Russians In The Baltic States

I watched a documentary in Russian last night about the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) during the Soviet times. Today, many Russians and Russian speakers still live in these countries. After all, when the Soviet Union fell, people went to sleep in one country and woke up in another.

Unfortunately, Estonia and Latvia have never been very understanding of their Russian minority. When they became independent, they refused to give citizenship to Russians who could not speak Estonian and Latvian (which are notoriously difficult). These Russians, most of whom are in these countries through no fault of their own, are virtually stateless citizens, denied rights that their fellow compatriots have. (Lithuania, on the other hand, gave everyone citizenship. As far as I know, Lithuania does not have festering resentment between ethnic Russians and ethnic non-Russians due to this sensible policy.)

NPR did a story on this a few years ago: Russian Minority Struggles In Post-Soviet Estonia. By and large, the article is anti-Russian, though it does contain interesting information.

“I don’t see what people are complaining about,” Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said in an interview.

He said that given Estonia’s painful history — which saw Soviet leaders deport Estonians to Siberia and force the Russian language on Estonians left behind — ethnic Russians have been treated pretty well.

“I mean, Germans were beaten up for years and years after the end of World War II,” Ilves said. “That was a very bad situation. We don’t have that here.”

If Mr. Ilves thinks that disenfranchising people, making it hard for them to find work, and generally punishing them for crimes they didn’t commit is treating someone well, I’d hate to see what he considers poor treatment.

Honestly, it amazes me this happens in a modern, ostensibly civilized European nation. Estonia is a NATO and EU member. Shouldn’t its government be more enlightened than this?

Apparently such barbarity is excused if one is anti-Russian.