Development of rural settlements in Estonian SSR

​After Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union, the new regime started rearranging settlements both in town and in the country. The visual change was extensive in both areas, although the effect on daily life was more radical in the country. As production was concentrated in collective and state farms, new centralised collective farm villages were planned. Its rhetorical aim was to bring rural and urban life closer together. The existing low-density area was to be replaced by a denser architectural environment, the rural settlement. The collective farm centre was an urban-type settlement, which consisted of production and administrative buildings, and the residential houses for the collective farm members. Moving into new settlements meant losing old landmarks and erasing unsuitable memory, and as such it constituted an effective means in creating the new identity.

Collective farm building can be divided into at least two periods: from the late 1940s until the middle of the 1960s, and thereafter. The plans of the first period were grand although construction itself was minimal. Numerous plans did not materialise as compact collective farm settlements. As large-scale building was financially restricted, old buildings were used and adapted for new functions (e.g. a farmhouse into stables or a manor house into a community centre-club).

By the middle of the 1960s the rural enterprises in Estonian SSR had reached a better economic standard and become prestigious and profitable places to work and reside. There was more money going round in wealthier agricultural enterprises than in towns, and architects could realise their more daring ideas. Trying to outdo one another, the collective farms commissioned innovative architecture. Although at the same time standard design was widely spreading, the more significant buildings in wealthy collective farms all had special architectural projects. Several collective farm centres (in the function of the previous community houses) belong among the best architectural achievements in Estonian SSR. Soviet Estonian collective farm architecture became a singular phenomenon, attracting attention even in magazines and exhibitions abroad.

The situation in residential building was rather different. By the 1960s when the collective farms had become more affluent and the rural building increased, standard designs had been worked out for residential houses. Urban design methods and even the same standard projects were now used in rural settlements. All this left strong traces in Estonian rural areas, which seem totally out of place even today.

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