/e stoh"nee euh, e stohn"yeuh/, n.
a republic in N Europe, on the Baltic, S of the Gulf of Finland: an independent republic 1918-40; annexed by the Soviet Union 1940; regained independence 1991. 1,444,721; 17,413 sq. mi. (45,100 sq. km). Cap.: Tallinn.
Also, Esthonia.

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Introduction Estonia
Background: After centuries of Danish, Swedish, German, and Russian rule, Estonia attained independence in 1918. Forcibly incorporated into the USSR in 1940, 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. Geography Estonia -
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 note: includes 1,520 islands in the Baltic Sea water: 2,015 sq km land: 43,211 sq km
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: exclusive economic zone: limits fixed in coordination with neighboring states territorial sea: 12 NM
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: 26.5% permanent crops: 0.35% other: 73.15% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 40 sq km (1998 est.)
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 4.6 times smaller than in 1980; the amount of unpurified wastewater discharged to water bodies fell 20 times in 2000 compared to 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 party to: Air Pollution, Air
agreements: Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulphur 85, Air Pollution- Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ship Pollution, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol
Geography - note: the mainland terrain is flat, boggy, and partly wooded; offshore lie more than 1,500 islands People Estonia
Population: 1,415,681 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 16.4% (male 118,603; female 114,102) 15-64 years: 68.5% (male 466,882; female 502,343) 65 years and over: 15.1% (male 70,085; female 143,666) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.52% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 8.96 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 13.44 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.73 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 0.93 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.49 male(s)/ female total population: 0.86 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 12.32 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 70.02 years female: 76.31 years (2002 est.) male: 64.03 years
Total fertility rate: 1.24 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.04% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ less than 500 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: less than 100 (1999 est.)
Nationality: noun: Estonian(s) adjective: Estonian
Ethnic groups: Estonian 65.3%, Russian 28.1%, Ukrainian 2.5%, Belarusian 1.5%, Finn 1%, other 1.6% (1998)
Religions: Evangelical Lutheran, Russian Orthodox, Estonian Orthodox, Baptist, Methodist, Seventh-Day Adventist, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Word of Life, Jewish
Languages: Estonian (official), Russian, Ukrainian, Finnish, other
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 100% male: 100% female: 100% (1998 est.) Government Estonia
Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Estonia conventional short form: Estonia local short form: Eesti former: Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic local long form: Eesti Vabariik
Government type: parliamentary republic
Capital: Tallinn 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: regained on 20 August 1991 (from Soviet Union)
National holiday: Independence Day, 24 February (1918); note - 24 February 1918 was the date of independence from Soviet Russia, 20 August 1991 was the date of reindependence from the Soviet Union
Constitution: adopted 28 June 1992
Legal system: based on civil law system; no judicial review of legislative acts
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal for all Estonian citizens
Executive branch: chief of state: President Arnold RUUTEL (since 8 October 2001) head of government: Prime Minister Siim KALLAS (since 28 January 2002) cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the prime minister, approved by Parliament election results: Arnold RUUTEL elected president on 21 September 2001 by a 367-member electoral assembly that convened following Parliament's failure in August to elect then-President MERI's successor; on the second ballot of voting, RUUTEL received 188 votes to Parliament Speaker Toomas SAVI's 155; the remaining 24 ballots were either left blank or invalid elections: president elected by Parliament for a five-year term; if he or she 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 21 September 2001 (next to be held in the fall of 2006); prime minister nominated by the president and approved by Parliament
Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament or Riigikogu (101 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms) election results: percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - Center Party 28, Union of Pro Patria (Fatherland League) 18, Reform Party 18, Moderates 17, Country People's Party (Agrarians) 7, Coalition Party 7, UPPE 6 elections: last held 7 March 1999 (next to be held NA March 2003)
Judicial branch: National Court (chairman appointed by Parliament for life) Political parties and leaders: Coalition Party [Mart SIIMANN, chairman]; Estonian Center Party or K [Edgar SAVISAAR, chairman]; Estonian Christian People's Party [Aldo VINKEL]; Estonian Democratic Party [Jean LAAS]; Estonian Independence Party [Vello LEITO]; Estonian People's Union [Villu REILJAN]; note - includes Estonian Country People's Party and two small parties; Estonian Reform Party [Siim KALLAS]; Estonian Social Democratic Labor Party [Tiit TOOMSALU]; Estonian United People's Party or UPPE [Viktor ANDREJEV]; Estonian Unity Party [Igor PISSAREV]; Moderates [Andres TARAND]; New Estonia Party [Ulo NUGIS]; Pro Patria Union [Mart LAAR, chairman]; Republican Party [Kristian-Olari LEPING]; Res Publica [Rein TAAGEPERA]; Russian Baltic Party [Sergei IVANOV]; Russian Party in Estonia [Nikolai MASPANOV] note: Country People's Party, formerly under Estonian Rural People's Union, has probably dissolved Political pressure groups and NA
leaders: International organization BIS, CBSS, CCC, CE, EAPC, EBRD, ECE,
participation: EU (applicant), FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO (correspondent), ITU, OPCW, OSCE, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNMIBH, UNMIK, UNTSO, UPU, WEU (associate partner), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Sven JURGENSON FAX: [1] (202) 588-0108 consulate(s) general: New York telephone: [1] (202) 588-0101 chancery: 1730 M Street NW, Suite 503, Washington, DC 20036 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Joseph
US: M. DeTHOMAS (designate) 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 Economy Estonia -
Economy - overview: Estonia, as a new member of the World Trade Organization, is steadily moving toward a modern market economy with increasing ties to the West, including the pegging of its currency to the euro. A major goal is accession to the EU, possibly by 2004. The state of the economy is greatly influenced by developments in Finland and Sweden, two major trading partners.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $14.3 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 4.7% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $10,000 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 6% industry: 28% services: 66% (2000) Population below poverty line: 25% of households (2000) Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: 3%
percentage share: highest 10%: 29.8% (1998) Distribution of family income - Gini 37 (1999)
index: Inflation rate (consumer prices): 5.8% (2001)
Labor force: 608,600 (2001 est.) Labor force - by occupation: industry 20%, agriculture 11%, services 69% (1999 est.)
Unemployment rate: 12.4% (2001)
Budget: revenues: $1.89 billion expenditures: $1.89 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2002 est.)
Industries: engineering, electronics, wood and wood products, textile; services; transit, information technology, telecommunications Industrial production growth rate: 5% (2000 est.) Electricity - production: 7.056 billion kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 99.77% hydro: 0.06% other: 0.17% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 5.362 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 1.2 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: potatoes, vegetables; livestock and dairy products; fish
Exports: $3.4 billion (f.o.b., 2001)
Exports - commodities: machinery and equipment 24%, wood products 20%, textiles 17%, food products 9%, metals, chemical products (1999)
Exports - partners: Finland 27.6%, Sweden 11%, Russia 8%, Latvia 7%, Germany 6%, US 2.0% (1999) (2001)
Imports: $4.1 billion (f.o.b., 2001)
Imports - commodities: machinery and equipment 38.5%, chemical products 11.2%, textiles 9.5%, foodstuffs 8.6%, metals 8.1% (2000)
Imports - partners: Finland 27%, Russia 10%, Germany 10%, Sweden 8% (2001)
Debt - external: $0 (2001 est.) Economic aid - recipient: $108 million (2000)
Currency: Estonian kroon (EEK)
Currency code: EEK
Exchange rates: krooni per US dollar - 17.518 (January 2002), 17.538 (2001), 16.969 (2000), 14.678 (1999), 14.075 (1998), 13.882 (1997); note - the kroon is tied to the euro at a fixed rate of 15.65 krooni per euro
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Estonia Telephones - main lines in use: 501,691 (2000) Telephones - mobile cellular: 711,000 (yearend 2001)
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 available throughout most of the country - only about 11,000 subscriber requests were unfilled by September 2000 domestic: a wide range of high quality voice, data, and internet services is available throughout the country international: fiber-optic cables to Finland, Sweden, Latvia, and Russia provide worldwide packet-switched service; two 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 Service Providers (ISPs): 38 (2001)
Internet users: 540,000 (2001) Transportation Estonia
Railways: total: 968 km common carrier lines only; does not include dedicated industrial lines broad gauge: 968 km 1.520-m gauge (132 km electrified) (2001)
Highways: total: 30,300 km paved: 29,200 km (including 75 km of expressways); note - these roads are said to be hard-surfaced, and include, in addition to conventionally paved roads, some that are surfaced with gravel or other coarse aggregate, making them trafficable in all weather unpaved: 1,100 km (2000)
Waterways: 320 km (perennially navigable) (2002)
Pipelines: natural gas 2,000 km (2002)
Ports and harbors: Haapsalu, Kunda, Muuga, Paldiski, Parnu, Tallinn
Merchant marine: total: 37 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 245,958 GRT/193,042 DWT note: includes a foreign-owned ship registered here as a flag of convenience: Liberia 1 (2002 est.) ships by type: bulk 2, cargo 13, container 5, petroleum tanker 2, roll on/roll off 9, short-sea passenger 6
Airports: 32 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 8 2,438 to 3,047 m: 7 under 914 m: 1 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 24 over 3,047 m: 1 2,438 to 3,047 m: 5 1,524 to 2,437 m: 7 914 to 1,523 m: 5 under 914 m: 6 (2001) Military Estonia
Military branches: Estonia Defense Forces (including Ground Forces, Navy, Air Force), Republic Security Forces (internal and border troops), Volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit), Maritime Border Guard, Coast Guard note: Border Guards and Ministry of Internal Affairs become part of the Estonian Defense Forces in wartime; the Coast Guard is subordinate to the Ministry of Defense in peacetime and the Estonian Navy in wartime Military manpower - military age: 18 years of age (2002 est.) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 359,902 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 282,716 (2002 est.)
service: Military manpower - reaching males: 11,164 (2002 est.)
military age annually: Military expenditures - dollar $155 million (2002 est.)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 2% (2002 est.)
GDP: Transnational Issues Estonia Disputes - international: Russia continues to reject signing and ratifying the joint December 1996 technical border agreement with Estonia
Illicit drugs: transshipment point for opiates and cannabis from Southwest Asia and the Caucasus via Russia, cocaine from Latin America to Western Europe and Scandinavia, and synthetic drugs from Western Europe to Scandinavia; increasing domestic drug abuse problem; possible precursor manufacturing and/or trafficking

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officially Republic of Estonia

Country, northeastern Europe.

