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Russia

Last updated: 13.08.2018

Diplomatic relations

On February 2, 1920, Estonia and Russia (Soviet Russia at the time) signed the Tartu Peace Treaty, which stated that both countries recognise each other’s independence.

During the period between the two World Wars, the following people acted as Estonian Ambassadors in Moscow: Tõnis Vares (1921-1922); Ado Birk (1922-1926); Heinrich Laretei (1926-1928);  Julius Seljamaa (1928-1933); Karl Tofer (1933-1936);  August Traksmaa (1936-1937); August Rei (1938-1940).

Russia recognised the re-independence of Estonia on August 24, 1991. Diplomatic relations between the two countries/nations were restored on October 24, 1991. After regaining independence, the first Estonian Ambassador in the Russian Federation was Jüri Kahn, who presented his credentials on February 4, 1992. The succeeding Estonian Ambassadors in Moscow were Mart Helme (1995-1999), Tiit Matsulevitš (1999-2001), Karin Jaani (2001-2005), Marina Kaljurand (2005-2008), Simmu Tiik (2008-2012) and Jüri Luik (2013-2015) and Arti Hilpus (2015-2018). Estonia is currently represented in Moscow by Ambassador Margus Laidre. 

After the re-independence of Estonia, the first Russian Ambassador in Estonia was Aleksander Trofimov, who presented his credentials on September 9, 1992. The succeeding Russian Ambassadors in Estonia were Aleksei Gluhhov (1997-2000), Konstantin Provalov (2001-2006), Nikolai Uspenski (2006-2009), Juri Merzljakov (2010-2015). The current Russian Ambassador, Aleksandr Petrov, presented his credentials on October 15, 2015.

In addition to an Embassy in Moscow, Estonia also has a Consulate General in St. Petersburg and a Chancery of General Consulate in Pskov. In addition to an Embassy in Tallinn, Russia also a Consulate General in Narva and a Chancery of General Consulate in Tartu.

Bilateral relations

The bilateral relations of Estonia and the Russian Federation, in the form of diplomatic contacts and communication between officials and experts, are mostly aimed at solving practical issues. Similarly to the entire European Union, Estonian political relations with Russia have, since 2014, been restricted due to Russian aggression in Ukraine, the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol. The main goals of the bilateral relations in the near future are enforcing border agreements and further border demarcations.

Cross-border cooperation between Estonia and Russia is successful, particularly within the framework of cooperation programs largely financed by the EU. Estonia-Latvia-Russia cross border cooperation programme 2007-2014 supported 45 different projects in Estonia, Latvia and Russia in  the amount of €48 million. For example, the reconstruction of border crossing points in Ivangorod and in Narva that help to increase the throughput capacity and make border crossing easier, was funded from the program. Small-craft harbours were constructed in Tartu, Mustvee and Räpina. First inland water body slipway in Estonia was built in Kallaste. Waste water treatment stations in Pskov, Gdov and Pechory and the districts of Pskov and Palkinsky were reconstructed.

Estonia-Russia cross-border cooperation programme 2014-2020 (http://www.estoniarussia.eu) continues to finance cross-border projects. The programme aims to support the development and competitiveness of border regions. Total amount of the programme funds is €34,2 million, with most of the funding coming from the EU. Estonia will contribute €9 and Russia €8,4 million. The cooperation programme helps to finance five large  infrastructure projects, with €20 million in total funding: 1) development of small businesses  in South-East Estonia and the district of Pskov, (connected to border crossing); 2) socio-economic and environmental development of the Lake Peipsi, including water tourism and smallharbours, reconstruction of wastewater treatment facilities  in the district of Pskov; 3) reconstruction of the Narva-Ivangorod fortresses ensemble; reconstruction of the Narva-Ivangorod promenade; 5) reconstruction of the Luhamaa-Shumilkino border crossing points.

The cultural cooperation between Estonia and Russia has been great over the years. In 2016, many exhibitions, film festivals and concerts introducing Estonian culture were organised in different cities of Russia. 09.-12.06.2016 around 30 events related to Estonians took place as part of a citizen diplomacy initiative “1000 Estonians in St. Petersburg”. Minister of Culture Indrek Saar was on an unofficial working visit in St. Petersburg at the time, thereby expressing his support for the initiative. From 08.-18.10.2016, the traditional theatre festival Golden Mask took place in Tallinn and Sillamäe. In Octobr 2016, the Moscow Helikon-Opera performed in Tallinn and the Estonian National Opera performed in Moscow. On 3 June 2016 Estonia-Russia culture cooperation program for 2016-2018 was signed in Narva.

