Estonia

Introduction After centuries of Danish, Swedish, German, and Russian rule, Estonia attained independence in 1918. Forcibly incorporated into the USSR in 1940 - an action never recognized by the US - it regained its freedom in 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since the last Russian troops left in 1994, Estonia has been free to promote economic and political ties with Western Europe. It joined both NATO and the EU in the spring of 2004.
History

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.

Prehistory

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.

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 and sacked and burned the Swedish town of Sigtuna in 1187.

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 consisted of 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.[12]

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. According to the chronicle, when the crusaders invaded Vironia in 1220, there was a beautiful wooded hill in Virumaa, where locals believe the Oeselian god Tharapita was born and from which he flew to Saaremaa. The hill is believed to be the Ebavere Hill (Ebavere mägi) in modern Lääne-Viru County.

The Middle Ages period

Estonia was a part of the Livonian Confederation from 1228 to the 1560s. The country was Christianized when the German "Livonian Brothers of the Sword" conquered southern Estonia as part of the Northern Crusades in the early thirteenth century. At the same time, Denmark attempted to take possession of northern Estonia. Estonia was consolidated under the two forces by 1227.

Northern Estonia remained a possession of Denmark until 1346. Reval (known as Tallinn since 1918) was given its Lübeck Rights in 1248 and joined an alliance of trading guilds called the Hanseatic League at the end of the thirteenth century. In 1343, the people of northern Estonia and Saaremaa rebelled against German rule in the St. George's Night Uprising, which was put down by 1344. Russia attempted unsuccessful invasions in 1481 and 1558.

The Reformation period

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.[13] 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.

In 1631, the Swedish king Gustaf II Adolf, Gustavus Adolphus, 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."

Estonia in the Russian Empire

Following the Great Northern War, the Swedish empire lost Estonia to Russia (1710 de facto, and 1721 de jure, 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.

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 into the formation of the Estonian national identity and late 1800s' 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 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[14] in Pärnu on February 23 and in Tallinn on February 24, 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), 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.[15] 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 annexation

The fate of the Republic of Estonia before the 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.[16][17][18]

Meeting in Tallinn on July 17, 1940 after the July "elections".

On September 24, 1939, warships of the Red Navy appeared off Estonian ports and Soviet bombers began a patrol over Tallinn and the nearby countryside.[20] 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".[21] On June 12, 1940, the order for a total military blockade on Estonia was given to the Soviet Baltic Fleet.[22][23] On June 14, 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.[24] On June 16, 1940, the Soviet Union invaded Estonia.[25] The Red Army exited from their military bases in Estonia on June 17.[26] The following day, some 90,000 additional troops entered the country. On June 17, 1940, The Estonian government decided, given the overwhelming Soviet force, not to resist, to avoid bloodshed and open war.[27]

The military occupation of Estonia was complete by the June 21 1940.[28] Most of the Estonian Defence Forces and the Estonian Defence League surrendered according to the orders believing that resistance was useless and were disarmed by the Red Army. Only the Estonian Single Signal Battalion stationed in Tallinn at Raua Street continued to resist. As the Red Army brought in additional reinforcements supported by six armoured fighting vehicles, the battle lasted several hours until sundown. There was one dead, several wounded on the Estonian side and about 10 killed and more wounded on the Soviet side. Finally the military resistance was ended with negotiations and the Single Signal Battalion surrendered and was disarmed.[29]

In August 1940, Estonia was formally annexed by the Soviet Union as the Estonian SSR. 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.[30] The repressions followed with the mass deportations carried out by the Soviets in Estonia on June 14, 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. Less than 30% of them survived the war. Political prisoners who could not be evacuated were executed by the NKVD.

Tallinn after Soviet air-attacks. (Harju Street in March 1944 and in March 2008 - has not been restored)

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.[32] Contemporary Russian politicians, however, 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 present Russian version claims that Estonians decided to lose their statehood voluntarily and officially describes separatist fighters of 1944-1976 as "bandits" or "nazis". The Russian position is not recognized internationally.[33][34]

German occupation

After the Third Reich invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941,the Wehrmacht reached Estonia in (July 1941). The German Army crossed the Estonian southern border on 7th July. The Red Army retreated behind the Pärnu River- the Emajõgi line on 12 July.

