Estonia and Russia
- Diplomatic Realtions
- Visits and Meetings
- Border Treaty
- Economic Relations
- Cultural Relations
- Estonian cultural treasures in Russia
- Estonians in Russia
On 2 February 1920, Estonia and Russia (then the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic) signed the Tartu Peace Treaty by which Russia recognised the independence of the Republic of Estonia.
The following were the Estonian Ambassadors in Moscow during the inter-war period:
1921-1922 – Tõnis Vares
1922-1926 – Ado Birk
1926-1928 – Heinrich Laretei
1928-1933 – Julius Seljamaa
1933-1936 – Karl Tofer
1936-1937 – August Traksmaa
1938-1940 – August Rei
Russia re-recognised the Republic of Estonia on 24 August 1991. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were restored on 24 October 1991. The first ambassador of the restored Republic of Estonian to Russia, Jüri Kahn, presented his credentials in February 1992. He was followed by Mart Helme (1995-1999), Tiit Matsulevitš (1999-2001), Karin Jaani (2001-2005) , Marina Kaljurand (2005-2008), and Simmu Tiik (2008-2012). The current Estonian ambassador to Russia Jüri Luik presented his credentials on 24 January 2013.
The first ambassador of the Russian Federation to the restored Republic of Estonia Aleksandr Trofimov presented his credentials on 9 September 1992. He was succeeded by Aleksei Glukhov (1997-2000), Konstantin Provalov (2001-2006), and Nikolai Uspenski (2006-2009). The current Russian ambassador to Estonia, Juri Merzljakov, presented his credentials on 28 October 2010.
In addition to the Embassy in Moscow, there is a Consulate General in St. Petersburg and a Chancellery of the Consulate General in Pskov. Russia has, in addition to its embassy in Tallinn, a Consulate General in Narva and a consular section for visas in Tartu.
Estonia’s goal is to develop good neighbourly relations with Russia that are useful to both sides. Bilateral relations with Russia overlap with NATO and the European Union’s multi-faceted efforts to establish mutually beneficial partnership relations with Russia. In bilateral relations as well as on the regional level and in international organisations, Estonia is seeking opportunities to promote practical co-operation that is beneficial to the citizens of both countries.
In order to advance our bilateral relations, in recent years Estonia-Russia co-operation has been focused on resolving practical issues. In this vein, one should highlight the progress that has been made in developing the treaty base between the two countries. On 24 April 2012 a document making changes to the 2002 agreement regulating Estonia-Russia border points was signed. With the exchange of ratification letters for the Estonia-Russia pension agreement on 2 March 2012, an agreement that is important for residents of both countries came into effect. On 28 November 2011 the implementation protocol for the readmission agreement between the countries came into effect. In addition, consultations and negotiations are being held for many other bilateral agreements.
In order to further develop EU-Russia relations, we have decided to move forward in the European Union with negotiations for a new EU-Russia agreement. Until the new EU-Russia agreement comes into effect, relations will be based upon the EU-Russia Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA) of 1997 and the four common spaces agreed upon in May 2005: economic space, space of freedom, security and justice, space of co-operation in the field of external security, and space of research and education.
