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A visit to Narva

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View across the Narva River, from the Narva Castle, of the Russian border station and homes in Ivangorod. Cheryl Rofer, 2011.

I’ve had this article in a tab for a couple of weeks. It’s a long read, and I wanted to enjoy reading about the history that kept Russia’s trade on its northern edge – Arkhangelsk and the Barents Sea – rather than Narva and the Gulf of Finland. I thought that the history would be interesting, but I also hoped that the article might treat today’s competition between the new port at Sillamäe, twenty kilometers west of Narva, and Russia’s Ust-Luga – more established, but also more icy in the winter.

Alas, that article remains to be written. This article contains a bit of history: The Brits wanted Russian furs, and that trade wound up being through Arkhangelsk rather than Narva. Not much said about what internal Russian or British issues contributed to that outcome.

Most of the article is the author’s portrayal of Narva as a Russian, rather than Estonian city. It is based on her walk around the city and checking out a supermarket. What she finds is typical of border cities. OMG, El Paso is Mexican because you hear Spanish spoken frequently and they have typically Mexican foods in the supermarkets!

She seems not to have spoken to any city officals or businesspeople. Nor teachers nor citizens shopping in those supermarkets. There is a photo of the “faded opera house,” a feature of most Soviet cities, looking like it has been neglected since the 1990s. What has replaced it? She doesn’t say.

In the first paragraph, she mentions “a planned uranium processing plant,” which was built 20 kilometers to the west, in Sillamäe. Again, some interesting history that could have been included! She would have driven through Sillamäe on her way to Narva from Tallinn, although the plant is not visible from the road. She appears not to know about the development of a port there in 2009 as a part of cleaning up the mess from the plant. A modern port in place of the one that didn’t happen! What a great story that would be!

I’m sure that Putin’s war has affected the port, and that could have been part of the story too.

Ida-Virumaa County, which includes Narva, Sillamäe, and other towns affected by Russian immigration during the Soviet times, is the part of Estonia that hand-wringers focus on as a potential center of subversion. But that subversion hasn’t happened since 1991, and the region is becoming more and more Estonian.

There’s a lot that could have been investigated about the current situation in Narva. What is the feeling about removing the war memorial T-34 tank from the road to the resort town Narva-Jõesuu? Is Narva-Jõesuu coming back as a resort? I love the beach there. Why is the border still open between Narva and Ivangorod? What good will keeps it open?

The author is surprisingly uncurious. But the pictures are nice.

Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner

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