General Facts about Estonia
Area: 45 226 sq.km
Total national border length: 1,450.2 km
Length of Estonia’s Baltic coastline: 768.6 km
Population: 1,364 million (Source: Population Register in year 2000)
Borders with: Latvia, Russia
Languages of Estonia
Official Language: Estonian
Estonian is, spoken by about 1.1 million people in Estonia and thousands in various emigrant communities. Estonian is Uralic language and is closely related to Finnish.
Geography of Estonia
Estonia is a flat country covering 45,226 square kilometers. Estonia has many islands - the largest are Saaremaa (literally, island land), and Hiiumaa. The two islands are common Estonian vacation spots. The country's highest point, Suur Munamägi (Egg Mountain), is in the hilly southeast and reaches 318 meters above sea level. The country has over 1,400 natural and artificial lakes.
Estonians resisted the Vikings, Danes, Swedes, and Russians before the 13th century. In 1346, the Danes, who possessed northern Estonia, sold the land to the Teutonic Knights of Germany, who already possessed Livonia. The Teutonic Knights reduced the Estonians to serfdom. In 1526, the Swedes took over. After 1721, when Russia succeeded Sweden as the ruling power under the Peace of Nystad, the Estonians were subject to a double bondage—the Balts and the czarist officials. The oppression lasted until the closing months of World War I, when Estonia finally achieved independence after a victorious war (1918–1920). But shortly after the start of World War II, the nation was occupied by Russian troops and incorporated as the 16th republic of the USSR in 1940. Germany occupied the nation from 1941 to 1944, when it was retaken by the Soviets.
Estonia declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. Soviet resistance ensued but the Soviet Union acknowledged Estonian nationhood on Sept. 6, 1991. UN membership followed on Sept. 17. The newly independent nation embraced free-market reforms. Fueled by foreign investments advances continued. In 2004, Estonia became a member of the EU as well as of NATO.
Estonia incorporates indigenous heritage with mainstream Nordic and European cultural aspects. Because of its history and geography, Estonia's culture has been influenced by the traditions of the adjacent area's various Finnic, Baltic, Slavic and Germanic peoples as well as former dominant powers - Sweden and Russia.
Today, Estonian society encourages liberty and liberalism, discouraging centralised power and corruption. The Protestant work ethic remains a significant cultural staple, and free education is a highly prized institution. 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 and the ideals of closeness to nature and self-sufficiency.
The Estonian Academy of Arts is providing higher education in art, design, architecture, media and University of Tartu has an approach to popularise native culture such as native construction, native blacksmithing, native textile design, traditional handicraft and traditional music, but also jazz and church music.
Almost half of Estonian territory is covered by forest. The area of forest stands has more than doubled during the last 50 years. Estonia is situated on a border area where the coniferous Siberian taiga opens onto a European zone of deciduous forests. There are 87 native and more than 500 introduced tree and bush species recorded.
Estonia is rich in wetlands. There are some 165 000 marshes greater than one hectare in area. Total area of marshes and swamp forests measures 1 009 101 ha which is over one fifth of the country’s territory.
Estonia has had a market economy since the end of the 1990s and one of the highest per capita income levels in Eastern Europe. As the largest city, Tallinn has emerged as a financial centre and the Tallinn Stock Exchange joined recently with the OMX system. The current government has pursued tight fiscal policies, resulting in balanced budgets and low public debt.