Estonia is slightly bigger than Belgium,
Denmark or Netherlands. 47.6% of Estonian territory is forest and
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
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
Ethnically and linguistically, Estonians belong to the
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
The main religion is Lutheran, there are also Orthodox, Baptists and
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).