It consists of a mainland area and some 1,500 islands and islets in the Baltic Sea. Area: 16,769 sq mi (43,431 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 1,359,000. Capital: Tallinn. Estonians make up about two-thirds of the population. Russians account for almost one-third, and there are Ukrainian, Finnish, and Belarusian minorities. Language: Estonian (official). Religions: Estonian Orthodoxy, Lutheranism, Methodism. Currency: kroon. The land is low and hilly, with numerous lakes, forests, and rivers. It has a cool-temperate and humid climate. The economy is mainly industrial, producing shale oil, machinery, fabricated metal products, and building materials. It is noted for its textiles, and woodworking is a traditional and important industry. Estonia is a republic with one legislative body; the chief of state is the president, and the head of government is the prime minister. It was invaded by Vikings in the 9th century AD and later by Danes, Swedes, and Russians, but the Estonians were able to withstand the assaults until the Danes took control in 1219. In 1346 the Danes sold their sovereignty to the Teutonic Order, which was then in possession of Livonia (southern Estonia and Latvia). In the mid-16th century Estonia was once again divided: northern Estonia capitulated to Sweden, and Poland gained Livonia, which it surrendered to Sweden in 1629. Russia acquired Livonia and Estonia in 1721. Nearly a century later, serfdom was abolished. From 1881 Estonia underwent intensive Russification. In 1918 Estonia obtained independence from Russia, which lasted until the Soviet Union occupied the country in 1940 and forcibly incorporated it into the U.S.S.R. Germany held the region (1941–44) during World War II, but the Soviet regime was restored in 1944, after which Estonia's economy was collectivized and integrated into that of the Soviet Union. In 1991, along with other parts of the former U.S.S.R., it proclaimed its independence, and it subsequently held elections. In the 21st century Estonia continued negotiations with Russia to settle their common border, and it joined the other Baltic states in seeking admittance to the European Union.

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▪ 2009

45,227 sq km (17,462 sq mi)
(2008 est.): 1,340,000
Chief of state:
President Toomas Hendrik Ilves
Head of government:
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip

      On Feb. 24, 2008, Estonia marked the 90th anniversary of its declaration of independence, and the celebration continued in various forms throughout the year, including plans for a contested Freedom Monument in central Tallinn. Prime Minister Andrus Ansip's three-party coalition managed to retain power, but internal divisions among its partners grew as the country faced increasing economic hardship. While Ansip's Reform Party played the leading role in the national government, Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar and his Centre Party, the main opposition in the parliament, held majority control in the city council of the capital.

      Dismal economic news dominated domestic life. After nearly a decade of rapid growth, Estonia suffered a sharp economic downturn and the onset of a recession, further magnified by the global financial crisis late in the year. The overheated economy stopped growing as the real-estate bubble burst, and domestic demand and exports fell. Because of a shortfall in revenue, the government was forced to make midyear budget cuts, increase the value-added tax on certain items, and postpone a projected income-tax reduction. At the same time, the inflation rate reached double digits, which made adoption of the euro—a key government goal—unlikely before 2011.

      Relations with Russia continued to be chilly following the 2007 imbroglio over the relocation of the Bronze Soldier monument. In June 2008, at the fifth World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, Estonian Pres. Toomas Hendrik Ilves walked out to protest an attack made by a Russian State Duma official on the Estonian government's policies. In August Estonia condemned Russian actions in Georgia, and President Ilves quickly joined other Baltic and Eastern European leaders in Tbilisi in a show of solidarity with Georgia. At the end of 2007, Estonia joined the Schengen Convention, which eliminated border controls with most other European countries, and in November 2008 visa-free travel to the United States became a reality.

Toivo U. Raun

▪ 2008

45,227 sq km (17,462 sq mi)
(2007 est.): 1,338,000
Chief of state:
President Toomas Hendrik Ilves
Head of government:
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip

      On March 4, 2007, Estonia elected its fifth parliament since the restoration of independence in 1991; the voter turnout was 61%. Although polls had predicted that Edgar Savisaar's Estonian Centre Party (EK) would claim a clear victory, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip's Estonian Reform Party (RE) emerged the winner, garnering 31 seats in the 101-member Riigikogu (parliament), compared with the EK's 29. The pro-business RE received credit for Estonia's robust economic growth in recent years and benefited from Ansip's personal popularity. In early April Ansip formed a new coalition government—consisting of the RE, the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL), and the Social Democratic Party (SDE)—which pledged to lower the flat income tax rate from 22% to 18% by 2011.

      The year's most explosive issue was the controversy surrounding the government's planned removal of a Soviet-era World War II monument—the Bronze Soldier—from central Tallinn to a remote military cemetery in the city. In April two days of riots involving young Russians broke out at the original location, resulting in one death, scores of injuries, and the government's decision to relocate the monument immediately. Although the violence was a shock, the rioters were not representative of the Russian-speaking population of Estonia as a whole, and the episode encouraged both Estonians and Russians to face the challenge of integration in Estonia more realistically.

      The Bronze Soldier affair brought relations between Estonia and Russia to a new postcommunist low. Engaging in rhetorical overkill, Russian representatives used terms such as fascism and apartheid regarding Estonia and even demanded a new Estonian government. Most striking, a wave of cyber attacks against Estonian government, media, and banking Web sites began in late April with the riots, and the Estonian embassy in Moscow was under siege for days by the pro-Kremlin group Nashi and other youth organizations.

Toivo U. Raun

▪ 2007

45,227 sq km (17,462 sq mi)
(2006 est.): 1,343,000
Chief of state:
Presidents Arnold Rüütel and from October 9, Toomas Hendrik Ilves
Head of government:
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip

 On Sept. 23, 2006, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, a former foreign minister and member of the European Parliament, became Estonia's third post-communist president, defeating Arnold Rüütel's bid for a second term by a razor-thin majority in the electoral college, which was composed of members of the parliament and representatives of local government assemblies. As in 1996 and 2001, the parliament by itself failed to elect a president because no candidate received the required two-thirds majority. Born in Sweden of Estonian parents and raised in the United States, Ilves, 52, joined the presidents of Latvia and Lithuania as the third sitting Baltic head of state to have spent the bulk of his life abroad. Although opinion polls favoured Ilves, Rüütel was seen as the likely victor in the electoral college, given its strongly rural base. However, Rüütel's age (78), communist past, and limited knowledge of foreign languages all worked against him.

      Estonia's booming economy grew at a strikingly high annual rate in 2005 and 2006, hovering around 10% and helping create a strong budget surplus. Estonia also continued to receive high marks from international organizations for its economic openness and competitiveness. The negative side of the rapid growth was relatively high inflation, fueled by increasing energy prices, which meant that Estonia's planned transition to the euro as its currency would have to be postponed, perhaps for several years.

      Support for membership in the European Union, which Estonia joined in May 2004, rose to 74% among citizens of the country in September, the highest level to date. The image of the EU clearly benefited from Estonia's economic success and new employment opportunities in other member countries. The largest number of Estonians working abroad were in neighbouring Finland. Following his election President Ilves quickly advocated a more active role for Estonia in the EU.

Toivo U. Raun

▪ 2006

45,227 sq km (17,462 sq mi)
(2005 est.): 1,345,000
Chief of state:
President Arnold Rüütel
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Juhan Parts and, from April 13, Andrus Ansip

      Despite remaining the largest party in the parliament, Res Publica's fortunes continued to decline in Estonian political life during 2005. In late March the cabinet of Prime Minister Juhan Parts, Res Publica's leader, resigned following a vote of no confidence. It was replaced by a three-party coalition ( Reform Party, Centre Party, and People's Union), headed by the Reformist Andrus Ansip. The new government pledged to increase child support and pensions while also gradually reducing personal income taxes. Local government elections in October offered a boost to the ruling coalition, as the Centre Party won an outright majority in Tallinn, and the Reform Party dominated in Tartu. A pioneering innovation was Internet voting, although fewer than 1% of eligible voters took advantage of this option. The turnout of only 47% signified an all-time low in postcommunist local elections and suggested continued voter alienation.

      Relations with Russia remained troubled. Pres. Arnold Rüütel refused Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin's invitation to attend the Moscow ceremonies commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. Although Rüütel acknowledged the U.S.S.R.'s role in the defeat of Nazism, he also stressed the far-reaching repression suffered by Estonia under Soviet rule, a fact still not fully recognized by Russia. An apparent thaw in relations appeared on May 18 as the two countries finally signed border treaties that Estonia quickly ratified. Russia objected to a preamble added by the Estonian parliament, however, and withdrew its signature, insisting that the agreements be renegotiated.

      Like most Eastern European countries in the aftermath of communism's collapse, Estonia faced the challenge of demographic decline as birthrates plummeted and death rates remained high among an aging population. A pronatalist policy by recent governments, strongly reinforced by the Parts and Ansip cabinets in 2005, was finally paying dividends in a rising birthrate, lower infant mortality, and fewer abortions.

