Statelessness and Citizenship

Statelessness and Citizenship

A Comparative Study on the Benefits of Nationality

Edited by Brad K. Blitz and Maureen Lynch

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that there are more than 12 million stateless people in the world. The existence of stateless populations challenges some central tenets of international law and contemporary human rights discourses, yet only a very small number of states have made measurable progress in helping individuals acquire or regain citizenship. This fascinating study examines positive developments in eight countries and pinpoints the benefits of citizenship now enjoyed by formerly stateless persons.

Chapter 9: Statelessness, Citizenship and Belonging in Estonia

Raivo Vetik

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, politics and public policy, human rights


Raivo Vetik After regaining independence in August 1991 and reintroducing the Citizenship Act of 1938 half a year later in February 1992, about one third of the population of Estonia became stateless. The 1992 law was based on the idea of the ‘legal continuity’ of the pre-war Estonian Republic, which means that only those persons who were citizens before Estonia’s incorporation into the Soviet Union in 1940 and their descendants were entitled to automatic citizenship. Migrants from the Soviet period and their descendants, by contrast, had to go through the process of naturalization. The law required two years of residence before a person is entitled to apply for citizenship and a further one year waiting period before the applicant can be naturalized. The law also included a loyalty oath and restricts certain categories of people from gaining citizenship (military officers, foreign intelligence officers etc.). Last but not least, the law required knowledge of the Estonian language.1 This chapter examines the benefits of citizenship to formerly stateless people in Estonia. It analyses how the change in the legal status of the Russian-speaking minority population in Estonia, above all the acquisition of Estonian citizenship, has affected their socio-economic and sociocultural adaptation. To this end, it draws upon two principal sources of information: evidence gathered in a public opinion poll on the integration of ethnic Russians in Estonia, conducted in spring 2008,2 and in-depth interviews connected to the poll.3 The chapter examines, first, the history of citizenship reform in Estonia and considers...

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