Together with Russian and Ukrainian, Belorussian [Belaruskaja mova] belongs to the East Slavonic group within the Slavonic branch of Indo-European languages. It started to develop as a separate language in the 14th and 15th centuries. When the territory which now constitutes Belarus became Lithuanian the Lithuanians took over the administrative language of Kievan Rus, a language that in time got more an more local traits. This language, sometimes called Old Belorussian, became less important with the creation of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and was gradually exchanged for Polish. Modern Belorussian is essentially a product of the 20th century. This language is not a continuation of Old Belorussian and much nearer to the popular language than for example Russian. It has thus far fewer Church-Slavonicisms. Within the Belorussian Soviet Republic, Belorussian was one of the national languages. The 1920s and partly the 1930s may be seen as the golden age of Modern Belorussian. From the end of the 1930s to the 1990s Belorussian gradually was ousted by Russian in all spheres of life: education, newspapers, theatre, bookprinting, politics, party administration, etc. Russian thus became the high language whereas the role of Belorussian was reduced to that of a minority language and a more or less rural language. In the mid-1980s a movement to promote the language developed, and Belorussian became an official language. This status was confirmed by the Constitution (1994) of the newly independent state of Belarus (1991), but in May 1995 — following a referendum — Russian was reinstituted as a second official language in the amended Constitution (1996). This reflects a more general situation where only 75% of all Belorussians (including those who live outside Belarus) are estimated to speak the language, the rest having assimilated to Russian. Belorussians arrived in Estonia during the Soviet period, like most Russians, albeit there are records of Belorussian student organisation at Tartu university in 1909 and some outstanding Belorussian public figures have studied in Estonia: e.g. the historian Vsevolod Ignatovski (1881–1931) and the politicians Anton Lutskevitš (1884–1946) and Jazep Dõla (1880–1973).
According to the 2000 census there are 17,241 Belorussians in Estonia (1.3% of the population), 4,953 of whom speak Belorussian as a mother tongue; 12,014 declared Russian and 144 Estonian as a mother tongue. The 1989 census recorded 27,7111 Belorussians: 8,841 with Belorussian as mother tongue, 18,591 with Russian and 195 speaking Estonian. There were no Belorussians enumerated in prewar censuses. In the period between the last two censuses, the number of Belorussians has decreased by 37.8%, mainly because of migration from Estonia. As data clearly show, there is a considerable mismatch between ethnic affiliation and mother tongue, for most Belorussians in Estonia have Russian as their first language. Belorussians live mostly in urban areas, especially in Tallinn and Ida-Viru county.
There is a Belorussian Cultural Centre (Batkaušõna) in Tallinn. Other cultural associations include Spadtšõna (1997), the Belorussian society Sjabrõ in Narva, BEZ in Ida-Virumaa and Jalinka in Maardu. There is a Belorussian Sunday school in Tallinn. Estonian Radio 4 broadcasts in Belorussian 1 hour per week.
Finnish [Suomi] is (together with Estonian) a member of the Baltic-Finnic subgroup of the Finno-Ugric languages. The written language was shaped during the Reformation (1523-1640), with the translation of the complete Bible appearing in 1642. Standard Finnish is based on the south-west dialects but incorporates features from other regions. Because Estonian Finns are mostly of Ingrian Finnish origin (with as self-designation “the Ingrian” [inkeriläinen] or “the Ingrian Finns” [inkerin suomalainen]), they call their language Ingrian Finnish [inkerin suomen kieli], which is not a separate language but an eastern Finnish dialect. Standard Finnish is used in writing. The historical homeland of Ingrian Finns is the Ingermanland (or Ingria/Ingeria), the territory between the Baltic Sea, Lake Peipsi and Lake Ladoga, a land bridge between Finland and Estonia (now the St. Petersburg region). The region came under Swedish influence in the 17th century, allowing for the migration of several thousand Finns in different periods. The minority of Ingrian Finns in Estonia emerged as a result of the geopolitical rearrangement of Ingria, but there are also immigrants employed by Finnish/Estonian companies. 75% of Finns in Estonia are Lutherans, less than 20% Orthodox and 8% belong to other denominations. There are Finnish congregations in Tallinn and Tartu where services are held in Finnish.