Toivo U. Raun

▪ 2005

45,227 sq km (17,462 sq mi)
(2004 est.): 1,342,000
Chief of state:
President Arnold Rüütel
Head of government:
Prime Minister Juhan Parts

      Prime Minister Juhan Parts's Res Publica party, the leading member of Estonia's ruling coalition, suffered a sharp decline in its political fortunes in 2004. Opinion polls showed falling support, and in the country's first elections to the European Parliament in June, Res Publica finished sixth, garnering only 7% of the vote and none of the six available seats. The results suggested that Res Publica had not delivered on its promises for a more ethical and caring government, although the public gave the party high marks for having implemented parental allowances for newborn children. The main political opposition, Edgar Savisaar's Estonian Centre Party, also endured important setbacks, including the defection of 8 of 28 members in the parliament in May and Savisaar's loss of the mayoralty in Tallinn in October following a vote of no confidence. The chief gainers were the Estonian Reform Party on the right and the Social Democratic Party (formerly the Moderates) on the left, the latter winning three seats in the European Parliament.

      Estonia achieved two major foreign-policy goals in 2004 as it joined NATO on March 29 and the European Union on May 1. Nevertheless, the very low turnout for the European Parliament elections (27%) indicated that voters were perhaps not yet convinced of the importance of EU institutions. Estonia stood out among acceding EU members in that it obtained two high-profile appointments: Toomas Hendrik Ilves as a vice chairman of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee and Siim Kallas as a vice president of the European Commission.

      Among the 10 new European Union countries, Estonia ranked only eighth in GDP per capita at 42% of the newly expanded EU's average. The World Economic Forum deemed Estonia's the most competitive economy among the 10 new states, however, and the economy continued to display a number of other positive features, including high growth rates, a low level of public debt, and a balanced state budget.

Toivo U. Raun

▪ 2004

45,227 sq km (17,462 sq mi)
(2003 est.): 1,353,000
Chief of state:
President Arnold Rüütel
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Siim Kallas and, from April 10, Juhan Parts

      On March 2, 2003, voters in Estonia went to the polls for the country's fourth parliamentary elections since 1992. For the first time in the postcommunist era, the ruling coalition (Prime Minister Siim Kallas's Reform Party and the Centre Party) held its own in the vote, but policy differences between the two parties precluded any renewal of their governing agreement. Instead Juhan Parts led a new centre-right coalition—consisting of his Res Publica party, the Reform Party, and the People's Union—that pledged to lower taxes gradually over the next four years. The new government held a solid 60 seats in the 101-member parliament. In its first national campaign, Res Publica burst onto the scene and tied the Centre Party for the most seats (28) by drawing voters away from several established parties. At 58%, voter turnout remained at the same level as that of the 1999 parliamentary elections.

      The Estonian economy continued its robust performance, with a fourth straight year of substantial growth in gross domestic product. In 2003 inflation fell to record low levels for the period since renewed independence in 1991. Finland and Sweden remained Estonia's main trading partners and foreign investors. The major cause for concern in the economy was a growing trade deficit.

      After months of at times highly emotional debate, the citizens of Estonia accepted the European Union's invitation for membership by a majority of 66.9% on September 14. Polls showed that support for the EU had dipped below 50% in June, but in the end arguments based on security issues—especially fear of renewed Russian dominance—and economic benefits carried the day. Estonia's impending membership in NATO received a strong boost in May when the U.S. Senate unanimously ratified the current round of expansion.

Toivo U. Raun

▪ 2003

45,227 sq km (17,462 sq mi)
(2002 est.): 1,359,000
Chief of state:
President Arnold Rüütel
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Mart Laar and, from January 28, Siim Kallas

      At the end of January, Siim Kallas, head of the Reform Party, was approved as prime minister of a new coalition government with the Center Party. Although the two parties commanded only 46 seats in the 101-member parliament, they were usually supported by two small groups—the People's Union and the Estonian United People's Party. In domestic affairs the coalition members sought to strengthen their position for the parliamentary elections scheduled for March 2003 and emphasized the principle of continuity in Estonia's foreign policy. The results of local elections, held on October 20, provided a vote of confidence for the national coalition. Edgar Savisaar's Center Party captured an outright majority of seats in Tallinn, and the Reform Party was the overwhelming winner in Tartu, Estonia's second city. Res Publica, a new party that ran on an anticorruption platform while also reaching out to non-Estonians, performed surprisingly well throughout the country.

      The closing months of 2002 brought to fruition two of Estonia's long-standing foreign policy goals: invitations for membership in NATO at the Prague summit in November and in the European Union at the Copenhagen summit in December. Formal induction into both organizations was expected in 2004, following a ratification process in the case of NATO and a referendum, scheduled for September 2003, in the case of the EU. Opinion polls in Estonia indicated increasing support for membership in both organizations.

      The Kallas government adopted a policy of more active engagement with Russia and showed a willingness to resolve certain issues of interest to Moscow, including official registration of the Orthodox Church in Estonia associated with the Moscow patriarchate and continued state support for Russian-language secondary schools. Responding to these gestures, various Russian officials suggested that ratification of the long-stalled border agreement and an end to double tariffs on Estonian imports would likely occur soon.

Toivo U. Raun

▪ 2002

45,227 sq km (17,462 sq mi)
(2001 est.): 1,363,000
Chief of state:
Presidents Lennart Meri and, from October 8, Arnold Rüütel
Head of government:
Prime Minister Mart Laar

      On Sept. 21, 2001, Arnold Rüütel, a leading former communist and candidate of the rural-oriented People's Union, was elected Estonia's second postcommunist president for a five-year term by gaining a bare majority (186 votes) in the 367-member electoral college, composed of the 101 members of the Riigikogu (parliament) and 266 representatives of local government assemblies. As in 1996, the initial attempt to elect a president in the parliament failed because no candidate achieved the required two-thirds majority. At age 73 the oldest candidate in the field, Rüütel had been presidential runner-up twice in the 1990s, but his election this time was a surprise, since he had trailed in nearly all opinion polls. He won because of the failure of the ruling national coalition to agree on a single candidate, the strong rural representation in the electoral college, and a protest vote against the policies of the current national government. On December 27 Rüütel began negotiations with chairmen of the coalition Reform and Center Party Siim Kallas and Edgar Savisaar to form a new government.

      Estonia's overall economic performance, as suggested by various macroeconomic indicators, remained strong during 2001, but growing unemployment and the highest rate of inflation in the Baltic States were cause for concern. Privatization of various branches of the economy had proceeded quite smoothly in previous years, but Prime Minister Mart Laar's centre-right coalition faced strong criticism for its handling of the privatization of a major railroad and the electrical energy industry, especially the lack of transparency in the latter case.

      Rüütel's election did not signify any change in Estonia's strongly Western-oriented foreign policy. Although NATO's next summit meeting on expansion was not scheduled until November 2002, the three Baltic States moved closer to membership as various Western leaders, notably U.S. Pres. George W. Bush and French Pres. Jacques Chirac, offered the most explicit statements to date on Baltic inclusion. In the aftermath of the events of September 11, Russia also softened its opposition to NATO membership for the Baltic States.

Toivo U. Raun

▪ 2001

45,227 sq km (17,462 sq mi)
(2000 est.): 1,435,000 (disregarding March 2000 preliminary census results)
Chief of state:
President Lennart Meri
Head of government:
Prime Minister Mart Laar

      In the absence of national or local elections in 2000, political life in Estonia focused on constitutional issues, especially relations between the president and the parliament. Although the constitution of 1992 envisioned a figurehead executive, Lennart Meri, Estonia's charismatic and popular president during the 1990s, had sought to enhance the powers of the office. The issue came to a head once again in June over Meri's dismissal of the head of Estonia's armed forces without consultation with the parliament. In August the parliament narrowly approved the step, but there were also renewed calls for legislation clearly defining presidential powers.

      Following a sluggish performance in the previous year, the Estonian economy showed robust growth during 2000, which suggested that the country had finally recovered from the impact of the Russian financial crisis of 1998. Tourism continued to expand rapidly and accounted for about one-sixth of the country's gross domestic product. The year's most emotional economic issue was the sale of a 49% share of Estonia's main power plants to the U.S.-based NRG Energy, Inc., which raised questions of energy dependence and foreign control. Estonia's first demographic census since regaining independence in 1991, conducted in March and April, confirmed the continuing decline and aging of the population, although the birthrate finally showed a slight upward trend in both 1999 and 2000. Controversy also surrounded the census because the overall count was considerably less than previous official estimates.

      Estonia made little concrete progress toward joining the European Union or NATO, although the European Commission's November report called Estonia one of the front-runners for EU membership. Many current EU members appeared increasingly hesitant at the prospect of integrating 12 new candidate members in the near future, and the exposed geopolitical location of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania gave some NATO countries pause. Public opinion polls indicated considerable volatility in the sentiments of the population regarding membership in those two organizations.

Toivo U. Raun

▪ 2000

45,227 sq km (17,462 sq mi)
(1999 est.): 1,439,000
Chief of state:
President Lennart Meri
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Mart Siimann and, from March 25, Mart Laar

      Politics in Estonia in 1999 was dominated by parliamentary elections in March and municipal elections in October. In both cases voter turnout was the lowest in the postcommunist era, which suggested electoral weariness and considerable voter alienation. Prime Minister Mart Siimann's ruling alliance suffered a resounding defeat in the parliamentary elections and was replaced by a centre-right coalition, headed by Mart Laar (prime minister in 1992–94) and including his Fatherland Union, the Reform Party, and the Moderates. It held a bare majority of 53 seats in the 101-member parliament. The municipal elections brought mixed results, but the parties in the national coalition controlled the city councils in the major centres of Tallinn and Tartu.

