Lutherans try to take ownership of former Estonian church near Petseri

Russian-Estonian border in south Estonia.
Russian-Estonian border in south Estonia. Source: Leevi Lillemäe/ERR

Lutherans are trying to obtain a derelict former Estonian-Latvian church, which now lies just inside the Russian Federation, regional daily Lõuna-Eesti Postimees reports (link in Estonian).

The church is located in the village of Laura, transliterated into Russian as "Lavry", which is inside the Treaty of Tartu Estonian border and has been occupied by the Russian Federation as part of the Pechory County (formerly the Estonian city of Petseri) region since the end of World War Two.

The branch of the Evangelical Lutheran Church which wishes to acquire the church is, however, not the Estonian EELK, but rather the Lutheran Church of Ingria, a region which abuts on to the Russian-Finnish border primarily.

While the village authorities rejected the Ingrian churches' application to take on the derelict property, a court decision in Pskov, a Russian city close to the border, known in Estonian as Pihkva, part-overturned this in requiring the Laura authorities to look at documentation surrounding the building's cultural heritage status – like many former churches under Soviet occupation, it had been used for secular purposes such as a warehouse and grain storage facility, and was severely damaged over that time.

Map showing the location of Laura (red pin) in relation to the Russian-Estonian (red) and Russian-Lativan (blue) borders. Source: Google Maps

The Laura church, around 8km from the present day Russia-Estonia border (see map), was built by Estonian and Latvian Lutherans early on in the 20th century, Lõuna Postimees reports, with its consecration taking place in 1928, when both Estonia and Latvia were independent; services had been held in both languages until the occupation, during which many of the congregation were deported to Siberia and other locations.

The original Lõuna-Eesti Postimees piece is here.

Ingria is an historic region surrounding the present-day city of St. Petersburg, which was populated by Finnic peoples, namely Votes, Ingrians (Izhorians) and Ingrian Finns. The Izhorian language is close to becoming extinct, with an estimated 70 native speakers left alive. Lutheran parishes remained there during the Tsarist era. Laura and Petseri themselves lie somewhat to the South, and were not inside the boundaries of what is generally recognized as historic Ingria.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Lõuna-Postimees

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