Prof. Marek Tamm: What unites us in Estonia? Or, how to build a multi- and transcultural society in Estonia?
1. What unites us in Estonia? Or, how to build
a multi- and transcultural society in Estonia?
2. RITA-RÄNNE project (2018–2020):
Migration dependency and integration challenges for Estonia,
employers, communities and educational system
The aim of this project, financed by Estonian Research
Council, is to develop intervention approaches for
migration and integration in Estonia that would contribute
to a more cohesive society.The project will (a) develop the
fundamentals of innovative immigration policy for Estonia
that takes into account both immediate labour market
needs and long-term integration challenges; (b) develop a
unique web based application for migration projections as
well as (c) the cost-benefit model of migration within a
longitudinal life-course perspective, (d) design a model of
multicultural schools, together with tools and intervention
mechanisms for preventing and solving integration related
challenges in schools and communities.
3. RITA-RÄNNE project (2018–2020):
Main arguments and research questions
• Argument:The precondition for integration is the
emergence of a unified Estonian-language based
education system that valorises the linguistic and
cultural diversity of Estonia.
• Research question: How to integrate in the best
possible way the Russian-speaking habitants and
the new immigrants into Estonian society, taking
into account, firstly, the employer’s needs for new
employees and, on the other hand, the integration
capacity of the arrivals, of the education system
and of the local communities?
4. RITA-RÄNNE project (2018–2020):
Work package 4: Cultural diversity in Estonia
• The main objective of the research team is to
develop a general theoretical and conceptual
framework for the integration process in Estonia.
More specifically, the work package addresses the
development of multicultural values, competences
and attitudes in both autochthonous and
immigrant communities in Estonia.
• Research team: Prof. Marek Tamm (head), Prof. Martin
Ehala, Dr. Mare Oja, Prof. Rein Raud.
5. Integration and multiculturalism as
normality in modern societies
• Integration is a constitutive feature of human society, while being
continuous and endless. Integration is an inevitable consequence of
modern society characterized by orientation to differentiation.
• Integration is not so much the eradication of various “deviations” or
resolving “problems” of certain social groups, but a normal phenomenon
resulting from the dynamics and development of modern complex
• Genuinely homogenous cultures do not exist, all modern societies
are culturally hybrid.This multicultural reality is, however,
conceptualized and addressed in different ways in different societies.
6. How to conceptualize culture? (Rein
• Culture is the sum total of the resources available to people for
making their lifeworld(s) meaningful.
• Culture is a loosely integrated network of texts (transmissible clusters of
meaning) and practices (repeatable meaningful actions).
• Cultures do not have enduring essences, but change constantly.
• Cultural communities do not pre-exist individuals, but emerge as real
through the sharing of texts and practices.
7. How to conceptualize Estonian society in
terms of collective identity?
• Estonian society should be understood in terms of collective identity at
two different levels: political and cultural identity.
• Political identity refers to the relationship of the residents of the country to
Estonian state, orientation in the principles of governance, knowledge and
respect of laws, political symbols and practices, recognition of constitutional
institutions, appreciation of the basic political values, etc.
• Cultural identity is shaped by common texts and practices, or more specifically by
common language, cultural traditions, historical experience (cultural memory) and
the like. Cultural identity is borne and shaped by cultural communities. Cultural
communities are dynamic, not fixed, self-propelled, not pre-given (as a result of
joint activities of individuals interested in the preservation and development of
their cultural identity).
8. How to conceptualize Estonian society in
terms of multiculturalism?
• A multicultural system is an arrangement of co-existence of several
integrated communities on a shared territory, in which one culture is usually
• Hegemonic is the culture that has provided the multicultural system with
a critical mass of shared texts and practices, while leaving the carriers of
subcultures (incl. minorities) free choice to share and practice anything else
• Ideological is the dominant culture in a multicultural situation that tries to
impose its own values, texts and practices on all minorities.
9. Multicultural Estonian society
• In Estonia we should speak about hegemonic cultural identity, Estonian cultural
identity, and the various cultural minority identities related to it.The hegemonic
cultural identity is carried and shaped by the Estonian cultural community,
which consists of people who consider themselves to be culturally Estonians.
• Next to the Estonian cultural community, and to a certain extent embedded
in it, communities of minority cultures are operating in Estonia – cultural
communities that have historically developed but are in constant development.
The emergence and organization of minority cultural communities take place
from below, and if it is successful, then the state has to accept and support
such a community.
10. Transcultural Estonian society
• Cultural communities do not coincide with the territory of Estonia, but
include also those people whose political identity is not necessarily
related to Estonia (e.g. Estonians in abroad), but who are culturally
related to Estonia.A cultural minority community may also be, to a
certain extent, culturally linked to another cultural community in its
“homeland” (e.g. Ukrainians to the Ukrainian cultural identity in
• Transcultural communities are virtual by nature and the integration
policy should support the digital infrastructure that makes transcultural
communication easier and more efficient.
11. A simplified model of
multi- and transcultural
The model is static and flat,
but it must be considered
dynamic and multidimensional;
the boundaries of cultural
communities are changing, the
number and size of the
communities are only
illustrative and the overlapping
communities can occur
between more than two or
Estonian cultural community (incl.
Estonian transcultural community)
nity B cultural
12. What kind of integration do we need
• Integration should be directed towards the consolidation and enhancement of a
common political identity and the preservation and development of various cultural
identities, while enhancing the cultural intersection of the people living in Estonia.
• Integration is primarily the construction of society as a whole through learning,
i.e., integration must aim at teaching the civic and cultural competences needed
in Estonia and at ensuring the maximum common ground and good relations
between different cultural communities in the country.
• Integration can only be successful in two directional relational mode, i.e.,
the Estonian cultural community must learn to know the minority
cultures, while the members of minority communities must learn to orient
themselves in Estonian culture.The goal of integration is to strengthen the
importance and value of multiple cultural identities in Estonia.
13. What should be the aims of integration
policy in Estonia?
• The state must promote the knowledge of Estonian language and culture among
all the inhabitants of Estonia, while respecting the constitutional right of people to
preserve their cultural identity.
• The state must pay attention to the factors perpetuating the inequality
(asymmetry) of perceived and actual socio-economic positions of minorities and
develop a policy to reduce these factors.
• The national education system must create conditions for young people
to acquire Estonian cultural identity (next to their earlier cultural
identity, if relevant) and be accepted as Estonians if they wish so.
14. What should be the aims of integration
policy in Estonia?
• In the integration policy, it must be taken into account that the acquisition of
Estonian cultural or national identity does not require the abandonment of one’s
other cultural identities.
• In the educational system, one must recognize the wish of the pupils and their
parents to preserve their cultural identity and to consider this as as an
important cultural resource, not the lack of it.
• The integration policy must be based on the activity-based approach
(supporting the activities of people with various cultural identities in
different life-practical situations) and on the bottom-up initiatives.
15. Concluding remarks:
what needs to be done?
• We need to separate in Estonia cultural and political identities that
were strongly associated with each other in the process of nation-
• It should be possible to be politically Estonian, but have a multiple
• In Estonian society, there should be a hegemonic, not an ideological
domination in the multicultural system.