Estonia

Estonia

Overview
Estonia officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state
Sovereign state
A sovereign state, or simply, state, is a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither...

 in the Baltic region
Baltic states
The term Baltic states refers to the Baltic territories which gained independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I: primarily the contiguous trio of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ; Finland also fell within the scope of the term after initially gaining independence in the 1920s.The...

 of Northern Europe
Northern Europe
Northern Europe is the northern part or region of Europe. Northern Europe typically refers to the seven countries in the northern part of the European subcontinent which includes Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Finland and Sweden...

. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland
Gulf of Finland
The Gulf of Finland is the easternmost arm of the Baltic Sea. It extends between Finland and Estonia all the way to Saint Petersburg in Russia, where the river Neva drains into it. Other major cities around the gulf include Helsinki and Tallinn...

, to the west by the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

, to the south by Latvia
Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

 (343 km), and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 (338.6 km). Across the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

 lies Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 in the west and Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 in the north. The territory of Estonia covers 45227 km² (17,462.2 sq mi), and is influenced by a temperate seasonal climate.
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Timeline

1582   Russia cedes Livonia and Estonia to the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

1904   The Russian Baltic Fleet leaves Reval, Estonia for Port Arthur during the Russo-Japanese War.

1917   October Revolution: In Tallinn, Estonia, Communist leader Jaan Anvelt leads revolutionaries in overthrowing the Provisional Government (As Estonia and Russia are still using the Julian Calendar, subsequent period references show an October 23 date).

1918   Germany, Austria and Russia sign the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk ending Russia's involvement in World War I, and leading to the independence of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

1919   Estonian Liberation War: the decisive defeat of German Freikorps (Baltische Landeswehr) forces in the Battle of Cesis (Võnnu lahing). This day is celebrated as Victory Day in Estonia.

1920   The Tartu Peace Treaty is signed between Estonia and Russia.

1934   Konstantin Päts and General Johan Laidoner stage a coup in Estonia, and ban all political parties.

1940   The three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania fall under the occupation of the Soviet Union.

1940   The United States' Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles issues a declaration on the U.S. non-recognition policy of the Soviet annexation and incorporation of three Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

1941   June deportation, the first major wave of Soviet mass deportations and murder of Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians, begins.

 
Encyclopedia
Estonia officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state
Sovereign state
A sovereign state, or simply, state, is a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither...

 in the Baltic region
Baltic states
The term Baltic states refers to the Baltic territories which gained independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I: primarily the contiguous trio of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ; Finland also fell within the scope of the term after initially gaining independence in the 1920s.The...

 of Northern Europe
Northern Europe
Northern Europe is the northern part or region of Europe. Northern Europe typically refers to the seven countries in the northern part of the European subcontinent which includes Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Finland and Sweden...

. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland
Gulf of Finland
The Gulf of Finland is the easternmost arm of the Baltic Sea. It extends between Finland and Estonia all the way to Saint Petersburg in Russia, where the river Neva drains into it. Other major cities around the gulf include Helsinki and Tallinn...

, to the west by the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

, to the south by Latvia
Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

 (343 km), and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 (338.6 km). Across the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

 lies Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 in the west and Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 in the north. The territory of Estonia covers 45227 km² (17,462.2 sq mi), and is influenced by a temperate seasonal climate. The Estonians
Estonians
Estonians are a Finnic people closely related to the Finns and inhabiting, primarily, the country of Estonia. They speak a Finnic language known as Estonian...

 are a Finnic people, and the official language, Estonian
Estonian language
Estonian is the official language of Estonia, spoken by about 1.1 million people in Estonia and tens of thousands in various émigré communities...

, is closely related to Finnish
Finnish language
Finnish is the language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland Primarily for use by restaurant menus and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. It is one of the two official languages of Finland and an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a...

.

Estonia is a democratic parliamentary republic
Parliamentary republic
A parliamentary republic or parliamentary constitutional republic is a type of republic which operates under a parliamentary system of government - meaning a system with no clear-cut separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. There are a number of variations of...

 and is divided into 15 counties. The capital and largest city is Tallinn
Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

. With a population of 1.34 million, Estonia is one of the least-populous members of the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

, Eurozone
Eurozone
The eurozone , officially called the euro area, is an economic and monetary union of seventeen European Union member states that have adopted the euro as their common currency and sole legal tender...

 and NATO. Today, Estonia has the highest GDP per person among former Soviet republics
Republics of the Soviet Union
The Republics of the Soviet Union or the Union Republics of the Soviet Union were ethnically-based administrative units that were subordinated directly to the Government of the Soviet Union...

. Estonia is listed as a "High-Income Economy" by the World Bank, as an "advanced economy" by the International Monetary Fund
International Monetary Fund
The International Monetary Fund is an organization of 187 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world...

 and the country is an OECD member. The United Nations lists Estonia as a developed country
Developed country
A developed country is a country that has a high level of development according to some criteria. Which criteria, and which countries are classified as being developed, is a contentious issue...

 with a Human Development Index of "Very High". The country is also ranked highly for press freedom
Press Freedom Index
The Press Freedom Index is an annual ranking of countries compiled and published by Reporters Without Borders based upon the organization's assessment of their press freedom records. Small countries, such as Andorra, are excluded from this report...

, economic freedom
State of World Liberty Index
The State of World Liberty Index is a ranking of countries according to the degree of economic and personal freedoms that their citizens enjoy; each country is given a score between 0 and 100...

, democracy and political freedom and education
Programme for International Student Assessment
The Programme for International Student Assessment is a worldwide evaluation in OECD member countries of 15-year-old school pupils' scholastic performance, performed first in 2000 and repeated every three years...

.

Etymology


One theory is that the modern name of Estonia originated from the Aesti
Aesti
The Aesti were a people described by the Roman historian Tacitus in his treatise Germania . According to this account, the Aestii lived on the shore of the Suebian Sea , eastward of the Suiones and westward of the Sitones. They were a population of Suebia...

 described by the Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 historian Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

 in his Germania
Germania (book)
The Germania , written by Gaius Cornelius Tacitus around 98, is an ethnographic work on the Germanic tribes outside the Roman Empire.-Contents:...

(ca. 98 AD).

On the other hand, ancient Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

n sagas
Sagàs
Sagàs is a small town and municipality located in Catalonia, in the comarca of Berguedà. It is located in the geographical area of the pre-Pyrenees.-Population:...

 refer to a land called Eistland, close to the Danish
Danish language
Danish is a North Germanic language spoken by around six million people, principally in the country of Denmark. It is also spoken by 50,000 Germans of Danish ethnicity in the northern parts of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, where it holds the status of minority language...

, German, Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

, Swedish
Swedish language
Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland, especially along its coast and on the Åland islands. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish...

 and Norwegian
Norwegian language
Norwegian is a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Norway, where it is the official language. Together with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional variants .These Scandinavian languages together with the Faroese language...

 term Estland for the country. Early Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 and other ancient versions of the name are Estia and Hestia.

Esthonia was a common alternate English spelling prior to independence.

Prehistory


Human settlement in Estonia became possible 11,000 to 13,000 years ago, when the ice from the last glacial era
Ice age
An ice age or, more precisely, glacial age, is a generic geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers...

 melted. The oldest known settlement in Estonia is the Pulli settlement
Pulli settlement
Pulli settlement, located on the right bank of the Pärnu River, is the oldest known human settlement in Estonia. It is located two kilometers from the town of Sindi, which is 14 kilometers from Pärnu...

, which was on the banks of the river Pärnu
Pärnu River
The Pärnu is a river in Estonia that drains into the Gulf of Riga at Pärnu. It is a one of the longest rivers in Estonia - 144 km long. It has the basin area of 6,920 km² and average discharge is 64.4 m³/s.- References :...

, near the town of Sindi, in south-western Estonia. According to radiocarbon dating
Radiocarbon dating
Radiocarbon dating is a radiometric dating method that uses the naturally occurring radioisotope carbon-14 to estimate the age of carbon-bearing materials up to about 58,000 to 62,000 years. Raw, i.e. uncalibrated, radiocarbon ages are usually reported in radiocarbon years "Before Present" ,...

 it was settled around 11,000 years ago at the beginning of the 9th millennium BC.


Evidence has been found of hunting and fishing communities existing around 6500 BC near the town of Kunda in northern Estonia. Bone and stone artefacts similar to those found at Kunda have been discovered elsewhere in Estonia, as well as in Latvia, northern Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

 and in southern Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

. The Kunda culture
Kunda culture
Kunda Culture, with its roots in Swiderian culture is a mesolithic hunter-gatherer communities of the Baltic forest zone extending eastwards through Latvia into northern Russia dating to the period 8000–5000 BC by calibrated radiocarbon dating...

 belongs to the middle stone age, or Mesolithic
Mesolithic
The Mesolithic is an archaeological concept used to refer to certain groups of archaeological cultures defined as falling between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic....

 period.

The end of the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 and the early Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 were marked by great cultural changes. The most significant was the transition to farming, which has remained at the core of the economy and culture. Between the 1st to 5th centuries AD resident farming was widely established, the population grew, and settlement expanded. Cultural influences from the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 reached Estonia.

The first mention of the people inhabiting present-day Estonia is by the Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 historian Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

, who in his book Germania
Germania (book)
The Germania , written by Gaius Cornelius Tacitus around 98, is an ethnographic work on the Germanic tribes outside the Roman Empire.-Contents:...

(ca. AD 98) describes the Aesti
Aesti
The Aesti were a people described by the Roman historian Tacitus in his treatise Germania . According to this account, the Aestii lived on the shore of the Suebian Sea , eastward of the Suiones and westward of the Sitones. They were a population of Suebia...

 tribe. Tacitus mentions their term for amber
Amber
Amber is fossilized tree resin , which has been appreciated for its color and natural beauty since Neolithic times. Amber is used as an ingredient in perfumes, as a healing agent in folk medicine, and as jewelry. There are five classes of amber, defined on the basis of their chemical constituents...

 in an apparently Latinised form, glesum (cf. Latvian
Latvian language
Latvian is the official state language of Latvia. It is also sometimes referred to as Lettish. There are about 1.4 million native Latvian speakers in Latvia and about 150,000 abroad. The Latvian language has a relatively large number of non-native speakers, atypical for a small language...

 glīsas). This is the only word of their language recorded from antiquity. In spite of this point, the Aestii are generally considered the ancestors of the later Baltic peoples.

A more troubled and war-ridden middle Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 followed with external dangers coming both from the Baltic tribes
Balts
The Balts or Baltic peoples , defined as speakers of one of the Baltic languages, a branch of the Indo-European language family, are descended from a group of Indo-European tribes who settled the area between the Jutland peninsula in the west and Moscow, Oka and Volga rivers basins in the east...

, who attacked across the southern land border, and from overseas. Several Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

n sagas
Sagàs
Sagàs is a small town and municipality located in Catalonia, in the comarca of Berguedà. It is located in the geographical area of the pre-Pyrenees.-Population:...

 refer to retaliatory campaigns against Estonia. Estonian pirates conducted similar raids against the Vikings. The "pagan raiders" who sacked the Swedish
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 town of Sigtuna
Sigtuna
Sigtuna is a locality situated in Sigtuna Municipality, Stockholm County, Sweden with 18 inhabitants in 2005. It is the namesake of the municipality even though the seat is in Märsta....

 during the early Middle Ages, in 1187, were Estonians.

In the 1st centuries AD, political and administrative subdivisions began to emerge in Estonia. Two larger subdivisions appeared: the province (Estonian: kihelkond
Parish
A parish is a territorial unit historically under the pastoral care and clerical jurisdiction of one parish priest, who might be assisted in his pastoral duties by a curate or curates - also priests but not the parish priest - from a more or less central parish church with its associated organization...

) and the land (Estonian: maakond). The province comprised several elderships or villages. Nearly all provinces had at least one fortress. The defense of the local area was directed by the highest official, the king or elder
Elder (administrative title)
The term Elder is used in several different countries and organizations to indicate a position of authority...

. By the 13th century the following major lands had developed in Estonia: Revala, Harjumaa
Harjumaa
Harjumaa, , was an ancient Estonian county. It corresponded roughly to the present territory of Rapla County.- See also :*Danish Estonia*Harju County*Rapla County*History of Estonia*Livonian Crusade*Rulers of Estonia...

, Saaremaa
Saare County
Saare County , or Saaremaa, is one of 15 counties of Estonia. It consists of Saaremaa , the largest island of Estonia, and several smaller islands near it. The county borders Lääne County to the east and Hiiu County to the north...

, Hiiumaa, Läänemaa, Alempois
Alempois
Alempois was a small independent landlocked country in ancient Estonia, bordered by Harjumaa, Järvamaa, Nurmekund, Sakala, and Läänemaa. Alempois had an area of approximately 400 hides.- See also :*Livonian Crusade*Monastic state of the Teutonic Knights...

, Sakala, Ugandi, Jogentagana
Jogentagana
Jogentagana was a small landlocked ancient Estonian county in the eastern part of the territory of Estonia.-Settlements:* Igeteveri* Kavastu* Kärkna* Maarja-Magdaleena* Äksi- External links :***...

, Soopoolitse
Soopoolitse
Soopoolitse was a small landlocked ancient Estonian county in the eastern part of the territory of Estonia.- External links :***...

, Vaiga
Vaiga
Vaiga was a small landlocked ancient Estonian county in the eastern part of the territory of Estonia.- External links :***...

, Mõhu
Mõhu
Mõhu was a small landlocked ancient Estonian county in the central part of the territory of Estonia.- External links :***...

, Nurmekund
Nurmekund
Nurmekund was a small independent country on the north coast of Lake Võrtsjärv in Central Estonia, bordered by Sakala, Alempois, Järvamaa, Mõhu, and Ugandi...

, Järvamaa and Virumaa
Virumaa
Virumaa is a former independent county in Ancient Estonia. Now it is divided into Ida-Viru County or Eastern Vironia and Lääne-Viru County or Western Vironia...

.

Estonia retained a pagan
Paganism
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

 religion centred around a deity called Tharapita
Tharapita
Tharapita or Taarapita or Taara is a god in Estonian mythology.The Chronicle of Henry of Livonia mentions Tharapita as the superior god of Oeselians , also well known to Vironian tribes in northern Estonia...

. The Chronicle of Henry of Livonia
Chronicle of Henry of Livonia
The Livonian Chronicle of Henry is a document describing historic events in Livonia and surrounding areas from 1180 to 1227. Apart from the few references in the Primary Chronicle compiled in Kievan Rus' in the twelfth century, it is the oldest known written document about the history of these...

 mentions Tharapita
Tharapita
Tharapita or Taarapita or Taara is a god in Estonian mythology.The Chronicle of Henry of Livonia mentions Tharapita as the superior god of Oeselians , also well known to Vironian tribes in northern Estonia...

 as the superior god of Oeselians (inhabitants of Saaremaa
Saaremaa
Saaremaa is the largest island in Estonia, measuring 2,673 km². The main island of Saare County, it is located in the Baltic Sea, south of Hiiumaa island, and belongs to the West Estonian Archipelago...

 island), also well known to Vironian tribes in northern Estonia.

Middle Ages





At the beginning of the 13th century, Lembitu of Lehola
Lembitu of Lehola
Lembitu was an ancient Estonian elder of Sakala County and military leader in the struggle against conquest of the Estonian lands by the German Livonian Brothers of the Sword at the beginning of the 13th century...

, a chieftain of Sakala sought to unify the Estonian people and thwart Danish and Germanic conquest during the Livonian Crusade
Livonian Crusade
The Livonian Crusade refers to the German and Danish conquest and colonization of medieval Livonia, the territory constituting modern Latvia and Estonia, during the Northern Crusades...

. He managed to assemble an army of 6,000 Estonian men from different counties, but he was killed during the Battle of St. Matthew's Day
Battle of St. Matthew's Day
The Battle of St. Matthew's Day was fought near Viljandi on September 21, 1217 during the Livonian Crusade. The adversaries were the German crusading order the Sword Brethren with their recently converted Livonian and Latgalian allies and an army of 6000 Estonian men from different counties, led...

 in September 1217.

In 1228, in the aftermath of the Livonian Crusade, to the 1560s, Estonia became part of Terra Mariana, established on 2 February 1207 as a principality of the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 and proclaimed by pope Innocent III in 1215 as a subject to the Holy See
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

. The southern parts of the country were conquered by Livonian Brothers of the Sword
Livonian Brothers of the Sword
The Livonian Brothers of the Sword were a military order founded by Bishop Albert of Riga in 1202. Pope Innocent III sanctioned the establishment in 1204. The membership of the order comprised German "warrior monks"...

 who joined the Teutonic Order in 1237 and became its branch known as Livonian Order
Livonian Order
The Livonian Order was an autonomous Livonian branch of the Teutonic Order and a member of the Livonian Confederation from 1435–1561. After being defeated by Samogitians in the 1236 Battle of Schaulen , the remnants of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword were incorporated into the Teutonic Knights...

. In the Northern parts of the country was formed Duchy of Estonia as a direct dominion
Dominum directum
-Definitions:Dominum directum : the right of the lord in the disposition of an asset ....

 of the King of Denmark from 1219 until 1346 when it was sold to the Teutonic order and became part of the Ordenstaat. In 1343, the people of northern Estonia and Saaremaa
Saaremaa
Saaremaa is the largest island in Estonia, measuring 2,673 km². The main island of Saare County, it is located in the Baltic Sea, south of Hiiumaa island, and belongs to the West Estonian Archipelago...

 rebelled against the German rule in the St. George's Night Uprising
St. George's Night Uprising
St. George’s Night Uprising in 1343–1346 was an unsuccessful attempt by the indigenous Estonian population in the Duchy of Estonia, the Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek, and the insular territories of the State of the Teutonic Order to annihilate the Danish and German rulers and landlords, who had conquered...

, which was put down by 1345.

Reval (known as Tallinn since 1918) gained Lübeck Rights
Lübeck law
The Lübeck law was the constitution of a municipal form of government developed at Lübeck in Schleswig-Holstein after it was made a free city in 1226. The law provides for self-government. It replaced the personal rule of tribal monarchs descending from ancient times or the rule of the regional...

 in 1248 and joined an alliance of trading guilds called the Hanseatic League
Hanseatic League
The Hanseatic League was an economic alliance of trading cities and their merchant guilds that dominated trade along the coast of Northern Europe...

 at the end of the 13th century.

After the Teutonic Order fell into decline following its defeat in the Battle of Grunwald
Battle of Grunwald
The Battle of Grunwald or 1st Battle of Tannenberg was fought on 15 July 1410, during the Polish–Lithuanian–Teutonic War. The alliance of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, led respectively by King Jogaila and Grand Duke Vytautas , decisively defeated the Teutonic Knights, led...

 in 1410, and the defeat of the Livonian Order in the Battle of Swienta on 1 September 1435, the Livonian Confederation
Livonian Confederation
Terra Mariana was the official name for Medieval Livonia or Old Livonia which was formed in the aftermath of the Livonian Crusade in the territories comprising present day Estonia and Latvia...

 agreement was signed on 4 December 1435.
The Grand Duchy of Moscow
Grand Duchy of Moscow
The Grand Duchy of Moscow or Grand Principality of Moscow, also known in English simply as Muscovy , was a late medieval Rus' principality centered on Moscow, and the predecessor state of the early modern Tsardom of Russia....

 and Tsardom of Russia
Tsardom of Russia
The Tsardom of Russia was the name of the centralized Russian state from Ivan IV's assumption of the title of Tsar in 1547 till Peter the Great's foundation of the Russian Empire in 1721.From 1550 to 1700, Russia grew 35,000 km2 a year...

 attempted unsuccessful invasions in 1481 and 1558.

