HRC views in P. L. and M. L. v. Estonia (excerpts), 2019

The complaint

3.1 The authors claim that the State party’s denial of restitution of their property amounts to a violation of articles 2, 14 and 26 of the Covenant. The authors are entitled to recover their property or to receive equivalent compensation. They claim that they suffered discrimination because other claimants in the same position were able to recover their property from the State party, regardless of whether they had received payments under the German Equalization of Burdens Act. In particular, Estonians living in Estonia were able to recover their property, which was not the case for those living abroad. Other Baltic Germans were also able to fully recover their property.


State party’s observations on admissibility and the merits


4.9 The authors have also failed to substantiate their claim that the State party’s courts discriminated against them on account of their Baltic German origin by deciding that they were not entitled to the return of property or compensation because they had already received compensation. In contrast with the Committee’s decisions in Simunek et al. (CCPR/C/54/D/516/1992) and Adam v. Czech Republic (CCPR/C/57/D/586/1994), the facts of the present case do not raise an issue under article 26 of the Covenant.

4.10 In the authors’ case, the applicable laws do not differentiate between former owners of expropriated property on any grounds, including those mentioned in article 26 of the Covenant. According to section 17 (5) of the Principles of Ownership Reform Act, the only criterion for deciding whether a person covered by that provision can claim return or compensation is whether the property has already been returned to that person or whether he or she has received compensation. The authors have provided no arguments or evidence to substantiate their claim that in considering the payments received by their grandmother from Germany as compensation in the sense of section 17 (5) of the Principles of Ownership Reform Act, the Court of Appeal was motivated by their Baltic German heritage. The authors have also failed to explain how the conditions established by section 17 (5) of that Act are linked to national or ethnic origin.


4.16 The authors have also not submitted any evidence to demonstrate that, contrary to article 26 of the Covenant, Baltic Germans were treated differently or less favorably than any other group of people, including native Estonians, who filed claims for return of or compensation for unlawfully expropriated property. Their statements about the “unpopularity” of granting restitution to the Baltic Germans are arbitrary and false. Even more arbitrary is to suggest that Estonian courts operate according to the alleged popularity or unpopularity of certain ethnic groups. Section 17 (5) of the Principles of Ownership Reform Act applies to everyone, without distinction based on nationality, ethnic origin or any other ground. The only criterion is whether the property has been returned or compensation paid.

4.17 The falseness of the authors’ claim that the Estonian authorities discriminate against Baltic Germans by refusing to return or to compensate for unlawfully expropriated property can be further demonstrated by several similar cases, in which the courts decided in claimants’ favor when there was no concrete evidence that compensation had been paid by Germany. These cases demonstrate that the solution is based on law and evidence, not on biases against certain ethnic groups. In the authors’ case, evidence existed to conclude that the compensation payments were indeed made and that they were made for the loss of their grandmother’s property in Tallinn.

Authors’ comments on the State party’s observations on admissibility and the merits


5.8 As to the merits, the relevant question before the Committee is to determine whether the State party’s authorities have discriminated against those who resettled in 1941. In particular, on 10 March 2008, the General Assembly of the Supreme Court held that these Baltic German resettlers must be treated equally to other subjects entitled to restitution and that applications for the return of property should be reconsidered. The authors therefore, had a legitimate expectation for the return of their property. However, in almost all the applications for return of property – that is, more than 30 cases – the Estonian authorities invoked evidence of compensation under the German Equalization of Burdens Act.


5.14 Lastly, the authors disagree that the two cases referred to by the State party represent proof of non-discrimination against Baltic Germans.


Issues and proceedings before the Committee

Consideration of admissibility


6.4 The Committee notes the authors’ claims under articles 2, 14 and 26 of the Covenant that they suffered discrimination and denial of justice by the State party’s courts and that the administrative and judicial proceedings between 1991 and 2013 have exceeded the reasonable time requirement.


