Policy Memos

Caught in Between: Citizenship, Identity, and Young Ethnic Russians in Estonia

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Days after U.S. President Barack Obama’s Moscow summit and just before Vice President Joe Biden’s departure for Ukraine, nearly two dozen former leaders and foreign policy experts from Eastern Europe sent a letter to Obama asking Washington not to “forget” them while it tries to reset relations with Russia. The letter is out of sync with Obama’s recent message that, for instance, “Russia’s future is up to the Russian people” or “Africa’s future is up to Africans.” The same should apply to Eastern European societies. These countries have serious problems, some of which are exacerbated and exploited by Russia, including legacies of foreign occupations, politicization of history, and crushing economic crises. Yet their own governments are in a better position to address many issues than are Obama administration officials in Washington. Focus groups we conducted in March 2009 with young Russian-speaking Estonians suggest that, at least in Estonia, elites should think less about Washington and more about Tallinn. [...]

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Professor of Sociology
University of Wisconsin-Madison