Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 193

Ethnic Russian villagers in an area of Russia seized from Estonia are applying for Estonian passports, according to the Moscow daily “Segodnya.” The phenomenon is reported from at least two villages in Petseri district, annexed to the Russian Federation and renamed Pechory following the Soviet occupation of Estonia. Residents of those villages now depend on Estonian goods, services and energy supplies, which Russia is no longer in a position to provide. The residents can obtain Estonian citizenship if their parents or grandparents were citizens of Estonia prior to the country’s occupation (Segodnya cited by BNS, October 19).

That claim helps to highlight the fact that Estonia’s post-1991 citizenship legislation is not based on ethnic criteria. Contrary to Moscow’s accusations, the law from the outset granted citizenship rights regardless of ethnicity to all who were citizens of Estonia as of 1940 and to their descendants, including, as a matter of course, Russians.

The report from Petseri district parallels a recent development in the town of Iaanilinn–currently Ivangorod–seized from Estonia after the occupation and totally russified by now. A civic initiative in the town seeks its return to Estonia for economic reasons. Estonia, for its part, has dropped claims to those lost areas in order to improve relations with Russia and facilitate the signing of a border treaty. The treaty text was completed two years ago to Moscow’s full satisfaction. Russia, however, holds up the signing as part of a strategy of pressure on Estonia.