Estonia has a population consisting of majority ethnic Estonians (68.7%), ethnic Russians (24%), and less than 8% of ethnic minorities (CIA Factbook 2021). Around 6% of the population being stateless (IOM 2020). Since its independence in 1991, Estonia experienced significant demographic transformation with an influx of large Russian populations while the country was under Soviet rule (Park 1991). This has since led to debates on race relations and ethnic inequality.
Estonia has a more comprehensive approach to integration compared to other Baltic and Central and Eastern European countries (MIPEX 2021). In 2008-13, Estonia introduced an “Integration Strategy” followed its adaptation of the 2014 “The general principles of the cultural policy until 2020” (UNESCO 2016). Over the last five years, the country has seen improvements in access to rights, equal opportunities, and long-term settlement for immigrants and disfranchised populations.
Estonia has achieved an overall ICDI score of 0.58. A score above 0.9 in the component of Freedoms and Rights reflects a positive attitude towards maintaining freedom of expression. Scores above 0.8 in the component of inequality signals that there is a fairly positive situation in relation to economic inequality, intergenerational social mobility, and educational attainment amongst the population.
In contrast, a lower score in the component of social contact indicates a lack of intergroup contact which deters the opportunities for intercultural understanding to be cultivated. This also resonates with regional linguistic and cultural differences which are present amongst ethnic Estonians and minority populations.
Current Situation and Outlook
Compared to its moderate situation relating to the legislative and opportunities dimensions, Estonia achieves a relatively lower score in some components of its structural dimension. These are particularly related to the levels of social contact, inclusion, access to communication and fractionalisation. Estonia’s ICDI score could improve if more attention is given to increasing the platforms of contact available for cultural participation, which could in turn promote intergroup relations and improve its inclusion score. If the situation pertaining to the structural dimension persists, there is a possibility that social cohesion will be weakened, amplifying existing gaps in existing multicultural acts or policies, and racist attitudes towards other groups, thereby exacerbating cultural marginalisation.