Political participation of national minorities in decision-making process: cases of Estonia and Latvia

Within last 15 years Estonia and Latvia have gone through the process of ethnic diversification of their citizenry. When in 1991 right after the restoration of their independence due to citizenship policies put on practice by young governments the citizenry in both countries consisted of almost exclusively of titular ethnic group, i.e. Estonians or Latvians. Large majority of post-war Russian-speaking immigrants were left with the status of statelessness. While naturalisation process that brings more and more Russian-speaking residents into citizenry has slowed down in recent years, a momentum has been created already where half of the Russian-speaking community in both countries have the citizenship of Estonia or Latvia respectively. This growth of Russian-speaking voters means that more pressure is exercised on political life, especially in areas where the interest if national minority is the highest such as language policy and education. Both, in Estonia and Latvia these new citizens prefer to enter politics through mainstream parties rather than ethnic Russian parties. And although the representation of Russian-speaking community in national elected bodies is still far below their share among citizenry, in the municipal level the representation is reaching the proportions in electorate, at least in Estonia.

This is a paper presented at the international workshop focusing on Effective Political, Economic & Social Participation of Minorities (Forum Minority Research Institute, Šamorín, Slovak Republic).