At the end 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.[35] 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 to many Estonians, unwilling to side with the Nazis, 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 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 Germany could not win the war.[36]

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.[37] 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.[38]

Soviet occupation

The Soviet forces reconquered Estonia in the autumn of 1944 after fierce battles in the northeast of the country on the Narva river and on the Tannenberg Line (Sinimäed) as part of the Baltic Strategic Offensive Operation, a twofold military-political operation to rout forces of the Wehrmacht and the so-called "liberation of the Soviet Baltic peoples"

In the face of the country being re-occupied by the Red Army, tens of thousands of Estonians (including mayority 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.[40] 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.[40] In response to the continuing insurgency against Soviet rule,[41] more than 20,000 Estonians were forcibly deported either to labor camps or Siberia (see Gulag).[42] 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.[43] 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.[44] 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.[45]

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.[46],[47] 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.[48] By 1980, when the Olympic Regatta of the 1980 Olympic Games was held in Tallinn, russification and immigration had achieved a level at which it began to spark popular protests.

Restoration of independence

The United States, United Kingdom and the majority of other western democracies considered the annexation of Estonia by USSR illegal. 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.[49]

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. Estonia formally declared independence on August 20, 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 Iceland. The last Russian troops left on 31 August 1994.

Geography Location: Eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland, between Latvia and Russia
Geographic coordinates: 59 00 N, 26 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 45,226 sq km
land: 43,211 sq km
water: 2,015 sq km
note: includes 1,520 islands in the Baltic Sea
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than New Hampshire and Vermont combined
Land boundaries: total: 633 km
border countries: Latvia 339 km, Russia 294 km
Coastline: 3,794 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: limits fixed in coordination with neighboring states
Climate: maritime, wet, moderate winters, cool summers
Terrain: marshy, lowlands; flat in the north, hilly in the south
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m
highest point: Suur Munamagi 318 m
Natural resources: oil shale, peat, phosphorite, clay, limestone, sand, dolomite, arable land, sea mud
Land use: arable land: 12.05%
permanent crops: 0.35%
other: 87.6% (2005)
Irrigated land: 40 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 21.1 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 1.41 cu km/yr (56%/39%/5%)
per capita: 1,060 cu m/yr (2002)
Natural hazards: sometimes flooding occurs in the spring
Environment - current issues: air polluted with sulfur dioxide from oil-shale burning power plants in northeast; however, the amount of pollutants emitted to the air have fallen steadily, the emissions of 2000 were 80% less than in 1980; the amount of unpurified wastewater discharged to water bodies in 2000 was one twentieth the level of 1980; in connection with the start-up of new water purification plants, the pollution load of wastewater decreased; Estonia has more than 1,400 natural and manmade lakes, the smaller of which in agricultural areas need to be monitored; coastal seawater is polluted in certain locations
Environment - international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ship Pollution, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: the mainland terrain is flat, boggy, and partly wooded; offshore lie more than 1,500 islands
Politics

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 pluriform multi-party system.

Parliament

Estonia is a parliamentary, representative democratic republic. The Estonian political system operates under a framework laid out in the 1992 constitutional document. Estonia elects a legislature on the national level. The Riigikogu, exercising the legislative power , has 101 members, elected for a four year term by proportional representation. A head of state - the president - is elected for a five year term by parliament (1st-3rd round) or an electoral college (4th and subsequent rounds). Locally, Estonia elects local government councils, which vary in size, but by the election law there are minimum size of councils depending on the size of municipality. Local government councils are elected by proportional representation too.

Government and e-Government

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'. 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 (Riigikogu); 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 [1]. 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 court

The supreme judicial power is vested in the Supreme Court or Riigikohus, with 17 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 neighbors.

The two most important policy objectives in this regard have been accession into NATO and the European Union, achieved in March and May of 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 relocation of the Bronze Soldier WWII memorial in Tallinn.[55]

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,[56][57] 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.[58] In 2003, the foreign ministry also hosted an exhibit called "Estonia: Nordic with a Twist".[59] 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,[60] 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.

