Estonian town struggling with architectural relics

Kiviõli Oil Shale Processing & Chemicals Plant Photo: Postimees/Scanpix
8/18/2015 10:30 AM
Category: Society

The north east industrial town of Kiviõli has promised to demolish Soviet-era and older abandoned buildings in the city, as the population continues to decline.

Estonia's much-spoken-about population decline has hit Ida-Viru County the hardest. Not only did tens of thousands of ethnic Russians leave the area when the Soviet Union collapsed, but thousands more leave the region each year.

Kiviõli's population has dropped from a once-high of 13,000 to 7,300 in 2000 and 5,500 in 2015. The emigration has left the region with many abandoned buildings, which regularly catch fire.

“These abandoned buildings are very dangerous. We go there to put out fires and so these buildings are a danger,” Andres Tartu, head of the local fire department, said.

Tartu said that putting out fires in abandoned buildings has become routine work, with sometimes being called out 6-7 times a night. He said the buildings also pose a danger to children, who like to play there.

“We set up a very broad-based working group to try to free our city space from these abandoned buildings in a rough time frame, say by the nation's 100th birthday [in 2018],” Kiviõli Mayor Nikolai Vojeikin said.

It costs around 30,000 euros to take down one of these houses, with around 10 buildings left to demolish, from an initial few dozen.

J.M. Laats

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