Study: Number of periphery residents could fall by 25 percent in 12 years

MIkk Kooser's farm lies just 200 meters from the border.
MIkk Kooser's farm lies just 200 meters from the border. Source: ERR

A study of border areas in Southeastern Estonia finds that the population there could shrink by 25 percent by 2035 if Estonia maintains its recent policy. This would pose a threat to national security.

The study, commissioned by Estonia's internal and social affairs ministries and carried out by the University of Tartu, looked at the links between border security and vitality of communities. Its findings include considerable emigration, shortage of children, young people and women in the marrying age, and an overrepresentation of 50-65-year-olds in the local population. If these trends are allowed to continue, the already sparsely populated peripheral areas are looking at even fewer residents.

"If areas close to the border run out of people, they could in time be occupied by a less than friendly element," said Eiki Berg, the study's academic lead.

Mikk Kooser, whose family, including his four children lives just 200 meters from the border in the small village of Kuige, said that as far as he can remembered, the border villages have always been empty.

But 75-year-old Maria Tamm from the Ala Farm remembers when the village had eight households. "The village is empty now. Just two households left," she said.

The study found poor quality or availability of public services to be one of the reasons people are leaving. Its conclusion is that technology cannot replace people, and while no one can be moved to the border by force, there are things the government can do to promote living there.

"Cost optimization is not what we should be doing right now. Maintaining the Republic of Estonia is expensive, and we need to find ways to make these necessary expenses," Eiki Berg said.

The locals were recently shocked by plans to shut down the nearby Koidula border crossing point. Minister of Internal Affairs Lauri Läänemets (SDE) met with the locals to assure them that the border point will not be closed, while cost-saving will be sought.

"The important thing is for the crossing to stay open. We do not know how work will be reorganized. Perhaps it won't be, because the other side is also important in terms of keeping jobs and people in the area," the minister said.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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