Estonians throughout the world are not a community disjoined from Estonian society; rather, they maintain strong emotional and cultural bonds with Estonia, a study commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and conducted by the Institute of Baltic Studies (IBS) indicates.
The majority of the expat Estonian community has a multicultural identity — that is, a symbiosis of several identities or affiliations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release about the study. Most Estonians abroad are content with their life in their new country and have adapted to life there, however their sense of belonging to Estonia has nonetheless remained strong as well.
More than half of study respondents celebrate Estonian holidays and vote in Estonian elections. A large share of families with children indicated they want to pass the Estonian language, culture and customs on to their children, and a majority want to keep their Estonian citizenship.
"Estonian communities abroad are becoming increasingly diverse, multilingual and multicultural," said Kristjan Kaldur, one of the authors of the study. "For example, this study shows us that nearly two thirds of families are of mixed nationalities, where the children speak two languages natively and are experiencing at least two cultures. This is why it's extremely important to support, inspire and encourage parents in preserving and developing this diversity, as it helps preserve the continuity of the Estonian language and culture abroad."
The Foreign Ministry-commissioned study provides insight into the diversity of Estonian communities abroad as well as to people's various reasons for leaving Estonia.
It also revealed that while the majority of the Estonian community abroad considers Estonian to be their native language, nearly one in five could no longer speak it at a native level.
"This study is valuable to us as this way, we can plan our practical work based on recommendations by researchers," explained Marin Mõttus, ambassador at large for the Estonian diaspora, adding that not everything they take for granted in this area was backed up by the results of the survey.
"I am very glad that so many Estonians living in other countries have retained their strong bond with Estonia," Mõttus said. "They follow Estonian media and speak Estonian with their children."
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Editor: Aili Vahtla