The Livonian Confederation ceased to exist during the Livonian War
Livonian War
The Livonian War was fought for control of Old Livonia in the territory of present-day Estonia and Latvia when the Tsardom of Russia faced a varying coalition of Denmark–Norway, the Kingdom of Sweden, the Union of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland.During the period 1558–1578,...

 (1558–82). The wars had reduced the Estonian population from about 250–300,000 people before the Livonian War to 120–140,000 in the 1620s.

Reformation and Swedish Estonia


The Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 in Europe officially began in 1517 with Martin Luther
Martin Luther
Martin Luther was a German priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517...

 (1483–1546) and his 95 Theses
95 Theses
The Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences , commonly known as , was written by Martin Luther, 1517 and is widely regarded as the primary catalyst for the Protestant Reformation...

. The Reformation resulted in great change in the Baltic region
Baltic region
The terms Baltic region, Baltic Rim countries, and Baltic Rim refer to slightly different combinations of countries in the general area surrounding the Baltic Sea.- Etymology :...

. Ideas entered the Livonian Confederation
Livonian Confederation
Terra Mariana was the official name for Medieval Livonia or Old Livonia which was formed in the aftermath of the Livonian Crusade in the territories comprising present day Estonia and Latvia...

 very quickly and by the 1520s they were well known. Language, education, religion, and politics were greatly transformed. The Church services were now given in the local vernacular, instead of Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, as was previously used. During the Livonian War
Livonian War
The Livonian War was fought for control of Old Livonia in the territory of present-day Estonia and Latvia when the Tsardom of Russia faced a varying coalition of Denmark–Norway, the Kingdom of Sweden, the Union of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland.During the period 1558–1578,...

 in 1561, northern Estonia submitted to Swedish control. Southern Estonia in 1560s formed an autonomous Duchy of Livonia
Duchy of Livonia
The Duchy of Livonia was a territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania — and later the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth — that existed from 1561 to 1621...

 in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was a dualistic state of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch. It was the largest and one of the most populous countries of 16th- and 17th‑century Europe with some and a multi-ethnic population of 11 million at its peak in the early 17th century...

 under joint control of the Polish Crown and the Grand Duchy
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state from the 12th /13th century until 1569 and then as a constituent part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1791 when Constitution of May 3, 1791 abolished it in favor of unitary state. It was founded by the Lithuanians, one of the polytheistic...

, containing two voivodeship
Voivodeship
Voivodship is a term denoting the position of, or more commonly the area administered by, a voivod. Voivodeships have existed since medieval times in Poland, Romania, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia and Serbia....

s of present-day Estonia: Dorpat Voivodeship
Dorpat Voivodeship
The Dorpat Voivodeship was a unit of administrative division and local government in the Duchy of Livonia, part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, from 1598 till the Swedish conquest of Livonia in the 1620s.The seat of the voivode was Dorpat...

 (Tartu
Tartu
Tartu is the second largest city of Estonia. In contrast to Estonia's political and financial capital Tallinn, Tartu is often considered the intellectual and cultural hub, especially since it is home to Estonia's oldest and most renowned university. Situated 186 km southeast of Tallinn, the...

 region) and Parnawa Voivodeship
Parnawa Voivodeship
The Parnawa Voivodeship was a unit of administrative division and local government in the Duchy of Livonia, part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, since it was formed in 1598 till the Swedish conquest of Livonia in the 1620s....

 (Pärnu
Pärnu
Pärnu is a city in southwestern Estonia on the coast of Pärnu Bay, an inlet of the Gulf of Riga in the Baltic Sea. It is a popular summer vacation resort with many hotels, restaurants, and large beaches. The Pärnu River flows through the city and drains into the Gulf of Riga...

 region). In 1629, mainland Estonia came entirely
Polish–Swedish War (1626–1629)
The Polish–Swedish War of 1626–1629 was the fourth stage in a series of conflicts between Sweden and Poland fought in the 17th century...

 under Swedish rule. Estonia was administratively divided between the provinces of Estonia
Swedish Estonia
The Duchy of Estonia , also known as Swedish Estonia, was a dominion of the Swedish Empire from 1561 until 1721, when it was ceded to Russia in the Treaty of Nystad, following its capitulation in the Great Northern War. The dominion arose when the northern parts of present-day Estonia were united...

 in the north and Livonia
Livonia
Livonia is a historic region along the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. It was once the land of the Finnic Livonians inhabiting the principal ancient Livonian County Metsepole with its center at Turaida...

 in southern Estonia and northern Latvia
Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

, a division which persisted until the early 20th century.

In 1631, the Swedish king Gustaf II Adolf
Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden
Gustav II Adolf has been widely known in English by his Latinized name Gustavus Adolphus Magnus and variously in historical writings also as Gustavus, or Gustavus the Great, or Gustav Adolph the Great,...

 forced the nobility to grant the peasantry greater rights, although serfdom was retained. King Charles XI withdrew large noble estates to the Swedish Crown effectively turning serfs to taxpaying farmers. In 1632, a printing press and university were established in the city of Dorpat (known as Tartu
Tartu
Tartu is the second largest city of Estonia. In contrast to Estonia's political and financial capital Tallinn, Tartu is often considered the intellectual and cultural hub, especially since it is home to Estonia's oldest and most renowned university. Situated 186 km southeast of Tallinn, the...

 since 1918). This period is known in Estonian history as "the Good Old Swedish Time."

The steady growth of the population continued until the outbreak of the plague in 1657. The Great Famine of 1695–97 killed some 70,000 people – almost 20% of the population.

Russian Empire


Following the Capitulation of Estonia and Livonia
Capitulation of Estonia and Livonia
With the Capitulation of Estonia and Livonia in 1710 the Swedish dominions Estonia and Livonia were integrated into the Russian Empire following their conquest during the Great Northern War...

 during the Great Northern War
Great Northern War
The Great Northern War was a conflict in which a coalition led by the Tsardom of Russia successfully contested the supremacy of the Swedish Empire in northern Central Europe and Eastern Europe. The initial leaders of the anti-Swedish alliance were Peter I the Great of Russia, Frederick IV of...

, the Swedish empire lost Estonia to Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 by the Treaty of Nystad
Treaty of Nystad
The Treaty of Nystad was the last peace treaty of the Great Northern War. It was concluded between the Tsardom of Russia and Swedish Empire on 30 August / 10 September 1721 in the then Swedish town of Nystad , after Sweden had settled with the other parties in Stockholm and Frederiksborg.During...

. However, the upper classes and the higher middle class remained primarily Baltic German
Baltic German
The Baltic Germans were mostly ethnically German inhabitants of the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, which today form the countries of Estonia and Latvia. The Baltic German population never made up more than 10% of the total. They formed the social, commercial, political and cultural élite in...

. The war devastated the population of Estonia, but it recovered quickly. Although the rights of peasants were initially weakened, serfdom was abolished in 1816 in the province of Estonia and in 1819 in Livonia
Livonia
Livonia is a historic region along the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. It was once the land of the Finnic Livonians inhabiting the principal ancient Livonian County Metsepole with its center at Turaida...

. After the Russian revolution of 1917
Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...

, Tallinn remained under Soviet control until 24 February 1918, when Estonian independence was declared.

Declaration of independence



As a result of the abolition of serfdom
Serfdom
Serfdom is the status of peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to Manorialism. It was a condition of bondage or modified slavery which developed primarily during the High Middle Ages in Europe and lasted to the mid-19th century...

 and the availability of education to the native Estonian-speaking population, an active Estonian nationalist movement developed in the 19th century. It began on a cultural level, resulting in the establishment of Estonian language literature, theatre and professional music and led on to the formation of the Estonian national identity and the Age of Awakening. Among the leaders of the movement were Johann Voldemar Jannsen
Johann Voldemar Jannsen
Johann Voldemar Jannsen was an Estonian journalist and poet active in Livonia....

, Jakob Hurt
Jakob Hurt
Jakob Hurt was a notable Estonian folklorist, theologist, and linguist. With respect to the latter, he is perhaps best known for his dissertation on "pure" -ne stem nouns...

 and Carl Robert Jakobson
Carl Robert Jakobson
Carl Robert Jakobson was an Estonian writer, politician and teacher active in Livonia, Russian Empire. He was one of the most important persons of Estonian national awakening in the second half of the 19th century.Between 1860 and 1880, the Governorate of Livonia was led by a moderate...

.

Significant accomplishments were the publication of the national epic, Kalevipoeg
Kalevipoeg
Kalevipoeg is an epic poem by Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald held to be the Estonian national epic.- Origins : There existed an oral tradition within Ancient Estonia of legends explaining the origin of the world...

, in 1862, and the organization of the first national song festival
Estonian Song Festival
The Estonian Song Festival is one of the largest amateur choral events in the world, a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity...

 in 1869. In response to a period of Russification
Russification
Russification is an adoption of the Russian language or some other Russian attributes by non-Russian communities...

 initiated by the Russian empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 in the 1890s, Estonian nationalism
Nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

 took on more political tones, with intellectuals first calling for greater autonomy, and later, complete independence from the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

.

Following the Bolshevik
Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

 takeover of power in Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 after the October Revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

 of 1917 and German
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 victories against the Russian army, between the Russian Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

's retreat and the arrival of advancing German troops, the Committee of Elders
Salvation Committee
The Estonian Salvation Committee was the executive body of the Estonian Provincial Assembly that issued the Estonian Declaration of Independence....

 of the Maapäev
Maapäev
The Estonian Provincial Assembly was elected after the February Revolution in 1917 as the national diet of the Autonomous Governorate of Estonia in Russian Empire....

 issued the Estonian Declaration of Independence
Estonian Declaration of Independence
The Estonian Declaration of Independence, also known as the Manifesto to the Peoples of Estonia , is the founding act of the Republic of Estonia from 1918. It is celebrated on 24 February, the National Day or Estonian Independence Day....

 in Pärnu
Pärnu
Pärnu is a city in southwestern Estonia on the coast of Pärnu Bay, an inlet of the Gulf of Riga in the Baltic Sea. It is a popular summer vacation resort with many hotels, restaurants, and large beaches. The Pärnu River flows through the city and drains into the Gulf of Riga...

 on 23 February and in Tallinn
Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

 on 24 February 1918.

After winning the Estonian War of Independence against both Soviet Russia
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic
The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic , commonly referred to as Soviet Russia, Bolshevik Russia, or simply Russia, was the largest, most populous and economically developed republic in the former Soviet Union....

 and the German Freikorps
Freikorps in the Baltic
After 1918, the term Freikorps was used for the paramilitary organizations that sprang up around the German Empire, including in the Baltic states as soldiers returned in defeat from World War I...

 and Baltische Landeswehr
Baltische Landeswehr
Baltische Landeswehr was the name of the unified armed forces of the Couronian and Livonian nobility from 7 December 1918 to 3 July 1919.- Command structure :...

volunteers, (the Tartu Peace Treaty
Treaty of Tartu (Russian–Estonian)
Tartu Peace Treaty or Treaty of Tartu was a peace treaty between Estonia and Russian SFSR signed on February 2, 1920 ending the Estonian War of Independence. The terms of the treaty stated that "Russia unreservedly recognises" the independence of Republic of Estonia de jure and renounced in...

 was signed on 2 February 1920). The Republic of Estonia was recognised (de jure) by Finland on 7 July 1920, Poland on 31 December 1920, Argentina on 12 January 1921 and by the Western Allies on 26 January 1921.

Estonia maintained its independence for twenty-two years. Initially a parliamentary democracy, the parliament (Riigikogu
Riigikogu
The Riigikogu is the unicameral parliament of Estonia. All important state-related questions pass through the Riigikogu...

) was disbanded in 1934, following political unrest caused by the global economic crisis
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

. Subsequently the country was ruled by decree by Konstantin Päts
Konstantin Päts
Konstantin Päts VR I/1 and III/1 was the most influential politician of interwar Estonia. He was one of the first Estonians to become active in politics and started an almost 40-year political rivalry with Jaan Tõnisson, first through journalism with his newspaper Teataja, later through politics...

, who became President in 1938, the year parliamentary elections resumed.

World War II


The fate of Estonia in World War II was decided by the German–Soviet Nonaggression Pact and its Secret Additional Protocol of August 1939. World War II casualties
World War II casualties
World War II was the deadliest military conflict in history. Over 60 million people were killed, which was over 2.5% of the world population. The tables below give a detailed country-by-country count of human losses.-Total dead:...

 of Estonia, estimated at around 25% of population, were among the highest in Europe. War and occupation deaths have been estimated at 90,000. These include the Soviet deportations
Soviet deportations from Estonia
As the Soviet Union had occupied Estonia in 1940 and retaken it from Nazi Germany again in 1944, tens of thousands of Estonia's citizens underwent deportation in the 1940s...

 in 1941, the German deportations and Holocaust victims.
World War II began with the invasion and subsequent partition
History of Poland (1939–1945)
The history of Poland from 1939 to 1945 encompasses the German invasion of Poland as well as the Soviet invasion of Poland through to the end of World War II. On 1 September 1939, without a formal declaration of war, Germany invaded Poland...

 of an important regional ally of Estonia – Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, by a joint operation of Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 and Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

.

Soviet invasion and occupation



The fate of the Republic of Estonia before World War II was decided by the German–Soviet Nonaggression Pact of August 1939 after Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 gained Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

's agreement to divide Eastern Europe into "spheres of special interest" according to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and its Secret Additional Protocol.

On 24 September 1939, warships of the Red Navy appeared off Estonian ports and Soviet bombers began a patrol over Tallinn
Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

 and the nearby countryside. The Estonian government was forced to give their assent to an agreement which allowed the USSR to establish military bases and station 25,000 troops on Estonian soil for "mutual defence". On 12 June 1940, the order for a total military blockade on Estonia was given to the Soviet Baltic Fleet
Baltic Fleet
The Twice Red Banner Baltic Fleet - is the Russian Navy's presence in the Baltic Sea. In previous historical periods, it has been part of the navy of Imperial Russia and later the Soviet Union. The Fleet gained the 'Twice Red Banner' appellation during the Soviet period, indicating two awards of...

.

On 14 June 1940, while world's attention was focused on the fall of Paris to Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 a day earlier, the Soviet military blockade on Estonia went into effect, two Soviet bombers downed the Finnish passenger airplane "Kaleva
Kaleva (airplane)
Kaleva, registered OH-ALL, was a civilian Junkers Ju 52 passenger and transport plane, belonging to the Finnish carrier Aero O/Y. The aircraft was shot down by two Soviet Ilyushin DB-3 bombers during peacetime between the Soviet Union and Finland on June 14, 1940, while en route from Tallinn to...

" flying from Tallinn to Helsinki carrying three diplomatic pouches from the U.S. legations in Tallinn
Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

, Riga
Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

 and Helsinki
Helsinki
Helsinki is the capital and largest city in Finland. It is in the region of Uusimaa, located in southern Finland, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, an arm of the Baltic Sea. The population of the city of Helsinki is , making it by far the most populous municipality in Finland. Helsinki is...

. On 16 June 1940, the Soviet Union invaded Estonia. The Red Army exited from their military bases in Estonia on 17 June. The following day, some 90,000 additional troops entered the country.
In the face of overwhelming Soviet force, the Estonian government capitulated on 17 June 1940 to avoid bloodshed.

The military occupation of Estonia was complete by the 21 June 1940.

Most of the Estonian Defence Forces surrendered
Surrender (military)
Surrender is when soldiers, nations or other combatants stop fighting and eventually become prisoners of war, either as individuals or when ordered to by their officers. A white flag is a common symbol of surrender, as is the gesture of raising one's hands empty and open above one's head.When the...

 according to the orders of the Estonian Government believing that resistance was useless and were disarmed by the Red Army. Only the Estonian Independent Signal Battalion stationed in Tallinn at Raua Street showed resistance to Red Army and Communist Militia called "People's Self-Defence" on 21 June 1940. As the Red Army brought in additional reinforcements supported by six armoured fighting vehicle
Armoured fighting vehicle
An armoured fighting vehicle is a combat vehicle, protected by strong armour and armed with weapons. AFVs can be wheeled or tracked....

s, the battle lasted several hours until sundown. Finally the military resistance was ended with negotiation
Negotiation
Negotiation is a dialogue between two or more people or parties, intended to reach an understanding, resolve point of difference, or gain advantage in outcome of dialogue, to produce an agreement upon courses of action, to bargain for individual or collective advantage, to craft outcomes to satisfy...

s and the Independent Signal Battalion surrendered and was disarmed. There were 2 dead Estonian servicemen, Aleksei Männikus and Johannes Mandre, and several wounded on the Estonian side and about 10 killed and more wounded on the Soviet side. The Soviet militia that participated in the battle was led by Nikolai Stepulov
Nikolai Stepulov
Nikolai Stepulov was an Estonian boxer who competed in the 1936 Summer Olympics.In 1936 he won the silver medal in the lightweight class after losing the final against Imre Harangi.-References:*...

.

In August 6, 1940, Estonia was illegally annexed by the Soviet Union as the Estonian SSR. The provisions in the Estonian constitution requiring a popular referendum to decide on joining a supra-national body were ignored. Instead the vote to join the Soviet Union was taken by those elected in the sham elections held in the previous month. Additionally those who had failed to do their "political duty" of voting Estonia into the USSR, specifically those who had failed to have their passports stamped for voting, were condemned to death by Soviet tribunals. The repressions followed with the mass deportations
Population transfer in the Soviet Union
Population transfer in the Soviet Union may be classified into the following broad categories: deportations of "anti-Soviet" categories of population, often classified as "enemies of workers," deportations of entire nationalities, labor force transfer, and organized migrations in opposite...

 carried out by the Soviets in Estonia on 14 June 1941. Many of the country's political and intellectual leaders were killed or deported to remote areas of the USSR by the Soviet authorities in 1940–1941. Repressive actions were also taken against thousands of ordinary people.

When the German Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

 started against the Soviet Union, about 34,000 young Estonian men were forcibly drafted into the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

. Fewer than 30% of them survived the war. Political prisoners who could not be evacuated were executed by the NKVD
NKVD
The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs was the public and secret police organization of the Soviet Union that directly executed the rule of power of the Soviets, including political repression, during the era of Joseph Stalin....

.

Many countries, including the US, did not recognise the annexation of Estonia by the USSR. Such countries recognised Estonian diplomats and consuls who still functioned in many countries in the name of their former governments. These diplomats persisted in this anomalous situation until the ultimate restoration of Baltic
Baltic region
The terms Baltic region, Baltic Rim countries, and Baltic Rim refer to slightly different combinations of countries in the general area surrounding the Baltic Sea.- Etymology :...

 independence
Independence
Independence is a condition of a nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over its territory....

.

Contemporary Russian politicians deny that the Republic of Estonia was illegally annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940. They state that the Soviet troops had entered Estonia in 1940 following the agreements and with the consent of the government of the Republic of Estonia, regardless of how their actions can be interpreted today. They maintain that the USSR was not in a state of war and was not waging any combat activities on the territory of Estonia; therefore there could be no occupation. The official Soviet and current Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n version claims that Estonians voluntarily gave up their statehood. Freedom fighters
Forest Brothers
The Forest Brothers were Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian partisans who waged a guerrilla war against Soviet rule during the Soviet invasion and occupation of the three Baltic states during, and after, World War II...

 of 1944–1976 are labeled "bandits
Bandits
Bandits is a 2001 American crime-comedy drama film directed by Barry Levinson. It stars Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, and Cate Blanchett. Filming began in October 2000 and ended in February 2001. It helped Thornton earn a National Board of Review Best Actor Award for 2001...

