IRB – Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (Author)
No reports of beatings of Jews in Estonia were found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
The United States Department of State's Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2001 states that there are 2,500 members of the Jewish community in Estonia (26 Oct. 2001). The Report goes on to say that Estonia's "Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice" (ibid.). Moreover, the US report maintains that relations between faith communities in the country are "generally amicable" (ibid.).
However, according to a 12 April 2002 Interfax News Agency bulletin, the Jewish community in Estonia recently requested the police to safeguard their property due to a rise in attacks on synagogues in Europe. Cilja Laud, chairwoman of the Jewish community, stated that "'although the situation in Estonia is calm so far, Estonian Jews still do not feel safe'" (ibid.). In 1999, Laud made a similar statement to the press, claiming that Jews did not feel safe; however, she also added that there was no antisemitism at the state level in Estonia (BNS 13 Jan. 1999).
According to the Baltic News Service, three men from an organization called Russian National Unity were fined in April 2002 for inciting ethnic hatred by distributing a newsletter which "depicted Estonia as an ancient Russian territory and the Estonians as a treacherous, violent and dishonest people who hate Jews and Russians" (24 Apr. 2002). In October 2002, a radio announcer was accused of inciting ethnic hatred on his show after he read from a book which claimed that "dreaming of Jews may result in bad consequences" (UCSJ 2 Oct. 2002). The charges against him were later dropped (ibid.).
In July 2001, the Israeli Ambassador to Estonia maintained "that he had no information about any expressions of antisemitism or problems with Jews in the Estonian capital" (BNS 11 July 2001). However, in a statement made only two days after the Ambassador's comments, Tarmo Loodus, the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, stated that "Estonia could be engulfed by 'a wave of racism' if society doesn't take protective measures soon" (UCSJ 24 July 2001). Mr. Loodus's comments were made after "dark-skinned" foreign students in the city of Tartu were attacked by skinheads (ibid.; ibid. 7 May 2001). The mayor of Tartu acknowledged the violence, but claimed that there was a lack of financial resources to mobilize an effective police response (ibid.). The following actions were taken by the Tartu police in response to incidents of racism:
Two skinheads received administrative warnings after attacking a dark-skinned teacher, three others spent two days in jail for threatening American military personnel, another was fined for spitting on an American soldier, while yet another three skinheads were fined for screaming threats at a Japanese man (ibid.).
No other reports regarding state protection were found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
In August 2001, while in Estonia to press the government to do more to prosecute Nazi war criminals, Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center stated that:
Estonian textbooks do not talk about the participation of some Estonians in the Holocaust, despite the fact that an international commission sponsored by the Estonian government has revealed convincing evidence of this fact (UCSJ 30 Aug. 2001).
Zuroff also stated that over 1,000 Estonians voluntarily participated in the killing of Jews during World War II (ibid.). This statement prompted "thousands" of public responses that attacked Zuroff, and which included some antisemitic comments, to be posted on internet bulletin boards and Websites (ibid.). In August 2001, Estonian Prime Minister Mark Laar met with Zuroff and later announced that Estonia would host an exhibit about the Holocaust entitled "The Courage to Remember" (ibid.).
Three youths suspected of causing damage to a Jewish cemetery were caught by police in 1998 (BNS 21 May 1998). A spokesperson for the security police at the time of the incident said that they had no information regarding antisemitism in Estonia (ibid.).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Baltic News Service (BNS). 24 April
2002. "Estonian Court Fines Three for Inciting Ethnic Hatred." http://www.fsumonitor.com/stories/051502Estonia.shtml
[Accessed 21 Nov. 2002]
_____. 11 July 2001. "Israeli Ambassador
Has No Information about Anti-Semitism in Tallinn." (NEXIS)
_____. 13 January 1999. "Headmaster of
Tallinn's Jewish School Denies Threats Against Jews." (NEXIS)
_____. 21 May 1998. "Estonian Police
Catch Rakvere Jewish Cemetery Wreckers." (NEXIS)
Interfax News Agency. 12 April 2002.
"Estonian Jewish Community Seeks Police Protection." (NEXIS)
Union of Councils for Jews in the Former
Soviet Union (UCSJ). 2 October 2002. "Charges of Inciting Ethnic
Hatred Dropped Against Estonian Radio Reporter." http://www.fsumonitor.com/stories/100202Estonia.shtml
[Accessed 21 Nov. 2002]
_____. 7 May 2001. "Foreign Students in
Estonia Terrorized by Skinheads." http://www.fsumonitor.com/stories/050701Estonia.shtml
[Accessed 21 Nov. 2002]
_____. 30 August 2001. "Estonian
Nationalists Threaten Jews."
_____. 24 July 2001. "Estonia's Top
Police Official Warns of 'Wave of Racism.'"
Annual Report on International Religious Freedom 2001. 26 October 2001. United States Department of State. Washington, DC. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2001/5642.htm [Accessed 18 Nov. 2002]
Additional Sources Consulted
Internet sites, including:
Amnesty International (AI)
Country Reports 1999
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
United Nations Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination (March 2000)
World News Connection (WNC)
Treatment of Jews; reports of beatings of Jews; state protection available (May 1998-Nov. 2002) [EST40391.E] (Response, French)