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Estonia ( ), officially the Republic of Estonia ( ), is a country in Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finlandmarker, to the west by the Baltic Seamarker, to the south by Latviamarker (343 km), and to the east by the Russian Federationmarker (338.6 km). The territory of Estonia covers and is influenced by a temperate seasonal climate.

The Estonians are a Finnic people, with the Estonian language exhibiting many similarities to Finnish. The modern name of Estonia is thought to originate from the Roman historian Tacitus, who in his book Germania (ca. 98 CE) 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.

Estonia is a democratic parliamentary republic and is divided into fifteen counties. The capital and largest city is Tallinnmarker. With a population of only 1.33 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, has been a member of the United Nations since 17 September 1991, of the European Union since 1 May 2004 and of NATOmarker since 29 March 2004. 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 Danishmarker, Teutonic, Swedish and Russianmarker 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 Marianamarker, that became part of the Ordensstaatmarker, 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 1721, when it was ceded to the Russian Empiremarker. 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 Unionmarker 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, its adaptation of new technologies and was one of the world's fastest growing economies for several years. However, Estonia's economy was second worst hit of all 27 European Union members in the 2008–2009 economic crisis, contracting sharply in the first quarter of 2009.


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 Pärnumarker, near the town of Sindimarker, 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 Kundamarker 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 Lithuaniamarker and in southern Finlandmarker. 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.

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 Swedishmarker town of Sigtunamarker during the early middle ages, in 1187 may have been Estonians.

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.

Estonia retained a pagan religion centered around a deity called Tharapita. The Chronicle of Henry of Livonia mentions Tharapita as the superior god of Oeseliansmarker (inhabitants of Saaremaamarker 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.

In the aftermath of Livonian Crusade from 1228 to the 1560s Estonia became part of Terra Marianamarker, established on February 2, 1207 as a principality of the Holy Roman Empire and proclaimed by pope Innocent III in 1215 as a subject to the Holy See. 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 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 Ordenstaatmarker. In 1343, the people of northern Estonia and Saaremaamarker 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 Grunwaldmarker in 1410, and the defeat of the Livonian Order in the Battle of Swientamarker on September 1, 1435, the Livonian Confederation agreement was signed on December 4, 1435.The Grand Duchy of Moscow and Tsardom of Russiamarker 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.


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. 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 Estoniamarker in the north and Livonia in southern Estonia and northern Latviamarker, a division which persisted until the early twentieth century.

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 universitymarker were established in the city of Dorpatmarker (known as Tartumarker 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.

Estonia in the Russian Empire

Following the Great Northern War, the Swedish empire lost Estonia to Russiamarker 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.
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 empiremarker in the 1890s, Estonian nationalism took on more political tones, with intellectuals first calling for greater autonomy, and later, complete independence from the Russian empiremarker. Following the Bolshevik takeover of power in Russiamarker after the October Revolution of 1917 and Germanmarker victories against the Russian army, between the Russian Red Army's retreat and the arrival of advancing Germanmarker troops, the Committee of Elders of the Maapäev issued the Estonian Declaration of Independence in Pärnumarker on 23 February and in Tallinnmarker on 24 February 1918.

After winning the Estonian Liberation War against Soviet Russia and at the same time Germanmarker 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 losses in 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.World War II began with the invasion and subsequent partition of an important regional ally of Estonia – Polandmarker, by a joint operation of Nazi Germany and Soviet Unionmarker.

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.

On 24 September 1939, warships of the Red Navy appeared off Estonian ports and Soviet bombers began a patrol over Tallinnmarker and the nearby countryside. The Estonian government was forced to give their assent to an agreement which allowed the USSRmarker to establish military bases and station 25,000 troops on Estonian soil for "mutual defence". On 12 June 1940, the order for a total military blockade on Estonia was given to the Soviet Baltic Fleet. On 14 June 1940, while world's attention was focused on the fall of Parismarker 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 Tallinnmarker, Rigamarker and Helsinkimarker. On 16 June 1940, the Soviet Union invaded Estonia. The Red Army exited from their military bases in Estonia on 17 June. The following day, some 90,000 additional troops entered the country.In the face of overwhelming Soviet force, the Estonian government capitulated on 17 June 1940 to avoid bloodshed.
The military occupation of Estonia was complete by the 21 June 1940.