" or "nazis". The Russian position is not recognised internationally.

German occupation



After Germany invaded
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

 the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, the Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 was able to reach Estonia within days. The German Army crossed the Estonian southern border
Border
Borders define geographic boundaries of political entities or legal jurisdictions, such as governments, sovereign states, federated states and other subnational entities. Some borders—such as a state's internal administrative borders, or inter-state borders within the Schengen Area—are open and...

 on 7 July. The Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 retreated behind the Pärnu River
Pärnu River
The Pärnu is a river in Estonia that drains into the Gulf of Riga at Pärnu. It is a one of the longest rivers in Estonia - 144 km long. It has the basin area of 6,920 km² and average discharge is 64.4 m³/s.- References :...

 – Emajõgi
Emajõgi
The Emajõgi is a river in Estonia which flows from Lake Võrtsjärv through Tartu County into Lake Peipus, crossing the city of Tartu for 10 km. It has a length of 100 km...

 line on 12 July. At the end of July the Germans resumed their advance in Estonia working in tandem with the Estonian Forest Brothers
Forest Brothers
The Forest Brothers were Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian partisans who waged a guerrilla war against Soviet rule during the Soviet invasion and occupation of the three Baltic states during, and after, World War II...

. Both German troops and Estonian partisans took Narva on 17 August and the Estonian capital Tallinn on 28 August. After the Soviets were driven out from Estonia German troops disarmed all the partisan groups.

Although initially the Germans were perceived by most Estonians as liberators from the USSR and its repressions, and hopes were raised for the restoration of the country's independence, it was soon realised that they were but another occupying power. The Germans used Estonia's resources for the war effort; for the duration of the occupation Estonia and was incorporated into the German province of Ostland
Reichskommissariat Ostland
Reichskommissariat Ostland, literally "Reich Commissariat Eastland", was the civilian occupation regime established by Nazi Germany in the Baltic states and much of Belarus during World War II. It was also known as Reichskommissariat Baltenland initially...

.

This led many Estonians, unwilling to side with the Nazis, to join the Finnish Army
Finnish Army
The Finnish Army is the land forces branch of the Finnish Defence Forces.Today's Army is divided into six branches: the infantry , field artillery, anti-aircraft artillery, engineers, signals, and materiel troops.-History of the Finnish Army:Between 1809 and 1917 Finland was an autonomous part of...

 to fight against the Soviet Union. The Finnish Infantry Regiment 200
Finnish Infantry Regiment 200
Infantry Regiment 200 or Soomepoisid was a unit in the Finnish army during World War II made up mostly of Estonian volunteers, who preferred to fight against the Soviet Union in the ranks of the Finnish army instead of the armed forces of Germany....

 (Estonian: soomepoisid) was formed out of Estonian volunteers in Finland. Although many Estonians were recruited into the German armed forces (including Estonian Waffen-SS), the majority did so only in 1944 when the threat of a new invasion of Estonia by the Red Army had become imminent and it was clear that Nazi Germany could not win the war.

By January 1944, the front was pushed back by the Red Army almost all the way to the former Estonian border. Narva was evacuated. Jüri Uluots
Jüri Uluots
Jüri Uluots was an Estonian prime minister, journalist, prominent attorney and distinguished Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Tartu....

, the last legitimate prime minister of the Republic of Estonia (according to the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia
Constitution of Estonia
The Constitution of Estonia is the fundamental law of the Republic of Estonia and establishes the state order as that of a democratic republic where the supreme power is vested in its citizens. It was adopted in a freely elected Estonian Constituent Assembly on 15 June 1920 and came into force on...

) prior to its fall to the Soviet Union in 1940, delivered a radio address that appealed to all able-bodied men born from 1904 through 1923 to report for military service (Before this, Jüri Uluots had opposed Estonian mobilization.) The call drew support from all across the country: 38,000 volunteers jammed registration centres.

Several thousand Estonians who had joined the Finnish Army came back across the Gulf of Finland
Gulf of Finland
The Gulf of Finland is the easternmost arm of the Baltic Sea. It extends between Finland and Estonia all the way to Saint Petersburg in Russia, where the river Neva drains into it. Other major cities around the gulf include Helsinki and Tallinn...

 to join the newly formed Territorial Defense Force, assigned to defend Estonia against the Soviet advance. It was hoped that by engaging in such a war Estonia would be able to attract Western support for the cause of Estonia's independence from the USSR and thus ultimately succeed in achieving independence.

Soviet Estonia



The Soviet forces reconquered Estonia in the autumn of 1944 after fierce battles in the northeast of the country on the Narva river, on the Tannenberg Line (Sinimäed), in Southeast Estonia, on the Emajõgi river, and in the West Estonian Archipelago.

In the face of the country being re-occupied by the Red Army, tens of thousands of Estonians (including a majority of the education, culture, science, political and social specialists) (estimates as many as 80,000) chose to either retreat together with the Germans or flee to Finland or Sweden. On 12 January 1949, the Soviet Council of Ministers issued a decree "on the expulsion and deportation" from Baltic states
Baltic states
The term Baltic states refers to the Baltic territories which gained independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I: primarily the contiguous trio of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ; Finland also fell within the scope of the term after initially gaining independence in the 1920s.The...

 of "all kulaks and their families, the families of bandits and nationalists", and others.

More than 200,000 people are estimated to have been deported from the Baltic
Baltic region
The terms Baltic region, Baltic Rim countries, and Baltic Rim refer to slightly different combinations of countries in the general area surrounding the Baltic Sea.- Etymology :...

 in 1940–1953. In addition, at least 75,000 were sent to Gulag
Gulag
The Gulag was the government agency that administered the main Soviet forced labor camp systems. While the camps housed a wide range of convicts, from petty criminals to political prisoners, large numbers were convicted by simplified procedures, such as NKVD troikas and other instruments of...

. More than 10% of the entire adult Baltic population was deported or sent to Soviet labor camps. In response to the continuing insurgency against Soviet rule, more than 20,000 Estonians were forcibly deported either to labor camps or Siberia
Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

 (see Gulag
Gulag
The Gulag was the government agency that administered the main Soviet forced labor camp systems. While the camps housed a wide range of convicts, from petty criminals to political prisoners, large numbers were convicted by simplified procedures, such as NKVD troikas and other instruments of...

). Within the few weeks that followed, almost all of the remaining rural households were collectivized.

After World War II, as part of the goal to more fully integrate Baltic countries into the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, mass deportations were concluded in the Baltic countries and the policy of encouraging Soviet immigration to the Baltic states continued. In addition to the human and material losses suffered due to war, thousands of civilians were killed and tens of thousands of people deported from Estonia by the Soviet authorities until Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

's death in 1953.

Half of the deported perished, the other half were not allowed to return until the early 1960s (years after Stalin's death). The various repressive activities of Soviet forces in 1940–1941 and after reoccupation sparked a guerrilla war against the Soviet authorities in Estonia which was waged into the early 1950s by "forest brothers
Forest Brothers
The Forest Brothers were Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian partisans who waged a guerrilla war against Soviet rule during the Soviet invasion and occupation of the three Baltic states during, and after, World War II...

" (metsavennad) consisting mostly of Estonian veterans of both the German and Finnish armies as well as some civilians. Material damage caused by the world war and the following Soviet era significantly slowed Estonia's economic growth
Economic growth
In economics, economic growth is defined as the increasing capacity of the economy to satisfy the wants of goods and services of the members of society. Economic growth is enabled by increases in productivity, which lowers the inputs for a given amount of output. Lowered costs increase demand...

, resulting in a wide wealth gap in comparison with neighboring Finland and Sweden.

Militarization
Militarization
Militarization, or militarisation, is the process by which a society organizes itself for military conflict and violence. It is related to militarism, which is an ideology that reflects the level of militarization of a state...

 was another aspect of the Soviet regime. Large parts of the country, especially the coastal areas were restricted to all but the Soviet military. Most of the sea shore and all sea islands (including Saaremaa
Saaremaa
Saaremaa is the largest island in Estonia, measuring 2,673 km². The main island of Saare County, it is located in the Baltic Sea, south of Hiiumaa island, and belongs to the West Estonian Archipelago...

 and Hiiumaa
Hiiumaa
Hiiumaa is the second largest island belonging to Estonia. It is located in the Baltic Sea, north of the island of Saaremaa, a part of the West Estonian archipelago. Its largest town is Kärdla.-Name:...

) were declared "border zones". People not actually resident there were restricted from traveling to them without a permit. A notable closed military installation was the city of Paldiski
Paldiski
Paldiski is a town and Baltic Sea port situated on the Pakri peninsula of north-western Estonia. Originally a Swedish settlement known as Rågervik, it became a Russian naval base in the 18th century. The Russians renamed it Балтийский Порт Paldiski is a town and Baltic Sea port situated on the...

 which was entirely closed to all public access. The city had a support base for the Soviet Baltic Fleet
Baltic Fleet
The Twice Red Banner Baltic Fleet - is the Russian Navy's presence in the Baltic Sea. In previous historical periods, it has been part of the navy of Imperial Russia and later the Soviet Union. The Fleet gained the 'Twice Red Banner' appellation during the Soviet period, indicating two awards of...

's submarines and several large military bases, including a nuclear submarine training centre complete with a full-scale model of a nuclear submarine
Nuclear submarine
A nuclear submarine is a submarine powered by a nuclear reactor . The performance advantages of nuclear submarines over "conventional" submarines are considerable: nuclear propulsion, being completely independent of air, frees the submarine from the need to surface frequently, as is necessary for...

 with working nuclear reactors. The Paldiski reactors building passed into Estonian control in 1994 after the last Soviet troops left the country. Immigration
Population transfer in the Soviet Union
Population transfer in the Soviet Union may be classified into the following broad categories: deportations of "anti-Soviet" categories of population, often classified as "enemies of workers," deportations of entire nationalities, labor force transfer, and organized migrations in opposite...

 was another effect of Soviet occupation. Hundreds of thousands of migrants were relocated to Estonia from other parts of Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 to assist industrialization and militarization, contributing an increase of about half a million people within 45 years.

Post-independence


The US, UK, France, Italy and the majority of other Western democracies considered the annexation of Estonia by the USSR
Stimson Doctrine
The Stimson Doctrine is a policy of the United States federal government, enunciated in a note of January 7, 1932, to Japan and China, of non-recognition of international territorial changes that were executed by force. The doctrine was an application of the principle of ex injuria jus non oritur...

 illegal. They retained diplomatic relations with the representatives of the independent Republic of Estonia, never de jure
De jure
De jure is an expression that means "concerning law", as contrasted with de facto, which means "concerning fact".De jure = 'Legally', De facto = 'In fact'....

recognised the existence of the Estonian SSR, and never recognised Estonia as a legal constituent part of the Soviet Union. Estonia's return to independence became possible as the Soviet Union faced internal regime challenges, loosening its hold on the outer empire. As the 1980s progressed, a movement for Estonian autonomy started. In the initial period of 1987–1989, this was partially for more economic independence, but as the Soviet Union weakened and it became increasingly obvious that nothing short of full independence would do, the country began a course towards self-determination.

In 1989, during the "Singing Revolution
Singing Revolution
The Singing Revolution is a commonly used name for events between 1987 and 1991 that led to the restoration of the independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania...

", in a landmark demonstration for more independence, called the Baltic Way, a human chain of more than two million people was formed, stretching through Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. All three nations had similar experiences of occupation and similar aspirations for regaining independence. The Estonian Sovereignty Declaration
Estonian Sovereignty Declaration
The Estonian Sovereignty Declaration , fully: Declaration on the Sovereignty of the Estonian SSR was issued on November 16, 1988 during the Singing Revolution in Estonia. The declaration asserted Estonia's sovereignty and the supremacy of the Estonian laws over the laws of the Soviet Union...

 was issued on 16 November 1988 and formal independence declared on 20 August 1991, reconstituting the pre-1940 state, during the Soviet military coup attempt
Soviet coup attempt of 1991
The 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt , also known as the August Putsch or August Coup , was an attempt by a group of members of the Soviet Union's government to take control of the country from Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev...

 in Moscow. The Soviet Union recognised the independence of Estonia on 6 September 1991. The first country to diplomatically recognize Estonia's reclaimed independence was Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

. The last Russian troops left on 31 August 1994.

The 2004 enlargement of the European Union
2004 enlargement of the European Union
The 2004 enlargement of the European Union was the largest single expansion of the European Union , both in terms of territory, number of states and population, however not in terms of gross domestic product...

 was the largest single expansion of the
Enlargement of the European Union
The Enlargement of the European Union is the process of expanding the European Union through the accession of new member states. This process began with the Inner Six, who founded the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952...

 European Union (EU), both in terms of territory and population, however not in terms of gross domestic product (wealth). Estonia was amongst a group of ten countries which were incorporated into the EU on 1 May 2004. The Treaty of Accession 2003
Treaty of Accession 2003
The Treaty of Accession 2003 was the agreement between the European Union and ten countries , concerning these countries' accession into the EU...

 was signed on 16 April 2003.

Geography




Estonia's land border with Latvia runs 267 kilometers; the Russian border runs 290 kilometers. From 1920 to 1945, Estonia's border with Russia, set by the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty, extended beyond the Narva River
Narva River
The Narva is a river flowing into the Baltic Sea, the largest river in Estonia. Draining Lake Peipsi, the river forms the border of Estonia and Russia and flows through the towns of Narva/Ivangorod and Narva-Jõesuu into Narva Bay. Though the river is only 77 km long, in terms of volume...

 in the northeast and beyond the town of Pechory
Pechory
Pechory : Petseri; ) is a town and the administrative center of Pechorsky District of Pskov Oblast, Russia. Population: The population includes a few hundred ethnic Estonians.The town is famous for the Russian Orthodox Pskovo-Pechersky Monastery....

 (Petseri) in the southeast. This territory, amounting to some 2300 square kilometre, was incorporated into Russia by Stalin at the end of World War II. For this reason the borders between Estonia and Russia are not still defined today.

Estonia lies on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

 immediately across the Gulf of Finland from Finland on the level northwestern part of the rising east European platform between 57.3° and 59.5° N and 21.5° and 28.1° E. Average elevation reaches only 50 metres (164 ft) and the country's highest point is the Suur Munamägi
Suur Munamägi
Suur Munamägi is the highest peak in Estonia , reaching above sea level. It is located near the village of Haanja, in Võru County in the south-eastern corner of Estonia, close to the borders of both Latvia and Russia...

 in the southeast at 318 metres (1,043 ft). There is 3794 kilometres (2,357 mi) of coastline marked by numerous bays, straits, and inlets. The number of islands and islets is estimated at some 1,500. Two of them are large enough to constitute separate counties: Saaremaa
Saaremaa
Saaremaa is the largest island in Estonia, measuring 2,673 km². The main island of Saare County, it is located in the Baltic Sea, south of Hiiumaa island, and belongs to the West Estonian Archipelago...

 and Hiiumaa
Hiiumaa
Hiiumaa is the second largest island belonging to Estonia. It is located in the Baltic Sea, north of the island of Saaremaa, a part of the West Estonian archipelago. Its largest town is Kärdla.-Name:...

. A small, recent cluster of meteorite craters, the largest of which is called Kaali
Kaali crater
Kaali is a group of 9 meteorite craters located on the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Formed in the 7th century BC or about 4000 years ago , it is one of the most recent craters created by an impact event and the only known major impact event that has occurred in a populated area.Prior to the 1930s,...

 is found on Saaremaa
Saaremaa
Saaremaa is the largest island in Estonia, measuring 2,673 km². The main island of Saare County, it is located in the Baltic Sea, south of Hiiumaa island, and belongs to the West Estonian Archipelago...

, Estonia.

Estonia is situated in the northern part of the temperate climate zone
Temperate
In geography, temperate or tepid latitudes of the globe lie between the tropics and the polar circles. The changes in these regions between summer and winter are generally relatively moderate, rather than extreme hot or cold...

 and in the transition zone between maritime and continental climate
Continental climate
Continental climate is a climate characterized by important annual variation in temperature due to the lack of significant bodies of water nearby...

. Estonia has four seasons of near-equal length. Average temperatures range from 16.3 °C (61.3 °F) on the Baltic islands to 18.1 °C (64.6 °F) inland in July, the warmest month, and from -3.5 °C on the Baltic islands to -7.6 °C inland in February, the coldest month. The average annual temperature in Estonia is 5.2 °C (41.4 °F). The average precipitation in 1961–1990 ranged from 535 to 727 mm (21.1 to 28.6 in) per year.

Snow cover, which is deepest in the south-eastern part of Estonia, usually lasts from mid-December to late March. Estonia has over 1,400 lakes. Most are very small, with the largest, Lake Peipus
Lake Peipus
Lake Peipus, ) is the biggest transboundary lake in Europe on the border between Estonia and Russia.The lake is the fifth largest in Europe after Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega in Russia north of St...

, (Peipsi in Estonian) being 3555 square kilometre. There are many rivers in the country. The longest of them are Võhandu (162 km (101 mi)), Pärnu (144 km (89 mi)), and Põltsamaa (135 km (84 mi)). Estonia has numerous fen
Fen
A fen is a type of wetland fed by mineral-rich surface water or groundwater. Fens are characterised by their water chemistry, which is neutral or alkaline, with relatively high dissolved mineral levels but few other plant nutrients...

s and bogs.

Phytogeographically
Phytogeography
Phytogeography , also called geobotany, is the branch of biogeography that is concerned with the geographic distribution of plant species...

, Estonia is shared between the Central European and Eastern European provinces of the Circumboreal Region
Circumboreal Region
The Circumboreal Region is a floristic region within the Holarctic Kingdom in Eurasia and North America, as delineated by such geobotanists as Josias Braun-Blanquet and Armen Takhtajan....

 within the Boreal Kingdom
Boreal Kingdom
The Boreal Kingdom or Holarctic Kingdom is a floristic kingdom identified by botanist Ronald Good , which includes the temperate to Arctic portions of North America and Eurasia. Its flora is inherited from the ancient supercontinent of Laurasia...

. According to the WWF
World Wide Fund for Nature
The World Wide Fund for Nature is an international non-governmental organization working on issues regarding the conservation, research and restoration of the environment, formerly named the World Wildlife Fund, which remains its official name in Canada and the United States...

, the territory of Estonia belongs to the ecoregion
Ecoregion
An ecoregion , sometimes called a bioregion, is an ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than an ecozone and larger than an ecosystem. Ecoregions cover relatively large areas of land or water, and contain characteristic, geographically distinct assemblages of natural...

 of Sarmatic mixed forests
Sarmatic mixed forests
thumb|237px|[[Pinophyta|Coniferous trees]] are dominating this sarmatic mixed [[forest]] in southernmost [[Finland]]The Sarmatic mixed forests constitute an ecoregion within the Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests Biome, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature classification...

.

