Estonia, officially the Republic of Estonia, is a Baltic state located in Northern Europe. It borders the Gulf of Finland to the west and north, Russia to the east and the Republic of Latvia to the south. Its capital is Tallinn. Estonian territory consists of the mainland and 2,222 islands in the Baltic Sea. It has a humid continental climate.
The first human settlements on Estonian soil date back to at least 6500 BC. After being under German, Danish, Swedish and Russian domination, the country experienced a national awakening towards the end of the First World War and gained its independence from the Russians on February 24, 1918. During the Second World War, Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940, a year later it was occupied by Nazi Germany, and in 1944 it became a part of the Soviet Union. Estonia gained its full independence on 20 August 1991. Since the declaration of independence, Estonia maintains its unitary parliamentary republic structure. With a population of 1,328,976, Estonia is one of the least populated countries of the European Union, Eurozone, NATO, OECD and the Schengen Area.
The oldest known settlement in Estonia is the settlement of Pulli on the banks of the Pärnu River. It is thought that humans lived 11,000 years ago.
The Bronze Age began in Estonia around 1800 BC, and sheltered settlements were built on high hills during this period. The transition from a hunting-fishing-gathering life to an agricultural society started around 1000 BC, and by the Iron Age, around 500 BC, the agricultural society was fully realized. A warlike way of life emerged in the middle of the Iron Age.
Many Scandinavian epics speak of encounters with Estonians. The most important event among these is the Estonians’ murder of the Swedish king Ingvar. In 1030, Yaroslav I defeated the Estonians. In the 11th century, Estonians organized sea voyages to the surrounding islands and Sweden.
Little is known about the pagan religious practices of Estonia. It is known that spiritual rites are led by shamans and they worship in sacred groves, especially in places where there are oak trees.
Estonia was Christianized in 1227 with the German conquest by the Brotherhood of the Sword and the Danes. Estonia; In different periods of history, it came under the rule of Denmark, Sweden, Poland and Russia.
In 1700, the Great Northern War began, and within ten years the whole of Estonia was conquered by the Russian Empire. An active nationalist movement emerged in the 19th century, first reaching cultural dimensions, and then reaching the formation of the Estonian national identity.
After the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia in the October Revolution of 1917 and the German armies won victories over the Russian armies, the Russian Red Army withdrew and German troops advanced into Estonia. Meanwhile, on February 23, 1918, Estonia declared its independence. German troops captured Estonia. The Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty was signed. After staying in Estonia until November 1918, the Germans withdrew completely. Thus Bolshevik troops advanced into Estonia. This led to the start of the Estonian War of Independence, which would last for 14 months.
After the Estonian War of Independence against Soviet Russia was won, the Tartu Peace Agreement was signed on February 2, 1920.
After Estonia retained its independence for nearly twenty years, World War II broke out. Estonia was annexed by the Soviet Union on August 6, 1940, and about a year later, German armies captured Estonia, established 22 concentration camps, and massacred Estonian Jews, Gypsies and Soviet prisoners of war. It is thought that 25% of the Estonian population lost their lives during the conflicts between the Germans and the Soviets. Around 90,000 Estonians died during the Second World War.
In 1944, Estonia was again included in the Soviet Union. On August 20, 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, it declared its independence again with the Song Revolution. August 20 is recognized as “Estonian National Day”.
With the withdrawal of Russian soldiers from the country on August 31, 1994, Estonia obtained the right to independently manage its relations with countries in Western Europe and other regions.
The country joined NATO on 29 March 2004 and the European Union on 1 May 2004.
Estonia is a republic with a parliamentary structure and a representative democracy. In a country with a multi-party political system, the prime minister is the head of government. Political culture in Estonia remains unaltered, preserving itself. Political power is shared between several parties that have been in politics for a long time. This situation is similar for other Northwest European countries.
Parliament and Government
The Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu) has legislative power in Estonia. Members of Parliament are elected for 4-year terms. Estonia is a parliamentary republic with representative democracy. The Estonian political system operates in accordance with the constitutional text drafted in 1992. There are 101 deputies in the Estonian Parliament. The deputies mainly influence the government in the administration of the state. The parliament is also the mechanism that determines the state budget, taxes, revenues and expenditures of the state.
The Parliament elects and appoints the top government officials, including the President. In addition, with the proposal from the President, it also appoints the President of the National Court, the Chairman of the Board of the Central Bank of Estonia, and the Chief of the General Staff of the Defense Units. Members of parliament have the right to raise questions to the government.
The Estonian government is formed by the prime minister, nominated by the president and approved by the parliament. The government consists of twelve ministers, including the prime minister.
Estonia has a very developed e-government and e-government system. Internet voting system is used in the elections. The first internet voting took place in Estonia in 2005 local elections.
Estonia is located between 57.3 latitude and 59.5 longitude.
