The results of a state-wide poll imply that Russian-Estonian integration improved between 2008 and 2011.

According to the poll, 21 percent of respondents are successfully integrated; 16 percent of respondents are “Russian-speaking Estonian patriots” (with strong legal-political but weaker linguistic integration); 13 percent of respondents had good language skills but weak citizen identity, a critical attitude and political activity; 28 percent of respondents were poorly integrated, predominantly with undetermined citizenship; and 22 percent of the respondents could be classified as “not integrated,” a group consisting mainly of elderly Russian citizens.

Almost one-third of the Russian-speaking population is people who manage well, are active, and have a strong citizen identity within the Estonian society. At the same time they still do not feel sufficiently included in the State’s policy development and implementation.

Political activity and interest towards domestic policy shown by native Russians and other nationalities does not differ considerably from that of Estonians.

There was an increase in the sense of belonging to the Estonian people and the wish to apply for Estonian citizenship among stateless residents.

On the other hand, the attitudes of Estonians with respect to involvement of the Russian-speaking population in society, the economy and governance have also become more positive. More Estonian respondents felt that the opinions of the Russian-speaking population should more often be taken into consideration.

However, the circle of Estonians who communicate with people of ethnic minorities has not particularly increased, while the circle of non-Estonians who communicate with Estonians has become wider. Forty-five percent of the Estonian respondents said they “almost never communicate with representatives of other ethnic communities within one month.” The respective figure among Russian-speakers was 20 percent.

The feeling of inequality has also decreased, the poll concluded. Only 20 percent of respondents, compared to 49 percent in 2008, said they had, within the previous two years, encountered discrimination based on ethnicity or mother tongue in the course of an employment application process or in distribution of positions or benefits. Nevertheless, during the period of economic recession there was a slight increase in differences between employment rates of different ethnic communities, according to the poll.

The Russian-speaking population has demonstrated increasing orientation toward vocational and university education. Preference for higher education in Estonian language has increased among the Russian-speaking population from 19 percent in 2008 to 26 percent in 2011. There has been an increase for basic education provided in Estonian as well – 65 percent of Russian-speaking respondents preferred Estonian-language kindergartens.

Also, self-assessment of respondents with Russian or another language as their mother tongue regarding their Estonian language skills has slightly improved since 2005.

The poll was commissioned by the Ministry of Culture and was conducted by Praxis, the University of Tartu and Emor.

Source: Russian-Estonian Integration Improving, Says Poll, ERR