Administrative divisions




File:Eesti_maakonnad_2006.svg|350px|right|Counties of Estonia
poly 149 174 230 291 137 327 40 263 Hiiu County
poly 197 110 338 228 338 319 263 375 203 242 Lääne County
Lääne County
Lääne County , or Läänemaa , is one of 15 counties of Estonia. It is located in western Estonia and borders Baltic Sea to the north, Harju County to the north-east, Rapla County to the east, Pärnu County to the south, and the island counties of Saare and Hiiu to the west...


poly 225 294 271 387 233 585 38 511 21 363 Saare County
Saare County
Saare County , or Saaremaa, is one of 15 counties of Estonia. It consists of Saaremaa , the largest island of Estonia, and several smaller islands near it. The county borders Lääne County to the east and Hiiu County to the north...


poly 534 33 567 172 515 174 492 245 421 185 342 240 246 141 Harju County
Harju County
Harju County , or Harjumaa , nowadays one of 15 counties of Estonia. It is situated in northern Estonia, on the south coast of the Gulf of Finland, and borders Lääne-Viru County to the east, Järva County to the south-east, Rapla County to the south, and Lääne County to the south-west.528,468 people...


poly 531 35 567 168 514 176 572 197 569 221 594 244 597 263 666 247 693 192 670 170 666 85 Lääne-Viru County
poly 669 77 667 170 693 192 665 246 704 273 805 244 874 107 Ida-Viru County
Ida-Viru County
Ida-Viru County , or Ida-Virumaa, is one of 15 counties of Estonia. It is the most north-eastern part of the country. The county contains large deposits of oil shale - the main mineral mined in Estonia. As oil shale is used in thermal power plants, the earth in Ida-Viru literally holds the largest...


poly 340 240 422 185 490 246 475 314 443 318 433 308 374 323 338 322 Rapla County
Rapla County
Rapla County , or Raplamaa, is one of 15 counties of Estonia. It is situated in western part of the country and borders Järva County to the east, Pärnu County to the south, Lääne County to the west, and Harju County to the north...


poly 270 375 337 318 373 327 433 307 486 314 477 352 453 361 449 408 484 421 446 495 345 546 Pärnu County
Pärnu County
Pärnu County , or Pärnumaa , is one of 15 counties of Estonia. It is situated in south-western part of the country, on the coast of Gulf of Riga, and borders Lääne and Rapla counties to the north, Järva and Viljandi counties to the east, and Latvia to the south...


poly 476 309 515 173 573 197 569 223 594 243 596 275 546 317 505 340 484 335 491 313 Järva County
Järva County
Järva County , or Järvamaa , is one of 15 counties of Estonia. It is situated in central part of the country and borders Lääne-Viru County to the east, Jõgeva County to the south-east, Viljandi County to the south, Pärnu County to the south-west, Rapla County to the west, and Harju County to the...


poly 454 365 479 348 482 334 505 338 545 319 597 366 602 379 591 454 560 462 527 507 458 486 487 418 445 401 Viljandi County
Viljandi County
Viljandi County , is one of 15 counties of Estonia. It is located in southern Estonia bordering Pärnu, Järva, Jõgeva, Tartu and Valga counties. 55,657 people live in Viljandi County – constituting 4.2% of the total population in Estonia ....


poly 597 367 546 316 597 265 665 246 707 274 735 310 684 344 Jõgeva County
Jõgeva County
Jõgeva County , or Jõgevamaa, is one of 15 counties of Estonia. It is situated in eastern part of the country and borders Ida-Viru County to the north-east, Lake Peipus to the east, Tartu County to the south, Viljandi County to the south-west, Järva County to the north-west and Lääne-Viru County to...


poly 600 365 676 347 748 300 809 443 731 412 662 452 637 439 591 461 Tartu County
Tartu County
Tartu County , or Tartumaa , is one of 15 counties of Estonia.It is located in eastern Estonia bordering Põlva County, Valga County, Viljandi County and Jõgeva County....


poly 525 512 556 461 637 442 662 453 658 495 632 501 652 588 622 598 Valga County
Valga County
Valga County , or Valgamaa, is one of 15 counties of Estonia. Its capital is Valga, which is located on the Estonian-Latvian border. It is situated in southern part of the country and borders Põlva County and Võru County to the east, Latvia to the south and to the west, Viljandi County and Tartu...


poly 656 492 660 452 732 412 806 445 840 514 756 522 753 501 Põlva County
Põlva County
Põlva County , or Põlvamaa, is one of 15 counties of Estonia. It is situated in south-eastern part of the country and borders Tartu, Valga and Võru counties. The county also shares a common border with Russia...


poly 634 502 659 493 756 502 756 521 816 524 765 612 654 619 Võru County
Võru County
Võrumaa or Võru maakond officially, is a county in Southern Estonia. It is bordered to the north by the Põlva County and the Lake Pihkva; to the west by Valga County; to the south by Latvia; and to the east by the Russian Federation....





The Republic of Estonia is divided into fifteen counties
Counties of Estonia
A county is an administrative subdivision of Estonia.Estonia is divided into 15 counties. The government of each county is led by a county governor , who represents the national government at the regional level...

 (Maakonnad) which are the administrative subdivisions of the country. The first documented mentioning of Estonian political and administrative subdivisions comes from the Chronicle of Henry of Livonia
Chronicle of Henry of Livonia
The Livonian Chronicle of Henry is a document describing historic events in Livonia and surrounding areas from 1180 to 1227. Apart from the few references in the Primary Chronicle compiled in Kievan Rus' in the twelfth century, it is the oldest known written document about the history of these...

, written in the 13th century during the Northern Crusades
Northern Crusades
The Northern Crusades or Baltic Crusades were crusades undertaken by the Christian kings of Denmark and Sweden, the German Livonian and Teutonic military orders, and their allies against the pagan peoples of Northern Europe around the southern and eastern shores of the Baltic Sea...

.

A maakond
County
A county is a jurisdiction of local government in certain modern nations. Historically in mainland Europe, the original French term, comté, and its equivalents in other languages denoted a jurisdiction under the sovereignty of a count A county is a jurisdiction of local government in certain...

(county) is the biggest administrative subdivision.
The county government (Maavalitsus) of each county is led by a county governor (Maavanem), who represents the national government at the regional level. Governors are appointed by the Government of Estonia for a term of five years. Several changes were made to the borders of counties after Estonia became independent, most notably the formation of Valga County
Valga County
Valga County , or Valgamaa, is one of 15 counties of Estonia. Its capital is Valga, which is located on the Estonian-Latvian border. It is situated in southern part of the country and borders Põlva County and Võru County to the east, Latvia to the south and to the west, Viljandi County and Tartu...

 (from parts of Võru
Võru County
Võrumaa or Võru maakond officially, is a county in Southern Estonia. It is bordered to the north by the Põlva County and the Lake Pihkva; to the west by Valga County; to the south by Latvia; and to the east by the Russian Federation....

, Tartu
Tartu County
Tartu County , or Tartumaa , is one of 15 counties of Estonia.It is located in eastern Estonia bordering Põlva County, Valga County, Viljandi County and Jõgeva County....

 and Viljandi
Viljandi County
Viljandi County , is one of 15 counties of Estonia. It is located in southern Estonia bordering Pärnu, Järva, Jõgeva, Tartu and Valga counties. 55,657 people live in Viljandi County – constituting 4.2% of the total population in Estonia ....

 counties) and Petseri County
Petseri County
Petseri County was a county of Estonia established in 1920. Since 1944, however, most of the county had been administered as Pechorsky District of Pskov Oblast, first by the Russian SFSR and then, from 1991, by Russia.-History:...

 (area acquired from Russia with the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty
Treaty of Tartu (Russian–Estonian)
Tartu Peace Treaty or Treaty of Tartu was a peace treaty between Estonia and Russian SFSR signed on February 2, 1920 ending the Estonian War of Independence. The terms of the treaty stated that "Russia unreservedly recognises" the independence of Republic of Estonia de jure and renounced in...

).

During the Soviet rule, Petseri County was annexed and ceded to the Russian SFSR in 1945 where it became one the Pskov
Pskov
Pskov is an ancient city and the administrative center of Pskov Oblast, Russia, located in the northwest of Russia about east from the Estonian border, on the Velikaya River. Population: -Early history:...

s districts
Oblast
Oblast is a type of administrative division in Slavic countries, including some countries of the former Soviet Union. The word "oblast" is a loanword in English, but it is nevertheless often translated as "area", "zone", "province", or "region"...

. Counties were again re-established on 1 January 1990 in the borders of the Soviet-era regions. Due to the numerous differences between the current and historical (pre-1940, and sometimes pre-1918) layouts, the historical borders are still used in ethnology, representing cultural and linguistic differences better.

Estonia is divided into 15 counties
Counties of Estonia
A county is an administrative subdivision of Estonia.Estonia is divided into 15 counties. The government of each county is led by a county governor , who represents the national government at the regional level...

 (maakond). Each county is further divided into municipalities
Municipality
A municipality is essentially an urban administrative division having corporate status and usually powers of self-government. It can also be used to mean the governing body of a municipality. A municipality is a general-purpose administrative subdivision, as opposed to a special-purpose district...

 (omavalitsus), which is also the smallest administrative subdivision of Estonia. There are two types of municipalities: an urban municipality – linn (town), and a rural municipality
Rural municipality
A rural municipality, often abbreviated RM, is a form of municipality in the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, perhaps best comparable to counties or townships in the western United States...

 – vald (parish). There is no other status distinction between them. Each municipality is a unit of self-government with its representative
Representation (politics)
In politics, representation describes how some individuals stand in for others or a group of others, for a certain time period. Representation usually refers to representative democracies, where elected officials nominally speak for their constituents in the legislature...

 and executive
Executive (government)
Executive branch of Government is the part of government that has sole authority and responsibility for the daily administration of the state bureaucracy. The division of power into separate branches of government is central to the idea of the separation of powers.In many countries, the term...

 bodies. The municipalities in Estonia cover the entire territory of the country.

A municipality may contain one or more populated places. Tallinn
Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

 is divided into eight districts (linnaosa) with limited self-government (Haabersti
Haabersti
Haabersti is one of the 8 administrative districts of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia.It has a population of 41,388 .The most populous part of the district is Väike-Õismäe, a residential area consisting of the big panel houses, which were mostly built in the seventies...

, Kesklinn (centre), Kristiine
Kristiine
Kristiine is one of the 8 administrative districts of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. It has a population of 29,686 .*Demographic info: Estonians 63%, Russians 24%, Ukrainians 2,3%, Belarusians 1,4%, Finns 0,5%, others 8,8%....

, Lasnamäe
Lasnamäe
Lasnamäe is the most populous administrative district of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. The districts' population is about 115,000, the majority of which is Russian-speaking. Local housing is mostly represented by 5-16 stories high panel blocks of flats, built in the 1970-1990s. Lasnamäe is...

, Mustamäe
Mustamäe
Mustamäe is one of the 8 administrative districts of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. The smallest by area , it is at the same time the second largest district by population with 64,450 inhabitants ....

, Nõmme
Nõmme
Nõmme is one of the 8 administrative districts of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. It has a population of 38,168 and covers an area of , population density is...

, Pirita
Pirita
Pirita is one of the eight administrative districts of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. It had a population of 15,379 .Pirita occupies a relatively big area, but compared to other districts of Tallinn its population of 15,379 is relatively small...

 and Põhja-Tallinn
Põhja-Tallinn
Põhja-Tallinn is one of the 8 administrative districts of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. It has a population of 55 656 .-Subdistricts:...

).

Municipalities range in size from Tallinn with 400,000 inhabitants to Ruhnu
Ruhnu
Ruhnu is an island situated in the Gulf of Riga in the Baltic Sea. It belongs to Estonia and is an administrative part of Saare County. At 11.9 km2 it has currently less than 100, mostly ethnic Estonian permanent inhabitants...

 with as few as 60. As over two-thirds of the municipalities have a population of under 3,000, many of them have found it advantageous to co-operate in providing services and carrying out administrative functions. There have also been calls for an administrative reform to merge smaller municipalities together.

As of March 2008, there are a total of 227 municipalities in Estonia, 33 of them being urban and 193 rural.

Politics


Politics of Estonia
Politics of Estonia
Politics in Estonia takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic republic, whereby the Prime Minister of Estonia is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. Legislative power is vested in the Estonian parliament. Executive power is exercised by the Government...

 takes place in a framework of a parliamentary
Parliamentary system
A parliamentary system is a system of government in which the ministers of the executive branch get their democratic legitimacy from the legislature and are accountable to that body, such that the executive and legislative branches are intertwined....

 representative democratic
Representative democracy
Representative democracy is a form of government founded on the principle of elected individuals representing the people, as opposed to autocracy and direct democracy...

 republic in which the Prime Minister of Estonia
Prime Minister of Estonia
The Prime Minister of Estonia is the head of government of the Republic of Estonia. The prime minister is nominated by the President after appropriate consultations with the parliamentary factions and confirmed by the Parliament. In case of disagreement, the Parliament can reject the President's...

 is the head of government
Head of government
Head of government is the chief officer of the executive branch of a government, often presiding over a cabinet. In a parliamentary system, the head of government is often styled prime minister, chief minister, premier, etc...

 and of a multi-party system
Multi-party system
A multi-party system is a system in which multiple political parties have the capacity to gain control of government separately or in coalition, e.g.The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in the United Kingdom formed in 2010. The effective number of parties in a multi-party system is normally...

. The political culture is very stable in Estonia, where the power is held between two to three parties, that have been in politics for a long time. This situation is similar to other countries in Northern Europe. The current prime minister of Estonia, Andrus Ansip
Andrus Ansip
Andrus Ansip is the current Prime Minister of Estonia, and chairman of the market liberal Estonian Reform Party .-Early life and career:...

, is the second longest-serving prime minister in Europe.

Parliament



The Parliament of Estonia or the legislative branch is elected by people for a four year term by proportional representation
Proportional representation
Proportional representation is a concept in voting systems used to elect an assembly or council. PR means that the number of seats won by a party or group of candidates is proportionate to the number of votes received. For example, under a PR voting system if 30% of voters support a particular...

. Estonia is a parliamentary representative
Representative democracy
Representative democracy is a form of government founded on the principle of elected individuals representing the people, as opposed to autocracy and direct democracy...

 democratic
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

 republic. The Estonian political system operates under a framework laid out in the 1992 constitutional document
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

. The Estonian parliament has 101 members and influences the governing of the state primarily by determining the income and the expenses of the state (establishing taxes and adopting the budget). At the same time the parliament has the right to present statements, declarations and appeals to the people of Estonia, ratify and denounce international treaties with other states and international organisations and decide on the Government loans.

The Riigikogu elects and appoints several high officials of the state, including the President of the Republic. In addition to that, the Riigikogu appoints, on the proposal of the President of Estonia
President of Estonia
The President of the Republic is the head of state of the Republic of Estonia.Estonia is a parliamentary republic, therefore President is mainly a symbolic figure and holds no executive power. The President has to suspend his membership in any political party for his term in office...

, the Chairman of the National Court, the Chairman of the Board of the Bank of Estonia, the Auditor General, the Legal Chancellor and the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces. A member of the Riigikogu has the right to demand explanations from the Government of the Republic and its members. This enables the members of the parliament to observe the activities of the executive power and the above mentioned high officials of the state.

Government


The Government of Estonia  or the executive branch is formed by the Prime Minister of Estonia
Prime Minister of Estonia
The Prime Minister of Estonia is the head of government of the Republic of Estonia. The prime minister is nominated by the President after appropriate consultations with the parliamentary factions and confirmed by the Parliament. In case of disagreement, the Parliament can reject the President's...

, nominated by the president and approved by the parliament. The government exercises executive power pursuant to the Constitution of Estonia
Constitution of Estonia
The Constitution of Estonia is the fundamental law of the Republic of Estonia and establishes the state order as that of a democratic republic where the supreme power is vested in its citizens. It was adopted in a freely elected Estonian Constituent Assembly on 15 June 1920 and came into force on...

 and the laws of the Republic of Estonia and consists of 12 ministers, including the prime minister. The prime minister also has the right to appoint other ministers, whom he or she will assign with a subject to deal with and who will not have a ministry to control, becoming a minister without portfolio who currently is the Minister of Regions.

The prime minister has the right to appoint a maximum of 3 such ministers, as the limit of ministers in one government is 15. It is also known as the cabinet. The cabinet carries out the country's domestic and foreign policy, shaped by parliament; it directs and co-ordinates the work of government institutions and bears full responsibility for everything occurring within the authority of executive power. The government, headed by the Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Estonia
The Prime Minister of Estonia is the head of government of the Republic of Estonia. The prime minister is nominated by the President after appropriate consultations with the parliamentary factions and confirmed by the Parliament. In case of disagreement, the Parliament can reject the President's...

, thus represents the political leadership of the country and makes decisions in the name of the whole executive power.

Estonia has pursued the development of the e-state and e-government. Internet voting
Electronic voting
Electronic voting is a term encompassing several different types of voting, embracing both electronic means of casting a vote and electronic means of counting votes....

 is used in elections in Estonia. The first Internet voting took place in the 2005 local elections and the first in a parliamentary election was made available for the 2007 elections
Estonian parliamentary election, 2007
Parliamentary elections took place in Estonia on Sunday, March 4, 2007 to elect members of the Riigikogu. The electoral system was a two-tier semi-open list proportional representation system with a 5% election threshold...

, in which 30,275 individuals voted over the Internet. Voters have a chance to invalidate their electronic vote in traditional elections, if they wish to. In 2009 in its 8th Worldwide Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders is a France-based international non-governmental organization that advocates freedom of the press. It was founded in 1985, by Robert Ménard, Rony Brauman and the journalist Jean-Claude Guillebaud. Jean-François Julliard has served as Secretary General since 2008...

 ranked Estonia 6th out of 175 countries. In the first ever State of World Liberty Index
State of World Liberty Index
The State of World Liberty Index is a ranking of countries according to the degree of economic and personal freedoms that their citizens enjoy; each country is given a score between 0 and 100...

 report, Estonia was ranked 1st out of 159 countries.

Law



According to the Constitution of Estonia
Constitution of Estonia
The Constitution of Estonia is the fundamental law of the Republic of Estonia and establishes the state order as that of a democratic republic where the supreme power is vested in its citizens. It was adopted in a freely elected Estonian Constituent Assembly on 15 June 1920 and came into force on...

  the supreme power of the state is vested in the people. The people exercise their supreme power of the state on the elections of the Riigikogu through citizens who have the right to vote. The supreme judicial power is vested in the Supreme Court
Supreme Court of Estonia
The Supreme Court of Estonia is the court of last resort in Estonia. It is both a court of cassation and a constitutional court. The courthouse is in Tartu.Chief justices=* Kaarel Parts * Rait Maruste...

 or Riigikohus, with 19 justices. The Chief Justice is appointed by the parliament for nine years on nomination by the president. The official Head of State
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

 is the President of Estonia
President of Estonia
The President of the Republic is the head of state of the Republic of Estonia.Estonia is a parliamentary republic, therefore President is mainly a symbolic figure and holds no executive power. The President has to suspend his membership in any political party for his term in office...

, who gives assent to the laws passed by Riigikogu
Riigikogu
The Riigikogu is the unicameral parliament of Estonia. All important state-related questions pass through the Riigikogu...

, also having the right of sending them back and proposing new laws.

The president, however, does not use these rights very often, having a largely ceremonial role. He or she is elected by Riigikogu
Riigikogu
The Riigikogu is the unicameral parliament of Estonia. All important state-related questions pass through the Riigikogu...

, with two-thirds of the votes required. If the candidate does not gain the amount of votes required, the right to elect the president goes over to an electoral body, consisting of the 101 members of Riigikogu and representatives from local councils. As other spheres, Estonian law-making has been successfully integrated with the Information Age
Information Age
The Information Age, also commonly known as the Computer Age or Digital Age, is an idea that the current age will be characterized by the ability of individuals to transfer information freely, and to have instant access to knowledge that would have been difficult or impossible to find previously...

.

Foreign relations



Estonia was a member of the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 from 22 September 1921, has been a member of the United Nations since 17 September 1991, and of NATO since 29 March 2004, as well as the European Union since 1 May 2004. Estonia has also signed the Kyoto protocol
Kyoto Protocol
The Kyoto Protocol is a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change , aimed at fighting global warming...