Most of the Estonian Defence Forces 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. 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" on 21 June 1940. 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. There were 2 dead Estonian servicemen, Aleksei Männikus and Johannes Mandre, and several wounded on the Estonian side and about 10 killed and more wounded on the Soviet side. The Soviet militia that participated in the battle was led by Nikolai Stepulov

In August 1940, Estonia was illegally annexed by the Soviet Union as the Estonian SSRmarker. The provisions in the Estonian constitution requiring a popular referendum to decide on joining a supra-national body were ignored. Instead the vote to join the Soviet Union was taken by those elected in the sham elections held in the previous month. Additionally those who had failed to do their "political duty" of voting Estonia into the USSR, specifically those who had failed to have their passports stamped for voting, were condemned to death by Soviet tribunals. The repressions followed with the mass deportations 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.

Many countries, including the United Statesmarker, did not recognize the annexation of Estonia by the USSRmarker. 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.

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 Sovietmarker and current Russianmarker 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.

German occupation

After the invasion of the Soviet Unionmarker 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 RivermarkerEmajõgimarker 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. 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.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. Several thousand Estonians who had joined the Finnish Army came back across the Gulf of Finlandmarker to join the newly formed Territorial Defense Force, assigned to defend Estonia against the Soviet advance. It was hoped that by engaging in such a war Estonia would be able to attract Western support for the cause of Estonia's independence from the USSR and thus ultimately succeed in achieving independence.

Soviet Estonia

The Sovietmarker forces reconquered Estonia in the autumn of 1944 after fierce battles in the northeast of the country on the Narva rivermarker, on the Tannenberg Linemarker (Sinimäed), in Southeast Estoniamarker, on the Suur Emajõgimarker, 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. 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. In response to the continuing insurgency against Soviet rule, more than 20,000 Estonians were forcibly deported either to labor camps or Siberiamarker (see Gulag). 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 Unionmarker, mass deportations were concluded in the Baltic countries and the policy of encouraging Soviet immigration to the Baltic states continued. In addition to the human and material losses suffered due to war, thousands of civilians were killed and tens of thousands of people deported from Estonia by the Sovietmarker 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. 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.

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 Saaremaamarker and Hiiumaamarker) 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 Paldiskimarker 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. Immigration was another effect of Soviet occupation. Hundreds of thousands of migrants were relocated to Estonia from other parts of Soviet Unionmarker to assist industrialization and militarization, contributing an increase of about half million people within 45 years.

Period of independence

The United Statesmarker, United Kingdommarker, Francemarker 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. 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 Lithuaniamarker, Latviamarker 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, 1989 and formal independence declared on 20 August 1991, reconstituting the pre-1940 state, during the Soviet military coup attempt in Moscow. The first country to diplomatically recognize Estonia's reclaimed independence was Icelandmarker. 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
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.


State border

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 Seamarker 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 and the country's highest point is the Suur Munamägimarker in the southeast at . There is 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: Saaremaamarker and Hiiumaamarker.

Largest islands of Estonia
# Name Area (km2) Location
1. Saaremaamarker 2671 West Estonian archipelago
2. Hiiumaamarker 989 West Estonian archipelago
3. Muhumarker 198 West Estonian archipelago
4. Vormsimarker 93 West Estonian archipelago
5. Kassarimarker 19.3 West Estonian archipelago1)
6. Naissaarmarker 18.6 Gulf of Finlandmarker
7. Kihnumarker 16.4 Gulf of Rigamarker
8. Väike-Pakrimarker 12.9 Gulf of Finland
9. Suur-Pakrimarker 11.6 Gulf of Finland
10. Ruhnumarker 11.4 Gulf of Riga
1) Kassari is sometimes considered part of Hiiumaa.

A small, recent cluster of meteorite craters, the largest of which is called Kaalimarker is found near Saaremaamarker, Estonia. It is thought that the impact was witnessed by the Iron Age inhabitants of the area.


