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Reverse, restore, repeat! Class, ethnicity, and the Russian-speaking miners of Estonia

Eeva Kesküla

Keywords: CLASS; ESTONIA; ETHNICITY; MINERS; POSTSOCIALISM; RUSSIAN SPEAKERS

Abstract

In this article, I look at Russian-speaking miners' perception of their position in Estonian society, along with their moral economy. Former heroes, glorified for their class and ethnicity, they feel like a racialized underclass in neoliberal Estonia. Excluded from the nation on the basis of ethnicity, they try to maintain their dignity through the discourse of hard work as a basis for membership in society. Based on the longer-term analysis of Estonian history, I argue that the current outcome for the Russian-speaking working class is related to longer historical processes of class formation whereby each period in the Estonian history of the twentieth century seems to be the reversal of the previous one. I also argue for analysis of social change in Eastern Europe that does not focus solely on ethnicity but is linked to class formation processes.

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