The collapse of the Soviet Empire provides several instances where the presence of Russian-speaking minorities constitute a potential challenge to the consolidation of former Soviet Republics as independent democracies. This paper uses national sample surveys undertaken in 1993 and 1995 to examine ethnic relations in Estonia. Using the framework of exit, voice and loyalty as a basis for interpreting reactions to the choices presented in this context, it is shown that several years after the break-up of the Soviet Union, the two main ethnic groups remained firmly opposed over issues of citizenship and minority rights, an opposition accentuated by their relatively limited degree of internal differentiation. Assimilation of Russian-speaking minorities was not accepted by ethnic Estonians, and was not sort by Russians. For several reasons, however, Russians showed no strong signs of reacting by endorsing either secession or emigration as a solution to the exclusion of many of them from full citizenship. The analysis points to a continuing tension in the position of Russian-speakers within the new state, with the eventual emergence of a mobilized ethnic political voice within Estonia as a likely outcome.

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