      After several years of strong economic growth, Estonia experienced a substantial downturn in the first half of 1999, mainly as a result of the lingering impact of the Russian financial crisis of 1998 and the restructuring taking place in the important energy industry. Unemployment increased markedly, and the Laar government was forced to make midyear budget cuts in the face of declining state revenues. Nevertheless, foreign investment in Estonia remained strong, and recovery was expected during the second half of the year. Despite the budget crisis, the government delivered on an election promise and planned to abolish the corporate income tax as of Jan. 1, 2000.

      Estonia's foreign policy remained focused on gaining accession to the European Union and NATO. In October Estonia was host of a meeting with the five other “fast track” candidates for EU membership. Also in October, the Estonian government submitted its membership action plan to NATO; whether Estonia would be able to raise defense spending to the required 2% of gross domestic product by 2002 remained to be seen. Relations with Russia were stable, but no progress was made toward finalizing a border agreement.

Toivo U. Raun

▪ 1999

      Area: 45,227 sq km (17,462 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 1,447,000

      Capital: Tallinn

      Chief of state: President Lennart Meri

      Head of government: Prime Minister Mart Siimann

      Political activity in Estonia in 1998 focused on the legislative elections scheduled for March 1999. There was much discussion of controlling the proliferation of parties by means of a law to ban election alliances. Such a measure was adopted on November 17 with the expectation that the number of parties with seats in the unicameral Riigikogu (parliament) would fall from 12 to 8. A few days later the opposition Moderate Party and the Republican and Conservative People's Party, partners in just such an election alliance, moved to merge.

      Most indicators continued to show a robust performance by the economy, although Estonia was not immune to the financial turmoil in Russia. Hardest hit, perhaps, were the banks. The two largest, Hansapank and Hoiupank, merged in January. The new Hansapank was the only one of the three largest banks in the country to show a profit in 1998, however. Forekspank, the third largest, in October announced a merger with the Estonian Investments Bank to form a new institution, Optiva.

      In its foreign relations Estonia continued to concentrate its activities on Western Europe and in particular on the welcome decision made late in 1997 to include Estonia among the countries on the "fast track" for membership in the European Union. It was pointed out that 65% of Estonia's foreign trade was now with EU countries, and fully 50% with Finland and Sweden. A Baltic "Charter of Partnership" was signed in Washington, D.C., on January 16, and this may have helped smooth some ruffled feathers in Latvia and Lithuania, Estonia's neighbours not included on the EU fast track. Estonia's often strained relationship with Russia continued to be the focus of much attention during the year. Russia posted a high-level ambassador to Estonia, and the bilateral negotiations to revise the two nations' border proceeded well.


▪ 1998

      Area: 45,227 sq km (17,462 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 1,463,000

      Capital: Tallinn

      Chief of state: President Lennart Meri

      Head of government: Prime Ministers Tiit VŠhi and, from March 17, Mart Siimann

      Estonian politics were turbulent in 1997. Prime Minister Tiit VŠhi resigned on February 25 in a scandal involving the privatization of real estate in Tallinn. The governing coalition nonetheless survived, with Mart Siimann of the Estonian Coalition Party becoming the new prime minister. A new clash erupted in September, this time between the president and the Cabinet on one side and the Ministry of Defense and the military on the other following the drowning of 14 soldiers during training in the strait between the island of Suur Pakri and the port of Kurkse.

      Still another scandal, which broke in late October, involved illegal surveillance by a security firm belonging to Koit Pikaro, who had been forced to resign in 1996 from a high police office. Pikaro worked as a consultant to Tallinn's City Council chairman and Estonian Centre Party functionary Edgar Savisaar, who himself had been forced out of VŠhi's Cabinet in late 1995 as minister of the interior under allegations that he had spied on his political rivals.

      Fueled by foreign investments, economic advances continued unabated in 1997. The European Commission (EC) recommended that Estonia begin accession talks for membership in the European Union, which somewhat soured relations with Latvia and Lithuania, which were not extended the EC's recommendation. At the end of 1997, Estonia opened a free-trade zone at Muuga harbour, northeast of Tallinn, to facilitate transit trade with Russia.

      A major achievement was the inauguration of visa-free travel with Estonia's Nordic neighbours. Relations with Russia improved a bit, even though Moscow postponed the signing of a border treaty. In 1997 the Council of Europe ended its monitoring of Estonia's treatment of its ethnic Russian minority, and the U.S. State Department's annual human rights report of January 1997 gave Estonia a comparatively clean bill of health.

      This article updates Estonia, history of (Estonia).

▪ 1997

      A republic of northern Europe, Estonia borders the Baltic Sea on the west and north. Area: 45,227 sq km (17,462 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 1,478,000. Cap.: Tallinn. Monetary unit: kroon, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a par value of EEK 8 to DM 1 (free rates of EEK 12.24 = U.S. $1 and EEK 19.29 = £ 1 sterling). President in 1996, Lennart Meri; prime minister, Tiit Vähi.

      The year 1995 ended with the forced resignation of the commander of defense forces, Lieut. Gen. Aleksander Einseln, a retired U.S. army colonel, following his public clash with the minister of defense. Also, the headquarters staff became embroiled in a scandal over the illegal sale of firearms.

      Prime Minister Tiit Vähi's governing coalition survived sharp infighting over economic, social, and foreign policy. In August Parliament failed to choose a president, and the decision thus fell to a specially convened electoral body, which included representatives of local government. This body endorsed the incumbent, Lennart Meri, a strong exponent of closer integration with the rest of Europe, who swore the oath of office on October 7 for a second term. Late in November the coalition government collapsed when the smaller partner, the Estonian Reform Party, withdrew because the Coalition and Rural People's Union, the larger partner, had signed a cooperation pact with the Estonian Centre Party without telling the Reform leaders that it was doing so. Prime Minister Vähi began seeking members for a new Cabinet. (TÖNU PARMING)

      This article updates Estonia, history of (Estonia).

▪ 1996

      A republic of northern Europe, Estonia borders the Baltic Sea on the west and north. Area: 45,227 sq km (17,462 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 1,487,000. Cap.: Tallinn. Monetary unit: kroon, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a par value of EEK 8 to DM 1 (free rates of EEK 11.41 = U.S. $1 and EEK 18.04 = £ 1 sterling). President in 1995, Lennart Meri; prime ministers, Andres Tarand and, from March 23, Tiit Vahi.

      After two and a half years in power, the coalition that had steered Estonia away from its Soviet legacy was soundly defeated in the elections of March 1995. The new prime minister, Tiit Vahi (Coalition Party), successfully rebuffed charges of a possible turn leftward due to the disproportionate number of former communists currently in power. His government collapsed in October, however, because of a scandal involving Minister of the Interior Edgar Savisaar over illegal surveillance. A realigned coalition with the Reform Party enabled Vahi to continue as prime minister.

      An associate membership agreement was signed with the European Union in June, and an official application was signed in November. Estonia continued to lead the Baltic countries in attracting Western investments. The major public worries remained crime, rural underdevelopment, and the status of the elderly.

      Active participation in NATO programs continued, and Estonian soldiers served in UN peacekeeping operations in Croatia during the year. Although the former Soviet nuclear training facility in Paldiski was turned over to Estonia in September, Estonian-Russian relations remain strained because of the dispute over borders. Pres. Lennart Meri undertook landmark visits to Sweden in September and to the U.S. and Mexico in October. U.S. Vice Pres. Al Gore visited Tallinn in March. (TÖNU PARMING)

      This updates the article Estonia, history of (Estonia).

▪ 1995

      A republic of northern Europe, Estonia borders the Baltic Sea on the west and north. Area: 45,227 sq km (17,462 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 1,499,000. Cap.: Tallinn. Monetary unit: kroon, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a par value of 8 krooni to DM 1 (free rates of 12.32 krooni = U.S. $1 and 19.60 krooni = £ 1 sterling). President in 1994, Lennart Meri; prime ministers, Mart Laar and, from October 27, Andres Tarand.

      With the withdrawal of Russian troops on Aug. 31, 1994, Estonia was free of foreign military forces for the first time since it was occupied in mid-1940. U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton's historic visit to Riga, Latvia, had facilitated the signing of the Estonian-Russian accords on July 26 in Moscow, yet the dispute over borders continued to sour bilateral relations. Estonia's "reintegration" with Europe was nevertheless proceeding rapidly, as evidenced by the country's active participation in the North Atlantic Cooperation Council and NATO's Partnership for Peace.

      The year began with Pres. Lennart Meri's refusal to confirm Prime Minster Mart Laar's choice of several new ministers. A constitutional crisis was averted when Meri retreated before Parliament. In the spring, strife in Laar's own Pro Patria Party, the principal partner in his governing coalition, threatened to unseat him. Defectors from Laar's party joined the otherwise fragmented opposition in a vote of no confidence on September 26. Andres Tarand, Laar's minister of the environment, succeeded him as prime minister in October, but the composition of the Cabinet remained largely unchanged. At year's end Estonia was preparing for parliamentary elections. The number of parties had mushroomed, but many were expected to coalesce into electoral alliances with common lists.

      The country was deeply shaken by the sinking of the ferry Estonia on stormy seas on September 28. (See Transportation .) On October 31 the first postcommunist archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Estonia was consecrated into office. To everyone's surprise, a former Communist Party secretary for ideology, Indrek Toome, was arrested on November 28 for bribery. During the year Estonians marked the 125th anniversary of their famed song festivals with separate events in Tallinn and Tartu.


      This updates the article Estonia, history of (Estonia).

▪ 1994

      A republic of northern Europe, Estonia borders the Baltic Sea on the west and north. Area: 45,226 sq km (17,462 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 1,536,000. Cap.: Tallinn. Monetary unit: kroon, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a par value of 8 krooni to DM 1 (free rates of 12.93 krooni = U.S. $1 and 19.58 krooni = £ 1 sterling). President in 1993, Lennart Meri; prime minister, Mart Laar.

