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Center studying loyalty of young Russians

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PHOTO: Postimees/Scanpix

The International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS) is conducting a survey to determine attitudes of young Russian-speaking people in Estonia towards national defense and security, as well as their loyalty to the state. Executive manager of the center Dmitri Teperik said that some politicians and public figures have speculated at length on young Russians and a potential security risk, whereas there is no reliable data on the subject.

“The main aim of the survey is to map the general knowledge of young Russian-speakers living in Estonia of national defense and security and look into their personal attitudes, understanding, and positions to have reliable data on that age group,” he said.

Teperik said that while the defense ministry procures public opinion polls twice a year, the latter reflect the entire population. The ICDS is specifically interested in the opinion of 15-34-year-olds.

“That is the most active age group. While people are conscripted into compulsory military service until they turn 28, we included people between the ages of 15 and 34,” Teperik said. The questionnaire inquires after matters of national defense and security, attitudes towards conscription, police, Defense Forces, and the Defense League, conflict in Eastern Ukraine, allied presence in Estonia, and media consumption.

“We definitely want to look at the channels they use for information on national defense and security to compare media habits to their attitudes,” Teperik explained.

Students of a Russian high school had to fill out multiple choice questionnaires in national defense class that led to questions among both students and teachers.

A 15-year-old student had to “pick three adjectives that you believe best describe the following organization” from a list. Organizations in question included the defense league, army, voluntary soldiers, and the Defense League.

“I doubt everyone noticed it, while we saw right away that it is the same organization in there twice. However, that is not the point. The most noticeable was the list of adjectives: “trustworthy”, “hostile”, “peaceful”, “pointless”, “patriotic”, “nationalist”, “indifferent”, “suspicious”, and “uniting”,” rus.postimees.ee reported.

Students were also expected to answer questions or comment on sentences like “How do you feel about Estonia's membership in the European Union?”, “Do you believe Russia could pose a real threat to Estonia's security?”, “I support permanent presence of our military allies on Estonian soil...”, “In your opinion, why are our military allies here in Estonia?”.

The questions roused the parents of the 15-year-olds: “Is this how they check our loyalty now?” Director of the Tallinn Humanities High School Luule Kösler – her students also had to fill out the forms – told rus.postimees.ee that she sees no ghost in the forms or the questions within. More so as the questionnaires are anonymous, participation voluntary, and answers free.

The ICDS launched the survey in the closing days of last year and will close it at the end of January. Data processing and analysis will take place in February, with the center hoping to have the results by the Anniversary of the Republic. The center has conducted two similar surveys in 2012 and 2014, while the ongoing study is far more thorough than its predecessors and the range of questions broader. The center plans to question a total of 3,000 young Russian-speakers.

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