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ESTONIA

Estonia is slightly bigger than Belgium, Denmark or Netherlands. 47.6% of Estonian territory is  forest and woodland. After centuries of Swedish 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.

The movement to restore Estonia's independence, which started in the late 1980s, culminated in 1991. By that time, Moscow's perestroika- policy had exhausted itself. It had not fulfilled its purpose and failed to change the socialist society in the Soviet Union by moderate alterations. Instead, it led to the collapse of the whole empire. The attempted coup of May 1991 in Moscow gave the small nations of the empire a chance to restore their historical independence.

With the agreement of different political powers, the Supreme Soviet (the Estonian parliament of the time) passed 'A Resolution on the National Independence of Estonia'; it re-established the independent state both de jure and de facto.Within a short space of time, the newly independent state gained international recognition. On 6 September 1991, the Soviet Union Supreme Council also recognised the independence of the three Baltic states.  The Constitutional Assembly was formed for drafting the new constitution. It included an equal number of members from both the Supreme Soviet and the Estonian Committee. On 17 September 1991, the Republic of Estonia and the other Baltic states were accepted as full members of the United Nations Organisation. The Republic of Estonia was again on the world political map as an independent and sovereign state.

Nearly 1200 lakes (5 per cent of the Estonian territory) dot the countryside, which is relatively flat — almost two thirds of the territory lies less than 50 m above sea level. The highest point is Suur Munamägi, 318 m above sea level.The longest rivers are the Pärnu (144 km), Kasari (112 km), and Emajõgi (101 km). Major lakes are Lake Peipsi (3555 km², of which 1529 km² lies within Estonia) and Võrtsjärv (266 km²). There are 1521 islands off Estonia's coast. The biggest are Saaremaa (2922 km² ), Hiiumaa (1023 km² ) and Muhu (206 km² ). Estonia lies at almost the same latitude as Southern Alaska, but thanks to the influence of the Gulf Stream the climate is mild. The average temperature in the warmest month, July, is about +16...18°C; in the coldest, February, -3.5...-7°C.

Estonia is a parliamentary republic. The Parliament (Riigikogu) has 101 members elected for a period of four years. Voting age is 18. Resident non-citizens are eligible to vote at local government elections. The head of state is the President, elected by the Riigikogu for a five-year term. The head of government, the Prime Minister, is appointed by the President and approved by the Riigikogu.

Ethnically and linguistically, Estonians belong  to the Finno-Ungric peoples, along with the Finns and Hungarians. The national character of Estonians has been shaped by the fate of the nation as well by the country’s landscape. An Estonian prefers to get by on his own. An Estonian is usually sceptical by nature, tends to mock any kind of state authority (including one’s own), and dreads superfluous sentimentality. The main religion is Lutheran, there are also Orthodox, Baptists and others.

Tallinn, with its medieval city centre, is Estonia's capital. Over a third of the nation (415 299 people) live in Tallinn and about 70% of the population reside in cities in general. The larger of these in descending order are: the university town of Tartu (100 977 inhabitants); the industrial border town of Narva (74 572); and the summer capital Pärnu (51 927) - the popular holiday destination on the southwestern coast, where summer air and water temperatures can reach those of the Mediterranean region. The closest major city to Tallinn is the Finnish capital Helsinki, located at a distance of 80 km on the opposite shore of the Gulf of Finland. Riga is only one day's drive away (307 km). It's also a relatively short trip to St. Petersburg (395 km) and Stockholm (405 km).
 


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