ChanThe ging roles and functions of Russian journalism and journalists in Estonia during societal transformation of 1991-2010
Ethnic minority media embody many of the multiculturalist, multilingual and integration changes in the media landscape and in the wider societal frame as well. Often minority media aim to provide relevant information, but also alternative publicity and empowering experiences in regard to their own identity, language and culture. Through an analysis of journalists’ interviews and quantitative data, I will examine how Russian-speaking journalists in Estonia perceive their professional roles. The findings suggest that Russian-language journalists tend to fulfil two controversial tasks – to provide a relevant picture of general Estonian society and politics, and to stress the lines of division between the two main ethnicities. In Estonia, Russian-speaking journalists have found themselves involved in difficult political and societal processes and transformations. Among them was the process of integration of the Russian-speaking ethnic minority into the host society, and this was something journalists had to cope with. Russian-language minority media remained and still remain the main source of information for the Russian-speaking population because of their insufficient knowledge of the Estonian language. Husband confirms that, in many instances, minority ethnic media are the dominant media for minority ethnic communities, and tend to hinder the flow of individuals and creative capacity from the minority media sector into majority systems (Husband 2005: 462). Sociological surveys carried out since the 1990s have confirmed the existence of a model of “two societies in one state” in Estonia (Lauk&Jakobson 2009: 212). These two “societies” (Estonians and the Russian-speaking population) live in different informational spaces as they use different media channels with different content (Vihalemm 2008: 76). Jakobson pointed out that, from the Soviet era up to now, there have been two concurrent elites in Estonia – Estonian- and Russian-speaking (including not only Russians, but also Jews, Ukrainians etc.) and two media systems – Estonian- and Russian-language (2002:8). The latter forms a serious obstacle to inter-ethnic integration and the creation of a modern civic nation. Both Estonian and Western sociologists (e.g. Brubaker 1994; Kirch & Kirch 1995; Laitin 1996, 1998; Vihalemm 1999) have warned that if socio-political integration is not successful, this model might become dangerous for Estonia, both in terms of social stability and state security (Lauk & Jakobson 2009: 212). For the purposes of the present study, the socio-cultural strand of identity theory will be implemented. Key words: Estonia, Russian-speaking journalists, integration, minority media, professional roles.