6.9 The Committee notes that although the authors’ main claims relate to property rights, which are not themselves protected by the Covenant, the authors also allege that the decision of the Court of Appeal was discriminatory and amounted to denial of justice. In this connection, the Committee notes that the authors’ claims relate to the interpretation and application of domestic law and practice by the courts of the State party. The Committee recalls that it is generally for the courts of States parties to review facts and evidence, or the application of domestic legislation, in a particular case, unless it can be shown that such evaluation or application was clearly arbitrary or amounted to a manifest error or denial of justice, or that the court otherwise violated its obligation of independence and impartiality.

6.10 In the present case, the Committee notes that the authors have not demonstrated that the applicable domestic legislation – that is, section 17 (5) of the Principles of Ownership Reform Act – provides for any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on grounds such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. The Committee notes that the only criterion imposed by that section is whether the property in question has already been returned or compensation has already been paid. The Court of Appeal, after taking into account the authors’ situation, based its decision on that provision of the Principles of Ownership Reform Act. The authors have failed to demonstrate that the application of that law was discriminatory, or to cite any relevant jurisprudence that would show a different application of the law based on nationality. The Committee is therefore not in a position to conclude, on the basis of the material at its disposal, that the domestic courts acted arbitrarily or that their decision amounted to discrimination, arbitrariness or denial of justice. Accordingly, the Committee considers that this part of the communication is insufficiently substantiated for the purposes of admissibility and declares it inadmissible under article 2 of the Optional Protocol.

Document data: 08.11.2019, published 25.11.2019. CCPR/C/127/D/2499/2014 Link: Also available in Russian and French

Commissioner’s statement on language policies (excerpts), 2019

Promoting social cohesion through balanced policies on languages


The Advisory Committee on the FCNM has consistently emphasised, in respect of a range of countries, including Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Moldova, North MacedoniaRomaniaSlovakiaUkraine and the Russian Federation, that policies on the use of languages should aim to reconcile the needs of different groups of speakers, those of the state and those of society as a whole, rather than deepening gaps between different groups based on linguistic differences [..]

Tackling discrimination based on language

Laws and policies that promote the use of a specific language should not result in discriminatory treatment of some groups of the population. Therefore, before introducing new measures regulating the use of languages, the authorities should carefully assess the possible disproportionate impact of such measures, especially on persons belonging to national minorities. The Advisory Committee on the FCNM has indeed highlighted that strict language requirements can constitute a disproportionate obstacle for persons belonging to national minorities in a range of areas, such as access to employment, participation in political life, and access to health care and education. In the case of Latvia and Estonia for instance, it deplored insufficient access for persons belonging to minorities to public positions due to overly strict language requirements.

It is therefore crucial for countries to ensure that they have an effective anti-discrimination legal framework in place, which explicitly prohibits discrimination based on ethnic or national origin as well as on language, and, importantly, which foresees effective remedies for persons alleging such discrimination. [..]

Using incentives rather than sanctions to ensure implementation

A particularly important incentive is to ensure that there are enough opportunities for learning the state or official language and that the offer is accessible and of adequate quality. This is crucial to ensure access for all to a shared and common language. I read with interest the findings of a recent audit report about the teaching of Estonian language for adults in Estonia, which showed a shortage of funding and adequately trained teachers. The report indicated for example that in 2015, the plan was to offer free language classes to 540 persons, while in fact almost 6,000 people applied for such classes. Lack of funds and/or trained teachers and the quality of teaching materials have also been issues of concern in several other countries.


Document data: 29.10.2019. Link: Also available in French and Russian

Report on the implementation of national Roma integration strategies (excerpts), 2019





1.2. Achievements and challenges


The most significant challenges highlighted by NRCPs include: school participation, absenteeism, early school-leaving, the transition from primary to secondary and the completion of secondary education. 13 [..]

13 AT, CY, EE, EL, ES, FR, HR, LT, NL




2.2. Achievements and challenges


NRCPs emphasise three main types of challenges: capacity of implementing structures 23 ; discrimination against Roma24; and attitudes and trust of Roma themselves25.