Estonia is located on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea, at an altitude of 50 meters.
50% of the country, mostly covered with limestone, consists of forests. The most common tree species are pine, spruce and birch. Estonia is a country that lacks natural resources. Estonia has 1,400 lakes, most of which are very small. The largest of these is Lake Peipsi, which is 3,555 km². It has 3,794 kilometers of coastline, mostly swampy. There are close to 1,500 islands in the country, of which Saaremaa and Hiiumaa are the largest. There are also many rivers in the country. The longest of these rivers are Võhandu (162 km), Pärnu (144 km) and Põltsamaa (135 km).
Its highest point is the 318-metre-high Suur Munamägi peak in the southeastern region of the country.
The most snow-covered part of the country is the southeast. Snowfall can usually last from mid-December to late March. Estonia remains in the northern part of the temperate climate zone and has a climate between maritime and continental climates. The lengths of the seasons are almost equal to each other.
As a member of the European Union, Estonia is located on one of the largest economic regions in the world. 1999 was the most severe economic crisis period experienced by Estonia since it declared its independence in 1991, with the effect of the 1998 Russian Economic Crisis. Estonia became a member of the World Trade Organization in November 1999 and started negotiations with the European Union in this period.
Privatization of power generation and distribution, telecommunications, railways and other public institutions is still ongoing in Estonia.
Estonia completed its negotiations with the European Union in 2002 and became a member of the union. In this period, Estonia was determined as the country with the strongest economy among the new member countries after the Republic of Cyprus during the enlargement process of the union.
The Estonian economy is a rapidly developing structure, in which many Finnish companies invest. Estonian economy is particularly strong in Information Technology. Its GDP per capita is $26,470, the highest among the Baltic States.
As of 2021, its national income is around $ 35.19 billion. Its economy is growing based on information technology. Electronics, machinery and production based on advanced technology have come to the fore. International organizations in Sweden and Finland carry out most of their production in Estonia. The share of foreign capital in the formation of national income is one-third. Nearly half of the exports are made by companies with foreign capital.
A balanced budget, near-zero government debt, flat-rate income tax, free trade regime, fully convertible currency supported by currency board, strong Euro rate, competitive commercial banking sector, favorable investment climate for foreign investors, innovative e-services and mobile based services are characteristic features of Estonia’s free market based economy.
Estonia produces about 75% of the electricity it consumes. In 2011, 85% of the electricity was produced using bituminous shale. Alternative energy sources such as wood, peat and biomass constitute approximately 9% of primary energy production. In 2009, renewable wind energy provided 6% of the electricity consumed. Estonia imports the petroleum products it needs from Western Europe and Russia. Bituminous shale energy, telecommunications, textiles, chemical products, banking, service sector, food and fish sector, timber, shipbuilding, electronic products and transportation are key elements of the Estonian economy.
According to 2016 data, the unemployment rate in Estonia was calculated as 6.4%, which is below the average of EU countries. Estonia is the least indebted country in Europe.
About 70% of Estonia is ethnic Estonians, with the rest of the population mostly made up of minorities who have immigrated to the country from the former USSR. The Harjumaa region, including the capital Tallinn, is one of the most developed regions of the country.
The official language of the country is Estonian, a language related to Finnish. Russian is one of the predominantly spoken languages in the country. Ethnic Russians are concentrated in the Ida-Viru region in the northeast of the country.
Although Estonia seems to be multi-ethnic today, in fact, this multi-ethnic situation is only seen in two regions of the country with a dense population. In thirteen of the fifteen regions in Estonia, 80% of the population is Estonian. The most homogeneous among these regions is the Hiiumaa region, where the Estonian population rate is 98.4%. In the Harju region, where the capital Tallinn is also located, the proportion of Estonians is 60%, and the proportion of Estonians in the Ida-Viru region is 20%.
The ethnic composition of Estonia according to the 2012 census:
Estonians are a people of Uralic origin within the Finno-Ugric peoples. They migrated to the Baltic region from the Urals like the Finns. It is a people very close to the Finns.
Tallinn is the country’s capital and largest city. It stretches along the Gulf of Finland on the northern coast of Estonia. There are many settlements in the country, including 33 cities, villages and towns. 70% of Estonia’s population lives in cities.
Estonia was Christianized in the 13th century by the Teutonic Knights. During the Reformation, Protestantism spread and the first Lutheran Church in Estonia was officially opened in 1686. Before the Second World War, 80% of Estonia was Protestant. Today, however, many Estonians say they are not religious because religion is associated with feudal German rule in the 19th century. According to research by Dentsu Communication Institute, Estonia has the highest atheist population in the world. 75.7% of the people do not have any religious belief. According to the research conducted by Eurobarometer in 2005, only 16% of Estonians believe in the existence of God. With this ratio, it is also the country with the highest atheism rate in the European Union.
