Estonia would be the perfect battlefield for Russia and Putin to continue the war they began with Georgia in 2008.
Lying between Lake Peipus and the Baltic Sea, the city of Narva appears very different than the tourist-heavy Crimea. But what it lacks in climate, it makes up for in a unique mix of history and demographics that may well make it Putin’s next target.
Now located within Estonia, Narva has historical significance to Russia. It was here that Peter the Great was defeated by the better trained and equipped Swedish forces of King Charles XII in the opening phases of the Great Northern War. Peter, however, learned from his mistake. He changed tactics, avoided open battle, and slowly wore down the Swedes over the next two decades, eventually winning the war and with it, Narva.
The legacy of Peter’s victory lives on in Narva today. More than 80 percent of Narvans are ethnic Russians, while only 46 percent hold Estonian citizenship, compared to the 36 percent who hold Russian passports. A further 16 percent, mostly ethnic Russians, hold “undefined” status, lacking citizenship within Russia, but denied Estonian citizenship through vigorous linguistic requirements. Estonian is considered one of the most complicated languages in the world to learn, and fluency is required not just for citizenship, but also to work as a teacher or bureaucrat, requirements enforced by the Language Inspectorate. No wonder Russia announced last month that it found the “mistreatment” of Russians within Estonia unacceptable.