Former mayor: English language threatens both Estonian and Russian futures

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Edgar Savisaar. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Former Tallinn mayor and Center Party founder Edgar Savisaar says that Estonia's future is at present rudderless, somewhat of an attack on Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, in many ways his protege. Savisaar pointed to a diminishing of both Estonian and Russian cultures in the country, in the face of the spread of the English language and immigration from further afield.

Talking to BNS, Savisaar, who was freed from trial on corruption charges on health grounds in 2018, said that noone in Estonia has the courage to paint a picture of the country 30 years in the future.

Savisaar said: "The prime minister is a young enough man (aged 42 - ed.) – maybe he can see Estonia in 2050 if his eyes can do so. But what can the eyes see? What can he deem to be our accomplishment from the present day? Will there be no more poverty, which today is plaguing a quarter of our nation? How will that problem be solved? What was done yesterday to solve that problem? Will there still be Estonians who speak in Estonian?"

Savisaar pointed to immigration and the pervasiveness of English as threats, as compared with the Russian-speaking minority, the traditional bedrock of Center Party support, whose culture he also saw as under threat.

Savisaar: Will children in 2050 even know who Marie Under is?

He said: "Will children still be reading books in the Estonian language or only play English-language computer games? Will names like [poets] Marie Under or Gustav Suits or Betti Alver 2050 still be meaningful in 2050? And non-Estonians, whom we simplistically refer to as 'Russians', what will happen to them? Will there be more or less of them in 2050? Or will 'new' Russians (i.e. immigrants from the Russian Federation – ed.) have come and taken their place, or people from the Middle East and North Africa?"

Of hopeful signs of the future, Savisaar, who was mayor of Tallinn 2006-2015 and a major figure in Estonia's drive for independence in the so-called singing revolution of the late 1980s/early 1990s, praised better relations between the Estonian- and Russian-speaking populations, who had made progress prior to Reform's Andrus Ansip becoming prime minister (2005-2014).

Savisaar: Andrus Ansip ruined everything

"We remember the early years of this century when some kind of integration was just starting to work. Estonians gave the representative of the Russian Federation maximum points at the Eurovison Song contest. And then Ansip came and messed everything up."

That "messing up" constituted the 2007 moving of a Soviet-era statue from one part of Tallinn to another part of the capital, intact, where it still resides, in a cemetery, an act which prompted several nights' rioting and led to one death.

Savisaar's rhetoric followed in a similar vein of rapid-fire questions, bouncing around foreign policy, to NATO (which he didn't reference directly but referred to the two percent of GDP contribution requirement for membership – ed.), to teachers and doctors and an overall brain drain.

"As (Russian) children's author Sergei Mikhalkov put it: 'The children of today are the people of tomorrow'," he said.

All of these things needed resolving by 2050, Savisaar, 70, announced.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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