Estonia lies 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 on the Baltic islands to 17.1 °C inland in July, the warmest month, and from −3.5 °C on the Baltic islands to −7.6 °C inland in February, the coldest month. The average annual temperature in Estonia is 5.2°C . The average precipitation in 1961–1990 ranged from 535 to 727 millimeters per year.. Snow cover, which is deepest in the south-eastern part of Estonia, usually lasts from mid-December to late March.


Estonia has over 1,400 lakes. Most are very small, with the largest, Lake Peipusmarker, (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). 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.

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 Countymarker (area acquired from Russia with the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty).

During the Soviet rulemarker, Petseri Countymarker was annexed and ceded to the Russian SFSR in 1945 where it became one the Pskovsmarker 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

File:Eesti_maakonnad_2006.svg|350px|right|Counties of Estoniapoly 149 174 230 291 137 327 40 263 Hiiu Countypoly 197 110 338 228 338 319 263 375 203 242 Lääne Countypoly 225 294 271 387 233 585 38 511 21 363 Saare Countypoly 534 33 567 172 515 174 492 245 421 185 342 240 246 141 Harju Countypoly 531 35 567 168 514 176 572 197 569 221 594 244 597 263 666 247 693 192 670 170 666 85 Lääne-Viru Countypoly 669 77 667 170 693 192 665 246 704 273 805 244 874 107 Ida-Viru Countypoly 340 240 422 185 490 246 475 314 443 318 433 308 374 323 338 322 Rapla Countypoly 270 375 337 318 373 327 433 307 486 314 477 352 453 361 449 408 484 421 446 495 345 546 Pärnu Countypoly 476 309 515 173 573 197 569 223 594 243 596 275 546 317 505 340 484 335 491 313 Järva Countypoly 454 365 479 348 482 334 505 338 545 319 597 366 602 379 591 454 560 462 527 507 458 486 487 418 445 401 Viljandi Countypoly 597 367 546 316 597 265 665 246 707 274 735 310 684 344 Jõgeva Countypoly 600 365 676 347 748 300 809 443 731 412 662 452 637 439 591 461 Tartu Countypoly 525 512 556 461 637 442 662 453 658 495 632 501 652 588 622 598 Valga Countypoly 656 492 660 452 732 412 806 445 840 514 756 522 753 501 Põlva Countypoly 634 502 659 493 756 502 756 521 816 524 765 612 654 619 Võru CountyAn omavalitsus (municipality) is the smallest administrative subdivision of Estonia. Each county is further divided into municipalities which are of two types: urban municipality, or linn (town), and rural municipality, or vald (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 several populated places. Some urban municipalities are divided into linnaosad (districts) with limited self-government, e.g. Tallinn consists of 8 districts (Haaberstimarker, Kesklinnmarker, Kristiinemarker, Lasnamäemarker, Mustamäemarker, Nõmmemarker, Piritamarker and Põhja-Tallinnmarker).

Municipalities are ranging in size from Tallinn with 400,000 inhabitants to Ruhnumarker 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.Since March 2008 there are total of 227 municipalities in Estonia, 33 of them are urban and 194 are rural.

Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It lies on the northern coast of Estonia, along the Gulf of Finlandmarker. The city is an important industrial, political and cultural center, and seaport. There are currently 33 cities and several town-parish towns in the county. More than 70% of the entire population lives in the towns. The 20 largest cities are shown in the table below:


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


The Parliament of Estonia ( ) 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.

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

The Government of Estonia ( ) 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. 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 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 ( ) the supreme power of the state is vested in the people. The people exercise their supreme power of the state on the elections of the Riigikogu through citizens who have the right to vote. The supreme judicial power is vested in the Supreme Court or Riigikohus, with 19 justices. The Chief Justice is appointed by the parliament for nine years on nomination by the president. The official Head of State 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

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 NATOmarker 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 Russiamarker, most recently demonstrated by the controversy surrounding the relocation of the Bronze Soldiermarker WWII memorial in Tallinn.An important element in Estonia's post-independence reorientation has been closer ties with the Nordic countries, especially Finlandmarker and Swedenmarker. Indeed, Estonians consider themselves a Nordic people rather than Balts, 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. In 2003, the foreign ministry also hosted an exhibit called "Estonia: Nordic with a Twist". 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, 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.

