Estonia in Baltic Background

Ethnolinguistic vitality and identity construction: Estonia in Baltic background

The research project at hand belongs to the paradigm of sociocultural linguistics and sets the goal to show how the maintenance or assimilation of a group depends on the discursive choices (i.e. the choice of the narratives, beliefs and the value system) the group makes; and how these discursive choices are constructed on the basis of stereotypical views on characteristic features of both the ingroup and outgroup.

The empirical goal of the project is to provide a detailed account of the ethnolinguistic vitality of the two largest ethnic groups (Estonians and Russians) in Estonia in comparative perspective with other Baltic countries; and to reveal the relationships between the identity construction and vitality. The societies of the Baltic countries provide an excellent opportunity for a comparative study of this kind because they share a number of important similarities: all these countries have Russian-speaking communities that acquired their minority status after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The shared historical experience makes also the majority ethnic groups well comparable.  The methodological goal of this project is to develop a standardised way to triangulate the outcomes of quantitative ethnolinguistic vitality studies and qualitative methodology, in order to reveal how the discursive choices shape the vitality perceptions of different social subgroups and thereby their collective behaviour. The project is important for better understanding and more effective control of the interethnic processes in Estonia: its results deepen understanding of how different public discourses influence vitality and to which extent these discourses find resonance in different social subgroups.


Ehala, Martin (2009). The Bronze Soldier: Identity threat and maintenance in Estonia. Journal of Baltic Studies, 1, 139-158.

Ehala, Martin (2008). Venekeelse põlisvähemuse sünd. Vikerkaar, 4-5, 93 - 104.

Ehala, Martin (2008). An evaluation matrix for ethno-linguistic vitality. Susanna Pertot, Tom Priestly, Colin Williams (Eds.). Rights, Promotion and Integration Issues for Minority Languages in Europe (201 - 226). Palgrave Macmillan Ltd

Zabrodskaja, Anastassia (2008). Language testing in the context of citizenship and asylum: the case of Estonia. Language Assessment Quarterly, 5(4), 1 - 10.

Zabrodskaja, Anastassia (2008). Межкультурная коммуникация: теория и тренинг [Cross-cultural communication: Theory & Training]. J. Roth & G. Koptelzewa ('06) / Художественный перевод и межкультурная коммуникация [Literal translation & cross-cultural communication]. J. Obolenskaja ('06). Sociolinguistic Studies, Vol 2(No 2), 281 - 284.

Zabrodskaja, Anastassia (2008). Collaboration in the Estonian-Russian University Classroom. Dmitri Teperik, Tomas Jermalavičius (Eds.). Transferable skills and research optimization (85 - 90). Tartu: K-Tolliblanketid

Zabrodskaja, Anastassia (2008). Sisupõhisest keeleõppest tugiseminari näitel. Natalja Zorina (Ed.). Acta et commentationes collegii Narovensis. Tartu Ülikooli Narva Kolledži toimetised. (1 - 15). Narva Kolledž: Tartu Ülikooli Narva Kolledž.

Project leader

Dr Martin Ehala
University of Tartu
Insitute of Estonian and General Linguistic

Project members

  • Martin Ehala
  • Anastassia Zabrodskaja