The Town Where the Russian Dilemma Lives

The Town Where the Russian Dilemma Lives

If Russia ever gets into a direct conflict with the U.S., remember this town's name. It sits across the Narva River from Estonia, a member of NATO. On the other hand, if Russia one day emerges from its dark past and Putinist present to join the rest of Europe, Ivangorod will be a gateway to the West. Neither outcome looks far-fetched. Ivangorod's role as a Russian frontier outpost goes back nearly 800 years. The Danes built a fort nearby in the late 13th century in Narva, now in Estonia. Czar Ivan III (the Great) in 1492 put up a matching fortress directly in front of the Danes' stronghold. For the next five centuries Russian czars and Soviet leaders repeatedly crossed this border to build their empires. After World War II, Stalin annexed Estonia and repopulated Narva almost entirely with Russians, who in 1991 found themselves outside Russia's post-Soviet borders in a small, but soon thriving, European democracy.

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