Social entrepreneur Rasmus Rask, who was named Estonia's 2017 Citizen of the Year on Monday, recommends granting Estonian citizenship to all stateless so-called "gray passport" holders.
"It seems to me that in modern Estonia, it is a totally pointless burden from Soviet Estonia or the Soviet Union that we continue to carry with us," Rask said regarding the country's stateless citizens on Vikerraadio's morning program.
Rask said he understood that when the Constitution was drawn up in 1991 and ratified in 1992, the situation was completely different.
"But when I look at [Kalamaja] Open School, for example, Estonian and Russian children learn side by side there, the latter of whom have parents and grandparents of Russian background," he noted. "True, I don't know exactly how many of them do not have citizenship, but the current situation seems to me like dividing people into two classes — some are 'true' Estonians and others aren't."
According to Rask, young ethnic Russians are capable of learning the Estonian language — proficiency in which is a requirement for earning Estonian citizenship — but this is a much more difficult issue for the elderly, which means that the latter end up not taking the language proficiency exam or applying for Estonian citizenship.
"I believe that the Estonian state is mature enough today to make a gesture and grant citizenship to those whose homes are in Estonia but who are unable to pass the language proficiency exam," Rask concluded.
As of the beginning of 2017, nearly 82,300 stateless citizens, or holders of gray alien's passports, were living in Estonia.
Editor: Aili Vahtla