Russians, Refugees and Europeans: What shapes the discourse of the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia?
The Conservative Peoples’ Party of Estonia (EKRE) presents a unique case in the study of far-right parties for two reasons. First, the ‘others’ to which they juxtapose Estonians are the Russian-speaking minority, who are white, historically Christian, and to a large extent, share many of the socially conservative values of EKRE. Second, there has been a trend for European far-right parties to look towards the Russian Federation for ideological support due to shared socially conservative ideological positions, and an opposition to the EU and NATO. EKRE takes a different stance towards the Russian Federation than many other far-right parties in Europe. Interviews were conducted with members of EKRE, as well as members of other political parties in Estonia, primarily focusing on the post-migrant crisis relationship between EKRE and the Russian-speaking population in Estonia, as well as other core issues related to EKRE. The aim of this article is twofold: first, it serves as an introductory piece, introducing EKRE to the broader literature on populist, radical right parties. Secondly, this article asks the questions “is the presence, or the possibility of the presence of a foreign, racially and religiously different ‘other’ enough to attract a significant portion of a national minority to vote for and become members of a PRR party?” and “is the presence, or the possibility of the presence of a foreign, racially and religiously different ‘other’ enough to entice a PRR party to cooperate with a national minority which was previously their target?” This article argues that EKRE is open to Russian-speakers becoming party members, but will not extend their reach to them as Russian-speakers. Rather, they would welcome Russian-speakers as party members provided they are Estonian nationalists who adhere to the party constitution and see Estonia as a sovereign nation which they seek to protect.