The cooperation in projects concerning education, science, youth and language, has been successful. There are cooperation projects that enable student and lecturer exchanges between universities. Russia is one of the Study in Estonia programme priority countries. During the school year of 2016/2017, 266 Russians will be studying in Estonia, which makes Russia one of the top 5 countries where foreign students come from. Cooperation concerning languages studies will continue in the Pechory Linguistic Gymnasium and the Saint Petersburg State University, both of which will host a necessary teacher and lecturer.

The official inauguration of the St. John’s Church in St. Petersburg, which took place on February 20, 2011, played an important role in the cultural and general history of Estonia. The building of the church and the land beneath it have been returned to the congregation, the building has been fully reconstructed, its original function and appearance have been restored. He building is administered by Eesti Kontsert (The State Concert Institute). The St. John’s Church has become an important cultural centre, which makes it possible to introduce the Estonian culture and organise various events. Religious services in Estonian are regularly held in the church.

Important visits and meetings:

The last visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs took place in February 2014, when Minister Urmas Paet went to Moscow and signed the agreements on Russian-Estonian border and maritime delimitation in Narva Bay and the Gulf of Finland with the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov.  The last meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs was held in New York on September 27, 2015, when the Minister of Foreign Affairs Marina Kaljurand had a meeting with the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov during the UN General Assembly.

In 2015, the relations between the Estonian and Russian parliaments, which had been severed for a while, were restored. Parliamentary delegation visited Moscow from 14-15 October 2015.  State Duma elections in Russia were held in September 2016 and presumably the contacts will continue in the future.

Estonia-Russia political consultations were organised in Tallinn on 20 November 2015; and in Moscow on 18 November 2016. On 6 April 2016 consular consultations were held in Moscow.

Agreements

 

There are currently approximately 30 valid agreements between Estonia and Russia.
New bilateral agreements have not been signed in recent years. As from 1 January 2017, Estonia-Russia cross-border cooperation agreement and amendments to the social  insurance agreement are being prepared. Examples of agreements that have been signed and enforced since 2000:

  • Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Estonia and the Government of the Russian Federation on the Conditions of the Location of the Estonian Embassy in the Russian Federation and the location of the Russian Embassy in the Republic of Estonia (came into force on 2 April 2014)
  • Agreement on Aviation (came into force on 30/08/2000)
  • Agreement on International Highway Transport (came into force on 26/03/2001)
  • Protocol on Concerning the Agreement on Legal Aid and Legal Relations in Civil, Family and Criminal Cases (came into force on 20/05/2002)
  • Estonia-Russia Pension Insurance Co-operation Agreement (letters of ratification exchanged on 2 March 2012)

Border agreements

 

The matters concerning the state border between the Republic of Estonia and the Russian federation were first dealt with in 1990s, as the relevant issues were addressed in the working group of border negotiations during 1992-1995. The border agreements were first signed on 18 May 2005, in Moscow, but these agreements were not ratified. The border agreement of the Republic of Estonia and the Russian Federation was signed again on 18 February 2014, in Moscow, as was the agreement on the Russian-Estonian maritime delimitation in Narva Bay and the Gulf of Finland. Contracts come into force 30 days after the exchange of ratification letters. When the border agreement enters into force, the demarcation of the boundary line will be organised by the Demarcation Committee, which comprises of representatives from various agencies.


During the signing of the border agreements in 2014, it was agreed that the ratification of border agreements in Parliaments would be conducted in parallel. On 25 November 2015, the Riigikogu completed the first reading of the draft on the ratification legislation of border agreements and now, the Riigikogu is waiting for Russia to make the next step. The draft is being processed in the State Duma but it is unknown when they will ratify it.