Human rights

Estonia is ranked above-average in democracy, press freedom, privacy. and human development. Individuals are guaranteed basic rights under the constitution, legislative acts, and treaties relating to human rights ratified by the Estonian government.

Human rights organisations have indicated areas requiring improvement. With reference mainly to Estonia's significant Russophone minority, those not fluent in Estonian allegedly face discrimination in employment and education. Also there are problems with police use of force, conditions in detention and lengthy pretrial detentions.


The military of Estonia is based upon the Estonian Defence Forces ( ) which is the name of the unified armed forces of the republic with Maavägi (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. 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 NATOmarker and European Union member states and also their capability to participate in NATO missionsmarker.

The current national military service ( ) 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 Latviamarker and Lithuaniamarker 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 krones, and will continue to increase until 2010, when a 2.0% level is expected to be reached. As of January 2008, the Estonian military had almost 300 troops stationed in foreign countries as part of various international peacekeeping forces, including 35 Defence League troops stationed in Kosovomarker; 120 Ground Forces soldiers in the NATOmarker-led ISAF force in Afghanistanmarker; 80 soldiers stationed as a part of MNF in the Iraqmarker; and 2 Estonian officers in Bosnia-Herzegovinamarker and 2 Estonian military agents in Israelmarker in Golan Heightsmarker. The Estonian Defence Forces have also previously had military missions in Croatiamarker from March till October 1995, in Lebanonmarker from December 1996 till June 1997 and in Macedoniamarker from May till December 2003. Estonia participates in the Nordic Battlegroup and has announced readiness to send soldiers also to Sudanmarker to Darfurmarker if necessary, creating the very first African peacekeeping mission for the armed forces of Estonia.


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. 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.

On 25 June 2007, Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves met with the President of the United Statesmarker, George W. Bush. Among the topics discussed were the attacks on Estonian e-infrastructure. The attacks triggered a number of military organisations around the world to reconsider the importance of network security to modern military doctrine. On 14 June 2007, defence ministers of NATOmarker members held a meeting in Brusselsmarker, issuing a joint communiqué promising immediate action. First public results are estimated to arrive by autumn 2007. As to the placement of a newly planned NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE), Bush announced his support of Estonia as this centre's location. In the aftermath of the 2007 cyberattacks on Estonia, plans to combine network defence with Estonian military doctrine, and related NATOmarker plans to create a cybernetic defence centre in Estonia, have been nicknamed as the Tiger's Defence, in reference to Tiigrihüpe.


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. The Estonian economy Estonian economic miracle 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 USSRmarker. 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'smarker forcible annexation of Estoniamarker in 1940 and the ensuing Nazi and Sovietmarker 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'smarker 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. 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.Estonia joined the World Trade Organization in 1999. 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).

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 Tallinnmarker, 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. Irelandmarker 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.


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. 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 Plantsmarker if they are not reconstructed by the year 2016., 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.

Industry and environment

Food, construction, and electronic industries are currently among the most important branches of Estonia's industry. In 2007, the construction industry employed more than 80,000 people which make around 12% of the entire country's workforce. Another important industrial sector is the machinery and chemical industry which is mainly located in Ida-Viru County and around Tallinnmarker. 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 Sillamäemarker industrial complex.

Estonia is a dependent country in the terms of energy and energy production. In recent years many local and foreign companies have been investing in renewable energy sources. The importance of wind power has been increasing steadily in Estonia and currently the total amount of energy production from wind is nearly 60 MW while at the same time roughly 399 MW worth of projects are currently being developed and more than 2800 MW worth of projects are being proposed in the Lake Peipusmarker area and the coastal areas of Hiiumaamarker. 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. 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.

Together with Lithuaniamarker, Polandmarker, and Latviamarker, the country is considering to participate in the Visaginas nuclear power plantmarker in Lithuania to replace the Ignalinamarker.

However, due to the slow pace of the project, Estonia does not rule out building its own nuclear reactor. Another consideration is doing a joint project with Finland because the two electricity grids are connected.

