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The causes and possible solutions of the ethnic conflict between Russians and Estonians in Estonia.

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Introduction

The causes and possible solutions of the ethnic conflict between Russians and Estonians in Estonia Extended essay Peace and Conflict Irina Akentjeva 2003 Table of contents Introduction 3 The causes of the ethnic conflict 4 Political reasons 4 Education as a cause of the ethnic conflict 6 The role of the media in excavating the conflict 7 Different forms of conflict 8 Past attempts to solve the conflict 9 Integration through education 9 Political ways of solving the problem 10 Conclusion 12 Bibliography 13 Introduction The population of Estonia is heavily split with only 65 per cent of the population being of Estonian origins and nearly 30 per cent of Russian nationality, the remaining 5 per cent are formed of Jews, Georgians, Ukrainians, etc. Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, there have been severe conflicts between Estonians and the biggest minority - Russians. The conflicts are a part of everybody's life, but the kinds of clash the people are exposed to differ according to age. Youngsters, students at schools and universities, are more often victims of physical violence while older population faces discriminative actions of the government, quiet hostility, and verbal abuse. The roots of the ethnic conflict in Estonia are historical. Estonia, a small country in northern Europe, has been throughout its history under the reign of bigger nationalities: Germany, Sweden, Poland, Denmark, and most recently Russia. Only in 1918 was the independence established; however already in 1939 Estonia was occupied by the Soviet army. The following fifty years were marked by the supremacy of the oppressive communist regime. During this period, several hundred thousand Estonians were deported to Siberia and other peripheral regions of the Union, most of the deportees never returned home. At the same time almost half a million workers from the whole of the Soviet Union, mostly Russia, were forced to migrate to the country, forming a society without unity in nationalities, beliefs or language, diversity resulting in stern conflicts as Estonians considered all Russians to ...read more.

Middle

The role of the media in escalating the conflict Yet another factor fanning the flames of the ethnic conflict is media. Although minorities form a large part of society in Estonia, the Russian media is isolated from Estonian media. This gives rise to subjective articles in both Russian and Estonian newspapers, hence forming stereotypes of the representatives of opposing nation and deepening the disagreement. Thus, Estonian media describes Russians as drug-addicts, criminals and HIV-infected, who are only looking for a chance to bond Estonia to Russia once again. Whenever problems with illegal drugs or AIDS are discussed, pieces in the media focus upon Ida-Virumaa, the northeastern region of the country mostly populated by Russians. This has resulted in the fact that most Estonian adolescents blame Russians for all the problems in Estonia, as can be seen from the comments to such newspaper articles on the Internet: "All Russians should be sent to Siberia, as they sent us. Or even better, let's just shoot them all!"14 Russian media in turn describes Estonians as chauvinistic nationalists, whose only desire is to deport all Russians. Some papers go even further, accusing the government of intentional deterioration of living standards of non-citizens. The Russian media portrays Estonians in general as being narrow-minded and dim. 15 The bigotry of the media becomes extreme when discussing conflicts between Russians and Estonians, such as the street-fights between Russian and Estonian youngsters, which take place every spring. Estonian periodicals usually blame Russian teenagers in being cruel and violent, attacking Estonians without any reason. Russian newspapers in turn write that Estonians instigate the conflicts by attacking Russians on the ground of Russians being communists and followers of Stalin.16 However, during the last year, Russian media has become more objective as many articles are adapted from Estonian periodicals and therefore, as articles are changed from being completely one-sided, more information is added and thus news become more impartial. ...read more.

Conclusion

History courses should be reviewed to ensure objectiveness of facts produced to students. However, even more important is raising impartiality of the teachers by professional training. Another essential change in education concerns the present policy of turning all Russian schools into Estonian-based schools. Ethnic minorities should be able to continue their education in their native language, as this would concede youngsters their heritage and therefore the feeling of security, raising their contentment with Estonia, averting future conflicts. Further action should be taken to incorporate the media, giving Russian media equal opportunities to compete with Estonian media. Cooperation between Russian and Estonian media would improve standards of the information and guarantee more impartiality, consequently improving the relationship between the two biggest nationalities in the country. With the help of media, people can be made aware of each other's cultural differences, important events, and essential problems, and through this, Russians would be accepted as equal part of the society, destroying one of the key causes of the ethnic conflict. However, most difficult but at the same most significant change concerns the constitution, as the laws regarding rights of non-citizens have not been changed since 1993, although they have caused many complaints. Non-citizens should be allowed to have a say in the political life of the state and should be granted all civil rights. Conclusion The ethnic conflict between Russians and Estonians has been a problem in Estonia since the beginning of the Soviet rule, and although the society has changed in many ways since then, the clash of the nations is still one of the biggest concerns. Searching for the responsible group for the conflict, one soon understands that it is impossible to blame anybody. Being caused by the policy of the Soviet Union, the collision has been deepened with following years because of discriminative policy of the new government, education, and isolation of the media. Although many attempts to solve the problem have failed, there are solutions to this situation; however, they require a lot of work and willingness from the both sides involved. ...read more.

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