People Population: 1,315,912 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 15% (male 101,430/female 95,658)
15-64 years: 67.5% (male 423,664/female 464,813)
65 years and over: 17.5% (male 76,344/female 154,003) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 39.4 years
male: 36 years
female: 42.9 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.635% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 10.17 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 13.3 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: -3.22 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.911 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.496 male(s)/female
total population: 0.842 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 7.59 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 8.77 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 6.34 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 72.3 years
male: 66.87 years
female: 78.07 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.41 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 1.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 7,800 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: less than 200 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A
vectorborne disease: tickborne encephalitis (2008)
Nationality: noun: Estonian(s)
adjective: Estonian
Ethnic groups: Estonian 67.9%, Russian 25.6%, Ukrainian 2.1%, Belarusian 1.3%, Finn 0.9%, other 2.2% (2000 census)
Religions: Evangelical Lutheran 13.6%, Orthodox 12.8%, other Christian (including Methodist, Seventh-Day Adventist, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal) 1.4%, unaffiliated 34.1%, other and unspecified 32%, none 6.1% (2000 census)
Languages: Estonian (official) 67.3%, Russian 29.7%, other 2.3%, unknown 0.7% (2000 census)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99.8%
male: 99.8%
female: 99.8% (2000 census)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Estonia
conventional short form: Estonia
local long form: Eesti Vabariik
local short form: Eesti
former: Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic
Government type: parliamentary republic
Capital: name: Tallinn
geographic coordinates: 59 26 N, 24 43 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
Administrative divisions: 15 counties (maakonnad, singular - maakond): Harjumaa (Tallinn), Hiiumaa (Kardla), Ida-Virumaa (Johvi), Jarvamaa (Paide), Jogevamaa (Jogeva), Laanemaa (Haapsalu), Laane-Virumaa (Rakvere), Parnumaa (Parnu), Polvamaa (Polva), Raplamaa (Rapla), Saaremaa (Kuressaare), Tartumaa (Tartu), Valgamaa (Valga), Viljandimaa (Viljandi), Vorumaa (Voru)
note: counties have the administrative center name following in parentheses
Independence: 20 August 1991 (from Soviet Union)
National holiday: Independence Day, 24 February (1918); note - 24 February 1918 was the date Estonia declared its independence from Soviet Russia; 20 August 1991 was the date it declared its independence from the Soviet Union
Constitution: adopted 28 June 1992
Legal system: based on civil law system; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal for all Estonian citizens
Executive branch: chief of state: President Toomas Hendrik ILVES (since 9 October 2006)
head of government: Prime Minister Andrus ANSIP (since 12 April 2005)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the prime minister, approved by Parliament
elections: president elected by Parliament for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); if a candidate does not secure two-thirds of the votes after three rounds of balloting in the Parliament, then an electoral assembly (made up of Parliament plus members of local governments) elects the president, choosing between the two candidates with the largest percentage of votes; election last held 23 September 2006 (next to be held in the fall of 2011); prime minister nominated by the president and approved by Parliament
election results: Toomas Hendrik ILVES elected president on 23 September 2006 by a 345-member electoral assembly; ILVES received 174 votes to incumbent Arnold RUUTEL's 162; remaining 9 ballots left blank or invalid
Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament or Riigikogu (101 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 4 March 2007 (next to be held in March 2011)
election results: percent of vote by party - Estonian Reform Party 27.8%, Center Party of Estonia 26.1%, Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica 17.9%, Social Democratic Party 10.6%, Estonian Greens 7.1%, Estonian People's Union 7.1%, other 5%; seats by party - Reform Party 31, Center Party 29, Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica 19, Social Democrats 10, Estonian Greens 6, People's Union 6
Judicial branch: National Court (chairman appointed by Parliament for life)
Political parties and leaders: Center Party of Estonia (Keskerakond) [Edgar SAVISAAR]; Estonian Greens (Rohelised) [Marek STRANDBERG]; Estonian People's Union (Rahvaliit) [Villu REILJAN]; Estonian Reform Party (Reformierakond) [Andrus ANSIP]; Estonian United Russian People's Party or EUVRP [Yevgeniy TOMBERG]; Social Democratic Party (formerly People's Party Moodukad or Moderates) [Ivari PADAR]; Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica (Isamaa je Res Publica Liit) [Mart LAAR]
Political pressure groups and leaders: Nochnoy Dozor/Night Watch anti-fascist movement (leader Alexander KOROBOV)
International organization participation: Australia Group, BA, BIS, CBSS, CE, EAPC, EBRD, EIB, EU, FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITU, ITUC, MIGA, NATO, NIB, NSG, OAS (observer), OPCW, OSCE, PCA, Schengen Convention, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNITAR, UNTSO, UPU, WCO, WEU (associate partner), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Vaino REINART
chancery: 2131 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 588-0101
FAX: [1] (202) 588-0108
consulate(s) general: New York
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Stanley Davis PHILLIPS
embassy: Kentmanni 20, 15099 Tallinn
mailing address: use embassy street address
telephone: [372] 668-8100
FAX: [372] 668-8134
Flag description: pre-1940 flag restored by Supreme Soviet in May 1990 - three equal horizontal bands of blue (top), black, and white
Culture

Different nationalities have always lived together in Estonia. Tolerance and democracy are illustrated by the Law on the Cultural Autonomy for National Minorities, passed already in 1925, which was not only the first in Europe at the time but also very progressive. Prior to World War II, Estonia was a relatively homogeneous society – ethnic Estonians constituted 88% of the population, with national minorities constituting the remaining 12%.[76] The largest minority groups in 1934 were Russians, Germans, Swedes, Latvians, Jews, Poles, Finns and Ingrians. 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. 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.
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.

