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Estonia - Baltic Way

Estonia

Estonia, Haapsalu

Estonia – it is a unique tiny Northern-European country with its beautiful northern nature, friendly and open-minded people and rich cultural legacy. With its location between Finland, Sweden and Latvia Estonia’s 4000 years of history and culture are full of interesting fragments from Swedish, German, Danish, Finnish culture. Estonia’s capital Tallinn is famous all over the Europe with its unique old town part that has been built in Middle Ages but also with its openness to the sea and nature.

Estonians share much of the thing called the Nordic Character: they love cross country skiing over the snowy fields, sauna with its contrasts of almost burning hot air inside the sauna room and freezing refreshment in the snow or water outside and spending the dark winter night next to the fireplace with living fire in it. Throughout centuries, Estonians have always lived in the corner of the world where there is a large-scale migration of peoples.

Ethnically and linguistically, Estonians belong to the Finno-Ugric peoples, along with the Finns and Hungarians. The Estonian language contains loan words from Low German, German, Swedish, Russian, French, Finnish and English. Those travelling through or those who have come here by chance, have doubtlessly left their mark on the Estonians' way of thinking and their character. Despite the high level of urbanization (about ¾ of the population live in towns, one third (411 594) lives in Tallinn), Estonians are connected quite closely with rural life.

Historical facts

  • About 2,500 B.C ancestors of the Estonians came from the east and settled on the Baltic shores. At the beginning of the 13th century the country was conquered by the Teutonic knights.
  • 1710 Peter I won Estonia from Sweden and made it part of Imperial Russia.
  • Second half of the 19th c. Estonians self-awareness grew into a powerful national movement. February 24, 1918 Estonia declared itself an independent, democratic republic.
  • 1940 Estonia was occupied by the Soviets and annexed.
  • August 20, 1991 Estonia declared the re-establishment of its independence.

Government

The contemporary Estonian government follows the principles of separation of power and its people elect a 101-member parliament every four years. Only Estonian citizens may participate in parliamentary elections. The Parliament chooses a president, who can be in office for a five year period for a maximum of two terms. The President is the Supreme Commander of the National Defense of Estonia. A party must gather 5% of the votes in order to become part of the Parliament. As a rule, the President asks the party leader who has collected the most votes to form the new government. The current President of Estonia is Toomas Hendrik Ilves.

Population

1.340 million

Ethnic composition

Estonian 67.9%, Russian 25.6%, Ukrainian 2.1%, Belorussian 1.3%, Finn 0.9%, other 2.2%.

Main symbols

flag

Flag

coat of arms

 

Coat of arms

 

The current coat of arms of Estonia is a golden shield which includes three slim, blue leopards in the middle, with oak branches along the side of the shield. The insignia was copied from the coat of arms of Denmark, which ruled Northern Estonia in the 13th century.

Language

State language- Estonian, which is part of the Finno-Ugric family of languages. English is widely used and understood among the younger generation and those involved in the tourist industry.

Religions

Evangelical Lutheran; the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox, subordinated to Constantinople; the Estonian Orthodox, subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate; Roman Catholic; Baptist; and other.

Geographical information

Territory

Estonia is approximately 45,000 square kilometres with some 1,520 islands along its shore line. The country also shares its borders with Latvia and Russia.

Estonia has more than 1 500 islands, 1 000 lakes (5 per cent of the Estonian territory), 7 000 rivers and streams. Bogs and wooded swamplands of different types cover over one fifth of the country.

  • The deepest lake is Rõuge Suurjärv (38m).
  • The longest river is the Pärnu (144 km).
  • Major lakes are Lake Peipsi (3555 km2, of which 1529 km2 lies within Estonia) and Võrtsjärv (266 km).
  • The highest point in Estonia is Suur Munamägi (Great Egg Hill)- 318 metres above sea level.
  • Estonia is very rich in forests - various kinds of forests cover almost half of Estonia's territory.

Estonia is the home of several mammals as well as plant species that are extinct or very rare in other parts of Europe. The most numerous species of the large mammals are the roe deer, elk, and wild boar. Beaver, lynx, wolf, brown bear, grey seal, and ringed seal are relatively common as well. Of the 333 recorded bird species, 222 breed in Estonia, including the capercaillie, black stork, and all together at least 400 pairs of eagles.

Climate

Due to the influence of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf Stream, the weather in Estonia is considerably milder than the continental climate characteristic of the same latitude. The temperature in the summer months (June–September) is typically 15…18ºC; in winter, –4…–5ºC. Estonian weather offers many surprises. Temperatures may fluctuate by 20º C; in the early morning the thermometer might read –12ºC and by afternoon it may already be 10ºC. Although it doesn't always snow in winter, there tends to be about 10 cm of snow on the ground consistently from late December through to the beginning of March.

Time

Time is 2 hours from Greenwich in summer and 3 hours - in winter, according to East-European time zone system.

Most common foreign languages

English, Russian, and German.

 

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