In the 2000 census 11,837 declared to be Finns and 358 to be Ingrians (0.9% of the population). In 1922, 401 Finns were counted in Estonia, but there were 1,608 in 1934, and after World War II more than 16,000. The number remained comparatively stable until 1989 (16,622 Finns, with Ingrians classified as Finns), but in the 1990s there was a significant emigration to Finland. According to the 2000 census, 4,932 Finns and 124 Ingrians declared Finnish to be their mother tongue. For 3,779 people (Finns and Ingrians together) Estonian was their mother tongue and for 3,886 (Finns/Ingrians) Russian. Here, too (like for other minority groups) there is a considerable mismatch between ethnic affiliation and mother tongue, equally divided between Russian and Estonian. The Finns have never concentrated in a particular area in Estonia like the Russians and Swedes, except in some areas of North-Eastern Estonia. Compared with Russians or post-war immigrant groups, Finns are less urbanised with more than 30% of them living in rural areas.
In the period 1918-1940 the schools in so-called Estonian Ingeria (4 villages near Narva) had Russian or Estonian as language of instruction, but they had compulsory Finnish lessons 3 hours per week. As there were no Finnish schools in Soviet Estonia, Finns attended Estonian or Russian schools. Finnish is now taught as foreign language in some schools (approx. 1,200 pupils learn it as the first, second or third language) and adult language courses. A private Finnish medium school was founded in Tallinn for children of Finnish citizens temporarily residing in Estonia (it is attended by approx. 30 children every year); there is another private Finnish school in Tartu, with less than 10 children attending per year. The Estonian Ingrian-Finnish Union, an umbrella organisation for 11 Ingrian Finnish cultural societies in Estonia, was founded in 1989. Its activities include the publication of Inkeri (10 numbers per year) since 1993, an annual song festival (since 1991), summer camps for children and Finnish language courses for adults. Finns are the first minority to have initiated the creation of a cultural council pursuant to the Law on Cultural Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities, and elections for the council were held in May 2004.
German [Deutsch] is a west Germanic language of the Indo-European family, related to Dutch, English, Frisian and Yiddish. While German dialects can be classified using different criteria, a distinction is usually accepted between standard German [Hochdeutsch] (the written from), colloquial German [Umgangssprache] and dialects. German uses the Roman alphabet. The first wave of Germans – traders, missionaries and soldiers – arrived in Estonia in the 13th century. Baltic Germans soon formed the clerical, land-owning and commercial elites in Estonia, securing a dominant role in the political, economic, social and cultural life throughout the Baltic States. In 1881 the proportion of Germans was 5-6%, going down to 2.5% in the early 20th century and below 2% in the 1920s, parallel to their decline as the land-owning élite. In the interwar years Germans enjoyed full rights: they could vote, form political parties (e.g. the Deutschbaltische Partei), and usually held 5-8 seats in the 100-member Estonian parliament. Germans took advantage of the Act on Cultural Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities, and in 1925 established German societies, a professional theatre and schools (14 primary schools, 9 secondary schools and 5 higher secondary schools); periodicals were issued and books of fiction published. There were a large number of German officials and intellectuals (in 1925, 6.8% of the student body of Tartu university were Germans). Germans were characterised by a very high level of urbanisation with more than 80% living in towns.
