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Republic of Estonia
Eesti Vabariik
Flag Coat of arms
AnthemMu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm
(English: "My Fatherland, My Happiness and Joy")
Location of  Estonia  (green)

– on the European continent  (light green & grey)
– in the European Union  (light green)  —  [Legend]

(and largest city)
59°25′N 24°45′E / 59.417°N 24.75°E / 59.417; 24.75
Official language(s) Estonian1
Ethnic groups  68.7 % Estonian
25.6 % Russian
  5.7 % others[1]
Demonym Estonian
Government Parliamentary republic
 -  President Toomas Hendrik Ilves
 -  Prime Minister Andrus Ansip (RE)
 -  Parliament speaker Ene Ergma (IRL)
 -  Current coalition (RE, IRL)
Independence from Russia 
 -  Autonomy declared 12 April 1917 
 -  Independence declared
Officially recognized
24 February 1918

2 February 1920 
 -  1st Soviet occupation 1940–1941 
 -  German occupation 1941–1944 
 -  2nd Soviet occupation 1944–1991 
 -  Independence restored 20 August 1991 
EU accession 1 May 2004
 -  Total 45,228 km2 (132nd2)
17,413 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 4.45%
 -  2009 estimate 1,340,415[2] (151st)
 -  2000 census 1,370,052[3] 
 -  Density 29/km2 (173rd)
75/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2009 estimate
 -  Total $27.612 billion[4] (104th)
 -  Per capita $18,050[4] (42nd)
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $23.545 billion[4] (93rd)
 -  Per capita $17,532[4] (41st)
Gini (2005) 34 (medium
HDI (2007) 0.883[5] (high) (40th)
Currency Estonian kroon (EEK)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 -  Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .ee3
Calling code 372
1 Võro and Seto in southern counties are spoken along with Estonian. Russian is widely spoken in Ida-Virumaa and Tallinn due to the Soviet program promoting mass immigration of urban industrial workers from the USSR in the post-war period.
2 47,549 km2 (18,359 sq mi) were defined according to the Treaty of Tartu in 1920 between Estonia and Russia. Today the remaining 2,323 km2 (897 sq mi) are nowadays part of Russia.
The ceded areas include the Petserimaa county and the boundary in the north of Lake Peipus as the Lands behind the city of Narva including Ivangorod (Jaanilinn).[6][7]
3 .eu is also shared with other member states of the European Union.

Estonia en-us-Estonia.ogg /ɛsˈtoʊniə/ (Estonian: Eesti), officially the Republic of Estonia (Estonian: Eesti Vabariik), is a country in Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia (343 km), and to the east by the Russian Federation (338.6 km).[8] The territory of Estonia covers 45,227 km2 (17,462 sq mi) and is influenced by a temperate seasonal climate.

The Estonians are a Finnic people, and the Estonian language is closely related to Finnish. The modern name of Estonia is thought to originate from the Roman historian Tacitus, who in his book Germania (ca. 98 AD) described a people called the Aestii. Similarly, ancient Scandinavian sagas refer to a land called Eistland, close to the Danish, German, Dutch, Swedish and Norwegian term Estland for the country. Early Latin and other ancient versions of the name are Estia and Hestia. Esthonia was a common alternate English spelling prior to independence.[9][10]

Estonia is a democratic parliamentary republic and is divided into fifteen counties. The capital and largest city is Tallinn. With a population of only 1.34 million, Estonia is one of the least-populous members of the European Union. Estonia was a member of the League of Nations from 22 September 1921,[11] has been a member of the United Nations since 17 September 1991,[12] and of NATO since 29 March 2004,[13] as well as the European Union since 1 May 2004.[14] Estonia has also signed the Kyoto protocol.

The settlement of modern day Estonia began around 8500 BC, immediately after the Ice Age. Over the centuries, the Estonians were subjected to Danish, Teutonic, Swedish and Russian rule. Foreign rule in Estonia began in 1227. In the aftermath of the Livonian Crusade the area was conquered by Danes and Germans. From 1228–1562, parts or most of Estonia were incorporated into a crusader state Terra Mariana, that became part of the Ordensstaat, and after its decline was formed the Livonian Confederation. During the era economic activities centered around the Hanseatic League. In the 1500s Estonia passed to Swedish rule, under which it remained until 1710/1721, when it was ceded to the Russian Empire.

The Estophile Enlightenment Period (1750–1840) led to a national awakening in the mid-19th century. In 1918 the Estonian Declaration of Independence was issued, to be followed by the Estonian War of Independence (1918–1920), which resulted in the Tartu Peace Treaty recognizing Estonian independence in perpetuity. During World War II, Estonia was occupied and annexed first by the Soviet Union[15][16][17] and subsequently by the Third Reich, only to be re-occupied by the Soviet Union in 1944.

Estonia regained its independence on 20 August 1991. It has since embarked on a rapid programme of social and economic reform. Today, the country has gained recognition for its economic freedom,[18] its adaptation of new technologies[19] and was one of the world's fastest growing economies for several years.[20] However, Estonia's economy was second worst hit of all 27 European Union members in the 2008–2009 economic crisis,[21] contracting sharply in the first quarter of 2009.[22]



Human settlement in Estonia became possible 11,000 to 13,000 years ago, when the ice from the last glacial era melted away. The oldest known settlement in Estonia is the Pulli settlement, which was located on the banks of the river Pärnu, near the town of Sindi, in southern Estonia. According to radiocarbon dating, 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 artifacts similar to those found at Kunda have been discovered elsewhere in Estonia, as well as in Latvia, northern Lithuania and in southern Finland. The Kunda culture belongs to the middle stone age, or Mesolithic period.

The end of the Bronze Age and the early Iron Age were marked by great cultural changes. The most significant was the transition to farming, which has remained at the core of Estonian economy and culture. From approximately the first to 5th centuries AD, resident farming was widely established, the population grew, and settlement expanded. Cultural influences from the Roman Empire reached Estonia, and this era is therefore also known as the Roman Iron Age.

The first mention of the people inhabiting present-day Estonia is by the Roman historian Tacitus, who in his book Germania (ca. AD 98) describes the Aestii tribe. Tacitus mentions their term for amber in an apparently latinised form, glesum (cf. Latvian 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.[23][24][25]

Iron Age artifacts of a hoard from Kumna[26]

A more troubled and war-ridden middle Iron Age followed with external dangers coming both from the Baltic tribes, who attacked across the southern land border, and from overseas. Several Scandinavian sagas refer to campaigns against Estonia. Estonian pirates conducted similar raids in the Viking age. The "pagan raiders" who sacked the Swedish town of Sigtuna during the early middle ages, in 1187 may have been Estonians.[27]

In the first centuries AD political and administrative subdivisions began to emerge in Estonia. Two larger subdivisions appeared: the province (Estonian: kihelkond) 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. The terra was composed of one or several provinces, also headed by an elder, king or their collegium. By the 13th century the following major lands had developed in Estonia: Revala, Harjumaa, Saaremaa, Hiiumaa, Läänemaa, Alempois, Sakala, Ugandi, Jogentagana, Soopoolitse, Vaiga, Mõhu, Nurmekund, Järvamaa and Virumaa.[28]

Estonia retained a pagan religion centered around a deity called Tharapita. The Chronicle of Henry of Livonia mentions Tharapita as the superior god of Oeselians (inhabitants of Saaremaa island), also well known to Vironian tribes in northern Estonia.

Middle Ages

Medieval Livonia

At the beginning of the 13th century, Lembitu of Lehola, a chieftain of Sakala sought to unify the Estonian people and thwart Danish and Germanic conquest during the Livonian Crusade. 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 in September, 1217.[29]

In 1228, in the aftermath of the Livonian Crusade, to the 1560s, Estonia became part of Terra Mariana, established on February 2, 1207[30] as a principality of the Holy Roman Empire[31] and proclaimed by pope Innocent III in 1215 as a subject to the Holy See.[32] The southern parts of the country were conquered by Swordbrothers who joined the Teutonic Order in 1237 and became its branch known as Livonian Order. In the Northern parts of the country was formed Duchy of Estonia[33] as a direct dominion of the King of Denmark from 1219 until 1346 when it was sold to the Teutonic order and became part of the Ordenstaat.[34] In 1343, the people of northern Estonia and Saaremaa rebelled against the German rule in the St. George's Night Uprising, which was put down by 1345.

Reval (known as Tallinn since 1918) gained Lübeck Rights in 1248 and joined an alliance of trading guilds called the Hanseatic League at the end of the thirteenth century.

After the Teutonic Order fell into decline following its defeat in the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, and the defeat of the Livonian Order in the Battle of Swienta on September 1, 1435, the Livonian Confederation agreement was signed on December 4, 1435.[35] The Grand Duchy of Moscow and Tsardom of Russia attempted unsuccessful invasions in 1481 and 1558.

The Livonian Confederation ceased to exist during the Livonian War (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.[36]


The Reformation in Europe officially began in 1517 with Martin Luther (1483–1546) and his 95 Theses. The Reformation resulted in great change in the Baltic region. Ideas entered the Livonian Confederation 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, as was previously used.[37] During the Livonian War in 1561, northern Estonia submitted to Swedish control, while southern Estonia briefly came under the control of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 1580s. In 1625, mainland Estonia came entirely under Swedish rule. Estonia was administratively divided between the provinces of Estonia in the north and Livonia in southern Estonia and northern Latvia, a division which persisted until the early twentieth century.

Kuressaare castle in Saaremaa.

In 1631, the Swedish king Gustaf II Adolf, forced the nobility to grant the peasantry greater rights, although serfdom was retained. In 1632 a printing press and university were established in the city of Dorpat (known as Tartu 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.[36]

Estonia in the Russian Empire

Following the Capitulation of Estonia and Livonia during the Great Northern War, the Swedish empire lost Estonia to Russia by the Treaty of Nystad. However, the upper classes and the higher middle class remained primarily Baltic German. 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. After the Russian revolution of 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 and the availability of education to the native Estonian-speaking population, an active Estonian nationalist movement developed in the nineteenth 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, Jakob Hurt and Carl Robert Jakobson.

Declaration of independence in Pärnu on 23 February in 1918. One of the first images of the Republic.

Significant accomplishments were the publication of the national epic, Kalevipoeg, in 1862, and the organization of the first national song festival in 1869. In response to a period of Russification initiated by the Russian empire in the 1890s, Estonian nationalism took on more political tones, with intellectuals first calling for greater autonomy, and later, complete independence from the Russian Empire. Following the Bolshevik takeover of power in Russia after the October Revolution of 1917 and German victories against the Russian army, between the Russian Red Army's retreat and the arrival of advancing German troops, the Committee of Elders of the Maapäev issued the Estonian Declaration of Independence[38] in Pärnu on 23 February and in Tallinn on 24 February 1918.

After winning the Estonian Liberation War against Soviet Russia and at the same time German Freikorps volunteers (the Tartu Peace Treaty was signed on 2 February 1920). The Republic of Estonia was recognized (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) was disbanded in 1934, following political unrest caused by the global economic crisis. Subsequently the country was ruled by decree by Konstantin Päts, who became President in 1938, the year parliamentary elections resumed.

Estonia in 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 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 in 1941, the German deportations and Holocaust victims.[39] World War II began with the invasion and subsequent partition of an important regional ally of Estonia – Poland, by a joint operation of Nazi Germany and Soviet Union.

