Higher Estonia’s low density area

Higher Estonia, situated on the South and Central Estonian hills and plain is covered with fertile soil, and has an evenly distributed settlement; therefore the general population density is relatively low, approximately 18 persons per square kilometre. The low density of the area is largely caused by the peculiarities of the hilly landscape that favoured the emergence of a dispersed settlement area. In addition to the variegated landscape and the widely dispersed but fertile farming areas, the region is also characterised by a very dense road network. A significant basis of the development of the dispersed settlement area was the ancient desire of the peasantry to have their own piece of land and live separately, without having to be in close contact with their neighbours. Also important was the policy of buying their own land: the peasants were only allowed to buy remote pieces of land of low quality. This is how the more distant areas beyond the forests were also populated. The first land reform of the Republic of Estonia resulted in covering all the former manor house lands with a dense network of smallholdings. Such areas have nevertheless largely retained their ancient settlement pattern, which was not destroyed by the Soviet collective farm villages.

The settlement of Setumaa in the south-east corner of Estonia differs from the rest of Higher Estonia. Here the farms are smaller, surrounded by fencing, and the houses are closer together. Unlike Setumaa, the more affluent Mulgimaa in the Sakala Upland has much bigger farms and a more developed network of small towns. Central Estonia and the Pandivere area have more villages and large farms. Differently from South Estonia, the settlement pattern here developed on the basis of a dense network of manor houses, and has retained this structure even today.

Estonian dispercity
As an alternative to greater Tallinn, one of the future possibilities for Estonian settlement can indeed be to become a dispersed city. A dispercity (dispersed settlement with urban life quality) emerges as a result of contra-urbanisation and the spread of distance work opportunities in the modern Internet society. Its purpose is to join the quality of urban life, information systems and natural environment into one modern environment. Ever more important while choosing a place to live is the diversity of space and geo-aesthetic aspects. People move inland, to the coast, forest and old towns, and restore old or build new houses. The network of tourism and the service sector is also expanding, along with coastal fishing and local production. This process is a clear alternative for farmers and entrepreneurs who have exhausted the fields of fishing, forestry and agriculture. There are already about 20 000 houses in Estonia that are potential parts of the dispercity; planners and architects are busy designing suitable housing for this new type of human settlement.

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