An Estonians’ marketing stunt tries to sell an islet to Latvia – who doesn’t have any of its own

A marketing stunt by the Estonian entrepreneurs is trying to sell an Estonian islet to Latvia who doesn’t have any islands of its own, saying that Estonia already has over 2,000 islands and if every Latvian invested €1, the country would have its own island to be proud of.

The entrepreneurs in charge of the Viirelaid islet, located between the island of Saaremaa and mainland Estonia, calling themselves the Republic of Viirelaid, have posted a sales ad to Baltic real estate portal City24’s Latvian website, pricing the islet at €1,919,968.

“A beautiful island of 80 ha for sale to a Latvian who is interested in the privatisation of the island. Vīrelaida (the Latvian translation of Viirelaid – editor) is located in the Baltic Sea between the island of Saaremaa and Estonia, a 3.5-hour drive from Riga,” the ad says.

“We want the island to be privatised by Latvians, because Latvia does not own any islands while Estonia has more than 2,000. If every Latvian invested 1 EUR, Latvia would have its own island to be proud of.”

There is a working lighthouse on the island and seven houses located around it.

A thousand sheep, two hares, a fox, three chickens and a rooster

The ad says there is a working lighthouse on the island and seven houses located around it: a family house with eight rooms and three fireplaces, a seminary house with a bar, a sauna with a jacuzzi and an outdoor pool, a workers’ house, a chapel for weddings, a wine cellar and a farm building.

The islet has its own small port for boats up to nine metres (30 feet) long, and the electricity is generated by wind generators and solar panels. The ad also says it is home to a thousand sheep, two hares, a fox, three chickens and a rooster. The island also boasts it has 32% more sunny days that the rest of Estonia and that rain is rare there.

The islet has its own small port for boats up to nine metres (30 feet) long.

To get to the islet, one needs to own a speedboat, by which it’s a 10-minute ride, or in the winter when the sea is frozen, one can simply walk there from the mainland.

“Our wine cellar is so large that if the second wave of corona comes, you will be able to survive here for a whole year without going to the store for wine. Believe us, this is a good purchase!”

The “Republic of Viirelaid” says its wine cellar is so large that if the second wave of coronavirus comes, one will be able to survive here for a whole year without going to the store for wine.

Everything is sold out for the season

The listing is, however, really just a marketing stunt as most of the islet belongs to the Estonian government and the State Forest Management Centre. The rest of it is in the hands of two Estonian entrepreneurs, Priit Villemson and Lii Truuväärt, who manage the “Republic of Viirelaid”.

Villemson told the Estonian news portal, Delfi, that it’s a marketing stunt – he hired someone in Latvia and decided to post the sales ad. On 13 June, the islet will have an open day for Latvians that is going to be attended by a Latvian DJ and a band, and a Latvian TV network will pay a visit.

The islet’s price listed in the ad, €1,919,968, is around the same number as the Latvian population, hence the sentence, “If every Latvian invested 1 EUR, Latvia would have its own island to be proud of”. However, according to Villemson’s comments to Delfi, the price isn’t arbitrary as he tried to sell the property he owned for €1.5 million in the last season, and attracted at least one buyer – an Indian. But he didn’t sell as he found renewed enthusiasm to keep going himself.

This season also looks promising for the “Republic of Viirelaid”.

This season also looks promising for the “Republic of Viirelaid” – better than the last one. “For two weeks we’ve been responding to emails. Everything is sold out,” Villemson told the news portal. “There’s one day available in July. More in August, but that’s long in the future.”

Viirelaid lies southeast of the island of Muhu. In German, its name is, interestingly, Paternoster – or “our father” in Latin, which has no correlation with the Estonian name. Its area is 81 hectares (200 acres) and it’s up to 4.5 metres (14.8 feet) above the sea level. The island is home to a lighthouse, built in 1882 and renovated in 2004.

The island is home to a lighthouse, built in 1882 and renovated in 2004.

Afraid of Estonia

The website of the “Republic of Viirelaid” says it’s the second-smallest country in the world. “Only the Vatican is smaller than us – 0.8 km2 vs 0.44 km2. But, as the old Paternoster proverb states: the smallest the better.”

“At present, we have submitted membership applications to the UN and NATO. Our concerns are similar to those of the Republic of Estonia – we fear the ‘big bear’ living to our east. If the Republic of Estonia fears Russia, its neighbour to the east, then we are afraid of Estonia, our neighbour to the east.”

The “Republic of Viirelaid” says it’s the second-smallest country in the world.

“Since we have an incomparably smaller army, which is comprised of a person who attempted to enter conscript service in the Republic of Estonia, but was summarily rejected due to medial reasons, then there is justification for our concern,” the website states. “Otherwise, we function like any other country – we are attempting to establish our own currency; we already have passports and a flag. This leaves a lot of room for development, something that each visitor can help us with. In terms of our economy, tourism is our only significant source of revenue. The EUR 87 that we are paid in rent each year by the sheep farmer isn’t of much help in getting us through the year”.

Cover: The islet of Viirelaid. Images courtesy of the “Republic of Viirelaid”.

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