Soviet occupation

The fate of the Republic of Estonia before World War II was decided by the German–Soviet Nonaggression Pact of August 1939 after Stalin gained Hitler's agreement to divide Eastern Europe into "spheres of special interest" according to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and its Secret Additional Protocol.[40][41][41]

On 24 September 1939, warships of the Red Navy appeared off Estonian ports and Soviet bombers began a patrol over Tallinn and the nearby countryside.[42] 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".[43] On 12 June 1940, the order for a total military blockade on Estonia was given to the Soviet Baltic Fleet.[44][45] On 14 June 1940, while world's attention was focused on the fall of Paris to Nazi Germany a day earlier, the Soviet military blockade on Estonia went into effect, two Soviet bombers downed a Finnish passenger airplane "Kaleva" flying from Tallinn to Helsinki carrying three diplomatic pouches from the U.S. legations in Tallinn, Riga and Helsinki.[46] On 16 June 1940, the Soviet Union invaded Estonia.[47] The Red Army exited from their military bases in Estonia on 17 June.[48] 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.[49]

1940 Soviet map of the Estonian SSR.

The military occupation of Estonia was complete by the 21 June 1940.[50]

Most of the Estonian Defence Forces and the Estonian Defence League surrendered according to the orders of the Estonian Government believing that resistance was useless and were disarmed by the Red Army.[51][52] Only the Estonian Single Signal Battalion stationed in Tallinn at Raua Street showed resistance to Red Army and Communist Militia called "People's Self-Defence"[53] on 21 June 1940.[54] As the Red Army brought in additional reinforcements supported by six armoured fighting vehicles, the battle lasted several hours until sundown. Finally the military resistance was ended with negotiations and the Single Signal Battalion surrendered and was disarmed.[55] 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.[56][57] The Soviet militia that participated in the battle was led by Nikolai Stepulov.[58]

In August 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.[59] The repressions followed with the mass deportations 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 started against the Soviet Union, about 34,000 young Estonian men were forcibly drafted into the Red Army. Fewer than 30% of them survived the war. Political prisoners who could not be evacuated were executed by the NKVD.[60]

Many countries, including the United States, did not recognize the annexation of Estonia by the USSR. Such countries recognized 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 independence.[61]

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 Russian version claims that Estonians voluntarily gave up their statehood. Freedom fighters of 1944–1976 are labeled "bandits" or "nazis". The Russian position is not recognized internationally.[62]

German occupation

After the invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, the Wehrmacht traversed about a thousand miles, reaching Estonia within days. The German Army crossed the Estonian southern border on 7 July. The Red Army retreated behind the Pärnu RiverEmajõgi line on 12 July. At the end of July the Germans resumed their advance in Estonia working in tandem with the Estonian Forest Brothers. 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.[63] 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 realized that they were but another occupying power. The Germans pillaged the country for the war effort and unleashed the Holocaust. For the duration of the occupation Estonia was incorporated into the German province of Ostland. This led many Estonians, unwilling to side with the Nazis, to join the Finnish Army to fight against the Soviet Union. The Finnish Infantry Regiment 200 (Estonian: soomepoisid) was formed out of Estonian volunteers in Finland. Although many Estonians were recruited in to 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.[64] 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, the last legitimate prime minister of the Republic of Estonia (according to the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia) 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 centers.[65] Several thousand Estonians who had joined the Finnish Army came back across the Gulf of Finland 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.[66]

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 Suur Emajõgi, and in the Moonsund Archipelago.

In the face of the country being re-occupied by the Red Army, tens of thousands of Estonians (including majority of the education, culture, science, political and social specialists) (estimates as much 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 of "all kulaks and their families, the families of bandits and nationalists", and others.[67] More than 200,000 people are estimated to have been deported from the Baltic in 1940–1953. In addition, at least 75,000 were sent to Gulag. More than 10% of the entire adult Baltic population was deported or sent to Soviet labor and deathcamps.[67] In response to the continuing insurgency against Soviet rule,[68] more than 20,000 Estonians were forcibly deported either to labor camps or Siberia (see Gulag).[69] 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, mass deportations were concluded in the Baltic countries and the policy of encouraging Soviet immigration to the Baltic states continued.[70] 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'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" (metsavennad) consisting mostly of Estonian veterans of both the German and Finnish armies as well as some civilians.[71] Material damage caused by the world war and the following Soviet era significantly slowed Estonia's economic growth, resulting in a wide wealth gap in comparison with neighboring Finland and Sweden.[72]

Militarization 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 and Hiiumaa) 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 which was entirely closed to all public access. The city had a support base for the Soviet Baltic Fleet's submarines and several large military bases, including a nuclear submarine training centre complete with a full-scale model of a nuclear submarine with working nuclear reactors. The Paldiski reactors building passed into Estonian control in 1994 after the last Soviet troops left the country.[73][74] Immigration was another effect of Soviet occupation. Hundreds of thousands of migrants were relocated to Estonia from other parts of Soviet Union to assist industrialization and militarization, contributing an increase of about half million people within 45 years.[75]

Period of independence

The United States, United Kingdom, France and the majority of other Western democracies considered illegal the annexation of Estonia by the USSR. They retained diplomatic relations with the representatives of the independent Republic of Estonia, never de jure recognized the existence of the Estonian SSR, and never recognized Estonia as a legal constituent part of the Soviet Union.[76] Estonia's return to independence became possible as the Soviet Union faced internal regime challenges, loosening its hold on 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", 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 was issued on November 16, 1988[77] and formal independence declared on 20 August 1991, reconstituting the pre-1940 state, during the Soviet military coup attempt in Moscow. The Soviet Union recognized the independence of Estonia on September 6, 1991. The first country to diplomatically recognize Estonia's reclaimed independence was Iceland. The last Russian troops left on 31 August 1994.

Accession of the European Union

German stamp celebrating the accession of Estonia and other countries in 2004

The 2004 enlargement of the European Union was the largest single expansion of the 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 was signed on 16 April 2003.

Physical 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 in the northeast and beyond the town of Pechory (Petseri) in the southeast. This territory, amounting to some 2,300 square kilometers, was incorporated into Russia by Stalin at the end of World War II.

Satellite image of Estonia

Estonia lies on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea 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 meters (164 ft) and the country's highest point is the Suur Munamägi in the southeast at 318 meters (1,043 ft). There is 3,794 kilometers (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 and Hiiumaa.[78][79] A small, recent cluster of meteorite craters, the largest of which is called Kaali is found near Saaremaa, Estonia.

Estonia is situated in the northern part of the temperate climate zone and in the transition zone between maritime and continental climate. Estonia has four seasons of near-equal length. Average temperatures range from 16.3 °C (61 °F) on the Baltic islands to 18.1 °C (65 °F) inland in July, the warmest month, and from {(convert|-3.5|°C|0|abbr=on}} on the Baltic islands to −7.6 °C (18 °F) inland in February, the coldest month. The average annual temperature in Estonia is 5.2 °C (41 °F) .[80] The average precipitation in 1961–1990 ranged from 535 to 727 millimeters per year.[81] 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, (Peipsi in Estonian) being 3,555 km² (1372 sq mi). There are many rivers in the country. The longest of them are Võhandu (162 km), Pärnu (144 km), and Põltsamaa (135 km).[78] Estonia has numerous fens and bogs.

Phytogeographically, Estonia is shared between the Central European and Eastern European provinces of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the WWF, the territory of Estonia belongs to the ecoregion of Sarmatic mixed forests.

Administrative divisions


The Republic of Estonia is divided into fifteen counties (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, written in the 13th century during the Northern Crusades.[82]

A maakond (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 Eesti Valitsus (government) 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 (from parts of Võru, Tartu and Viljandi counties) and Petseri County (area acquired from Russia with the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty).

During the Soviet rule, Petseri County was annexed and ceded to the Russian SFSR in 1945 where it became one the Pskovs districts. Counties were again re-established in 1 January 1990 in the borders of the Soviet-era regions. Due to the numerous differences between the current and historical (pre-1940) layouts, the historical borders are still used in ethnology, representing cultural and linguistic differences better.

Municipalities and cities

Hiiu County Lääne County Saare County Harju County Lääne-Viru County Ida-Viru County Rapla County Pärnu County Järva County Viljandi County Jõgeva County Tartu County Valga County Põlva County Võru County Counties of Estonia
About this image

Estonia is divided into 15 counties (maakond). Each county is further divided into municipalities (omavalitsus), which is also the smallest administrative subdivision of Estonia. There are two types of municipalities: an urban municipality – linn (town), and a rural municipalityvald (parish). There is no other status distinction between them. Each municipality is a unit of self-government with its representative and executive bodies. The municipalities in Estonia cover the entire territory of the country.

Municipality may contain one or more populated places. Some urban municipalities are divided into districts (linnaosa) with limited self-government, e.g. Tallinn consists of 8 districts (Haabersti, Kesklinn, Kristiine, Lasnamäe, Mustamäe, Nõmme, Pirita and Põhja-Tallinn).

Municipalities range in size from Tallinn with 400,000 inhabitants to Ruhnu 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. As of March 2008 there are a total of 227 municipalities in Estonia, 33 of them being urban and 194 rural.

Tallinn is the capital and the largest city of Estonia. It lies on the northern coast of Estonia, along the Gulf of Finland. There are currently 33 cities and several town-parish towns in the country. More than 70% of the population lives in towns. The 10 largest cities are listed below:

Rank City Location Population Rank City Location Population
Town Hall23 2008.JPG
Narva castle 2008.JPG
1 Tallinn Harjumaa 403,500 11 Võru Võrumaa 14,555
2 Tartu Tartumaa 101,169 12 Valga Valgamaa 13,930
3 Narva Ida-Virumaa 68,680 13 Haapsalu Läänemaa 11,774
4 Kohtla-Järve Ida-Virumaa 47,679 14 Jõhvi Ida-Virumaa 11,455
5 Pärnu Pärnumaa 45,500 15 Paide Järvamaa 9,751
6 Viljandi Vilandimaa 20,274 16 Keila Harjumaa 9,386
7 Rakvere Lääne-Virumaa 16,698 17 Kiviõli Ida-Virumaa 6,925
8 Sillamäe Ida-Virumaa 16,567 18 Tapa Lääne-Virumaa 6,559
9 Maardu Harjumaa 16,570 19 Põlva Põlvamaa 6,510
10 Kuressaare Saaremaa 14,919 20 Jõgeva Jõgevamaa 6,349
2008 estimates


Politics of Estonia takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic republic in which the Prime Minister of Estonia is the head of government and of a multi-party system.


The seat of the Parliament of Estonia in Toompea Castle

The Parliament of Estonia (Estonian: Riigikogu) or the legislative branch is elected by people for a four year term by proportional representation. Estonia is a parliamentary, representative democratic republic. The Estonian political system operates under a framework laid out in the 1992 constitutional document. 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.[83]

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, 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 and e-Government

Stenbock House, the seat of the Government of Estonia on Toompea Hill

The Government of Estonia (Estonian: Vabariigi Valitsus) or the executive branch is formed by the Prime Minister of Estonia, nominated by the president and approved by the parliament. The government exercises executive power pursuant to the Constitution of Estonia 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, 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 is used in elections in Estonia.[84] 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, 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 its 2007 Worldwide Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked Estonia 3rd out of 169 countries.

