Twenty-eight percent of people of Russian ethnicity residing in Estonia define themselves solely as Russian, while 68 percent define themselves as Estonian-Russian, Russian-speaking Estonian, or both Estonian and Russian, according to a recent survey.
The poll, conducted by Turu-uuringute and ordered by the Government Office, found that just 3 percent of people of Russian ethnicity define themselves solely as Estonian.
The survey covered both Estonian citizens who are ethnically Russian and/or whose first language is Russian, and residents in Estonia, both Russian and other nationalities.
Of all Estonian residents, 65 percent define themselves as Estonian alone. Twenty-two percent of the total were Estonian-Russians, or Russian-speaking Estonians, or Estonian/Russian, depending on how they define themselves. A further 8 percent of respondents defined themselves as Russian-only, while 5 percent of all residents stated that they were of any other nationality.
Among Russian citizens resident in Estonia, 38 percent define themselves solely as Russian, though just over half of Russian citizens residing in Estonia (51 percent) in fact answered that they were Estonian-Russian, Russian-speaking Estonian, or both Estonian and Russian.
Taking Estonian citizenship by naturalization requires surrendering any other citizenship the applicant may have. Those with citizenship jus sanguinis do not need to surrender any other citizenship.
Attitudes to May 9, 'Victory' day
The same Turu-uuringute survey commissioned by the government office also quizzed respondents on their views on the meaning of May 9, which in the Russian Federation is marked as "victory day", in relation to the end of World War Two, while in the EU it is marked as Europe Day.
Forty percent of respondents said the date had no special significance to them.
A further 27 percent said that May 9 did hold a significance in term of the end of World War two, as a means of commemorating relatives and others affected by that conflict, and of the price of peace.
Twenty-two percent said that the date refers to Europe Day, instead, while the remaining 20 percent said that it is a day to commemorate Russian losses in World War Two.
The above refers to all respondents; when broken down by ethnicity, the results differed as might be expected.
Of Estonian respondents, 55 percent said May 9 had no significance to them at all, 27 percent said that it was significant as Europe Day, and 17 percent considered marking the end of World War Two for family reasons in some way important (the remaining 1 percent were presumably undecided).
Of non-Estonian respondents, all other nationalities including Russian respondents, the results were almost the reverse: 65 percent though that May 9 was important in terms of commemorating family and others affected by World War Two, 13 percent found the date related to Europe Day, and 10 percent found it had no significance at all.
Attitudes towards donning the Ribbon of Saint George
The survey also investigate attitudes towards wearing the orange-black Ribbon of Saint George (Georgiyevskaya lentochka).
The ribbon dates back to Imperial Russian times, while the colors are meant to denote fire and gunpowder.
However, it has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years, appearing on May 9 alongside iconography more reminiscent of the Soviet Union – even as the Russian royal family was butchered by the Bolsheviks, having been overthrown earlier by a more democratic, short-lived regime.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine from February last year has put such symbols under scrutiny, and publicly wearing the Ribbon of Saint George was banned in Estonia shortly after the assault began.
Nonetheless, 5 percent of respondents to the survey said they had worn a Ribbon of Saint George on May 9 this year.
Sixteen percent said that while they had worn an orange-black ribbon at some point in the past, they had not done so this year, while 65 percent said that they had never worn one.
There was some regional variation here: The figure for Tallinn was 63 percent among "other ethnicities", meaning predominantly Russian speakers, who had never donned a St. George's ribbon, while in Ida-Viru County, in northeastern Estonia, the figure was lower, at 57 percent, Turu-uuringute says.
Communication between Estonians and Russians
Both Estonian and non-Estonian respondents were asked how frequently they had communicated with one another in any language during the past six months. The answers combine frequencies of "almost every day" with "at least once a week".
Forty percent of Estonian respondents said that they had communicated with a Russian-speaking person during this period, either at work or school.
Conversely, sixty-nine percent of respondents from other nationalities indicated that they had communicated with Estonian speakers.
When asked if they had communicated with a neighbor, in Estonian, Russian, English or any other language, from the opposite group, 15 percent of Estonian respondents said they had done so, compared with 44 percent of respondents from other ethnicities.
When it came to circles of friends, 18 percent of Estonian respondents said they had communicated with a Russian-speaking person from within that group and within the timeframe specified, compared with 31 percent of Russian-speakers who said they had communicated with an Estonian, within that in-group.
Turu-uuringute AS conducted its survey May 18-22.
1,256 Estonian residents aged 15 and above were polled, nationwide.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Urmet Kook