No. 30




A Western Approach to Our Narva

15 December 2014


RiTo No. 30, 2014

  • Katri Raik

    Director, Narva College of the University of Tartu

There are not many places where Russia would be so close to Europe as in Narva: one only needs to cross the river.

Narva is namely a twin town. Its counterpart, Ivangorod, is situated on the other bank and belongs to the Russian Federation. Fortresses build in the High Middle Ages and in the Late Middle Ages are landmarks of both towns, one symbolizing West, the other one – East. Narva is situated on the border of the European Union, as a gate that for some people is the end of Europe and for others – the beginning. Narva is a town with a rapidly decreasing population. However, a population of 60,000 people still makes it the third largest city in Estonia. Narva can probably also be considered a town with the highest Russianspeaking population in the European Union, as 97% of people living here speak that language. Starting April this year, when Crimea was occupied, journalists began flocking to Narva from near and far. Many were searching for a place in Europe where the events of Crimea could repeat themselves. It should be mentioned here that the locals do not believe such a scenario plausible. Even those that support Putin’s Ukraine policy.

Journalists are often stuck in stereotypes, so it takes a lot of effort for the locals to somehow make them doubt their petrified ideas. News people are looking for possible separatist attitudes in the city and if riots are to be feared. They ask questions about conflicts based on nationality, language, and citizenship, ask about the life in the town. It is the low income and a certain degree of insecurity regarding Narva’s future that make people worry the most. Even this spring people still believed that the life of Narva can be changed thanks to the tourists from Saint-Petersburg as the city is situated 140 km away from Narva. By today the flow of tourists has grown smaller, first and foremost due the purchasing power of the rouble diminishing.

The journalists visiting Narva mostly want to find out if the life in the town has changed since the outbreak of the Crimea conflict. People of Narva have different opinions, and one can find all sorts of attitudes here. However, everybody in Narva, whatever their language and outlook, is currently a bit tired of the constant attention that was triggered by the situation in Ukraine. People want to live their daily lives. But just like any border area, Narva, that serves as a kind of gate to Europe, requires attention. First and foremost from its own state.

Full article in Estonian