|Visits to Russia|
|January 2013||Auditor General Mihkel Oviir and representatives of various Estonian institutions met in St. Petersburg with Head of the Russian Account Chamber Stepashin and a delegation of Russian officials.|
|December 2012||Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts, who was in Moscow for a meeting of the transportation ministers of the Baltic Sea region countries, met with Russian Minister of Transport Sokolov, Minister of Communication and Mass Media Nikiforov, and presidential advisor on the topic of transportation Levitin.|
|October 2012||Minister of Agriculture Helir-Valdor Seeder visited the agricultural exhibit “Golden Fall” in Moscow and met with Russian Minister of Agriculture Nikolai Fjodorov.|
|August 2012||Deputy Riigikogu Chairman Laine Randjärv and member of Riigikogu Aadu Must participated in a parliamentary conference of the Baltic Sea states in St. Petersburg.|
|May 2012||Chairman of the Riigikogu foreign affairs commission Marko Mihkelson met with chairman of the foreign affairs commission of the Russian Duma Aleksei Pushkov in Moscow.|
|April 2012||Minister of Culture Rein Lang met in Moscow with Deputy Minister of Culture Pavel Horoshilov and signed the Estonia-Russia cultural programme for 2012-2014|
|October 2011||During his visit to Moscow, Minister of Agriculture Helir-Valdor Seeder visited the agricultural exhibit “Golden Fall” and met with Russian Minister of Agriculture Yelena Skrynnik. This was the first meeting between ministers of agriculture since Estonia regained independence.|
|September 2011||Minister of Regional Affairs Siim Valmar Kiisler participated in the cross-border co-operation conference in Kaliningrad, within the framework of which he met with Russian Minister for Regional Development Viktor Basargin|
|February 2011||President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet, and Minister of Culture Laine Jänes participated with the opening of St. John’s Church in St. Petersburg|
|September 2010||Minister of Regional Affairs Siim Valmar Kiisler met Russian Minister for Regional Development Viktor Basargin|
|May 2010||Minister of Culture Laine Jänes met Deputy Minister of Culture Andrei Busygin in St. Petersburg|
|May 2010||President Toomas Hendrik Ilves took part in 9 May festivities in Moscow along with other heads of state and government|
|October 2009||Minister of Culture Laine Jänes met with Russian Minister of Culture Aleksandr Avdejev in Moscow|
|September 2009||Minister for Regional Affairs Siim Valmar Kiisler met with Russian Minister for Regional Affairs Viktor Basargini in St. Petersburg|
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet met with Governor of St. Petersburg
|December 2008||Foreign Minister Urmas Paet met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov within the framework of the OSCE ministerial|
|December 2008||Foreign Minister Urmas Paet participated in the funeral of Patriarch Alexiy II of Moscow and All Russia|
|October 2008||Foreign Minister Urmas Paet met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov within the framework of the meeting of Northern Dimension foreign ministers|
|June 2008||President Toomas Hendrik Ilves attended the V World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples in Khanty-Mansiisk and met with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev|
|June 2008||Minister of Economics and Communications Juhan Parts met with Russian Minister of Transport Igor Levitin at the XII Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum|
|March 2008||Foreign Minister Urmas Paet met with Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov in Moscow within the framework of the celebration of the 90th anniversary of the Estonian Republic|
|October 2007||Foreign Minister Urmas Paet met with Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Vladimir Titov in Moscow|
|June 2007||In the framework of XI International Economic Forum in St.Petersburg the Minister of Economics and Communications Juhan Parts discussed bilateral economic issues with the Minister of Economics and Trade German Gref|
|Visits to Estonia|
|December 2012||Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov met with Foreign Minister Urmas Paet within the framework of Estonia-Russia border consultations.|
|November 2012||Chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian Federation Council Mikhail Margelov met with Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and the Riigikogu foreign affairs commission|
|July 2012||Meeting of delegations led by chairman of the Riigikogu foreign affairs commission Marko Mihkelson and chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian Federation Council Mikhail Margelov in South Estonia and Pskov.|
|March 2012||Chairman of the Russian Accounts Office Sergei Stepashin met with Auditor General Mihkel Oviir in Estonia and in Ivangorod on the Russian side; they signed the documents on the overlapping results of two parallel audits carried out through the co-operation of the highest auditing authority of each country.|
|February 2011||Russian Minister for Regional Development Viktor Basargin met in Tallinn with Estonian Minister of Regional Affairs Siim Valmar Kiisler|
|June 2010||Chairman of the Russian Accounts Office Sergei Stepashin met Riigikogu President Ene Ergma, Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts and Auditor General Mihkel Oviir|
|November 2009||Director of the Russian Federal Narcotics Control Service Viktor Ivanov met with Minister of the Interior Marko Pomerants and with Minister of Finance Jürgen Ligi in Tallinn|
|July 2009||Head of the Russian Federation Border Guard Service Vladimir Pronichev met Minister of the Interior Marko Pomerants and Director General of the Border Guard Administration Roland Peets in Tallinn|
|January 2009||Russian Minister of Culture Aleksandr Avdejev and Estonian Minister of Culture Laine Jänes signed the Estonia-Russia cultural co-operation programme for 2009-2011 in Tallinn|
|January 2008||Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov met with Foreign Minister Urmas Paet in Tallinn within the framework of Estonia-Russia political consultations|
Other important meetings
- In November 2012 Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev met within the framework of an ASEM meeting in Laos.
