Estonia-Russia relations

Estonia-Russia relations
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Estonia-Russia relations refers to the relationships between Estonia and Russia.

Diplomatic relations between Republic of Estonia and Russian SFSR were established on February 2, 1920, when Bolshevist Russia recognized de jure the independence of the Republic of Estonia, and renounced in perpetuity all rights to the territory of Estonia, via the Treaty of Tartu (Russian–Estonian). This treaty was the first international agreement signed by either side amid the Russian Civil War. At the time, the Bolsheviks had just gained control of the majority of Russian territory, and their government's legitimacy was being hotly contested by Western powers and the Russian White movement.

Estonia and Kievan Rus

Ugaunia, temporarily held by  Kievan Rus 1030-1061

, temporarily held by Kievan Rus 1030-1061

In 1030 Yaroslav I the Wise of Kievan Rus organised a military expedition to the territory of Ancient Estonia and built a fort he called Yuryev on the site of the Estonian stronghold of Tarbatu in Ugaunia, where Tartu is now located. In 1061, Estonians/Ugaunians took back the territories. During the reign of Yaroslav the Wise the first Russian Christian Churches were founded in Estonia. However, Estonia was not Christianised until the 13th century by German and Danish crusaders.

Estonia and Tsardom of Russia

In 1558 Ivan IV of Russia invaded Livonian Confederation (the territory of the present-day Estonia and Latvia). Starting the Livonian War (1558–1582),a military conflict between the Tsardom of Russia and a coalition of Denmark, Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Kingdom of Poland (later the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth), and Sweden. Treaty of Jam Zapolski in 1582 between Russia and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth Russia renounced its claims to Livonia. The following year, the Tsar also made peace with Sweden. Under the Treaty of Plussa, Russia lost Narva and the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland, being its only access to the Baltic Sea. The situation was partially reversed 12 years later, according to the Treaty of Tyavzino which concluded a new war between Sweden and Russia.

Estonia and Russian Empire

Great Northern War

Sweden's defeat in the Great Northern War in 1721 resulted the Treaty of Nystad, Russian Empire gained the Sweden's Baltic territories Swedish Estonia (nowadays northern Estonia) and Swedish Livonia, (nowadays southern Estonia and northern Latvia). The legal system , Lutheran church, local and town governments, and education remained mostly German until the late 19th century and partially until 1918.

By 1819, the Baltic provinces were the first in the Russian empire in which serfdom was abolished, the largely autonomous nobility allowing the peasants to own their own land or move to the cities. These moves created the economic foundation for the coming to life of the local national identity and culture as Estonia was caught in a current of national awakening that began sweeping through Europe in the mid-1800s.

Estonian Declaration of Independence

During the World War I, between the retreating Russian and advancing German troops on February 24 1918 the Salvation Committee of the Estonian National Council Maapäev issued the Estonian Declaration of Independence.

Estonia and Russian SFSR

Estonian War of Independence

The Estonian War of Independence (1918-1920), took place during the Russian Civil War, was the Republic of Estonia's struggle for sovereignty in the aftermath of World War I and the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Treaty of Tartu

Treaty of Tartu was a peace treaty between Estonia and Russian SFSR signed in February 2, 1920 ending the Estonian War of Independence.

Estonia and Soviet Union

Political relations


Soviet foreign policy and the Comintern. In 1920 the rules were laid down in Russia at the Comintern's Second Congress, Communist parties abroad were to be created either afresh or else by splitting Social Democratic parties; in any case, they were to be accountable to Moscow and not to their domestic constituencies.

Lenin's incapacity and death (Jan. 21, 1924) triggered struggle for power between Trotsky and Stalin. During the struggle Soviet foreign policy drifted.

On December 1, 1924 an attempted communist coup in Estonia conducted by Comintern

Treaties between Estonia and USSR

Before the World War II, the Republic of Estonia and USSR had both signed and ratified following treaties:

Kellogg-Briand Pact
August 27

, 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact renouncing war as an instrument of national policy Ratified by Estonia and USSR on July 24, 1929

Non-aggression treaty

Estonia, USSR on May 4, 1932

The Convention for the Definition of Aggression

On July 3, 1933 for the first time in the history of international relations, aggression was defined in a binding treaty signed at the Soviet Embassy in London by USSR and among others, The Republic of Estonia.