Trade and economic relations

 

Since 2014, the economic relations and trade between Estonia and Russia have been affected by the economic sanctions that were imposed against Russia by the EU, and by the counter-sanctions enforced by Russia. Russia continues to be an important economic partner for Estonia, but the Russian economic state and economic sanctions have set limitations to trade. In the recent years, Russia has fallen from its usual spot on the top five list of Estonia’s trade partners

Trade between Estonia and Russia amounted to more than 10% in 2011 but since 2012, turnover started to decrease gradually and in 2016 amounted to 6% of the total turnover. From the position of a third biggest trading partner in 2012, Russia has fallen to the sixth position in 2016. Estonian export to Russia started to decrease in 2013, when the export volume was €1.4 billion. By 2016, the volume had decreased to €0.8 billion. However, based on the data from 2016, export increased by 0.2% compared to 2015. Reduction of imports started in 2012 and it has continued until today (with exception in 2014 when it grew more than 8%). From largest import partners, Russia has fallen from the sixth position (2012) to the eight.

Trade between Estonia and Russia in 2012-2017 (million euros)
 

  Export Proportion Import Proportion Turnover Proportion Balance
2011 1,312.3 10.9% 1,264.6 9.9% 2,576.9 10.4% 47.7
2012 1,511.5 12.1% 1,003.7 7.1% 2,515.2 9.4% 507.8
2013 1,411.5 11.5% 787.2 5.7% 2,198.7 8.4% 624.3
2014 1,186.5 9.9% 852.3 6.2% 2,038.8 7.9% 334.2
2015 771.6 6.7% 785.5 6.0% 1,557.1 6.3% -13.9
2016 773.4 6.5% 747.6 5.5% 1,521.1 6.0% 25.8
2017 932.4 7.3% 930.0 6.3% 1,862.4 6.8% 2.4

Source: Statistics Estonia www.stat.ee (http://www.stat.ee)

Export and import in 2016

Export to Russia has decreased in virtually all commodity groups compared to 2012/2013. From main export articles, export of animal products, machinery and equipment, chemical products and prepared  foodstuffs and beverages  dropped the most. Main export articles to Russia in 2016 were machinery and equipment (36% of the export), chemical products (16%), prepared foodstuffs and beverages  (11%) and textile products (6%).

Main products imported from Russia are mineral products (ca 50% of the import), timber and timber products (16-17%) and basic metals and fabricated metal products (11%).

Investments

 

Russian direct investments to Estonia made up 0.7 billion euros at september 2016, which places Russia on a fifth position in the ranking (3.9% of all direct investments to Estonia). The largest amounts of Russian direct investments went into the following sectors: real estate 39%, wholesale and retail 33%, financial and insurance activities 11%.

According to the Estonian Business Register, at April 2016 there were around 3000 commercial enterprises  with Russian participation registered in Estonia.
Estonia’s direct investments to Russia at the same time constituted €242 million, which made Russia the seventh target country for direct investments (4% of Estonia’s direct investments abroad). Investments to Russian manufacturing industry 21%, financial and insurance activities 15%, wholesale and retail 14%, made up the largest shares of Estonian direct investments to Russia.

Tourism
Estonia remains a popular destination for Russian tourists. In 2016, more than 200,000 Russian tourists stayed in Estonian tourist accommodation establishments. After a sharp decrease in 2015, the amount of Russian tourists rose by 8% in 2016 and the nights stayed by 5%. Overnight stays increased most in Tallinn and Ida-Virumaa, followed by Tartumaa, Pärnumaa and Lääne-Virumaa. In 2016, Russian tourists formed 9.8% of all foreign tourists.

Estonians in Russia

 

Until the middle of the 19th century, there was early spontaneous short-distance emigration, primarily to the regions of St. Petersburg, Pskov and Novgorod. Massive emigration was occurred during 1855-1905 as a result of the Russian Empire’s policy to colonise uninhabited but fertile lands. The years 1906-1914/1917 are characterised by the so-called “Stolypinesque” organised emigration, during which Siberia’s popularity as a destination for emigration grew and the government began to direct and facilitate emigration within the framework of Peter Stolypin’s agrarian policy.
The declaration of Estonia’s statehood brought about the first great wave of Estonians returning to Estonia. There were other reasons for the decreasing numbers of Estonians in Russia as well — ranging from Stalinist repressions to the mobilisation during World War II. After the Second World War the number of Estonians in Russia continued to decrease despite the fact that large new groups of Estonians were arriving (mostly due to forced displacement).
During the last population census of the Russian Federation (in 2010), 17,875 people considered themselves to be Estonians. According to the last population census, the largest Estonian communities live in Krasnoyark Krai (2,346 people), Omsk (2,082 people), St. Petersburg (1,534 people) and Moscow (1072 people). The two largest Estonian village communities (Upper Suetuk and Haidak) are located in Krasnoyark Krai, both of them have about 200 inhabitants, who are mostly Estonians. According to data from 2010, 891 Estonians live in the Novosibirsk oblast, most of them in the village of Nikolayevka (Kyshtovski region). In Tomsk oblast, where Estonians are one of the largest ethnic populations, they mostly live in Kaseküla (Beryozovka) and Liliengof (Pervomaisk region) – the total number of Estonians living in the oblast exceeds 500.  The largest Estonian community in the Sedelnokovo region is Lilliküla or Lileika, there are about 10 smaller villages as well.

