.ee/et/rkk-meedias/artikkel/kas-koik-baltimaade-venekeelsed-elanikud-on-venemaa-sobrad/. „Kas Narva on järgmine?“ [Will Narva be next?]. Karmo Tüüri’s blog. 26.06.2015. Available at: http://karmotuur.blogspot.com.ar/2015/06/kas-narva-on-jargmine.html. Liik, Kadri. „Mis on Ukrainas kaalul?“ [What is at stake in Ukraine?]. Diplomaatia. March 2014. Available at: http://www.diplomaatia.ee/artikkel/mis-on-ukrainas-kaalul/. „Lauristin: riik on jätnud seni venekeelse elanikkonna infovajaduste rahuldamise Venemaa telekanalite meelevalda“ [Lauristin: the state has left satisfying the Russian-speaking population’s need for information to the television channels of Russia]. Delfi. 19.04.2014. Available at: http://www.delfi.ee/news/paevauudised/eesti/lauristin-riik-on-jatnud-seni-venekeelse-elanikkonna-infovajaduste-rahuldamise-venemaa-telekanalite-meelevalda?id=68471267,

[23] Terrorist attacks in Paris. Andmekogumine Euroopa Liidu Põhiõiguste Ametile [Gathering data for FRA]. Institute of Baltic Studies. 2015.

[24] Ibid.

[25] See for example statements, which have received a lot of response, and the reactions: “300 000 siin parasiteeriva tibla“: „Reitelmanni mõjust“ [300,000 residing tibla’s [derogatory term for Russians]. On Reitelmann’s influence]. Eesti Päevaleht. 29.09.2015. Available at: http://epl.delfi.ee/news/arvamus/reitelmanni-mojust?id=72562897. „Nikolaj Karajev: miks „tiblade“ paljastajat Reitelmanni ei vallandata?“ [Nikolaj Karajev: why isn’t Reitlemann, the revealer of „tibla’s“ not fired?] Postimees. 17.09.2015. Available at: http://arvamus.postimees.ee/3329969/nikolaj-karajev-miks-tiblade-paljastajat-reitelmanni-ei-vallandata; immigrants as „murjanid“ [derogatory term re skin colour] and „metsalised“ [race-based derogatory term]: „Võrno nimetas pagulasi metsalisteks“ [Võrno called immigrants metsalised]. Postimees. 17.06.2015. Available at: http://www.postimees.ee/3228347/vorno-nimetas-pagulasi-metsalisteks; compliling a list of traitors „who have started selling Estonia to muslims and negroes“: BNS. 2015. Politsei Ojulandi pagulasvaenulikes väljaütlemistes rikkumist ei näe [The police see no crime in Ojuland’s anti-immigrant statements]. – Postimees 3 August 2015; Conservative People’s Party of Estonia’s manipulated anti-refugee progapanda: „EKRE kasutab Kremli propagandatrikke: vanad kaadrid serveeritakse uute pähe“ [The Conservative People’s Party uses Kremlin’s propaganda tricks: old footage is served as new]. Postimees. 6.10.2015. Available at: http://www.postimees.ee/3352247/ekre-kasutab-kremli-propagandatrikke-vanad-kaadrid-serveeritakse-uute-pahe.

[26] FRA aastaaruanne põhiõigustest [FRA’s annual report on fundamental freedoms]. Institute of Baltic Studies. 2014. Author’s correspondence with experts (2015) and the Ministry of Justice (2015).

[27] Terrorist attacks in Paris. Andmekogumine Euroopa Liidu Põhiõiguste Ametile [Gathering data for FRA]. Institute of Baltic Studies. 2015.

[28] „Ammas: Vao keskuse süütamine on ilmselt vihakuritegu“ [Ammas: setting fire to Vao centre is probably a hate crime]. Delfi. 3.09.2015. Available at: http://www.delfi.ee/news/paevauudised/eesti/ammas-vao-keskuse-suutamine-on-ilmselt-vihakuritegu?id=72355007.

[29] „Pagulasvastane saatis veebikonstaablile võika vihakirja“ [An anti-refugee person sent the web constable lurid hate mail]. Postimees. 7.08.2015. Available at: http://www.postimees.ee/3286229/pagulasvastane-saatis-veebikonstaablile-voika-vihakirja.

[30] „Tiina Jõgeda: eestlaste meeli valdab võõrahirm“ [Tiina Jõgeda: the minds of Estonians are consumed by fear of foreigners / xenophobia]. Postimees. 13.10.2015. Available at: http://www.postimees.ee/3361371/tiina-jogeda-eestlaste-meeli-valdab-voorahirm. „Taavet Hinrikus: e-riik peab olema salliv“ [Taavet Hinrikus: an e-state must be tolerant]. Postimees. 7.10.2015. Available at: http://arvamus.postimees.ee/3353617/taavet-hinrikus-e-riik-peab-olema-salliv.