Article II defines forms of aggression. There shall be recognized as an aggressor that State which shall be the first to have committed one of the following actions:

Relevant chapters:

  • Second — invasion by armed forces of the territory of another State even without a declaration of war.
  • Fourth — a naval blockade of coasts or ports of another State.

Beginning of World War II

See also: Estonia in World War II

The fate of the relations between USSR and Republic of Estonia before the World War II was decided by the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact and its Secret Additional Protocol of August 1939.

September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland.

September 3, Great Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand declare war on Germany

September 14, the Polish submarine ORP Orzeł reached Tallinn, Estonia

September 17, Soviet Union invaded Poland

September 18, Orzeł incident, the Polish submarine escaped from internment in Tallinn and eventually made her way to the United Kingdom, Estonia's neutrality questioned by the Soviet Union and Germany.

On September 24, 1939 Warships of the Red Navy appeared off Estonian ports, Soviet bombers began a threatening patrol over Tallinn and the nearby countryside. In light of the Orzeł incident, the Moscow press and radio started violently attacking Estonia as "hostile" to the Soviet Union. Moscow demanded that Estonia allow the USSR to establish military bases and station 25,000 troops on Estonian soil for the duration of the European war. The government of Estonia accepted the ultimatum signing the corresponding agreement on September 28. 1939.

The Pact was made for ten years:

  • 1) Estonia granted the USSR the right to maintain naval bases and airdromes protected by Red Army troops on the strategic islands dominating Tallinn, the Gulf of Finland and the Gulf of Riga;

  • 2) Soviet Union agreed to increase her annual trade turnover with Estonia and to give Estonia facilities in case the Baltic is closed to her goods for trading with the outside world via Soviet ports on the Black Sea and White Sea;

  • 3) USSR and Estonia undertooke to defend each other from "aggression arising on the part of any great European power"

  • 4) It was declared: the Pact "should not affect" the "economic systems and state organizations" of USSR and Estonia.

Soviet occupation 1940

On June 12, 1940 the order for total military blockade of Estonia was given to the Soviet Baltic Fleet

On June 14, the Soviet military blockade of Estonia took effect. Two Soviet bombers downed a Finnish passenger airplane Kaleva flying from Tallinn to Helsinki and carrying three diplomatic pouches from the U.S. legations in Tallinn, Riga and Helsinki.

On June 16 1940, the Soviet Union invaded Estonia. The Red Army exited from their military bases in Estonia, some 90,000 additional Soviet troops entered the country. Molotov had accused the Baltic states of conspiracy against the Soviet Union and delivered an ultimatum to Estonia for the establishment of a government the Soviets approve of. The Estonian government decided according to the Kellogg-Briand Pact not to use war as an instrument of national policy. Given the overwhelming Soviet force both on the borders and inside the country, not to resist, to avoid bloodshed and open war.

On June 17 Estonia accepted the ultimatum and the statehood of Estonia de facto ceased to exist, the day France surrendered to Germany. The military occupation of the Republic of Estonia was complete by the June 21 1940 and rendered "official" by a communist coup d'état supported by the Soviet troops.

Most of the Estonian Defence Forces and the Estonian Defence League surrendered according to the orders believing that resistance was useless and were disarmed by the Red Army. Only the Estonian Single Signal Battalion stationed in Tallinn at Raua Street showed resistance. As the Red Army brought in additional reinforcements supported by six armoured fighting vehicles, the battle lasted several hours until sundown. There was one dead, several wounded on the Estonian side and about 10 killed and more wounded on the Soviet side. Finally the military resistance was ended with negotiations and the Single Signal Battalion surrendered and was disarmed.

On the same day June 21, 1940 the flag of Estonia was replaced with a red flag on Pikk Hermann tower, the symbol of the government in Estonia in force.

14-15 July rigged "parliamentary elections" were held where all but pro-Communist candidates were outlawed. Those who failed to have their passports stamped for so voting were allowed to be shot in the back of the head. Tribunals were set up to punish "traitors to the people." those who had fallen short of the "political duty" of voting Estonia into the USSR. The "parliament" so elected proclaimed Estonia a Socialist Republic on July 21, 1940 and unanimously requested Estonia to be "accepted" into the Soviet Union. Estonia was formally annexed into the Soviet Union on August 6 and renamed the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic. The 1940 occupation and annexation of Estonia into the Soviet Union was considered illegal and never officially recognized by Great Britain, the United States and other Western democracies.