23 AT, EL, PL, PT, SK

24 EE, ES, LT, LV, NL, PT, RO

25 BG, EE, FR, NL, PT




1. Focus of measures


Distribution of non-discrimination measures by relevance to the respective sub-areas of the Council Recommendation

Thematic sub-area MS [..]
Fight antigypsyism by raising awareness about the benefits of Roma integration AT, BE, BG, CZ, ES, IT, LT, LV, PT, SK, SE[..]
Fight antigypsyism by raising awareness on diversityAT, BE, BG, CZ, EE, ES, IT, LT, LV, PT, SE, SK[..]


2. Achievements and challenges


The achievements most often mentioned by NRCPs were: improving the conditions of Roma women and children47; combating antigypsyism by breaking stereotypes or promoting Roma culture and history 48 ; and involving all relevant actors (public authorities, civil society and Roma communities) in efforts to promote anti-discrimination49 .

47 BG, EE, ES, HU, HR, PT, SK

48 ES, FR, HU, LV

49 IT, ES, SI

Several NRCPs referred to challenges of improving access to legal protection and rights awareness50, as well as difficulties in fighting against stereotypes51 and improving the situation of Roma women and children.52 The mere fact that several Member States53 – including some with large Roma communities and several with very high rates of perceived discrimination among Roma – did not report any antidiscrimination measures underlines the gravity of challenges in this area.

50 AT, CZ, LT, PT

51 EE, ES, HR, LV

52 BG, ES, SK

53 CY, FR, EL, PL, RO


Document data: 06.09.2019 Link [with annexes not quoted here]:

Important activities in the 2019/2020 academic year (excerpts), 2020

Summary of performance reports



13. While the share of students completing basic education at a Russian language-medium school and having achieved at least level B1 proficiency in Estonian15 has increased as compared with 2011 (56% in 2011; 61% in 2018), reaching the target for 2020 (90%) is not realistic. In order to best reflect the progress regarding the Estonian language skills of young people whose native language is other than Estonian, regardless whether they attend an Estonian-medium or a Russian-medium school or participate in an Estonian language immersion programme, we also monitor, besides graduates from Russian-medium basic schools, the Estonian language skills of those basic school graduates whose native language is other than Estonian16 – 69.2% of such students achieved at least level B1 in 2018.

15 Source: Innove and EHIS.

16 Source: Innove and EHIS.

14. After the partial adoption of Estonian as the language of instruction in Russian-medium upper secondary schools, 1. the language skills of school leavers have somewhat improved. While 23% of school leavers failed to achieve a B2 language proficiency level before the transfer, in 2018 the share of such students was 19% (data from EHIS and EIS). The share of students who achieve a high score in the level B2 test (over 75 points) and would be able to sit the level C1 test has also increased – in recent years, nearly two thirds of those who sat an exam of Estonian as a second language scored high marks.

In the 2018/2019 academic year, the number of general education teachers was 15,465; 94% of them have at least B2 and 88% C1 level language skills in Estonian. These indicators have not improved in recent years – in 2012, 93% of general education teachers had at least B2-level knowledge of Estonian and 87% at least C1. Estonian language skills among teachers of pre-primary establishments are somewhat weaker. In the academic year 2018/2019, there was a total of 1,929 (general education, vocational and preprimary) teachers (8% of total teaching staff) with inadequate Estonian language skills. Improving language skills is important not only for adopting Estonian as the language of instruction (e.g. in upper secondary schools) but also because in schools where teachers’ language skills are inadequate17, those of their students are also weaker.

17 Teachers using Estonian as the language of instruction or teachers teaching Estonian – at least level C1; all other teachers – at least level B2.


Estonian language and estonianness


5. English is the most popular foreign language in Estonian schools (as elsewhere in Europe) – the number of students learning English is nearly double those learning Russian, the second most popular foreign language (2018/2019 academic year)31. A survey on foreign language skills conducted in early 2018 showed that English is most beneficial in the labour market – in most fields a good command of English means a significant pay rise. More attention should be paid to improving the foreign language skills of people whose native language is other than Estonian. According to PIIAC 2012, only 4% of Estonians in the youngest age group (16-24-year-olds) did not speak English, but among people whose native language is Russian the share of such people was 27%. 80% of Estonians and 46% of non-Estonians have a good command of English.

