I found an unpublished text by myself from 2011. Well, some predictions didn't come true, whereas other ones are fully suitable for the current situation in the Baltics (http://baltija.livejournal.com/45039.html):
Question with the Russian minorities in the Baltic states (the so-caled Baltic Russians) has always been pain in the neck in the relations between the Russian Federation, on the one hand, and Estonia, Latvia, and – to a certain extent - Lithuania, on the other hand. Since all the Baltic countries joined the EU in 2004, this question has become an acute one for the entire European Union. Still, last trends explicitly show that the potential for co-operation both on the side of indigeous nations and the Russian minorities as well as on the level Russia-Baltic countries and Russia-EU is there and – being aware of evolving risks - the optimal solution for all the parties may be found soon.
Roots of the present conflict lie in the period before World World II, when the Soviet empire annexed Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuiania in 1940, following the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939. For over 50 years until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the mass infiltration of inhabitants from other areas of the USSR (commonly defined as Russians, though they might have been other nationals) had taken place, while the most active representatives and simply ordinary people from the ethnic populations had been deported to Siberia, the Urals, and further distant Soviet regions.
As a result, the share of the Russian minorities in the Baltics has risen from 10.5 % in the pre-war period to almost a half of the population in the 1980s in Latvia (including, eg, Ukrainians and Belorussians, who are often included into the term “Baltic Russians“, too), from 4 % to merely a third of the population in Estonia, and from 2 % to 9.4 % in Lithuania. Now the figures show the following perspective - 4.9 % for Lithuania, 22.6 % for Estonia, 27.6 % for Latvia. In urban and industrial areas, the percentage of Baltic Russians is more striking: 14.4 % in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, and 28 % in the port town of Klaipėda; 36.9 % in Tallinn, the Estonian capital, and much more in the North-East of the country (County of Ida-Virumaa), a traditional centre of industry, which has a border to Russia, – 69.7 % in Kohtla-Järve and 86.4 % in Narva; 43 % in Rīga, the capital of Latvia, as well as about 54 % in the second-largest city of Daugavpils.
Citizens and Non-Citizens
When all three countries became officially independent in 1991, the question of granting the respective citizenship arose. The most harmless solution was suggested by Lithuania: With the Citizen Act, which came into force the same year, citizenship was given automatically to all the residents regardless of their ethnic origin, period of residence, or knowledge of Lithuanian.
Stricter Citizenship laws apply in Latvia and Estonia. Both countries used the so-called principle of jus sanguinis: The citizenship was automatically restored to those residents, who used to be citizens of the respective country before its annexation by the Soviet Union or their direct descendants. In Estonia, the new law of 1995 prescribes to grant citizenship to those inhabitants, whose either parent is an Estonian citizen already. Besides, it gives – along with the citizenship law of 1994 in Latvia - guidelines for the naturalization process.
Exactly the norm of naturalization “cared” for tensions between indigenous and Russian population as well as in the relations between Russia and the Baltic states. So, an applicant for an Estonian passport must meet the following requirements – minimum age of 18 years, permanent residence in the country for the last 5 years, knowledge of the Estonia’s state system and constitution, command of Estonian, oath of loyalty to the Republic of Estonia. Similar requirements are valid for those, who wish to obtain a Latvian passport. Both laws ban people, not loyal to the respective country, from getting the citizenship, such as former members of security and intelligence services of the Soviet Union, officials of foreign governments, persons with a grievous criminal record, etc. States don’t accept dual citizenships with exception of countries, where the major emigration flow during the occupation period was directed, - eg, the USA.
The citizenship laws in Estonia and Latvia were criticized both by the Russian Federation and by the local Russians and – to a certain extent – by European structures like, for instance, the Council of Europe. Still, either of sides was right in full. European institutions pledged, among other things, the abolition of a complicated naturalization exams for older residents, but achieved slight amendments only without sanctions followed. Latvian and Estonian authorities had been acted for a long time, as if they were targeted at separation and not integration of their residents. A lot of Russians in both countries ignored the citizenship law at all and got passports of non-citizens, who have limited rights comparing to ordinary citizens. Nevertheless, they preferred to talk rather about their discrimination than about ways of learning the language of a newly independent state and respecting its legislature, whereas the Kremlin supported intentions of its “nationals” by mentioning the same discrimination issue and granting the Russian citizenship to Russians residing in Latvia or Estonia.
As a result, motivation to obtain a Latvian or an Estonian passport lacks – especially among the elderly people – for another reason now: On the one hand, the non-citizens are free to travel with a Latvian or an Estonian passport within the European Union and to other countries, where visas for indigenous people aren’t needed; on the other hand, they can visit Russia without applying for a Russian visa.