Soviet terror

See also: Soviet deportations from Estonia

The Soviet authorities, having gained control over Estonia, immediately imposed a regime of terror. Order № 001223 "On the Procedure for carrying out the Deportation of Anti-Soviet Elements from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia" was issued.

During the first year of Soviet occupation (1940-1941) over 8,000 people, including most of the country's leading politicians and military officers, were arrested. About 2,200 of the arrested were executed in Estonia, while most others were moved to prison camps in Russia, from where very few were later able to return alive. On July 19, 1940 the Commander-in-chief of the Estonian Army Johan Laidoner was captured by the NKVD and deported together with his spouse to the Town of Penza. Laidoner died in the Vladimir Prison Camp, Russia on March 13, 1953. President of Estonia, Konstantin Päts was arrested and deported by the Soviets to Ufa in Russia on July 30, he died in a psychiatric hospital in Kalinin (now Tver) in Russia in 1956. 800 Estonian officers i.e. about a half of the total were executed, arrested or starved to death in prison camps.

On June 14, 1941, when mass deportations took place simultaneously in all three Baltic countries, about 10,000 Estonian civilians were deported to Siberia and other remote areas of the Soviet Union, where nearly half of them later perished. Of the 32,100 Estonian men who were forcibly relocated to Russia under the pretext of mobilisation into the Red Army after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, nearly 40 percent died within the next year in the "labour battalions" through hunger, cold and overworking. During the first Soviet occupation of 1940-41 about 500 Jews were deported to Siberia.

When Estonia was proclaimed the Soviet Republic, the crews of 42 Estonian ships in foreign waters refused to return to homeland (about 40% of Estonian pre-war fleet) These ships were brought into requisition by the British powers and were used in the Atlantic convoys. During the time of the war, approximately 1000 Estonian seamen served at the British militarised merchant marine, 200 of them as officers. A small number of Estonians served in the Royal Air Force, in the British Army and in the US Army, altogether no more than two hundred.

Soviet repressions against ethnic Russians

Ethnic Russians in Estonia: Sergei Zarkevich, an activist of Russian organizations in Estonia, The owner of a book store "Russian Book": arrest order issued by NKVD on June 23, 1940, executed on March 25, 1941. Oleg Vasilovski, a former General in the Russian Imperial Army. Arrest order issued by NKVD on July 1, 1940. Further fate unknown. Sergei Klenski, one of the former leaders of the Russian Peasants Labor Party. Arrested on July 22. On November 19 1940, sentenced to 8 years in a prison camp. Further fate unknown. Mikhail Aleksandrov, Arseni Zhitkov. Other ethnic Russians in Estonia arrested and executed by different Soviet War Tribunals in 1940-1941. Ivan Salnikov, Pavel Mironov, Mihhail Arhipov, Vassili belugin, Vladimir Strekoytov, Vasili Zhilin, Vladimir Utekhin, Sergei Samennikov, Ivan Meitsev, Ivan Yeremeyev, Konstatin Bushuyev, Yegor Andreyev, Nikolai Sausailov, Aleksandr Serpukhov, Konstatin Nosov, Aleksandr Nekrasov, Nikolai Vasilev-Muroman, Aleksei Sinelshikov, Pyotr Molonenkov, Grigory Varlamov, Stepan Pylnikov, Ivan Lishayev, Pavel Belousev, Nikolai Gusev, Leonid Sakharov, Aleksander Chuganov, Fyodor Dobrovidov, Lev Dobek, Andrei Leontev, Ivan Sokolov, Ivan Svetlov, Vladimir Semenov, Valentin Semenov-Vasilev, Vasili Kamelkov, Georgi Lokhov, Aleksei Forlov, Ivan Ivanov, Vasili Karamsin, Aleksandr Krasilnikov, Aleksandr Zhukov, etc. Full list at:

Soviet Occupation 1944-1991

Soviet forces reconquered Estonia in the autumn of 1944 after fierce battles in the northeast of the country on the Narva river and on the Tannenberg Line (Sinimäed). In 1944, in the face of the country being re-occupied by the Red Army, 80000 people fled from Estonia by sea to Finland and Sweden, becoming war refugees and later, expatriates. 25,000 Estonians reached Sweden and a further 42,000 Germany. During the war about 8 000 Estonian Swedes and their family members had emigrated to Sweden. After the retreat of Germans, about 30,000 Estonian partisans remained in hiding in the Estonian forests, further on leading a massive guerrilla war. In 1949 27,650 Soviet troops still led the war against the local partisans. Only the 1949 mass deportation when about 21,000 people were taken away broke the basis of the partisan movement. 6600 partisans gave themselves up in November of 1949. Later on the failure of the Hungarian uprising broke the resistance morale of the 700 men still remaining under cover. According to the Soviet data, up to 1953, 20,351 partisans were disarmed. Of these, 1510 perished in the battles. During that period, 1 728 members of the Red Army, NKVD and the militia were killed by the "forest brothers". August Sabbe, the last surviving Forest Brother in Estonia, was discovered and killed by KGB agents in 1978.