31 Source: EHIS.

Document data: 2019. Link:

ECJ judgment in the case C-622/17 (excerpt), 2019


79. In its observations before the Court, the LRTK stated that the decision of 18 May 2016 had been taken on the ground that a programme broadcast on the channel NTV Mir Lithuania contained false information which incited hostility and hatred based on nationality against the Baltic countries concerning the collaboration of Lithuanians and Latvians in connection with the Holocaust and the allegedly nationalistic and neo-Nazi internal policies of the Baltic countries, policies which were said to be a threat to the Russian national minority living in those countries. That programme was addressed, according to the LRTK, in a targeted manner to the Russian-speaking minority in Lithuania and aimed, by the use of various propaganda techniques, to influence negatively and suggestively the opinion of that social group relating to the internal and external policies of the Republic of Lithuania, the Republic of Estonia and the Republic of Latvia, to accentuate the divisions and polarisation of society, and to emphasise the tension in the Eastern European region created by Western countries and the Russian Federation’s role of victim.

80. It does not appear from the documents before the Court that those statements are contested, which is, however, for the referring court to ascertain. On that basis, a measure such as that at issue in the main proceedings must be regarded as pursuing, in general, a public policy objective.


Document data: C-622/17, Judgment of the Court (Second Chamber) of 04.07.2019, Baltic Media Alliance Ltd v Lietuvos radijo ir televizijos komisija. Link:;jsessionid=BDEEF892B6091B14D3F57493FD010CE6?text=&docid=215786&pageIndex=0&doclang=en Also available in Lithuanian and other languages

Publisher’s note: Minority issues are also raised in Advocate-General’s opinion in this case, para. 76

ODIHR Election Expert Team Final Report (excerpts), 2019



Persons belonging to national minorities with Estonian citizenship enjoy full electoral rights. However, despite notable efforts in facilitating integration and naturalization, a considerable number of residents “with undetermined citizenship”, most of ethnic Russian background, are
disenfranchised in national elections. Minorities-related issues did not feature prominently in the campaign and most parties avoided divisive rhetoric. However, some parties’ initiatives that were perceived as alluding to ethnic divisions and carrying nationalistic undertones were of
concern among national minorities.

This report offers a number of recommendations to support efforts to bring elections in Estonia closer in line with OSCE commitments and other international obligations and standards for democratic elections. Recommendations relate to [..], and further facilitating participation of persons belonging to national minorities. ODIHR stands ready to assist the authorities to further improve the electoral process and to address the
recommendations contained in this and previous reports.




A number of prior ODIHR recommendations remain to be addressed, including those related to the disenfranchisement of citizens imprisoned for criminal offences, the prohibition of outdoor political advertising, lacunas in party and campaign finance regulations, and the need to further enhance national minority participation. According to ODIHR EET interlocutors, proposed amendments in these areas were discussed by the outgoing parliament, but did not reach the necessary political consensus for adoption.



Estonia’s 1.3 million population includes persons of 192 ethnicities.26 The largest ethnic groups include Estonians (69 per cent), Russians (25 per cent), Ukrainians (1.7 per cent), and Belarussians and Finns (each less than 1 per cent). The government maintains active programs to promote the integration of national minorities in various spheres of public life, and many ODIHR EET interlocutors noted positive trends in this respect. At the same time, the representation of national minorities in the public sector remains low. This is often a result of a limited knowledge of the official Estonian language, despite many free language courses offered in an attempt to remedy the situation. Some international bodies have recommended enhanced efforts to ensure greater participation of persons belonging to national minorities in public life, including in parliament.27

26 See the 2011 Population and Housing Census. The next population census is due in 2020-2021.

27 See the 2014 CERD Concluding observations on the combined tenth and eleventh periodic reports of Estonia, paragraph 14