In the year 2000 1,870 Estonian citizens declared German nationality. The vast majority of Baltic Germans was re-located to Germany between 1939 and 1941. After World War II there were only 300 Germans left in Estonia. Most of them were deported in August 1945; those who survived were allowed to return to Estonia in 1955. In 1960s, Germans from the Russian Federation (Volga region, Siberia and Kazakhstan) began to arrive in Estonia. In 1970 there were 7,850 Germans in Estonia, and 3.466 in 1989. This decline was the result of many Germans repatriating to Germany in 1970s. In 2000, the number of people who gave German as their mother tongue was 455; 1,219 people declared Russian to be their mother tongue. Estonian was the mother tongue of 176 Germans.
German is taught as a foreign language in most schools in Estonia. In one upper-secondary school in Tallinn teaching is partially conducted in German. There is an Estonian German Society in Tallinn (est. 1991), an umbrella organisation for several local organisations (Tallinn Germans Society, Viljandi German Society, Narva German Society Harmonie, Ida-Viru German cultural society). Other associations include the Baltic-German Cultural Society in Estonia (1988) and the Academic Baltic-German Cultural Society in Tartu (1989).
Latvian [Latviešu valodas] is one of the two extant Baltic languages, together with Lithuanian; the two languages developed side by side till the 6th or 7th century. The earliest attestations date back to the 13th century, and the language is written in the Roman script. Because the historical province of Livonia included both eastern Latvia and south Estonia, it is difficult to say how many Latvians lived on Estonian territory. The state boundaries between Estonia and Latvia were drawn only in 1920, and only a small Latvian minority remained in Estonia. Although pockets of Latvians could be found in southern Estonia — for example in Tsiistre (parish of Rõuge) — they were mainly dispersed, especially in the border areas, in the counties of Valga, Võru and Setu where they had their own schools and societies (e. g. in Valga, Mõisaküla, Laura, Setu).
According to data from the 2000 census there were 2,330 Latvians in Estonia. The largest number of Latvians (5,435) was registered in 1934. In 1938/39 there were 6 Latvian elementary schools: in the border town of Valga, in Mõisaküla and in villages in Petseri county. In 1945 the borders were changed and Petseri county was cut off from Estonia. As a consequence, 1,500 Latvians found themselves outside Estonian borders, and their number was reduced by more than a half. In 1970s their number began to increase, reaching 3,135 in the 1989 census. Latvian is spoken as mother tongue by 1,389 persons (among them 1,248 Latvians, 63 Estonians, 37 Russians, 2 Ukrainians, 8 Belorussians, 9 Poles, 3 Jews, 6 Lithuanians, 2 Germans, 3 Azerbaijanis, 9 Romas), while 859 Latvians speak Russian and 208 speak Estonian as a mother tongue. Associations include the Estonian Latvian Society (est. 1988) in Tallinn, the South-Estonian Latvian Society in Tartu (est. 1990) and the Estonian-Latvian Institute in Valga (es. 2000). The share of mixed marriages is high and in most cases Latvian is not spoken at home. There are no Latvian schools in Estonia, only Sunday school classes organised by the Estonian Latvian Society, where Latvian children can learn their mother tongue. Latvian is also taught at the Estonian-Latvian Institute in Valga.
Lithuanian [Li(u)tuviskai] is one of the two extant Baltic languages, together with Latvian; the two languages developed side by side till the 6th or 7th century. The earliest manuscript (the text of a prayer) dates back to the early 16th century, while the first dictionary was the Latin-Polish-Lithuanian Dictionarium trium linguarum of 1620. A standard form of the language gained acceptance at the beginning of the 20th century. The Roman alphabet was introduced in the 17th century, but Gothic was the language of the earliest scripts and remained in use until WW II in the territory of Eastern Prussia.