Old School Vs. New Generation of Politicians
As the outcome of the access of the Baltic states to the European Union, 1,120,919 Baltic Russians (as of 2010) live in the unified Europe now – 616,840 in Latvia, 342,379 in Estonia, and 161,700 in Lithuania. By the way, this figure declined from the number of 1,726,000 inhabitants of Russian origin, who used to live in the Baltics in 1989.
Although there is still a significant share of them, who experience a kind of nostalgic mood for the Soviet times, more and more people, especially those, who were born and/or grown up in independent states, feel themselves as representatives of a minority in the respective country, who have only a limited connection to Russia and don’t look back at the USSR at all. They learn the state language, obtain citizenship in the country of their residence, actively participate in the election processes and form by that the Latvian, Estonian, or Lithuanian political landscape, travel, study, and see their future rather in Europe than in Russia and often define themselves as Euro-Russians (don’t mix up with the same denomination for the residents of the Kaliningrad region in Russia, which is also commonly used in the English-speaking press!).
Finally, positive changes reached the political field, too. Whereas political parties used to play the ethnic card and to take up the position of either the indigenous population or the Russian minority before, today they have been steadily getting open for co-operation with both nations. The most striking example for this change is probably represented by Latvia.
Founded as early as in 1998, the left-wing political party “For Human Rights in United Latvia” (Par Cilvēka Tiesībām Vienotā Latvijā, PCTVL), which has been traditionally leading the pro-Russian politics, has been permanently losing support: It had 16 of 100 seats as a result of Parliamentary (Latvian ‘Saeima’) election in 1998, 25 seats in 2002, only 6 seats in 2006 and no seats after the 10th Saeima election in 2010. The results are unlikely to be significantly better on September 17, 2011, when the extraordinary Parliamentary election is scheduled. Its only resource left is Tatjana Ždanoka, an Euro-Parliamentarian and a native Russian, one of the party’s co-chairpersons, who joined the Greens/EFA grouping and goes on with the critics of the power institution in the Baltic states regarding the protection of ethnic minorities (eg, look up her introduction to the book “The Modern European Ethnocracy: Violation of Rights of Ethnic Minorities in Estonia and Latvia”, published in 2009 in Moscow).
Simultaneously, a new generation of Latvian politicians with Russian origins came into play – the party “Harmony Centre” (Saskaņas Centrs, SC). Although the party acquired some members from Ždanoka’s PCTVL like Alfrēds Rubiks (now a deputy of the European Parliament) or Sergejs Dolgopolovs, its leader Nils Ušakovs reiterates that it would like to co-operate both with the Russian-speaking and the Latvian-speaking community. As a result, the party gained 17 seats (14.42 % of votes) in the Saeima in 2006 and 29 seats (26.04 %) in 2010 already.
How his principles work in the practice, Nils Ušakovs perfectly shows on his own example. He is a real Euro-Russian: His parents came from Russia to Latvia in the Soviet times and still don’t have the Latvian citizenship, whereas he passed the needed naturalization exam, lived and studied in Denmark, fluently speaks Russian, Latvian, and English as well as has background knowledge of Danish, Swedish, and German…
Nils Ušakovs also demonstrated his trust into co-operation of two ethnoses, holding the position of the head of the Rīga Council. In 2009 SC won the election to this power body and took the alliance of the Latvian-oriented “Latvia’s First Party/Latvian Way” (Latvijas Pirmā Partija/Latvijas Ceļš, LPP/LC) as a coalition partner. Nils Ušakovs got the Mayor’s office, while Ainārs Šlesers, Chairman of the LPP/LC alliance, became the vice-mayor (succeeded by his party colleague Andris Ameriks since November 9, 2010).
Mood Swings in Further Baltic States
In Lithuania, another representative of the Russian minority, Viktoras Uspaskich, who also didn’t make any difference between nations living in the country, succeeded in leading his Labour party (Darbo partija) to the top of the power.
Born in the settlement of Urdoma (Region of Arkhangelsk, Russia), Uspaskich came to work in Kėdainiai in 1987 and acquired the Lithunian citizenship, after the state became independent in 1991. His hour of triumph came in 2004, when his newly founded party won the Parliamentary (Lithuanian “Seimas”) Election with 28.4 % of votes, ie 39 seats. Labour Party also gained 5 portfolios in the 13th Lithuanian government, whereas Uspaskich himself was holding the office of the Minister of Economics. Moreover, a couple of months before the party got 5 of 13 seats in the European Parliament and joined the European Democratic Party with Uspaskich as one of its vice-presidents.
