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Estonia

Facts & Figures

President: Toomas Hendrik Ilves (2006)

Prime Minister: Taavi Rõivas (2014)

Land area: 16,684 sq mi (43,211 sq km); total area: sq mi (sq km)

Population (2012 est.): 1,274,709 (growth rate: –-0.65%); birth rate: 10.43/1000; infant mortality rate: 6.94/1000; life expectancy: 73.58; density per sq km: 30

Capital and largest city (2009 est.): Tallinn, 399,000

Other large city: Tartu, 100,100

Monetary unit: Kroon

More Facts & Figures

Flag of Estonia

Geography

Estonia is mainly a lowland country that is bordered by the Baltic Sea, Latvia, and Russia. It has numerous lakes and forests and many rivers, most draining northward into the Gulf of Finland or eastward into Lake Peipus, its largest lake.

Government

Parliamentary democracy.

History

Estonians resisted the assaults of Vikings, Danes, Swedes, and Russians before the 13th century. In 1346, the Danes, who possessed northern Estonia, sold the land to the Teutonic Knights of Germany, who already possessed Livonia (southern Estonia and Latvia). The Teutonic Knights reduced the Estonians to serfdom. In 1526, the Swedes took over, and the power of the German (Balt) landowning class was reduced. But after 1721, when Russia succeeded Sweden as the ruling power under the Peace of Nystad, the Estonians were subject to a double bondage—the Balts and the czarist officials. The oppression lasted until the closing months of World War I, when Estonia finally achieved independence after a victorious war (1918–1920). But shortly after the start of World War II, the nation was occupied by Russian troops and incorporated as the 16th republic of the USSR in 1940. Germany occupied the nation from 1941 to 1944, when it was retaken by the Soviets.

Estonia declared independence from the Soviet Union in March 1990. Soviet resistance ensued, but after recognition by European and other countries, the Soviet Union acknowledged Estonian nationhood on Sept. 6, 1991. UN membership followed on Sept. 17. The newly independent nation embraced free-market reforms. Fueled by foreign investments, economic advances continued. In 2004, Estonia became a member of the European Union as well as of NATO. In Sept. 2006, Toomas Hendrik Ilves was elected president, defeating incumbent Arnold Rüütel.

In March 2007, Estonia allowed Internet voting for Parliamentary elections, becoming the first country to do so. Prime Minister Andrus Ansip's Reform Party narrowly won the election, taking 31 out of 101 seats, just two more than the Centre Party.

Violent protests erupted in April 2007, when Estonian officials moved a controversial bronze statue of a Soviet soldier from a park in Tallinn and placed in it a military cemetery. One person died in the protests and dozens were injured. Ethnic Russians—as well as the Russian government—say the memorial honors Red Army soldiers who died fighting Nazi Germany and object to its relocation. Estonians, however, believe the statue glorifies Soviet occupation of Estonia.

In March 2014, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip resigned. Minister of Social Affairs Taavi Rõivas was selected by President Ilves to succeed Ansip. According to Ansip, he resigned to allow a successor to prepare and lead his party through the 2015 elections. When he resigned, Ansip was the European Union's longest-serving head of government. He had been prime minister since April 2005.

See also Encyclopedia: Estonia
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes: Estonia .
Statistical Office of Estonia www.stat.ee/ .


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