North-east Estonian industrial towns

Another significant North Estonian centre consists of north-eastern industrial towns, situated quite compactly along the Tallinn–Narva–St Petersburg road (Narva, Jõhvi, Kohtla-Järve, Sillamäe, Kiviõli, Püssi). The shaping of the town network was significantly influenced by oil-shale mining and advancements in the industry in this region. Kohtla-Järve with its scattered town districts emerged completely on the basis of the mining and processing of oil-shale; the first mine was established as early as 1916. Later, the mining and industrial areas started to expand. The area contains power stations, oil-shale processing plants, chemical plants, and also enterprises of electronics, light and food industries. During the Soviet period, the workforce was brought in from other republics of the Soviet Union. As a result, the local population is mostly Russian-speaking: in East Virumaa, the percentage of non-Estonians is 81, in Kohtla-Järve, 80 and in Narva, 96 per cent.

The changes in the raw material supply and markets that developed during the Soviet period brought about a decrease in mining production (oil shale and imported polymetals). Due to the newly unemployed workforce, this area constitutes the greatest production potential in Estonia. The Kreenholm textile factory, Silmet precious metal plants, Kiviõli chemical plants and Püssi factories are among the important enterprises.

Typical of an industrial region, north-east Estonia is the most urban area of the country: 89 per cent of Ida-Viru county’s population lives in towns. The rural settlements in the region have become bedroom communities. The number of non-Estonians in the countryside has also considerably increased; only a few southern settlements (e.g. Iisaku, Tudulinna) have retained their mostly agriculture and forestry-oriented economies. The areas near the Gulf of Finland and Lake Peipsi have become recreational sites for industrial towns, and the importance of summer cottages and auxiliary production units is also increasing. The huge Soviet-era recreational complexes in Toila and Alajõe, however, have been neglected and are deteriorating. The Narva-Jõesuu summer resort, founded in the 19th century, is in a similar state.

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