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

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.

Trade and investment

Estonia Export Import
Finlandmarker 18.4% 18.2%
Swedenmarker 12.4% 9%
Latviamarker 8.9% 5.7%
Russiamarker 8.1% 13.1%
Germanymarker 5.1% 12.4%
Lithuaniamarker 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. Tallinnmarker 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. Estonia also exports 1.562 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually. At the same time Estonia imports machinery and equipment, chemical products, textiles, food products and transportation equipment. Estonia imports 200 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually.

Between 2007 and 2013 Estonia receives 53.3 billion krones (3.4 billion euros) from various European Union Structural Funds as direct supports by creating the largest foreign investments into Estonia ever. Majority of the European Union financial aid will be invested into to the following fields: energy economies, entrepreneurship, administrative capability, education, information society, environment protection, regional and local development, research and development activities, healthcare and welfare, transportation and labour market.


As Estonia has been an important transit center since the medieval ages the country's favorable geographic location, along with its developing infrastructure, offers good opportunities for all transport and logistics related activities. The rail transport dominates the cargo sector, comprising 70% of all carried goods, domestic and international. Since 2007marker the transit sector importance in the economy has been reducing, mainly due to the economical-political confrontation between Estonia and Russia. This however has not recognized internationally. The road transportaccounts almost 90% of all transported passengers. 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.Also the proposed permanent connection to Saaremaa Islandmarker 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. 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 Airportmarker 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%. 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.

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 Sovietmarker program promoting mass immigration of urban industrial workers from Russiamarker, Ukrainemarker, and Belarusmarker, as well as by wartime emigration and Stalin's mass deportations and executions. By 1989, minorities constituted more than 1/3 of the population, the number of non-Estonians had grown almost 5-fold, while the percentage of ethnic Estonians in the total population decreased by 27%. 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 Programmemarker aiming to russify Estonia – forceful administrative and military immigration of non-Estonians from the USSRmarker 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. 13 of Estonia's 15 counties are over 80 percent ethnic Estonian, the most homogeneous being Hiiumaamarker, where Estonians account for 98.4% of the population. In the counties of Harju (including the capital city, Tallinnmarker) 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. 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 occupationmarker, 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 Swedenmarker 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 and Germanic peoples as well as the cultural developments in the former dominant powers Swedenmarker and Russiamarker. 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).


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). 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.

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). 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. In modern times Jaan Kross and Jaan Kaplinski remain to be Estonia's best known and most translated writers. Among the most popular writers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries are Tõnu Õnnepalu and Andrus Kivirähk, who uses elements of Estonian folklore and mythology, deforming them into absurd and grotesque.


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

Today the media is a vibrant sector at the forefront of change in Estonian society. There is a plethora of weekly newspapers and magazines. Estonians 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, Latviamarker and Lithuaniamarker. 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.


A moment before the opening of the 25th Estonian Song Festival (2009) at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds

The earliest mentioning of Estonian singing dates back to Saxo Grammaticus Gesta Danorum (ca. 1179). Saxo speaks of Estonian warriors who sang at night while waiting for a battle. The older folksongs are also referred to as regilaulud, songs in the poetic metre regivärss the tradition shared by all Baltic Finns. 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 Viljandimarker.

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. In 2004, a total of 34,000 participated in the Song Festival, held before an audience of 200,000. Since 1928, the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds (Lauluväljak) host the event every five years in July. The next festival will take place in 2009. 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 Finlandmarker, 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 SSRmarker from 1944 to 1991 and taught as a compulsory second language during the Sovietmarker era. First and second generation of industrial immigrants from various parts of the former Soviet Union (mainly Russia) do not speak Estonian. 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 Parishmarker 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.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. 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).

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.


