ESTONIA, the smallest and the northernmost Baltic state is just 80 km from Helsinki accross the Gulf of Finland. Its area is 45 thousand sq km, population 1.5 mln, official language Estonian, religion Protestant. Currency Estonian kroon and cents.
Estonia (Eesti) is the northernmost of the three Baltic States, bordering with Latvia in the south and just 80 km away from Helsinki across the Baltic Sea (the Gulf of Finland).
It has the most varied nature from the other two Baltic States as it is a land of islands. About 1500 small and large islands are scattered along the shore of the mainland to the west and north. The largest and most attractive islands are: Saaremaa, Hiumaa, Muhu and Vormsi with their rocky,stony or sandy coasts. In the north of Estonia there are limestone clint cliffs, 500 million years old. Many buildings, stone walls and fortresses have been built from it, that's why the limestone has been declared Estonia's national rock. There are 1450 natural and manmade lakes in Estonia, more than 7000 rivers and streams. 1/5th of the country is covered by marshes, the oldest are about 10.000 years old. Almost half of Estonia's territory is covered by forests. 23 different forest types are distinguished, the most common- pine forests. Estonia is on an important birds' migration route. Millions of birds of 39 different species pass through Estonia in spring and autumn. It's a paradise for bird watchers .
Estonians have long folk music traditions.The first Song festival was held in 1869, now such song festivals are special events, held every few years in specially constructed grounds, east of Tallinn centre, numbering 30000 participants and nearly half a million people enjoying these song festivals, waving the blue,black and white Estonian flags.
Estonian is a Finno-Ugric language, mostly linked to Finnish. It is absolutely different from the Baltic linguistic group to which Latvian and Lithuanian languages belong.
Major towns in Estonia: Tallinn,the capital, Tartu, Narva, Parnu.
Estonia allures the visitors with its ancient capital Tallinn having 440,000 inhabitants, approx. 1/3 of the whole Estonian population. When the Danes conquered the town in 1219, local people started to call it a Danish Town - Taanilinn in Estonian. Its rich history with many rulers - Teutonic Knights, Swedes, Russians is best felt in the Old Town which retained one of the best preserved medieval quarters in the world. In few places in Europe does the aura of the 14-15th centuries survives intact as it does in Tallinn's medieval walls, winding, cobbled hilly streets and needling spires of the churches.
WORTH TO VISIT
Worth visiting is one of many Estonia's national parks, Lahemaa with restored manors and parks, the amiable historic university town of Tartu, the coastal resort Parnu and the most intriguing part of provincial Estonia - its islands Hiiumaa and particularly Saaremaa with their windmills, juniper groves and coastal vistas stretching far away into infinity.
The ancestors of Estonians settled on the Baltic shores about 7000 years back. From around 1200 A.D. Estonian history was dominated by the constant struggle against invaders. In the early 13th century German Teutonic Knights subdued Estonia and later formed an alliance with the Danes. In 1219 a small Danish force landed on the Estonian coast and built a fortresss. The Estonians called it ‘Tallinn' -meaning Danish castle. Gradually the crusading of Teutonic Knights weakened, they ran the country as feudal barons while the Estonians worked in their estates. For the next 500 years the country was in the hands of the Danes, Germans,Swedes,Russians. The Swedish occupation was rather tolerable in Estonian History.Tartu University was established in 1632 by Swedish king Gustav II, the Estonian language was studied seriously for the first time, printing of grammars,biblical stories started. But the Swedish rule came to an end in the late 17th century as the Russian czar Peter the Great envied ice-free Baltic ports. He used Baltic Germans to keep order among the Estonian peasants. In the 19th century the industrialization led to an Estonian middle class appearing and gradually the Estonians became a majority in the country,while Baltic Germans -a minority. Estonian newspapers were founded and literacy was increasing.Russia started russification of all Baltic provinces,Estonia including.Russian became compulsory at schools and civil service, most of Tartu University German-speaking staff was dismissed.The Estonians welcomed the reduction of their German landlords power.The World War I and Russian Revolution brought such circumstances that Estonia could announce its independence on 24 February,1918, with a lot of fighting for it with Soviet army afterwards. This day is still celebrated as Estonian National Day. The economic success and political stability lasted till 1940 when under secret protocols,signed between Hitler and Stalin, Estonia ,as Latvia and Lithuania, came under the Soviet influence and fell to the USSR. Soviet Estonia existed from 1944 until 1991. On the 20 August,1991 Estonia enjoyed independence again. Membership of the European Union and NATO were the goals of Estonia, just as of the other two Baltic States-Latvia and Lithuania.