In many nations, conflict can arise due to lack of understanding between various ethnic groups. The Carter Center worked in Estonia from 1994 through 1996 to prevent violence by involving people of the majority ethnic group, Estonians, in dialogues with Russian minorities. The initiative helped establish trust and communication, building hope for a future of peace and tolerance.
To prevent tensions between the Russian-speaking third of the population and the Estonian majority, a series of six dialogue workshops on ethnicity, nationalism, and political change were convened from April 1994 to April 1996 in Estonia. The project was a collaboration of the Conflict Resolution Program at The Carter Center, the Center for the Study of Mind and Human Interaction at the University of Virginia, and the Institute of International and Social Sciences in Tallinn.
The workshops provided a nonthreatening, unofficial space for the parties to speak openly about their differences, with The Carter Center and CSMHI staff as neutral third parties to facilitate discussions. The groups consisted of parliamentarians, ambassadors, academics, and other influential leaders from Russia and Estonia.
One of the most important results of this intimate and repeated interaction was the evolution of a cohesive network of high-level participants representing practically all ages, ethnic groups, professions, and political ideologies in Estonia as well as various ministries, districts, Duma committees, and professions in Russia. Through the Carter Center/CSMHI dialogue process, participants gradually altered their previous conceptions of both "us" and "them" and became ready to apply their energy, experience, and insights to broader public initiatives.
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Size: 45,228 square kilometers
Population below poverty line: 22 percent
Life expectancy: 77 years
Ethnic groups: Estonian, Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Finn, other
Religions: Lutheran, Orthodox, other Christian (including Methodist, Seventh-Day Adventist, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal), other, unspecified, none
Languages: Estonian (official), Russian, Ukranian, other, unknown
Source: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook 2016