Historically the cuisine of Estonia has been heavily dependent on seasons and simple peasant food, which today is influenced by many countries. Today it includes many typical international foods. The most typical foods in Estonia are black bread, pork, potatoes and dairy products. Traditionally in summer and spring, Estonians like to eat everything fresh – berries, herbs, vegetables and everything else that comes straight from the garden. Hunting and fishing have also been very common, although currently hunting and fishing are enjoyed mostly as hobbies. Today it is also very popular to grill outside in summer. Traditionally in winter jams, preserves and pickles are brought to the table. Estonia has been through rough times in the past and thus gathering and conserving fruits, mushrooms and vegetables for winter has always been essential. Today gathering and conserving is not that common because everything can be bought from stores, but preparing food for winter is still very popular in the countryside and still has somewhat ritual significance. Being a country with a large coastal line, fish has also been very important.

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 Tartumarker 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. 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.

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. Estonian public universities have significantly more autonomy than applied higher education institutions. In addition to organizing the academic life of the university, universities can create new curricula, establish admission terms and conditions, approve the budget, approve the development plan, elect the rector and make restricted decisions in matters concerning assets. Estonia has a moderate number of public and private universities. The largest public universities are Tartu Universitymarker, Tallinn University of Technologymarker, Tallinn Universitymarker, Estonian University of Life Sciencesmarker, 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 Tartumarker and Tallinnmarker. Estonian specialists contributed in the development of software engineering standards for different ministries of the Soviet Union during the 1980s.


According to the constitution, there are freedom of religion, separation of church and state, and individual right to privacy of belief and religion. Although Estonia has one of the highest level of irreligious individuals in the world, with over 76 percent of the population stating no specific religious affiliation, 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.

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

In 2000 there were about 152,000 Lutherans, 143,000 Orthodox Christians, 5,000 Catholics, and nearly 2,000 Taaras in Estonia. In addition there were around 68,000 people who stated themselves as atheists.


Sport plays an important role in Estonian culture. Estonia first competed as a nation at the 1920 Summer Olympics, although the National Olympic Committee was established in 1923. Estonian athletes took part of the Olympic Games until the country was annexed by the Soviet Unionmarker in 1940. The 1980 Summer Olympics sailing regatta was held in the capital city Tallinnmarker. Estonia has won most of her Olympic medals in athletics, weightlifting, wrestling and cross-country skiing.

International rankings

Name Year Place Out of # Reference
CIA World FactbookGDP per capita (PPP) 2008 44th 229 [656388]
CIA World Factbooklife expectancy 2008 112th 223 [656389]
World Economic Forum – Enabling Trade Index ranking 2008 43rd 118 [656390]
Yale Universitymarker / Columbia UniversityEnvironmental Performance Index 2008 19th 149 [656391]
The Economist Intelligence Unite-readiness 2008 37th 70 [656392]
The Economist Intelligence UnitGlobal Peace Index 2008 35th 140 [656393]
United States Patent and Trademark Office's list of patents by country 2007 92nd 172 [656394]
Save the Children – Mother's Index Rank 2007 17th 41 [656395]
Save the Children – Women's Index Rank 2007 19th 41 [656396]
Save the Children – Children's Index Rank 2007 14th 41 [656397]
Wall Street Journal / The Heritage FoundationIndex of Economic Freedom 2007 12th 157 [656398]
United NationsHuman Development Index 2008 42nd 179 [656399]
World Economic Forum – Global Competitiveness Report 2007–2008 2007 27th 131 [656400]
World Economic Forum – The Global Gender Gap Report 2007 2007 30th 128 [656401]
World BankEase of Doing Business Index 2007 22nd 178 [656402]
Reporters Without BordersWorldwide Press Freedom Index 2008 4th 173 [656403]
Transparency InternationalCorruption Perceptions Index 2008 27th 180 [656404]
The Economist Intelligence UnitIndex of Democracy 2007 33rd 167 [656405]
Privacy InternationalPrivacy index (EU and 11 other selected countries) 2006 28th 36 [656406]
New Economics FoundationHappy Planet Index 2006 119th 178 [656407]
The Economist Intelligence UnitQuality-of-life index 2005 68th 111 [656408]
Save the Children – % seats in the national government held by women 2004 1st (47%) 141 [656409]
World Health Organizationsuicide rates by country 31st 100 [656410]
NationMaster's index of civil and political liberties 17th 140 [656411]

