Piirissaar is a tiny Estonian island in Lake Peipus, on the very border of Russia. The Russian Old Believers who inhabited the island appeared here 300 years ago, during the Great Northern War, fleeing from the religious reforms in the Orthodox Church and to avoid being mobilized in the Russian army. As the waves have washed the island smaller and smaller, the community here has also fused over time, inevitably reaching the brink of extinction. However, the local culture and sense of life that developed in isolation from the rest of the “Russian world” has not yet completely disappeared from Piiriissaar.

Director: Viesturs Kairišs
Cinematographers: Wojciech Staroń, Tomek Pawlik
Editor: Viesturs Kairišs
Sound: Mart Kessel-Otsa, Gert Mäll
Producers: Esko Rips, Olga Hartšuk and Guntis Trekteris  
Production companies: Nafta Films OÜ, Ego Media (Latvia)
Countries: Estonia, Latvia
Language: Russian

Shots from the field (fotographer: Nele Tammeaid)

Shots from the film

Viesturs Kairišs about the film…

What is this film about? 

The film is about the Russian world hidden on a small Estonian island in Lake Peipus. How does an almost isolated community of old-believers live at a time when their nation of origin has caused a bloody war in Ukraine?

Where did you get the inspiration for this topic?  

The film is inspired by the particular time and space in which ancient customs and communities mirror the reality of our modern world. Cultural conflicts, embodied in a symbolic environment, create important associations and make us reflect on the sense of the contemporary conflict and its unchanging nature as well as the possibility of harmony and coexistence. 

What does the concept of “Arts of Survival” mean for you? 

Today, more than ever, “Art of Survival” is to be taken literally. Hence, it is important to look for its spiritual meaning, or else, if the events of the contemporary world are taken too seriously, survival itself can be put in jeopardy. For this reason, in the modern world, the search for various concepts of survival is existential.