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Hight's Sabbatical Pictures
Part 29: A Trip to Narva, 4 April 2008
On 4 April I had the chance to take a trip with some international
students and a few other international faculty to Narva in NE Estonia.
The trip was a combination of 'see neat parts of Estonia' and meet with
people in Narva to discuss the integration of the Russian minority.
Along the way we stopped close to Kuramae near Lake Peipsi where there
is an 'Old Believers' Russian Orthodox convent. The convent retains its
original walls and functions even today as a working convent. The
picture at right is the entrance to the main compound and above is me
inside the walls.
Here I am with Chris Kuuk (the other Fulbrighter in Tartu) and Inge (she
teaches Norweigian at the Keelkeskus at UT) at Oru Park on the coast of
the Gulf of Finland. The park was lovely. Much of the land in the park
is for sale for one (1) Kroon (about 10 US cents). There is one catch -
you must use the land to rebuild an old estate that was destroyed during
WWII. So far, no takers.
Along the way we passed Sillamae, the famous 'closed city' that housed a
uranium enriching plant during the Soviet period. Also nearby is Sinimae,
home of the 'blue hills.' Narva lies at the NE corner of Estonia right
on the border with the Russian Federation, in a strategic location
between the Baltic Sea and Lake Peipsi - making it a natural 'choke
point.' Key battles were fought there not only in WWII, but throughout
Narva was mostly destroyed during WWII. As a result, the city was built
during the Stalinist period (and it shows). The city is rebuilding some
of its older buildings, including its two most prominent churches. This
is the orthodox church in Narva. We got to see a mass - really
Narva's claim to fame: it is the only place in the world where there are
two separate castles/fortresses in different countries so close to one
another (about 150-200 meters is all that separates them). On the left
is Hermann Castle in Estonia, on the right is the Russian Federation. A
bridge joins the two.
A closeup of the Russian fortification. You can see the flag of the
Russian Federation. The entire area (including what I could see of the
Russian side) is actually quite scenic.
Narva is home to a large
majority of Estonia's Russian minority. 97% of the people there (it is
Estonia's 3rd largest city with nearly 60,000 people) speak Russian, and
87% speak only Russian. I tried out my Estonian in a restaurant
there (I am taking a class) only to discover that my waitress did not
speak Estonian! The people were quite nice, however. There are ethnic
tensions, but all in all I found most of the people simply wanted a good
life and were not interested in 'tension' but instead on living well -
and staying in Estonia.
Right: The only remaining Soviet-era bust of Lenin (or Stalin or
Marx) still on display in its original place in Estonia (there are
others, but they have been moved, removed, etc.). That is me next to
Lenin inside Hermann Castle in Narva. The castle is surprisingly large
inside the main walls and this monument is slightly tucked out of direct
view when you enter the inner courtyard.
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