Although Uspaskich had to come through a grievous period afterwards (dismissal from the Minister position in 2005, followed up by a criminal trial because of jobbery and escape to Russia, or miserable 10 seats in the Seimas and 9 % of votes in the Parliamentary Election 2008), he has recently re-established the status quo in full: All the accusations against him were abolished, he became a member of the European Parliament in 2009 and got an additional support in the upcoming election campaign 2012 by merge of the Labour Party with the popular Socioliberal Party of Artūras Paulauskas earlier this year. Since 2007 Uspaskich has been holding the post of the party’s leader again, whereas Artūras Paulauskas became one of the chairmen only.
Estonia remains the only Baltic state, where relations between the ethnic majority and the Russian minority are still everything other than harmonious. Russian Party in Estonia of Stanislav Cherepanov stands rather on nationalist positions and can’t enjoy support even on the side of its assumed Russian electorate: It got only 0.9 % of votes in the election 2011, compared with 0.2 % in 2007. As it may be seen, the inclusion of Dimitri Klenski, likely the most popular person on the Russian political scene in Estonia, gave a mere additional support to the party only.
A conciliatory niche is occupied by the Estonian Centre Party, presided by Edgar Savisaar, Mayor of Tallinn and an ethnic Estonian. The party has representatives in the European Parliament like Siiri Oviir and Vilja Savisaar-Toomast, but it has been gradually losing support among voters (compare the result of 29 seats in the Estonian Parliament, or “Riigikogu” in Estonian, in the election campaign 2007 and 26 seats in 2011). A controversy about this party is also a close co-operation with the leading party in the Russian Federation – “United Russia”, which can be good for loyalty of Moscow, but negatively affects the image of centrists inside the country.
On the other hand, the Estonian Reform party of Andrus Ansip, prime minister since 2005, is involved in another series of scandals. It slightly improved its result in the Parliamentary election 2011 comparing with those of 2007 (33 to 31 seats), but, eg, the circumstances of the so-called “Bronze night”, when a memorial to victims of the World War II was transferred from the Tallinn’s city centre to a cemetery and arose revolts in the city, don’t care for popularity of the party among Russian-speaking citizens. Besides, sponsorship of the party’s election campaign 2007 by Russian tycoons – Sergei Matvienko, son of Valentina Matvienko, former governor of St. Petersburg, and Rustam Aksenenko, son of Nikolai Aksenenko, former Minister of Transportation of the Russian Federation, who both had certain business interests in the country (Matvienko in the field of real estate, and Aksenenko in particular used to hold in his hands transit of oil and oil products from Russia to Estonia) - looks out rather unacceptable for both Estonian and Russian voters already.
Opportunities and Threats
After 20 years since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, an unique opportunity to establish co-operative relations between local majorities and Russian minorities in the Baltic states is there, while populations of different origins as well as politicians are getting open for an intercultural dialogue, Russians, especially the youngest generation of them, are identifying themselves with the country of residence and Europe in general, or the Russian language is being used in various fields of activities again, etc.
Another positive mark is that steps in this direction are showed not only inside Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania both on the lower and the upper (governmental) level but also by Baltic states, the European Union, and the Russian Federation as subjects of the international law already.
Nevertheless, it is obvious that there are forces within either of mentioned structures, which are unlikely to accept the “thawing” trend. The story of Viktoras Uspaskich in Lithuania, of Jānis Birks, the former mayor of Rīga, who refused to hand over a symbolic chain of the chairman of the Rīga Council to his successor Nils Ušakovs in 2009, or with the “Bronze night” in Estonia explicitly demonstrate that the separatism game is not over yet and is still a popular way to attract voters on the needed side.
On the other hand, the initiation of a scandal around this or that politician targeted at the knock-out of him or her out of the chair is not an invention of the Baltic political life or has a connection to parties of Russian minorities only. It is worth to remember the case of Rolandas Paksas, President of the Republic of Lithuania from 2003 to 2004 (now a deputy of the European Parliament), who was accused of ties with international criminal groupings and had to leave his post in the impeachment procedure. Like Viktoras Uspaskich, Paksas was rehabilitated by the extended board of the Supreme Court of Lithuania as early as at the end of 2005. However, this verdict came too late for him, as long as he missed the election campaign of 2004, which followed up his impeachment, and Valdas Adamkus won back his presidential position in the meantime already.
Hence, the question of establishment of harmonious relations between the ethnoses lies deeper than it may seem at first sight. One of the major problems now is how far the political elites in all three countries, which have been forming for the entire period of the second independence, are open for challenges and amendments to their rhetorics. As the mentioned cases show, this process has been moving forward very slowly, though the new generation of politicians has been gradually coming into play and building a new force, compatible with the veterans. The faster such a replacement or re-thinking on the side of the established elite occurs, the sooner a prosperous co-existence of the local populations and the Russian minorities in the Baltic states will be possible.