. Estonia is a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). As an OSCE participating State, Estonia’s international commitments are subject to monitoring under the mandate of the U.S. Helsinki Commission.

Since regaining independence, Estonia has pursued a foreign policy of close cooperation with its Western European partners. The two most important policy objectives in this regard have been accession into NATO and the European Union, achieved in March and May 2004 respectively. Estonia's international realignment toward the West has been accompanied by a general deterioration in relations with Russia, most recently demonstrated by the controversy surrounding the relocation of the Bronze Soldier WWII memorial in Tallinn.
An important element in Estonia's post-independence reorientation has been closer ties with the Nordic countries
Nordic countries
The Nordic countries make up a region in Northern Europe and the North Atlantic which consists of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and their associated territories, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland...

, especially Finland and Sweden. Indeed, Estonians consider themselves a Nordic people rather than Balts
Baltic states
The term Baltic states refers to the Baltic territories which gained independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I: primarily the contiguous trio of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ; Finland also fell within the scope of the term after initially gaining independence in the 1920s.The...

, based on their historical ties with Sweden, Denmark and particularly Finland. In December 1999, then Estonian foreign minister (and since 2006, president of Estonia
President of Estonia
The President of the Republic is the head of state of the Republic of Estonia.Estonia is a parliamentary republic, therefore President is mainly a symbolic figure and holds no executive power. The President has to suspend his membership in any political party for his term in office...

) Toomas Hendrik Ilves
Toomas Hendrik Ilves
Toomas Hendrik Ilves is the fourth and current President of Estonia. He is a former diplomat and journalist, was the leader of the Social Democratic Party in the 1990s and later a member of the European Parliament...

 delivered a speech entitled "Estonia as a Nordic Country" to the Swedish Institute for International Affairs. In 2003, the foreign ministry also hosted an exhibit called "Estonia: Nordic with a Twist".

In 2005, Estonia joined the European Union's Nordic Battle Group. It has also shown continued interest in joining the Nordic Council
Nordic Council
The Nordic Council is a geo-political, inter-parliamentary forum for co-operation between the Nordic countries. It was established following World War II and its first concrete result was the introduction in 1952 of a common labour market and free movement across borders without passports for the...

.
Whereas in 1992 Russia accounted for 92% of Estonia's international trade, today there is extensive economic interdependence between Estonia and its Nordic neighbors: three quarters of foreign investment in Estonia originates in the Nordic countries (principally Finland and Sweden), to which Estonia sends 42% of its exports (as compared to 6.5% going to Russia, 8.8% to Latvia, and 4.7% to Lithuania). On the other hand, the Estonian political system, its flat rate
Flat tax
A flat tax is a tax system with a constant marginal tax rate. Typically the term flat tax is applied in the context of an individual or corporate income that will be taxed at one marginal rate...

 of income tax, and its non-welfare-state model distinguish it from the other Nordic states, and indeed from many other European countries.

Military





The military of Estonia is based upon the Estonian Defence Forces which is the name of the unified armed forces of the republic with Maavägi
Maavägi
The Estonian Ground Force is the name of the unified ground forces among the Estonian Defence Forces where it has an offensive military formation role...

(Army), Merevägi
Estonian Navy
The Merevägi is the navy of Republic of Estonia and is part of the unified Kaitsevägi .In total, there are about four commissioned ships in the Estonian Navy, including three auxiliary ships; the displacement of the navy is under 10,000 tonnes making it one of the smallest navies in the world...

(Navy), Õhuvägi
Estonian Air Force
The Estonian Air Force is the name of the unified aviation forces of Estonia.The Õhuvägi is the main arm of the Estonian aviation forces. The average size of the military formation in peacetime is about 210 men. The Estonian Air Force is tasked with dealing with political, military, economical,...

(Air Force) and a paramilitary national guard organization Kaitseliit
Estonian Defence League
The Estonian Defence League is the name of the unified paramilitary armed forces of the Republic of Estonia. The Defence League is a paramilitary defence organization which aim is to guarantee the preservation of the independence and sovereignty of the state, the integrity of its land area and its...

(Defence League). The Estonian National Defence Policy aim is to guarantee the preservation of the independence
Independence
Independence is a condition of a nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over its territory....

 and sovereignty
Sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

 of the state, the integrity
Integrity
Integrity is a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one's actions...

 of its land, territorial waters, airspace and its constitutional order. At the moment the main strategic goals are to be able to defend the country's interests and development of the armed forces which would be ready to be interoperability
Interoperability
Interoperability is a property referring to the ability of diverse systems and organizations to work together . The term is often used in a technical systems engineering sense, or alternatively in a broad sense, taking into account social, political, and organizational factors that impact system to...

 with the other armed forces of NATO and European Union member states and also their capability to participate in NATO missions.

The current national military service
Military service
Military service, in its simplest sense, is service by an individual or group in an army or other militia, whether as a chosen job or as a result of an involuntary draft . Some nations require a specific amount of military service from every citizen...

  is compulsory for men between 18 and 28, and conscripts serve eight-month to eleven-month tours of duty depending on the army branch they serve in. Estonia has retained conscription
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 unlike Latvia and Lithuania and has no plan to transition to a professional army
Standing army
A standing army is a professional permanent army. It is composed of full-time career soldiers and is not disbanded during times of peace. It differs from army reserves, who are activated only during wars or natural disasters...

. In 2008, annual military spending will reach 1.85% of GDP, or 5 billion kroons
Estonian kroon
In 1992, coins were introduced in denominations of 5, 10, 20 & 50 senti, as well as 1 kroon. The 1 kroon was struck in cupronickel, the others in aluminum-bronze. However, in 1997, nickel-plated steel 20 senti were introduced, followed by aluminum-bronze 1 kroon in 1998. 5 senti coins were not...

, and will continue to increase until 2010, when a 2.0% level is expected to be reached.

As of January 2008, the Estonian military had almost 300 troops stationed in foreign countries as part of various international peacekeeping forces, including 35 Defence League troops stationed in Kosovo; 120 Ground Forces soldiers in the NATO-led ISAF
International Security Assistance Force
The International Security Assistance Force is a NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan established by the United Nations Security Council on 20 December 2001 by Resolution 1386 as envisaged by the Bonn Agreement...

 force in Afghanistan; 80 soldiers stationed as a part of MNF in Iraq; and 2 Estonian officers in Bosnia-Herzegovina and 2 Estonian military agents in Israel's Golan Heights.

The Estonian Defence Forces have also previously had military missions in Croatia from March till October 1995, in Lebanon from December 1996 till June 1997 and in Macedonia from May till December 2003. Estonia participates in the Nordic Battlegroup
Nordic Battlegroup
The Nordic Battlegroup is one of eighteen European Union battlegroups. It consists of around 2,200 soldiers including officers, with manpower contributed from the five participating countries...

 and has announced readiness to send soldiers also to Sudan to Darfur
Darfur
Darfur is a region in western Sudan. An independent sultanate for several hundred years, it was incorporated into Sudan by Anglo-Egyptian forces in 1916. The region is divided into three federal states: West Darfur, South Darfur, and North Darfur...

 if necessary, creating the very first African peacekeeping
Peacekeeping
Peacekeeping is an activity that aims to create the conditions for lasting peace. It is distinguished from both peacebuilding and peacemaking....

 mission for the armed forces of Estonia.

The Ministry of Defence and the Defence Forces have been working on a cyberwarfare and defence
Defense (military)
Defense has several uses in the sphere of military application.Personal defense implies measures taken by individual soldiers in protecting themselves whether by use of protective materials such as armor, or field construction of trenches or a bunker, or by using weapons that prevent the enemy...

 formation for some years now. In 2007, a military doctrine
Military doctrine
Military doctrine is the concise expression of how military forces contribute to campaigns, major operations, battles, and engagements.It is a guide to action, not hard and fast rules. Doctrine provides a common frame of reference across the military...

 of an e-military of Estonia
Military of Estonia
The Estonian Defence Forces is the name of the unified armed forces of the Republic of Estonia. The Estonian military is a defence force consisting of Maavägi , Merevägi , Õhuvägi and a paramilitary organization Kaitseliit...

 was officially introduced as the country was under massive cyberattacks in 2007
2007 cyberattacks on Estonia
Cyberattacks on Estonia refers to a series of cyber attacks that began April 27, 2007 and swamped websites of Estonian organizations, including Estonian parliament, banks, ministries, newspapers and broadcasters, amid the country's row with Russia about the relocation of the Bronze Soldier of...

. The proposed aim of the e-military is to secure the vital infrastructure
Infrastructure
Infrastructure is basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a society or enterprise, or the services and facilities necessary for an economy to function...

 and e-infrastructure
Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

 of Estonia. The main cyber warfare facility is the Computer Emergency Response Team of Estonia (CERT) which was founded in 2006. The organization operates with the security problems that occur in the local networks also with those which are started there.

On 25 June 2007, Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves
Toomas Hendrik Ilves
Toomas Hendrik Ilves is the fourth and current President of Estonia. He is a former diplomat and journalist, was the leader of the Social Democratic Party in the 1990s and later a member of the European Parliament...

 met with the President of the US, George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

. Among the topics discussed were the attacks on Estonian e-infrastructure. The attacks triggered a number of military organisations around the world to reconsider the importance of network security to modern military doctrine. On 14 June 2007, defence ministers of NATO members held a meeting in Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

, issuing a joint communiqué
Communique
A communiqué is a brief report or statement released by a public agency.Communiqué may also refer to:* Communiqué , a rock band* Communiqué , 1979* Communiqué , 1987...

 promising immediate action. First public results were estimated to arrive by autumn 2007.

As to the placement of a NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE), Bush announced his support of Estonia as this centre's location. In the aftermath of the 2007 cyberattacks, plans to combine network defence with Estonian military doctrine have been nicknamed as the Tiger's Defence, in reference to Tiigrihüpe. The CCDCOE started its operations in November 2008.

Economy


As a member of the European Union, Estonia's economy is rated as high income by the World Bank
World Bank Group
The World Bank Group is a family of five international organizations that makes leveraged loans, generally to poor countries.The Bank came into formal existence on 27 December 1945 following international ratification of the Bretton Woods agreements, which emerged from the United Nations Monetary...

. Due to its rapid growth, the Estonian economy has often been described as the Baltic Tiger
Baltic Tiger
Baltic Tiger is a term used to refer to any of the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania during their periods of economic boom, which started after the year 2000 and continued until 2006–2007...

. Beginning 1 January 2011, Estonia adopted the euro and became the 17th eurozone
Eurozone
The eurozone , officially called the euro area, is an economic and monetary union of seventeen European Union member states that have adopted the euro as their common currency and sole legal tender...

 member state.

According to Eurostat newsrelease published at 21 October 2011, Estonia has the lowest ratio of government debt to GDP among EU countries as 6.7 percent at the end of 2010. The world media has lately started to describe Estonia as a Nordic country, emphasizing the economic, political and cultural differences between Estonia and its less successful Baltic neighbors.

A balanced budget, almost non-existent public debt, flat-rate income tax, free trade regime, competitive commercial banking sector, innovative e-Services
E-Services
The concept of E-service , represents one prominent application of utilizing the use of Information and communication technologies in different areas. However, providing an exact definition of e-service is hard to come by as researchers have been using different definitions to describe e-service...

 and even mobile-based services are all hallmarks of Estonia's market economy.

Estonia is producing ca 75% of its consumed electricity. Over 85% of it generated with locally mined oil shale
Oil shale
Oil shale, an organic-rich fine-grained sedimentary rock, contains significant amounts of kerogen from which liquid hydrocarbons called shale oil can be produced...

.. Alternative energy sources such as wood, peat, and biomass make up approximately 9% of primary energy production. Renewable wind energy part was ca 6% of total consumption in 2009. Estonia imports needed petroleum products from western Europe and Russia. Oil shale
Oil shale
Oil shale, an organic-rich fine-grained sedimentary rock, contains significant amounts of kerogen from which liquid hydrocarbons called shale oil can be produced...

 energy, telecommunications, textiles, chemical products, banking, services, food and fishing, timber, shipbuilding, electronics, and transportation are key sectors of the economy. The ice-free port of Muuga
Port of Muuga
The Port of Muuga is the largest cargo port in Estonia, located on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland, 13 km northeast of the capital Tallinn, in Maardu. It is one of the few ice-free ports in northernmost Europe....

, near Tallinn
Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

, is a modern facility featuring good transshipment capability, a high-capacity grain elevator, chill/frozen storage, and brand-new oil tanker off-loading capabilities. The railroad serves as a conduit between the West, Russia, and other points to the East.
Estonia today is mainly influenced by developments in Finland, Sweden and Germany – the three main trade partners. The government recently increased greatly its spending on innovation. The prime minister of Estonian Reform Party
Estonian Reform Party
The Estonian Reform Party is a centre-right, free market liberal party in Estonia. It is led by Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, and has 33 members in the 101-member Riigikogu, making it the largest party in the legislature...

 has stated its goal of bringing Estonian GDP per capita into the TOP 5 of EU by 2022. Ireland is sometimes seen as a model for Estonian economic future.

Due to the Global Economic Recession, the GDP of Estonia decreased by 1.4% in the 2nd quarter of 2008, over 3% in the 3rd quarter of 2008, and over 9% in the 4th quarter of 2008. The Estonian government made a supplementary negative budget, which was passed by Riigikogu
Riigikogu
The Riigikogu is the unicameral parliament of Estonia. All important state-related questions pass through the Riigikogu...

. The revenue of the budget was decreased for 2008 by EEK 6.1 billion and the expenditure by EEK 3.2 billion. In 2010, the economic situation stabilized and started a growth based on strong exports. In the fourth quarter of 2010, Estonian industrial output increased by 23% compared to the year before. In 2011, Danske Bank
Danske Bank
Danske Bank is a Danish bank. The name literally means "Danish Bank" It was founded 5 October 1871 as Den Danske Landmandsbank, Hypothek- og Vexelbank i Kjøbenhavn ....

 is predicting Estonia's economic growth to be 3.9 percent.

According to Eurostat
Eurostat
Eurostat is a Directorate-General of the European Commission located in Luxembourg. Its main responsibilities are to provide the European Union with statistical information at European level and to promote the integration of statistical methods across the Member States of the European Union,...

 data, Estonian PPS GDP per capita stood at 67% of the EU average in 2008. In March 2011, the average monthly gross salary in Estonia was 843€

However, there are big differences in GDP between different areas in Estonia. Currently, over half of the Estonian GDP is created in the capital Tallinn
Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

. In 2008, the GDP per capita of Tallinn stood at 172% of the Estonian average. This makes the GDP per capita of Tallinn number in at 115% of the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 average, exceeding the average levels of other counties.

The registered unemployment rate was in April 2011 10.1%.

Historic development


By 1929, a stable currency, the kroon
Estonian kroon
In 1992, coins were introduced in denominations of 5, 10, 20 & 50 senti, as well as 1 kroon. The 1 kroon was struck in cupronickel, the others in aluminum-bronze. However, in 1997, nickel-plated steel 20 senti were introduced, followed by aluminum-bronze 1 kroon in 1998. 5 senti coins were not...

, was established. It is issued by the Bank of Estonia
Bank of Estonia
The Bank of Estonia , is the central bank of Estonia, which is a member of the European Union organisation and the European System of Central Banks...

, the country's central bank
Central bank
A central bank, reserve bank, or monetary authority is a public institution that usually issues the currency, regulates the money supply, and controls the interest rates in a country. Central banks often also oversee the commercial banking system of their respective countries...

. Trade focused on the local market and the West, particularly Germany and the United Kingdom. Only 3% of all commerce was with the USSR.

Before the Second World War Estonia was mainly an agricultural country whose products such as butter, milk and cheese were widely known on the western European markets.
The USSR's forcible annexation of Estonia in 1940 and the ensuing Nazi
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 and Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 occupation during World War II crippled the Estonian economy. Post-war Sovietization
Sovietization
Sovietization is term that may be used with two distinct meanings:*the adoption of a political system based on the model of soviets .*the adoption of a way of life and mentality modelled after the Soviet Union....

 of life continued with the integration of Estonia's economy and industry into the USSR's centrally planned structure.

Since re-establishing independence, Estonia has styled itself as the gateway between East and West and aggressively pursued economic reform and integration with the West. Estonia's market reforms put it among the economic leaders in the former COMECON
Comecon
The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance , 1949–1991, was an economic organisation under hegemony of Soviet Union comprising the countries of the Eastern Bloc along with a number of communist states elsewhere in the world...

 area. In 1994, based on the economic theories of Milton Friedman
Milton Friedman
Milton Friedman was an American economist, statistician, academic, and author who taught at the University of Chicago for more than three decades...

, Estonia became one of the first countries to adopt a flat tax
Flat tax
A flat tax is a tax system with a constant marginal tax rate. Typically the term flat tax is applied in the context of an individual or corporate income that will be taxed at one marginal rate...

, with a uniform rate of 26% regardless of personal income. In January 2005, the personal income tax rate was reduced to 24%. Another reduction to 23% followed in January 2006. The income tax rate was decreased to 21% by January 2008. The Government of Estonia finalised the design of Estonian euro coins
Estonian euro coins
Estonian euro coins feature a single design for all eight coins. This is a design by Lembit Lõhmus and features a silhouette map of Estonia together with the word Eesti and twelve stars, symbolic of the European Union, surrounding the map...

 in late 2004, and adopted the euro as the country's currency on 1 January 2011, later than planned due to continued high inflation.

In 1999, Estonia experienced its worst year economically since it regained independence in 1991, largely because of the impact of the 1998 Russian financial crisis. Estonia joined the WTO
World Trade Organization
The World Trade Organization is an organization that intends to supervise and liberalize international trade. The organization officially commenced on January 1, 1995 under the Marrakech Agreement, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade , which commenced in 1948...

 in November 1999. With assistance from the European Union, the World Bank
World Bank
The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries for capital programmes.The World Bank's official goal is the reduction of poverty...

 and the Nordic Investment Bank
Nordic Investment Bank
The Nordic Investment Bank is an international financial institution founded in the mid-1970s by the five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. In 2005, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania became members of the Bank. NIB’s headquarters are located in Helsinki, Finland...

, Estonia completed most of its preparations for European Union membership by the end of 2002 and now has one of the strongest economies of the new member states of the European Union. Estonia joined the OECD in 2010.

Resources


Although Estonia is in general resource-poor, the land still offers a large variety of smaller resources. The country has large oil shale
Oil shale
Oil shale, an organic-rich fine-grained sedimentary rock, contains significant amounts of kerogen from which liquid hydrocarbons called shale oil can be produced...

 and limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 deposits, along with forests which cover 50.6% of the land. In addition to oil shale and limestone, Estonia also has large reserves of phosphorite
Phosphorite
Phosphorite, phosphate rock or rock phosphate is a non-detrital sedimentary rock which contains high amounts of phosphate bearing minerals. The phosphate content of phosphorite is at least 15 to 20% which is a large enrichment over the typical sedimentary rock content of less than 0.2%...

, pitchblende
Uraninite
Uraninite is a radioactive, uranium-rich mineral and ore with a chemical composition that is largely UO2, but also contains UO3 and oxides of lead, thorium, and rare earth elements...

 and granite
Granite
Granite is a common and widely occurring type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock. Granite usually has a medium- to coarse-grained texture. Occasionally some individual crystals are larger than the groundmass, in which case the texture is known as porphyritic. A granitic rock with a porphyritic...

 which are not mined or mined extensively at the moment.

