Revisiting the Security/Identity Puzzle in Russo-Estonian Relations

Journal article

Aalto, Pami (2003) Revisiting the Security/Identity Puzzle in Russo-Estonian Relations, Journal of Peace Research 40 (5).

This article engages the persisting and commonplace claim that post-Soviet politics is imbued with the prevalence of very close linkages between security and identity. Such a claim is often made in analyses of Russo-Baltic relations, where especially the inter-ethnic policies of the ethnic Estonians and Latvians have been found to be in a triadic conflict with the interests of their Russophone minorities and the declared policy preferences of the contemporary Russian Federation. However, this article contests such claims and argues that there are several signs of a gradual erosion of the intense security/identity linkages. First, the article outlines some overall developments in the strategic and politico-economic context that have accounted for a relative accommodation in Russo-Baltic relations. Second, the article enquires into the subjective roots of such accommodation patterns by introducing an in-depth analysis of Russo-Estonian relations that makes use of an intensive fieldwork method, Q methodology. It becomes clear that security/identity linkages, as subjectively perceived by ethnic Estonians and Estonia's Russophones, are best understood as varied: in some discourses that issue from these groups, they are very close, but relatively loose in others. Such a variation in security/identity linkages is an important condition for the gradual erosion of tensions that has been taking place in Russo-Estonian relations and in Russo-Baltic relations in general. On the whole, these findings speak to the importance of methodological plurality and case-sensitiveness in the study of the complexities of security/identity linkages.

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