DANIIL MARTIKAINEN-JARLUKOVSKI More than two-thirds of Russian citizens voted for Putin in Estonia

Daniil Martikainen-Jarlukovski
, University of Tartu student
Russian presidential election in Tallinn.
Russian presidential election in Tallinn. Photo: Indrek Meltsas

The Russian elections showed the failure of the integration policy, University of Tartu student and political observer Daniil Martikainen-Jarlukovski writes.

On Sunday, a large number of people in Tallinn voted for Vladimir Putin. Despite all attempts to integrate, many pro-Russian people remain in Estonia. The state should act to better resist Russian propaganda and influence. The election results in Tallinn are another reason why Russian citizens should not participate in local government elections.

I was there myself

I came to the Russian embassy at 12 p.m. on Sunday to take part in a protest action. Of course, I am not allowed to enter the embassy or vote, but fortunately, expressing my opinion publicly is allowed in Estonia. The purpose of the «Noon against Putin» event was to get together and not vote, everyone knows who will win by a large margin. However, the meeting provided an opportunity to find like-minded people and protest, both in Russia and outside.

By the fence surrounding the embassy, there was talk that Russia should be free, that Ukraine needs our help, and that the regime must be held accountable for its actions. There was also an activist supporting the idea of an independent Ingria, after whose speech there were shouts that Ingria will be free. I got to know quite a few participants and it turned out that we all have one thing in common – we came here as adults from Russia. In the queue to vote, there were a lot of local Russian citizens who did not join us, because there are immense differences between us.

Only 63.5 percent of the population participated in the Riigikogu elections last year, and that in a free society.

While the people standing at the embassy with white-blue-white flags came to protest against Putin, the local community came to support him instead. This cannot be understated in any way. Voting is, after all, a big deal. If you want to vote, you must give up part of your free day, find your document and go outside in horrible weather. In many cases, it is also necessary to travel to another city, i.e. Tallinn, the opportunity to vote was not offered elsewhere in Estonia. Only 63.5 percent of the population took part in the Riigikogu elections last year, in a free society where people's votes actually count and where you can vote from the comfort of your home.

Despite the weather, the pro-Russian people came out and, of course, did not believe that anyone could be against Russia. Both the participants and the journalists covering the event learned that all those protesting against the regime and the war are idiots, getting paid by someone and fooling the people here. A Rus.Postimees journalist even got scolded by one particularly active disciple of the Russian world, because they tried to interview them. So much for politeness and willingness to justify one’s point of view.

Activists organized an exit poll by the embassy, hoping to get a more realistic and objective result compared to the statistics sent out by the government. According to its results, only 8 percent of people voted for Putin. One might already shout with joy, praise one another and shake hands, because look, so few fans of the dictatorship, the integration worked. But it would be too early to do so, as 64 percent of people opted out of participating.

Failed integration

I saw what was happening with my own eyes, the activists didn't even get to ask some people questions before they ran away. That these 64 percent are big fans of voting, who believe that because of the secrecy of the vote, they must not tell anyone anything about their ballot, is not at all believable. That people, who couldn’t be bothered to talk to journalists and insulted protesters, couldn’t be bothered to publicly admit their views is significantly more believable.

We can safely assume that more than half of the participants cast their vote for Vladimir Putin's fifth term. It is now the third year of the war and news of new bombings, crimes and casualties reach us almost every day. Nevertheless, these news have not changed the opinion of local Russian citizens. Even though the broadcasting of Russian propaganda was banned, they find ways to consume the propaganda they like.

Estonia partially slowed its spread, but its influence still persists. In the meantime, the counterargument is that, well, all those pro-Russian people are old, and the younger generations are not so bad at all. Partly true, the younger generations are not that bad at all. However, medical developments should not be ignored.

A 65-year-old Putin supporter will be able to vote in both Russian and Estonian elections for a few more decades, and maybe do something worse, like funding the Russian army. These people have not integrated into Estonian society, they likely have no desire to integrate and instead have a grudge against independent Estonia, its nation and culture.

Even in Estonia, where there are many oppositionists from Russia and even more arguments why no one should support Russia, more than two-thirds of Russian citizens voted for Putin. In light of these results, Estonians and all Estonian citizens should ask themselves again: «Do we want these people to vote in our local government elections and choose the persons leading our country?»