Myth breaker, part 2 : Citizenship


Myth breaker is a Propastop column that rejects propaganda and false rhetoric about Estonia. We have already proved that the Soviet Union occupied Estonia and broke the so-called „ voluntary accession“ myth.

Today we are breaking down the misconception that there is extremely difficult criteria setup to obtain citizenship in Estonia or that we restrict granting citizenship to Russian speaking residents.

Myth: Estonian citizen law bullies Russians

Where is this myth circulated?

Some examples of articles from Russian propaganda, where this myth is confirmed: Komsomolskaja Pravda, RIA Novosti, RT. Footprints of the myth can be seen in Western media, for example Spiegel, this was recently discussed on Al Jazeera. It seems that the myth has also spread to the citizens of Estonia in their everyday image of citizenship.

Why is this myth circulated?

The „Citizenship Persecution“ myth is part of the Kremlin’s broader propaganda narratives which seeks to create and deepen a national level dispute in Estonian society, sowing distrust of the Republic of Estonia. The raising of the issue in Europe forms a split between Estonia and its allies.

Narratives are usually a collection of accusations where a number of lies are stated. For example it is argued that Russian speaking Estonian residents cannot get involved in political life or elect Parliament (the argument is not true, since the election of Parliament is not restricted by language or ethnicity, it is only restricted to Estonian citizens). Adding false allegations that there is extremely difficult criteria setup to obtain citizenship in Estonia or that it is highly expensive (we turn around both accusations below) language based harassment and cultural persecution. There is no reason to justify the accusations that have been made inasmuch as the whole purpose is aimed at creating a negative impression of Estonia.

One reason why the myth is so die-hard is because of the negative use of knowledge on the subject of Estonian law. Claims are repeated based on the old Citizenship Act, which no longer has been valid for nearly a quarter of a century.

Suppressing propaganda myths

The claim of the severity of Estonian citizenship policy is not correct. In order to become an Estonian citizen, a stateless adult must express his desire and meet the following requirements:

  1. Residence requirement in Estonia: at least eight years
  2. Requirement to comply with the law: the applicant must affirm his loyalty to Estonia; comply with the laws and constitutional order. He may not have been punished repeatedly by a criminal procedure. An e-examination on constitutional knowledge must be passed.

If there is a serious „exam“ everyone can try on Innove website. The test is determined by multiple choice, it can be practiced free of charge for as long as all of the answers are correct and memorized. However, the website itself may seem to be complex and out of date which is likely to exacerbate the alienation of citizenship applicants.

  1. Know the Estonian language at a B1 level. If education is acquired in Estonian, no language proficiency is required.
  2. Have a steady income.

There are no ethnic restrictions on obtaining Estonian citizenship.

Becoming an Estonian citizen cannot be considered rigorous if compared with for example to Russia where there is a requirement of residence, as well as requirements of respecting the law, understanding the state language and a steady income. The chart below compares preconditions for Estonian citizenship with other countries.

Is an Estonian Citizenship Application expensive? The state fee for processing an application for citizenship is 12.78 euros. Acquiring an identity card will cost an additional 24.28 euros. Citizenship and language exams are free. There are free language courses available. However if you paid for your language lessons yourself, you can ask for remuneration after completing the citizenship examinations.

Myth broken!

Propaganda myths are proven wrong by facts and comparative analysis. Estonian citizenship requirements are not complicated and they are affordable for everyone, the rules are similar to those of Russia and most European countries.

Additional info:

As of January 1, 2017 there were 1315635 people of whom 77,926 (5.92%) were unmarried and 86,674 (6.59%) were Russian citizens in Estonia. The data is from the Statistical Office’s database and to find them the search fields must be filled. In simpler terms, data from previous years can be found in Wikipedia.

Citizenship policies from different countries can be read here.

Becoming an Estonian citizen can be read here in Russian here and in English here.

Country data on the proportion of foreigners and stateless citizens can be found here.


Propastop thanks Koidu Mesilast from the Ministry of the Interior for his consultation.

Photo: Thomas Hawk / Flickr / CC