Answering a question of a BBC correspondent about why the Estonian president does not speak Russian, the language spoken by more than a quarter of the population, Toomas Hendrik Ilves said it was impossible, because it would mean accepting the 50-year-long cruelty of the occupation, reports the Estonian television ETV 24. Most Russian-speaking people were brought to Estonia only after the country was occupied by the Soviet Union after World War II, the president told the BBC correspondent.
When the reporter tried to tell the Estonian president that it could be an opportunity to communicate with many residents of the country in their own language, Ilves responded : “The issue is solved, I do not want to discuss it any more.”
Earlier, during his visit to Ida-Virumaa (a Russian-speaking area in Estonia) in November 2006, President Ilves told Russian residents of the area : “Living in Estonia, you are our compatriots. I stress : our compatriots, but not compatriots of the Russian government. This means that your concerns are our concerns but concerns of the Russian government or the Russian president. We cannot do without you. Estonia is too small to be indifferent to its compatriots.” During his visit to Russian-language schools the president noted that he would not that Russians who moved to Estonia and their descendants feel alien in the country.
It is worth mentioning that Ilves is the first Estonian president who does not speak Russian. Apart from speaking Estonia, English and Finnish, the president is studying French at the expense of the government. His grandmother was Russian.