See also

Further reading

Notes and references

  1. Portal of the Republic of Estonia,
  2. Baltic yearbook of international law
  3. The Law of Nations: cases, documents and notes – Page 106
  4. Estonian date of admission into the United Nations
  5. Estonian date of admission into the European Union
  6. Estonian date of admission into the NATO
  7. U.S.–Baltic Relations: Celebrating 85 Years of Friendship at
  8. Motion for a resolution on the Situation in Estonia by EU
  9. European Court of Human Rights cases on Occupation of Baltic States
  10. Index of Economic Freedom
  11. BBC NEWS Europe Tiny Estonia leads internet revolution
  12. The Estonian Economic Miracle
  13. Estonian economy contracts sharply in first quarter
  14. Enn Kaljo – Üks väga väga vana rahvas ...
  15. Viduramžių Lietuva – Šaltiniai 50-1009 m
  16. Postimees arhiiv
  17. Through Past Millennia: Archaeological Discoveries in Estonia
  18. Raid on Sigtuna
  19. Estonia and the Estonians (Studies of Nationalities) Toivo U. Raun p.11 ISBN 0817928529
  20. Lembitu
  21. Protestant Reformation in the Baltic at University of Washington
  22. 1558–1710. Estonia under Swedish rule – Population
  23. Estonian Declaration of Independence 24 February 1918 at
  24. Encyclopædia Britannica: Baltic states, World War II losses
  25. The World Book Encyclopedia ISBN 0716601036
  26. The History of the Baltic States by Kevin O'Connor ISBN 0313323550
  27. Moscow's Week at Time Magazine on Monday, 9 October 1939
  28. The Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by David J. Smith, Page 24, ISBN 0415285801
  29. Pavel Petrov at Finnish Defence Forces home page
  30. documents published from the State Archive of the Russian Navy
  31. The Last Flight from Tallinn at American Foreign Service Association
  32. Five Years of Dates at Time magazine on Monday, Jun. 24, 1940
  33. Estonia: Identity and Independence by Jean-Jacques Subrenat, David Cousins, Alexander Harding, Richard C. Waterhouse ISBN 9042008903
  34. The Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by David J. Smith p.19 ISBN 0415285801
  35. The Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by David J. Smith, Page 27, ISBN 0415285801
  36. 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
  37. the Estonian armed forces were disarmed by the Soviet occupation in June 1940
  38. 51 years from the Raua Street Battle at Estonian Defence Forces Home Page
  39. Justice in The Baltic at Time magazine on Monday, Aug. 19, 1940
  40. The Baltic Revolution: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Path to Independence by Anatol Lieven p424 ISBN 0300060785
  41. Diplomats Without a Country: Baltic Diplomacy, International Law, and the Cold War by James T. McHugh , James S. Pacy ISBN 0313318786
  42. Russia denies it illegally annexed the Baltic republics in 1940 – Pravda.Ru
  43. Resistance! Occupied Europe and Its Defiance of Hitler by Dave Lande on Page 188, ISBN 0760307458
  44. Estonia 1940–1945, Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity, p.613 ISBN 9949-13-040-9
  45. Resistance! Occupied Europe and Its Defiance of Hitler (Paperback) by Dave Lande on Page 200 ISBN 0760307458
  46. The Baltic States: The National Self-Determination of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania Graham Smith p.91 ISBN 0312161921
  47. 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.
  48. 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
  49. Valge raamat, page 18
  50. Background Note: Latvia at US Department of State
  51. Valge raamat, pages 25–30
  52. Valge raamat, pages 125, 148
  53. Tuumarelvade leviku tõkestamisega seotud probleemidest Eestis
  54. Estonia had a nuclear submarine fleet – The Paldiski nuclear object
  55. Valge raamat
  56. "whereas the Soviet annexias 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".
  57. EMHI
  58. Sademed, õhuniiskus
  59. World Info Zone
  60. History of Estonia History of Estonia
  61. Riigikogu functions, Riigikogu
