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Estonia, Estonian | eesti keel, Russian | русский язык, Travel

Russian (русский язык) in Estonia

The taxi from the airport to the hotel was good value at 7 Euros. The trip was very short too. But the biggest surprise to me was that the taxi driver was a Russian speaker. He didn’t speak English or German, and I suspect his Estonian wasn’t great either.

Before I visited Tallinn I would have thought that speaking Russian would have ‘got me into trouble’, but there are ethnic Russians in Tallinn who appear to use Russian as their primary, and in some cases, only language.

However, if I did speak Russian, I was careful to ensure the person I was speaking to was an ‘ethnic’ Russian, or at least ‘happy’ to speak Russian – if so then I used my little bit of beginner’s Russian. English was widely spoken as well, with as you’d expect, generational differences, the young spoke Estonian and English, the older generation Estonian and Russian – that was my experience and it was confirmed by a few Estonians I spoke to.

An Estonian I was speaking with told me her Russian speaking parents had been unable to pass the citizenship exam, which included speaking Estonian. Unsurprising the issue of Estonian citizenship for ethnic Russians is a complicated issue, the Estonian Government have two very good web pages Integration in Estonian society and Citizenship which go into the detail (links are English language pages). There is also an article about some of the Russian Estonian issues from RT in Top tips to help stop political heartburn in Estonia.

One plus point – I was able to buy the text-book I need, Zhili-byli, for my Russian conversation classes that restart in September 2011. I still need the corresponding workbook, but hopefully I’ll find that when I attend the Translation Forum Russia in Saint-Petersburg on 23-25 of September 2011.

For general EU citizenship information see

About Doug Lawrence

I help businesses to grow internationally


5 thoughts on “Russian (русский язык) in Estonia

  1. i have always wanted to go to estonia so thanks for posting some really interesting information

    Posted by laurahartson | August 10, 2011, 11:52 am
  2. Hi just curious I only speak English and Russian can I survive in Tallinn for 2weeks speaking Russian?

    Posted by Andrei | July 8, 2012, 5:09 am
    • Privet, Andrei! I’ve spoken to a handful of Russian speakers about this. One was quite annoyed with me suggesting there was no issue about speaking Russian in Estonia … others have said they felt easier starting in English then switching to Russian if they found the other person was a Russian speaker. ‘Your mileage my vary’ and I’m told certain towns (like Narva which I hope to visit in September) have a majority of Russian speakers. Perhaps it’s a bit like French speaking parts of Canada? My personal opinion start in English … Poka Doug

      Posted by Doug Lawrence | July 8, 2012, 11:05 am
      • Большое спасибо это мне помогает много

        Posted by Андрей | July 11, 2012, 4:35 am

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