      The free-market philosophy of the government and the positive climate for business won international acclaim for Estonia in 1993. In spite of the collapse of several banks beginning in 1992, the currency remained stable, foreign investment grew noticeably, privatization progressed, and foreign trade shifted decisively to the West and away from Russia (down to 20% of the total).

      Progress continued in the restoration of civil society. Accepting revisions suggested by a team of European experts, Pres. Lennart Meri (see BIOGRAPHIES (Meri, Lennart )) signed Estonia's controversial law on aliens in July. Elections to municipal and rural district councils were held on October 17. A number of judges, including Supreme Court justices, were appointed. In November the interior minister was fired for failing to cope with crime, the government's leading domestic worry.

      Estonia was admitted to the Council of Europe on May 14. Regional affairs were pursued primarily through the new Council of Baltic Sea States. The key issue in foreign relations was the continued presence in the country of Russian military forces, which Moscow, in disregard of the UN General Assembly resolution of Nov. 25, 1992, had yet to withdraw. Despite Moscow's blustering to the contrary during the summer of 1993, by year's end it appeared that Russian forces might soon depart.

      Uncertainties beset the relationships between President Meri and the Cabinet and Parliament. Elected to his post by a broad-based governing coalition, Meri refused to promulgate a number of important laws passed by Parliament. More serious was his tendency to overreach his constitutional powers in defense and foreign affairs. The opposition failed to unseat Prime Minister Mart Laar in November, when only 21% of the members of Parliament supported a motion of no confidence. (TÖNU PARMING)

      This updates the article Estonia, history of (Estonia).

* * *

Estonia, flag of   country in northeastern Europe, the northernmost of the three Baltic states. Estonia's area includes some 1,500 islands and islets; the two largest of these islands, Saaremaa and Hiiumaa, are off mainland Estonia's west coast.

      Estonia has been dominated by foreign powers through much of its history. In 1940 it was incorporated into the U.S.S.R. as one of its constituent republics. Estonia remained a Soviet republic until 1991, when, along with the other Baltic states, it declared its independence. The Soviet Union recognized independence for Estonia and the other Baltic states on Sept. 6, 1991, and United Nations membership followed shortly thereafter. Estonia set about transforming its government into a parliamentary democracy and reorienting its economy toward market capitalism. It sought integration with greater Europe and in 2004 joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU).

  Situated in northeastern Europe, Estonia juts out into the Baltic Sea, which surrounds the country to the north and west. To the east Estonia is bounded by Russia—predominantly by the Narva River and Lakes Peipus (Peipus, Lake) (Peipsi; Russian: Chudskoye Ozero), Tyoploye, and Pskov—and to the south it is bounded by Latvia.

Relief and drainage
      The Estonian (Estonia) landscape is largely the product of glacial activity; the south is covered with moraine hills, and the central part of the country abounds in elongated hills with flat tops. Northern Estonia is characterized by long narrow swells consisting of deposits left by glacial rivers that formed during the melting of ice. Extensive sandy areas mark what was once the glacier's edge. Estonia's relief is thus generally undulating, with small hills and numerous lakes, rivers, and forests lending a mild and picturesque aspect to the scene, particularly in the south.

      The mean elevation is 164 feet (50 metres) above sea level; only about one-tenth of the territory lies at elevations exceeding 300 feet (90 metres). In the southeast is the Haanja Upland, containing Suur Munamägi (Great Egg Hill), which, at 1,043 feet (318 metres), is the highest point in Estonia.

      Estonia abounds in rivers, which flow to the Gulf of Finland (Finland, Gulf of), to the Gulf of Riga (Riga, Gulf of), and into Lake Peipus (Peipus, Lake). The longest river, the Pärnu, stretches for about 90 miles (145 km); other important rivers are the Pedja, Narva, and Kasari. The country's largest lake is Peipus, with a surface area of about 1,370 square miles (3,550 square km), which is shared with Russia. Lake Võrts is situated in south-central Estonia.

      The temperate and humid climate of Estonia differs sharply from the climates of regions to the east (in Russia) at the same latitude. The country lies in the path of air masses borne by cyclonic winds that originate in the North Atlantic (North Atlantic Current) Ocean and carry warm air in winter and cool air in summer. The northern and western coastal areas tend to be milder than the country's inland regions, while the eastern and southeastern regions tend to have a continental climate. The mean temperature is 17 to 23 °F (-8 to -5 °C) in January and 61 to 63 °F (16 to 17 °C) in July. Annual precipitation is about 24 to 28 inches (600 to 700 mm), which, coupled with negligible evaporation and low relief, leads to waterlogging. The Estonian climate is generally favourable for agriculture.

Plant and animal life
      Mixed forests, with about 90 native species of trees and shrubs, cover almost half of Estonia's territory. Most widespread are pines, firs, birches, and aspens; less common are oaks, maples, elms, and ashes. Scots pine is the most common native tree. Meadows occupy a large area, as do marshes and swamps, where one-quarter of Estonia's 1,500 plant species are found.

      About 60 species of mammals live in Estonia. The largest of these is the elk; roe deer, red deer, and wild pigs also are found. In the deep forests of the northeast, bears and lynx are encountered. Foxes, badgers, otters, rabbits, hare, and—along the riverbanks—mink and nutria (coypu) are fairly common. Fish (cod, herring, salmon, eel, plaice, and others) are of commercial importance. Birds are numerous and migratory; more than 300 species have been identified, few of which are year-round residents.

      With the restoration of the independent republic in 1991, Estonia made strides in improving the health of its environment. Air and water pollution have been reduced, and the percentage of forestlands has been enlarged. About one-tenth of the country is set aside as a nature preserve.


Ethnic groups
      Compared with other European countries, Estonia has a large percentage of foreign-born residents and their children. Only about two-thirds of the population are ethnic Estonians. Russians are the most significant minority, comprising about one-fourth of the citizenry. Prominent among other ethnic minorities are Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Finns. There are some regional linguistic and cultural differences among the ethnic Estonians; notably, the Seto people in southeastern Estonia speak a distinct dialect of Estonian and are part of an Eastern Orthodox religious tradition, while the islanders of the Muhu archipelago in the west also have their own dialect and share a number of cultural affinities with the people of Scandinavia.

      Estonian (Estonian language), the official language of the country, is a member of the Finno-Ugric (Finno-Ugric languages) branch of the Uralic language (Uralic languages) family. More than two-thirds of the populace speak Estonian as a first language; about an additional one-fourth speak Russian as their first language (mostly in the northeast), though few Estonians over age 60 or under age 20 speak the language.

 There is no state religion in Estonia, and many of the people are either nonreligious or atheist. The Christian majority includes a large slice of unaffiliated Christians, along with significant Evangelical Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox communities, as well as lesser numbers of Baptists, Methodists, and Roman Catholics.

Settlement patterns
 As in the other Baltic states, Estonia's population is predominantly urban (more than two-thirds). Ethnic Estonians make up the vast majority of the rural population, while the urban population has a preponderance of non-Estonians. Tallinn and Tartu are the two largest cities, though Helsinki, across the Gulf of Finland, is closer to Tallinn than Tartu is. Other cities of significance are Narva, Kohtla-Järve, and Pärnu.

Demographic trends
      During the last half of the 20th century, Estonia experienced both considerable internal migration and, following Soviet annexation in 1940, extensive immigration from the other republics of the Soviet Union, especially Russia. In the process, the population in the industrially advanced northern part of the country increased appreciably at the expense of the southern and western regions, which remained primarily agrarian. Following independence, immigration slowed greatly, and many Russians left the country. Moreover, as the birth rate slowed dramatically at the end of the 20th century and life expectancy increased, Estonia's overall population began to age.

      As part of the interrelated Soviet economy, Estonia was basically an industrial region, with agriculture making a smaller contribution. Industry and agriculture remain important components of the economy of independent Estonia, but their portion of gross domestic product (GDP) and of the labour force have declined, while those of commerce and the service industry have grown. The Estonian economy experienced an initial downturn during its transition to a market economy (characterized by declining production, inflation, and unemployment), but by the mid-1990s it had rebounded, with some improvement across the decade following. Moreover, the Estonian economy has been cited as one of the most liberal in Europe; it has a balanced national budget, flat-rate income tax, and very few customs tariffs. Estonia was among the first eastern and central European countries with which the European Union (EU) started accession negotiations. It gained membership in 2004. Privatization of state-owned businesses was virtually complete by the beginning of the 21st century, though government controls remain over some energy and seaport activities.

Resources and power
      The country's most important mineral is oil shale, of which Estonia is a significant world producer. Reserves and production of peat also are substantial, and large deposits of high-quality phosphorites, limestone, dolomites, marl, and clay exist.

      Electric-power generation has great significance both for the economy of Estonia and for the surrounding region. Estonia supplies much of the power requirements of Latvia and parts of northwestern Russia. Most of the electricity produced in the country is generated by thermal power plants fired with oil shale. Two of those plants, located near Narva, account for much of the electricity produced for the Baltic states. There is also another major power station, the peat-fired plant at Ellamaa, as well as other smaller stations. Like the power industry, the large shale-processing industry is a major employer in Estonia. It produces great quantities of fuel gas, much of which is transported to Russia by pipelines extending from Kohtla-Järve to St. Petersburg (Saint Petersburg). There has been, however, growing concern about the environmental impact of both groundwater pollution from oil shale mining and sulfur dioxide emissions from the Narva power plants. Similarly, the phosphorite-mining industry has become the focus of environmental concerns. Oil shale satisfies about nine-tenths of Estonia's electrical needs, with alternative energy (peat, wood, and biomass) providing most of the remainder.