Law and courts

According to the Constitution of Estonia (Estonian: Põhiseadus) 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.[85] The supreme judicial power is vested in the Supreme Court or Riigikohus, with 19 justices.[86] The Chief Justice is appointed by the parliament for nine years on nomination by the president. The official Head of State is the President of Estonia, who gives assent to the laws passed by 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, 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.

Foreign relations

President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and President George W. Bush, in Estonia 2006.

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.[87] An important element in Estonia's post-independence reorientation has been closer ties with the Nordic countries, especially Finland and Sweden. Indeed, Estonians consider themselves a Nordic people rather than Balts,[88][89] based on their historical ties with Sweden, Denmark and particularly Finland. In December 1999 Estonian foreign minister (and since 2006, president of Estonia) Toomas Hendrik Ilves delivered a speech entitled "Estonia as a Nordic Country" to the Swedish Institute for International Affairs.[90] In 2003, the foreign ministry also hosted an exhibit called "Estonia: Nordic with a Twist".[91] And in 2005, Estonia joined the European Union's Nordic Battle Group. It has also shown continued interest in joining the Nordic Council. Whereas in 1992 Russia accounted for 92% of Estonia's international trade,[20] 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 of income tax, and its non-welfare-state model distinguish it from the other Nordic states, and indeed from many other European countries.[92]


Estonian Army soldiers in Afghanistan on a patrol mission (December 2007)

The military of Estonia is based upon the Estonian Defence Forces (Estonian: Kaitsevägi) which is the name of the unified armed forces of the republic with Maavägi (Army), Merevägi (Navy), Õhuvägi (Air Force) and a paramilitary national guard organization Kaitseliit (Defence League). The Estonian National Defence Policy aim is to guarantee the preservation of the independence and sovereignty of the state, the integrity of its land, territorial waters, airspace and its constitutional order.[93] 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 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 (Estonian: ajateenistus) 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 unlike Latvia and Lithuania and has no plan to transition to a contract armed forces. In 2008 annual military spending will reach 1.85% of GDP, or 5 billion kroons, and will continue to increase until 2010, when a 2.0% level is expected to be reached.[94] 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 force in Afghanistan; 80 soldiers stationed as a part of MNF in the Iraq; and 2 Estonian officers in Bosnia-Herzegovina and 2 Estonian military agents in Israel in Golan Heights.[95] 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.[96] Estonia participates in the Nordic Battlegroup and has announced readiness to send soldiers also to Sudan to Darfur if necessary, creating the very first African peacekeeping mission for the armed forces of Estonia.[97]


The Ministry of Defence and the Defence Forces have been working on a cyberwarfare and defence formation for some years now. In 2007 a military doctrine of an e-military of Estonia was officially introduced as the country was under massive cyberattacks.[98] The proposed aim of the e-military is to secure the vital infrastructure and e-infrastructure 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.[99]

On 25 June 2007, Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves met with the President of the United States, George W. Bush.[100] Among the topics discussed were the attacks on Estonian e-infrastructure.[101] 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, issuing a joint communiqué promising immediate action. First public results were estimated to arrive by autumn 2007.[102] 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.[103] In the aftermath of the 2007 cyberattacks on Estonia, plans to combine network defence with Estonian military doctrine, and related NATO created a cybernetic defence centre in Estonia, have been nicknamed as the Tiger's Defence, in reference to Tiigrihüpe.[104]. The NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) started its operations in November 2008[105].


Business quarter in Tartu
Triumph Plaza apartment and office building in the centre of Tallinn
Tallink hotel
Real GDP growth in Estonia 1996–2006.
Foorum apartment and office building in the centre of Tallinn

As a member of the European Union, Estonia's economy is rated as high income by the World Bank. Due to its rapid growth, the Estonian economy has often been described as the Baltic Tiger. By 1929, a stable currency, the kroon, was established. It is issued by the Bank of Estonia, the country's central bank. 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 agriculture country whose products such as butter, milk and cheese was widely known on the western European markets. The USSR's forcible annexation of Estonia in 1940 and the ensuing Nazi and Soviet destruction during World War II crippled the Estonian economy. Post-war Sovietization 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 area. In 1994, Estonia became one of the first countries in the world to adopt a flat tax, with a uniform rate of 26% regardless of personal income. In January 2005 the personal income tax rate was reduced to 24%. A subsequent reduction to 23% followed in January 2006. The income tax rate will be decreased by 1% annually to reach 18% by January 2010. The Government of Estonia finalized the design of Estonia's euro coins in late 2004, and is now intending to adopt the euro as the country's currency on 1 January 2011, later than planned due to continued high inflation.[106] 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 in November 1999. With assistance from the European Union, the World Bank and the Nordic Investment Bank, 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.

A balanced budget, almost non-existent public debt, flat-rate income tax, free trade regime, fully convertible currency backed by currency board and a strong peg to the euro, competitive commercial banking sector,innovative e-Services and even mobile-based services are all hallmarks of Estonia's free-market-based economy.

Until recent years the Estonian economy grew with admirable rates. Estonian GDP grew by 6.4% in the year 2000 and with double speeds after accession to the EU in 2004. The GDP grew by 7.9% in 2007 alone. Increases in labor costs, rise of taxation on tobacco, alcohol, electricity, fuel, and gas, and also external pressures (growing prices of oil and food on the global market) are expected to raise inflation just above the 10% mark in the first months of 2009. In the first quarter 2008 GDP grew only 0.1%. The government made a supplementary negative budget, which was passed by Riigikogu. The revenue of the budget was decreased for 2008 by EEK 6.1 billion and the expenditure by EEK 3.2 billion.[107] A sizable current account deficits remains, but started to shrink in the last months of 2008 and is expected to do so in the near future. In the second quarter of 2009, the average monthly gross wage in Estonia was 12,716 kroons (€812.7, US$1,196.4).[108]

Estonia is nearly energy independent supplying over 90% of its electricity needs with locally mined oil shale. Alternative energy sources such as wood, peat, and biomass make up approximately 9% of primary energy production. Estonia imports needed petroleum products from western Europe and Russia. Oil shale 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, near Tallinn, 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.

After a long period of very high growth of GDP, the GDP of Estonia decreased by a little over 3% on a yearly basis in the 3rd quarter of 2008. In the 4th quarter of 2008 the negative growth was already −9,4%.

The central bank uses a currency board system and has independent reserves, which are big enough to buy back all the currency in circulation.

Estonia today is mainly influenced by developments in Germany, Finland and Sweden – the three main trade partners. The government recently increased greatly its spending on innovation. The prime minister of Estonian Reform Party 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. However, 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.

According to Eurostat data, Estonian PPS GDP per capita stood at 67 per cent of the EU average in 2008.[109]


Although Estonia is in general resource-poor, the land still offers a large variety of smaller resources. The country has large oil shale and limestone deposits, along with forests which cover 47% of the land. In addition to oil shale and limestone, Estonia also has large reserves of phosphorite, pitchblende and granite which are not mined or mined extensively at the moment.[110] 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 if they are not reconstructed by the year 2016.[111], It has been estimated that once Estonia starts using nuclear energy then the local uranium mining could have potential in the terms of financial risks and investments.[citation needed]

Industry and environment

Wind farm in Pakri

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.[112] Another important industrial sector is the machinery and chemical industry which is mainly located in Ida-Viru County and around Tallinn. The oil shale based mining industry, which is also concentrated in East-Estonia, produces around 90% of the entire country's electricity. The extensive oil shale usage however has caused also 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 sulphur dioxide 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 industrial complex.[113]

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 area and the coastal areas of Hiiumaa.[114][115][116] 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.[117] The Estonian energy market liberalization is in progress and should be completed before 2009, as well as all of the non-household market, which totals around 77% of consumption, before 2013.[118]

Together with Lithuania, Poland, and Latvia, the country is considering to participate in the Visaginas nuclear power plant in Lithuania to replace the Ignalina.[119][120] 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.[121]

The country is considering to apply nuclear power for its oil shale production.[122]

Information technology

Estonia has a strong information technology sector, partly due to the Tiigrihüpe 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.[123]

Skype was written by Estonia-based developers Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu and Jaan Tallinn, who had also originally developed Kazaa.[124]

Trade and investment

Estonia Export 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 a modern market-based economy since the end of 1990s and one of the highest per capita income 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 as the largest city has emerged as a financial center and the Tallinn Stock Exchange joined recently with the OMX system. The current government has pursued relatively sound fiscal 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, which is 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.[125] Estonia also exports 1.562 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually.[125] At the same time Estonia imports machinery and equipment, chemical products, textiles, food products and transportation equipment.[125] Estonia imports 200 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually.[125]

Between 2007 and 2013 Estonia receives 53.3 billion krones (3.4 billion euros) from various European Union Structural Funds as direct supports by creating the largest foreign investments into Estonia ever.[126] 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.[127]


As Estonia has been an important transit center since the medieval period. The country's favorable geographical location, along with its developing infrastructure, offers good opportunities for all transport and logistics related activities. Rail transport 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.[128] The road transport sector dominates passenger transport; almost 90% of all passengers travel by road. The reconstruction of the Tallinn–Tartu highway has gained national attention as it connects two of the largest cities in the country. The highway reconstruction (2+2 route) is part of the current Government Coalition programme.[129] 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 kroons which have also gained a lot of media attention and caused public debates over the feasibility.[130] 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 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.


Demography of Estonia 1970–2009. Data of Statistics Estonia, year 2009

Prior to World War II ethnic Estonians constituted 88% of the population, with national minorities constituting the remaining 12%.[131] The largest minority groups in 1934 were Russians, Germans, Swedes, Latvians, Jews, Poles, Finns and Ingrians. The share of Baltic Germans had fallen from 5.3% (~46,700) in 1881 to 1.3% (16,346) in 1934.[131][132]

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 program promoting mass immigration of urban industrial workers from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, as well as by wartime emigration and Stalin'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. This was a result of the migration 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, where Estonians account for 98.4% of the population. In the counties of Harju (including the capital city, Tallinn) and Ida-Viru, however, ethnic Estonians make up 60% and 20% of the population, respectively. Russians 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.[citation needed] 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 (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 minority similarly received cultural autonomy in 2007.

Culture and arts

The culture of Estonia incorporates indigenous heritage, as represented by Estonian language from the Finno-Ugric languages and the sauna, with mainstream Nordic 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 recognized Christian traditions: a western Protestant 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 out of practical reasons (see: Everyman's right and universal suffrage), and the ideals of closeness to nature and self-sufficiency (see: summer cottage).[133]


The Estonian Academy of Arts (Estonian: Eesti Kunstiakadeemia, EKA) is the only public university in Estonia providing higher education in art, design, architecture, media, art history and conservation.


The literature of Estonia refers to literature written in the Estonian language (ca. 1 million speakers).[134] The domination of Estonia after the Northern Crusades, 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 contains Estonian place names, words and fragments of sentences. The Liber Census Daniae (1241) contains Estonian place and family names.[135]

The cultural stratum of Estonian was originally characterised 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. 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.