  62. Estonia pulls off nationwide Net voting,
  63. Riigikogu introduction, Riigikogu
  64. BBC NEWS| Europe| Estonia blames Russia for unrest
  65. Estonian foreign ministry publication, 2004
  66. Estonian foreign ministry publication, 2002
  67. Foreign investment
  68. Estonian National Defence Policy
  69. Estonian Defence Budget
  70. Estonian military missions in Middle-East
  71. Former operations
  72. Eesti osalus Euroopa julgeoleku- ja kaitsepoliitikas – ESDP, Estonian Ministry of Defence
  73. CERT Estonia
  74. White House 4 May 2007: President Bush to Welcome President Toomas Ilves of Estonia
  75. Yahoo/AFP 25 June 2007: Bush, Ilves eye tougher tack on cybercrime
  76. Eesti Päevaleht 15 June 2007: NATO andis rohelise tule Eesti küberkaitse kavale by Ahto Lobjakas
  77. Eesti Päevaleht 28 June 2007: USA toetab Eesti küberkaitsekeskust by Krister Paris
  78. Office of the President of Estonia 25 June 2007: President Ilves kohtus Ameerika Ühendriikide riigipeaga
  79. Ministry of Finance
  80. Uranium production at Sillamäe
  81. Future Report: Finnish and Estonian joint nuclear power station could be located in Estonia, Postimees
  82. Invest in Estonia: Overview of the Construction industry in Estonia
  83. Environment – current issues in Estonia. CIA Factbook
  84. Estonian Wind Power Association
  85. Peipsile võib kerkida mitusada tuulikut, Postimees
  86. Tuule püüdmine on saanud Eesti kullapalavikuks, Estonian Daily
  87. State Environment in Estonia.
  88. Energy Security of Estonia in the context of the Energy Policy of the EU
  89. Collier, Mike. "Estonia to become nuclear power?" The Baltic Times. 22 February 2008.
  90. World Environment News – INTERVIEW – Tiny Estonia Could Go Nuclear, Sees Oil Shale Hope – Planet Ark
  91. Hackers Take Down the Most Wired Country in Europe, August 2007
  92. CIA World Factbook: Estonia
  93. European Union Structural Funds in Estonia
  94. Riigi Raha Raamat
  95. Estonian rail transport reduced 24,5% in 2007
  96. Programme of the Coalition for 2007–2011: Rural life, regional and infrastructure development policy
  97. Saaremaa–mandri sild saab sõltumatu Eesti proovikiviks
  98. Ethnic minorities in Estonia: past and present
  99. Baltic Germans in Estonia. Estonian Institute
  100. Culture of Estonia, Wikipedia
  101. Estonian literature at Encyclopædia Britannica
  102. The Development of Written Estonian By George Kurman ISBN 0700703802
  103. Seeking the contours of a ‘truly’ Estonian literature
  104. Literature and an independent Estonia
  105. Anton Tammsaare (1878–1940) – originally Anton Hansen Pegasos, Helsinki
  106. Jaan Kross at google.books
  107. Andrus Kivirähk. The Old Barny (novel) Estonian Literature Centre
  108. Cinema of Estonia
  109. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians; p.358 ISBN 0333231112
  110. Estonian Native Music Preserving Center is opened
  111. Welcome Estonian Song and Dance Celebration Foundation
  112. The historical overview of Estonian Song Celebrations Estonian Song and Dance Celebration Foundation
  113. Kirch, Aksel. "Russians in contemporary Estonia – different strategies of the integration in to the nation-state."
  114. Information about the bilingual Estonian/Swedish parish of Noarootsi.
  115. Eesti andis mullu kodakondsuse 2124 inimesele, Postimees
  116. The Portal of Estonia: National symbols
  117. Estonian Food Inforserver
  118. Cuisine of Estonia, Wikipedia
  119. Ministry of Education and Research
  120. Estonian Education Infosystem,
  121. Implementation of Bologna Declaration in Estonia
  122. 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
  123. 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
  124. tallest building
  125. Constitution of Estonia#Chapter 2: Fundamental Rights, Liberties, and Duties Article 40.–42.
  126. Statistical database: Population Census 2000 – Religious affiliation
  127. Country Studies: Estonia – Religion
  128. Holy Trinity: Estonia Today – Religion

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