Archive for the ‘Raivo Vetik’ Category

Raivo Vetik “Statelessness, Citizenship and Belonging in Estonia”

November 20, 2013 Leave a comment

Vetik, Raivo 2011. Statelessness, Citizenship and Belonging in Estonia. – Brad K. Blitz; Maureen Lynch (eds). Statelessness and Citizenship: A Comparative Study on the Benefits of Nationality. Cheltenham; Northampton: Edward Elgar, 160-171.

After regaining independence in August 1991 and reintroducing the Citizenship Act of 1938 half a year later in February 1992, about one third of the population of Estonia became stateless. The 1992 law was based on the idea of the ‘legal continuity’ of the pre-war Estonian Republic, which means that only those persons who were citizens before Estonia’s incorporation into the Soviet Union in 1940 and their descendants were entitled to automatic citizenship. Migrants from the Soviet period and their descendants, by contrast, had to got through the process of naturalization. (160)

Compared to other countries, the naturalization requirements in Estonia can be regarded as rather liberal. However, what makes the Estonian citizenship law exceptional is that at the moment it was brought into force, it left a considerable part of the population without citizenship. (162)

The law [1993 Law on Aliens] refers to both citizens of foreign states and stateless persons as ‘aliens’. The Estonian legislation makes no distinction between these two categories of non-citizens. In general, non-citizens in Estonia enjoy the same rights and free access to social protection as citizens. (162)

A study of ethnic Russians conducted in April 2008 offered four explanations for the persistent and widespread statelessness among Estonian Russians. These include: (1) difficulties in learning the Estonian language and passing the citizenship test; (2) emotional aversion to applying for citizenship related to the fact that many Estonian Russians feel that, similarly to ethnic Estonians, they should have been granted citizenship automatically after independence was restored in Estonia; (3) preferring Russian citizenship due to better travel and other opportunities; and (4) lack of Estonian citizenship does not affect a person’s daily life. (163)

[M, 41y, Jõhvi]: “I have already applied for Russian citizenship, for I will no doubt receive it without problems, just like that. I actually do not care which citizenship I receive. If I had lived in the USA or England for a long time, I could have already become an American or Englishman. But out situation with these ‘wolf’ passports is atrocious. They have already made such a big deal out of their nationality that we are like flies to them with these gray passports. We were simply segregated from the very start.” (164)

In 2000, the preference for Estonian citizenship was on the rise, reaching its highest point in 2005 (at 74 per cent), but by 2008 the number of those who desired Estonian citizenship dropped to half (51 per cent). During the same period, the desirability of Russian citizenship increased steadily from just 5 per cent in 2000 to 11 per cent in 2005 and to 19 per cent in 2008. These changes suggest a new protest identity among Estonian Russians, which has notably increased in recent years. (167)