While controversy continues over the planned expansion of a military training area in South Estonia, the same discussions were held in respect of its northern Estonian counterpart, albeit two decades ago.
Artist Jüri Mildeberg opposed the expansion of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) central training area in the early 2000s, and says that life in the nearby village of Läsna is tantamount to being in the middle of a war zone at times.
"Our child put it like this: If an actual war started, we wouldn't even notice it," Mildeberg told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK).
"We have convoys on the roads here, and since the vehicles have diesel engines they pollute terribly. There is a lot of noise. The noise of howitzers drifts across the land and can be heard from far, far, far away. There is also the rat-a-tat of small arms fire. But you essentially get accustomed to the latter. It doesn't bother you that much," he continued.
Other local residents concur that live firing exercises present the greatest disturbance, even for those some distance from the training area.
One, Kalev Pallon, said: "We live a bit further away, in the next village, yet the window panes still rattle actually here, while when [NATO] allies' somewhat larger equipment carries out its maneuvers, all the noise from that is audible. It's actually very disturbing."
Lisete Laisaar said: "It's very unpleasant when blasts are heard and the window panes rattle, while if the animals aren't used to it, it startles them also."
The EDF itself says the public have become more accepting of the training area's existence over time.
Cpl Oliver Turp, who is a civilian-military cooperation specialist from the EDF's 1st Infantry Brigade.
"Because it's been such a long time, the public have gotten used to it, as they know the EDF are there.
"We train and we need to continue to do so. When there will be larger blasts ... we inform local residents in advance. We state the time-frame, and we also inform livestock owners in advance," Turp went on.
Mildeberg conceded that he van find solace via a philosophical approach, all while living next to the training area.
"The consolation is that things could always be worse. More specifically, an actual conflict. Any type of training ground is preferable to war," he said.
Known as the Keskpolügoon in Estonian, the EDF training area, located 70km east of Tallinn in Harju County, adjacent to the county line with neighboring Lääne-Viru County, and convenient for the EDF base at Tapa, which is also home to the bulk of the NATO troops based in Estonia at any time. It covers around 12,000ha, encircled by a danger zone almost the same size.
The EDF's Nursipalu training area is the South Estonian counterpart and is the main training area for the 2nd Infantry Brigade. Since this has been undergoing a period of full mechanization and given the changed security situation and the need to accommodate NATO allies, the current 3,000ha area is set to be roughly tripled in size, a move which has been met with strong opposition from local residents. Just over 20 households will be the subject of a compulsory purchase by the state, to make way for the expansion, while their owners are likely to be offered a land swap elsewhere in Estonia, as compensation from the state.
Heavy equipment used at the central training area has included heavy tanks, MLRS and the EDF's own K9 Thunder SP guns.
Editor: Andrew Whyte
Source: Aktuaalne kaamera