Popular Ruhnu – small island on a political stage

The small island of Ruhnu reflects the relationship between the Baltic States that has not always been the friendliest one. Estonia and Latvia have been arguing for long about the ownership of Ruhnu, an island around 11.5 square kilometres in size and situated in the Bay of Riga.


map Ruhnu
Old map of Ruhnu island.

What had happened? Until the occupation by the Tsarist troops in the 18th century, the Swedes had traditionally been in control of the island. For many generations they had dominated on the island so that even a Swedish dialect developed on the island.


The island is actually closer to Latvia than to Estonia and furthermore, Latvia has 500 kilometres of coast line, but not a single island. Thus their desire to claim Ruhnu is understandable. After the end of the Tsarist Empire, the King of Sweden issued a decree, enabling the inhabitants of the island to decide whether they wanted to belong to Estonia or Latvia. The citizens voted for Estonia and since then Estonia always tried to maintain the fragile prior claim on the island.


There are around 60 Estonians living on the island of Ruhnu subsidised by the state, which would like to support the regional cultural diversity in Estonia.


Ruhnu lies around 40 kilometres off the coast of Estonia and can thus not be seen from the mainland. In the centre of the island there is a small village, whose simple but lovely wooden church was built in the middle of the 17th century. Dense woods are characteristic to the surrounding of the village. The flora is preserved because of rare tree species.


church Ruhnu
Wooden church on Ruhnu.

Many hiking paths cross the beautiful area. Sea breeze keeps the air permanently fresh. The wind is also audible as the tree tops rustle slightly. The overall impression is idyllic. Many places along the path seem untouched.


Here, one can take a long walking tour without meeting any other humans. You can hardly find a place closer to nature than this sparsely populated island.


For those who like swimming in the sea we recommend the “Lido Beach” in the east of the island. But it might be a bit crowded on hot midsummer days. However, compared to the Mediterranean beaches, it is not crowded at all.


Even on hot days there is still enough space and a comfortable, discreet atmosphere. It’s a blessing – you don’t have to expect annoying fights for space on Estonia’s beaches in general.



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