Ann-Leena Miller (Estonian University of Life Sciences);
Simon Bell (Estonian University of Life Sciences)
Keep Out! No Entry!
Exploring the Soviet Military Landscape of the Coast of Estonia
During the Soviet occupation of 1945-1991, Estonia became a Soviet Republic and was cut off from open contact with the Western world. The Estonian coastline was now the outer border of the Soviet Union and part of the Iron Curtain. On the coast of the Baltic Sea this was less visible than in some places (e.g. the Berlin wall), but the military control was no less restrictive. The coastal areas were under military control and accessible only with special permits – so often the inhabitants had to leave and their homes were taken over by the Soviet military or abandoned. Military installations also marked the Soviet security zone. There was a massive construction programmeme of artillery defensive positions along the coastline. As the last Soviet troops left Estonia in 1994, the Soviet military installations were left to the Estonian Republic. Most were stripped of anything useful and abandoned. Many of these objects or complexes are still visible in the landscape but most are forgotten and ruined. They are not yet seen as a part of Estonian heritage and are fast disappearing. A study of a section of the NE coast of Estonia has identified a military landscape along with the former closed city of Sillamäe (where uranium was refined). Mapping of the defence structures, assessment of their condition and their visible presence reveals a distinctive military landscape alongside collectivised agriculture, where residential quarters, roads and communications formed a unique complex. Interviews with local residents reveal how the zone and the restrictions were ever present in their lives and generally they are not interested in them or their preservation; younger interviewees with no memory view the remains as curiosities; there is the beginning of interest in them as part of a “dissonant heritage”.