Countryside Unfolds: An Estonian Case

Communicating Rural Transitions in Times of Global Locality

Rural areas are global and local at the very same time. They are also central for a sustainable transition on a planetary level. However, the enormous focus on globalization and planetary urbanization complicates not only why and how to develop ecological and social sustainable rural areas but also how this affects sustainability and environment. How do we communicate about these transitions taking place in rural areas and small towns on a global level? 

Some of the major challenges the Nordic and Baltic rural areas are facing is the ongoing depopulation, the social and economic stigmatization of depopulated areas and the absence of adequate planning and communication strategies that deals with such transitions.

The fact that the understanding of “sustainability” is strongly influenced by urban indicators also complicates the possibilities for rural areas to identify and communicate potentials for development related to Agenda 2030 and the EU ambition of being free of carbon dioxide by 2050.

However, a situated plan for livable rural areas and small towns with a decreasing population can also be turned into an opportunity for less dependence on global economic flows and consumption. In other words, it could be an opportunity for a stronger local know-how and local production with a global awareness. Thus opening the possibilities for a livable planetary future while living in a small town.

But to create such a window of opportunities, bold testbeds for social and spatial planning are necessary. As well as adequate strategies for communicating and participating within the actual transitions.


Estonia Diagoal 14 – 18 of April, 2020.
Program designed by Keiti Kljavin, Linnalabor.

Study trip takes off at the ever shifting edges, the hinterlands between the “urban” and “rural” and their mutations towards the urban and rural proper. While leaving the capital we consider it as a force that drives this continuous “hinderlandisation” of its surrounding areas. Our diagonal first direction is to look at the developments directed especially eastwards, towards the symbolically contested territory of East Estonia and then to turn 180+ˇ to South, where the regional process of deindustrialisation have also amplified rather than diluted the urban-rural divide. The influence of urbanisation and sub-urbanisation processes within Baltic countries on local communities is often stronger than out-migration or low birth-rates on state level. As a result, Baltics in flux internal communities are losing population, jobs and services at a varying pace depending on their size and location. Smaller communities that are further away from the capital are likely to shrink more quickly than the average. People in small towns with vacant dwellings and outdated public space are cornered in their beloved, but subjectively stigmatized peripheral home, which real estate has objective decreasing value. What does this rural drama hold for the urban? and is this the right way of asking the question in the first place?