Significant quantities of rare earth oxides are found in tailings accumulated from 50 years of uranium ore, shale
Shale
Shale is a fine-grained, clastic sedimentary rock composed of mud that is a mix of flakes of clay minerals and tiny fragments of other minerals, especially quartz and calcite. The ratio of clay to other minerals is variable. Shale is characterized by breaks along thin laminae or parallel layering...

 and loparite mining at Sillamäe
Sillamäe
Sillamäe is a town in Ida-Viru County in the northern part of Estonia, on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland. It has a population of 16,183 and covers an area of 10.54 km²...

. Due to the rising prices of rare earths, extraction of these oxides has become economically viable. The country currently exports around 3000 tonnes per annum, representing around 2 percent of world production.

In recent years a public debate has been raised in the terms of whether Estonia should build a nuclear power plant in order to secure the energy production after the closure of old units in the Narva Power Plants
Narva Power Plants
The Narva Power Plants are a power generation complex in Narva in Estonia, near the border with Leningrad Oblast, Russia. The complex consists of the world's two largest oil shale-fired thermal power plants, Eesti Power Plant and Balti Power Plant . In 2007, Narva Power Plants generated about...

 if they are not reconstructed by the year 2016.

Industry and environment




Food, construction, and electronic industries are currently among the most important branches of Estonia's industry. In 2007, the construction industry employed more than 80,000 people which make around 12% of the entire country's workforce. Another important industrial sector is the machinery and chemical industry which is mainly located in Ida-Viru County
Ida-Viru County
Ida-Viru County , or Ida-Virumaa, is one of 15 counties of Estonia. It is the most north-eastern part of the country. The county contains large deposits of oil shale - the main mineral mined in Estonia. As oil shale is used in thermal power plants, the earth in Ida-Viru literally holds the largest...

 and around Tallinn
Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

.

The oil shale based mining industry, which is also concentrated in East-Estonia
Virumaa
Virumaa is a former independent county in Ancient Estonia. Now it is divided into Ida-Viru County or Eastern Vironia and Lääne-Viru County or Western Vironia...

, produces around 90% of the entire country's electricity. The extensive oil shale
Oil shale
Oil shale, an organic-rich fine-grained sedimentary rock, contains significant amounts of kerogen from which liquid hydrocarbons called shale oil can be produced...

 usage however has also caused severe damage to the environment. Although the amount of pollutants emitted to the air have been falling since the 1980s, the air is still polluted with sulfur dioxide
Sulfur dioxide
Sulfur dioxide is the chemical compound with the formula . It is released by volcanoes and in various industrial processes. Since coal and petroleum often contain sulfur compounds, their combustion generates sulfur dioxide unless the sulfur compounds are removed before burning the fuel...

 from the mining industry which was rapidly developed by the Soviet Union in early 1950s. In some areas the coastal seawater is polluted, mainly around the Sillamäe
Sillamäe
Sillamäe is a town in Ida-Viru County in the northern part of Estonia, on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland. It has a population of 16,183 and covers an area of 10.54 km²...

 industrial complex.

Estonia is a dependent country in the terms of energy and energy production. In recent years many local and foreign companies have been investing in renewable energy sources. The importance of wind power has been increasing steadily in Estonia and currently the total amount of energy production from wind is nearly 60 MW while at the same time roughly 399 MW worth of projects are currently being developed and more than 2800 MW worth of projects are being proposed in the Lake Peipus
Lake Peipus
Lake Peipus, ) is the biggest transboundary lake in Europe on the border between Estonia and Russia.The lake is the fifth largest in Europe after Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega in Russia north of St...

 area and the coastal areas of Hiiumaa
Hiiumaa
Hiiumaa is the second largest island belonging to Estonia. It is located in the Baltic Sea, north of the island of Saaremaa, a part of the West Estonian archipelago. Its largest town is Kärdla.-Name:...

.

Currently, there are plans to renovate some older units of the Narva Power Plants, establish new power stations, and provide higher efficiency in oil shale based energy production. Estonia liberalised 35% of its electricity market in April 2010; the electricity market as whole will be liberalised by 2013.
Together with Lithuania, Poland, and Latvia, the country is considering to participate in the Visaginas nuclear power plant
Visaginas nuclear power plant
Visaginas nuclear power plant is a planned nuclear power plant project in Lithuania. It is proposed to be built at the site of the closed Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant which was shut-down on 31 December 2009 in accordance with Lithuania's accession agreement to the European Union...

 in Lithuania to replace the Ignalina
Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant
The Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant is a closed two-unit RBMK-1500 nuclear power station in Visaginas, Lithuania. It was named after the nearby city of Ignalina...

. However, due to the slow pace of the project, Estonia does not rule out building its own nuclear reactor. Another consideration is doing a joint project with Finland because the two electricity grids are connected. The country is considering to apply nuclear power for its oil shale production.

Estonia has a strong information technology
Information technology
Information technology is the acquisition, processing, storage and dissemination of vocal, pictorial, textual and numerical information by a microelectronics-based combination of computing and telecommunications...

 sector, partly due to the Tiigrihüpe
Tiigrihüpe
Tiigrihüpe was a project undertaken by Republic of Estonia to heavily invest in development and expansion of computer and network infrastructure in Estonia, with a particular emphasis on education...

 project undertaken in mid-1990s, and has been mentioned as the most "wired" and advanced country in Europe in the terms of e-Government of Estonia.

Skype was written by Estonia-based developers Ahti Heinla
Ahti Heinla
Ahti Heinla is Skype chief architect, investor and nature protector.He was an organizer of Let's Do It 2008, a civic action with 50,000 volunteers participating in cleaning up the countryside of Estonia in one day....

, Priit Kasesalu, and Jaan Tallinn
Jaan Tallinn
Jaan Tallinn is an Estonian programmer who participated in the development of Skype and KaZaa.Jaan Tallinn is partner and co-founder of the development company Bluemoon which created the game SkyRoads...

, who had also originally developed Kazaa
Kazaa
Kazaa Media Desktop started as a peer-to-peer file sharing application using the FastTrack protocol licensed by Joltid Ltd. and operated as Kazaa by Sharman Networks...

.

Trade



Estonia|Import
Finland 18.4% 18.2%
Sweden 12.4% 9%
Latvia 8.9% 5.7%
Russia 8.1% 13.1%
Germany 5.1% 12.4%
Lithuania 4.8% 6.4%

Estonia has had a market economy
Market economy
A market economy is an economy in which the prices of goods and services are determined in a free price system. This is often contrasted with a state-directed or planned economy. Market economies can range from hypothetically pure laissez-faire variants to an assortment of real-world mixed...

 since the end of 1990s and one of the highest per capita income
Income
Income is the consumption and savings opportunity gained by an entity within a specified time frame, which is generally expressed in monetary terms. However, for households and individuals, "income is the sum of all the wages, salaries, profits, interests payments, rents and other forms of earnings...

 levels in Eastern Europe. Proximity to the Scandinavian markets, location between the East and West, competitive cost structure and high-skill labour force have been the major Estonian comparative advantages in the beginning of the 2000s. Tallinn
Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

 as the largest city has emerged as a financial centre
Financial Centre
A financial centre is a global city that is a company and business hub, as well as being home to many world famous banks and/or stock exchanges....

 and the Tallinn Stock Exchange
Tallinn Stock Exchange
The Tallinn Stock Exchange is a stock exchange operating in Tallinn, Estonia. It is one of the OMX Exchanges, which also operates Helsinki Stock Exchange and Stockholm Stock Exchange and is the only regulated exchange in Estonia. It has a pre-market session from 09:00 to 10:00, a normal trading...

 joined recently with the OMX
OMX
OMX AB is a Swedish-Finnish financial services company, formed in 2003 through a merger between OM AB and HEX plc and is now a part of the NASDAQ OMX Group since February 2008.It has two divisions, OMX Exchanges, which operates eight stock exchanges mainly in the Nordic and Baltic...

 system. The current government has pursued relatively sound fiscal
Finance
"Finance" is often defined simply as the management of money or “funds” management Modern finance, however, is a family of business activity that includes the origination, marketing, and management of cash and money surrogates through a variety of capital accounts, instruments, and markets created...

 policies, resulting in balanced budgets and low public debt.

In 2007, however, a large current account deficit and rising inflation put pressure on Estonia's currency
Estonian kroon
In 1992, coins were introduced in denominations of 5, 10, 20 & 50 senti, as well as 1 kroon. The 1 kroon was struck in cupronickel, the others in aluminum-bronze. However, in 1997, nickel-plated steel 20 senti were introduced, followed by aluminum-bronze 1 kroon in 1998. 5 senti coins were not...

, which was pegged to the euro, highlighting the need for growth in export-generating industries.
Estonia exports mainly machinery and equipment, wood and paper, textiles, food products, furniture, and metals and chemical products. Estonia also exports 1.562 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually. At the same time Estonia imports machinery and equipment, chemical products, textiles, food products and transportation equipment. Estonia imports 200 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually.

Between 2007 and 2013, Estonia receives 53.3 billion kroons
Estonian kroon
In 1992, coins were introduced in denominations of 5, 10, 20 & 50 senti, as well as 1 kroon. The 1 kroon was struck in cupronickel, the others in aluminum-bronze. However, in 1997, nickel-plated steel 20 senti were introduced, followed by aluminum-bronze 1 kroon in 1998. 5 senti coins were not...

 (3.4 billion euros) from various European Union Structural Funds as direct supports by creating the largest foreign investments into Estonia ever. Majority of the European Union financial aid will be invested into to the following fields: energy economies, entrepreneurship, administrative capability, education, information society, environment protection, regional and local development, research and development activities, healthcare and welfare, transportation and labour market.

Transport


Estonia has been an important transit centre since the medieval period. The country's favorable geographical location, along with its developing infrastructure
Infrastructure
Infrastructure is basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a society or enterprise, or the services and facilities necessary for an economy to function...

, offers good opportunities for all transport and logistics related activities. Rail transport
Rail transport in Estonia
The rail transport system in Estonia consists of circa of railway lines, of which are currently in public use. The infrastructure of the railway network is mostly owned by the state and is regulated and surveyed by the Estonian Railway Inspectorate ....

 dominates the cargo sector, carrying 70% of all goods, both domestic and international. Since 2007, the importance of the transport sector to the economy as a whole has been reduced, mainly due to the confrontation between Estonia and Russia.

The road transport sector dominates passenger transport;
almost 90% of all passengers travel by road. The reconstruction of the Tallinn–Tartu motorway has gained national attention as it connects two of the largest cities in the country. The motorway reconstruction (2+2 route) is part of the current Government Coalition programme.
Also the proposed permanent connection to Saaremaa Island is in the national infrastructure building programme. The costs of the projects have been estimated in billions of Euros, which have also gained a lot of media attention and caused public debates over the feasibility.

There are currently five major cargo ports which offer easy navigational access, deep waters, and good ice conditions. There are 12 airports and one heliport
Heliport
A heliport is a small airport suitable only for use by helicopters. Heliports typically contain one or more helipads and may have limited facilities such as fuel, lighting, a windsock, or even hangars...

 in Estonia of which the Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport is the largest airport, providing services to a number of international carriers flying to 23 destinations.

Demographics


Prior to World War II, ethnic Estonians constituted 88% of the population, with national minorities constituting the remaining 12%. The largest minority groups in 1934 were Russians
Russians
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....

, Germans
Germans
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

, Swedes, Latvians, Jews
Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

, Poles
Poles
thumb|right|180px|The state flag of [[Poland]] as used by Polish government and diplomatic authoritiesThe Polish people, or Poles , are a nation indigenous to Poland. They are united by the Polish language, which belongs to the historical Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages of Central Europe...

, Finns and Ingrians
Izhorians
The Izhorians , along with the Votes are an indigenous people of Ingria. Small numbers can still be found in the Western part of Ingria, between the Narva and Neva rivers in northwestern Russia.- History :The history of the Izhorians is bound to the history of Ingria...

. The share of Baltic Germans had fallen from 5.3% (~46,700) in 1881 to 1.3% (16,346) in 1934.

Between 1945 and 1989, the share of ethnic Estonians in the population resident within currently defined boundaries of Estonia dropped to 61%, caused primarily by the Soviet programme promoting mass immigration of urban industrial workers from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, as well as by wartime emigration and Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

's mass deportations and executions. By 1989, minorities constituted more than one-third of the population, as the number of non-Estonians had grown almost fivefold.

At the end of the 1980s, Estonians perceived their demographic change as a national catastrophe
Disaster
A disaster is a natural or man-made hazard that has come to fruition, resulting in an event of substantial extent causing significant physical damage or destruction, loss of life, or drastic change to the environment...

. This was a result of the migration
Human migration
Human migration is physical movement by humans from one area to another, sometimes over long distances or in large groups. Historically this movement was nomadic, often causing significant conflict with the indigenous population and their displacement or cultural assimilation. Only a few nomadic...

 policies essential to the Soviet Nationalisation Programme aiming to russify Estonia – forceful administrative and military immigration of non-Estonians from the USSR coupled with the mass deportations of Estonians to the USSR. During the purges up to 110,000 Estonians were killed or deported. In the decade following the reconstitution of independence, large-scale emigration by ethnic Russians and the removal of the Russian military bases in 1994 caused the proportion of ethnic Estonians in Estonia to increase from 61% to 69% in 2006.

Modern Estonia is a fairly ethnically heterogeneous country, but this heterogeneity is not a feature of much of the country as the non-Estonian population is concentrated in two of Estonia's counties. Thirteen of Estonia's 15 counties are over 80 percent ethnic Estonian, the most homogeneous being Hiiumaa
Hiiumaa
Hiiumaa is the second largest island belonging to Estonia. It is located in the Baltic Sea, north of the island of Saaremaa, a part of the West Estonian archipelago. Its largest town is Kärdla.-Name:...

, where Estonians account for 98.4% of the population. In the counties of Harju
Harju County
Harju County , or Harjumaa , nowadays one of 15 counties of Estonia. It is situated in northern Estonia, on the south coast of the Gulf of Finland, and borders Lääne-Viru County to the east, Järva County to the south-east, Rapla County to the south, and Lääne County to the south-west.528,468 people...

 (including the capital city, Tallinn
Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

) and Ida-Viru
Ida-Viru County
Ida-Viru County , or Ida-Virumaa, is one of 15 counties of Estonia. It is the most north-eastern part of the country. The county contains large deposits of oil shale - the main mineral mined in Estonia. As oil shale is used in thermal power plants, the earth in Ida-Viru literally holds the largest...

, however, ethnic Estonians make up 60% and 20% of the population, respectively. Russians
History of Russians in Estonia
The population of Russians in Estonia is estimated at 345,000. Most Russians live in Estonia's capital city Tallinn and the major northeastern cities of Narva and Kohtla-Järve...

 make up 25.6% of the total population, but account for 36% of the population in Harju county, and 70% of the population in Ida-Viru county.

The law on the Cultural Autonomy for National Minorities was passed in 1925, which was the first in Europe at the time. Cultural autonomies could be granted to minorities numbering more than 3,000 people with longstanding ties to the Republic of Estonia. Prior to the Soviet occupation, the Germans and Jewish minorities managed to elect a cultural council. The Law on Cultural Autonomy for National Minorities was reinstated in 1993.
Historically, large parts of Estonia's north-western coast and islands have been populated by indigenous ethnically Rannarootslased
Estonian Swedes
The Estonian Swedes, Estonia-Swedes, or Coastal Swedes are a Swedish-speaking linguistic minority traditionally residing in the coastal areas and islands of what is now western and northern Estonia...

(Coastal Swedes).

The majority of Estonia's Swedish population of 3,800 fled to Sweden or were deported in 1944, escaping the advancing Red Army. In the recent years the numbers of Coastal Swedes has risen again, numbering in 2008 almost 500 people, due to the property reforms in the beginning of 1990s. In 2005, the Ingrian Finnish minority in Estonia elected a cultural council and was granted cultural autonomy. The Estonian Swedish
Estonian Swedes
The Estonian Swedes, Estonia-Swedes, or Coastal Swedes are a Swedish-speaking linguistic minority traditionally residing in the coastal areas and islands of what is now western and northern Estonia...

 minority similarly received cultural autonomy in 2007.

Urbanization



Tallinn is the capital and the largest city of Estonia. It lies on the northern coast of Estonia, along the Gulf of Finland
Gulf of Finland
The Gulf of Finland is the easternmost arm of the Baltic Sea. It extends between Finland and Estonia all the way to Saint Petersburg in Russia, where the river Neva drains into it. Other major cities around the gulf include Helsinki and Tallinn...

. There are currently 33 cities and several town-parish towns in the country. In total there are 47 linna, with "linn" in English meaning both the "cities" and "towns". More than 70% of the population lives in towns. The 20 largest cities are listed below:

Religion


Estonia's constitution guarantees freedom of religion, separation of church and state, and individual rights to privacy of belief and religion. According to the Dentsu Communication Institute Inc, Estonia is the second least religious
Irreligion by country
Irreligion varies in the different countries around the world....

 country in the world, with 75.7% of the population claiming to be irreligious
Irreligion
Irreligion is defined as an absence of religion or an indifference towards religion. Sometimes it may also be defined more narrowly as hostility towards religion. When characterized as hostility to religion, it includes antitheism, anticlericalism and antireligion. When characterized as...

, after China with 93%. The Eurobarometer
Eurobarometer
Eurobarometer is a series of surveys regularly performed on behalf of the European Commission since 1973. It produces reports of public opinion of certain issues relating to the European Union across the member states...

 Poll 2005 found that only 16% of Estonians profess a belief in a god, the lowest belief of all countries studied (EU study).

The largest religious faith in the country is Evangelical Lutheranism
Lutheranism
Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the theology of Martin Luther, a German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation...

, adhered to by 152,000 Estonians (or 14.8%) of the population, principally ethnic Estonians. 143,000 inhabitants follow the Eastern Orthodox Christianity, practised chiefly by the Russian minority.

According to the census of 2000, there were about 152,000 Lutherans, 143,000 Orthodox Christians, 5,000 Roman Catholics, 4,268 Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses is a millenarian restorationist Christian denomination with nontrinitarian beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity. The religion reports worldwide membership of over 7 million adherents involved in evangelism, convention attendance of over 12 million, and annual...

 and 1,000 adherents of Taaraism
Taaraism
Taaraism is a Neopagan ethnic religion practiced as of 2000 by approximately 1,900 people in Estonia, albeit 11% of the population claims affinity to it. Maausk is a parallel movement considered more Reconstructionist and traditionalist...

 or Maausk in Estonia (see Maavalla Koda
Maavalla Koda
Maavalla Koda is a religious organisation uniting adherents of two Estonian native religious denominations, Taaraism and Maausk....

). There is a Jewish community in Estonia, with an estimated population of about 1,900 (see History of the Jews in Estonia
History of the Jews in Estonia
The history of the Jews in Estonia starts with individual reports of Jews in what is now Estonia from as early as the 14th century. However, the process of permanent Jewish settlement in Estonia began in the 19th century, especially after they were granted the official right to enter the region by...

). In addition there were around 68,000 people who declared themselves to be atheists.

The country was Christianised by the Teutonic Knights
Teutonic Knights
The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem , commonly the Teutonic Order , is a German medieval military order, in modern times a purely religious Catholic order...

 in the 13th century.
During the Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

, Protestantism spread, and the Lutheran church was officially established in Estonia in 1686. Still, many Estonians profess not to be particularly religious, because religion through the 19th century was associated with German feudal rule.
Historically there has been also another minority religion, Russian Old-believers
Old Believers
In the context of Russian Orthodox church history, the Old Believers separated after 1666 from the official Russian Orthodox Church as a protest against church reforms introduced by Patriarch Nikon between 1652–66...