Agriculture and forestry
      During Estonia's tenure as a Soviet republic, its agriculture was collectivized (kolkhoz). Instead of some 120,000 small peasant farms that existed in 1945, there were by the 1990s about 190 collectivized farms and more than 120 state farms. Decollectivization became a government goal in the post-Soviet period, and privatization proceeded quickly. Within the first year, Estonia had twice as many private farmers as either Latvia or Lithuania. Agriculture is the foundation of Estonia's significant food-processing industry. Principal crops include potatoes, barley, and hay. Livestock farming, notably of cattle and pigs, is also important.

      Timber and woodworking constitute one of the oldest industries of Estonia, and the country's wood products include paper, pulp, plywood, matches, and furniture. The main production centres are Tallinn, Tartu, Narva, Pärnu, Kehra, Kuressaare (Kingissepa), and Viljandi.

      Like agriculture, industry in Estonia underwent a period of adjustment during the transition to a market economy. Raw materials, previously inexpensive owing to the Soviet system, are now acquired at world market prices. In addition to imported raw materials, Estonian industry uses local resources, such as those that provide the base materials for the construction industry, including cement, mural blocks, and panels made from either shale ash or reinforced concrete. The main centres of this industry are Tallinn, Kunda, Tartu, and Aseri.

      Much of the industrial labour force is engaged in the food-processing and forestry industries, machine building, and energy production. The chemical and mining industries, once significant employers, have declined in importance. On the other hand, Estonia's information technology and telecommunications industries began to blossom at the end of the 20th century. Among consumer-goods industries, textiles are highly developed, though they provided a diminishing share of total exports in the early 21st century. Still, most of the cotton cloth produced in the Baltic states is manufactured in Estonia. The country also produces wool, silk, linen, knitted and woven garments, and shoes.

      In the period immediately following independence, Estonia continued to use the Russian ruble as its currency. In June 1992, however, the republic introduced its own currency, the kroon, whose value was tied first to the German deutsche mark and then to the euro. At the centre of the republic's banking system is the Bank of Estonia (extant before the Soviet period and reestablished in 1990). In addition to a number of commercial banks, there is also the state-owned Savings Bank, and the Estonian Investment Bank offers financing for private companies. Sweden and Finland are the biggest foreign investors, providing three-fourths of external investment in the early 21st century. There is a stock exchange in Tallinn.

      The introduction of the kroon contributed to the stabilization of foreign trade, which was initially focused overwhelmingly on Russia and the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States but later expanded to include nations of the EU. Estonia's major trading partners are Finland, Sweden, Germany, Russia, and Latvia. Principal exports include machinery and equipment, timber, textiles, metal and metal products, and processed foodstuffs. Principal imports include machinery and equipment, vehicles and transport equipment, and chemicals. The Russian oil industry, which makes heavy use of Baltic ports, distributes large amounts of oil through Estonia to the rest of Europe.

      In addition to membership in the EU, Estonia had joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1999.

      By the early 21st century, the service sector was the largest component of the Estonian economy, employing about two-thirds of the workforce and contributing about two-thirds of the annual GDP. Following independence, foreign tourism grew steadily, primarily from Finland and predominantly in the summer months.

Labour and taxation
      During the Soviet era, trade unions were official organs of the state. In 1990–92 the groundwork was laid for the creation of independent labour associations with the formation of the Association of Estonian Trade Unions and the Estonian Employees' Unions' Association, the country's two main trade unions. Although the constitution, adopted in 1992, allowed employees to freely join and form independent unions, legislation enacted in 2000 cemented these rights and provided guidelines for trade union activities. Estonia employs a flat income tax rate (both for corporations and for individuals), a value-added tax (VAT), and property taxes but has neither inheritance nor gift taxes.

Transport and telecommunications
 Major highways link Tallinn with St. Petersburg and Riga, Latvia. The majority of the republic's freight is carried by road, but freight also is transported by rail and sea. Estonia's main rail lines connect Tallinn with Tartu and Narva. There are three commercial ports near Tallinn and another inland port at Narva. Estonia has a state-owned shipping company and a state-owned airline. The country's major airport is at Tallinn, but there are also airports at Tartu and Pärnu. River transport is of local significance only.

 At the beginning of the 21st century, cell phone use was high in Estonia, and Estonians, like Lithuanians, were more likely to own cell phones than were citizens of many other European countries. On the other hand, Estonians were less likely than many of their European neighbours to have personal computers.

Government and society

Constitutional framework
      Among the many initiatives of the Estonian government after independence from the U.S.S.R. was declared in August 1991 were preparation of a constitution, including the protection of minority group rights; proposed negotiations with Russia over territory lost during border adjustments following the Soviet occupation of 1940; and the development of legislation that would assist in the conversion to a market economy. A new constitution, based largely on the 1938 document that provided the basis for Estonia's pre-Soviet government structure, was approved by voters in a June 1992 referendum and came into effect in early July.

      Guaranteeing the preservation of the Estonian nation and its culture, this document established a unicameral legislature, the Riigikogu (state assembly), whose members are directly elected through proportional representation to four-year terms. The president, who serves as the head of state and supreme commander of the armed forces, is elected to not more than two consecutive five-year terms by the Riigikogu. Executive power rests with the prime minister, who is nominated by the president, and with the Council of Ministers. The government is responsible for implementing domestic and foreign policies and for coordinating the work of government institutions.

Local government
      Estonia is divided into 15 maakonnad (counties), which are further divided into vallad (parishes). In addition to parish governments, there are administrative bodies for a number of towns and independent municipalities. The parishes are further divided into külad (villages) and asulad (townships).

      The judiciary comprises rural, city, administrative, and criminal courts, regional and appellate courts, and the National Court, which is the court of final appeal. A legal chancellor is appointed by the Riigikogu to provide guidance on constitutional matters.

Political process
      Estonia has proportional representation and universal suffrage at age 18. In 1990 the government—no longer under the domination of the Communist Party of Estonia, which previously had controlled all aspects of political life—approved a multiparty system.

      At the forefront of the many political groups formed in the postindependence period was the Estonian Centre Party (an offshoot of the Estonian Popular Front), the organization whose leader, Edgar Savisaar, was independent Estonia's first prime minister. It was soon joined by a wide variety of parties from across the political spectrum, including a number of single-issue parties. Shifting coalitions of these parties, however, have come to dominate not only the formation of governments in the Riigikogu but also the slates organized to contest elections. Among the most important of these coalitions are the generally conservative Estonian People's Union, which includes many former communists; the centre-right Estonian Reform Party; the anticommunist Pro Patria Union; the Social Democratic Party; the Estonian United People's Party; and the Union for the Republic (Res Publica).

      Although military service is compulsory for men aged 19–28, women may choose to serve in the military. Volunteers can join at age 17, and reservists are eligible until age 60. The Estonian military includes land, air, and naval forces. Estonia became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 2004.

Health and welfare
      Benefiting from their country's advantaged position in the Soviet economic system, from comparatively high levels of productivity, and from very low rates of net natural population increase that suggested a tendency to trade increased family size for material benefits, Estonians had the highest monthly salaries and the highest per capita housing allocation in the Soviet Union on the eve of independence. Moreover, during the Soviet period health care was available free of charge and was administered by the executive branch of the government. After independence a new law on health insurance (1992) established a decentralized system of medical funding under the aegis of the Riigikogu that operated primarily on the county and municipal level.

      A law enacted in 1993 restructured education in Estonia and raised the level of compulsory attendance to age 17 or completion of the 9th grade. Education is conducted primarily in Estonian, but Russian continues to be the language of instruction in a number of schools. Higher education, which under the 1993 law was restructured along Western lines, is both public and private. Notable institutions include Tartu University (founded 1632) and Tallinn Technical University (founded 1918). Scientific research has been centred at the Estonian Academy of Sciences, founded in 1938.

      More than two-thirds of Estonian households live in apartment buildings. About five-sixths of the housing stock in Estonia was built after World War II, and of that about one-fourth was constructed after 1981.

Cultural life

Cultural milieu
      Because Estonia sits along the divide of western and eastern Europe—looking west, across the Baltic, toward Sweden, and east, across Lake Peipus, to Russia—it has long been influenced by both of those cultural traditions. Traditionally, northern Estonia, especially the Tallinn, has been more open to outside influences (including Germanic Christianity, the Reformation, and Russification) than has southern Estonia, which has been more insular and provincial. The Estonian nationalist revival of the 19th century helped bridge this gap to create a national culture that for a long time had the country's agricultural heritage as common denominator. Central to that heritage was the barn dwelling, a multipurpose farmhouse that has no real equivalent in other countries (save for northern Latvia). Estonian farm families both lived and worked in these buildings, which typically included the living quarters, a threshing room (for drying grain), a threshing/work area, and sometimes animal pens.

Daily life and social customs
      Barn dwellings are now historical curiosities, but other elements of Estonian folk culture remain alive. Although the traditional costumes that were once everyday wear began to disappear in the last half of the 19th century as a result of increasing urbanization, they are still worn for festive occasions, and song and dance remain central to Estonian identity. Traditional cuisine in Estonia includes leavened rye bread, stews, berry jams, pickled gherkins, pearl barley, potato porridge, brawn (headcheese), and salt herring, among other dishes. Holiday meals may include roast goose or pork, ale, black pudding, apples, nuts, and gingerbread.

      Among the main holidays are New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, Labour (or Spring) Day (May 1), and Christmas (December 25), as well as the summer holidays of Victory Day (June 23; Võidupüha) and St. John's (or Midsummer) Day (June 24; Jaanipäev). Celebrated February 24, Independence Day honours the 1918 declaration of independence from Soviet Russia, while the 1991 declaration of independence from the Soviet Union is observed on August 20 and known as Restoration Day. Other national holidays commemorate the Tartu Peace Treaty of 1920 (February 2) and the Soviet deportation of some 10,000 Estonians on a single night in 1941 (June 14).

