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A Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences

ISSN 1736-7514 (electronic)  ISSN 1406-0922 (print)
Published since 1997

A Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences

ISSN 1736-7514 (electronic)  ISSN 1406-0922 (print)
Published since 1997

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(Full article in PDF format) DOI: 10.3176/tr.2015.3.02




This study concentrates on one of the most drastic changes in Estonian language policy since the country regained its independence – the change in the language of instruc­tion in Russian-medium schools. The Estonian example is rather unique internationally since the minority group can choose different languages of instruction for schooling. We focus on students’ ethno-cultural self-descriptions as one indicator for studying the change in the language of instruction. We use the online interview method as an empirical basis; the sample consists of graduates from upper-secondary schools/classes with various languages of instruction (Estonian, Russian, language immersion) situated in various regions of Estonia (monolingual vs bilingual everyday setting; n = 14). The results of the analysis reveal the relationships between ethno-cultural self-descriptions and attitudes to the changes in the language of instruction. The ethno-cultural self-descriptions in turn are expressed in terms of general social affiliation (media habits, future plans and affiliation with Estonia). We conclude that the transition to Estonian-language instruction has failed in terms of communication, since a focus on instrumental rather than ethno-cultural issues can lead to the weak social affiliation of individual students.


language policy, ethno-cultural self-description, language of instruction, educational change, Russian-speaking population of Estonia, qualitative online interview method


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Current Issue: Vol. 24, Issue 1, 2020

Publishing schedule:
No. 1: 20 March
No. 2: 20 June
No. 3: 20 September
No. 4: 20 December