, near Lake Peipus
Lake Peipus
Lake Peipus, ) is the biggest transboundary lake in Europe on the border between Estonia and Russia.The lake is the fifth largest in Europe after Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega in Russia north of St...

 area in Tartu County
Tartu County
Tartu County , or Tartumaa , is one of 15 counties of Estonia.It is located in eastern Estonia bordering Põlva County, Valga County, Viljandi County and Jõgeva County....

.

Society


Estonian society has undergone considerable changes over the last twenty years, one of the most notable being the increasing level of stratification, and the distribution of family income. The Gini coefficient
Gini coefficient
The Gini coefficient is a measure of statistical dispersion developed by the Italian statistician and sociologist Corrado Gini and published in his 1912 paper "Variability and Mutability" ....

 has been steadily higher than the European Union average (31 in 2009), although it has clearly dropped. The unemployment rate in October 2011 was 7.2%.

Today's Estonia is a multinational country where, according to the 2000 census, altogether 109 languages are spoken. 67.3% of Estonian citizens speak Estonian
Estonian language
Estonian is the official language of Estonia, spoken by about 1.1 million people in Estonia and tens of thousands in various émigré communities...

 as their native language, 29.7% – Russian and 3% speak other languages. As of 2 July 2010, 84.1% of Estonian residents are Estonian citizens, 8.6% are citizens of other countries and 7.3% are "citizens with undetermined citizenship". Since 1992 roughly 140,000 people have acquired Estonian citizenship through naturalization
Naturalization
Naturalization is the acquisition of citizenship and nationality by somebody who was not a citizen of that country at the time of birth....

.

The ethnic distribution in Estonia is very homogenous, where in most counties, over 90% of the people are ethnic Estonians
Estonians
Estonians are a Finnic people closely related to the Finns and inhabiting, primarily, the country of Estonia. They speak a Finnic language known as Estonian...

. There is a bigger difference in larger cities like Tallinn
Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

, where Estonians account for 60% of the population. The rest is mainly comprised from Russian- and other slavic background habitat, who arrived in Estonia during the Soviet Occupation.

According to the surveys only 5% of the Russian community have thought of turning back to Russia in the near future. Estonian Russians have developed their own identity – more than half of the respondents recognised that Estonian Russians differ noticeably from the Russians in Russia. When comparing the result with a survey from 2000, then Russians’ attitude towards the future is much more positive.

Women are leading Estonia's scientific society. In 2006, over 60% of the scientists in Estonia were women.CN
Cn
- Places :* People's Republic of China, ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country code; sometimes refers exclusively to Mainland China* Comoros, FIPS Pub 10-4 and obsolete NATO digram* CN Tower, Toronto* CN Centre - an arena in Prince George, British Columbia...


Family


Upon giving birth, the Estonian government grants one of the parents 100% of their former salary for 18 months. After 1.5 years, the parent has the right to resume her/his former position. In addition, the parent and child will also receive free healthcare. The parents who did not work before giving birth (unemployed, students etc.) currently receive 278 euros a month; the top salary is capped at 2157 euros a month. These measures, which have been in force from 2005, have not been proven to have had a major positive effect on the birth rate in Estonia, which has increased already since 2001.

Those policy measures concentrate on the period where the children are very young. After that age, the monthly state support to a child is 19 euros a month (for the first two children) and 58 euros (for three or more children). Despite considerable variation and fluctuations in the support to the family with children, the majority of Estonian families do not face great hardships and State of The World's Mothers
Save the Children State of the World's Mothers report
The Save the Children State of the World's Mothers report is an annual report by the International Save the Children Alliance, which compiles statistics on the health of mothers and children and uses them to produce rankings of nations within three groupings corresponding to varying levels of...

 2011 report ranked Estonia as the 18th best country in the world to be a mother, ahead of countries like Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 and The United States.

Languages



The official language, Estonian
Estonian language
Estonian is the official language of Estonia, spoken by about 1.1 million people in Estonia and tens of thousands in various émigré communities...

, belongs to the Finnic
Finnic languages
The term Finnic languages often means the Baltic-Finnic languages, an undisputed branch of the Uralic languages. However, it is also commonly used to mean the Finno-Permic languages, a hypothetical intermediate branch that includes Baltic Finnic, or the more disputed Finno-Volgaic languages....

 branch of the Uralic languages
Uralic languages
The Uralic languages constitute a language family of some three dozen languages spoken by approximately 25 million people. The healthiest Uralic languages in terms of the number of native speakers are Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian, Mari and Udmurt...

. Estonian is thus closely related to Finnish, spoken on the other side of the Gulf of Finland
Gulf of Finland
The Gulf of Finland is the easternmost arm of the Baltic Sea. It extends between Finland and Estonia all the way to Saint Petersburg in Russia, where the river Neva drains into it. Other major cities around the gulf include Helsinki and Tallinn...

, and is one of the few languages of Europe that is not of an Indo-European
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

 origin. Despite some overlaps in the vocabulary due to borrowings, in terms of its origin, Estonian and Finnish are not related to their nearest geographical neighbours, Swedish, Latvian
Latvian language
Latvian is the official state language of Latvia. It is also sometimes referred to as Lettish. There are about 1.4 million native Latvian speakers in Latvia and about 150,000 abroad. The Latvian language has a relatively large number of non-native speakers, atypical for a small language...

 and Russian, which are all Indo-European languages.

Russian is still spoken as a secondary language by forty- to seventy-year-old ethnic Estonians, because Russian was the unofficial language of the Estonian SSR from 1944 to 1991 and taught as a compulsory second language during the Soviet era. In 1998, most first and second generation industrial immigrants from various parts of the former Soviet Union (mainly Russia (RSFSR)
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic
The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic , commonly referred to as Soviet Russia, Bolshevik Russia, or simply Russia, was the largest, most populous and economically developed republic in the former Soviet Union....

) did not speak Estonian. However by 2010, 64.1% of non-ethnic Estonians spoke Estonian.

The latter, mostly Russian-speaking ethnic minorities, reside predominantly in the capital city of Tallinn and the industrial urban areas in Ida-Virumaa
Ida-Viru County
Ida-Viru County , or Ida-Virumaa, is one of 15 counties of Estonia. It is the most north-eastern part of the country. The county contains large deposits of oil shale - the main mineral mined in Estonia. As oil shale is used in thermal power plants, the earth in Ida-Viru literally holds the largest...

. In the small Noarootsi Parish in Läänemaa
Lääne County
Lääne County , or Läänemaa , is one of 15 counties of Estonia. It is located in western Estonia and borders Baltic Sea to the north, Harju County to the north-east, Rapla County to the east, Pärnu County to the south, and the island counties of Saare and Hiiu to the west...

 (known as Nuckö kommun in Swedish and Noarootsi vald in Estonian), both Swedish and Estonian are co-official languages, and there are 22 villages with officially bilingual names.
The most common foreign languages learned by Estonians are English, Russian, Finnish, German and Swedish.

Education and science




The history of formal education in Estonia dates back to the 13–14th centuries when the first monastic and cathedral schools were founded. The first primer in the Estonian language was published in 1575. The oldest university is the University of Tartu
University of Tartu
The University of Tartu is a classical university in the city of Tartu, Estonia. University of Tartu is the national university of Estonia; it is the biggest and highest-ranked university in Estonia...

 which was established by the Swedish king Gustav II Adolf
Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden
Gustav II Adolf has been widely known in English by his Latinized name Gustavus Adolphus Magnus and variously in historical writings also as Gustavus, or Gustavus the Great, or Gustav Adolph the Great,...

 in 1632. In 1919, university courses were first taught in the Estonian language.

Today's education in Estonia is divided into general, vocational and hobby education. The education system is based on four levels which include the pre-school, basic, secondary and higher education. A wide network of schools and supporting educational institutions have been established. The Estonian educational system consists of state, municipal, public and private educational institutions. There are currently 589 schools in Estonia.

According to the Programme for International Student Assessment
Programme for International Student Assessment
The Programme for International Student Assessment is a worldwide evaluation in OECD member countries of 15-year-old school pupils' scholastic performance, performed first in 2000 and repeated every three years...

, the performance levels of gymnasium-aged pupils in Estonia is among the highest in the world.
Academic higher education in Estonia is divided into three levels: bachelor's studies, master's studies, and doctoral studies. In some specialties (basic medical studies, veterinary, pharmacy, dentistry, architect-engineer and a classroom teacher programme) the Bachelors and Master's levels are integrated into one unit. Estonian public universities have significantly more autonomy than applied higher education institutions.

In addition to organizing the academic life of the university, universities can create new curricula, establish admission terms and conditions, approve the budget, approve the development plan, elect the rector and make restricted decisions in matters concerning assets. Estonia has a moderate number of public and private universities. The largest public universities are Tartu University, Tallinn University of Technology
Tallinn University of Technology
Tallinn University of Technology is the only university of technology in Estonia, and one of the three most important institutions of higher education in Estonia generally. It is located in the capital city of Tallinn, Estonia...

, Tallinn University, Estonian University of Life Sciences
Estonian University of Life Sciences
The Estonian University of Life Sciences , located in Tartu, Estonia, is the former Estonian Agricultural University, which was established in 1951 and renamed and restructured in November 2005....

, Estonian Academy of Arts
Estonian Academy of Arts
The Estonian Academy of Arts is the only public university in Estonia providing higher education in art, design, architecture, media, art history and conservation-restoration...

, and the largest private university is Estonian Business School.

The Estonian Academy of Sciences
Estonian Academy of Sciences
Founded in 1938, the Estonian Academy of Sciences is Estonia's national academy of science. As with other national academies, it is an independent group of well-known scientists whose stated aim is to promote research and development, encourage international scientific cooperation, and...

 is Estonia's national academy
National academy
A national academy is an organizational body, usually operating with state financial support and approval, that co-ordinates scholarly research activities and standards for academic disciplines, most frequently in the sciences but also the humanities. Typically the country's learned societies in...

 of science. The first computer centres were established in late 1950s in Tartu
Tartu
Tartu is the second largest city of Estonia. In contrast to Estonia's political and financial capital Tallinn, Tartu is often considered the intellectual and cultural hub, especially since it is home to Estonia's oldest and most renowned university. Situated 186 km southeast of Tallinn, the...

 and Tallinn
Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

. Estonian specialists contributed in the development of software engineering standards for different ministries of the Soviet Union during the 1980s.

Culture


The culture of Estonia
Culture of Estonia
Estonian culture combines an indigenous heritage, represented by the country's Uralic national language Estonian, with Nordic cultural aspects. Due to its history and geography, Estonia's culture has been influenced by the traditions of the adjacent area's various Finnic, Baltic, Slavic and...

 incorporates indigenous heritage, as represented by the Estonian language and the sauna
Sauna
A sauna is a small room or house designed as a place to experience dry or wet heat sessions, or an establishment with one or more of these and auxiliary facilities....

, with mainstream Nordic
Nordic countries
The Nordic countries make up a region in Northern Europe and the North Atlantic which consists of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and their associated territories, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland...

 and European cultural aspects. Due to its history and geography, Estonia's culture has been influenced by the traditions of the adjacent area's various Finnic, Baltic, Slavic and Germanic peoples as well as the cultural developments in the former dominant powers Sweden and Russia.

Traditionally, Estonia has been seen as an area of rivalry between western and eastern Europe on many levels. An example of this geopolitical legacy is an exceptional combination of nationally recognised Christian traditions: a western Protestant
Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church
The Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church is a Lutheran church in Estonia. EELC is member of the Lutheran World Federation...

 and an eastern Orthodox Church. Like the mainstream culture in the other Nordic countries, Estonian culture can be seen to build upon the ascetic environmental realities and traditional livelihoods, a heritage of comparatively widespread egalitarianism
Egalitarianism
Egalitarianism is a trend of thought that favors equality of some sort among moral agents, whether persons or animals. Emphasis is placed upon the fact that equality contains the idea of equity of quality...

 out of practical reasons (see: Everyman's right and universal suffrage
Universal suffrage
Universal suffrage consists of the extension of the right to vote to adult citizens as a whole, though it may also mean extending said right to minors and non-citizens...

), and the ideals of closeness to nature and self-sufficiency
Self-sufficiency
Self-sufficiency refers to the state of not requiring any outside aid, support, or interaction, for survival; it is therefore a type of personal or collective autonomy...

 (see: summer cottage).

The Estonian Academy of Arts
Estonian Academy of Arts
The Estonian Academy of Arts is the only public university in Estonia providing higher education in art, design, architecture, media, art history and conservation-restoration...

 (Estonian: Eesti Kunstiakadeemia, EKA) is providing higher education in art, design, architecture, media, art history and conservation while Viljandi Culture Academy of University of Tartu
University of Tartu
The University of Tartu is a classical university in the city of Tartu, Estonia. University of Tartu is the national university of Estonia; it is the biggest and highest-ranked university in Estonia...

 has an approach to popularize native culture through such curricula as native construction, native blacksmithing, native textile design, traditional handicraft and traditional music, but also jazz and church music. In 2010, there were 245 museum
Museum
A museum is an institution that cares for a collection of artifacts and other objects of scientific, artistic, cultural, or historical importance and makes them available for public viewing through exhibits that may be permanent or temporary. Most large museums are located in major cities...

s in Estonia whose combined collections contain more than 10 million objects.

Literature


The Estonian literature
Estonian literature
Estonian literature refers to literature written in the Estonian language The domination of Estonia after the Northern Crusades, from the 13th century to 1918 by Germany, Sweden, and Russia resulted few early written literary works in Estonian language. The oldest records of written Estonian...

 refers to literature written in the Estonian language
Estonian language
Estonian is the official language of Estonia, spoken by about 1.1 million people in Estonia and tens of thousands in various émigré communities...

 (ca. 1 million speakers). The domination of Estonia after the Northern Crusades
Northern Crusades
The Northern Crusades or Baltic Crusades were crusades undertaken by the Christian kings of Denmark and Sweden, the German Livonian and Teutonic military orders, and their allies against the pagan peoples of Northern Europe around the southern and eastern shores of the Baltic Sea...

, from the 13th century to 1918 by Germany, Sweden, and Russia resulted in few early written literary works in the Estonian language. The oldest records of written Estonian date from the 13th century. Originates Livoniae in Chronicle of Henry of Livonia
Chronicle of Henry of Livonia
The Livonian Chronicle of Henry is a document describing historic events in Livonia and surrounding areas from 1180 to 1227. Apart from the few references in the Primary Chronicle compiled in Kievan Rus' in the twelfth century, it is the oldest known written document about the history of these...

 contains Estonian place names, words and fragments of sentences. The Liber Census Daniae (1241) contains Estonian place and family names.

The cultural stratum of Estonian was originally characterized by a largely lyrical form of folk poetry based on syllabic quantity. Apart from a few albeit remarkable exceptions, this archaic form has not been much employed in later times. One of the most outstanding achievements in this field is the national epic Kalevipoeg
Kalevipoeg
Kalevipoeg is an epic poem by Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald held to be the Estonian national epic.- Origins : There existed an oral tradition within Ancient Estonia of legends explaining the origin of the world...

. At a professional level, traditional folk song reached its new heyday during the last quarter of the 20th century, primarily thanks to the work of composer Veljo Tormis
Veljo Tormis
Veljo Tormis is an Estonian composer, regarded to be one of the greatest living choral composers and one of the most important composers of the 20th century in Estonia. Internationally, his fame arises chiefly from his extensive body of choral music, which exceeds 500 individual choral songs, most...

.

Oskar Luts
Oskar Luts
-Biography:Oskar Luts was born into a middle-class family in central Estonia, at that time in the government of Livonia . He attended Änkküla village school in 1894. He went to Palamuse Parish parish school in Jõgeva County, attending from 1895–1899. From 1899–1902 he studied at the Tartu...

 was the most prominent prose writer of the early Estonian literature, who is still widely read today, especially his lyrical school novel Kevade (Spring). Anton Hansen Tammsaare
Anton Hansen Tammsaare
Anton Hansen Tammsaare , born Anton Hansen, was an Estonian writer whose pentalogy Truth and Justice is considered one of the major works of Estonian literature and "The Estonian Novel"....

's social epic and psychological realist pentalogy
Pentalogy
A pentalogy is a compound literary or narrative work that is made up of five distinct works, just as a trilogy is made up of three works, and a tetralogy of four...

 Truth and Justice
Truth and Justice
Truth and Justice I-V, written in 1926–1933, is a pentalogy by Anton Hansen Tammsaare, considered to be his most famous work, and one of the foundational works in Estonian literature....

captured the evolution of Estonian society from a peasant community to an independent nation. In modern times Jaan Kross
Jaan Kross
-Early life:Born in Tallinn, Estonia, studied Jacob Westholm´s Grammar school, Kross attended the University of Tartu and graduated from its School of Law...

 and Jaan Kaplinski
Jaan Kaplinski
Jaan Kaplinski is an Estonian poet, philosopher, and culture critic. Kaplinski is known for his independent mind, focus on global issues and support for left-wing/liberal thinking...

 remain to be Estonia's best known and most translated writers. Among the most popular writers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries are Tõnu Õnnepalu
Tõnu Õnnepalu
Tõnu Õnnepalu , also known by the pen names Emil Tode and Anton Nigov, is an Estonian poet and author.Õnnepalu was born in Tallinn and studied biology at the University of Tartu from 1980 to 1985. He began his writing career as a poet in 1985 and has published three collections of his works...

 and Andrus Kivirähk
Andrus Kivirähk
Andrus Kivirähk is an Estonian writer.By 2004, 25,000 copies of his book Rehepapp ehk November had been sold, making him the most popular 21st century Estonian writer...

, who uses elements of Estonian folklore and mythology, deforming them into absurd and grotesque
Grotesque
The word grotesque comes from the same Latin root as "Grotto", meaning a small cave or hollow. The original meaning was restricted to an extravagant style of Ancient Roman decorative art rediscovered and then copied in Rome at the end of the 15th century...

.

Media


The cinema of Estonia
Cinema of Estonia
Cinema in Estonia started in 1896 when the first "moving pictures" were screened in Tallinn. The first movie theater was opened in 1908. First local documentary was made in 1908 with the production of a newsreel about Swedish King Gustav V’s visit to Tallinn...

 started in 1908 with the production of a newsreel about Swedish King Gustav V's visit to Tallinn. The first public TV broadcast in Estonia was in July 1955. Regular, live radio-broadcasts began already in December 1926. Deregulation in the field of electronic media has brought radical changes compared to the beginning of 1990s. The first licenses for private TV broadcasters were issued in 1992. The first private radio station went on the air in 1990.

Today the media is a vibrant sector at the forefront of change in Estonian society. There is a plethora of weekly newspapers and magazines. Estonians have a choice of 9 domestic TV channels and a host of radio stations. The Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and the fact that Estonia does have a free press is recognised by various international press freedom bodies, like the US-based Freedom House
Freedom House
Freedom House is an international non-governmental organization based in Washington, D.C. that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights...

 and Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders is a France-based international non-governmental organization that advocates freedom of the press. It was founded in 1985, by Robert Ménard, Rony Brauman and the journalist Jean-Claude Guillebaud. Jean-François Julliard has served as Secretary General since 2008...

 who ranks Estonia media as one of the most free in world in their Worldwide Press Freedom Index.

Estonia has two news agencies. The Baltic News Service
Baltic News Service
The Baltic News Service is the largest news agency operating in the Baltic states. Founded in April, 1990, by a group of students , it sought to inform foreign correspondents in Moscow of developments in the Baltic states' struggles for independence from the Soviet Union...

