lundi 21 novembre 2011

Two Estonias

If the "Via Baltica" railway will be built as planned, it will connect Tallinn to Riga via Pärnu, that is, it will be a coastal railway, leaving the eastern and southeastern part of the country out of its scope. This means that this region, the "continental" Estonia will become more isolated from "maritime" Estonia. Even now, the bigger Tallinn is largely a place apart from other regions of Estonia. Tallinn has better connections with Helsinki, the two together form a twin city we may call Talsinki. In the past, the railway connection from Tallinn to Riga passed through Tartu and Valga, helping to connect Tallinn with the South and Southeast. Now this link will probably be neglected, and Tallinn will be even more the smaller partner in Talsinki, a half-Finnish city and even less an integral part of Estonia. The imaginary line dividing Estonia into two runs roughly from Narva to Pärnu and is well known to geographers and botanists. Now it acquires also a economic and political dimension. It is interesting that in the Middle Ages the situation was different: then there existed a waterway from Pärnu to the lake Peipsi via Tartu, making use of small rivers that have by now vanished, become just tiny streams due to the neotectonic rise of the western and northern parts of the country. Thus, geology is also helping to tear Estonia apart. Does this division have a geopolitical meaning? Do people living in continental Estonia feel alienated from people in Tallinn and elsewhere in maritime Estonia? Will they feel they have more in common with Russians, our eastern, continental neighbours than with the well-to-do and self-centered inhabitants of Tallinn and perhaps Pärnu too?

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