Capital City: Tallin.
Prime Minister: Andrus Ansip.
Euro: officially adopted January, 2011.
Population: Nearly two million.
Currency: the Kroon.
Languages: Estonian and Russian.
International Organizations: EU (since 2004), United Nations, CSCE, North Atlantic Co-operation Council.
Estonia is one of the younger full members of the EU. It is bounded to the north by the Gulf of Finland, on the east by Russia, to the south by Latvia (see our last edition, 419) and to the west by the Baltic Sea. Two biggish islands and a number of smaller ones lie off the coast, which is sometimes ice-bound in winter, though the summers are generally warm, warmer than one might imagine considering Estonia is a north European state.
History of Estonia
In 1709 Estonia was annexed by Russia, but she regained independence in 1918 (surprisingly) during the Bolshevik Revolution. During the Twenties there was an continuous agrarian revolution, in which the huge estates of the Baltic barons (almost all German) were broken up, creating a fairly prosperous agricultural class. An attempt at communism was suppressed in 1924.
The Estonian economy was badly affected by the Great Depression, and from 1934 – 1939 the country experienced an autocratic, near-Fascist regime led by Konstantin Paets, an admirer of Hitler. His attempt to make a pact with the German Chancellor was foiled by the Nazi-Soviet Pact made in August, 1939. In September of that year Soviet troops occupied important ports, followed by total occupation in 1940.
Oddly enough, the Estonians welcomed the arrival of Nazi troops in 1941, but its anti-Bolshevik resistance forces could not prevent the Red Army from re-occupying the country in 1944, nor its becoming a constituent republic of the USSR. The rest of the Forties, Fifties, Sixties, Seventies and Eighties were survived by the Estonians in the usual miserable drudgery until February, 1990 when there were massed rallies in the capital Tallin, demanding independence. The Supreme Soviet rallied by re-instating the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia of 1920.
Notwithstanding, talks were taking place between Estonian diplomats and Soviet representatives, and the Republic was recognised as independent in September, 1991, after which Estonia was admitted to the United Nations General Assembly: too much too soon; as a result of the collapse of Russian markets there was an economic crisis, with concomitant food and fuel rationing in January 1992. Problems were partially eased by trade agreements made with the European Community, and with support by the International Monetary Fund.
In 1992 a new constitution was adopted and Lennart Meri was elected President. Many Russians had opted to stay in Estonia after the collapse of the Soviet rule, and they were disturbed after 1992 by a proposed law that would deny them Estonian citizenship. Luckily the law was amended before it was passed in 1993, making citizenship available to those Russians (or other foreigners) who passed language tests. Two principally Russian cities voted for autonomy at the end of 1993, but the Estonian Government declared their referendums illegal. In 1994 the last Russian troops withdrew from Estonia.
Languages are only estonian!!!
Nothing to do with russian!!!
Dear Lokk, thank you for your comment. Information about languages in Estonia in my post was not meant to suggest that Russian is in any way an official language. But Russian IS spoken and read in Estonia – only natural after so many decades under the Soviet yoke. Which is why I mention Russian as one of the different languages spoken there. Take it easy. Estonia and Estonians are lovely, energetic and unique, whatever language they speak!