Border changes of Estonia after World War II

Border changes of Estonia after World War II

During the first post-war decade of Soviet regime, Estonia was governed by Moscow via Russian-born Estonian governors. Born into the families of native Estonians in Russia, the latter had obtained their Red education in the Soviet Union during the Stalinist repressions at the end of the 1930s. Many of them had fought in the Red Army (in the Estonian Rifle Corps), few of them had mastered the Estonian language.

Although the United States and the United Kingdom, the allies of the USSR against Germany during World War II, recognized the occupation of the Republic of Estonia by USSR at Yalta Conference in 1945 de facto, the governments of the rest of the western democracies did not recognize the seizure of Estonia by the USSR in 1940 and in 1944 de jure according to the Sumner Welles' declaration of July 23, 1940 ; such countries recognized Estonian diplomats and consuls who still functioned in many countries in the name of their former governments. These ageing diplomats persisted in this anomalous situation until the ultimate restoration of Estonia's independence in 1991.

The first freely elected parliament during the Soviet era in Estonia had passed independence resolutions on May 8, 1990, and renamed Estonian SSR to the Republic of Estonia. On August 20, 1991 the Estonian parliament issued the Declaration of Independence from the Soviet Union. On September 61991, the USSR Supreme Council recognized the independence of Estonia., immediately followed by the international recognitions of the Republic of Estonia.

In 1992, Heinrich Mark, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia in duties of the President in exile , presented his credentials to the newly elected President of Estonia Lennart Meri. On February 23. 1989 The flag of the Estonian SSR had been lowered on Pikk Hermann, it had been replaced with the flag of Estonia on February 24, 1989.

The last Soviet troops withdrew from Estonia in August 1994.

Economic relations

Estonia and Russian Federation

Withdrawal of Soviet troops

Russian-Estonian relations were re-established in January 1991, when the presidents Boris Yeltsin of RSFSR and Arnold Rüütel of the Republic of Estonia met in Tallinn and signed a treaty governing the relations of the two countries after the anticipated independence of Estonia from the Soviet Union. The treaty guaranteed the right to freely choose their citizenship for all residents of the former Estonian SSR.

Russia re-recognized the Republic of Estonia on August 24, 1991, after the failed Soviet coup attempt, as one of the first countries to do so. Diplomatic relations were established on October 24, 1991. The Soviet Union recognized the independence of Estonia on September 6.

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the Russian Federation became an independent country. Russia was widely accepted as the Soviet Union's successor state in diplomatic affairs and it assumed the USSR's permanent membership and veto in the UN Security Council; see Russia's membership in the United Nations.

Estonia's ties with Boris Yeltsin weakened since the Russian leader's initial show of solidarity with the Baltic states in January 1991. Issues surrounding the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Baltic republics and Estonia's denial of automatic citizenship to persons who settled in Estonia in 1941-1991 and well offspring ranked high on the list of points of contention.

Immediately after regaining the independence, Estonia started to insist that the Soviet Union (and later Russia) should withdraw their troops from Estonian territory and that the process should be completed by the end of the year. The Soviet government responded that withdrawal could not be completed before 1994 due to lack of available housing.

In the fall of 1991, as Estonia laid down its new citizenship policy, the Soviet Union called the move a violation of human rights. Under the citizenship policy, most of the country's large (mostly Russophone) minority of Soviet immigrants from period of 1941-1991, as well as their offspring, were denied automatic citizenship. They could gain citizenship through a naturalisation process that included tests on local language and constitution, as well as long-time residency requirement. The Soviet government linked further withdrawal of troops from Estonia to a satisfactory change in Estonia's citizenship stance. In response, Estonia denied the accusations of violations of human rights and invited more than a dozen international fact-finding groups to visit the country for verification. In January 1992, some 25,000 troops were reported left in Estonia, the smallest contingent in the Baltic states. Still, more than 800 square kilometres of land, including an inland artillery range, remained in the Russian military's hands. More than 150 battle tanks, 300 armored vehicles, and 163 battle aircraft also remained.

