In-Between-Ness : Identity Construction at the Border of two “New Empires”

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Estonia might be considered a remote country at the border of the European Union. On the contrary, as this thesis will point out, the country is far from remote and is a fascinating place for geographers researching the borders of Europe. The borderland Estonia has been invaded many times and gained independence for the first time in 1918, though being occupied again in 1939. Nevertheless the Estonians have continued to strive to independence and in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed they took their chances. However during the Soviet times immense demographical changes had taken place and by the year 1991 over 30 percent of Estonia’s population consisted of person’s with roots in other countries of the former Soviet Union, especially from Russia. The fresh Estonian government decided in 1992 to deny citizenship to those who had moved to Estonia after 1939 what led to statelessness amongst a third of Estonia’s population. This statelessness and other measurements taken by the Estonian government directed the Russian-speakers, as the group is referred to, into a very delicate position. This thesis is the result of a five month field research in Estonia including 28 in-depth interviews, participant observation and literature research. In this thesis, with the help of the data gathered during my fieldwork period I make an attempt to answer the following research question and test subsequent hypothesis. Research question: “The empire-like behaviour of both Russia and the EU causes the problematic (re)production of borders between Russian-speakers and ethnic Estonians in Estonia.” Hypothesis: “Has the “Russian-speaking population” of Estonia created a new identity, an identity which is different from ‘us’ and ‘them’, somewhere ‘in-between’ the ‘inside’ and the ‘outside’, beyond being either Russian or Estonian?”
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen