so -- starting a new thread for those who have just joined my discussion with my friend @ClarkeMicah, who is right on a lot of things, but not this. The story so far. He contends that it is "indisputable" that Estonia and Latvia have mistreated their "Russian minorities"
For the record, I don't think either country, or indeed any country, is "faultless" on anything. I have criticised all three governments for mistakes over the past nearly-30 years. But I do think the post-1991 language and citizenship laws are broadly correct.
On the whole I favour the underdog, so I'm particularly sympathetic to small countries over big ones, and quiet voices over loud ones, and victims of colonialism over perpetrators. I also think outsiders should be careful about ladling out criticism of places they don't know well
Humility is a good starting point in argument -- I am often wrong and glad to be corrected. I am ultra-cautious about using words like "irrefutable" to buttress arguments just because I personally like them.
1) My starting point is that this is a messy post-colonial problem. There are all sorts of historical injustices caused by the Nazi and Soviet occupations which can't be put right neatly, or even at all.
2) these include, for example, restitution. Who gets what? Is physical property (eg family farms) privileged over financial assets? What happens if looted property has been acquired lawfully in subsequent years?
3) another example is language. These countries experienced intense Russification. Should that be regarded as a done deal, with Estonian and Latvian remaining in the margins of national life (like Welsh or Gaelic)? Or should there be an attempt to restore them?
4) Then there's citizenship and residency. Which colonists/occupiers get to stay. Which get full political rights (citizenship, eligibility for public office)? Are there rules for naturalisation? Is there a "zero-option" where everyone gets citizenship automatically
5) these three are just some of the questions arising for a country which has been colonised or occupied, but where previous statehood is in living memory and has some kind of legal foundation. It wouldn't make sense if we were talking about a newly independent Venice
7) I do not see how one can say that there are simple, #indisputable answers to these questions .One can adopt a strict Kremlin view of the issue, in which nothing before 1991 matters, and all ex-Soviet countries simply seceded from the USSR. That is logical, but contentious.
8) now we move onto the tricky question of defining who we are talking about. Leave aside Lithuania for now, where the population make-up scarcely changed during the Soviet era (and the tricky questions involve Poles and Polish-speakers, not Russians)
9) Assuming that pre-1940 matters at all, there is a fairly clear division between people who were citizens of the pre-war republics (and their descendants) and people who moved to Estonia and Latvia during the Soviet era.
13) One option would be to give them automatic citizenship. But that would be difficult, not least because Russia does not allow dual citizenship. In both countries a slice of the Soviet-era migrant population (henceforce SEMP) chose to adopt Russian citizenship.
14) They are fully entitled to do that (and it does not affect their residency status, access to public services, etc). It has some benefits in easy access to Russia. It can make travel to other countries marginally more difficult
15) So the next question is what about the rest. What (if anything) are the requirements for naturalisation? Estonia and Latvia decided that a basic knowledge of the national language, an oath of loyalty to the country, and a basic knowledge of history were the essential ones
16) the rules have changed (and relaxed) over the years. They will doubtless change again in future. But I think the basic approach is fair. Political rights involve political responsibilities. if people do not identify with a country, or reject outright its right to exist...
21) Moreover, "Russian" is not useful either. As explained above, part of the SEMP instantly chose Russian citizenship and is happy with it. And both Estonia and Latvia had pre-war Russian populations (many refugees from Bolshevism)
24) Another nuance is that in Estonia 60,000 members of the SEMP applied for citizenship _before_1991 by signing up for the pro-Independence Estonian Citizens Committees (which went on to elect the en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congress_…)
25) These people automatically gained citizenship when statehood was restored in 1991. Another nuance: the SEMP is not simply "Russian". As pointed out in a previous thread, it includes people eligible for Ukrainian, Moldovan & other FSU citizenship
29) these people included many well-meaning international observers. They said that the approach was discriminatory and counter-productive. It would alienate the SEMP and lead to weak divided countries which would be prey for Russian meddling
30) actually the opposite happened. Large numbers of people in both countries from the SEMP acquired citizenship (50,000 in Latvia since 2002). Some of those that did not cited good reasons -- for example not wanting to do obligatory military service.
31) Contrary to some expectations, SEMP members have not emigrated to Russia. However Russians continue to emigrate to Estonia and Latvia, chiefly in search of political freedoms and higher living standards