Inhabited since the Stone Age, Narva sits on an important trade route. After the Christian invasion, it found itself stranded on the edge of civilisations, on the divide between the Western (Catholic) and Eastern (Orthodox) Churches. Unsurprisingly, it has been embroiled in border disputes and wars throughout the centuries. Testimony to this is Hermann Castle’s chess-piece face-off with the castle across the river at Ivangorod, built by Ivan III of Muscovy in 1492. In the 16th and 17th centuries Narva changed hands often from Russian to Swede, until finally falling to Russia in 1704.
During WWII Narva was bombed by both the Germans and Russians and was almost completely destroyed in 1944 during its recapture by the Red Army. Afterwards it became part of the northeastern Estonian industrial zone and one of Europe’s most polluted towns. Today emissions have been greatly reduced, with investment in cleaner technology well under way.