The arts
      The scope and importance of Estonian literature have steadily increased since the period of national awakening in the 19th century. Open to cultural and literary influences of western Europe, Estonian literature developed a diversity of styles, ranging from Neoclassicism to bold experimentation. In the 20th century, Estonian writers represented three different epochs: Anton Hansen Tammsaare was the leading novelist of the former Republic of Estonia (1920–40); Jaan Kross wrote in an allegorical style during the period of Soviet occupation; and Tõnu Õnnepalu, whose work fits comfortably in the broader European context, became internationally recognized in the 1990s. Both Estonian classics and the works of contemporary authors have been translated into many languages.

      The beginning of professional theatrical art in Estonia is closely connected with the creation of the Vanemuine Theatre in Tartu in 1870. Tallinn has several theatres, including the national opera theatre, a youth theatre, and a puppet theatre. The festival Baltoscandal, which presents alternative theatre, started in Parnu in 1990.

      Estonian visual art came of age in the middle of the 19th century, when Johann Köler was among the leading portrait painters. The graphic art of Eduard Wiiralt symbolized bohemian art in the country in the 1920s and '30s. The international reputation of Estonian art has grown beyond these origins with the work of sculptor Juri Ojaver, ceramicists Leo Rohlin and Kaido Kask, digital media artist Mare Tralla, and graphic artist Urmo Raus.

 An early expression of Estonian nationalism dating from the mid-19th century, song and dance festivals continue to be extremely popular. The first national song festival was held in Tartu in 1869, and today the Song and Dance Celebration remains a linchpin of national identity. Classical composers and conductors of note include Rudolf Tobias (Jonah's Mission, 1908), Arvo Pärt (Fratres, 1977), and NeemeJärvi.

Cultural institutions
 Known for its historic architecture, the old city centre of Tallinn was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. The Museum of Estonian Architecture in Tallinn celebrates that and other national architectural traditions, from the multipurpose barn dwellings, with their enormous hatched roofs, that are a distinctive feature of the countryside to modern urban structures.

 Founded in Tartu in 1909 as a comprehensive repository of Estonia's cultural heritage, the Estonian National Museum now takes a primarily anthropological approach, while its offshoot institution, the Estonian Literary Museum, also located in Tartu, is the country's archive of literature and folklore. Among Estonia's other museums and galleries are the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Tallinn, the Museum of New Art in Pärnu, and the Estonian Open Air Museum, a reconstruction of an 18th-century village, at Rocca-al-Mare.

Sports and recreation
 Boating is a passion in Estonia, with yacht clubs dotting the coastline of the mainland and the islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa. In fact, the yachting events of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games were held in the waters off Tallinn. Canoeing is also popular, principally on the Võhandu, Piusa, and Ahja rivers in the southern part of the country. Bog walking is widely enjoyed, and bird-watchers frequent Estonia's nature reserves. In the summer, city dwellers flee to country cottages or the country's many sandy beaches to swim and sailboard. In winter, many Estonians cross-country ski. Other popular sports are athletics (track and field), football (soccer), and basketball. Estonia made its Olympic debut at the 1920 Games in Antwerp, Belg.

Media and publishing
      Estonia has a number of television stations and daily newspapers (most prominently, Today), and the FM band is crowded with radio stations. Prior to the restoration of the republic, the media were state-owned and controlled by the Communist Party, mainly through state censors. Since independence, the media have been greatly liberalized. Both deregulation and consolidation were trends of the early 21st century.

Arno Artur Köörna Vello Julius Tarmisto James H. Bater Aivars Stranga

      The Estonians are first mentioned by the Roman historian Tacitus (1st century AD) in Germania. Their political system was patriarchal, based on clans headed by elders. The first invaders of the country were Vikings (Viking), who from the mid-9th century passed through Estonia and Latvia on their way to the Slavonic hinterland. In the 11th and 12th centuries, the Danes and the Swedes tried to Christianize the Estonians, without success. Between 1030 and 1192, the Russians made 13 incursions into Estonia but failed to establish supremacy.

German conquest
      Meinhard, a monk from Holstein, landed in 1180 on what is now the Latvian coast and for 16 years preached Christianity to the Livs, a Finno-Ugric tribe. His successor, Berthold of Hanover, appointed bishop of Livonia, decided that the sword had to be used against the recalcitrant pagans. He was killed in 1198 in battle. Albert of Buxhoevden, who succeeded him as bishop, proved himself a shrewd colonizer, pacifying the “treacherous Livs” and forcing them to build the fortress of Riga. To popularize recruitment for his army, Albert dedicated Livonia to the Virgin Mary. In 1202 he established the Order of the Brothers of the Sword (Brothers of the Sword, Order of the).

      By 1208 the knights were firmly established on both banks of the Western Dvina (Western Dvina River) (Daugava) River, and Albert felt strong enough to proceed northward to the conquest of Estonia. In the following years, the Estonians decreased steadily in manpower, while the knights replenished theirs with new Crusaders from Germany. The Russian princes of Novgorod and Pskov also raided Estonia on many occasions, penetrating especially deep in 1212 and 1216. Finally, in a major battle in 1217, the knights defeated the Estonians and killed their commander, Lembitu. Northern Estonia and the islands, however, remained free for another 10 years. To complete the conquest, Albert concluded an alliance with King Valdemar II of Denmark, who in 1219 landed with a strong army on the northern coast, on the site of Tallinn.

      In 1237 the Order of the Brothers of the Sword suffered a crushing defeat and was absorbed by the Teutonic Order, which assumed control of Livonia. Northern Estonia and the islands were under Danish rule; Livonia (i.e., southern Estonia and Latvia) was shared between the Teutonic Order and the bishops. The terms under which the Estonian localities submitted were not severe, but the conquerors violated them as their position became stronger, provoking a series of revolts. After major risings in 1343–45, the Danish crown sold its sovereignty over northern Estonia to the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Order in 1346. The Germans became the masters in the “Land of the Virgin” and, with minor exceptions, dominated its government, its commerce, and the church for the next five centuries. The Estonians, the Latvians, and the Livs became the serfs of their conquerors, with little to sustain national feeling save their folklore and traditional crafts.

Swedish period
      By the end of the 15th century, two major powers were emerging around Livonia: Poland-Lithuania, already united in the south, and Muscovy, which had conquered Novgorod, in the east. More by diplomacy than by victory in battle, Lithuania gained Livonia on the dissolution of the Teutonic Order in 1561. Three years before, northern Estonia had capitulated to the king of Sweden. The Muscovite tsar Ivan IV (the Terrible) had captured Narva in 1558 and penetrated deep into Estonia, bringing devastation with him, and it was not until 1581 that the Russians were expelled by the Swedes. In 1559 the bishop of Saaremaa had sold the Estonian islands to Denmark, but in 1645 they became part of the Swedish province. By the Truce of Altmark (1629), which ended the first Polish-Swedish war, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth surrendered to Sweden the major part of Livonia, so that all Estonian lands then came under Swedish rule.

      Prolonged wars left the country devastated, and many farms were unoccupied. The vacancies were partly filled by foreign settlers who were soon assimilated. This also gave the German nobility the opportunity to enlarge its estates, increase taxes, and exact more unpaid labour. The Swedish kings attempted to curb the power of the nobility and improve the lot of the peasants. Soon after Charles XI of Sweden came of age (1672), the nobles of Livonia were forced to show their title deeds, and those who failed to do so became tenants of the crown.

Russian conquest
      The “good old Swedish days” for Estonia were more a legend than reality, and they ended with the Second Northern War (Northern War, Second) (Great Northern War (Northern War, Second)). The Russian tsar, Peter I (the Great), was finally able to achieve the dream of his predecessors and conquer the Baltic provinces. After the defeat of Charles XII of Sweden at the Battle of Poltava (Poltava, Battle of) (1709), Russian armies seized Livonia. The barons did not resist, angered as they were at the Swedish crown for its policy of reversion of estates. By the Peace of Nystad in 1721, Sweden ceded to Russia all its Baltic provinces.

      The peasants (peasant)' lot became the worst ever. In 1804, however, under Tsar Alexander I, the peasants of Livonia were given the right of private property and inheritance; a bill abolishing serfdom was passed in Estonia in 1816 and in 1819. Other agrarian laws followed—in particular that of 1863 establishing the peasants' right of free movement, that of 1866 abolishing the landowners' right of jurisdiction on their estates, including the right to flog, and that of 1868 abolishing the corvée.

Estonian national awakening
      The Estonian peasants benefited from these reforms, and, at the end of the 19th century, they possessed two-fifths of the privately owned land of the country. With the growth of urban prosperity as a result of industrialization, the population increased. Improvement in education was such that by 1886 only about 2 percent of the Estonian army recruits were unable to read. National consciousness also increased.

      The accession of Alexander III marked the beginning of a period of more rigid Russification. The Russian municipal constitution was introduced in 1882. Russian criminal and civil codes replaced the old Baltic ones. In 1887 Russian was made the language of instruction, instead of German and Estonian. In 1893 the University of Dorpat (now Tartu), which was then an important centre of German learning, was Russified. The first reaction of the Estonians was that poetic justice was being administered to their age-old oppressors, but they also feared reactionary Pan-Slavism. In 1901 in Tallinn (Revel), Konstantin Päts (Päts, Konstantin) founded the moderately radical newspaper Teataja. In 1904, thanks to Päts, the Estonians won a clear victory on the Tallinn town council.

