Modules for History Lessons
Edited By Uta Fenske, Daniel Groth, Klaus-Michael Guse and Bärbel P. Kuhn
Immigration to Estonia after World War II
Introduction to the Module
In the course of the Second World War, Estonia lost three of its previous historical minorities (Jews, Germans and Swedes) meaning that Estonia lost 200,000 people or 17.5 % of its pre-war population.1 Incorporation of Estonia into the Soviet Union brought about decades-lasting great immigration into Estonia from Russia (the fourth minority within Estonia) and other areas of the former Soviet Union. In total, during the Soviet years 1.6 million persons arrived in Estonia and 1.26 million left, thus the migratory balance was shifted by 340 thousand people.2 Also, the composition of Estonia’s population shifted considerably: In 1934 there were 8.2 % Russians living in Estonia, in 1989 there were 30.3 %.
Looking at it from the position of the Russian SFSR, Ukraine and Belarus, a relatively small part of general emigration flows was aimed at Estonia, but from the viewpoint of Estonia, it was big. The determining factor was the immense difference in the percentage of Russians living in Estonia.3 The process was enhanced by Estonia’s population losses, as well as social and economic reorganisations made in the course of Sovietization, forced industrialization that had little to do with local conditions such as Estonia needing more industrial workers. First, they arrived from Estonian rural areas, then mainly from the European regions of Russia, thereafter from more distant Soviet regions. No workers were made to come to Estonia, however, even though Soviet central authorities recruited and directed labour force...
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