The Integration of National Minorities in Finland and Estonia during the Interwar Period (1918–1939)

Kari Alenius


In the interwar years, Finland and Estonia were characterised by the fact that in both countriesexceptionally broad linguistic and cultural rights were given to national minorities, comparedwith the situation in the rest of Europe. There were several factors behind this. One was therelationship between ethnic groups from a historical perspective. Another was each country’sinternal debate on the kind of social order in general that was to be built. The third was howpolitics in Finland and Estonia was influenced by international trends and theories on hownational minorities should be treated. The article analyses how national minorities were takeninto account in the Finnish and Estonian constitutions which held true in the period betweenthe two world wars, and why account was taken precisely in a certain way. At the same time, itconsiders what kind of views in this regard were presented by different political parties, whatkind of debates were held in the parliaments of both countries, and how the matter was dealtwith by other significant interest groups.

Key words: Finnish legislation, Estonian legislation, national minorities, national relations.

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