Lithuanians arrived in Estonia at the beginning of the 19th century, to work primarily in ports and construction. When Vilnius University was closed down in 1832, Lithuanians came to study at Tartu University, most of them returning to Lithuania after graduating. From 1864 to 1904 the printing of Lithuanian texts in the Roman alphabet was forbidden in Lithuania and the “Lithuanian grammar” by the famous linguist J. Jablonskis was printed in Estonia in 1899. In 1897 there were 134 Lithuanians in Estonia. The Lithuanian Student Society Dorpata was established in 1895 (Tartu) and the Revel Lithuanian society in 1917 (Tallinn), but there are no records about the activities of these societies. More Lithuanians arrived after World War II as the result of Soviet migration policy, settling mostly in industrial regions and in Tallinn.
According to data from the 2000 census there were 2,116 Lithuanians in Estonia, with 1,813 of them living in urban areas. The largest number of Lithuanians (2,568) was registered in 1989: Lithuanian was spoken as mother tongue by 1,198 persons, while 849 of them spoke Russian and 100 Estonian as a mother tongue. The proportion of mixed marriages is around 90% and in most cases Lithuanian is not spoken at home. The Eesti Leedulaste Ühendus [Estonian Lithuanian Society] was established in 1980 in Tallinn, but it was only in 1988 that it was officially registered. In 1990 it became a member of World Lithuanian Community. There are no Lithuanian schools in Estonia. A Sunday school has been operating since 2000 in Tallinn.
As a Slavic language Polish [język polski] is closely related to Kashubian with which it forms the Lechitic branch of West Slavonic. The earliest attestations of Polish are to be found in Latin documents from the 9th century onwards. The language emerges in a broadly standardised form in the early 16th century; the first Polish grammar of Stojenski-Statorius (Polonicae grammatices institutio dates from 1568. Standard Polish is based on the dialects of both the Wielkopolska and Małopolska areas. Warsaw did not play a role, since it joined Poland only at a later stage. Polish has always used the Roman alphabet.
Records of Poles in Estonian areas date back to the beginning of the 19th century. When the universities in Warsaw and Vilnius were closed down in the 1830s, Poles came to Tartu University. In 1828 the first Polish students’ club “Polonia” was established, followed by many other societies and clubs between 1830 and 1918. In the interwar years Polish National Society (est. 1930) played an important role in the life of the local Polish community. A chair of the Polish language was established at Tartu University in 1930s. There were 1,608 Poles in 1934 in Estonia. After World War II the number of Poles increased to reach a peak of 3,008 in 1989, most of them arriving from the eastern regions of Soviet Union (only 141 were born outside of the territory of the Soviet Union). In the 1990s the number of Poles declined: according to data from the 2000 census there were 2,193 Poles in Estonia, with 1,941 of them living in urban areas. Polish was spoken as mother tongue by 593 persons, while 1,338 Poles speak Russian and 133 speak Estonian as a mother tongue. The proportion of mixed marriages is high, amounting to 90% of all marriages, in most mixed families Russian is spoken.
In 1988 the Estonian Polish Society was re-established and in 1989 it was registered as Polish cultural society “Polonia” with local branches in Narva (1995) and Kohtla-Järve (1996). The society organises Polish language classes for adults and summer camps in Poland for children. Sunday schools are operating in Kohtla-Järve and Narva. Polish can be studied as a minor at Tallinn Pedagogical University and Tartu University. Most of those declaring a religious affiliation are Roman-Catholic (867), then Orthodox (207) and Lutheran (33). Services are held in Polish twice a week in Tallinn and once a week in Narva, Tartu and Rakvere.
Romani [Romanes], or Romany, is an Indic (or Indo-Aryan) language — like Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali — which belongs to the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family. The dispersal and differentiation of the Roma since their arrival in Europe (12th century) brought about a fragmentation of the language in distinct groups, the main ones being Northern Central, Southern Central, Vlax and Sinti), which include approximately 60 dialects and varieties. Although the Roma communities are highly differentiated, they often use the same term Romanes to refer to the language. Until the 20th century Romani was essentially an oral language; in its written form, it has accepted various orthographies depending on the host country.
