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38 Harv. Int'l. L. J. 315 (1997)
Creating the Ethnic Electorate through Legal Restorationism: Citizenship Rights in Estonia

handle is hein.journals/hilj38 and id is 321 raw text is: VOLUME 38, NUMBER 2, SPRING 1997

Creating the Ethnic Electorate through
Legal Restorationism:
Citizenship Rights in Estonia
Richard C. Visek*
With the breakup in 1991 of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Repub-
lics, former constituent republics were able to claim or, as in the case
of the Baltic States, reclaim their independence. But as these new states
were formed and former states reestablished, there remained a human
legacy of the old Soviet Union-the estimated 25 million ethnic Rus-
sians who had migrated to or been born in these former republics and
chose to remain after their independence.' The question arose as to
whether these so-called orphaned Slavs,'2 citizens of a Soviet state that
no longer existed, should be entitled to citizenship in the former
republics, now independent states. Perhaps nowhere has this question
caused as much controversy as in the Baltic State of Estonia, a pre-
viously sovereign state that was occupied and annexed by the Soviet
Union during World War II.3
Upon regaining its independence in 1991, almost one third of
Estonia's population of approximately 1.5 million inhabitants were
ethnic Russians, the overwhelming majority of whom had migrated to
Estonia during the Soviet occupation.4 Rather than offer automatic
* LL.M. in International Law, Cambridge University; J.D., Georgetown University; A.B.,
Stanford University. The author is a Visiting Researcher at the Georgetown University law Center
and was a Visiting Lecturer in Law at Tartu University in Estonia during the 1995-96 academic
year. He is graceful to Professor Robert E Drinan, SJ., and Vello Pettai for their thoughtful
comments on an earlier draft of this work.
1. In addition to the ethnic Russians, approximately 29-40 million other former Soviet
citizens were living outside of their native republics when the Soviet Union dissolved. An
estimated 9 million of these persons were Ukrainians and Belarusians. See UNITED NATIONS HIGH
COMPMSSIONER FOR REFUGEES, CIS CONFERENCE ON REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS 12 (May
30-31, 1996) [hereinafter UNHCR].
2. Forced Migration in the Newly Independent States of the Former Soviet Union: Hearing
Before the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights of the House Commit-
tee on International Relations, 104th Cong., 2d Sess. (May 22, 1996) (statement of Blair Ruble,
Director, Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies).
3. The Russian Federation government has ranked Estonia as the harshest of the Baltic countries
in its handling of its Russian minority. Them and Us, EcoNoMIST, Aug. 17, 1996, at 68.
4. See ESTONIAN INSTITUTE, ESTONIA IN FACTS: ETHNIC ISSUES IN ESTONIA 1 (May 1996).

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