[lg policy] Book by political science professor investigates Russia’s influence in Estonia, Baltic states

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Fri Feb 2 10:39:11 EST 2018

 Book by political science professor investigates Russia’s influence in
Estonia, Baltic states

Courtesy of Jennie Schulze
Schulze is a political science professor who specializes in Russia and
Eastern Europe. Her new book looks at the impacts of Russian minorities in
the Baltic nations.

*Kailey Love | Photo Editor*


As talk of an aggressive, meddling Russia swirls in news reports, one
Duquesne professor has taken an in-depth look at the aspects of Russia’s
influence on its neighbors.

Jennie Schulze, an assistant political science professor at Duquesne,
recently published her book Strategic Frames, which focuses on the effects
of Russia and European institutions on minority policies, particularly
those that affect Russian speakers, in Estonia and Latvia.

“I look at three policy areas. I look at citizenship policies, language
policies and electoral policies from the time of independence from the
Soviet Union in 1991 through 2015,” she said.

Schulze, who earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science at Boston
College and her doctorate in Political Science at George Washington
University, said she had always been interested in Russian history and
focused on Russian studies throughout her academic career.

This interest in Russian studies led her to read Identity in Formation by
David Laitin, a current professor of political science at Stanford
University, during her time in graduate school. She cites this book, which
takes a look into the identity crisis of Russian speakers living in former
Soviet states, as the inspiration for her doctoral thesis and interest in
the Baltic states.

“Much of the literature sort of treats Eastern European countries as if
they’re simply kind of targets of these great powerful forces, and it
doesn’t really treat them as agents in their own right,” she said. “My book
is really about giving agency to those European actors and not just treat
them as targets of great power pressure.”

Schulze’s interest in Russian speakers in the country’s ‘near abroad,’ the
now independent former Soviet republics, further developed after she earned
a grant to travel to the Baltic states for research. She pointed to the
Bronze Soldier Crisis, which occurred in Estonia shortly after she arrived
in April 2007, as a turning point for her research.

Also known as the Bronze Night or the April Unrest, the crisis surrounded
the decision to move a Soviet World War II era statue, known as the Bronze
Soldier of Tallinn, from downtown Tallinn to the outskirts of town. While
many viewed the statue as a symbol of former Soviet occupation, the Russian
speakers in Estonia viewed it as the symbolization of Soviet victory over
Nazism, as well as their claim to equal rights.

“It was really interesting to be there and to see that first hand. That was
really a fundamental changing point in the direction I wanted my research
to go, because it was a real case in point that Russia could really
aggravate interethnic relations in Estonia and that there were real kin
state effects there.”

Schulze defined kin states as “states that monitor the conditions, assert
the rights and protect the interests of their co-nationals living in other

“Russia uses the 25 million ethnic Russians stranded outside Russia’s
borders after the collapse of the Soviet Union as a pretext for involvement
in its ‘near abroad,’” she said.

Following the Russia-Georgia war in 2008 and the annexation of Crimea in
2014, she said that much of the world turned to the Baltic states in fear
that they may be next. Though she addresses that “Russia will always push
as far as Russia can push” in its ‘near abroad,’ she does not believe their
tactics are as effective in the Baltic states and that there is no
immediate threat.

“We tend to paint Russian speakers with a really broad stroke when we speak
about them in the West, but they’re really, really different and we need to
keep that in mind … [Russian speakers in the Baltic states are] not really
co-optable in the way that other Russian speakers in the ‘near abroad’
are,” she said. “Russian speakers in the Baltics are pretty loyal to
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania … they don’t want to be part of Russia in any
sort of way.”

Instead, her book argues that this fear of Russian meddling in their kin
states actually helps to shape policies for minorities such as Russian
speakers in these countries, even though the credit for these
“democratizing reforms” often goes to European institutions such as the EU.

“While Europe institutions are typically credited for democratizing reforms
in these states, my book shows that Russia was also crucial to passing
minority policy reforms and has been the greater influence post accession,”
she said.

“Russia’s actions provided important security frames which allowed
policymakers to reverse decades of exclusionary citizenship policy toward
Russian-speakers in Estonia in favor of more inclusionary policies. In this
way, Russia, not Europe, was a democratizing frame.”

Schulze’s book is available on Amazon, or from University of Pittsburgh


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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