October 28th, 2021
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 history.

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 interesting.

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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