- In October 2012 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov within the framework of a meeting between the EU and Russian foreign ministers.
- In June 2011 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov within the framework of the meeting of the foreign ministers of Council of the Baltic Sea States.
- In May 2010 Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts met Russian Minister of Transport Igor Levitin in Leipzig, Germany
- In June 2009 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov within the framework of the meeting of the foreign ministers of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) in Elsinore, Denmark
- In December 2008 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov within the framework of the meeting of the foreign minister of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
- In June 2007 in the framework of the Council of the Baltic Sea States in Malmö Foreign Minister Urmas Paet met with Russia`s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
- In December 2005 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet met in Ljubljana in the framework of OSCE foreign ministers meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
- In December 2004 Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland met in Brussels in the framework of NATO foreign ministers meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
- In June 2003 Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland met with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in the framework of the meeting of the Council of Baltic Sea States in Pori
There are nearly 30 bilateral agreements currently in effect between Estonia and Russia.
- Agreement on Aviation (came into force 30 Aug 2000);
- Agreement on International Highway Transport (came into force 26 Mar 2001);
- Protocol on Concerning the Agreement on Legal Aid and Legal Relations in Civil, Family and Criminal Cases (came into force 25 May 2002);
- Agreement on the Passage Points for Crossing the Estonian-Russian Frontier (came into force 25 Jun 2002); changes were made to the original agreement (updated version signed 24 April 2012)
- A co-operation agreement in the areas of culture and mass communication between the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Estonia and the Ministry of Culture and Mass Communication of the Russian Federation (came into force 10.02.08)
- Co-operation agreement between the Co-operation Board of the Republic of Estonia and the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (came into force 02.09.2009)
- Agreement between the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Estonia and the Russian Federal Narcotics Control Service for co-operation in fighting against the illicit traffic and use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances (came into force 26.11.2009)
- Additional co-operation protocol between the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Estonia and the Russian Federal Narcotics Control Service to intensify the fight against narcotics crime (signed 25.11.2009)
- Implementation protocol for Estonia-Russia Readmission Agreement (came into force 28 November 2011)
- Estonia-Russia Pension Insurance Co-operation Agreement (letters of ratification exchanged 2 March 2012)
The border treaties and their annexes were first initialled in November 1996. Following Russia's request to add a few small technical corrections to the treaty, the leaders of the Estonian and Russian border treaty negotiation delegations, Raul Mälk and Ludvig Chizhov, signed the Estonia-Russia border treaties once more in St. Petersburg on 5 March 1999. The border treaties were signed by the foreign ministers of both countries on 18 May 2005 in Moscow. The Riigikogu ratified the treaties on 20 June and the President of Estonia proclaimed the treaties on 22 June 2005.
On 6 September 2005 the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that Russia did not intend to become a party to the Estonia-Russia border treaties, citing the preamble added to the Riigikogu act for ratifying the border treaties as the reason. Russia stated that it did not consider itself bound by the circumstances concerning the object and the purposes of the treaties.
On 7 October 2012 the Riigikogu foreign affairs committee together with representatives of all Riigikogu fractions made a proposal to the government to begin consultations with Russia in order to conclude a border treaty that satisfies both sides. During a discussion in Luxembourg on 14 October 2012 between Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, both sides agreed to carry out consultations with the goal of finding an opportunity to bring the border treaty into force. Three rounds of consultations took place: on 31 October 2012 in Moscow, 18 December 2012 in Tallinn, and 8 May 2013 in Moscow. Estonia has been represented at the consultations by Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Lauri Bambus and Ambassador Jüri Luik. During the last round of consultations in Moscow, both sides reached an agreement to revise certain points in the 2005 agreement on land and maritime borders, adding to the treaty confirmation of the fact that neither side has any territorial demands and establishing that the land border treaty will be used, without exception, to regulate matters regarding the land border. After the Riigikogu foreign affairs committee announced the results of the consultations, the Foreign Ministry began domestic proceedings to approve the text of the new border treaty. On 23 May 2013 the Estonian government approved the draft of the updated Estonia-Russia border treaty and the draft of the treaty defining the sea areas of Narva and the Gulf of Finland. The updated treaties will be signed by the foreign minister, after which the treaties must be ratified by the parliaments of Estonia and Russia.
