Editorial: the glass looks half full, rather

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Photo: Urmas Nemvalts

For the most part, «integration» assumes a critical tone when pronounced in public space of Estonia. In studies, and real life especially, we see the desired processes actually in motion. Yep, not fast enough, perhaps. Sure, there’s steps to be taken, and some perhaps to avoid.

Broadly, this is what we read in a fresh «Estonian Integration Monitoring 2015». No doubt, some single data may again be pulled out, claiming all is wrong that we do with regained independence. Overwhelmingly, however, that’s the voice of mere bitterness regarding all and everything, currently characteristic of Estonia.

Even so, it takes no starry eyed optimist to see the glass is half full and not half empty. Increasingly, while living in an open society and better at speaking Estonian, the Russian youths are obviously having an altered attitude. Remarkably, two thirds of Russian-speaking respondents say that knowing Estonian adds trust between the nationalities – compared to seven years back, this is twice as high.

Regarding the identity of homeland – understanding the nation state notion – we see the strong correlation with command of language and citizenship. As expected, even here the younger generation of Russians-in-Estonia have a much higher level of trust towards state institutions.

The trouble spot is Ida-Virumaa, from where the Estonian population has left and is leaving. Therefore, the Russian-speaking youth are leaving as well, and the Russian language and attitudes increase in dominance. Here, the state will need to forcefully intervene – as underlined by a growing chorus of Estonians formerly living and working in Ida-Virumaa. Despite the fact that, as independence was regained, in the early years Ida-Virumaa was very much in the focus with the occasional success.

The best – and positive – overall picture is still in the everydayness of Estonia. This week, the entire Estonian-speaking (and no doubt Estonian-minded) public was heartily with our national team taking European silver medals at epee fencing. Think a bit: what was the nationality-composition of said teams? This Tuesday, Estonian footballers demolished Finland 2:0 in a friendly. There to see it happen, on Finnish soil (!), happy little hordes of countrymen were singing the praises of a team half full of Russian-speaking Estonians.  

In a society, demographic and structural changes are slow – inevitably. So: fear not, only believe. Let’s stay the course and not mess up.