Oskar Luts was the most prominent prose writer of the early Estonian literature, who is still widely read today, especially his lyrical school novel Kevade (Spring).[136] Anton Hansen Tammsaare's social epic and psychological realist pentalogy Truth and Justice captured the evolution of Estonian society from a peasant community to an independent nation.[137][138] In modern times Jaan Kross and Jaan Kaplinski remain to be Estonia's best known and most translated writers.[139] Among the most popular writers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries are Tõnu Õnnepalu and Andrus Kivirähk, who uses elements of Estonian folklore and mythology, deforming them into absurd and grotesque.[140]


The cinema of Estonia started in 1908 with the production of a newsreel about Swedish King Gustav V's visit to Tallinn.[141] 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 face 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 recognized by various international press freedom bodies, like the US-based Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders 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 (BNS), founded in 1990, is a private regional news agency covering Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The ETV24 is an agency owned by Eesti Rahvusringhääling 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 under the terms of the Estonian National Broadcasting Act.[142][143]


A moment before the opening of the 25th Estonian Song Festival (2009) at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds
Arvo Pärt, Estonia's most renowned composer.

The earliest mentioning of Estonian singing dates back to Saxo Grammaticus Gesta Danorum (ca. 1179).[144] 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. 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 shepherds were once widespread, but are now becoming again more commonly played. Other instruments, including the fiddle, zither, concertina and accordion are used to play polka or other dance music. The kannel is a native instrument that is now again becoming more popular in Estonia. A Native Music Preserving Center was opened in 2008 in Viljandi.[145]

The tradition of Estonian Song Festivals (Laulupidu) started at the height of the Estonian national awakening in 1869. Today, it is one of the largest amateur choral events in the world, as the joint choir usually comprises of 18,000 people.[146] In 2004, a total of 34,000 participated in the Song Festival, held before an audience of 200,000.[147] Since 1928, the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds (Lauluväljak) host the event every five years in July.[146] The next festival will take place in 2014. In addition, Youth Song Festivals are held in every five years, last of them in 2007.

Professional Estonian musicians and composers such as Rudolf Tobias, Mart Saar and Artur Kapp emerged in the late 19th century. Nowadays the most known Estonian composers are Arvo Pärt, Eduard Tubin and Veljo Tormis.

Estonia won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2001 with the song "Everybody" performed by Tanel Padar and Dave Benton. In 2002, Estonia hosted the event. Maarja-Liis Ilus has competed for Estonia on two occasions (1996 and 1997), while Eda-Ines Etti, Koit Toome and Evelin Samuel owe their popularity partly to the Eurovision Song Contest.


The Estonian language belongs to the Finnic branch of the Uralic languages. Estonian is thus closely related to Finnish, spoken on the other side of the Gulf of Finland, and is one of the few languages of Europe that is not of an Indo-European origin. Despite some overlaps in the vocabulary due to borrowings, in terms of its origin, Estonian is not related to its nearest neighbours, Swedish, Latvian and Russian, which are all Indo-European languages. Russian is widely spoken as a secondary language by thirty- 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. First and second generation of industrial immigrants from various parts of the former Soviet Union (mainly Russia) do not speak Estonian.[148] The latter, mostly Russian-speaking ethnic minorities, reside predominantly in the capital city of Tallinn and the industrial urban areas in Ida-Virumaa. In the small Noarootsi Parish in Läänemaa (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.[149] Most common foreign languages learned by Estonians are English, German, Russian, Swedish and Finnish.


Today's Estonia is a multinational country where, according to the 2000 census, altogether 109 languages are spoken. 83.4% of Estonian citizens speak Estonian as their mother tongue, 15.3% – Russian and 1% speak other languages.[150] 83.6% of Estonian residents are Estonian citizens, 7.4% are citizens of other countries and 9% are "citizens with undetermined citizenship". The number of Estonian citizens who have become citizens through naturalization process (over 140,000 persons) exceeds the number of residents of undetermined citizenship (ac. 110,000 persons).[151]

There is only one Nationality Holiday in Estonia which is on the 24 February and marks the Independence Day of Estonia, which is also a day of rest. There are 12 State Holidays and 10 Over-National Days celebrated in the country.[152]


A. Le Coq beer

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.[153] 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 coastal line, fish has also been very important.[154]

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 which was established by the Swedish king Gustav II Adolf 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.[155] 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.[156]

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 program) the Bachelors and Master's levels are integrated into one unit.[157] 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.[158] Estonia has a moderate number of public and private universities. The largest public universities are Tartu University, Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn University, Estonian University of Life Sciences, Estonian Academy of Arts, and the largest private university is Estonian Business School.

The Estonian Academy of Sciences is Estonia's national academy of science. The first computer centers were established in late 1950s in Tartu and Tallinn. Estonian specialists contributed in the development of software engineering standards for different ministries of the Soviet Union during the 1980s.[159][160]


St. Olaf's church: 1549–1625
tallest building in the world.[161]

According to the constitution, there are freedom of religion, separation of church and state, and individual right to privacy of belief and religion.[162] Although Estonia has the highest level of irreligious individuals in the world, with over 76 percent of the population stating no specific religious affiliation,[163] the dominant religion in the country is Evangelical Lutheranism. The country was christianized by the Teutonic Knights in the 13th century. During the Reformation, Lutheranism spread, and the 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.[164]

The second most populous religious group is the Eastern Orthodox, especially among the Russian minority.[165] Historically there has been also another dominant minority religion, Russian Old-believers, near Lake Peipus area in Tartu County.

According to the census of 2000, there were about 152,000 Lutherans, 143,000 Orthodox Christians, 5,000 Roman Catholics, and 1,000 adherents of Taarausk or Maausk in Estonia (see Maavalla Koda). In addition there were around 68,000 people who stated themselves as atheists.[163]


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, although the National Olympic Committee was established in 1923. The first Winter Olympics were the 1924 Winter Olympics. Estonian athletes took part of the Olympic Games until the country was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940. The 1980 Summer Olympics Sailing regatta was held in the capital city Tallinn. After regaining independence in 1991, Estonia has participated in all Olympics. Estonia has won most of its medals in athletics, weightlifting, wrestling and cross-country skiing.

Kiiking, 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

Name Year Place Out of # Reference
Global Peace Index[166] – Institute for Economics and Peace 2009 &38th 144 [1]
CIA World FactbookGDP per capita (PPP) 2008 &44th 229 [2]
CIA World Factbooklife expectancy 2008 112th 223 [3]
World Economic Forum – Enabling Trade Index ranking 2008 &43rd 118 [4]
Yale University / Columbia UniversityEnvironmental Performance Index 2008 &19th 149 [5]
The Economist Intelligence Unite-readiness 2008 &37th &70 [6]
The Economist Intelligence UnitGlobal Peace Index 2008 &35th 140 [7]
United States Patent and Trademark Office's list of patents by country 2007 &92nd 172 [8]
Save the Children – Mother's Index Rank 2007 &17th &41 [9]
Save the Children – Women's Index Rank 2007 &19th &41 [10]
Save the Children – Children's Index Rank 2007 &14th &41 [11]
Wall Street Journal / The Heritage FoundationIndex of Economic Freedom 2007 &12th 157 [12]
United NationsHuman Development Index 2008 &42nd 179 [13]
World Economic Forum – Global Competitiveness Report 2007–2008 2007 &27th 131 [14]
World Economic Forum – The Global Gender Gap Report 2007 2007 &30th 128 [15]
World BankEase of Doing Business Index 2007 &22nd 178 [16]
Reporters Without BordersWorldwide Press Freedom Index 2008 &&4th 173 [17]
Transparency InternationalCorruption Perceptions Index 2008 &27th 180 [18]
The Economist Intelligence UnitIndex of Democracy 2007 &33rd 167 [19]
Privacy InternationalPrivacy index (EU and 11 other selected countries) 2006 &28th &36 [20]
New Economics FoundationHappy Planet Index 2006 119th 178 [21]
The Economist Intelligence UnitQuality-of-life index 2005 &68th 111 [22]
Save the Children – % seats in the national government held by women 2004 &&1st (47%) 141 [23]
World Health Organizationsuicide rates by country &31st 100 [24]
NationMaster's index of civil and political liberties &17th 140 [25]

See also

Further reading

  • Giuseppe D'Amato 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 [167]
  • Hiden, John; and Patrick Salmon (1991). The Baltic Nations and Europe: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in the Twentieth Century. London: Longman. ISBN 0-582-08246-3. 
  • Laar, Mart (1992). War in the Woods: Estonia's Struggle for Survival, 1944–1956. trans. Tiina Ets. Washington, D.C.: Compass Press. ISBN 0-929590-08-2. 
  • Lieven, Anatol (1993). The Baltic Revolution: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Path to Independence. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-05552-8. 
  • Raun, Toivo U. (1987). Estonia and the Estonians. Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University. ISBN 0-8179-8511-5. 
  • Smith, David J. (2001). Estonia: Independence and European Integration. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-26728-5. 
  • Smith, Graham (ed.) (1994). The Baltic States: The National Self-determination of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-12060-5. 
  • Taagepera, Rein (1993). Estonia: Return to Independence. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-1199-3. 
  • Taylor, Neil (2004). Estonia (4th ed.). Chalfont St. Peter: Bradt. ISBN 1-84162-095-5. 
  • Williams, Nicola; Debra Herrmann, and Cathryn Kemp (2003). Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania (3rd ed.). London: Lonely Planet. ISBN 1-74059-132-1. 
  • Subrenat, Jean-Jacques (Ed.) (2004). Estonia, identity and independence. Rodopi. ISBN 90-420-0890-3. 

