Salme Nõmmik ja Eesti NSV majandusgeograafia - võimalused ja valikud


  • Erki Tammiksaar
  • Taavi Pae
  • Ott Kurs



Salme Nõmmik and Estonian economic geography – possibilities and choices

Erki Tammiksaar, Taavi Pae, Ott Kurs

The becoming of Salme Nõmmik (1910-1988) an economic geographer was a coincidence of several favourable circumstances; in the first place, it was conditioned by the emigration of the academic personnel of the Republic of Estonia abroad in the fear of Soviet rule in 1944. In comparison with the general level of Soviet economic geography, she was in several scientific aspects more successful than her Russian colleagues, although she took up geographical science relatively late (she was 36). To reach such an academic level, Nõmmik greatly made use of the scientific legacy created in independent Estonia. Edgar Kant (1902-1978) who had an opportunity to work in a liberal society open for new ideas, was far ahead of his time. Criticizing Kant´s ideas ideologically, Salme Nõmmik managed to make use of the achievements of Kant - mathematical methods in economic geography - which took her among the classics of Soviet economic geography. As the direction in economic geography approved by the party at the beginning of the 1950s was not favourable for the investigation of administrative-economic regions and their sub-regions, supporting large and instead simple regions based on industry, Nõmmik did not become a pioneer in the application of mathematical methods in economic geography in the Soviet Union. As soon as the party changed its attitude and it was possible to study the regionalization of smaller territories, Nõmmik took up that work. The comparative material collected by Estonian geographers during the Republic of Estonia between two world wars was sufficient to be used effectively in establishing changes under socialism and prognosticating the developments. It, unfortunately, did not give results as 1) the Soviet government did not allow to use reliable statistical data neither from the period of the Republic of Estonia, nor from the Soviet period, 2) the building up of the state by regions of different types, following the party principles, was too artificial and rejected marketing laws, 3) objective restrictions in the use of mathematical methods, did not enable to comprehend completely the essence of geographical space.

Although the Soviet society is part of the history, we have to accept that the system existed and required a methodological basis for its existence. One of the important fields warranting the existence of the Soviet rule was economic geography. That is why the investigations by Salme Nõmmik will in future also be referred to in Russia, where the state and power rested on regionalization for over 60 years.


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Author Biographies

Erki Tammiksaar

UT Department of Geography

Taavi Pae

University of Tartu,  Department of Geography

Ott Kurs

University of Tartu, Faculty of Science and Technology