Estonia’s membership in the EU creates a solid basis for the more rapid development of Estonian-Russian trade and economic relations. Since 1 May 2004, Estonia has been a part of the single European trade policy. On 1 May, the PCA (Partnership and Co-operation Agreement) that regulates foreign trade as well as transit, the protection of intellectual property, and the harmonisation of legislation in the EU and Russia came into force in Estonia.
Estonia is a participant in EU-Russian economic co-operation and participates in multiple working groups and councils that develop directions for this co-operation. New bases for the development of economic relations vis-à-vis Russia are also provided by the implementation of the principles of the agreement between the European Union and Russia on the four common spaces, particularly the economic space, signed on 10 May 2005 in Moscow.
The transparency and predictability of economic relations between Russia and Estonia, as well as the EU in general, are increasing greatly as Russian makes progress towards acceding to the World Trade Organisation. In the 8th WTO Ministerial from 15-17 December 2011, the final decision to accept Russia as a member was passed. Instead of the typical 6 months, Russia has 220 days to ratify, therefore domestic proceedings in Russia should be completed by the end of July 2012 at the latest. Thirty days after the ratification is announced to the WTO, Russia will officially become a full member of the World Trade Organisation (end of August 2012 at the latest).
Estonia-Russia trade gained momentum when the EU-Russia PCA was expanded by Russia to include new member states in 2004, thus ending Russia’s double taxation of Estonian goods. As an EU member state, many questions that come up regarding trade with Russia are resolved by the European Commission.
In terms of Estonia’s total trade turnover, Russia remains among Estonia’s top five trade partners. After the economic crisis trade with Russia grew at a higher than average rate, and as of 2011 Russia has risen to third place both among Estonia’s export partners and in terms of total trade turnover. In 2011 trade with Russia made up 9.6% of Estonia’s total trade.
Estonian-Russian trade 2000-2011 (millions of EUR):
All economic figures originate from the Statistical Office of Estonia
Main articles of export in 2011:
- Machinery and equipment, electrical equipment (37% of total exports)
- Chemical products (14.7%)
- Prepared food products, beverages, and alcoholic beverages (8.9%)
- Livestock, animal products (6.1%)
- Transportation vehicles (4.9%)
Main articles of import in 2011:
- Mineral products (70.7% of total imports)
- Wood and wood products (9.3%)
- Chemical products (5.9%)
- Metal and metal products (5.8%)
As of 31 December 2011, direct investments from Russia into Estonia amounted to approximately 521.14 million euros (in 4th place trailing the investments sums of Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands in Estonia). Direct investments from Estonia into Russia as of that same date totalled 276.69 million euros (in 5th place following Estonia’s investments into Lithuania, Latvia, Cyprus and Finland).
In 2011 the number of Russian tourists rose by about 43% compared with 2010. The relative importance of Russian tourists among the total number of people who were accommodated in Estonia placed Russia in 2nd place after Finland. Russia also ranked in 2nd place as a destination for Estonians after Finland.
Estonia-Russia cross-border co-operation got an important jump-start thanks to EU programmes (for example, the Phare Cross-border Co-operation programme and the Baltic Region INTERREG IIIB programme). Co-operation with partners in Russia continues within the framework of the new European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument programme (ENPI) for Estonian-Latvian-Russian cross-border co-operation, for which the first round of applications took place in fall of 2010 and the second at the end of 2011. Joint projects will start to be implemented in eligible areas in sectors such as social and economic development with a focus on small and medium-sized businesses, business and trade, transportation, information and communication technology, technology in general, research, and tourism. The eligible regions will set out to resolve common problems that are tied to the environment, nature conservation, renewable energy, culture, and protecting cultural heritage. In the projects that involve civil society and the undertakings in the cultural, educational, health care and sports sectors, special attention will be paid to co-operation between people. Thus far developments in the co-operation programme (ENPI for Estonian-Latvian-Russian CBC) have been very positive. In 2011 all four applications for large-scale Estonia-Russia projects (for example reconstructing the Narva-Ivangorod border crossing point; renovating the Narva and Ivangorod fortresses, etc.) were approved by the European Commission. Estonia would like to see this productive and successful programme continued in the next EU financial framework. Information about the programme can be found from the homepage of the Ministry of the Interior and the programme’s homepage www.estlatrus.eu.