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Population by ethnic nationality, 1 January, year". Statistics Estonia. Retrieved 2009-10-24. 
  2. ^ Statistics Estonia
  3. ^ (in Estonian and English) (PDF) 2000. Aasta rahva ja eluruumide loendus (Population and Housing Census). 2. Statistikaamet (Statistical Office of Estonia). 2001. ISBN 9985-74-202-8. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Estonia". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  5. ^ Human Development Index report, 2009
  6. ^ Territorial changes of the Baltic states#Actual territorial changes after World War II Soviet territorial changes against Estonia after World War II
  7. ^ Pechory under Russian control
  8. ^ Portal of the Republic of Estonia, (Estonian)
  9. ^ "SPELL IT "ESTHONIA" HERE.; Geographic Board Will Not Drop the "h," but British Board Does.". New York Times. April 17, 1926. Retrieved 2009-11-06. 
  10. ^ Baltic yearbook of international law
  11. ^ The Law of Nations: cases, documents and notes – Page 106
  12. ^ Estonian date of admission into the United Nations
  13. ^ Estonian date of admission into the NATO
  14. ^ Estonian date of admission into the European Union
  15. ^ U.S.–Baltic Relations: Celebrating 85 Years of Friendship at
  16. ^ Motion for a resolution on the Situation in Estonia by EU
  17. ^ European Court of Human Rights cases on Occupation of Baltic States
  18. ^ Index of Economic Freedom
  19. ^ BBC NEWS Europe Tiny Estonia leads internet revolution
  20. ^ a b The Estonian Economic Miracle
  21. ^ "IMF Sees Steeper Estonian GDP Fall, Urges Budget Cuts". Bloomberg. 2009-05-18. Retrieved 2009-06-09. 
  22. ^ Estonian economy contracts sharply in first quarter
  23. ^ Enn Kaljo – Üks väga väga vana rahvas ...
  24. ^ Viduramžių Lietuva – Šaltiniai 50-1009 m
  25. ^ Postimees arhiiv
  26. ^ Through Past Millennia: Archaeological Discoveries in Estonia
  27. ^ Raid on Sigtuna
  28. ^ Estonia and the Estonians (Studies of Nationalities) Toivo U. Raun p.11 ISBN 0817928529
  29. ^ Lembitu
  30. ^ Bilmanis, Alfreds (1944). Latvian–Russian Relations: Documents. The Latvian legation. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  31. ^ Herbermann, Charles George (1907). The Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  32. ^ Bilmanis, Alfreds (1945). The Church in Latvia. Drauga vēsts.,+subject+directly%22&dq=%221215+proclaimed+it+the+Terra+Mariana,+subject+directly%22&ei=RmUaSZmyHp-aMpzMifEJ&pgis=1. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  33. ^ Knut, Helle (2003). The Cambridge History of Scandinavia: Prehistory to 1520. Cambridge University Press. p. 269. ISBN 0521472997. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  34. ^ Skyum-Nielsen, Niels (1981). Danish Medieval History, Chapter 7. Estonia under danish. Museum Tusculanum Press. pp. 112–135. ISBN 8788073300. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  35. ^ Raudkivi, Priit (2007). Vana-Liivimaa maapäev. Argo. pp. 118–119. ISBN 9949415845. 
  36. ^ a b 1558–1710. Estonia under Swedish rule – Population
  37. ^ Protestant Reformation in the Baltic at University of Washington
  38. ^ Estonian Declaration of Independence 24 February 1918 at
  39. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica: Baltic states, World War II losses
  40. ^ The World Book Encyclopedia ISBN 0716601036
  41. ^ a b The History of the Baltic States by Kevin O'Connor ISBN 0313323550
  42. ^ Moscow's Week at Time Magazine on Monday, 9 October 1939
  43. ^ The Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by David J. Smith, Page 24, ISBN 0415285801
  44. ^ (Finnish) Pavel Petrov at Finnish Defence Forces home page
  45. ^ (Russian) documents published from the State Archive of the Russian Navy
  46. ^ The Last Flight from Tallinn at American Foreign Service Association
  47. ^ Five Years of Dates at Time magazine on Monday, Jun. 24, 1940
  48. ^ Estonia: Identity and Independence by Jean-Jacques Subrenat, David Cousins, Alexander Harding, Richard C. Waterhouse ISBN 9042008903
  49. ^ The Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by David J. Smith p.19 ISBN 0415285801
  50. ^ The Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by David J. Smith, Page 27, ISBN 0415285801
  51. ^ June 14 the Estonian government surrendered without offering any military resistance; The occupation authorities disarming the Estonian Army and removing the higher military comman from power Ertl, Alan (2008). Toward an Understanding of Europe. Universal-Publishers. p. 394. ISBN 1599429837. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  52. ^ the Estonian armed forces were disarmed by the Soviet occupation in June 1940 Miljan, Toivo (2004). Historical Dictionary of Estonia. Scarecrow Press. p. 111. ISBN 0810849046. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  53. ^ Baltic States: A Study of Their Origin and National Development, Their Seizure and Incorporation Into the U.S.S.R. W. S. Hein. p. 280. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  54. ^ "The President of the Republic acquainted himself with the Estonian Defence Forces". Press Service of the Office of the President. December 19, 2001. Retrieved 2 January 2009. 
  55. ^ (Estonian)51 years from the Raua Street Battle at Estonian Defence Forces Home Page
  56. ^ 784 AE. "Riigikogu avaldus kommunistliku režiimi kuritegudest Eestis" (in Estonian). Riigikogu. Retrieved 2 January 2009. 
  57. ^ Lohmus, Alo (10 November 2007). "Kaitseväelastest said kurja saatuse sunnil korpusepoisid" (in Estonian). Retrieved 2 January 2009. 
  58. ^ "Põlva maakonna 2005.a. lahtised meistrivõistlused mälumängus" (in Estonian). 22 February 2005. Retrieved 2 January 2009. 
  59. ^ Justice in The Baltic at Time magazine on Monday, Aug. 19, 1940
  60. ^ The Baltic Revolution: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Path to Independence by Anatol Lieven p424 ISBN 0300060785
  61. ^ Diplomats Without a Country: Baltic Diplomacy, International Law, and the Cold War by James T. McHugh , James S. Pacy ISBN 0313318786
  62. ^ Russia denies it illegally annexed the Baltic republics in 1940 – Pravda.Ru
  63. ^ Resistance! Occupied Europe and Its Defiance of Hitler by Dave Lande on Page 188, ISBN 0760307458
  64. ^ Estonia 1940–1945, Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity, p.613 ISBN 9949-13-040-9
  65. ^ Resistance! Occupied Europe and Its Defiance of Hitler (Paperback) by Dave Lande on Page 200 ISBN 0760307458
  66. ^ The Baltic States: The National Self-Determination of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania Graham Smith p.91 ISBN 0312161921
  67. ^ a b Stephane Courtois; Werth, Nicolas; Panne, Jean-Louis; Paczkowski, Andrzej; Bartosek, Karel; Margolin, Jean-Louis & Kramer, Mark (1999). The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-07608-7.
  68. ^ Heinrihs Strods, Matthew Kott, The file on operation "Priboi": A re-assessment of the mass deportations of 1949, Journal of Baltic Studies, Volume 33, Issue 1 Spring 2002 , pages 1–36
  69. ^ Valge raamat, page 18
  70. ^ Background Note: Latvia at US Department of State
  71. ^ Valge raamat, pages 25–30
  72. ^ Valge raamat, pages 125, 148
  73. ^ Tuumarelvade leviku tõkestamisega seotud probleemidest Eestis
  74. ^ Estonia had a nuclear submarine fleet – The Paldiski nuclear object
  75. ^ Valge raamat
  76. ^ European Parliament (13 January 1983). "Resolution on the situation in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania". Official Journal of the European Communities C 42/78.  "whereas the Soviet annexias [sic] of the three Baltic States still has not been formally recognized by most European States and the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and the Vatican still adhere to the concept of the Baltic States".
  77. ^ Frankowski, Stanisław; Paul B. Stephan (1995). Legal reform in post-communist Europe. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 84. ISBN 0792332180. 
  78. ^ a b World Info Zone
  79. ^ "World InfoZone – Estonia". World InfoZone. World InfoZonek, LTD.. 
  80. ^ EMHI
  81. ^ Sademed, õhuniiskus
  82. ^ History of Estonia History of Estonia
  83. ^ Riigikogu functions, Riigikogu
  84. ^ Estonia pulls off nationwide Net voting,
  85. ^ Riigikogu introduction, Riigikogu
  86. ^ "Riigikohus" (in Estonian). Riigikohus. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  87. ^ BBC NEWS| Europe| Estonia blames Russia for unrest
  88. ^ Estonian foreign ministry publication, 2004
  89. ^ Estonian foreign ministry publication, 2002
  90. ^ Ilves, Toomas Hendrik (14 December 1999). "Estonia as a Nordic Country". Estonian Foreign Ministry. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  91. ^ "Estonia – Nordic with a Twist". Archived from the original on 2008-02-08. 
  92. ^ Foreign investment
  93. ^ Estonian National Defence Policy
  94. ^ Estonian Defence Budget
  95. ^ Estonian military missions in Middle-East
  96. ^ Former operations
  97. ^ Eesti osalus Euroopa julgeoleku- ja kaitsepoliitikas – ESDP, Estonian Ministry of Defence (Estonian)
  98. ^ "Estonia fines man for 'cyber war'". BBC. 2008-01-25. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  99. ^ CERT Estonia
  100. ^ White House 4 May 2007: President Bush to Welcome President Toomas Ilves of Estonia
  101. ^ Yahoo/AFP 25 June 2007: Bush, Ilves eye tougher tack on cybercrime
  102. ^ Eesti Päevaleht 15 June 2007: NATO andis rohelise tule Eesti küberkaitse kavale by Ahto Lobjakas
  103. ^ Eesti Päevaleht 28 June 2007: USA toetab Eesti küberkaitsekeskust by Krister Paris
  104. ^ Office of the President of Estonia 25 June 2007: President Ilves kohtus Ameerika Ühendriikide riigipeaga
  105. ^
  106. ^ Angioni, Giovanni (March 31, 2009). "Estonia Gets Closer to the Euro". Estonian Free Press. Retrieved 2009-11-22. 
  107. ^ Ministry of Finance
  108. ^ "Average monthly gross wages (salaries) and hourly gross wages, quarter". Statistics Estonia. 28 August 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  109. ^ "GDP per capita in PPS". Eurostat. Retrieved 2009-06-25. 
  110. ^ Uranium production at Sillamäe
  111. ^ Future Report: Finnish and Estonian joint nuclear power station could be located in Estonia, Postimees (Estonian)
  112. ^ Invest in Estonia: Overview of the Construction industry in Estonia
  113. ^ Environment – current issues in Estonia. CIA Factbook
  114. ^ Estonian Wind Power Association
  115. ^ Peipsile võib kerkida mitusada tuulikut, Postimees (Estonian)
  116. ^ Tuule püüdmine on saanud Eesti kullapalavikuks, Estonian Daily (Estonian)
  117. ^ State Environment in Estonia.
  118. ^ Energy Security of Estonia in the context of the Energy Policy of the EU
  119. ^ "Visaginas recognised with nuclear site name". World Nuclear News. 2008-07-30. Retrieved 2008-07-31. 
  120. ^ "Nuclear Power Plant Project in Lithuania is Feasible. Press release". Lietuvos Energija. 2006-10-25. Retrieved 2007-07-13. 
  121. ^ Collier, Mike. "Estonia to become nuclear power?" The Baltic Times. 22 February 2008.
  122. ^ World Environment News – INTERVIEW – Tiny Estonia Could Go Nuclear, Sees Oil Shale Hope – Planet Ark
  123. ^ Hackers Take Down the Most Wired Country in Europe, August 2007
  124. ^ "Skype – A Baltic Success Story". Retrieved 2008-02-24. 
  125. ^ a b c d CIA World Factbook: Estonia
  126. ^ European Union Structural Funds in Estonia
  127. ^ Riigi Raha Raamat (Estonian)
  128. ^ Estonian rail transport reduced 24,5% in 2007
  129. ^ Programme of the Coalition for 2007–2011: Rural life, regional and infrastructure development policy
  130. ^ Saaremaa–mandri sild saab sõltumatu Eesti proovikiviks (Estonian)
  131. ^ a b Ethnic minorities in Estonia: past and present
  132. ^ Baltic Germans in Estonia. Estonian Institute
  133. ^ Culture of Estonia, Wikipedia
  134. ^ Estonian literature at Encyclopædia Britannica
  135. ^ The Development of Written Estonian By George Kurman ISBN 0700703802
  136. ^ Seeking the contours of a ‘truly’ Estonian literature
  137. ^ Literature and an independent Estonia
  138. ^ Anton Tammsaare (1878–1940) – originally Anton Hansen Pegasos, Helsinki
  139. ^ Jaan Kross at google.books
  140. ^ Andrus Kivirähk. The Old Barny (novel) Estonian Literature Centre
  141. ^ Cinema of Estonia
  142. ^ Johnstone, Sarah (2007). Europe on a Shoestring. p.325: Lonely Planet. ISBN 9781741045918. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  143. ^ Maier, Michaela (2006). Campaigning in Europe. LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Münster. p. 398. ISBN 9783825893224. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  144. ^ The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians; p.358 ISBN 0333231112
  145. ^ Estonian Native Music Preserving Center is opened (Estonian)
  146. ^ a b The historical overview of Estonian Song Celebrations Estonian Song and Dance Celebration Foundation
  147. ^ Welcome Estonian Song and Dance Celebration Foundation
  148. ^ Kirch, Aksel. "Russians in contemporary Estonia – different strategies of the integration in to the nation-state."
  149. ^ Information about the bilingual Estonian/Swedish parish of Noarootsi.
  150. ^ "Estonia Today: Population By Nationality". Ministry of Foreign Affairs. May 2006. Retrieved 2009-06-19. 
  151. ^ Eesti andis mullu kodakondsuse 2124 inimesele, Postimees
  152. ^ The Portal of Estonia: National symbols
  153. ^ Estonian Food Inforserver (Estonian)
  154. ^ Cuisine of Estonia, Wikipedia
  155. ^ Ministry of Education and Research
  156. ^ Estonian Education Infosystem, (Estonian)
  157. ^ "National summary sheets on education systems in Europe and ongoing reforms: Estonia". Eurydice. February 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  158. ^ Implementation of Bologna Declaration in Estonia
  159. ^ A. Kalja, J. Pruuden, B. Tamm, E. Tyugu, Two Families of Knowledge Based CAD Environments. In: Software for Manufacturing (North-Holland), 1989, pp 125–134
  160. ^ H. Jaakkola, A. Kalja, Estonian Information Technology Policy in Government, Industry and Research. In: Technology Management: Strategies and Applications. (Vol. 3, No. 3), 1997, pp 299–307
  161. ^ tallest building
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  167. ^ Travel Hansa EuropaRussia

