- Narva presented as a super-Russian city
- There will be economic and political fugitives
- Preserving the Estonian nation may become threatened
It is likely that Estonia has to prepare for massive immigration from Russia at the end of the year and unlike the Ukrainians intending to return home the Russians will want to leave Putin’s regime behind for good.
Russian social media recommends moving to Estonia to those who would face language barriers elsewhere. Narva is presented as a super-Russian city. “The most tolerant immigration laws are in Estonia. If living in Tallinn seems too expensive, you can choose Narva, this is a super-Russian city with a large Russian-speaking population,” recommended You-tube poster Varlamov.
Economic expert Raivo Vare considers it highly likely that a large number of fugitives from Russia will reach Estonia. “Half of them would be political and half economic refugees,” said Vare.
“I would say that it would remain quiet until the end of the year. But unless something will change in Russia, the cumulative effect of sanctions and deteriorating situation in Russia will become so serious that people’s massive willingness to escape it will steeply increase. If a large mass enters the country illegally, we shall have to admit them. We know it and we have to do something to prevent it.”
Jonatan Vseviov, Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also admitted that emigration from Russia is likely. “But its end station would not certainly be Estonia but Europe in general. We can see the signs, we sense it, we actually know some facts. But will it eventually mean that a thousand people will want to come or ten thousand or a hundred thousand? It depends on how bad it will be in the future,” Vseviov said.
According to Raul Eamets, Professor of economics of the University of Tartu, the situation with fugitives from Russia will different from that of the Ukrainian refugees. “Those leaving Russia have decided never to go back. Whether they will choose to live in Estonia or some wealthier European country – I suspect that they will prefer a wealthier country,” Eamets said.
The issuing of visas to Russian citizens has been suspended but this does not concern the ones already possessing valid Schengen visas. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union countries’ embassies in Russia had issued a total of 653,271 Schengen visas as of 2020.
“Large masses will change the rules of game rather than vice versa. A small country especially cannot handle the influx of huge masses of people. The issue of how to handle them is gradually coming up,” Vare said.
According to Vseviov, the possession of a visa does not necessarily guarantee the crossing of border. “Estonia as a sovereign country can make any decisions concerning its borders regardless of having or not having issued visas earlier,” he explained
Mass migration can put the nation under threat
Tiit Tammaru, Professor of urban and population geography of the University of Tartu, considers it a serious problem that Estonia has not been able during the past 30 years to get rid of the parallel society which involves Russian-language education and a totally different information space. This could deal a painful blow in case of massive immigration.
“We still have too much of that parallel society which is based on language rather than interests, knowledge or skills. The differences have actually deepened over the thirty years. True, this tendency has stopped during the past five or six years, but in general the differences have been increasing,” the researcher said.
Can the preservation of our nation be threatened in case of massive migration from Russia?
“The threat is there,” Tammaru answered. “I would not speculate too much in this subject but it obviously exists.”
There is no need to look for examples far and wide. For example, Lasnamäe resident Nina considers the war the only option because people would not live together with the Nazis. She has only poisonous words for Ukrainian President Zelenskyi. “What kind of work does he do? Just sits in his bunker and send out Nazi battalions. Does not let people leave when they want to move by the humanitarian corridors made for them.” Nina does not understand the banning of the Russian TV channels either: “Three and a half old women, myself included, watched Russian TV; what kind of threat can we pose to national security?”
This raises the question why have some leading Estonian politicians been fighting for years for retaining the Russian-language education system – this has only allowed the strengthening of the parallel society in the state.
Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Center Party) announced only last week in a TV broadcast that he does not support the abolition of the Russian-language school network. He also found that the local Russians are feeling jealousy towards the Ukrainian refugees.
Eamets says that the Russians’ emotions towards the Ukrainians are caused by the fact that as inhabitants of a different information space they simply do not know what kind of war crimes the Ukrainians have escaped from.
“As long as we cannot change that attitude the Russians will remain suspicious – why are the Ukrainians treated better than they. Empathy does not reach them, they do not accept it because they do not know that people are actually being killed in Ukraine,” Eamets said.
Vseviov believes that telling one’s story would help now. “Facts speak in our favor. You have to tell your story and you have to do it in Russian in Estonia.”
The border must be built
Vare says that a strong state border will be needed to prevent massive Russian migration. “The green border would not actually hold them back, not in such cases. What is needed is the construction of a physical border,” he said.
On the other hand, Vseviov said that the war had not come as a surprise and that everything has been taken into account, including the construction of a border fence.
“Border security has been addressed, it is receiving the attention of absolutely competent institutions,” he assured. “Of course, we all hope that the people wanting a different society in Russia would not leave, because Russia also needs people with democratic mindset.”