The Republic of Estonia is a small country in Northeastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea to the west, the Gulf of Finland to the north, and sharing a land border with its fellow Baltic state Latvia to the south and with Russia to the east.
|National motto: None|
|Prime Minister||Juhan Parts[?]|
- % water
- Total (2000)
|From the Soviet Union
February 24, 1918
February 2, 1920
|Time zone||UTC +2|
|National anthem||Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm|
Estonia has been populated by the native Finno Ugric Estonians since prehistory. It was first christianised when the German Sword Brethren and Denmark conquered the land by 1227. Subsequent foreign powers that controlled Estonia at various times included Denmark, Sweden, Poland and finally Russia.
Following the collapse of imperial Russia during the October Revolution, Estonia declared its independence as a republic on February 24, 1918. Forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union in June, 1940, it regained its freedom in August 20, 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. August 20 remains a national holiday in Estonia because of this.
Since the last Russian troops left on August 31, 1994, Estonia has been free to promote economic and political ties with Western Europe. It is seeking membership of NATO and Estonia opened accession negotiations with European Union in 1998 and is planning to join in 2004.
Estonia is a constitutional democracy, with a president elected by the parliament (elections every five years) and a unicameral parliament. The government or the executive branch is formed by the prime minister, nominated by the president, and a total of 15 ministers. The government is appointed by the president after approval by the parliament.
Legislative power lies with the unicameral parliament, the Riigikogu or State Assembly, which holds 101 seats. Members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. The supreme judiciary court is the National Court or Riigikohus, with 17 justices whose chairman is appointed by the parliament for life on nomination by the president.
Estonia numbers 15 main administrative subdivisions, called counties (maakonnad, singular - maakond):
Between 57.3 and 59.5 latitude and 21.5 and 28.1 longitude, Estonia lies on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea on the level northwestern part of the rising east European platform. Average elevation reaches only 50 m.
Oil shale (or kukersite) and limestone deposits, along with forests which cover 47% of the land, play key economic roles in this generally resource-poor country. Estonia boasts over 1,400 lakes (most very small, with the largest, Lake Peipsi[?], being 3,555 km²), numerous bogs, and 3,794 kilometers of coastline marked by numerous bays, straits, and inlets. The number of islands and islets is estimated at some 1,500 with two large enough to constitute their own counties, Saaremaa and Hiiumaa.
Its highest point is the Suur Munamägi[?] in the southeastern corner of the country (318 m).
In 1999, Estonia experienced its worst year economically since it regained independence in 1991 largely because of the impact of the August 1998 Russian financial crisis. Estonia joined the WTO in November 1999 - the second Baltic state to join - and continued its EU accession talks. Privatisation of energy, telecommunications, railways, and other state-owned companies is a continuing process. Estonia expects to complete its preparations for EU membership by the end of 2002 and is one of the economic front-runners of those seeking entry in 2004.
About two thirds of the population consist of Estonians, with the rest from other former Soviet republics, mainly Russia, who predominantly live in the capital Tallinn. There is also a small group of Finnish descent.