Saatse Boot – Estonia - Atlas Obscura

Saatse Boot

This peculiar border irregularity is the only way to legally enter Russia without a visa. 


To enter Russian territory, travelers typically need to show a valid passport, fill out various forms, and carry a Russian migration card from place to place. But there is just one piece of Russian territory where this rule is violated and it is technically possible enter the country without completing a single piece of paperwork. Welcome to the Saatse Boot.

In 1944 in the former Soviet Union, a new border line was drawn between Estonia and Russia. In this new border, a half mile wide Russian peninsula jutted into Estonian land, lying directly in between the Estonian towns of Lutepää and Sesniki. Since both Estonia and Russia were united under the Soviet Union at the time, there was no issue with building a road directly through Russian territory to link the towns together. 

But, when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991 and its lax interregional borders were made strict, this 900-meter stretch of road suddenly became a geopolitical anomaly known as the Saatse Boot.

Thinking on its feet, Russia decided to allow passersby to cross through the Saatse Boot into Russian land without showing any form of documentation on the three conditions that they don’t walk, don’t pick wild mushrooms, and that their car never stops moving. If your car breaks down or runs out of gas while passing through the boot, you have violated these laws, and if caught by one of the Russian spy towers installed at the border, you could be subject to arrest.

Although an alternative route was recently constructed between Lutepää and Sesniki without traveling through Russia, it’s a 25-minute detour compared to the two-minute direct route through the Saatse Boot. Although a plan was laid out in 2005 and again in 2014 to return the Saatse Boot to Estonia, it is yet to see fruition in the real world, and the “No Pedestrians” and “No Stopping For One Kilometer” roadside signs are still in place.

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