Estonia has extensive ties with its close neighbours Pskov, Leningrad, and Novgorod oblast, as well as St. Petersburg, which helps to expand the zone of stability and well-being with our close neighbours. Assorted co-operation agreements have been signed between many Estonian and Russian municipal governments: Narva and Ivangorod; Tartu and Pskov; the city of Tartu and the region of Vassileostrovski; Mustvee and Oudova; Mustvee, Kohtla-Järve and Pihkva; the city of Kohtla-Järve and the region of Slantsy; Kohtla-Järve and Veliki Novgorod; and Jõhvi township and the town of Kingisepp. Co-operation takes place in education, culture, city planning, tourism, economic development, and many other areas.
Estonia’s Setomaa Townships Association and the district of Petseri in Russia promote projects based on local cultural traditions in Setomaa, in order to preserve and strengthen the Seto cultural identity in both Estonia and in Russia.
The Peipsi Center for Transboundary Co-operation is very active, and its projects involving border regions have been supported by the European Union, the UN Development Programme, the Nordic Council of Ministers, the USA, Denmark, Sweden, and others.
Cultural contacts between Estonia and Russia are intensive and thriving, free of complications. There is even a noteworthy institutional framework created for this purpose. The cultural ministries of the Republic of Estonia and the Russian Federation signed a co-operation agreement back in 1992, which is solidified through co-operation programmes.
On 10 February 2008 Estonian Minister of Culture Laine Jänes (now Randjärv) and Russian Minister of Culture Aleksander Sokolov signed a co-operation agreement in the areas of culture and mass communication in Moscow. The cultural co-operation programme for the years 2012-2014 was signed by Deputy Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation Pavel Horoshilov and Minister of Culture of the Republic of Estonia Rein Lang on 16 April 2012.
Estonia has had a cultural attaché in Moscow since 2006. Andra Veidemann was in this position until 2008. Starting in February 2009, Helene Tedre has been the cultural attaché in Moscow.
The ceremonial re-opening of St. John’s Church in St. Petersburg, which played an important role in Estonia’s history and cultural history, took place on 20 February 2011. President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet, and Minister of Culture Laine Jänes all participated in the opening. Reconstruction work on St. John’s Church in St. Petersburg began in March 2009 and through the course of the works the church, which has been used for secular purposes for 80 years, had its original appearance and function restored. After its re-opening, the church has actively been used for concerts by the Eesti Kontsert organisation. In addition, exhibits are organised there and regular church services are also held.
Events in many other areas helped to make the year 2011 a successful year for culture. Very active co-operation took place in the field of theatre. In October the theatre festival “Golden Mask Estonia” was held for the 7th time, during which the Estonian public saw performances by the best Russian theatres while audiences in Moscow saw productions by Estonian theatres. Russian opera theatres are frequent guests at the Saaremaa Opera Days and the St. Birgitta Festival in Tallinn. The Tallinn City Theatre participated in the Perm theatre festival “The Director’s Space”.
The representative exhibit “Pavel Filonov and the Russian Avante-garde”, organised in co-operation with the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, was displayed in KUMU Art Museum.
For the first time in decades it was possible to become acquainted with contemporary Estonian architecture in Moscow, through the Estonian architecture exhibit “Boom. Room. New Estonian Architecture” at the Shchusev State Museum of Architecture from 21 June- 19 August. Equally important was another event, the likes of which had not taken place in Russia in decades: an Estonian animated film festival called “MultfEst” was held from 10-16 October at the Hudojestvennaya Cinema in Moscow. Ninety animated and puppet films were screened. Another important event was the exhibit of Estonian book illustrations at the Russian Library for Foreign Literature. The run of the exhibit, which included works by 15 illustrators, was extended by 10 days because of overwhelming interest from the public.
Other highlights to be mentioned are frequent performances by Estonian jazz musicians in Moscow, Yaroslavl, Tula, Oryol, St. Petersburg, Dubna, and other cities. In certain circles Estonian jazz has become a very strong brand, and what makes it particularly exciting is that the more innovative trends tend to be the most popular. Art exhibits, classical music concerts, and film screenings were held and Estonia actively participated in the Europe Days organised by the European Commission in Perm, Kazan, Rostov, and St. Petersburg. In addition, Estonian literature was introduced, Estonia participated in folklore festivals, and a photo exhibit on Estonian Old Believers delighted viewers in Kazan, Moscow, Perm and St. Petersburg. The Russian premier of Tõnu Kõrvits’s “Safra” was heard in the hall of the Moscow Conservatory along with music by Urmas Sisask, Lepo Sumera, and Arvo Pärt.
