When in Estonia, Speak as the Estonians Do

The article ``Russians in Estonia Struggle to Learn Difficult Language,'' July 7, states, ``noncitizens ... are required to pass a standard Estonian proficiency test to obtain residency permits,'' and that ``those who fail to meet the requirements face deportation.'' It is inaccurate not to have mentioned that under the Estonian Law on Aliens of 1993, no one will be deported from Estonia for not knowing the language.

A minimal language requirement (about 1,500 words) exists for obtaining Estonian citizenship, but all civilians who are in Estonia based on ``legal'' residency under Soviet rule can register for residency permits. Residency, as opposed to citizenship, means one cannot vote or serve in the military.

The article quotes Russian president Boris Yeltsin, who says that Estonia's language-related citizenship is a form of ethnic cleansing. The city of Narva is mentioned, where 95 percent of the population is Russian speaking. Until the Soviet occupation in 1945, Narva, like the rest of Estonia, was almost completely Estonian-speaking. The present inhabitants of Narva are there as a result of an illegal displacement of the population that began 50 years ago. Epp Kuhn, Princeton, N.J.

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