Article published in:Revisiting Linguistic Territoriality in Contemporary Europe
Edited by Till Burckhardt, John Coakley and László Marácz
[Language Problems and Language Planning 45:2] 2021
► pp. 142–163
Territorial and non-territorial arrangements in a multi-ethno-linguistic context
The case of the Baltic States
This article argues that the geographically dispersed distribution of the minorities in the Baltic republics (apart from the Poles in Lithuania and the Russians in Northeast Estonia) constitutes an objective obstacle to provision of territorially based minority rights. However, the potential alternatives to the territorial principle are also rarely adopted. The cultural autonomy model in Estonia and Latvia failed to be implemented in practice, while threshold rules (in respect of topographical bilingualism, for example) are in force only in Estonia, and there with the highest threshold in Europe (50%). The paper aims to explain the reluctance to adopt these solutions by reviewing the main factors that affect language policy implementation in general. It also considers the background to the debate over which languages need protection: the minority languages within the Baltic States or the titular languages themselves (Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian), which at the global level are small and vulnerable. In general, the strictness of language policies is in inverse relation to the size of the minorities, with Lithuania being the most liberal and Latvia the most restrictive.
Keywords: Baltic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russian, minority rights, language protection
Published online: 24 November 2021
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