External links

General information

Coordinates: 59°N 26°E / 59°N 26°E / 59; 26

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Europe : Baltic states : Estonia
Quick Facts
Capital Tallinn
Government Parliamentary republic
Currency Estonian kroon (EEK)
Area total: 45,226 sq km
Population 1,324,333 (July 2006 est.)
Language Estonian (official)
Religion Evangelical Lutheran, Estonian Traditional/Native Belief, Russian Orthodox, Estonian Orthodox
Electricity 230V/50Hz (European plug)
Calling Code +372
Internet TLD .eeˇ
Time Zone UTC+2

Estonia [1] is a Baltic state in Northern Europe. It has land borders with Latvia and Russia. With a coastline on the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland, Estonia also has sea borders with Finland and Sweden.

Medieval city wall in Tallinn
Medieval city wall in Tallinn

Estonia is a Baltic gem offering visitors the chance to see an ex-Soviet occupied country that is now proudly part of the European Union. Traces of the Soviet era are still there to be seen — e.g. Paldiski, a deserted Soviet army base that was once off-limits to Estonians themselves can easily be visited on a day trip from the capital, Tallinn. Tallinn's medieval old town built by Germans in Middle Ages and is in magnificent condition, with the medieval city walls and towers almost completely intact and it rates as one of Europe's best medieval old towns. Glorious beaches pepper the extensive coastline, although the swimming season is short. After all, the Baltics are not renowned for warm weather - something that any visitor to Estonia must be aware of — the summer is short and the winter is severe.


After 7 centuries of German, Danish, Swedish and Russian rule, Estonia attained independence in 1918. Re-incorporated into the USSR in 1940, it gained reindependence in 1991 through its Singing Revolution [2], a non-violent revolution that overthrew an initially violent occupation. Since the last Russian troops left in 1994, Estonia moved to promote economic and political ties with Western Europe. It is now one of the more-prosperous former Communist states, enjoying a high-tech environment, an open and liberal economy and a transparent government system. On the other hand, it is faced with a fairly low (but growing) GDP per capita (in a European Union context), as well as a very low birth rate which is creating a population decline.

Since accession to the EU, Estonia is becoming one of the most popular destinations in North-Eastern Europe with (EU highest) 30% growth in the number of visitors in 2004, according to Eurostat.

maritime, wet, moderate winters, cool summers
marshy, lowlands; flat in the north, hilly in the south
Elevation extremes 
lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m
highest point: Suur Munamägi 318 m (in the south east of Estonia, 20km north of the main highway that runs from Riga to Russia close to the borders of Estonia with both countries).
Geography - note 
the mainland terrain is flat, boggy, and partly wooded; offshore lie more than 1,500 islands and islets
World War II and the subsequent occupation were devastating on humans but the destruction and the closure of large areas for military use actually increased Estonia's forest coverage from about 25% before the war to more than 50% by 1991. Wolves, bears, lynx, elks, deers as well as some rare bird and plant species are abundant in Estonia. The wild animals from Estonia are exported to some EU countries for forest repopulation programmes. Most animals can be hunted - according to yearly quotas.
  • National holiday : Independence Day, 24 February (1918); note - 24 February 1918 was the date of independence from Soviet Russia, 20 August 1991 was the date of re-independence from the Soviet Union. Each 24 February a grand ball is held by the president for the prominent and important members of society and foreign dignitaries.
  • Jaanipäev : St John's Day or Midsummer Day held on the night of 23-24 June. The evening of the 23rd and well into the morning of the 24th is celebrated with bonfires and a traditional festive menu concentrating on barbeques and drinking.
  • Võidupüha (Victory Day) : 23 June is celebrated to commemorate the decisive victory over Baltic-German forces in the War of Independence.
  • Christmas : or Jõulud is also celebrated in Estonia, this is strictly a family event.
  • New Year's Eve : As a Soviet province, the authorities sought to promote New Year as Christmas was all but forbidden for it alleged "religious" and "nationalist" character. After the restoration of independence the significance of the New Year decreased, but it is still a day-off and celebrated. This day is used by the leaders of the country to address the nation.


Estonia itself is divided into 15 counties (or maakonnad, singular - maakond). However to bring out the unique characteristics of Estonia we use 4 distinctive regions in this guide. As the country is small most destinations can be reached within a couple of hours from Tallinn.

Regions of Estonia
Regions of Estonia
North Estonia (Harjumaa, Lääne-Virumaa, Raplamaa, Järvamaa)
It's the most industrialized region (over 1/3 of the population live here) in Estonia. Tallinn with its nightlife and UNESCO-protected medieval Old Town is a well known tourist attraction.

Nonetheless there are many small and beautiful beach villages on the coastline as well (such as Kaberneeme, Laulasmaa, Nõva, Käsmu and Võsu). Furthermore Lahemaa National Park can be reached within an hour from Tallinn.

East Estonia (Ida-Virumaa)
East Estonia is as close as you can get to Russia. Narva city with its many landmarks is the easternmost point of the European Union. Seaside resorts such as Toila and Narva-Jõesuu are considered to be among the best in Estonia.
West Estonia & Islands (Läänemaa, Pärnumaa, Saaremaa, Hiiumaa)
West Estonia is well known for its resorts Haapsalu and Pärnu (the summer capital of Estonia) and islands (Saaremaa and Hiiumaa being the biggest).

This region is historically also quite interesting. Noarootsi and the islands of Ruhnu and Vormsi have been and are inhabited by coastal swedes. Other unique places include Kihnu and Muhu islands with their rich cultural heritage and 2 national parks - Vilsandi National Park and Matsalu National Park.

South Estonia (Põlvamaa, Jõgevamaa, Tartumaa, Valgamaa, Viljandimaa, Võrumaa)
Tartu (university city with lively cultural life) can be considered to be the economic and cultural centre of South Estonia. Further south and south-east there are Setomaa [3] and Mulgimaa [4] with their unique cultural heritage that's still visible today. Karula National Park and Soomaa National Park are also part of the region.

South Estonia is also famous for the ski resorts near Otepää.

  • Tallinn, capital city with an enchanting medieval core
  • Haapsalu in Läänemaa, seaside resort town
  • Kuressaare in Saaremaa, home of the Kuressaare castle
  • Jõhvi in Ida-Virumaa
  • Narva in Ida-Virumaa, the easternmost point of the European Union
  • Tartu, Estonia's second-largest city and intellectual hub famous for its universities
  • Rakvere in Lääne-Virumaa, known for its castle ruins and unique character
  • Pärnu in Pärnumaa, historical resort seaside city with a small harbour, Estonia's summer capital
  • Valga in Valgamaa, border-town
  • Viljandi in Viljandimaa, home of the annual Viljandi Folk Music Festival

Other destinations

Estonians have a special love for nature, and many will tell you that they would rather sit under a tree in an empty forest or hike in a national park than almost anything else.

National Parks

Bogs are clean in Estonia and provide an unique swimming experience
Bogs are clean in Estonia and provide an unique swimming experience

Overseen by the country's Ministry of the Environment or "Keskkonnaministeerium", the five renowned national parks are:

Baltic Islands

Jägala falls to -20°C in winter
Jägala falls to -20°C in winter

Tranquil, laidback and unspoiled, Estonia's 1,500 Baltic islands provide a splendid getaway to nature. Located off the west coast of Estonia, the two largest islands are:

  • Saaremaa, including the town of Kuressaare and one of few well-preserved medieval castles in the Baltics
  • Hiiumaa, including the town of Kärdla

Travelers can visit the national parks and islands on their own or as part of an eco-tourism adventure tour, like those led by TrekBaltics [6].

Jägala Falls

The Jägala Falls (Jägala juga) is Estonia's largest waterfall. It is better to go early in the morning to catch the soft dawn light or in the evening when the sun shines on the falls. During cold winters, Jägala Falls freezes in a spectacular fashion and is well worth seeing. It is located near Tallinn, 15-30 min car drive.

Get in

Estonia is a member of the Schengen Agreement. For EU, EEA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway) or Swiss citizens, an officially approved ID card (or a passport) is sufficient for entry. In no case will they need a visa for a stay of any length. Others will generally need a passport for entry.

There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented the treaty - the European Union (except Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom), Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. But be careful: Not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union.

Airports in Europe are thus divided into "Schengen" and "non-Schengen" sections, which effectively act like "domestic" and "international" sections elsewhere. If you are flying from outside Europe into one Schengen country and continuing to another, you will clear Immigration and Customs at the first country and then continue to your destination with no further checks. Travel between a Schengen member and a non-Schengen country will result in the normal border checks. Note that regardless of whether you travelling within the Schengen area or not, some airlines will still insist on seeing your ID card or passport.

Keep in mind that the counter begins once you enter any country in the Schengen Area and is not reset by leaving a specific Schengen country for another Schengen country, or vice-versa.

As of January 2010 only the citizens of the following non-EU/EEA/Swiss countries do not need a visa for entry into the Schengen Area; note that they must not stay longer than three months in half a year and must not work while in the EU: Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Macedonia*, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro*, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Serbia*/**, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuela, additionally persons holding British National (Overseas), Hong Kong SAR or Macau SAR passports.

Note that

  • while British subjects with the right of abode in the United Kingdom and British Overseas Territories citizens connected to Gibraltar are considered "United Kingdom nationals for European Union purposes" and therefore eligible for unlimited access to the Schengen Area,
  • British Overseas Territories citizens without the right of abode in the United Kingdom and British subjects without the right of abode in the United Kingdom as well as British Overseas citizens and British protected persons in general do require visas.

However, all British Overseas Territories citizens except those solely connected to the Cyprus Sovereign Base Areas are eligible for British citizenship and thereafter unlimited access to the Schengen Area.