 (BNS), founded in 1990, is a private regional news agency covering Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The ETV24 is an agency owned by Eesti Rahvusringhääling
Eesti Rahvusringhääling
Eesti Rahvusringhääling – Estonian Public Broadcasting – is a publicly funded radio and television organisation created in Estonia on 1 June 2007 to take over the functions of the formerly separate Eesti Raadio and Eesti Televisioon , under the terms of the Estonian National...

 who is a publicly funded radio and television organization created on 30 June 2007 to take over the functions of the formerly separate Eesti Raadio and Eesti Televisioon
Eesti Televisioon
Eesti Televisioon is the national public television station of Estonia. It made its first broadcast on 19 July 1955.The bulk of ETV's funding comes from government grant-in-aid, around 15% of which is in turn funded by the fees paid by Estonian commercial broadcasters in return for their...

 under the terms of the Estonian National Broadcasting Act.

Music



The earliest mentioning of Estonian singing dates back to Saxo Grammaticus
Saxo Grammaticus
Saxo Grammaticus also known as Saxo cognomine Longus was a Danish historian, thought to have been a secular clerk or secretary to Absalon, Archbishop of Lund, foremost advisor to Valdemar I of Denmark. He is the author of the first full history of Denmark.- Life :The Jutland Chronicle gives...

 Gesta Danorum (ca. 1179). Saxo speaks of Estonian warriors who sang at night while waiting for a battle. The older folksongs are also referred to as regilaulud, songs in the poetic metre regivärss the tradition shared by all Baltic Finns
Baltic Finns
The Baltic Finns are a historical linguistic group of peoples of northern Europe whose modern descendants include the Finns proper, Karelians , Izhorians, Veps, Votes, Livonians and Estonians who speak Baltic-Finnic languages and have inhabited the Baltic Sea region for 3,000 years according to...

. Runic singing was widespread among Estonians until the 18th century, when it started to be replaced by rhythmic folksongs.

Traditional wind instruments derived from those used by shepherd
Shepherd
A shepherd is a person who tends, feeds or guards flocks of sheep.- Origins :Shepherding is one of the oldest occupations, beginning some 6,000 years ago in Asia Minor. Sheep were kept for their milk, meat and especially their wool...

s were once widespread, but are now becoming again more commonly played. Other instruments, including the fiddle
Fiddle
The term fiddle may refer to any bowed string musical instrument, most often the violin. It is also a colloquial term for the instrument used by players in all genres, including classical music...

, zither
Zither
The zither is a musical string instrument, most commonly found in Slovenia, Austria, Hungary citera, northwestern Croatia, the southern regions of Germany, alpine Europe and East Asian cultures, including China...

, concertina
Concertina
A concertina is a free-reed musical instrument, like the various accordions and the harmonica. It has a bellows and buttons typically on both ends of it. When pressed, the buttons travel in the same direction as the bellows, unlike accordion buttons which travel perpendicularly to it...

 and accordion
Accordion
The accordion is a box-shaped musical instrument of the bellows-driven free-reed aerophone family, sometimes referred to as a squeezebox. A person who plays the accordion is called an accordionist....

 are used to play polka
Polka
The polka is a Central European dance and also a genre of dance music familiar throughout Europe and the Americas. It originated in the middle of the 19th century in Bohemia...

 or other dance music. The kannel
Kantele
A kantele or kannel is a traditional plucked string instrument of the zither family native to Finland, Estonia, and Karelia. It is related to the Russian gusli, the Latvian kokle and the Lithuanian kanklės. Together these instruments make up the family known as Baltic psalteries...

 is a native instrument that is now again becoming more popular in Estonia. A Native Music Preserving Centre was opened in 2008 in Viljandi
Viljandi
Viljandi is a town and municipality in southern Estonia with a population of 19,150 . It is the capital of Viljandi County. The town was first mentioned in 1283, upon being granted its town charter by Wilhelm von Endorpe....

.

The tradition of Estonian Song Festival
Estonian Song Festival
The Estonian Song Festival is one of the largest amateur choral events in the world, a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity...

s (Laulupidu) started at the height of the Estonian national awakening
Estonian national awakening
The Estonian Age of Awakening is a period in history where Estonians came to acknowledge themselves as a nation deserving the right to govern themselves. This period is considered to begin in 1850s with greater rights being granted to commoners and to end with the declaration of the Republic of...

 in 1869. Today, it is one of the largest amateur choral events in the world, as the joint choir usually comprises 18,000 people. In 2004, a total of 34,000 participated in the Song Festival, held before an audience of 200,000. Since 1928, the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds (Lauluväljak) host the event every five years in July. The next festival will take place in 2014. In addition, Youth Song Festivals are also held in every four or five years, last of them in 2011.

Professional Estonian musicians and composers such as Rudolf Tobias
Rudolf Tobias
Rudolf Tobias was the first Estonian professional composer, as well as a professional organist. He studied at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory...

, Mart Saar
Mart Saar
Mart Saar was an Estonian composer, organist and collector of folk songs.-Childhood:Saar was born at the small borough of Hüpassaare, Estonia, then part of the Livonian Governorate, Russian Empire, to a family of forest keepers. He received his education in the village school at Kaansoo and the...

 and Artur Kapp
Artur Kapp
Artur Kapp was an Estonian composer.Born in Suure-Jaani, Estonia, then part of the Governorate of Livonia, Russian Empire, he was the son of Joosep Kapp, who was also a classically trained musician...

 emerged in the late 19th century. At the time of this writing, the most known Estonian composers are Arvo Pärt
Arvo Pärt
Arvo Pärt is an Estonian classical composer and one of the most prominent living composers of sacred music. Since the late 1970s, Pärt has worked in a minimalist style that employs his self-made compositional technique, tintinnabuli. His music also finds its inspiration and influence from...

, Eduard Tubin
Eduard Tubin
-Life:Tubin was born in Torila, Governorate of Livonia, Estonia. Both his parents were music lovers, and his father played trumpet and trombone in the village band. His first taste of music came at school where he learned flute and balalaika. Later, his father swapped a cow for a piano, and the...

 and Veljo Tormis
Veljo Tormis
Veljo Tormis is an Estonian composer, regarded to be one of the greatest living choral composers and one of the most important composers of the 20th century in Estonia. Internationally, his fame arises chiefly from his extensive body of choral music, which exceeds 500 individual choral songs, most...

.

In the 1950s, Estonian baritone
Baritone
Baritone is a type of male singing voice that lies between the bass and tenor voices. It is the most common male voice. Originally from the Greek , meaning deep sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C Baritone (or...

 Georg Ots
Georg Ots
Georg Ots, People's Artist of the USSR was an Estonian opera singer...

 rose to worldwide prominence as an opera singer.

In popular music, Estonian artist Kerli Kõiv
Kerli Kõiv
Kerli Kõiv , better known mononymously as Kerli, is an Estonian recording artist.She was signed to Island Def Jam Music Group in 2006 by LA Reid and in 2008, she released her debut album, Love Is Dead which charted at 126 on the Billboard 200 in July 2008 and at 2 on the Billboard Heatseekers...

 has become popular in Europe, as well as gaining moderate popularity in North America. She has provided music for the 2010 Disney
The Walt Disney Company
The Walt Disney Company is the largest media conglomerate in the world in terms of revenue. Founded on October 16, 1923, by Walt and Roy Disney as the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, Walt Disney Productions established itself as a leader in the American animation industry before diversifying into...

 film Alice in Wonderland
Alice in Wonderland (2010 film)
Alice in Wonderland is a 2010 American computer-animated/live action fantasy adventure film directed by Tim Burton, written by Linda Woolverton, and released by Walt Disney Pictures...

and the television series Smallville
Smallville
Smallville is the hometown of Superman in comic books published by DC Comics. While growing up in Smallville, the young Clark Kent attended Smallville High with best friends Lana Lang, Chloe Sullivan and Pete Ross...

in the United States of America.

Estonia won the Eurovision Song Contest
Eurovision Song Contest
The Eurovision Song Contest is an annual competition held among active member countries of the European Broadcasting Union .Each member country submits a song to be performed on live television and then casts votes for the other countries' songs to determine the most popular song in the competition...

 in 2001 with the song "Everybody
Everybody (Eurovision song)
"Everybody" was the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2001, performed in English by Tanel Padar, Dave Benton and 2XL, representing Estonia. The song was performed twentieth on the night, following Germany's Michelle with "Wer Liebe lebt" and preceding Malta's Fabrizio Faniello with "Another...

" performed by Tanel Padar
Tanel Padar
Tanel Padar is an Estonian singer. He is best known for winning the Eurovision Song Contest 2001. Padar became famous by winning the Kaks takti ette, a biennial televised competition for young Estonian singers, in 1999...

 and Dave Benton
Dave Benton
Dave Benton is a pop musician and 2001 winner of the Eurovision Song Contest.Benton was born on the Caribbean island of Aruba in 1951 and in his 20s moved to the United States...

. In 2002, Estonia hosted the event. Maarja-Liis Ilus
Maarja-Liis Ilus
Maarja-Liis Ilus, sometimes better known by her performing name Maarja is a pop musician. Maarja has achieved some chart success in a number of countries across Europe and Asia...

 has competed for Estonia on two occasions (1996 and 1997), while Eda-Ines Etti
Eda-Ines Etti
Eda-Ines Etti is a singer and celebrity in Estonia, also known for her participation in the Eurovision Song Contest 2000. Under her abbreviated stage name Ines, she was Estonia's representative for the contest in Sweden. Her song "Once in a Lifetime" received fourth place in the contest...

, Koit Toome
Koit Toome
Koit Toome is an Estonian singer and musical actor.-Career:In late 1994 the highly successful pop duo Code One consisting of Koit Toome and Sirli Hiius was formed by the producer Mikk Targo...

 and Evelin Samuel
Evelin Samuel
-Career:Evelin Samuel has been singing since childhood and was even recorded by the studios of the Estonian Radio at a very early age. In late 1980s, Evelin joined the children's musical theatre Colombina whom she performed with at the 1992 Roskilde Festival in Denmark.In 1993, she finished 4th at...

 owe their popularity partly to the Eurovision Song Contest.

Holidays



The Estonian National Day
National Day
The National Day is a designated date on which celebrations mark the nationhood of a nation or non-sovereign country. This nationhood can be symbolized by the date of independence, of becoming republic or a significant date for a patron saint or a ruler . Often the day is not called "National Day"...

 is the Independence Day
Independence Day
An Independence Day is an annual event commemorating the anniversary of a nation's assumption of independent statehood, usually after ceasing to be a colony or part of another nation or state, and more rarely after the end of a military occupation...

 celebrated on 24 February, the day the Estonian Declaration of Independence
Estonian Declaration of Independence
The Estonian Declaration of Independence, also known as the Manifesto to the Peoples of Estonia , is the founding act of the Republic of Estonia from 1918. It is celebrated on 24 February, the National Day or Estonian Independence Day....

 was issued. As of 2010, there are 12 public holidays (which come with a day off) and 12 national holidays celebrated annually.

Cuisine



Historically the cuisine of Estonia has been heavily dependent on seasons and simple peasant food, which today is influenced by many countries. Today it includes many typical international foods. The most typical foods in Estonia are black bread, pork, potatoes and dairy products. Traditionally in summer and spring, Estonians like to eat everything fresh – berries, herbs, vegetables and everything else that comes straight from the garden. Hunting and fishing have also been very common, although currently hunting and fishing are enjoyed mostly as hobbies. Today it is also very popular to grill outside in summer.

Traditionally in winter jams, preserves and pickles are brought to the table. Estonia has been through rough times in the past and thus gathering and conserving fruits, mushrooms and vegetables for winter has always been essential. Today gathering and conserving is not that common because everything can be bought from stores, but preparing food for winter is still very popular in the countryside and still has somewhat ritual significance. Being a country with a large coastline, fish has also been very important.

Sports


Sport plays an important role in Estonian culture. After declaring independence from Russia in 1918, Estonia first competed as a nation at the 1920 Summer Olympics
1920 Summer Olympics
The 1920 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the VII Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event in 1920 in Antwerp, Belgium....

, although the National Olympic Committee was established in 1923. Estonian athletes took part of the Olympic Games until the country was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940. The 1980 Summer Olympics
1980 Summer Olympics
The 1980 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXII Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event celebrated in Moscow in the Soviet Union. In addition, the yachting events were held in Tallinn, and some of the preliminary matches and the quarter-finals of the football tournament...

 Sailing regatta
Sailing
Sailing is the propulsion of a vehicle and the control of its movement with large foils called sails. By changing the rigging, rudder, and sometimes the keel or centre board, a sailor manages the force of the wind on the sails in order to move the boat relative to its surrounding medium and...

 was held in the capital city Tallinn
Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

. After regaining independence in 1991, Estonia has participated in all Olympics. Estonia has won most of its medals in athletics, weightlifting, wrestling
Wrestling
Wrestling is a form of grappling type techniques such as clinch fighting, throws and takedowns, joint locks, pins and other grappling holds. A wrestling bout is a physical competition, between two competitors or sparring partners, who attempt to gain and maintain a superior position...

 and cross-country skiing
Cross-country skiing
Cross-country skiing is a winter sport in which participants propel themselves across snow-covered terrain using skis and poles...

.

The list of notable Estonian athletes include wrestlers Kristjan Palusalu
Kristjan Palusalu
Kristjan Palusalu was an Estonian heavyweight wrestler and Olympic winner....

, Voldemar Väli
Voldemar Väli
Voldemar Väli was a two-time Olympic medalist for Estonia in Greco-Roman wrestling.-External links:***...

 and Georg Lurich
Georg Lurich
Georg Lurich was a Estonian Greco-Roman wrestler and strongman of the early 20th century. Lurich was also the trainer of fellow countryman wrestler and weightlifter Georg Hackenschmidt and Aleksander Aberg.-Early life:...

, skiers Andrus Veerpalu
Andrus Veerpalu
Andrus Veerpalu is a former and so far the most successful Estonian male cross country skier.On 17 February 2006 he won his second Winter Olympics gold medal , becoming the fourth Estonian to have won two Olympic gold medals Andrus Veerpalu (born 8 February 1971 in Pärnu) is a former and so far...

 and Kristina Šmigun-Vähi, decathlonist Erki Nool
Erki Nool
Erki Nool is an Estonian decathlete and politician.Nool is a winner of the gold medal for Decathlon in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. Although Nool did not place first in any individual event, his total score was the highest...

, tennis player Kaia Kanepi
Kaia Kanepi
Kaia Kanepi is an Estonian professional tennis player. Her career-high ranking is world no. 16 reached on 14 February 2011....

, cyclists Jaan Kirsipuu
Jaan Kirsipuu
Jaan Kirsipuu is an Estonian road bicycle racer, living in Estonia. Kirsipuu initially retired at the end of the 2006, but participated in the 2007 Estonian championship, becoming time trial champion for the sixth time. In 2008 he was the manager of Latvian UCI Continental cycling team Rietumu...

 and Erika Salumäe
Erika Salumäe
Erika Salumäe is an Estonian track bicycle racer who won the first Olympic gold medal for Estonia after the country regained its independence in 1991.She was born in Pärnu. She trained at VSS Kalev in Tallinn...

 and discus throwers Gerd Kanter
Gerd Kanter
Gerd Kanter is an Estonian discus thrower. He was the 2007 World Champion in the event and won the gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics...

 and Aleksander Tammert
Aleksander Tammert
Aleksander Tammert is an Estonian discus thrower.-Athletics career:Tammert competed at the 2004 Olympics and originally finishing fourth, but as gold medal winner Róbert Fazekas was disqualified, Tammert received the bronze medal...

.

Kiiking
Kiiking
Kiiking is a sport that was invented in Estonia by Ado Kosk around 1996. In Estonian language kiik means a swing. In a kiiking swing, the swing arms are made of steel to enable a person to swing 360 degrees going over the spindle of the swing . A person is fastened to the swing base by their...

, a relatively new sport, was invented in 1996 by Ado Kosk in Estonia. Kiiking involves a modified swing in which the rider of the swing tries to go around 360 degrees.

International rankings


The following are links to international rankings of Estonia.
Index Rank Countries reviewed
Index of Economic Freedom
Index of Economic Freedom
The Index of Economic Freedom is a series of 10 economic measurements created by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. Its stated objective is to measure the degree of economic freedom in the world's nations....

 2010
14th 157
Privacy International
Privacy International
Privacy International is a UK-based non-profit organisation formed in 1990, "as a watchdog on surveillance and privacy invasions by governments and corporations." PI has organised campaigns and initiatives in more than fifty countries and is based in London, UK.-Formation, background and...

 Yearly Privacy ranking of countries, 2007
5th 45
Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders is a France-based international non-governmental organization that advocates freedom of the press. It was founded in 1985, by Robert Ménard, Rony Brauman and the journalist Jean-Claude Guillebaud. Jean-François Julliard has served as Secretary General since 2008...

 Press Freedom Index 2010
9th 178
State of World Liberty Index
State of World Liberty Index
The State of World Liberty Index is a ranking of countries according to the degree of economic and personal freedoms that their citizens enjoy; each country is given a score between 0 and 100...

1st 159
Human Development Index
Human Development Index
The Human Development Index is a composite statistic used to rank countries by level of "human development" and separate "very high human development", "high human development", "medium human development", and "low human development" countries...

 2010
34th 169
Corruption Perceptions Index
Corruption Perceptions Index
Since 1995, Transparency International publishes the Corruption Perceptions Index annually ranking countries "by their perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys." The CPI generally defines corruption as "the misuse of public power for private...

 2010
26th 178
Networked Readiness Index
Networked readiness index
The World Economic Forum's Networked Readiness Index measures the propensity for countries to exploit the opportunities offered by information and communications technology. It is published annually. The NRI seeks to better comprehend the impact of ICT on the competitiveness of nations...

 2009–2010
25th 133
Ease of Doing Business Index
Ease of Doing Business Index
The Ease of Doing Business Index is an index created by the World Bank. Higher rankings indicate better, usually simpler, regulations for businesses and stronger protections of property rights...

 2011
17th 158
State of The Worlds Mothers Index 2011 18th 164
Legatum Prosperity Index
Legatum Prosperity Index
The Legatum Prosperity Index is an annual ranking developed by the Legatum Institute of 110 countries. The ranking is based according to a variety of factors including wealth, economic growth, personal wellbeing, and quality of life. Norway topped the lists of the the last two reports, those of...

 2011
33rd 110

See also


  • List of Presidents of Estonia
  • Prime Minister of Estonia
    Prime Minister of Estonia
    The Prime Minister of Estonia is the head of government of the Republic of Estonia. The prime minister is nominated by the President after appropriate consultations with the parliamentary factions and confirmed by the Parliament. In case of disagreement, the Parliament can reject the President's...

  • List of twin towns and sister cities in Estonia
  • Politics of Estonia
    Politics of Estonia
    Politics in Estonia takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic republic, whereby the Prime Minister of Estonia is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. Legislative power is vested in the Estonian parliament. Executive power is exercised by the Government...



Further reading


  • Giuseppe D'Amato
    Giuseppe D'Amato
    Giuseppe D’Amato is an Italian historian, specialized in Russia and former USSR, and a columnist of international politics.- Biography :After getting a decree in Italy in the Eighties, he became scholar of the Russian academician Sigurd Ottovich Schmidt at Moscow’s Historical-Archive Institute at...

    Travel to the Baltic Hansa. The European Union and its enlargement to the East. Book in Italian. Viaggio nell’Hansa baltica. L’Unione europea e l’allargamento ad Est. Greco&Greco editori, Milano, 2004. ISBN 88-7980-355-7


External links


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