World War II along with Soviet and Nazi occupations interrupted the natural development of inter-ethnic relations, deforming the inner features of Estonian society. 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 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.

According to the 2000 census, altogether 109 languages are spoken in Estonia. 83.4% of Estonian citizens speak Estonian as their mother tongue, 15.3% – Russian and 1% speak other languages. Of Estonian residents, 83.6% are Estonian citizens, 7.4% are citizens of other countries and 9% – citizens with undetermined citizenship. The number of Estonian citizens who have become citizens through naturalization process (more than 140,000 persons) exceeds the number of residents of undetermined citizenship (120,000 persons).[77]

The country's official language is Estonian, which belongs to the Finnic branch of the Finno-Ugric 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 occupied Estonia from 1944 to 1991 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.[78] The latter, mostly Russian-speaking ethnic minorities, reside predominantly in the capital city (Tallinn) and the industrial urban areas in Ida-Virumaa. Most common foreign languages learned by Estonians are English, German, Russian, Swedish, Finnish and in recent years also Latvian.

Economy Economy - overview: Estonia, a 2004 European Union entrant, has a modern market-based economy and one of the highest per capita income levels in Central Europe. The economy benefits from strong electronics and telecommunications sectors and strong trade ties with Finland, Sweden, and Germany. 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.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $29.35 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $21.2 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 7.3% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $21,800 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 2.9%
industry: 28.9%
services: 68.2% (2007 est.)
Labor force: 688,000 (2007 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 11%
industry: 20%
services: 69% (1999 est.)
Unemployment rate: 5.2% (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line: 5% (2003)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 2.5%
highest 10%: 27.6% (2003)
Distribution of family income - Gini index: 34 (2005)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 6.3% (2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed): 33.3% of GDP (2007 est.)
Budget: revenues: $7.671 billion
expenditures: $7.015 billion (2007 est.)
Public debt: 3.8% of GDP (2007 est.)
Agriculture - products: potatoes, vegetables; livestock and dairy products; fish
Industries: engineering, electronics, wood and wood products, textile; information technology, telecommunications
Industrial production growth rate: 6.1% (2007 est.)
Electricity - production: 9.599 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 99.8%
hydro: 0.1%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0.2% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 6.888 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports: 1.953 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 345 million kWh (2005)
Oil - production: 6,930 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - consumption: 29,000 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports: 3,958 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - imports: 54,000 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - proved reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 1.458 billion cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 1.458 billion cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: -$3.092 billion (2007 est.)
Exports: $11.31 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Exports - commodities: machinery and equipment 33%, wood and paper 15%, textiles 14%, food products 8%, furniture 7%, metals, chemical products (2001)
Exports - partners: Finland 18.2%, Sweden 12.2%, Latvia 9.1%, Russia 7.9%, US 6.6%, Germany 5%, Lithuania 4.8%, Gibraltar 4.5% (2006)
Imports: $14.71 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Imports - commodities: machinery and equipment 33.5%, chemical products 11.6%, textiles 10.3%, foodstuffs 9.4%, transportation equipment 8.9% (2001)
Imports - partners: Finland 18.4%, Russia 12.9%, Germany 12.3%, Sweden 9.2%, Lithuania 6.4%, Latvia 5.8% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: $135.5 million (2004)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $3.605 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external: $20.24 billion (30 June 2007)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home: $16.32 billion (2006 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad: $3.557 billion (2006 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $5.963 billion (2006)
Currency (code): Estonian kroon (EEK)
Currency code: EEK
Exchange rates: krooni per US dollar - 11.535 (2007), 12.473 (2006), 12.584 (2005), 12.596 (2004), 13.856 (2003)
note: the krooni is pegged to the euro
Fiscal year: calendar year
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 541,900 (2006)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 1.659 million (2006)
