Lake Peipus

Lake Peipsi
Peipsi-Pihkva järv
Псковско-Чудское озеро

Landsat satellite photo
Location Estonia, Russia
Coordinates 58°41′N 27°29′E / 58.683°N 27.483°E / 58.683; 27.483Coordinates: 58°41′N 27°29′E / 58.683°N 27.483°E / 58.683; 27.483
Primary inflows Emajõgi, Velikaya
Primary outflows Narva
Catchment area 47,800 km2 (18,500 sq mi)
Basin countries Estonia, Russia, Latvia
Surface area 3,555 km2 (1,373 sq mi)
Average depth 7.1 m (23 ft)
Max. depth 15.3 m (50 ft)
Water volume 25 km3 (6.0 cu mi)
Shore length1 520 km (320 mi)
Surface elevation 30 m (98 ft)
Islands Piirissaar, Kolpino, Kamenka
Settlements Mustvee, Kallaste
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

Lake Peipus[1] (Estonian: Peipsi-Pihkva järv; Russian: Псковско-Чудское озеро (Pskovsko-Chudskoe ozero), German: Peipussee) is the biggest transboundary lake in Europe on the border between Estonia (part of European Union) and Russia.

The lake is the fifth largest in Europe after Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega in Russia north of St. Petersburg, Lake Vänern in Sweden, and Lake Saimaa in Finland.

Lake Peipus is a remnant of a body of water which existed in this area during an Ice Age. It covers 3,555 km2, and has an average depth of 7.1 m, the deepest point being 15 m.[2][3] The lake has several islands and consists of 3 parts:

The lake is used for fishing and recreation, but suffered from some environmental degradation from Soviet era agriculture. Some 30 rivers and streams discharge into Lake Peipus. The largest rivers are the Emajõgi and the Velikaya River. The lake is drained by the Narva River.

In 1242, the lake was the site of the Battle on the Ice (Estonian: Jäälahing) between the Teutonic Knights and Novgorodians under Alexander Nevsky.


The lake is a remnant of a larger body of water which existed in this area during an Ice Age.[4] In the Paleozoic Era, 300–400 million years ago, the entire territory of the modern Gulf of Finland was covered by a sea. Its modern relief was formed as a result of glacier activities, the last of which, the Weichselian glaciation, ended about 12,000 years ago.

Topography and hydrography

The banks of Lake Peipus have smooth contours and form only one large bay – Raskopelsky Bay. The low shores of the lake mostly consist of peat and are bordered by vast lowland and marshes which are flooded in the spring with the flooding area reaching up to 1000 km2.[5] There are sand dunes and hills, covered with pine forests. Along the sandy shores there is a 200–300 m wide stretch of shallow waters.[6]

Water balance of Lake Peipus[5]
Water balance Volume
Inflow Precipitation 560 mm (1.9 km3)
Surface and groundwater 3150 mm (11.2 km3)
Outflow Streamflow 3390 mm (12 km3)
Evaporation 320 mm (1.1 km3)

The relief of the bottom is uniform and flat, gradually rising near the shores and covered with silt, and in some places with sand.[7] The deepest point of 15.3 m is located in the Teploe Lake, 300 m from the coast.[8]

The lake is well-flowing, with the annual inflow of water equal to about half of the total water volume.[5]

The lake water is fresh, with a low transparency of about 2.5 m due to plankton and suspended sediments caused by the river flow.[5] Water currents are weak (5–9 cm/s); they are induced by the wind and stop when it ceases. However, during the spring flood, there is a constant surface current from north to south (it does not make sense).[7]

Because of the shallow depth, the lake quickly warms up and cools down. Water temperature reaches 25–26 °C in July.[8] The lakes freeze in late November – early December and thaws in late April – early May, first lakes Teploe and Pihkva and then lake Peipus.[5]

Kallaste Mustvee harbor Ranna Shoreline at Mustvee
Map of pools of Narva and Lake Peipsi

Basin and islands

About 30 rivers flow into the lake.[9] The largest are Velikaya and Emajõgi, smaller rivers include Zadubka, Cherma, Gdovka, Kuna, Torohovka, Remda, Rovya, Chernaya, Lipenka, Startseva, Borovka, Abija, Obdeh, Piusa, Võhandu, Kodza, Kargaya, Omedu, Tagajõgi and Alajõgi. The lake is drained by only one river, the Narva into the Baltic Sea.[2]

The lake contains 29 islands with a total area of 25.8 km2, with 40 more islands located within the delta of the Velikaya River.[8] The islands are low wetlands, elevated above the lake surface on average by only 1–2 m (maximum 4.5 m) and therefore suffer from floods. The largest islands are Piirissaar (area 7.39 km2, located in the southern part of Lake Peipus), Kolpino (area 11 km2, in the Pihkva Lake) and Kamenka (area 6 km2). In the center of Pihkva Lake there is a group of Talabski Islands (Belova, Zalita and Talavenets).[5]

