The analytical framework proved a useful structure for interviews, generating many insights into the current composition and issues within communities. As Scannell and Gifford [48
] (p. 3) explained, “the cultural and individual levels of place attachment are not entirely independent”, meaning the analysis is complex, with many overlapping themes. As our research showed, separating the Process aspect from Person and Place was inadequate to describe the complex interrelated processes connecting people to place. The various aspects are more usefully viewed as flowing into each other through a process of people influencing place and vice versa (see Figure 3
Scannell and Gifford [48
] argue place attachment has a multidimensionality that differs in type and level, our results show this to be the case. In general, although there are some similarities between parishes with similar socio-geographical features, a more nuanced picture emerges, embedded in the networks of the heterogeneous communities with their diverse views and vested interests.
Those choosing to stay in rural areas did so because they preferred the peace and disliked the city rush. In Adavere the emphasis was on the privacy, whereas in Dagda, Svētciems and Lustivere, there was emphasis on the positive benefits of a close-knit and friendly community, with Dagda having the greatest emphasis on family ties. Supportive family networks were important in times of crises, demonstrating the importance of these networks. Each aspect acted as anchors to the place (see Figure 4
] states that the landscape perspective is important and financial considerations are not the only push/pull factors; therefore as Butler [35
] insists landscape assessment decisions need to take into account inhabitants’ emotions, networks and actions connected with the landscapes. Rural people tend to form communities of place rather than communities of interest (common in urban areas) [48
]. As expected, our results showed a strong attachment to the peace of the countryside. Many interviewees describing themselves as “not city folks”, choosing to live there despite resource constraints, up to a point [33
]; however, financial considerations and family circumstances did take precedence. This has repercussions for the future regarding inhabitant inflow and outflow caused by the limited employment opportunities. Inhabitants may identify themselves to be a rural person independent of a deep connectivity to a particular area but demonstrated settlement identity typical of a mobile population such as Latvian and Estonian post-Soviet rural societies [38
]. Settlement identity is where a person is attached to a settlement type, rather than a specific geographical place.
Many interviewees’ current home reminded them of the place where they grew up, or the place to which they returned after time away. There was evidence of repeated residential mobility or circular migration as inhabitants took up short-term work opportunities. Whilst some found temporary migration an enriching experience as they realised the value of home, for some their place attachment had become tenuous and their well-being suffered when economic constraints took priority and social opportunities decreased [33
Many interviewees experienced solastalgia, as the place failed to meet all their needs and as neighbours left the area, creating an increasing sense of isolation. This was exacerbated by the feelings of hopelessness in being able to affect the changes occurring within their landscapes. Although older interviewees did not want to return to the Soviet era, they mourned the loss of work and community associated with those times [36
]. Neither did they feel the new governance structures were working for them or with them, for example the lack of consultation on significant landscape changes. Even younger interviewees who grew up after the Soviet era ended were worried for the future of the parishes where they lived as the population declined. Depopulation reduces the strength of attachment, as community connections decreases, weakening the social anchors to place.
Bailey et al. [29
] and Scannell and Gifford [33
] suggest that place attachment should be explored across a person’s lifespan, as previous experiences influence present attachments. Our interviews illustrated the importance of memories to rootedness in a place. Strong attachments were often centred on connections to the community through strong bonding social capital, particularly the family circle, despite family breakdowns and family members working abroad.
The strongest family ties were found in Obinitsa, which reflected attachment to the strong local culture. As Kizos et al. [42
] noted, a combination of bonding, bridging and linking social capital leads to a more effective participatory and trusting environment. We found this to be true to some extent but due to the introverted nature of the Latvians and Estonians, stronger family ties were sometimes at the expense of either local ties or external ties. Adavare had low bonding social capital due to individualistic attitudes and ties to family living elsewhere. Conversely, Obinitsa had low bridging and linking social capital due to strong tribal ties (bonding social capital). Both communities experienced higher levels of mistrust that will influence their ability to cooperate in landscape management decision processes in the future.
Activities that increased place attachment included working on common tasks such as park clean-ups or agricultural chores, such as potato harvesting. In Obinitsa and Dagda, local religious institutions and events were influential in place attachment, providing a supportive role to strengthen social capital and identity. Family reunions also strengthened place attachment as the space afforded by the rural homesteads were utilised to reinforce family connections, creating positive memories in a rural context.
Interviewees had varying levels of attachment and of motivation to participate in community events and landscape decision-making; some were, or had been, elected representatives and some were unmotivated and believed it to be a hassle. Readiness to participate appeared to be dependent on individual motivations and perceptions rather than on attachment to place, as many believed their individual voices would be unheard if they did participate. This reflects the Soviet influence on the communities, which many still remember, although even younger interviewees sometimes expressed hopelessness that decision-making rested with an unresponsive government.
The socioeconomic infrastructure and knowledge base required for participation was lacking, and while this is changing there are still significant knowledge gaps in moving from authoritative state to participatory governance [23
]. Top-down authoritarian decision-making—for instance in clear-felling of forests where people collected berries and mushrooms—is evidence of a lack of cooperation between the authorities and the local inhabitants requiring a bottom up social innovation to facilitate trust [23
]. As Eiter and Vik [26
] also explain, some people do not feel comfortable with the format of public meetings and attendance at meetings can be a problem in rural areas. However, people were motivated when they believed development or planning would affect them personally.