Telephone system: general assessment: foreign investment in the form of joint business ventures greatly improved telephone service; substantial fiber-optic cable systems carry telephone, TV, and radio traffic in the digital mode; Internet services are widely available; schools and libraries are connected to the internet, a large percentage of the population files income-tax returns online, and online voting was used for the first time in the 2005 local elections
domestic: a wide range of high quality voice, data, and Internet services is available throughout the country
international: country code - 372; fiber-optic cables to Finland, Sweden, Latvia, and Russia provide worldwide packet-switched service; 2 international switches are located in Tallinn (2001)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 0, FM 98, shortwave 0 (2001)
Radios: 1.01 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 3 (2001)
Televisions: 605,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .ee
Internet hosts: 387,336 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 38 (2001)
Internet users: 760,000 (2006)
Transportation Airports: 19 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 12
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 7
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 3 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 7
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 3 (2007)
Heliports: 1 (2007)
Pipelines: gas 859 km (2007)
Railways: total: 968 km
broad gauge: 968 km 1.520 m/1.524-m gauge (2006)
Roadways: total: 56,856 km
paved: 13,384 km (includes 99 km of expressways)
unpaved: 43,472 km (2004)
Waterways: 320 km (2006)
Merchant marine: total: 33 ships (1000 GRT or over) 393,655 GRT/93,245 DWT
by type: cargo 7, chemical tanker 1, passenger/cargo 23, petroleum tanker 2
foreign-owned: 4 (Denmark 2, Norway 2)
registered in other countries: 67 (Antigua and Barbuda 15, Belize 1, Cambodia 1, Cyprus 5, Dominica 8, Latvia 1, Liberia 1, Malta 7, Norway 1, Panama 3, Slovakia 2, St Kitts and Nevis 1, St Vincent and The Grenadines 20, Vanuatu 1) (2007)
Ports and terminals: Kuivastu, Kunda, Muuga, Tallinn, Virtsu
Military Estonia
Military branches: Estonian Defense Forces: Land Force, Navy, Air Force (Eesti Ohuvagi), Volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit, KL) (2008)
Military service age and obligation: compulsory military service for men between 19 and 28; conscription lasts 11 months for junior NCOs and reserve platoon leaders; reserve officers and designated specialists have a different conscript service obligation; Estonia has committed to retaining conscription for men up to 2010 and, unlike Latvia and Lithuania, has no plan to transition to a contract armed forces; 17 years of age for volunteers; reserve commitment up to the age of 60 (2006)
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 291,696
females age 18-49: 304,961 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 200,382 (in 2004, 51% of the young men called up for service were determined to be unfit; main obstacles to conscription were psychiatric and behavioral)
females age 18-49: 250,351 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually: males age 15-49: 11,146
females age 18-49: 10,605 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 2% (2005 est.)
Military Military branches: Estonian Defense Forces: Land Force, Navy, Air Force (Eesti Ohuvagi), Volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit, KL) (2008)
Military service age and obligation: compulsory military service for men between 19 and 28; conscription lasts 11 months for junior NCOs and reserve platoon leaders; reserve officers and designated specialists have a different conscript service obligation; Estonia has committed to retaining conscription for men up to 2010 and, unlike Latvia and Lithuania, has no plan to transition to a contract armed forces; 17 years of age for volunteers; reserve commitment up to the age of 60 (2006)
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 291,696
females age 18-49: 304,961 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 200,382 (in 2004, 51% of the young men called up for service were determined to be unfit; main obstacles to conscription were psychiatric and behavioral)
females age 18-49: 250,351 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually: males age 15-49: 11,146
females age 18-49: 10,605 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 2% (2005 est.)
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: Russia recalled its signature to the 1996 technical border agreement with Estonia in 2005, rather than concede to Estonia's appending prepared a unilateral declaration referencing Soviet occupation and territorial losses; Russia demands better accommodation of Russian-speaking population in Estonia; Estonian citizen groups continue to press for realignment of the boundary based on the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty that would bring the now divided ethnic Setu people and parts of the Narva region within Estonia; as a member state that forms part of the EU's external border, Estonia must implement the strict Schengen border rules with Russia
Illicit drugs: growing producer of synthetic drugs; increasingly important transshipment zone for cannabis, cocaine, opiates, and synthetic drugs since joining the European Union and the Schengen Accord; potential money laundering related to organized crime and drug trafficking is a concern, as is possible use of the gambling sector to launder funds; major use of opiates and ecstasy