As the propaganda war and negotiations dragged on, Estonia and the other two Baltic countries gained international support for their position on troop withdrawal at a July 1992 summit of the CSCE in Helsinki. The final communiqué called on Russia to act "without delay /.../ for the early, orderly and complete withdrawal" of foreign troops from the Baltic states. Resolutions also were passed in the United States Senate in 1992 and 1993 linking the issue of troop withdrawals to continued United States aid to Russia.

Yet, Estonian and Russian negotiators remained deadlocked throughout 1993. At several points, President Yeltsin and other Russian officials called an official halt to the pullout, but the unofficial withdrawal of forces continued. By the end of 1992, about 16,000 troops remained. A year later, that number was down to fewer than 3,500, and more than half of the army bases had been turned over to Estonian defense officials. The Estonian and Russian sides continued to disagree, primarily over the pace of Russia's withdrawal from the town of Paldiski, on the northern coast some thirty-five kilometers west of Tallinn. The Soviet navy had built a submarine base there that included two nuclear submarine training reactors. Russian officials maintained that dismantling the reactor facility would take time; Estonia demanded faster action along with international supervision of the process.

It was not until August 311994 that the last Soviet troops left Estonia, as Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Lennart Meri had signed an agreement on July 261994 for the complete withdrawal of Russian troops.The last Russian warship, carrying ten T-72 tanks, departed in August 1994. However, Russia was to retain control of the reactor facility in Paldiski until September 1995. On September 301995 the decommissioning of the Paldiski nuclear base was completed.


The core of the controversy lies in the different interpretations of the historical events during World War II and after.

During Perestroika, the reassessment era of Soviet history in USSR, in 1989 the USSR condemned the 1939 secret protocol between Nazi Germany and itself that had led to the invasion and occupation of the three Baltic countries. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to the restoration Republic of Estonia's sovereignty (See History of Estonia: Regaining independence.) According to the Government of Estonia , the European Court of Human Rights, EU, USA Estonia remained occupied by the Soviet Union until restoration of its independence in 1991 and the 48 years of Soviet occupation and annexation was never recognized as legal by the Western democracies.

Russian government and officials continue to maintain that the Soviet annexation of the Baltic states was legitimate and that the Soviet Union liberated the countries from the Nazis They state that the Soviet troops had entered the Baltic countries in 1940 following the agreements and with the consent of the governments of the Baltic republics. They maintain that the USSR was not in a state of war and was not waging any combat activities on the territory of the three Baltic states, therefore, the argument goes, the word 'occupation' can not be used . "The assertions about [the] 'occupation' by the Soviet Union and the related claims ignore all legal, historical and political realities, and are therefore utterly groundless." (Russian Foreign Ministry)

However the fact was that consent was coerced after Soviet troops were massed on the border. The Soviet 8th army was dispatched to Pskov on September 14, 1939, and the mobilized 7th army placed under the Leningrad Military District. On September 26, the Leningrad Military District was ordered to "start concentrating troops on the Estonian-Latvian border and to finish that operation on September 29th." The order noted, "for the time of starting the attack a separate directive will be issued." Altogether, by the beginning of October, 1939, the Soviets had amassed along the Estonia-Latvia border:

  • 437,325 troops

  • 3,635 artillery pieces

  • 3,052 tanks

  • 421 armored vehicles

  • 21,919 cars

Territorial issues

Territorial issues also clouded Estonian-Russian relations. Estonia had hoped for the return of more than 2,000 square kilometers of territory annexed to Russia by Stalin in 1945. The annexed land had been within the borders Estonia approved by Russia in the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty. However, the Yeltsin government disavowed any responsibility for acts committed by the Soviet regime.