Estonia’s population also includes a significant group of residents with “undetermined citizenship”, which results from the country’s citizenship policy implemented following the restoration of independence.28 The proportion of such persons decreased steadily from 32 to 6 per cent in the last 25 years, and as of 1 January 2019, their number was 75,191.29 Such persons can vote in local elections (but cannot stand), and they are unable to vote in national elections, join political parties, or work in state or local government offices. While they have the possibility to naturalize, many lack incentives to do so or face difficulties passing naturalization exams. Most residents with “undetermined citizenship” are of voting age and belong to the Russian minority. Many acknowledge a preference for retaining the “undetermined citizenship” status that allows visa-free travel within the European Union and to the Russian Federation, which, in their opinion, outweighs the benefit of full political rights as naturalized Estonian citizens.30

28 After the restoration of Estonian independence in 1991, citizenship was automatically granted only to holders of Estonian citizenship prior to 16 June 1940, as well as their descendants. Long-term residents of Estonia and their descendants who did not receive Estonian citizenship automatically, did not obtain another citizenship, nor naturalized as Estonian citizens, are officially referred to as “persons of undetermined citizenship”.

29 Data as of 5 March 2019, provided by the Population Register.

30 In a positive step, the Citizenship Act was amended in 2016 to further facilitate naturalization for children and elderly persons with “undetermined citizenship”

The existing legal framework allows for full and equal electoral participation of national minority representatives who hold citizenship. While there are no official statistics on candidates’ ethnic background, political parties informed the ODIHR EET that they include representatives of national minorities on party lists, even if there are no such requirements or special measures prescribed by law. The largest parties campaigned actively in areas predominantly inhabited by Russian-speaking persons, also in Russian language.

While several parties appealed to avoid using divisive rhetoric concerning minorities-related issues in the campaign, some politicians continued to question the loyalty of non-ethnic Estonian political actors and activists. There appears to be, however, a notable pro-EU sentiment, across most party platforms and among the majority of Estonian citizens, regardless of their ethnic background or linguistic affiliation.

Campaigning can be carried out in Estonian and other languages. Under the Language Act, outdoor advertising in a foreign language should also contain a version in Estonian, presented not less visibly. Compliance is enforced by the Language Inspectorate and there were no reported instances in the context of these elections. Voting materials and information in polling stations and on ballots were provided in Estonian. General election-related information was also available in Russian and English, including on the SEO website, as well as in print and broadcast media. The public broadcaster and some private outlets held election debates in both Estonian and Russian languages, and some in English.

While minorities-related issues did not feature prominently in the campaign, one issue that featured prominently was the status of Russian-language schools, which is set to change as part of ongoing education reforms, and over which political parties remain divided. While the Centre Party campaigned on a promise to maintain the joint Estonian- and Russian-language school system, both the Reform and EKRE parties plan to abolish the Russian-language schools, to the dissatisfaction of many members of the Russian-speaking community. Representatives of several minority communities expressed concern regarding some activities that they perceived as carrying nationalistic undertones. 31

31 This included, for instance, the Estonia 200 poster campaign alluding to ethnic divisions, and EKRE’s torchlight procession organized on Estonia’s Independence Day one week before the elections.

ODIHR EET interlocutors in the Ida-Viru region, which is predominantly inhabited by ethnic Russians, expressed appreciation for the government’s recent outreach efforts, including the temporary relocation of some public offices from the capital to the region. The establishment of a TV channel in Russian by the Estonian Public Broadcaster was also welcomed. Voting data from the region indicates, however, a lower level of political participation compared to the national average.32

32 Voter turnout was recorded at 48.2 per cent compared to 63.7 per cent nationwide

Authorities should enhance their efforts of promoting the participation of persons belonging to national minorities in public and political life, as well as take steps to further increase the naturalization rate among persons with “undetermined citizenship”, with a view to granting them full suffrage rights.


These recommendations, as contained throughout the text, are offered with a view to further enhance the conduct of elections in Estonia and to support efforts to bring them fully in line with OSCE commitments and other international obligations and standards for democratic elections. These recommendations should be read in conjunction with past ODIHR recommendations that remain to be addressed.33 [..]

