The country’s only official language is Estonian. Recently, there has been a lively debate over the needs and possibilities to protect the national language from foreign influence. Exposure to foreign mass culture is sometimes seen as having an adverse effect on the structure and vocabulary of the spoken and even written language. The Estonian Language Institute (EKI) has organised public competitions in order to find new Estonian equivalents for new words, which have seen active participation. Several popularly adopted Estonian words such as taristu for “infrastructure”; lõimumine for “integration” and üleilmastumine for “globalisation” result from it. The Language Inspection is responsible for enforcing the Language Act, which regulates the use of Estonian and other languages, and defines the proficiency in the state language that is required from different categories of employees.
Russian speakers comprise about 30% of the country’s population, but the language has no official status. There are some cultural institutions operating in Russian, notably the state-owned Russian Drama Theatre and the municipally run (since 2001) Russian Cultural Centre in Tallinn. One radio channel of the public broadcasting company is broadcasting in Russian; in 2014 a debate about establishing a public TV channel for service in Russian resurfaced. Non-governmental organisations of ethnic minority groups receive regular financing from the Ministry of Culture and also from the local governments. In practice, business organisations and municipalities with a large number of Russophone inhabitants offer services both in Estonian and Russian, and occasionally in other languages, such as English. In cultural policy, the stress has nevertheless been on the development of Estonian-language cultural services, while cultural life in minority languages has been more dependent on non-governmental initiatives.