Europe

Estonia country profile

  • 25 November 2016
  • From the section Europe
Map of Estonia

Estonia is the most northerly of the three Baltic states, and has linguistic ties with Finland.

Since regaining its independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Estonia has become one of the most economically successful of the European Union's newer eastern European members.

Ruled at various times during the middle ages by Denmark, the German knights of the Livonian Order, and Sweden, Estonia ended up part of the Russian Empire in the 18th century.

It experienced its first period of independence in 1918, following the end of the First World War and the collapse of the Russian Empire.

FACTS

Republic of Estonia

Capital: Tallinn

  • Population 1.3 million

  • Area 45,227 sq km (17,462 sq miles)

  • Major languages Estonian, Russian

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 70 years (men), 80 years (women)

  • Currency euro

Getty Images

LEADERS

President: Kersti Kaljulaid

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Kersti Kaljulaid was elected by parliament as Estonia's first female president in October 2016.

A biologist by training, Kaljulaid started her political career in 1999 as an economic adviser to Prime Minister Mart Laar. She served as Estonia's representative in the European Court of Auditors between 2004 and 2016.

The office is largely symbolic although it gained weight after outgoing President Toomas Hendrik Ilves carved a role as an outspoken critic of Russia and a campaigner for government digitalisation and cybersecurity.

Prime minister: Juri Ratas

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Juri Ratas, whose party is popular among Estonia's large Russian-speaking minority, heads a coalition government which was sworn in in November 2016.

He was asked by the president to form a government after his predecessor Taavi Roivas lost a parliamentary vote on confidence when one of his junior coalition partners deserted.

Mr Ratas's Centre Party, which had been in opposition for a decade, has as partners the leftist Social Democrat SDE and conservative IRL.

Before taking office he indicated that his government would lean towards the West.

MEDIA

Television is Estonia's most popular medium, while print media are losing ground to online outlets.

The broadcasting industry has attracted foreign media groups; the main privately-owned TVs are run by Swedish and Norwegian concerns.

Eesti Televisioon (ETV) and Eesti Raadio (ER) are public broadcasters. Take-up of cable and digital terrestrial TV is extensive; the offering includes stations in Finnish, Swedish, Russian and Latvian.

TIMELINE

Some key dates in Estonia's history:

1918 - Independence proclaimed.

1920- Peace treaty with Russia signed.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The city gates in Talinn

1939 - The Soviet Union compels Estonia to accept Soviet military bases.

1940 Soviet troops march in. Estonia incorporated into Soviet Union.

1941 - German troops invade.

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Image caption Held every five years, Estonia's Nationwide Song and Dance Festival attracts thousands of performers and spectators

1944 - Estonia reannexed by the Soviet Union. Tens of thousands of Estonians deported to Siberia and Central Asia.

1988 - Popular Front campaigns for democracy. "Singing revolution" brings a third of the population together in a bid for national unity and self-determination.

1991 - Communist rule collapses. Soviet government recognizes the independence of the Baltic republics.

2004 - Estonia admitted to Nato and is one of 10 new states to join the EU.

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