Further note that

(*) Macedonian, Montenegrin and Serbian citizens need a biometric passport to enjoy visa-free travel and

(**) Serbian citizens with passports issued by the Serbian Coordination Directorate (Serbs residing in Kosovo) still do need a visa.

A growing number of foreign visitors have been traveling to Estonia in recent years. According to Statistics Estonia [7] the nation's statistics agency, 1.3 million foreigners visited the country in 2000, and that number climbed 38 percent to 1.8 million foreigners by 2005.

By plane

Tallinn is Estonia's international gateway. In addition to direct daily flights to/from all major Scandinavian (Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo), and Baltic cities (Riga, Vilnius) there are direct flights from all major European hubs like London, Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam and regional hubs like Prague and Warsaw. Eastward connections are from Moscow and Kiev. Local carrier Estonian Air [8] provides half of the services and the rest is provided by Finnair, SAS, Lufthansa, LOT, CSA, Air Baltic and others. Easyjet is one of a few low-cost carriers that provide service between Tallinn and major European cities. Travelers can pay as little as EUR 120 (US$160) or £80 Sterling to fly roundtrip from London to Tallinn.

From London's Stansted Airport, Easyjet provides nonstop service to Tallinn. From Frankfurt, choose from Lufthansa and Estonian Air. From Brussels, select from KLM, Estonian Air, Finnair, SAS, Lufthansa and Czech Airlines. From Amsterdam, choose from KLM, Lufthansa, SAS, Czech Airlines, Finnair, LOT Polish, and Northwest. From Rome's Fiumicino Airport, select from Alitalia, Czech Airlines, Estonia Air, KLM and Finnair.

Close proximity and excellent ferry services with Helsinki allow for combination of open-jaw air travel.

Daily domestic flights are from Tallinn to the islands of Hiiumaa (Kärdla) and Saaremaa (Kuressaare).

  • Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport or Ülemiste Airport [9] (IATA: TLL) (ICAO: EETN), about 5 km from the city center, is increasingly becoming an airport hub of the Baltics. Estonian Air [10] provides good quality services to a series of European cities. Other major airlines include Finnair, SAS and EasyJet. Bus line 2 rans from the airport to downtown Tallinn, taxis are also available.
  • Tartu Airport or Ülenurme Airport [11] (IATA: TAY, ICAO: EETU) is located 10km from Tartu centre. International flights include Riga and Stockholm. The airport's bus stop is located in front of the terminal. Bus travels on the route Ülenurme - Tartu City Centre. The bus fare is 15EEK (about 1EUR) and tickets can be bought from the bus driver.
  • Kuressaare Airport [12] (IATA: URE, ICAO: EEKE) is situated 3 km from the town of Kuressaare on Saaremaa island and offers regular flights to Stockholm and domestic flights.

By train

International train services are to/from Russia, Moscow. Domestic services [13] connect Tallinn with Narva in the east and Viljandi in the south, Pärnu in the south-west, Tartu and Valga in the south-east.

The Narva-Ivangorod border bridge [Photo: Rolf Palmberg]
The Narva-Ivangorod border bridge [Photo: Rolf Palmberg]

Good road connections are to the south (Via Baltica routing Tallinn-Riga-Vilnius-Warsaw) and east (Tallinn-Saint Petersburg). Domestic road network is dense and covers all regions of the country.

By bus

Lots of good and cheap connections from Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Kiev, Kaliningrad, Warsaw, and all larger Baltic and German cities. The most popular service provider is Eurolines [14], others include Ecolines [15], BalticShuttle [16] and Hansabuss [17].

Eurolines can provide visa services to Russia, however it takes two weeks (one week rush).

By boat

Ferry lines connect Tallinn with Sweden (Stockholm), Finland (Helsinki, Mariehamn) and also with Germany (Rostock) during the summer months. Tallinn-Helsinki is one of the busiest searoutes in Europe and has daily 20 ferry crossings and nearly 30 different fast-boat and hydrofoil crossings (the latter do not operate during winter). For details see Port of Tallinn passenger schedules [18].

Minor international routes include recently re-established connection between Latvia port of Ventspils and the island of Saaremaa and Paldiski - Kapellskär (Sweden) with two different operators.

Get around

The road system is quite extensive although road quality varies. The speed limit in countryside is 90 km/h and 50 km/h in the cities unless specified otherwise. Passengers are expected to wear seat belts. Lights must always be switched on.

In the central areas of bigger cities a fee is levied on parking cars, but finding a provider of tickets is sometimes difficult as mobile parking is widespread.

By train

Estonia's train network does not cover the whole country. The quality of services has suffered considerably from privatisation and the main means of local transport is now bus. Tallinn has three frequently-going local train lines (Tallinn-Keila-Paldiski/Riisipere and Tallinn-Aegviidu) see: [19].

Domestic routes are operated by Edelaraudtee [20].

The Tartu-Tallinn train route is good, fast and offers wireless internet access.

By thumb

Hitchhiking in Estonia is generally good. The Baltic countries have a strong hitchhiking culture.

By bus

Estonia has a comprehensive bus network all over the country. All bigger cities like Tartu, Pärnu, Viljandi and Narva are accessible by bus. There is a journey planner at [21], in English, Finnish and Russian. But check also [22] (only between bigger cities and to outside Estonia).

By bicycle

The international bicycle project BaltiCCycle [23] may provide you with a lot of information and help.

By car

Estonia has lots of car rental companies and the level of English spoken by their representatives is generally very high. If you go to Level 0 of Tallinn international airport, there are several car rental agency counters.

Car rental in Estonia is very cheap compared to Western Europe. You can get a decent car shared between two people for approximately 150EEK/person/day e.g. a 2004 Fiat Punto.

An excellent day trip is to drive from Tallinn to Tartu. It takes about 2.5 hours each direction.

As of September 3, 2006 the drive from Tallinn to Tartu has been much improved. Outside of Tallinn it is a 2 lane paved road with some construction ongoing to upgrade it. It takes 2 to 2 1/2 hours. There are few sights of interest along the way. The terrain is flat and most of the road is bracketed by birch tree and a few pines. I can recommend Sam's grill about 1/2 way between Tallinn and Tartu as a place to stop. There is a gas station next door.

Driving in Estonia can be more dangerous than in much of the Europe and United States. Some drivers can be aggressive, recklessly overtaking vehicles and traveling at high speed, even in crowed urban areas. Estonian laws against driving under the influence of alcohol are strict and follow a policy of zero tolerance. Unfortunately, accidents involving intoxicated drivers are distressingly frequent. You should always remain alert to the possibility of drunk drivers and drunken pedestrians. Standards of driving can range from bad to down-right lethal. The best advice is to drive defensively: don’t assume your fellow drivers will do what you expect them to do, like stop for red lights or signal before they merge into your lane. If you can avoid it, it’s probably best not to drive on inter-city highways.


The official language is Estonian which is linguistically very closely related to Finnish. At the same time many in urban areas (especially younger people) speak English well. According to the Eurobarometer poll of 2005, 66% of Estonians can speak some Russian. This does not include native-language speakers. Thanks to heavy tourism and TV broadcasts from the other side of the gulf, Finnish is also spoken quite well by many people in Tallinn, the capital. German is taught at school in Estonia and a large number of people can speak some (22% according to Eurobarometer).

There is a large Slavic minority, particularly Russian and Ukrainians (some 25%).

Estonia's top tourist attractions

  1. Tallinn's Medieval Old Town, Tallinn
  2. The Rotermann Quarter, Tallinn, Shopping district
  3. Kadrioru Park, Tallinn, Park
  4. KUMU, Tallinn, Art museum
  5. Tartu Jaani (St. John's) Church, Tartu
  6. Pärnu Beach, Pärnu
  7. Narva Hermann Castle, Narva, Museum
  8. The Kaali meteorite craters, Saaremaa
  9. Setumaa [24], South-East Estonia
  10. Rakvere Ordu Castle, Rakvere, Museum

Medieval History & Manors

The main reason most people first come to Estonia is to see the best protected and intact medieval city in Europe - Tallinn. The unique value of Tallinn's Old Town lies first and foremost in the well-preserved (inatct) nature of its medieval milieu and structure, which has been lost in most of the capitals of northern Europe. Since 1997, the Old Town of Tallinn has been on UNESCO's World Heritage list.

Living under the rule of Scandinavian kings, Russian empire and Teutonic Knights has left Estonia with unique and rich blend of historic landmarks. Over one thousand manors were built across Estonia from the 13th century onwards. Some of the manors have perished or fallen into ruins but a lot have been reconstructed and now are favourite attractions with tourists. Nowadays there are about 200 manor houses [25] under state protection as architectural monuments and 100 in active use.

Islands & Coastline

Estonia has over 1500 islands. The nature is essentially untouched and offers quite a different beach experience with their remoter rustic feel. Most of the public beaches are sandy and the average water temperature is 18°C in summer. Inland waters and some shallow bays' water are even warmer.

The largest island is Saaremaa with an intact and well-restored medieval castle in its only city, Kuressaare. Stone fences, thatched roofs, working windmills and home made beer are all distinctive to Saaremaa. Hiiumaa on the other hand is well known for its lighthouses, unspoilt nature, Hill of crosses and the sense of humour of its inhabitants. Both islands have an airport so they can be quickly reached from Tallinn.

Other important islands include Kihnu, Ruhnu (with its "singing sand" beach), Muhu and Vormsi, each with its own unique characteristics. Most of the other tiny Estonian islands don't carry much cultural significance but can be appealing for bird watching, canoeing, sailing or fishing etc.

In July and August Pärnu, Estonia's summer capital, is the main attraction. The coastline itself has loads of untouched beaches and a tour from Narva-Jõesuu (in the East) towards Tallinn is great for exploring the coastline. Some of the well known places include Toila, Võsu, Käsmu and Kaberneeme.


Tickets for events can be bought online via [26] or the lately established [27].

There's quite a good list of various events in Estonia at [28].

  • Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF), [29]. November/December. The festival combines a feature film festival with the sub-festivals of animated films, student films and children/youth films.  edit
Estonian Song and Dance Celebration in 2009 Photo: Egon Tintse
Estonian Song and Dance Celebration in 2009 Photo: Egon Tintse
  • Tallinn Music Week, Tallinn, [30]. Spring. Showcase festival, aiming to stage the best and most outstanding Estonian talent on two nights in Tallinn's most vibrant live venues, as well as a networking event for the music industry professionals.  edit
  • Tallinn International Festival Jazzkaar, [31]. April. In addition to Tallinn jazz concerts also take place in Tartu and Pärnu.  edit
  • Tallinn Old Town Days, Tallinn, [32]. May/June.  edit
  • The Estonian Song Celebration (In Estonian: Laulupidu), [33]. First held in 1869, takes place every five years. In 2009, 35,000 choral singers gathered to perform for an audience of 90,000 people. It is recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.   edit
  • Õllesummer Festival, (Tallinn), [34]. July. Approx 70,000 people attend the festival each year over the course of 4 days.  edit
  • Viljandi Folk Music Festival, Viljandi, [35]. July. Annual folk music festival in a small but picturesque town of Viljandi. Each year the festival draws over 20,000 visitors.  edit
  • Saaremaa Opera Days, Saaremaa, [36]. July.  edit
  • Leigo Lake Music Festival, near Otepää, [37]. August. Open-air concerts are held in completely natural venues on the hilly landscapes of the Otepää highland. The musicians' stage is on an island in the lake, surrounded by thousands of listeners on the sloping shore.  edit
  • Birgitta Festival, Tallinn, [38]. August. Music and theatre festival, held at the ruins of the historical Pirita (St. Bridget's) convent.  edit
  • Simpel Session, Tallinn, [39]. Summer/Winter. International skateboarding and BMX event.  edit

Self Guided Tours

Self guided tours are a good way to discover Estonia by yourself. For more information please visit the self-guided tours and interactive maps sections on the official tourism website.