33 In paragraph 25 of the 1999 OSCE Istanbul Document, OSCE participating States committed themselves “to follow up promptly the ODIHR’s election assessment and recommendations”. The follow-up of prior recommendations is assessed by the ODIHR EET as follows: from the final report on the 2015 parliamentary elections, recommendation 9 is mostly implemented, while recommendations 1, 5 and 11 are implemented partially; recommendations 6 and 7 are no longer valid.


10. Authorities should enhance their efforts of promoting the participation of persons belonging to national minorities in public and political life, as well as take steps to further increase the naturalization rate among persons with “undetermined citizenship”, with a view to granting them full suffrage rights.

Document data: 27.06.2019. Link: Also available in Estonian:

Global trends 2018 (excerpts), 2019

ANNEX TABLE 1. Refugees, asylum-seekers, internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees (refugees and IDPs), stateless persons, and others of concern to UNHCR by country/territory of asylum | end-2018 (ctnd)


territory of asylum
Persons under UNHCR’s statelessness mandate
Estonia 21 77,877

21 Almost all people recorded as being stateless have permanent residence and enjoy more rights than foreseen in the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons

Document data: 19.06.2019. Link: , see p. 66. The total number of people under UNHCR statelessness mandate in the EU is 396,474, so Estonia accounts for 19.6 %.

Fundamental Rights Report 2019 (excerpt), 2019

4 Racism, xenophobia and related intolerance


4.2. Lack of policy responses to racism, ethnic discrimination and hate crime



Assisting national authorities with hate-crime recording

The full implementation of EU law entails ensuring that the police properly identify hate crime victims and record racist motivation at the time of reporting. Doing so will support the investigation and prosecution of hate crime and will provide the basis for victim support. Proper recording of hate crime is still not a reality in many EU Member States, FRA’s evidence shows.

Upon request from the Member States, FRA, together with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), offers technical assistance to national authorities to improve their ability to record and collect hate crime data and thus provide better support to victims, through national workshops. Between December 2017 and the end of 2018, such workshops took place in Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia, and more are already scheduled for 2019.


Document data: June 2019; ISBN 978-92-9474-591-0 Link:

HCNM statement to the 1229th Meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council (excerpt), 2019


In Estonia, in addition to launching the Tallinn Guidelines, I engaged with the Government, minority representatives, civil society, and education professionals, both in the capital as well as in Narva. This regional visit complemented my first assessment of Estonia’s minority-related situation, following my first visit to the country in my current capacity in June 2018. In general, I continued to see positive trends in the integration of Estonian society that are evidenced in areas such as the media, citizenship, language and education.

In Narva specifically, minority interlocutors noted increased attention from the Government vis-à-vis the region, which carries a significant symbolic value. The recent relocation of the office of Estonia’s Integration Foundation and the opening of the Estonian Language House in Narva are appreciated locally. My interlocutors, including ethnic Russians, highlighted the importance and primacy of the local Narva identity, which transcends ethnic belonging and informs pluralistic and inclusive self-identification. This is particularly evident among the younger generation, which bodes well for the future.

At the same time, socio-economic inequalities and social distance between different ethnicities still requires additional efforts on the part of the Government. I encouraged both the former and the incoming Government to pay closer attention to the existing apprehensions among the Russian-speaking community about the future of Russian-language education, and pointed to the need for better outreach, closer consultations, and the inclusion of a broader array of stakeholders in the decision-making process. In particular, I took note of repeated references to a “united Estonian-language school” in many party programmes in the pre-election context. I noted that the degree of ambiguity with regard to what this may entail fuels fears about the future of minority-language education. I encouraged the authorities to take into consideration regional specificities with regard to the ethnic composition of society and create opportunities for minority representatives to participate in the decision-making process of future policies in this field.