Estonian and Russian negotiators reached a technical border agreement in December 1996, with the border remaining substantially the same as the one drawn by Stalin, with some minor adjustments. The border treaty was initialed in 1999. On 18 May 2005 Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and his Russian colleague Sergei Lavrov signed in Moscow the “Treaty between the Government of the Republic of Estonia and the Government of the Russian Federation on the Estonian-Russian border”and the “Treaty between the Government of the Republic of Estonia and the Government of the Russian Federation on the Delimitation of the Maritime Zones in the Gulf of Finland and the Gulf of Narva”. The Riigikogu (Estonian Paliament) ratified the treaties on 20 June 2005, with a reference to the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty in the preamble of the ratification law, placing the new border treaty in context of internal Estonian law as amending the original 1920 border. The President of Estonia Arnold Rüütel proclaimed the treaties on 22 June 2005. As proposed by the Russian Government on 13 August 2005, on 31 August 2005 Russian President Putin gave a written order to the Russian Foreign Ministry to notify the Estonian side of “Russia’s intention not to participate in the border treaties between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Estonia”. On 6 September 2005 the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation sent to Estonia a note, in which Russia informed that it did not intend to become a party to the border treaties between Estonia and Russia and did not consider itself bound by the circumstances concerning the object and the purposes of the treaties.

This section contains material from the Library of Congress Country Studies, which are United States government publications in the public domain.

Language and citizenship issues

During the Soviet period the share of Russophones in Estonia increased from less than a tenth to over a third, and to almost half in the capital Tallinn, and even to a majority in some districts in North East Estonia. (See Demographics of Estonia and Estonian SSR: Demographic changes.) In contrast to the long-standing pre-World War II Russian minority in Estonia, these were Soviet economic migrants. Russian was an official language in parallel to, and in practice often instead of, Estonian in Estonian SSR and there were no integration efforts during the Soviet time, resulting in considerable groups of people knowing very little or no Estonian.

After Estonia re-established independence, Estonian again became the only official language.

The mass deportations of ethnic Estonians during the Soviet era together with migration into Estonia from other parts of the Soviet Union resulted in the share of ethnic Estonians in the country decreasing from 88% in 1934 to 62% in 1989. (See Demographics of Estonia.) In 1992, the Citizenship Act of the Republic of Estonia was reinstated according to the pre-Soviet invasion status quo in 1940. Throughout the years of occupations (the major democracies of the world never accepted the forcible incorporation of the Baltic States by the USSR in 1940), the pre-Soviet invasion Estonian citizens and their descendants never lost their citizenship, regardless of their ethnic origin, be it Estonian, Russian (8.2% of the citizenry by the 1934 census), German or any other, according to the jus sanguinis principle. Conditions for acquiring and receiving Estonian citizenship for post-1940 settlers and their descendants in Estonia are an examination in knowledge of the Estonian language and an examination in knowledge of the Constitution of Estonia and the Law. Applicants for Estonian citizenship who were born prior to January 1 1930, or hearing or speech disabled, permanently disabled etcetera, are exempt from the requirements.

Currently about a third of Estonia's Russophones are Estonian citizens, another third have Russian citizenship. At the same time in 2006 around 9% of Estonia's residents were of undefined citizenship. While there have been calls for the return of all Estonia's Russians to Russia, the Government of Estonia has been adopting an integration policy, advocating an idea that Estonia's residents should possess at least a basic knowledge of the Estonian language.

People who arrived in the country after 1940 qualify for naturalization if they have general knowledge of Estonian language and the Constitution, have legally resided in Estonia for at least eight years, the last five of them permanently, have a registered place of residence in Estonia and a permanent legal income. Russia has repeatedly condemned Estonian citizenship laws and demanded that Estonia grant its citizenship without (or by a greatly simplified) naturalization procedure. [citation needed] The perceived difficulty of the language tests necessary for naturalisation has been one of the controversial issues. [citation needed]

In February 2002, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yevgeni Gussarov presented to Estonian ambassador Karin Jaani a non-paper list of seven demands to be fulfilled by Estonia in order to improve the relations of the two countries. These demands included making Russian an official language in the regions where the russophone minority was actually a majority, granting citizenship by naturalization to at least 20 000 residents annually, stopping prosecuting the persons who had been involved in the deportation of Estonians, official registering the Russian Orthodox Church, providing secondary and higher education in Russian language.

Accusations of fascism

There have been various allegations of fascism, glorification of Nazism and Estonia's collaboration with Nazis in World War II, resurrection of Nazism and being pro-Nazi against Estonia by official spokesmen and Jewish religious leaders of Russia, as well as by international spokesmen and associations, including René van der Linden and Efraim Zuroff

According to Economist: What really annoys the Kremlin is that Estonians regarded the arrival of the Red Army in 1944-45 as the exchange of one ghastly occupation for another instead of a liberation. The Estonian Education Minister Tõnis Lukas has said "We do not glorify the Nazis in any way, but Moscow seems very upset that Estonia considers the Nazi era and Stalinism as equally evil and criminal regimes."

