Contending with multicultural citizenship in a divided society: Perspectives from young people in Tallinn, Estonia

Catherine Cottrell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Citations (SciVal)


This chapter explores the potential of contemporary multicultural citizenship discourses to complicate and multiply the particularisms that delineate the terms of citizenship and belonging in nation-states rather than to alleviate tensions between majority and minority groups. The complexities that arise from the simultaneous circulation of multiple citizenship discourses are particularly evident in post-Soviet nation-states that are liberal democracies and European Union member states but remain socio-spatially polarized along ethnocultural and ethnonational lines, such as Estonia. After reestablishing independence upon the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s, Estonia retained a large Russian-speaking population, made mostly of those people (and their descendants) who migrated to Estonia during the Soviet era. The lingering tensions between the two groups were (and are) exacerbated by Estonian nation-building practices, which also coexist with the universalisms of liberal democratic ideals and values, such as equality, cultural pluralism, and tolerance in Estonian society. Drawing on focus groups conducted with 18 and 19 year old young people from Tallinn, Estonia in late 2012, this chapter analyzes the students’ narratives of how they encounter, understand, negotiate, and perform multicultural citizenship in the spaces of their everyday personal geographies. The students’ perspectives suggest that the discourses of multiculturalism that they contend with are not well articulated and therefore do not provide them with meaningful resources to address and alleviate conflicts between ethnic Estonians and Russophones. Indeed, the ambiguous nature of multicultural citizenship discourse, it is argued, allows for its potential to actually complicate and multiply the terms of citizenship and belonging.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPolitics, Citizenship and Rights
EditorsTracey Skelton, Sarah Mills, Kirsi Kallio
PublisherSpringer Nature
ISBN (Print)978-9814585569, 9814585564
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2016

Publication series

NameGeographies of Children and Young People
PublisherSpringer Science+Business Media


  • multiculturalism
  • nationalism
  • citizenship
  • Estonia
  • divided societes


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