What Do Estonians Think Of Russians?

What do Estonians think of Russians these days, with their history and all? I ask this because I am working with an Estonian guy on a project that involves a Russian company, and he seems uncooperative and apathetic. He says things like, “You know, these Russians, they probably still design their equipment with slide rules.” Is it possible the guy is trying to sandbag the project because he doesn’t like Russians?

Well, the conquest and 50 years of Soviet occupation left some bad feelings.

I figured, but it is the kind of thing that would make every Estonian hate every Russian with a white-hot fury, or has it had time to simmer to a low boil like with Koreans and Japanese?

I think that trying to ban their language and bringing in many Russians as immigrant to try and swamp the culture has left very bad feelings.

Thise immigrants are now fourth or more generation, but are still culturally Russian.

There were moves early on after the liberation of Estonia to deny these interlopers a vote in Estonian elections, since they could have had a very great influence.

I’m not sure how things are now, there was a feeing that they might become second class citizens, or returned to native Russia.

If you address them in Russian, even if they know it fluently, they might ignore you. My parents had to sometimes use English to communicate in Estonia because of this.

When I visited Estonia 10 years ago as part of a group studying Russian in Russia (Estonia was a weekend trip), my group was told to not speak Russian but only use English since Estonian resentment of Russia was quite high. I’d image that it’s the same way in Latvia and Lithuania.

About 25% of the populace in Estonia is of Russian origin (I think it was as high as 30% in the 70s and 80s). It was official Russian policy to “Russify” the republics of the USSR like Estonia and it shouldn’t be surprising if there is lingering resentment.

The Estonian language is not easy for most Europeans to learn. It’s closely related to Finnish (mutually intelligible to a large degree), which you may know is not an Indo-European language. This, as well as other cultural, religious, and political differences served to keep the ethnic Russians separate from their ethnically Estonian neighbors.

Of ocurse, your co-worker could still be just a lazy SOB… :slight_smile:

Thanks for the insights to everyone who posted. Actually, he’s not a lazy SOB (well, he’s kind of an SOB, but not lazy), which is why I started thinking something might be up.

Me too, albeit in 1989, when things were just about at their most tense. My group had actually signed a contract that we would only speak RUssian for the duration of our 4-month program, but that was suspended for Estonia. I loved Estonia, but the only time anyone was ever nasty to me was when I accidentally bumnped someone in the street and said “Excuse me” in Russian.

Also, part of my group wanted to make reservations at an old restaurant in the center of Tallinn. One professor, an ethnic Russian, said that since he had grown up there he would be happy to organize for us, but was told that no tables were available. So we decided to ditch him and made our own reservations with the aid of a Berlitz phrasebook and some German, and were greeted very warmly by a nealy empty restaurant and some great Estonian hospitality.

I was in Estonia for work for a bit in 1999. I believe the % of population Russian is higher than 25%, but not a majority.

Estonian is related closely to Finnish but is not nearly as mutually intelligible as I’d been led to believe; check out Estonian and Finnish phrasebooks and you’ll see how quickly the differences multiply.

Most ethnic Russians in Estonia live in Tallinn (capital) or not surprisingly along the border with Russia. Since independence the tables have turned; Russian has pretty well disappeared from street signs, store signs etc., educational opportunity and civil service jobs require Estonian fluency (not likely to happen overnight for anyone!), etc. Thus most ethnic Russians are doing a number of menial tasks for a living these days, and these are the people you’re most likely to encounter doing things like driving the bus and waiting tables and such; ironically that also means, for the visitor who relies upon people in the service industry, that a Russian phrasebook is frequently more useful than a Baltic one!

On top of the resentment older Estonians have for the bad old days under Moscow’s thumb (which actually appears to have been less severe than other parts of the USSR; note how many people visited… a good number of western rock bands were even allowed to play in Tallinn), I should think younger Estonians would look down on Russians as “dumb” menial workers, impoverished (no doubt due to the inherently defective character of Russians as a people :rolleyes: ), and likely to commit crimes. Pretty much the same set of stereotypes any larger group uses to justify the set of rules imposed on a second-class minority.

I briefly dated a sort of neo-Yuppie Estonian woman when I was there. On the whole she was very nice, but good lord did that woman hate Russians! (Naturally Russian women are all gold-digging sluts, which was was made clear as part of the reason I was fortunate to be out with her!)

Finally, I might suggest your co-worker might like Russians just fine, but may have been traumatized by those Estonian dorm rooms and is having debilitating flashbacks. :eek: I swear I’ve been in much nicer prisons…

As a Finn, I’d say that Estonian and Finnish are pretty intelligible with each other. A Finn can follow Estonian text to a degree without difficulties, though spoken Estonian presents more problems. Of course, there can be weird misunderstandings.