A controversial monument had been erected by a private group in the seaside town of Pärnu in 2002. It honoured Estonian soldiers who fought the Red Army during World War II and was reported as "SS monument" by some news agencies, including BBC. The Monument hadn't been formally unveiled and had been taken down shortly afterward amid criticisms of the international community[citation needed]. In 2004 the same monument was re-erected in the town of Lihula, however it was removed by the Estonian government after 9 days amid violent protests from some monument supporters. The monument depicts an Estonian soldier in a German uniform, and according to a journalist of the Baltic Times, with a Waffen-SS (combat SS) unit emblem. However a semiotic analysis by professor Peeter Torop of University of Tartu, consulting for the Lihula police department, concluded that no Nazi or SS symbolics whatsoever appear in the bas-relief.

There are legitimate organizations representing Waffen SS veterans in Estonia, and former Waffen SS soldiers are paid pensions by the German government. While the Nuremberg Trials condemned the Waffen-SS as part of a criminal organisation, conscripts were exempted from that judgment due to being involuntarily mobilized. Conscripting natives of occupied territory is considered a war crime under the Geneva Convention. The 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian) is an example of such a conscript formation, the units cannot be accused of committing crimes against humanity.

According to The New York Times: "Many Russians have accused countries once under the Kremlin’s sway, including Estonia, of not pursuing a full account of some of their citizens’ collaborations with the Nazis." Martin Arpo, superintendent of Security Police Board disagrees with this Russian view, saying "Both regimes were criminal and committed criminal acts and brought suffering to the Estonian people. But the local K.G.B. couldn’t find any more evidence against the Nazi collaborators. We haven’t found it either. And the K.G.B. was a much larger organization than we are and had powers and methods, shall we say, that are not available to a Western democratic country."

Human rights concerns

Amnesty International has expressed concern (in 2006) that the language policy of Estonia may violate the human rights of the Russian speaking minority. The sentiment is shared by the Government of Russia, claiming (in 2005) that "there is discrimination against the Russian-speaking minority (not only ethnic Russians but also Russian-speaking Jews)." The Federal Migration Service of Russia has supported a law that would set a language test for anyone planning to work in Russia for more than one year. "It is obvious that without knowledge of the Russian language it is impossible to integrate into Russian society," the Russian Migration Service has said. The Russian law applies to new immigrants. The law of citizenship of Republic of Estonia denied in 1991 automatic citizenship of the country to all Soviet immigrants who had moved into Estonian SSR, when the territory of Estonia was under Soviet jurisdiction in 1940-1941 and 1944-1991, as well as to their descendants born before 1992. Non-citizen parents can request expedited citizenship for their children born after 1992 if they have been residents of Estonia for five years. Continuity of citizenship applied automatically to Russophones who were citizens or descendants of citizens of Republic of Estonia prior 1940.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities have declared that they cannot find a pattern of human rights violations or abuses in Estonia.

However, the European Centre for Minority Issues has also criticised what is sees as Estonia's harsh treatment of its Russian population, and has condemned the ostensible lack of legal protection offered to minorities. The forum Development and Transition, which is sponsored by the United Nations, published an article in its newsletter on November 2005 where Professor James Hughes argues that Latvia and Estonia employ a "sophisticated and extensive policy regime of discrimination" against their respective Russophone parts of the population. . However in that same newsletter Professor Hughes arguments were opposed by former Latvian minister for social integration Dr. Nils Muiznieks who argued his views were simplistic and "similar to what Russian propaganda has been touting in international fora over the last 10 years" .

Although the OSCE and other international organizations, such as the Finnish Helsinki Committee, have found the Citizenship Law to be satisfactory, the Russian Government and members of the local ethnic Russian community continued to criticize it as discriminatory, notably for its Estonian language requirements. In September 2003, a visiting NATO Parliamentary Assembly delegation concluded that the country had no major problems in treatment of its Russian.