Document data: 23.05.2019, Link:

Regarding the situation with the glorification of Nazism… (excerpt), 2019


The Estonian authorities continue to inculcate a distorted and grounded on nationalist ideology and Russophobia interpretation of the joint history of Russia and Estonia. The most falsified is the Soviet era presented by modern Estonian historiography as the “occupation 1940 – 1991”, as well as events of the Great Patriotic War in the country’s territory. On this basis, a myth is being built of “freedom fighters” who fought against the “Soviet aggressors” wearing Wehrmacht uniform, the Waffen-SS units and guard and punitive divisions, which camouflages the glorification of Nazi criminals and their accomplices. At the same time, information on war crimes committed by Estonian collaborators, especially on the complicity in punitive actions against the civilian population, as well as in killing and torturing prisoners of concentration camps and Soviet prisoners of war, is silenced down.

Since the 1990s, gatherings of former Nazis and their belated followers are held annually in July at the memorial cross erected on the heights of Sinimäe (in 1944, there were bloody battles between the Red Army and Brownshirts) in honour of the Estonians who served in the 20th Waffen-SS Grenadier Division (the Estonian Legion), as well as the SS-men from Belgium and the Netherlands.

During another neo-Nazi coven in 2018, as before, the “exploits” of SS “defenders” against “Russian occupiers” were praised, relevant “historical” literature was disseminated and Nazi symbols were openly displayed. With reference to the “private nature” of the event, press correspondents of “undesirable” media, in particular, the Sputnik-Estonia news agency, were not allowed to attend the event.

Estonian officials, avoiding criticism from the international community, refrained from attending the ceremony, but did not prevent it from happening. Moreover, the right-wing nationalist forces in the government openly welcomed the glorification of Nazi acolytes. Thus, the Minister of Justice of the Republic of Estonia from the Isamaa (“Fatherland”) right-wing nationalist party, Urmas Reinsalu, sent a message of greetings to the participants of the aforementioned neo-Nazi “gathering”, stating that “gratitude to the combatants in Sinimäe will last forever”.

In 2016, a bust was installed in the school where Harald Nugiseks, former SS-Oberscharführer (Sergeant), studied; the school principal claimed that it will contribute to the growth of patriotism among students[67].

Another blasphemous “contribution” to the glorification of Fascism was the opening of a memorial plaque on June 22, 2018, in the village of Mustla, Viljandi County, with the inscription: “To the Fighter for the Freedom of Estonia and Recipient of the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves”, commemorating the SS-Standartenfuhrer Alfons Rebane (born there), the last commander of the 20th Waffen-SS Grenadier Division. The press service of the Estonian Government stated regarding this episode that during World War Two, Estonian soldiers “had to fight in different uniforms and their memory should be cherished with dignity”.

In August 2018, another three-day reenactment of the campaign of Hitlerite diversion group “Erna”, which was composed of Estonians and Finns and deployed behind the Soviet army lines in the summer of 1941, took place for the 19th time. This “military-patriotic event”, supported by the Estonian Ministry of Defense, traditionally involves youth activists, as well as members of NATO troops deployed in the Republic.

In the same month, Urmas Reinsalu personally handed Oak Leaf Wreath of Freedom decorations (the design of these decorations was clearly inspired by the award of the Third Reich – the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves) to 129 participants in the “armed and unarmed resistance” and “fighters for the freedom of Estonia”, among whom were former soldiers of the 20th Waffen-SS Division.

In September 2018, activists of the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (CPPE), NPO “The Union of Estonian Freedom Fighters” and NPO “Sakala” restored a model of the Monument to the Defenders of Estonia in the locality of Lihula, a granite stone slab depicting a soldier in the Waffen-SS uniform with a German weapon in his hands[68]. The rally within the framework of this campaign, which brought together hundreds of participants, was attended by the top of the CPPE: Chairman Mart Helme, his deputies Jaak Madison and Henn Põlluaas, former servicemen of the Waffen-SS and their followers from the “patriotic” organizations and neo-Nazi groups.

The publication of the comic book “Hipster Hitler” released in Estonian[69] by the “Kunst” (Art) publishing house and printed in the Tallinn bookshop in June 2018, caused a negative public outcry. The advertisement of this provocative edition suggested “taking a fresh look” at the personality of Hitler portrayed as a modern young man. Alongside with “Führer-Hipster” himself, his accomplices – Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Göring and other members of the Third Reich’s ruling cabal found guilty of heinous crimes by the Nuremberg Tribunal, were depicted in a funny way.

