Russian interest in Estonian citizenship spikes

Traveler holding a Russian passport.
Traveler holding a Russian passport. Source: Alexander Nrjwolf/Unsplash

Russia's full-scale war in Ukraine has pushed Russian citizens living in Estonia to apply for Estonian citizenship and applications more than doubled last year. Interest has not risen amongst grey-passport holders.

"While in previous years it was 280-290 [applications], last year it was 726 [applications], a 2.5-fold increase. But among people with a grey passport or undetermined citizenship, the number has not changed. The war has had an impact on the citizens of the Russian Federation in particular, those who have lived in Estonia for a long time," Minister of Interior Lauri Läänemets (SDE) told Thursday's "Aktuaalne kaamera".

Estonian citizenship can be applied for if a person has lived in Estonia for at least eight years, knows Estonian to at least B1 level and has passed the citizenship and constitutional exams.

 Additionally, Estonia does not allow dual citizenship so the applicant must renounce their current citizenship.

On Thursday, the government granted Estonian citizenship to 30 Russian citizens pending the renouncement of the applicants' citizenship.

AK spoke to one of those awarded, Moscow-born Peter Suškov who has lived in Estonia for eight years.

"The first time I came to Estonia was when I was 12 years old and I realized - wow! This is the country I want to live in. I came to study at university. My great-great-great-grandfather lived in Lithuania and studied at the University of Tartu more than a hundred years ago," Suškov said.  

Three months ago, he started the process of applying for Estonian citizenship and everything went smoothly except for renouncing Russian citizenship.

Usually, this process involves traveling to Russia as the state does not recognize documents translated and apostilled in Estonia. But Suškov managed to avoid this.

"There is a translation agency in Tallinn where they translate the document, confirm it, and the Russian embassy accepts them. I was able to draw up a power of attorney, I sent it to my parents by mail, and at this point everything I had to do in Russia is done," he said.

Estonia cannot change this process, Läänemets said.

"Of course, nobody wants to go there [Russia] today. People may have spoken out in support of the war in Ukraine, which is a criminal offense in Russia. Or perhaps the Russian state wants to mobilize them. Nothing can be done. In Estonia, it is only possible to have one citizenship, and renunciation of Russian citizenship can only be granted by the Russian Federation," the minister said.

Suškov will submit his documents to the Police and Border Guard Board  (PPA) next month and await the government's decision.

"It is especially important for me to say where my country is, where my values are, where my people live, and that I am with them," Suškov said.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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