ESTONIAN ACADEMY
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eesti teaduste
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The Yearbook of the Estonian Mother Tongue Society cover
The Yearbook of the Estonian Mother Tongue Society
Vene keel kui ressurss Eestis; pp. 39–63
PDF | 10.3176/esa66.02

Authors
Maimu Berezkina, Kara D. Brown, Kadri Koreinik
Abstract

Russian as a resource in Estonia

The article introduces a “resource perspective” on the Russian language in contemporary Estonia and illustrates this concept by showcasing empirical findings from two recent research projects. To frame the article, we first review the literature on language policy processes relevant to these developments: Russification, the integration of the Russian-speaking population, and the commodification of the Russian language. We then introduce Richard Ruiz’ heuristic of language orientations – language as problem, language as right, language as resource – to provide a key conceptual foundation. The article focuses specifically on language as resource, which (re)frames language as an individual or community asset from language as a problem, or with a deficit perspective. The two case studies highlight current evidence of the language-as-resource orientation in different social sectors. Brown’s qualitative research (2015–2019) examines language policies and cultures in the newly developed dual-language immersion programs in several kindergartens across Estonia. Her findings provide evidence of the ways that pre-primary educational organization and Soviet-era language policies (i.e., Russification) have helped to create language environments primed for the dual-language program. In these kindergartens, both Russian and Estonian serve as crucial resources for professional opportunity, the embrace of new pedagogies, and effective parent communication. Berezkina’s ethnographic research (2017–2018) unpacks the function of Russian in the public sectors. Through her analysis of websites and interview data, she finds that for public sector employees in police, tax authorities, and social insurance, Russian is a key resource for customer and other public communication. Her research points to the ways that in certain geographic locations, like Tallinn, and virtual spaces, like websites, communication and information flow depends upon the availability of Russian in addition to Estonian, and, in some cases, English. Both of these studies demonstrate dynamic changes in orientation towards Russian and the exchange value ascribed to it in Estonia.

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