Daniil Martikainen-Iarlykovskii’s path to the University of Tartu was just a couple hours from his hometown—but a lifetime away.
Martikainen-Iarlykovskii was born and raised in Russia not far from the border with Estonia. In January 2021, he decided to leave Russia and start a new life elsewhere.
His journey got off to an inauspicious start—a global pandemic, regional political tensions, and most heart-wrenching, the death of his mother.
“Here I am entirely on my own,” Martikainen-Iarlykovskii said. “But I still have a lot more opportunities here and really a lot more ways to do things and to live a life than I could ever receive in Russia.”
“Here” is Tartu’s premier institute of higher learning. Martikainen-Iarlykovskii had been lured to Estonia by the promise of free education for those who know the language. Using online apps, Martikainen-Iarlykovskii reached a level of fluency in just four months. Today, he’s studying to become a journalist.
Martikainen-Iarlykovskii has felt the impact of the rising tensions created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Some Estonians say that Russians are “part of the problem” in today’s political climate. Yet, Martikainen-Iarlykovskii has nothing but praise for the country that has taken him in.
“There is not a single person in Estonia who treated me poorly or oppressed me in any way for where I am from.”
In the spring of 2022, the Estonian government restricted the issuance of visas to citizens of the Russian Federation. This means that within a year of the start date of this sanction, he and many others are facing deportation.
“I was really hopeful I would get [a visa] and that would allow me to live here for more and more years and not worry about facing deportation and return. But now that it’s banned, I do face the risk of being deported to Russia. And obviously, if that happens, that’s sort of the death penalty for me.”
That’s because he has publicly condemned the Russian invasion, so return to his homeland would be dangerous. And in any event, his heart is now in Estonia.
“I would be happy to join some local militia and protect Estonia. This country has given me way more than I saw in Russia or ever could get there.”