The Culture and Life magazine (“Kultuur ja Elu”) stood out among Estonian mass media by its active efforts to rehabilitate Hitler’s accomplices, and almost every edition of it gave considerable attention to the “heroes in the fight for freedom” who served in the ranks of the Waffen-SS, as well as to the positive presentation of German occupation period in 1941-1944.

A direct consequence of attempts to glorify the Nazis is the systematic desecration of monuments to the victims of the Holocaust and Soviet soldiers fallen on Estonian territory in battles against the Nazis. Another recurrence was the attachment of a poster depicting Hitler with the inscription “Adolf Hitler was right” in April 2018, on the monument to the fallen soldiers of the Soviet 305th Strike Fighter Division in Rakvere, as well as spray-painting of swastikas and Nazi greetings in August 2018, on the memorial to Jews and Roma killed by the Nazis in the town of Kalevi-Liiva and vandalism of the monument to Soviet soldiers in October 2018, in the village of Lismetsa, Võru County.

A clear indicator of the spread of neo-Nazi views in society is the consistent rise in the popularity of radical nationalist ideas, the main voicer of which is the CPPE. The party won 19 out of 101 seats in the Riigikogu (Parliament) in parliamentary elections of March 2019, almost tripling its representation.

The CPPE unites active inspirers of the whitewashing and immortalization of Estonian Nazi collaborators and incitement of inter-ethnic and inter-racial hatred. A number of its activists are positive about the “effectiveness” of Hitler’s regime, etc. In particular, the praise of Hitler’s leaders and the shouting of Nazi greetings in March 2019, by the head of the foreign policy department of the CPPE and the youth wing of the Blue Awakening party, Ruuben Kaalep, received wide publicity. The sympathies of the CPPE for Hitler’s regime are evidenced, among other things, by the annual torch processions in the center of Tallinn copying similar actions of the German Nazis.

Estonia is a favourable territory for neo-Nazi and radical groups. In particular, a branch of the Finnish group “Soldiers of Odin” is active in the country. Its Estonian activists have created several Facebook groups with more than 3,000 participants; they also attend mass events dedicated to the glorification of Nazi accomplices, anti-migration campaigns, etc. The statements by the leaders of this formation regarding their willingness to patrol the streets in order to protect the indigenous population from migrants have had strong repercussions. In addition, the Nordic Resistance Movement, a Finnish neo-Nazi organization banned in September 2018, relocated its activities to Estonia, where its activists registered it as the NPO “National Unity”.

At the same time, Estonian authorities hinder the activities of anti-fascist associations. For example, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism with reference to the information from the Estonian Legal Information Centre for Human Rights reported that anti-fascist activists from Finland and Latvia had been banned from entering Estonia to participate in protests against the glorification of SS veterans. The Centre also noted that the Estonian police had stopped a car with two Estonian citizens planning to condemn the destruction of the Roma community during the World War Two at the annual meeting in honour of veterans of the Estonian Waffen-SS Legion[70].

Thus, Estonia is one of the European countries, where the glorification of Fascism is based on poorly covered state support, as well as on wide acceptance in the Estonian-speaking environment. The increase in the political weight of radical right-nationalist movements, as well as in neo-Nazism and the popularity of neo-Nazi groups is directly linked to these phenomena.

[67] Report of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on contemporary forms of racism about trends in the glorification of Nazism at the 38th session of the Council. June 2018, A/HRC/38/53

[68] This monument was erected on this site in 2002 and demolished in September 2004, by order of Prime Minister Juhan Parts under pressure of the international community. The monument is currently located in the private Museum of Fight for Estonia’s Freedom in Lagedi.

[69] These comic books are a slightly modified edition of the American original “Hipster Hitler” by James Carr and Arkhana Kumar.

[70] Report of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on contemporary forms of racism about trends in the glorification of Nazism at the 38th session of the Council. June 2018, A/HRC/38/53.

Document data: 06.05.2019, MFA of Russia. Also available in Russian and French Link: