Lääne Viru County is situated in the northern part of Estonia, on the coast of the Gulf of Finland. Area of Lääne Viru County is 3465 km2, length of the coastline is about 100 km. 47% of the territory (163 ha) is covered by forests.
Regarding the size of population (70.592 in 2002), Lääne Viru is the fifth largest county in Estonia.
There are 18 units of self-governments - 4 urban municipalities (towns: Rakvere - administrative centre, Tapa, Kunda and Tamsalu) and 14 rural municipalities (Avanduse, Rakke, Sõmeru, Vinni, Haljala, Rakvere, Tamsalu, Viru-Nigula, Kadrina, Rägavere, Laekvere, Saksi, Vihula and Väike-Maarja).
Protected areas in Lääne Viru County: 12 landscape reserves, 3 state nature protection areas (partly in the county), Lahemaa National Park 34.647 ha, Pandivere Water Protection Area 234.509 ha, Endla State Nature Protection Area 307 ha.
It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of the sea in the history of Virumaa, as there is hardly a sphere of life that has not felt its influence. For centuries Estonians have caught their staple food, the Baltic herring, from the sea. Both expected and unexpected visitors have arrived from the sea.
The development of the Estonian culture and population has been directed and influenced by the sea. According to the common law, every kind of profit gained from the sea is lawful and so the profession of coast watchers is well-known since ancient times: he was a man, who kept watch on a high shore, lit signal fires, informed about ship accidents and the arrival of the enemy, observed the movements of fish shoals. The villages were situated away from the coastline then, because of the lack of farmland near the sea and also to avoid the frequent looting raids from the ships. Fish was mainly caught from inland waters, coastal fishing took place only during the spring and autumn seasons.
If you take a look at the map of Estonian surface waters, it seems that the authors have forgotten to draw rivers and brooks on a part of Northern Estonia. But this is not the fault of negligent cartographers, but the result of natural processes. It is called the and is Pandivere Upland, a unique area in Estonia. The highest point here is Emumägi, 166 m above sea level. The height is not very impressive, but it is still the highest point in Northern Estonia. The Pandivere Upland, with its limestone and dolomite core, is an area where karst phenomena are most widespread in Estonia, where there is no network of surface waters on 1375 km² of land because the rainwater filters into the ground. Rainwater becomes ground water and emerges from the springs on the slopes of the upland, resulting in rivers that flow in all directions, rising from these springs.
Lääne Viru county is rich in clay and limestone (the national stone of Estonia). Most famous mineral resource is probably phosphorite that is found in two mineral deposits, at Toolse and Rakvere. The plans of the Soviet authorities to start mining phosphorite near Rakvere caused the so-called "phosphorite war". Because of the resistance of the local people the central authorities were forced to abandon their plans that could have destroyed much of the environment in the county.
Besides peat, sand and gravel which are mined here Lääne Viru is rich in lake chalk.
The scenery of Lääne Viru county is one of the most varied and beautiful in Estonia. Different types of landscape follow each other in well distinguishable zones starting from the coastline and up to the southern border of the county. Every zone is characterized by specific vegetation and forests. In these different zones the way of life, the type of settlements, industry and agriculture, and everything that is based on the land, mineral resources and nature, also vary.
The lakes and rivers of the county include beautiful groups of small lakes, their origin and position connected to the eskers. But there are also waterless areas in West-Viru county, limestone regions covered with thin soil and stunted vegetation where the water disappears into karst cracks.
Lääne Viru county is framed by forests - Alutaguse forest in the east, the belt of Middle Estonian forests and marshes in the west, in the north the pine forests growing on the pre-limestone bluff coastal shallows and the wet peatland forests of Pedja giant valley flat.
As both cultivated and virgin landscapes exist side by side in the nature of the county, the flora and fauna characteristic to the two are represented everywhere. The flying squirrel still lives in the virgin forests known as "bear forests", the golden eagle nests in the eastern marshes, the grayling spawns in the rivers fed by springs and the salmon and the salmon trout can still be found in the coastal rivers. Even the white stork has widened its area of distribution reaching the coastline of Lääne Viru County in Palmse and Sagadi.
Because of the expressiveness and variety of nature, Lahemaa in the western part of the county was chosen as the site for the first Estonian national park.
The important industries: cement production, construction materials, forestry and wood-processing, clothing industry, processing of agricultural products, distilleries, breweries, dairies, bread and pastry production.
Art and Artists in Virumaa
Many well-known artists have worked and lived in Virumaa. Virumaa has interesting sights left by the unknown artists of the past: castle ruins from the second half of the 13th century in Rakvere Vallimägi and Toolse; country churches in gothic style (the most remarkable of them are in Viru-Nigula, Haljala, Väike-Maarja, Viru-Jaagupi, Simuna, Kadrina and Rakvere); and large beautiful manor complexes from 17th - 19th century (Palmse, Sagadi, Vihula, Rägavere etc.).
Marko Torm is Governor of Lääne Viru County.