Roma have lived in Estonia since 1533. In 1841 they were forced to settle in Laiuse parish (Raaduvere village). Before World War II, 743 Romas were counted in Estonia, 60 of them living in Laiuse. They could be regarded as ethnic Estonian Romas. In 1989, 665 Roma were registered in Estonia. The Estonian Roma Society, however, has given an estimate of 1,500 members. The 2000 census counted 542 Romas in Estonia, 426 speaking Estonian Romani as their mother tongue, 45 Estonian and 59 Russian. In 1991 the Estonian Roma Society was founded with the aim to preserve the Roma culture and language, and to cooperate with Roma organisations in other countries. In 2000, the South-Estonian Roma Society was founded to improve educational and social conditions of Roma children and young people.
Swedish [Svenska] is a North Germanic language, written in the Roman alphabet. The earliest attestations are runic inscriptions from the 9th century. Standard Swedish is largely based on varieties from central Sweden while the Swedish spoken in Estonia belongs to a group of eastern dialects. As these dialects were comparatively isolated from the mother country, they have preserved many characteristics of the more archaic Swedish language, and are only partly understandable to speakers of Standard Swedish.
Coastal Swedes (or aibofolke [Island People] as they called themselves) first came to Estonia in the 13 and 14th century, as Swedish fishermen settled on the inhabited North-Western islands of Estonia (Vormsi, Osmussaar, Pakri, Naissaar and Ruhnu) and on the Noarootsi Peninsula. Later on Swedes also started land cultivation and partially moved to the mainland coast of Western Estonia. Swedish farmers made up a class of free tenants, whose social status remained unchanged even during the Swedish period in Estonia (1561–1721). The number of Swedes grew until the 20th century, and in some of the small islands they formed virtually the entire population. Swedes did not take advantage of the Act on Cultural Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities, since by virtue of their compact settlement they had a Swedish-language local government and a Secretary of National Affairs in the Ministry of Education. In the period before World War II, the Estonian Swedes had altogether 20 elementary schools, in addition to adult education courses (e.g. the Pürksi Agricultural and People’s University) and an upper secondary school. Swedes had their own cultural societies, the Swedish-language newspaper Kustbon and a political organisation, the Svenska Folkförbundet. In 1939 Estonian Swedes were forced to leave the islands of Osmussaar, Naissaar and Pakri as Soviet military bases were established there. From 1941 to 1944 approximately 7,000 Estonian Swedes left for Sweden on the basis of a German-Swedish Treaty. According to the 1989 census there were 297 Swedes left in Estonia, and the 2000 census gave almost the same result (300). In 2000, 107 Swedes declared Swedish to be their mother tongue, 171 Estonian and 16 Russian.
In Noarootsi there is an upper secondary (state) School specialising in Swedish language and culture, founded in co-operation and with the aid of the Swedish embassy in 1990. Swedish is studied as foreign language in some schools (approx. 400 pupils learn it as the second or third foreign language) and in language courses for adult learners. There is a Swedish folk university (former Paslepa folk university) in Haapsalu and in Tallinn, offering courses for adults (Estonian and Swedish language, culture, arts, see http://www.rre-sfe.ee/ee/ee_freim.htm. The Coastal Swedes Museum (est. 1992) shows the history and culture of Estonian Swedes, and arranges exhibitions and other activities (http://www.aiboland.ee/). The most prominent association is the Cultural Society of Estonian Swedes (1988) (firstname.lastname@example.org) which collects, preserves and presents the Estonian Swedish cultural heritage, supporting the cultural and economic development of the Estonian Swedish areas and the teaching of Swedish all over Estonia. There is close contact with Estonian Swedish organisations in Sweden, with Finnish Swedes and many other organisations and institutions in the Nordic countries. From 1988 to 1996 the Society published the newspaper Ronor in Estonian and Swedish.
