Recently Edgar Savisaar, the mayor of Tallinn has been under investigation to determine if he should be formally charged with corruption. The news agency Delfi conducted a survey about various aspects of the political turmoil the situation has bred and to see if any differences are apparent between Estonian and Russian speakers.
To a certain extent differences were expected, but the enormous variance between opinions of the two ethno-cultural communities was astounding to the researchers.
Although the survey did not pick a scientifically acceptable random sample of respondents and the results are not projectable to the general public, the wide difference in the perception of the scandal between Russian and Estonian speakers is still dramatically telling.
Estonian responses totalled 5136 while 4760 were from Russians. The survey:
Do you think that Edgar Savisaar is unobtrusively managing the city in spite of being removed from his mayoral position? Yes – Estonians 81.6%, Russians 62.5%. No – Estonians 8.3%, Russians 17.5%.
How do you view Edgar Savisaar continuing to manage the city ‘on the sly’, even though he’s been removed from office? It’s the right thing to do – Estonians 17.9%, Russians 74.1%. It’s the wrong thing to do – Estonians 73.9%, Russians 15.3%.
Will the bribery scandals involving Edgar Savissar change your choices during elections? Yes, they will change my choices, I have voted for him in the past – Estonians 1.8%, Russians 2%. Yes, they will change my choices, I have never voted for him – Estonians 6.10%, Russians 8.70%. No, I have voted for him in the past – Estonians 14.8%, Russians 76.3%. No, I will not vote for him – Estonians 71.4%, Russians 7.5%.
Who do you wish to see replace Edgar Savisaar as Mayor of Tallinn? Jüri Ratas – Estonians 53.1%, Russians 17.8%. Yana Toom – Estonians 7.6%, Russians 48.9 %.
Who should be the next leader of the Centre Party? Jüri Ratas – Estonians 44.2%, Russians 16.6%. Yana Toom – Estonians 3.9%, Russians 49.4%.
Should Edgar Savisaar have temporarily stepped down from his position during the period of the investigation of charges against ? Yes – Estonians 72.3%, Russians 13%. No – Estonians 22.8%, Russians 81.9%.
Should Edgar Savisaar leave political life? Yes – Estonians 67.3%, Russians 8.3%. No – Estonians 6.3%, Russians 88.7%.
How important for you are the possible bribery charges against Edgar Savisaar. Yes, very important – Estonians 57.4%, Russians 15%. No, not important – Estonians 11.5%, Russians 34.7%.
The results confirm what has been very obvious for years: Savisaar’s political longevity stems from the steadfast loyalty of Russian speaking voters. In spite of Savisaar facing serious corruption charges, Russian speakers want him to continue running Tallinn from the sidelines, will support him once more at the next elections, want him to remain politically active, consider this bribery scandal to be of minor importance, do not see the necessity for Savisaar to step down pending the results of the investigation, want Savisaar to remain politically active, would see as his replacement a pro-Moscow Russian speaker rather than an Estonia-oriented Estonian, etc.
There are many explanations for this dichotomous situation: a) Societal values between Estonians and Russians speakers differ widely regarding corruption, public governance, personal gain etc. b) Savisaar is seen as championing causes important for the Russian speakers’, such as Russian speaking schools not accepting the shift to the Estonian language in some of the subjects taught, Savisaar calling on the reduction of Western sanctions against Russia for its aggression against Ukraine, Savisaar finding financial support for the building of a Russian Orthodox church at Lasnamäe. Which of these is the most compelling? Impossible to say.
It wouldn’t be a great exaggeration say that the Russian speakers consider him to be ‘their man’.
Estonians and Russians irreconcilably different in assessing Savisaar’s corruption charges Estonian Life (1)