Question regarding language in Tartu

(6 answers)
By Иессей Traveller April 12, 2018

I will be studying Russian and business courses in Tartu next spring as an exchange student.

I was originally supposed to study in St. Petersburg, but political tension has closed that opportunity.

My advisor chose Estonia as a backup, so that I could get some immersion with the ability to visit Russia a few weekends.

Tartu has 14% russian population, what part of town do they live in? Are there great odds that I will be able to find a few good russian friends to practice Russian and immerse myself? Are there russian neighbourhoods? Russian clubs? I understand that 14% isn’t a lot, but its considerable compared to my current city.

Thank you!

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6 answers

Hi, Jesse! So great that you're coming to Tartu.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to tell where the 'Russians' live as the people of Russian heritage in Tartu have integrated with the locals. Tartu's Russians speak very good Estonian and have Estonian friends.

In contrast to Tallinn (the capital of Estonia), where there are schools for Russians where they teach in Russian, in Tartu the people of Russian heritage go to school together with Estonians, therefore they know Estonian very well and befriend Estonian people. In Tallinn, on the other hand, there are a significant amount of people who do not speak any Estonian, have only Russian friends and watch Russian television, i.e these people are actual Russians that live in Estonia. But in Tartu, not so much. Rather people of Russian heritage who speak Estonian, who go to Estonian schools, have Estonian friends etc.

So, unfortunately, finding Russians in Tartu will not be as easy. However, I don't think it's a lost cause. It's highly likely that many students in the University are from Russia (like legit Russian citizens, temporary in Tartu). And many Russians from Tallinn go to the University of Tartu as well (e.g. I have some people in my course who are Russians from Tallinn and they've created a clique for themselves and they communicate in Russian).

Best of luck with finding Russians of Tartu :)
Karmel Local April 12, 2018
Hi Jesse. The russian population in Tartu are quite integrated. They speak mostly estonian.

There really isn’t a russian neighbourhood, but your best bet to find russian speaking people is at Annelinn.

If you want to speak and practice your russian without going to russia. Spending some time in Tallinn or Narva (or the whole of East-Virumaa) is a good option. The last city has about 98% russian speaking population. There is a lot to see there and its quite interesting.
Martin Local April 12, 2018
Hi Jesse!

Congratulations that you have choosen Tartu as a place of your studies! Unfortunately in Tartu and most parts in the Southern-Estonia you hardly find a Russian speaking community here. Of course there are Russians here in Tartu but the community is not so visible as for excample in Tallinn not mention in Narva. I hardly know that there is any club for Russians in Tartu. But probably your tutors in the University can help you. I wish you luck!

Tea Local April 12, 2018
You should`nt worry about this :) . There is no special russian club`s but easy to find a place where russians coming together. They are living everywhere, there is no russian geto`s as you could find ..let`s say in
USA :) . They are moustly friendly and kind.
Illar Local April 12, 2018

I would say that there are more Russian people in Annelinn and Jaamamõisa, but younger people mostly speak Estonian. I live in Annelinn and I have had some problems because I don't speak Russian and many in the older generation (50+) of Russians don't speak Estonian, but I have never had any language problems with younger generations.

There is not much difference between cultures, but Russians tend to be friendlier and more open than Estonians, so I believe you can find a friend among them who can help you.

Good luck!

Marian Local April 12, 2018
As the others have said, Russian community in Tartu (myself included) is mostly integrated pretty well. Annelinn is the most Russian "area", and there used to be a very Russian club there, but to my knowledge it's closed now and either I'm not Russian enough to know of other Russian-exclusive hangout spots or they don't really exist. There are Russian schools (or at least one, in Annelinn) and older Russian people don't speak good Estonian, but I assume you're more interested in young adults. Don't worry, though, Tartu has a very big young people population due to there being several universities here. There are very many exchange and foreign students from Russia, Ukraine, etc, so even though there aren't any regular "language caffes", it should be very easy to find Russian speaking friends, language exchange partners etc in student events, Facebook groups and just out on town in the University.
Hope you enjoy your stay in Tartu! It's cute and good.
Stepan Local April 12, 2018