      In January 1905 the revolution that started in Russia spread immediately to Estonia. Jaan Tönisson (Tönisson, Jaan) founded a National Liberal Party and organized its first congress in Tallinn on November 27. The 800 delegates soon split into a Liberal and a Radical wing, but both voted for resolutions demanding political autonomy for Estonia. In December Päts summoned a peasant congress in Tallinn. The Russian government responded by declaring martial law; this prompted parties of workers to scatter into the countryside, where they looted and burned manor houses. In the repression that followed, 328 Estonians were shot or hanged, and Päts and the Radical leader Jaan Teemant fled abroad, both having been sentenced—in contumacy—to death. (Päts returned in 1910.) At the elections to the first and the second Russian Duma, Estonian voters returned five deputies to the council.

      The Russian Revolution of 1917 during World War I brought autonomy to Estonia. An Estonian National Council, which came to be known as the Maapäev, met on July 14 and on October 12 appointed a provisional government with Päts as premier.

      The November coup d'état that brought the Bolsheviks into power in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) made itself felt in Estonia. On Nov. 28, 1917, the Estonian Diet decided to break away from the Russian state, but on December 8 the Russian Council of People's Commissars appointed a puppet communist government headed by Jaan Anvelt, who seized power in Tallinn but never obtained control of the whole country. In February 1918, German forces entered Estonia. The communists fled, and on February 24 the Maapäev declared Estonia independent. The following day German troops entered Tallinn. Päts was briefly arrested, and other Estonian leaders went abroad or underground. On March 3 the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (Brest-Litovsk, treaties of) was signed; sovereignty over the Baltic countries was transferred from Russia to Germany.

      German rule lasted until Germany's capitulation to the Allies on Nov. 11, 1918. The Estonian provisional government, again headed by Päts, immediately proclaimed independence, but the Soviet government declared the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk null and void, and on November 28 the Red Army took Narva and entered Estonia. Col. (later Gen.) Johan Laidoner (Laidoner, Johan) opened a counteroffensive in January 1919, supported by weapons and war matériel from the Allies, a British naval squadron, and a Finnish voluntary force of 2,700 men. By the end of February, all Estonian territory had been freed, and the Estonian army penetrated into Soviet and Latvian territory.

      On June 15, 1920, the constituent assembly (elected in April 1919), with August Rei as president, adopted a new constitution providing for a single-chamber Parliament (Riigikogu) of 100 members elected for three years, a system of proportional representation, and a chief of state (riigivanem), who was also the premier. Because no party had an absolute majority, government by coalition became the rule, and, from May 1919, when the first constitutional cabinet was formed, to May 1933, Estonia had 20 coalitions headed by 10 statesmen.

      On Dec. 1, 1924, 300 conspirators, mostly Russians working on the transit base at Tallinn or smuggled in, tried to seize communications and call in Soviet troops but failed ignominiously. The Communist Party was outlawed, and the movement became virtually extinct. The Great Depression of the early 1930s resulted in unemployment and falling agricultural prices. The strong government action necessary to cope with the situation was precluded under the 1920 constitution. A new constitution in 1933 gave sweeping powers to the president. Päts became acting president and was expected to prepare the ground for the first presidential election. Instead, he proclaimed a state of emergency on March 12, 1934. Opposition leaders were arrested; the political activities of all parties were forbidden; and Päts assumed dictatorial powers. In December 1936, a new constituent assembly was elected. It prepared a third constitution calling for the creation of a chamber of 80 deputies elected by the majority system and a national council of 40 members. A legislative election was held in February 1938. In April Päts was elected president for a term of six years.

Independence lost
      The fate of Estonia was decided by the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact of August 1939 between Nazi Germany and the U.S.S.R (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). On September 28 the Soviet government imposed on Estonia a treaty of mutual assistance that conceded to the Soviet Union several Estonian military bases, which were occupied forthwith. A broadly based nonpolitical government under Juri Uluots was appointed, but on June 16, 1940, a Soviet ultimatum demanded a new Estonian government, “able and willing to secure the honest application of the Soviet-Estonia mutual assistance treaty.” The following day, Soviet forces occupied the whole country. On July 21 the Chamber of Deputies was presented with a resolution to join the U.S.S.R.; it was unanimously adopted the next day in spite of being contrary to constitutional procedure. On August 6 the Moscow Supreme Soviet incorporated Estonia into the U.S.S.R. as one of its constituent republics. Meanwhile, Päts, Laidoner, and many other political leaders were arrested and deported to the U.S.S.R. In the first 12 months of Soviet occupation, more than 60,000 persons were killed or deported; more than 10,000 were removed in a mass deportation during the night of June 13–14, 1941.

      On June 22, 1941, Germany attacked the U.S.S.R. Large areas of Estonia were freed from Soviet forces by improvised Estonian units before the German army reached Estonia. For three years Estonia was under German occupation, becoming part of the Ostland province. By February 1944, however, the Russians were back on the Narva front. About 30,000 Estonians escaped by sea to Sweden and 33,000 to Germany; many thousands perished at sea. On Sept. 22, 1944, Soviet troops took Tallinn.

Kazimierz Maciej Smogorzewski Endel Aruja Romuald J. Misiunas

Soviet republic
      The first postwar decade was a particularly difficult period of repression and Russification. The efforts of the regime to restructure the country in a Soviet mold rendered national political and cultural life virtually impossible. Mass deportations occurred in several waves, most significantly in 1949 during the campaign to collectivize agriculture. It has been estimated that as many as 80,000 Estonians were deported between 1945 and 1953. Massive immigration from Russia and other parts of the U.S.S.R. decreased the indigenous proportion of the population. Before the war ethnic Estonians made up almost 90 percent of the population. By 1990 the proportion had sunk to about 60 percent. The ruling Communist Party was disproportionately immigrant in character. A large-scale purge in 1950–51 left virtually no native Estonian officials in the highest positions. The situation changed somewhat in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but by the late 1980s the ruling elite was still heavily immigrant.

      The Soviet liberalization campaign of the late 1980s provided an opportunity for a national renaissance. In April 1988 an opposition Popular Front emerged. On June 16 the incumbent first party secretary, Karl Vaino, an immigrant, was dismissed. In the fall of 1988 the Popular Front pushed his successor, Vaino Väljas, to guide a resolution on sovereignty through the legislature. In the face of Soviet protests and warnings, Estonian law took precedence over Soviet legislation.

Independence restored
      Proponents of independence won a clear victory in the March 1990 elections. On March 30, 1990, the Estonian legislature declared a transitional phase to independence. Independence was declared formally in August 1991 and was recognized by the Soviet Union the following month.

 In June 1992 a new constitution was adopted, and in September legislative and presidential elections were held, with Lennart Meri (Meri, Lennart), who was supported by the Isamaa (Fatherland) alliance, elected president. Among the key issues for independent Estonia were the rights of those residents of the republic who had immigrated after the Soviet annexation of Estonia in 1940. These nonethnic Estonians (mostly ethnic Russians) were required to apply for citizenship, with naturalization requirements including proficiency in the Estonian language. Relations between Russia and Estonia were strained over this issue and over the continued presence in Estonia of Russian troops, which finally left the country in August 1994.

      Despite allegations of corruption and abuse of power by some top officials, by the end of the 1990s Estonia had developed a stable democracy. Although affected by the Russian financial crisis of 1998, Estonia's economy was fairly robust throughout much of the late 1990s, and it strengthened even more in the opening years of the 21st century. In foreign affairs, the country sought to improve its often tense relations with Russia and reoriented itself toward the West. In 1999 Estonia joined the World Trade Organization (WTO), and in 2004 it became a full member of both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU).

Romuald J. Misiunas Aivars Stranga

Additional Reading

Estonia's geography is surveyed in publications prepared by the Institute of Geography at Tartu University and by the Estonian Geographical Society (EGS). Since 1972, the EGS has issued English-language texts every four years on the occasions of International Geographical Congresses, such as Estonia: Geographical Studies, vol. 8 (2000), and Estonia: Geographical Studies, vol. 9 (2004). Estonia's cultural heritage is addressed in Ivar Paulson, The Old Estonian Folk Religion (1971); Endel Nirk, Estonian Literature, 2nd ed. (1987; originally published in Estonian, 1983); and Monika Topman, An Outline of Estonian Music, trans. from Estonian (1978). Developments of the late 1980s are found in Pia Pajur, Hello, Perestroika: Nine Interviews with Individual and Cooperative Workers (1989; originally published in Estonian, 1989).

Toivo U. Raun, Estonia and the Estonians, 2nd updated ed. (2001), is a comprehensive survey of Estonian history, spanning the period from the first human settlements to the end of the 1970s. A good survey of Estonian history in the 20th century is John Hiden and Patrick Salmon, The Baltic Nations and Europe: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in the Twentieth century (1994). An older but still important work is Evald Uustalu, The History of Estonian People (1952). Works focusing on specific periods and topics include J. Selirand and E. Tõnisson, Through Past Millennia: Archaeological Discoveries in Estonia, trans. from Estonian (1984); Juhan Kahk, Peasant and Lord in the Process of Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism in the Baltics (1982); Igor Sedykh (compiler), Estonia: Choice of a Path, 1917–1940: A Documentary Survey (1987); Heino Arumäe, At the Crossroads: The Foreign Policy of the Republic of Estonia in 1933–1939, trans. from Estonian (1983); and Villem Raud, Developments in Estonia, 1939–1941, 2nd ed. (1987). The impact of Soviet occupation is discussed in Vello Salo (ed.), Population Losses in Estonia, June 1940–August 1941 (1989). Also informative is Tönu Parming and Elmar Järvesoo (eds.), A Case Study of a Soviet Republic: The Estonian SSR (1978). A popular and well-written history of the Baltic states, mainly focusing on the period after glasnost, is Anatol Lieven, The Baltic Revolution: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Path to Independence (1994).Aivars Stranga James H. Bater Romuald J. Misiunas

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