Place attachment and identity is negotiable through socio-cultural and political processes, where landscapes are constructed through both global and local impacts. As Arts et al. [14
] (p. 451) argue, “the shaping of landscapes should be the starting point of any governance analysis, and not their fixed state of the art.” Governance should therefore start with the landscape values of inhabitants, and this research demonstrates that the application of Scannell and Gifford’s tripartite framework of place attachment [48
] is capable of revealing values that citizens hold and their roles in the landscape that are needed for more sensitive planning [30
Rogge et al. [9
] (p. 335) found “The multitude of actors, the integration of different knowledge systems and the presence of different policy levels can result in a complex interface”, which was evident in these six cases. Rogge et al. [9
] also explained the necessity to work with multiple stakeholders to manage the complex issues and to find the “building bricks that shape these processes”. The analyses summarised here cannot fully address the complexity of each community or the issues they face, but they give a snapshot of community structure and various avenues for working with communities by highlighting opportunities and barriers. The key to integrating multiple stakeholders is through identifying important nodal points where connectivity is highest for effective knowledge transfers. Building these networks and experience of collaboration will lead to a reduction in the time taken in participatory processes in the long term [23
]. As highlighted in this study, family connections are strong in some areas and these can be utilised to improve communication, a potential often missed by landscape managers.
It is important to note that the quality and depth of the interviews improved when interviewers had prior connections to the area; however, that restricted the choice of sites. Many people are willing to talk about places they love but high levels of mistrust in Latvia and Estonia often result in a reluctance to talk. One interview was proceeding slowly until the interviewee realised she knew the interviewer’s grandmother; her guard then visibly relaxed. Only Svētciems with its more friendly outlook did not require prior networks.
Gatekeepers, therefore, were important for accessing networks; as Stenseke [21
] noted, trusted relationships are key for successful outcomes. A powerful position in the community was unnecessary but gatekeepers needed to be well respected. For example, a carer at a local high school, with a motherly nature and well known to teachers, parents and pupils, both past and present, helped in gaining access to inhabitants from a wide age range and background. Still, the authors believe that an influential position could be a hindrance where hostilities exist within communities. Therefore, the snowball technique was helpful, although as Luyet et al.  notes, care had to be taken to prevent network homogeneity being reproduced. Attention was given to using multiple entry points, ensuring that alternative views were taken into account. Shop workers, bus drivers and carers are all key network entry points into rural life.
In this research we asked four questions:
How do inhabitants, past and present, experience place attachment, the emotional and relational ties, to the place where they live or grew up?
What are the push and pull factors affecting continued residence in these rural locations?
What are the important place-related landscape features and values according to inhabitants and how can these be taken into consideration in landscape-scale management decisions?
How ready are the communities to participate in (rural/spatial) development?
To answer the first research question, our work has revealed the unique place identities of each small rural community by ensuring a comprehensive overview of place attachment through time and the effects this attachment had on its inhabitants and the landscape. We have shown that people demonstrate strong attachment to the local area where the social ties were strongest, such as good family or neighbour connections or strong religious or cultural institutions, independent of specific sociogeographical features or proximity to resources.
Regarding the second question, even the communities with the pull factors of strong networks demonstrated that place attachment is insufficient to overcome the economic restraints in rural areas. Communities struggle with problems such as restricted access to resources, e.g., education and medical facilities, unemployment and low viability of small farms that often act as push-factors forcing people to move away for work. Thus, communities are not thriving, as evidenced by dwindling populations, and need extra resources to reverse the flow of people away from the rural areas. Even though economic considerations are not the strongest anchors, they are the strongest enablers for the attachment process by providing a livelihood facilitating positive memories and connections to others.
The answers to the third research question generally were not very specific in terms of the important features and values of the physical landscape. The landscape features that interviewees noted were the peace and quiet, in contrast to noisy urban environment. Inhabitants preferred well-maintained areas, such as agricultural fields rather than untended scrub. They also noted a number of environmental problems or concerns which differed from place to place. Access to forest, however, was a valued feature of the landscape and maintaining access for mushroom and berry picking was considered important. There is a need, therefore, for forest managers to work with the local inhabitants to reduce distress caused.
The answer to research question four, on the willingness to participate in landscape development, is that while shared visions and networks exist, particularly through family and cultural connections, they are insufficiently utilised for development purposes. The weaknesses in social capital and the level of interest and willingness to participate in local community politics do not bode well for building participatory processes in these parishes. Building trust in management processes is needed. Our results also indicate issues that need addressing, for example, low community cohesiveness in Adavere and issues between permanent residents and second-home owners in Tūja that require participation from multiple stakeholders within a safe environment with trusted facilitators.
Building a picture of rural life with its networks and connections, where vibrant communities are built and supported, is needed. It should not romanticise hardships but recognise the positive diverse aspects of rural lifestyles [14
]. These findings can only be considered as a starting point for landscape managers to access valuable information routes and connectivity, which will need constant re-evaluation through the process to remain relevant to the community and ensure social inclusion of relevant stakeholders. This research demonstrated the advantage of building a trusted network (gatekeepers) that would allow meaningful access to communities and build relationships, helping the authorities to move from authoritative governance to participation. This is particularly important in post-Soviet countries with a high degree of mistrust [23
] like Estonia and Latvia. Much can be done to help to activate the most marginal communities and the research shows quite strong differences between the sample parishes, where different routes to place attachment can be found. Thus, no one-size-fits-all solution exists, but each place needs to be understood separately and the key factors identified before serious participatory planning can take place.