People of Estonian heritage living abroad are mostly descendants of WWII refugees. Thus the current highly charged public debate raging in Estonia about the European Union-imposed requirement to take in some of the millions of refugees fleeing middle eastern conflicts is bewildering at the very least.
About eight refugees are scheduled to arrive in Estonia at the beginning of 2016 rising to a possible total of some 500-700 (depending on the source of this information) in two years. Those who express outrage at the audacity of the EU urging all member countries to help alleviate the burden assumed by Italy, Germany and others are accused of being wildly unreasonable. The anti-refugee group’s intentionally exaggerated arguments have been labeled as demagoguery. “Accepting refugees will destroy Estonia,” is used as an example of the anti-refugee slogans.
One can reject outright the position of the anti-refugee group, but one must also consider the near history of Estonia and what a large, imposed influx of foreigners means to a small nation.
Fear is fueling the passions of those opposing refugees it’s said. It highlights the possible loss of language, the loss of culture based on language, the loss of a national identity. The “opposition” knows it can happen, reminding one of the Soviet experience, of outsiders forcing a nation to abandon its indigenous cultural essence. Many insist that with the Soviet occupation of 1944 to 1991, thousands of Estonians were displaced and perished in Siberian labour camps. They were replaced by workers from Russia and other Soviet satellite states thus profoundly changing the country’s ethnic face. Those opposing refugees point out that Estonia was forced to take in an abundance of foreigners, why should they be forced to take in more? (Pikemalt Eesti Elu 29.01.2016 paberlehes)
Refugees to Estonia fuels pro and contra debate imbued with deep passions Estonian Life (6)