Flora and fauna

The lake hosts 54 species of coastal aquatic flora, including cane, calamus, bulrush, grass rush, lesser bulrush and water parsnip. Floating plants are rare and are of only three types: arrowhead, yellow water-lily and water knotweed.[10] The wetlands of the coastal strip of the lake are important resting and feeding grounds for swans, geese and ducks migrating between the White Sea and Baltic Sea.[7][11] The lake is home to perch, pike-perch, bream, roaches, whitefishes, smelt and other fish species.[2]


The ecological condition of the lake basin is, in general, satisfactory – water is mostly of grades I and II (clean), and is of grade III in some rivers due to the high content of phosphorus. The water condition of the rivers has improved since 2001–2007, but there is an increase in population of blue-green algae. The main problem of Lake Peipus is its eutrophication.[12]


The towns standing on the banks are relatively small and include Mustvee (population 1,610), Kallaste (population 1,260) and Gdov (population 4,400). The largest city, Pskov (population 202,000) stands on the Velikaya River, 10 km from the lake.[6] Ship navigation is well developed and serves fishery, transport of goods and passengers and tourist tours.[11][13][14] The picturesque shores of the lake are a popular destination for tourism and recreation at several tourist camps and sanatoriums.[15][16][17]


In 1242, the southern part of Lake Peipus hosted a major historical battle where Teutonic Knights were defeated by the Russian troops from Novgorod led by Alexander Nevsky. The battle is remarkable in that it was mostly fought on the frozen surface of the lake and is therefore called the Battle on the Ice.[18][19]

The largest city on the lake, Pskov, is also one of the oldest cities in Russia, known from at least 903 AD from a record in the Primary Chronicle of the Laurentian Codex.[20][21] Several historical buildings remain in the city, including Mirozhsky Monastery (1156, which contains famous frescoes of 14–17th centuries), Pskov Kremlin (14–17th centuries) with the five-domed Trinity Cathedral (1682–1699), churches of Ivanovo (until 1243), Snetogorsky monastery (13th century), Church of Basil (1413), Church of Cosmas and Damian (1462), Church of St. George (1494) and others.[22]

Gdov was founded in 1431 as a fortress and became a city in 1780;[23] the only remains of the historical Gdov Kremlin are three fortress walls.[24] Kallaste was founded in the 18th century by the Old Believers who had fled from the Novgorod area,[25][26] and there is still a functional Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church in the town. Near Kallaste, there is one of the largest surfacings of Devonian sandstone with a length of 930 m and a maximum height of 8 m, as well as several caves and one of the largest colonies of swallows in Estonia.[27]

Mirozhsky Monastery Pskov Kremlin


  1. Lake Peipus. Encyclopaedia Britannica online
  2. 1 2 3 "Chudsko-Pskovskoe ozero". Great Soviet Encyclopedia.
  3. (Russian) Russian lakes with area of more than 350 km². (GIF table). Retrieved on 2012-01-21.
  4. Encyclopedic Dictionary of Geography: Geographical names – Moscow: Soviet Encyclopedia. 1983, p. 488.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Sokolov AA Hydrography of the USSR L.: Gidrometeoizdat, 1952
  6. 1 2 Tourist Encyclopedia. Peipsi-Pskov Lake. Retrieved on 2012-01-21.
  7. 1 2 3 study the situation of the ports on the Narva River. Retrieved on 2012-01-21.
  8. 1 2 3 lakes and rivers south of Estonia, the islands
  9. By Peipus pond. Retrieved on 2012-01-21.
  10. Fish and Lake Pskov region. Lakes. Retrieved on 2012-01-21.
  11. 1 2 Tourist portal. (2008-01-28). Retrieved on 2012-01-21.
  12. Minutes of the eleventh meeting of the Joint Russian-Estonian commission for the protection and rational use of transboundary waters Archived July 15, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. TrevelTurs. Peipsi-Pskov lake system. Retrieved on 2012-01-21.
  14. Transport of Pskov Oblast. Retrieved on 2012-01-21.
  15. Pskov region. Peipsi and Lake Pskov.
  16. More and more foreigners resting on Lake Peipus. (2002-08-08). Retrieved on 2012-01-21.
  17. Tourist Encyclopedia. Retrieved on 2012-01-21.
  18. Tony Jaques (2007). Dictionary of Battles and Sieges: F-O. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 564. ISBN 0-313-33538-9.
  19. Toivo Miljan (2004). Historical dictionary of Estonia. Scarecrow Press. p. 299. ISBN 0-8108-4904-6.
  20. "Pskov". Great Soviet Encyclopedia.
  21. Wladyslaw Duczko (2004). Viking Rus: studies on the presence of Scandinavians in Eastern Europe. BRILL. p. 114. ISBN 90-04-13874-9.
  22. ancient city of Pskov. Retrieved on 2012-01-21.
  23. "Gdov". Great Soviet Encyclopedia.
  24. My Gdov. (in Russian)
  25. Kallaste. A bit of history. (2000-06-28). Retrieved on 2012-01-21.
  26. Old Believer community Kallaste. Retrieved on 2012-01-21.
  27. Russian site about the city Kallaste. (2012-01-04). Retrieved on 2012-01-21.
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