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Representing minorities in the city. Education policies and minority incorporation in the capital cities of Estonia and Latvia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2018

Licia Cianetti*
University College London - School of Slavonic and East European Studies, London, UK


This article explores the relationship between minority city-level and state-level political representations through the analysis of the contested implementation of state education policies in Tallinn and Riga. Referring to the US debate on this issue, the article asks what role minority incorporation into city-level power structures can play for its substantive representation. The comparison between Tallinn and Riga reveals two potential answers to this question. The case of Riga illustrates how city-level representation can be an alternative representative channel through which the minority can put pressure on state government and magnify its political voice within the country's democratic space. On the contrary, the case of Tallinn illustrates how a municipality can be an alternative locus of representation, which does not guarantee minority empowerment but rather entraps the minority at the local level within the implicit understanding that the minority (or at least the parties that get the minority vote) can “have its share” locally, but it cannot hope to influence state policies. The comparison between the two cases reveals different levels of legitimacy of the minority's voice in the democratic debate of Estonia and Latvia, and shows the risks and opportunities linked to the two models of minority city-level incorporation.

Copyright © 2014 Association for the Study of Nationalities 

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An earlier version of this article was presented at the ASN World Convention at Columbia University, 24-26 April 2014. The author thanks all the panel participants for their precious comments and suggestions.


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