Estonian representations in Russia support the activities of local Estonian communities. The Estonian Society in Moscow has organised events in the Embassy, they have meetings with the diplomats of the consular section. In 2016, the consul visited Estonian communities in the villages of Allmäe (in the Northern Caucasus), Tomsk, Sochi and Krasnoyarsk. The Estonian Society in St Petersburg celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2012. In the 1990s, ethnic societies in Russia were revived and Estonians organised their own cultural societies in larger communities (St. Petersburg, Moscow, Arkhangelsk, Tver, Kalinin, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Cherepovets, Petrozavodsk). In March 1998, the societies came together to form the non-profit organisation Union of Russian Estonian Societies (Venemaa Eesti Seltside Liit, VESL) to facilitate contacts and relationships among the groups. The newspaper “St. Petersburg Informer” (Peterburi Teataja), which was established in 1908, is now published again and reports on the activities of Estonians across Russia. The congregation of the St. John’s Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church has been active again since 1994.

Until the middle of the 19th century, there was early spontaneous short-distance emigration, primarily to the regions of St. Petersburg, Pskov and Novgorod. Massive emigration was occurred during 1855-1905 as a result of the Russian Empire’s policy to colonise uninhabited but fertile lands. The years 1906-1914/1917 are characterised by the so-called “Stolypinesque” organised emigration, during which Siberia’s popularity as a destination for emigration grew and the government began to direct and facilitate emigration within the framework of Peter Stolypin’s agrarian policy.
The declaration of Estonia’s statehood brought about the first great wave of Estonians returning to Estonia. There were other reasons for the decreasing numbers of Estonians in Russia as well — ranging from Stalinist repressions to the mobilisation during World War II. After the Second World War the number of Estonians in Russia continued to decrease despite the fact that large new groups of Estonians were arriving (mostly due to forced displacement).
During the last population census of the Russian Federation (in 2010), 17,875 people considered themselves to be Estonians. According to the last population census, the largest Estonian communities live in Krasnoyark Krai (2,346 people), Omsk (2,082 people), St. Petersburg (1,534 people) and Moscow (1072 people). The two largest Estonian village communities (Upper Suetuk and Haidak) are located in Krasnoyark Krai, both of them have about 200 inhabitants, who are mostly Estonians. According to data from 2010, 891 Estonians live in the Novosibirsk oblast, most of them in the village of Nikolayevka (Kyshtovski region). In Tomsk oblast, where Estonians are one of the largest ethnic populations, they mostly live in Kaseküla (Beryozovka) and Liliengof (Pervomaisk region) – the total number of Estonians living in the oblast exceeds 500.  The largest Estonian community in the Sedelnokovo region is Lilliküla or Lileika, there are about 10 smaller villages as well.

Estonian representations in Russia support the activities of local Estonian communities. The Estonian Society in Moscow has organised events in the Embassy, they have meetings with the diplomats of the consular section. In 2016, the consul visited Estonian communities in the villages of Allmäe (in the Northern Caucasus), Tomsk, Sochi and Krasnoyarsk. The Estonian Society in St Petersburg celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2012. In the 1990s, ethnic societies in Russia were revived and Estonians organised their own cultural societies in larger communities (St. Petersburg, Moscow, Arkhangelsk, Tver, Kalinin, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Cherepovets, Petrozavodsk). In March 1998, the societies came together to form the non-profit organisation Union of Russian Estonian Societies (Venemaa Eesti Seltside Liit, VESL) to facilitate contacts and relationships among the groups. The newspaper “St. Petersburg Informer” (Peterburi Teataja), which was established in 1908, is now published again and reports on the activities of Estonians across Russia. The congregation of the St. John’s Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church has been active again since 1994.

 

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