Sillamäe - seaside resort, war location, uranium mining

Submitted by Jürgen Tenckhoff on Sun, 05/03/2020 - 19:35
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Today's Sillamäe high in the northeast of the Republic of Estonia has shown many faces over the centuries. First mentioned in 1502 as "tor Bruggen", the knighthood "Türsel" developed from the fishing village in the 16th century. In the 19th century, Sillamäe became a fashionable seaside resort for the rich and beautiful from St. Petersburg (around 180 km away) and with the beginning of the industrialization of the 20th century, the mining of oil shale began here and later, under Soviet occupation and with great secrecy, the extraction of Uranium oxide for the Soviet arms industry and nuclear power plants. The name Sillamäe was erased from the Soviet maps during this period and there were no postal addresses - if you wanted to reach the residents of Sillamäe from the USSR, this was only possible with the help of secret codes. Foreigners were not allowed to enter this area until the collapse of the Soviet Union. 1989 marked the end of uranium enrichment in Sillamäe. This was accompanied by the loss of many jobs and the onset of population decline continues to this day.

The environmental impact of the uranium industry was and is significant. The uranium plants caused long-lasting environmental damage. In the northwestern part of the city there is a nuclear and chemically contaminated storage pond directly on the Baltic Sea coast. Frankly, we did not visit due to obvious reasons because there are still six million tons of radioactive and toxic waste products in the 33 hectares of dyed water. (Wikipedia).

A disused mine near Sillamäe has been converted into a museum - from which we can see some photos and videos in this post. We lived in a workers' settlement with five-story houses built in the 1960s and 1970s. It was strange but the nice Russian owner called Tatjana was so kind that we felt very welomed in this area.

There is also a district that was built in the 1940s and 1950s with Stalinist-style buildings, avenues and the beach promenade with beautiful stairs.

 

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Picture 1: Apartment blocks and avenues in Sillamäe

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Picture 2: Oil shale mine and museum

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Picture 3: Oil shale mine and museum in Sillamäe

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Picture 4: Oil shale mine and museum in Sillamäe

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Picture 5: Mine trip in the Sillamäe oil shale mine

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Picture 6: Mine trip in the Sillamäe oil shale mine

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Picture 7: Mine trip in the Sillamäe oil shale mine

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Picture 8: Karin as a miner

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Picture 9: The modern part of the Sillamäe Museum

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Videos

Videos: In the mining museum

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