In 2013 Estonia will pass the 15-year mark since the introduction of the first national integration policy in 1998. That year, seven years after its re-independence, Estonia adopted a national integration strategy called “Integration in Estonia 2000-2007” and established the Non-Estonian Integration Foundation. The target of building an integrated multicultural society dominated by Estonian language and culture was set.
In 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Estonia inherited an ethnically and politically divided society. During the first half of the 1990s Estonia received some criticism from international organisations and the Russian Federation alike for its rather exclusionary policies towards the large Russian-speaking population. The challenges that sprang from the political decisions of the 1990s were numerous, and here are just a few of them: the large number of people with undetermined citizenship; the low levels of knowledge of Estonian as the state language among the Russian-speaking population, and as a consequence the process of exclusion of this part of the population from the labour market and political participation; the estrangement of Soviet-era migrants from the new political life and serious economic, political and cultural ghettoising of some regions of Estonia where Russian-speakers were a majority.
In fifteen years numerous sociological surveys, national and international academic research and public debates have been carried out regarding the problems of integration in Estonia. The policy makers and society are better informed and aware of the challenges that political and ethnic division could pose to the Estonian state. In parallel, to address those problems, a
significant number of integration policy measures have been designed mainly aimed at reducing the interethnic conflict and social estrangement of the Russian-speaking population. As a result ample knowledge and evidence as well as good practice have been gathered. However, new political processes of the last decade have created new challenges: Estonia has become a member of the European Union while at the same time the politics of neighbouring Russia have acquired more and more nationalist flavor. The Bronze Soldier crisis that swept through Estonian society in 2007 also provoked the re-examination of its integration policy.
After fifteen years of implementing integration policy it is time to review and evaluate the achievements. The current report aims to provide a short overview of the integration process in Estonia in the years 2000-2011 based on the integration monitoring surveys. The report summarizes the integration process before it enters its third round with the introduction of the new national integration strategy Integrating Estonia 2020. The problems and challenges that are monitored through integration monitoring surveys will inform the new integration policy and will guide the way towards the new policy goals.