Former deputy mayor of Tallinn and Center Party member Yana Toom has drawn fire for comments she made to a Russian media outlet about the future of the Estonian nation.
Toom told the Russian publication Russkii Reportyor that the Estonian nation and language were on the road to dying out. Her remarks were included in a lengthy, discursive piece - "The Estonian Illness" - that discussed relations between Estonia's two linguistic communities and left the impression there was bad blood between them.
Besides giving demographic figures and providing such comments as "Estonian cannot win," Toom related the case of her daughter, who she said had left Estonia after feeling unwelcome here after the 2007 Bronze Soldier incident.
Toom did not deny the comments but said that the media - Estonian papers in particular - had pulled them out of context.
Estonian politicians in several different parties condemned the comments attributed to Toom. Rein Raud, a former rector of Tallinn University who has allied himself with the opposition, told Delfi that the nation-state is at the heart of the Constitution and that he saw Toom as having "proclaimed these goals as unrealistic and unreasonable."
Coincidentally, February 2 was the 93rd anniversary of the Tartu Peace Treaty, which some have called the nation's birth certificate.
Speaking to ERR, Culture Minister Rein Lang alluded to concerns about national survival being a sensitive area for Estonians due to tragedies in the nation's past.
He added that cultural relations were currently an area of least concern.
"The communities that live in Estonia and speak different languages get along normally with each other and are free to promote their heritage and professional culture as well. The goal of politicians must be to create a cultural space that is unified and free of animosity, not use the language and ethnicity question to stir up emotions in voters," said Lang.
Toom's colleague Kadri Simson, the head of the Center MPs in Parliament, was more sympathetic.
"I'm afraid that Yana Toom said right out what many thought when they saw the latest census results. I'm afraid she said what many have thought when they see their neighbors and close relatives leaving Estonia. You can blame the messenger, but the question is now what we will do in Estonia to make the population increase even despite those who have decided to leave."