Pursuant to the Place Name Act of 1997, Estonia’s historical minorities are entitled to signage in their language. Accordingly, the place names in formerly Swedish-populated territories are mostly Swedish (e.g. in Vormsi Norrby, Borrby, Rälby, Saxby) or have Estonian-Swedish parallels: Vormsi/Ormsö, Ruhnu/Runö, Osmussaar/Odensholm, Pakri/RÅgö, Riguldi/Rickul, Noarootsi/Nuckö, Risti/Kors, Naissaar/Nargö.
Tatar is a Turkic language of the Uralic group. It was written in the Arabic and Roman scripts until 1939, when the Cyrillic alphabet was adopted. Tatars, of Islamic faith, have been living in Estonia since the 1870s, setting up their organisations and religious groups in the 1920s. Most of Estonian Tatars consider themselves descendants of Mishars and Kazan Tatars and their ancestors (mostly merchants and Tsar army soldiers) who arrived in Estonia in the 1870s and rearlier. There is no information about Crimean Tatars living in pre-war Estonia. In 1989, there were 12 Crimean Tatars in Estonia, but in 2000 census they were apparently classified as other nationalities. In 1989, 4,058 Tatars were counted in Estonia, 3,315 in 1997 and 2,582 in 2000, of whom 1,229 (47.6%) speak Tatar as a mother tongue, 1,295 Russian and 51 Estonian. In 1988 a Tatar Cultural Society was founded in Tallinn. There is also a Cultural society Idel [Volga] (1995), the Tatar Community of Estonia (1990) and Tatar cultural societies in Narva and Jõhvi. The Tatar Community of Estonia and the Ida-Virumaa Tatar Cultural Society run Sunday schools for Tatar and Estonian languages for children and adults.
Ukrainian [ukrajins’ka mova] is an Eastern Slavonic language of the Indo-European family, written in the Cyrillic alphabet. Ukrainians arrived in Estonia from different regions of the Soviet Union in the post-war period, like most Russians. This is shown by the fact that in 1934 there were only 92 Ukrainians in Estonia, while in 1989 the census recorded the presence of 48,271 Ukrainians. In 2000 there were only 29,012, a sharp drop (-39.9%) due to outward migration. The percentage of Ukrainians having Ukrainian as a mother tongue does not reflect ethnic affiliation : in 2000 only 12,299 declared Ukrainian as mother tongue (0.9% of the total population): 11,923 Ukrainians and 376 representatives of other nationalities (Russians, Estonians, Belorussians, Poles, Jews, Germans, Tatars, Moldavians, Roma). For the other Ukrainians, the mother tongue is Russian (for 16,486) and Estonian (481). Ukrainians live mostly in urban areas, and 79.3% of them are concentrated in Tallinn, Maardu, and in Ida-Viru county
There are no Ukrainian-language schools in Estonia. A Ukrainian class temporarily operated at Tallinn but there was not enough interest on the parents’ side and the initiative died out in a couple of years. An attempt was made in 1997 to open an Ukrainian class in the Tallinn Liivalaia secondary school (with Estonian as language of instruction), but it was closed down for the same reason. Cultural societies include the Ukrainian Compatriots’ Society (http://www.hot.ee/uke/indexest.html) (1988), an umbrella organisation for Narva, and Sillamäe Ukrainian Compatriots’ Societies. The Union of Ukrainian Societies in Estonia (http://www.hot.ee/uoae/) incorporates several cultural and educational institutions. There are several musical groups (Vidlunnja, Žurba etc.) and Sunday schools are operating in Tallinn, Narva and Sillamäe. The newspaper Strunõ in Ukrainian is published irregularly. Estonian Radio 4 broadcasts in Ukrainian one and a half hour per week..
