Settlements in the vicinity of Lake Peipsi

With regard to development of settlements, the western shore of Lake Peipsi is one of the most interesting areas in Estonia. Villages and small towns, where either Estonians or Russians are in the majority, are located here side by side and are clearly distinguishable from one another. On the western shore, traditional Estonian settlements were established in the vicinity of Kodavere. Here the best arable land lots reach the shores of Lake Peipsi. Later, somewhere around the 16th or 17th century, Russian settlers came to the western and northern shores of the lake. Among them were a large number of Old Believers who had been persecuted in Russia and had, therefore, left their homeland. Russians built their settlements in higher sandy shore areas. These areas were not suitable for grain cultivation but were suitable for vegetable growing.

Fishing has always been one of the main sources of subsistence in these villages. Also, the growing of onions and cucumbers has been of great importance in this respect. Today, the main fields of activity are basically the same. Houses in these villages are located along village streets and have been constructed close to one another. Between and behind the houses, greenhouses covered with filmy plastic material and long onion beds can be seen. This creates a unique village picture that cannot be seen anywhere else in Estonia. Old Believers have preserved their centuries-old customs and traditions. Near Mustvee, 4.5 km long Raja Village, the longest village in Estonia, is located along the shore of Lake Peipsi.

Piirissaar Island
Low, paludal Piirissaar Island, the area of which is gradually decreasing, is located in the southern part of Lake Peipsi. While in the northern part of the territory of Estonia the neotectonic uplift is more intensive (2–3 mm/year), the surface of Lake Peipsi is slowly inclining southwards. Thus, the water table in the southern part of the lake is rising and the lower coastal areas of Piirissaar Island will gradually be covered with water. A settlement of Russian Orthodox Old Believers was established on the island centuries ago. Currently, mostly elderly, retired people have remained in the settlement; most of the younger people have left the island and visit their home village mainly during holidays. There is a boat connection between Tartu town and Piirissaar Island in ice-free seasons. In winter, if the ice conditions are favourable, connection between the mainland and the island is ensured via ice-way.

The Narva River and the border town of Narva
The development of Narva has been greatly influenced by its location. Here the river valley is the narrowest, forming a canyon-like valley that in places is 10–12 m deep. Dry and flat areas on either side of the river reach the riverbank near the town. Along the river, large paludified areas, which hinder traffic, stretch downriver and, especially, upriver from the town.

The existence of waterpower facilitated development of industrial activities in the town. This made construction of sawmills and wool mills possible. One of the largest textile factories, which used cotton as a raw material, was built in Narva in the middle of the 19th century. The textile factory Krenholm Manufacture is still operating and is currently one of the biggest industrial enterprises in Estonia with the number of employees reaching 5000.

The old town of Narva, constructed in the baroque style, was considered to be one of the most beautiful and largest in northern Europe. It was nearly completely destroyed in 1944, during World War II. The town that was reconstructed during the Soviet period, has practically nothing in common with the previous town of Narva. It is a typical representative of an industrial town of the socialist period. The population of Narva is mainly Russians who were invited to Estonia by the Central Government of the Soviet Union, as big new industrial enterprises needed large numbers of additional employees. Currently, Estonians form only 3%–4% of the total population of Narva. The main sight is the Hermann Fortress that directly faces the Ivangorod Fortress, located across the river in the territory of Russia. So it can be said that in Narva the European and Asiatic worlds are closest to each other, divided only by the 120 m wide Narva River. This river not only marks the border between the two states, for a long period of time it has also been the boundary line between religions and different cultures.

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