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Estonia torments ethnic Russians with rotten food

06.08.2008
 
Estonia torments ethnic Russians with rotten food

Another scandal connected with the position of the Russian-speaking population is gathering pace in Estonia (a former republic of the Soviet Union). It turned out that the humanitarian aid, which elderly people of Russian origin receive in the Baltic country, consists of expired food stuffs from Finland. Authorities presumably ship the expired food to the areas where the Russian-speaking population is predominant, the Rossiiskaya Gazeta reports.

Finnish food chain stores S-Kauppa and K-Kauppa sacrificed tons of expired food to humanitarian organizations. The latter delivered bad food to Estonia for social needs.

A spokesman for a Finnish humanitarian organization said that the stores were selling expired food stuffs outside Finland in an effort not to ruin their reputation.

The chairman of the Union of Ethnic Russians in Estonia, Sergei Sergeev, set out a concern about the state of health of many Russians residing in the former Soviet republic. It is an open secret that expired food stuffs may trigger the development of dangerous diseases in the future.

“Such incidents are out of question in the European Union. They should be punished for such manipulations. This situation should become a lesson for the Estonian authorities to learn. They must take the activities of foreign humanitarian organizations under control and watch the distribution of food carefully,” Sergeev said.

The official said that the humanitarian activity in Estonia was organized on a very poor level.

“The delivery of food to the poor looks very humiliating and differs little from the delivery of food somewhere in Iraq , for example. Poor pensioners have to stand in long lines and even fight for a piece of sausage, which went off long ago, as it turns out,” the official said.

Official spokespeople for the areas of Estonia where the Russian population lives vaguely stated that they had never seen any food stuffs delivered from humanitarian organizations of Finland.

In Estonia, most Russians live in Tallinn and the major northeastern cities of Narva and Kohtla-Järve. The rural areas are populated almost entirely by ethnic Estonians, except for some areas in eastern Estonia near Lake Peipus which have a long history of settlement by Russians, including the Old Believers' communities.

After regaining independence in 1991 the restored Republic of Estonia recognised citizenship of everybody who was a citizen prior to the Soviet occupation of 1940 or descended from such a citizen (including the long-term Russian settlers from earlier influxes, such as those around Mustvee near Lake Peipus), but did not grant any new citizenships automatically. This affected people who had arrived in the country after 1940, the majority of whom were ethnic Russians. Knowledge of Estonian language and history were set as conditions for naturalization.

According to the Estonian Statistical Office[citation needed], ethnic Russians comprised 25.7% of the population in 2006. Of that 25.7%, approximately 27% hold Russian citizenship, 35% hold Estonian citizenship, and 35% continue to have undefined citizenship.

Under Estonian law, residents without citizenship may not vote in elections of Riigikogu (the national parliament) or European Parliament elections, but are eligible to vote in local (municipal) elections.

The perceived difficulty of the initial language tests necessary for naturalisation became a point of international contention, as the government of Russian Federation, the European Union, and a number of human rights organizations objected on the grounds that they made it hard for many Russians who had not learned the local language to gain Estonian citizenship in the short term. As a result, the tests were somewhat altered and the number of stateless persons has steadily decreased. According to Estonian officials, in 1992, 32% of residents lacked any form of citizenship. In July 2007, the Population Registry of the Estonian Ministry of the Interior reported that 8.5% of Estonia's residents have undefined citizenship and 7.8% have foreign citizenship.

Estonia does not tax income spent on education (including lessons of Estonian language) given by accredited schools. Furthermore, the laws provide for reimbursement of money spent on Estonian language lessons upon passing the language test to be taken for naturalisation. The rate of reimbursement is set by an executive order; as of May 2007, it is 100%.

Russia being a successor state to the Soviet Union, all former USSR citizens qualified for natural-born citizenship of Russian Federation, available upon mere request, as provided by the law “On the RSFSR Citizenship” in force up to end of 2000.

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