2010 was also a productive year for Estonia-Russia cultural relations. This includes events on a high level, such as when Minister of Culture Laine Jänes met with Russian Deputy Minister of Culture Andrei Busygin in St. Petersburg.
Many exhibits introducing Estonia and Estonian culture were opened in various places across Russia in addition to Moscow. Some exhibits that became very popular were the display “Contemporary Estonian Textile Art” in Krasnoyarsk and Achinsk as well as the exhibit of Estonian book illustrations in Kolomna and Karsnoarmeisk. In April a new permanent exhibit was added to the A.H. Tammsaare Museum in Esto-Sadok in the Caucasus.
Within the framework of Europe Days, Estonia was introduced in many cities: Kazan, Stavropol, and Perm. A photo exhibit about Estonian Old Believers by Annika Haas, Birgit Püve and Age Peterson entitled “Причудье, Revisited” was opened in Perm. One of the main speakers at the debate entitled “Educational problems against a backdrop of globalisation and regional development” at Kazan State University was vice rector of Tartu University Birute Klaas. Among other events, one that stands out is the celebration of General Laidoner’s birthday in the city of Vladimir in February.
In the field of literature a notable event was the unveiling of Juri Lotman’s books «Чему учатся люди» and “The Unforeseen Mechanisms of Culture” in Moscow (the latter work also in St. Petersburg). In 2010 a complete five-volume Estonian-Russian dictionary was published, which was unveiled in the oval room of the Russian State Library for Foreign Literature.
The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir’s concert in the main hall of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic proved very successful. Warm responses were also received by Marko Matvere’s performance “Theatre Journal” at the Moscow Actors’ House and the concert by vocal ensemble Vox Clamantis and organist Aare-Paul Lattik in the Moscow Roman Catholic Church.
For more information you can read the essay “The ice has started to move, my sworn gentlemen (or maybe it has never stopped moving at all”, which Helene Tedre, counsellor of cultural affairs at the Estonian Embassy in Moscow, wrote about Estonian cultural life in Russia (published in the Foreign Ministry Yearbook 2011).
When it became a member of the Council of Europe in 1996, one of the responsibilities Russia accepted was to return cultural treasures in Russia that belonged to other Council of Europe members to their rightful owner. Cultural treasures from Estonia were mostly taken into Russia during the First and Second World Wars and during the Soviet occupation starting in 1944. Estonian cultural treasures currently held in Russia include the University of Tartu’s Morgenstern collection (in Voronezh), the property of the Estonian Post Museum (Communications Museum in St. Petersburg), and the badge of office of the President of the Republic of Estonia (Armoury in Moscow). As per the State Chancellery’s request, a new highest national decoration was completed in February 2008 on the basis of the 1936 design—the Order of the National Coat of Arms Special Class Collar. When the new decoration was finished, the old presidential badge that was in Moscow became a museum piece.
An agreement on co-operation in preserving cultural treasures has been concluded between the governments of the Republic of Estonia and the Russian Federation (4 December 1998). A co-operation protocol has also been signed between the University of Tartu and the Art Museum of the Voronezh Oblast. From 15-16 September 2000 an international restitution conference took place at the University of Tartu that was primarily dedicated to the Morgenstern collection located in Voronezh, and it included the participation of representatives from Ukraine, Germany, Poland, Latvia and UNESCO. The co-operation protocol between the University of Tartu and the Art Museum of the Voronezh Oblast, signed in 2001, prescribed free access to the works of art and a joint compiling of the universities’ catalogue of art treasures. As of today, a major part of the university's treasures have been identified. As a joint project of the Art Museum of the University of Tartu and the Voronezh Art Museum as well as the Estonian and Russian ministries of culture, the first volume of the catalogue of art treasures originating from the University of Tartu and now located in Voronezh was ready in August 2006 (it covers most of the art collection). There are plans to release a second edition of the catalogue, which would include the coin collection.