Yiddish arose in the middle ages as a trade language of the Jews, with urban varieties of Middle High German as the dominant component and with influences from Semitic and Slavonic languages. It is written in the Hebrew alphabet. Jews came to Estonia in the middle of the 19th century as they were allowed to settle in the western provinces of tsarist Russia. They established their own network of education, with schools being organised in Tallinn in the 1880s. Jewish synagogues were built in Tallinn in 1883 and Tartu in 1903. In the interwar years Jews founded a number of cultural societies: Jewish Drama Club in Tartu, H. N. Bialik literary and Drama Society in Tallinn and in Viljandi, Pärnu, Narva and elsewhere. A Jewish primary school was opened in Tallinn in 1919, and a secondary school was founded in 1923. In its first year 223 pupils studied there. A chair of Judaica was established in Tartu University in 1934. Jews took advantage of the Act on Cultural Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities ( Estonia, 3.2), and in June 1926 the Cultural Council was elected and the Jewish cultural autonomy was declared. The administrative organ of this autonomy was the Board of Jewish Culture. By 1939 there were 32 different Jewish organisations active in Estonia. During the Soviet occupation Yiddish was never used as a language of instruction in schools, nor as a taught as a subject.
According to data from the 2000 census there were 2,145 Jews in Estonia (0.1% of the population). In 1934 they were 4,381 (0.4% of the population). Jews were persecuted during World War II and have considerably fallen in number, but a part of those who had managed to flee to the Soviet Union returned to Estonia. In 1989 there were 4,613 Jews in Estonia, more than 80% of them being post-war immigrants from different parts of the Soviet Union. In the 90s many Jews left for Israel or the USA.
The census of 1989 recorded 570 Jews declaring Yiddish to be their mother tongue. For 3,614 Jews Russian was their mother tongue and for 389 it was Estonian. In 2000, of the 2,145 Jews only 124 had Yiddish as a mother tongue, 1,728 Russian and 248 Estonian. Older speakers have a native(-like) command of at least two languages: beside Estonian, Russian or German, they speak the local Yiddish dialect (Estonian Yiddish). However, many of them have no writing competence in Yiddish and, at best, would be able to read and speak it. There are cases when oral communication is in Yiddish and written communication in another language. The extremely low figures of Yiddish speakers in both censuses reflect the major sociocultural disclocations (Soviet and Nazi occupation, Soviet deportations and language policy), but also the difference between the pre- 1940 (indigenous) and the post-1940 (non-indigenous) Jews: among post-1940 Jews the language shift from Yiddish to Russian seems to have occurred already before their arrival in Estonia. The prevalence of people with Russian as mother tongue reflects the prevalence of non-indigenous Jews; and the fact that highest number of “national” speakers of Yiddish is among Estonian citizens demonstrates that Yiddish is a part of the linguistic repertoire of the indigenous minority. The average age of both indigenous and non-indigenous Jews is high, as is the percentage of mixed marriages: such circumstances do not favour the intergenerational transmission of the language. Although there are no data to establish a correlation between the use of Yiddish and age, there appears to be nobody younger than 60 speaking Yiddish as a first language.
In 1989 a Jewish Sunday school was established in Tallinn, and in 1990 a Jewish School started working under the Tallinn Education Board (the first school for a national minority to be opened after restoration of independence), but there is no teaching of Yiddish. Hebrew, Judaism and Yiddish culture are taught at the Estonian Institute of Humanities. The Estonian Jewish Community (1992) acts as an umbrella organisation for Jewish cultural associations. The newspaper Hashachar has been issued by the Community since 1989, but is printed in Estonian and Russian. Radio 4 — which broadcasts the programme Shalom Aleychem each month — is in Russian. Until March 2004 there was a programme in Yiddish every Friday, financed by the PHARE project. According to the Law on Cultural Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities, minorities have a right to promote their national cultures and languages but the Jewish community does not appear to be interested in studying or promoting Yiddish, even as a second language. This can be explained partly by the fact that Yiddish is an internally “conflicted” language; i.e. when people with the same ethnolinguistic/ethnocultural background construct their identity in different ways. Elderly speakers of Yiddish meet (now rather irregularly) in Yiddish language club.