The local currency is the Estonian kroon, EEK. One kroon is divided into 100 sent. Since 1993, the kroon has been fixed first to the German mark, and now to the Euro at a rate of 15.6466 eek to 1€.

ATMs and currency exchange offices (valuutavahetus) are widely available. You will get the best rates by exchanging only after arrival in Estonia. Avoid changing money in the airport or port as the rates are lower.

Adoption of Euro in Estonia is annually being postponed due to the higher than allowed inflation rate. (As of 2007). The target is to adaopt the Euro in 2011.


It is no secret that in most post-soviet countries consumer prices are considerably lower than in Western Europe, in part due to lower taxes. This has been one of the main driving forces behind the inflow of the Nordic guests to Estonia through the 1990s, but prices are rising steadily and surely. In heavily touristed districts (say, Tallinn's Old Town) prices are already equivalent to Scandinavia.


Estonian food draws heavily from German and Scandinavian cuisine. The closest thing to a national dish is verivorst, black pudding, served with mulgikapsad, which is basically sauerkraut stew.

Many types of food are close to Russian and have their equivalents almost exclusively in former USSR, such as hapukoor, smetana in Russian, a sour 20%-fat milk dressing for salads, especially "kartulisalat" or "potato salad".

As Estonia used to be a food mass-production powerhouse in the times of USSR, some of its foods, unknown to Westerners, are still well-recognized in the lands of the CIS.

Among other everyday food, some game products are offered in food stores in Estonia, mostly wild boar, elk sausages and deer grill. Some restaurants also offer bear meat.

For those with a sweet tooth, the national chocolate manufacturer is "Kalev", with many specialist stores around the country as well as supermarkets retailing the product.

The more adventurous may want to try "kohuke", a flavoured milk-curd sweet covered with chocolate and available at every supermarket.


Like their neighbours the Finns and the Russians, the Estonians know their alcohol. Favorite tipples include the local beer Saku [40] or A. Le Coq [41], the local vodka Viru Valge (Vironian White) [42] and the surprisingly smooth and tasty rum-like herbal liquor Vana Tallinn (Old Tallinn) [43], famous in the countries of former USSR.

A local soft drink is "Kali" (the Estonian equivalent of "kvass"), made from fermented brown bread. It can be described as an acquired taste.

Many locals also swear by "keefir", a fermented milk concoction.


Number of hotels has exploded from few to tens and hundreds after Estonia restored independence. In 2004 Tallinn achieved first place among the Baltic Sea cities in the number of overnight stays in hotels, though still behind Stockholm and Helsinki in the number of total overnight stays. A list of bigger hotels as well as some restaurants and nightclubs could be found at Estonian Hotel and Restaurant Association [44].

As Soviet collective farms were disbanded many farmers switched to running "turismitalu" or tourism farms which are inexpensive and indispensable places for spending holidays in the nature, usually in former farm house. Site on Estonian Rural Tourism [45] provides information on the tourism farms in Estonia. Hostels are a another popular option for budget-sensitive travellers, see website of the Estonian Youth Hostel Association [46].

The official tourism site [47] has also got information and listings about B&B accommodation, youth hostels, camping and caravan sites etc.


Estonia has a fair amount of foreign students studying in its universities, especially from Nordic countries, as Estonian diplomas are recognized throughout the EU. See the articles for university town Tartu and capital Tallinn for details.


No obstacles exist to citizens of EU countries to come to invest and work in Estonia. Citizens of developed non-EU countries are exempt from short-term tourist visas. Swedes and Finns have by far the largest working community of post-Soviet foreigners in Estonia. Estonia may have had rocketlike growth in recent years, but only from a very low base as a former Soviet republic, and average local monthly salary (4th quarter 2007) is around 800 EUR.

Education is highly valued in Estonia because as a small nation with no exceptional natural resources, they believe that the only way to be competitive is to absorb knowledge. There are so many highly educated people in Estonia that it is a problem in the labour market - there aren't enough workers for jobs that requiring minimal education.

Considerable investments and some workers are constantly coming from CIS countries, though significant legal restrictions are imposed.

Citizenship and Migration Board [48] is the authority responsible for dealing with the paperwork.

CV Online [49] is one of the oldest Estonian recruitement and HR services operating in 9 countries (as of 2005).

Risks in Estonia

Crime/violence: Low - Moderate
Petty crime in Tallinn and at Russian border
Authorities/corruption: Low
Transportation: Low
Health: Low
High rate of HIV/AIDS
Nature: Low

The published crime rate increased dramatically in 1991-1994 after democratic freedoms were introduced. In large part this is due to the fact that crime was a taboo subject before 1991, as Soviet propaganda needed to show how safe and otherwise good place it was. However it is still a significant problem in Estonia. The murder rate per 100,000 inhabitants, as of 2000, was some 4-5 times higher than in Sweden and Finland, although still significantly lower than in its biggest neighbour, Russia.

Today, the official sources claim achieving considerable reduction in crime statistics in the recent years. According to Overseas Security Advisory Council crime rate in 2007 was quite comparable to the other European states including Scandinavia. Criminal activities are distributed unevenly across the territory with almost no crime in the island areas and a considerable rate of drug dealing in predominantly Russian-speaking industrial area of North-East. In Tallinn petty crime is a problem and there are some incidents involving tourists, mainly pickpocketing (especially in the markets). Tallinn Old City and other main tourist attractions are closely watched by local police and private security companies.

The main advice to anyone worried about personal security is to stay reasonably sober despite tempting alcohol prices. When driving, make sure you have had absolutely no alcohol beforehand.

For police dial 110, for other emergencies like fires and so, call 112.

It has been mentioned that ordinary Estonians are unlikely to approach a complete stranger or a tourist on their own. If somebody suddenly turns to you in the street (with questions or matters of small business) keeping a cautious eye on your belongings would be wise.

Open homosexuality may be met with stares although violence is very rare.

Stay healthy

For an Estonian it is considered "mauvais ton" not to criticize Estonian healthcare system. Recent EU study showed however that Estonia occupies a healthy 4th place in the block by the basic public health service indicators, on the same level as Sweden. In fact, around 1998-2000 the Estonian healthcare system was remodeled from the obsolete USSR model, directed to coping with disastrous consequences of large-scale war to more up-to-date by the experts from Sweden. Estonia has harmonized its rules on travelers' health insurance with EU requirements. For fast aid or rescue dial 112.

Estonia has Europe's second highest rate of adult HIV/AIDS infections, currently over 1.3% or 1 in 77 adults. Generally the rate is much higher in Russian-speaking regions like Narva or Sillamäe. Don't make the situation worse by not protecting yourself and others.


The most common way of greeting is to shake hands. If there is a "long time - no see" situation, then a hug may be suitable.

Do not raise your voice in a conversation. A decent silent conversation is the Estonian way of doing business and is much appreciated.

Estonians are rational people and their interest tends to those who speak on subjects worthy of discussion, thus in conversations, less will be more.

Estonians are a hard working nation, sometimes referred as the Japanese of Europe. As is often true, spending more time with one may prove otherwise.

Be aware that camping on private lands is not allowed unless you ask for the permission (which you will most likely get). Forest lands and riparians on the other hand are open for everyone and anytime.

Estonians are tremendously proud of their nation and their country because as a small nation they have managed to gain independence and survived all the rough times that centuries of history filled with wars has served them.

Be careful when mentioning Estonia in the context of the former USSR. Any praising of Soviet practices is very unlikely to be understood or appreciated by the Estonians. The worst you can do is to call Estonians Russians or their language Russian!

  • Access to wireless, free internet [50] is approaching 100% in Tallinn - even in the parks
  • On the open road you will often find petrol stations which offer wireless internet access too
  • If you do not have a laptop, public libraries offer free computers
  • The number of internet cafes is dropping but you will find several open almost all night in Tallinn and Tartu (expect to pay around 2-3 EUR per hour)
  • Many hotels also have a computer with internet access available
  • The departure lounge at Tallinn airport has several free internet access points for passengers
  • For local calls, dial the 7 or 8 digit number given. There is no "0" dialed before local numbers
  • For international calls from Estonia, dial "00" then the country code and number
  • For international calls to Estonia, dial "00" from most countries or consult your operator, the country code "372" and the 7 or 8 digit number
  • For emergencies, dial "112". For police only, dial "110"
  • "Everyone" has a mobile phone in Estonia
  • To ring Estonia from abroad, dial +372 before the number
  • Mobile access is available everywhere, even on the smaller islands and at sea
  • Prepaid (pay-as-you-go) SIM cards can be bought from R-kiosks (ask for a "kõnekaart" - calling card in English). Popular brands are Simpel, Smart, Diil and Zen. Start-up packages are in a range of 50-150 EEK (3-10 EUR).
  • Within Estonia, the postage cost for a letter up to 20 grams is 5.50 EEK (Estonian Kroon)(about €0,36)
  • To other Baltic and Nordic countries by air mail, the cost is 6 EEK, and to the rest of the world by air mail, the cost is 8 EEK.
  • Be sure to mark all air mail pieces with "Prioritaire/Par Avion" stickers available at the post office, or clearly print it on the mail if needed
  • Stamps are sold at post offices usually open during normal shopping hours, and also at newsstands
  • Post offices open on Saturday but for shorter hours than during the week and are closed on Sundays
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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Wikipedia has an article on:


See also estonia



Location of Estonia


Proper noun




  1. A country in NE Europe. Official name: Republic of Estonia.

Related terms


See also



Aragonese Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia an

Proper noun


  1. Estonia


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Wikipedia ast

Proper noun


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Basque Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia eu

Proper noun


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Proper noun


  1. Estonia


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Proper noun

Estonia f.

  1. Estonia


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Proper noun


  1. Estonia


Ilocano Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia ilo

Proper noun


  1. Estonia


Indonesian Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia id

Proper noun


  1. Estonia


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Wikipedia ia

Proper noun


  1. Estonia


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Wikipedia it

Proper noun

Estonia f.

  1. Estonia

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Latin Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia la

Proper noun


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Novial Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia nov

Proper noun


  1. Estonia


Polish Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia pl


Proper noun

Estonia f.

  1. Estonia


Singular Plural
Nominative Estonia Estonie
Genitive Estonii Estonii
Dative Estonii Estoniom
Accusative Estonię Estonie
Instrumental Estonią Estoniami
Locative Estonii Estoniach
Vocative Estonio Estonie

Derived terms


Romanian Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia ro

Proper noun

Estonia f.

  1. Estonia


gender f. uncountable
Nom/Acc Estonia
Gen/Dat Estoniei


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Wikipedia sco

Proper noun




  1. Estonia


Spanish Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia es

Proper noun

Estonia f.

  1. Estonia

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Vietnamese Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia vi

Proper noun


  1. Estonia


Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Familypedia

Estonia is a republic of about 1.3 million people south-east of the Baltic Sea.

Facts about EstoniaRDF feed

This article uses material from the "Estonia" article on the Genealogy wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

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