The Estonian constitution guarantees religious freedom, the separation of church and state administration, and the privacy of personal belief.
The most common religion in Estonia, as in other Scandinavian countries, is the Lutheran sect of Christianity.
Russian minorities living in the country are generally from the Eastern Orthodox sect of Christianity.
There is also a Jewish community and a small Muslim population originating from Tatar and Azeri origin minorities in the country.
Estonian traditions still have influences from ancient paganism. Today, if we specify the religious beliefs in Estonia in terms of percentage and number:
- 13.6% Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church
- 12.8% Orthodox Church
- about 6,000 Baptists
- about 5,700 Roman Catholics
- about 1,900 Jews
- about 1,300 Muslims
There are also a small number of Protestants and Pagans in the country.
The only mosque in the country where Muslims can pray collectively is the masjid in the Turath Islamic cultural center located near the airport.
Estonian, the official language of Estonia, belongs to the Finno-Ugric group of languages belonging to the Ural branch of the Ural Altaic Language Family. That’s why it has a very close connection to Finnish, which is spoken on the other side of the Gulf of Finland. It is one of the few languages in Europe that does not belong to the Indo-European Language Family. The Estonian and Finnish languages are not geographically related to their closest neighbors in origin, although some words overlap due to borrowings. Swedish, Lithuanian, and Russian languages all belong to the Indo-European Language Family.
Russian is still the second most spoken language among Estonians between the ages of forty and seventy. Because Russian was the unofficial language of Soviet Estonia from 1944 to 1991. Russian was compulsory in the Soviet era. In 1998, first and second generation migrant industrial workers from the Soviet Union (usually Russia) did not speak Estonian. However, by 2010, the proportion of Estonian speakers among ethnic non-Estonians had risen to 64.1%.
The languages Estonians learn the most include English, Russian, Finnish, German and Swedish.
The history of formal education in Estonia dates back to the 13th and 14th centuries, when monastic and cathedral schools were founded. The first reading book in the Estonian language was published in 1575. The oldest university in Estonia, King of Sweden II. It is the University of Tartu, founded in 1632 by Gustaf Adolf.
Today, education in Estonia is divided into three as general education, vocational education and hobby education. The education system consists of four stages: pre-school education, primary education, secondary education and higher education. A wide network of schools and supporting educational institutions has been established throughout the country. The Estonian education system consists of state, municipal, public and private educational institutions. There are currently 589 schools in Estonia.
Higher education in Estonia is divided into three levels: undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral studies. In some fields (basic medical sciences, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, architect-engineering and classroom teacher program) undergraduate and postgraduate education are combined. In addition, those who received baccalaureate degrees in 2002 and before were equated with those who completed postgraduate education after the implementation of the Bologna Process on September 1, 2002. State universities are much more autonomous than applied higher education institutions. In addition to regulating the academic life of the university, universities can devise new curricula, set entry terms and conditions, approve the budget, development plan, elect the rector, and make limited decisions on matters related to their existence. The number of public and private universities in Estonia is neither too few nor too many. The largest public universities are University of Tartu, Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn University, Estonian University of Life Sciences, Estonian Academy of Arts, Estonian Academy of Music and Theater; The largest private university is Audentes International University.
Estonians, along with Cuba, have the highest literacy rate (99.8%) in the world.
Estonian culture is a combination of local heritage represented by Estonian, the language of the country, and Scandinavian cultural elements. Due to its history and geography, Estonian culture carries influences from German, Finnish, Balt and Slavic cultures, as well as the cultures of Sweden, Denmark and Russia, which once dominated the geography. Realities of nature and traditional life are of great importance in Estonian culture, as in the common cultures of Scandinavian countries.
The most well-known Estonian composers worldwide are Arvo Pärt, Eduard Tubin and Veljo Tormis. In 2014, Arvo Pärt became the most performed composer among living composers. Estonia won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2001 with the song Everybody performed by Tanel Padar.
Lyrical folk poetry is the basis of Estonian literature. The author of the most well-known prose works of Estonian literature is Oskar Luts, whose works are still widely read today. Tõnu Õnnepalu and Andrus Kivirähk are cited among the most popular writers of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Estonia’s architectural history reflects the country’s contemporary development in northern Europe. The medieval city center of Tallinn, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, is an area of architectural beauty worth mentioning. In addition, in many parts of the country there are sheltered castles perched on high hills from pre-Christian times, and numerous medieval castles and churches. In the rural parts of the country, many mansions from centuries ago continue to exist.
Sports activities also occupy an important place in Estonian culture. After gaining independence in 1918, Estonia participated in the 1920 Summer Olympics for the first time as a separate country. Estonia has won the most medals in athletics, weightlifting and wrestling in the Olympics held to date.