The Saatse Boot (Estonian: Saatse saabas; Russian: Саатсеский сапог) is an area of Russian territory of 115 hectares (280 acres) that extends through the road number 178 between the Estonian villages of Lutepää and Sesniki (themselves between the larger settlement Värska and village of Saatse) in Värska Parish. The piece of land resembles a boot, which is why it is given such a name.
It is notable as until recently it meant that the Estonian villages of Sesniki, Ulitina and Saatse were effectively enclaves, as by road they could only be reached by travelling 900 metres (3,000 ft) through Russian territory. Russia does not require any permit for driving through the area, though it is forbidden to pass through the area on foot or stop one's car. People who stop their car (even if they run out of fuel) or pick mushrooms are arrested and released after interrogations and payment of fines. The road has a gravel surface. Russia allows Estonia to maintain the road, but not to rebuild it. Estonia would like to dig ditches and pave the road, which is currently not allowed.
In 2008 a new road connecting Sesniki to Matsuri opened, making it possible to reach the aforementioned villages without necessarily passing through the 'boot'. This is however a 15–20-kilometre (9–12 mi) detour if going from Värska.
The current Estonian–Russian border in Setumaa was established in 1944 when most of the territory of Estonian Petseri County was transferred to Russian SFSR. During the Soviet era it was merely an administrative border between two constituent republics of the Soviet Union. Estonia regained independence in 1991 and since then the same border (officially referred to as 'line of control' by Estonia) has been the international border between the two countries. The reason for the odd shaped border here is that the area was historically owned by a farm at the village of Gorodishche 2 km further east.
According to the new Estonian–Russian border treaty, the boot will be straightened out and the border oddity will disappear. The area of the boot will be transferred to Estonia in exchange for two patches of land in Värska and Meremäe Parishes. The treaty was signed in 2005 by the foreign ministers of Estonia and Russia, and again in 2014 after renegotiations.
- Border tweak steals tourism magnet (Postimees 7 Aug 2013)
- "Estonia, Russia to exchange 128.6 hectares of land under border treaty". Postimees. 2013-05-28. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
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