Ph.D. Student Kara Brown has claimed in her 1997 report at Indiana University newsletter that "the Russian government, disregarding the fact that Estonia's Russian speakers willingly have chosen to stay [in Estonia], has used the excuse of alleged minority-right infringements as justification for a possible armed invasion. She suggested that, once in Estonia, these Russian troops would 'secure' the rights of these Russian-speakers who live outside of their homeland. According to K. Brown this vow of 'support' only aggravates attempts being made by the Russian speakers to solve their political problems independently and jeopardizes the development of healthy foreign relations between Estonia and Russia. However, this "Russian Plan for Invasion of the Baltic States," (as published in The Baltic Independent in 1995), had never been implemented, nor it's authenticity had been confirmed by the independent sources. Estonian media have repeatedly claimed that Russian politicians called for military action against Estonia to protect the "compatriots"[citation needed]. Most recently this accusation had been fielded against Dmitry Rogozin during the Bronze Soldier crisis.

Orthodox Church Controversy

A legal dispute went on between the Tallinn and Moscow governments since 1993, when the Estonian government registered Estonian Orthodox Church under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical (Constantinpole) Patriarchate. This made it impossible to register the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. The main issue was, which of the two owned the property of the Orthodox church in Estonia, held by the Moscow Patriarchate until 1923, then by the Church under the Ecumenical Patriarchate until the Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940, and consequently handed to the Moscow Patriarchate by the Soviet government. Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate was registered in Estonia in April 2002.

Russia's attitude to Estonian accession to the NATO and the EU

When the Baltic states restored their independence in 1991 they demanded withdrawal of the Russian troops from their territory, where USSR has built various military installations. Later in the 90s the Baltic states refused Russia's proposals of security guaranties in favor of NATO alliance.. NATO, particularly its expansion is considered a threat in Russia.

Russia's work with "compatriots"

Russian authorities have termed the Russians living abroad their "compatriots" and several programs exist to support their political and cultural agenda in countries of residence., It has been suggested [citation needed]that Russia has financially supported Estonian political parties consisting mostly of ethnic Russians.

Bronze Soldier of Tallinn controversy

The relocation of the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn and exhumation of the bodies buried there in April 2007 provoked a harsh Russian reaction. The Federation Council, on April 27, approved a statement concerning the monument, which urges the Russian authorities to take the "toughest possible measures" against Estonia. First Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov said that adequate measures, primarily, economic ones, should be taken against Estonia. Belittling the World War II heroes' feats and desecrating monuments erected in their memory leads to discord and mistrust between countries and peoples, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Victory Day 2007. In the days following the relocation, the Estonian embassy in Moscow was besieged by protesters, including pro-Kremlin youth organisations Nashi and the Molodaya Gvardiya. Estonia's president Toomas Hendrik Ilves expressed his astonishment that Russia has - despite the promises of foreign minister Lavrov - not taken actions to protect the diplomatic personnel. On May 2, the protestors attacked the Estonian ambassador, Marina Kaljurand, despite diplomatic immunity. Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet suggested to consider calling off the upcoming EU-Russia Summit that was due to take place on 18 May).

Economic sanctions

On May 3, 2007, Russia announced plans for repairs to railway lines to Estonia, disrupting oil and coal exports to Estonian ports. Many viewed this as economic sanctions against Estonia caused by the row over the war memorial. In July Russian Minister of Transport Igor Levitin announced that Russia was planning to stop all oil transit through Estonian ports and use Russian ports instead.

Cyberattacks on Estonia

A series of distributed denial of service cyber attacks began on April 27, 2007 that swamped websites of Estonian organizations, including Estonian parliament, banks, ministries, newspapers and broadcasters, amid the Estonian-Russian row about the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn relocation. Estonian officials accused Russia of unleashing cyberwar . On September 6, 2007 Estonia's defense minister admitted he had no evidence linking cyber attacks to Russian authorities .

Economic relations

Public opinion

According to Levada Center data, in 2007, Estonia was considered an enemy of Russia by 60 percent of Russia's citizens (cf. 28% in 2006, 32% in 2005), more than any other country in the world, followed by Georgia, Latvia and United States. The poll was conducted two weeks after the Bronze Soldier relocation to a military cemetery and exhumation of the bodies buried there.

Estonian Embassy in Moscow

Estonia has an embassy in Moscow as well as a consulate-general in Saint Petersburg and another consulate mission in Pskov.



Russian Embassy in Estonia

Russia has an embassy in Tallinn


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See also

External links

Further reading




July 2007

Estonia in World War II

Soviet deportations from Estonia

July 2007

July 2007

August 2007

March 2008

July 2007

Bronze Soldier of Tallinn

Cyberattacks on Estonia 2007