There are several distinct periods of Estonian emigration to Russia. Until the middle of the 19th century there was early spontaneous short-distance emigration, primarily to the regions of St. Petersburg, Pskov and Novgorod. Massive emigration was inspired from 1855-1905 by the Russian Empire’s policy to colonise uninhabited but fertile areas of land. The years 1906-1914/1917 are characterised by so-called “Stolypin-esque” organised emigration, during which Siberia’s popularity as a destination for emigration grew and the government began to direct and facilitate emigration within the framework of Peter Stolypin’s agrarian policy.
The declaration of Estonia’s statehood brought about the first great wave of Estonians returning to Estonia. There were other reasons for the decrease in the eastern diasporas as well—Stalinist oppression, the eradication of rich farmers, and mobilisation during World War II. After the Second World War the eastern diasporas continued to decline despite the fact that large new groups of Estonians were arriving (mostly compulsorily).
The biggest Estonian communities formed in the regions of St. Petersburg, where the 2002 census found 2226 Estonians, Leningrad oblast (1409 Estonians), and Moscow (1244). The Siberian communities are generally small. The two biggest Estonian village communities (Upper Suetuk and Haidak) are located in Krasnoyark Krai, and each of them had about 200 inhabitants in 2008, mostly Estonians. There are also smaller villages and Krasnoyarsk. In Novosibirsk oblast, the most Estonian can be found in the village of Nikolayevka (Kyshtovski region). In Tomsk oblast, where Estonians are one of the largest ethnic populations, they are mostly found in Kaseküla (Beryozovka) and Liliengof (Pervomaisk region). These are settlements that were formed during Stolypin’s reforms, and about 500 Estonians live in them. There is also a relatively large amount of Estonians in Omsk oblast; the largest Estonian community is Lilliküla or Lileika, in the Sedelnokovo region. There are also about 10 smaller villages.
Regardless of the fact that Russian Estonians have decreased in number, we have managed to preserve our language and culture. In the 1990s ethnic societies in Russia were revived, and in larger communities Estonians organised their own cultural societies (St. Petersburg, Moscow, Arkhangelsk, Kalinin, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Cherepovets, Zavodad). In March 1998 the societies united into the non-profit organisation Union of Russian Estonian Societies (Venemaa Eesti Seltside Liit, VESL) to facilitate contacts and relationships among the groups. The newspaper “Peterburi Teataja” (“St. Petersburg Informer”), which was established in 1908, is now being published again and reports on the activities of Estonians all over Russia. Since 1994 the congregation of the St. John’s Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church has also been active again.
More information: Estonians in Russia
Estonian Language Instruction in Russia
At the moment, there is only one general education school in Russia with an intensive Estonian programme—Pechory Linguistic Upper Secondary School (formerly Pechory’s II Secondary School), where an Estonian language teacher assigned by the Republic of Estonia’s Ministry of Education and Research has worked since 2002. There were 158 students in Pechory’s II secondary school for the 2011-2012 academic year. There is also a teacher appointed by Estonia working in the Upper-Suetuk grammar school in Krasnoyarsk krai. There has been an Estonian lecturer working at St. Petersburg University since the 2002-2003 academic year, and in fall of 2007 the school began offering the opportunity to specialize in the Estonian language. During the fall semester of the 2008/2009 academic year, Tartu University sent an Estonian lecturer to Moscow State University within the framework of the Academic Studies of Estonian Language and Culture Abroad Programme and with the co-operation of the Ministry of Education and Research.
The Estonian language is also taught in the St. Petersburg Estonian Association, the Moscow Estonian Association, the Cherepovets Estonian Association, and the Krasnoyarsk Estonian Cultural Association “Eesti”. Locally supported Estonian language instruction takes place at the Pskov Volny Institute, the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Mari State University, and the Scandinavian school in Moscow. The Estonian Ministry of Education and Research supports Estonian language learning in Russia through the Estonian Institute, with Estonian language instructional books. In co-operation with the Estonian Mother Tongue Society, the Ministry of Education and Research has organised regular Estonian language days in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Children of Estonian descent in Russia have had the chance during the last few years to attend Estonian language camps during the summer, and this experience inspires many of them to incorporate Estonia into their plans for the future. In addition, there is an “Estonians Abroad” programme university scholarship that allows students with an Estonian background in the Russian Federation to continue their higher education in the Estonian education system. During the 2011-2012 academic year there were 13 students from the Russian Federation studying in Estonia with the support of these scholarships.