TALLINN - Russians living across the Baltics are unlikely to heed a call by President Vladimir Putin to return to their homeland. Despite being marginalized and isolated, resettled Russian feel better off in the Baltic states with their stronger economies and European Union membership benefits, observers said.
The Kremlin last week a decree encouraging all so-called compatriots living in former Soviet states to return to Russia.
A state commission and assistance program will be established to smooth the immigration process, and cash and social benefits will be offered as incentives.
Putin said such steps were necessary to help reverse Russia's falling population rate, which could see the country shrink from over 140 million to less than 100 million within five decades.
People holding Russian passports, those with dual citizenship or those wishing to apply for a passport were invited to take part in the reverse migration.
The announcement is expected to cause reverberations across the expatriate Russian community.
However observers in the Baltics said they did not expect many people from the region would take up Putin's offer.
Enn Eesmaa, Vice-Chairman of the Estonian Centre Party, which draws a significant proportion of its vote from the Russian community, said those who wanted to return would have done so already.
"Russia has serious problems with population and it is quite understandable that the president of Russia has called the compatriots home, especially when they criticize their neighbors for not treating their compatriots very well," Eesmaa said. "But the Russian compatriots who wanted to leave Estonia left during the first years of Estonia's new independence. There was nothing that prevented them from going."
"Now they understand that Estonia has done very well in those fifteen years. We have become a normal European state and we have a very good future. The Russians here now feel this is their home," the MP continued.
Eesmaa said Russians would feel even more unlikely to take up the offer if they were forced to resettle in regions such as Siberia.
Although some Estonians would like to see Russians leave, Eesmaa said he hoped most would be tolerant and understanding.
The reaction from Russian community leaders in the local press has so far echoed Eesmaa's observations.
Russians living in Estonia have expressed to local media that theyhad no intention of taking up Putin's call.
One Estonian-Russian weekly newspaper has refused to publish information on the topic, labelling it a non-issue because its readers now call Estonia home.