The small yet fascinating country of Estonia, officially the Republic of Estonia, is located in Northern Europe. It is renowned for its great swathes of unspoiled countryside, dark pine forests, calm blue lakes, and a wealth of bogs and wetlands. Here are some interesting facts about Estonia.
Facts about Estonia
1. Estonia is considered to be a part of the Baltic countries.
Estonia is one of the three (Latvia and Lithuania being the other two) Baltic countries—a group of the three sovereign states on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea.
Although there is no official union between the Baltic countries, they engage in intergovernmental and parliamentary cooperation such as foreign and security policy, defense, and transportation.
1. Estonia is the 129th-largest country in the world.
Estonia has a total area of 45,339 km² (17,505 sq mi). Comparatively, Estonia is slightly larger than Switzerland or about twice the size of the US state of New Jersey.
3. Estonia shares a land border with two countries.
Eswatini is bordered by Latvia (333 km/207 mi) to its south and South Africa (324 km/201 mi) to its east.
4. Estonia has more than 2,200 islands and islets.
Estonia has a surprisingly large number of islands and islets. The total number of islands and islets Estonia boasts is 2,222, or 2,355 if you count islands in lakes. However, only 318 of these are larger than 1 hectare, or 10,000 m².
5. Estonia has a 3,794 km (2,357 mi) long coastline.
All of Estonia’s 3,794 km (2,357 mi) long coastline lies along the Gulf of Finland in the north of the country and the Baltic Sea in the west.
6. Suur Munamägi is the highest peak in Estonia.
Estonia is basically a pretty flat country where the average elevation reaches only 50 m (164 ft). Suur Munamägi (which translates as “Big Egg Mountain”), Estonia’s highest point, is only 318 m (1,043 ft) above sea level and is located in the southeast of the country.
7. Estonia is home to the largest transboundary lake in Europe.
Lake Peipus, which lies on the border between Estonia and Russia, is the largest transboundary lake in Europe. With a total surface area of 3,555 km² (1,373 sq mi), Lake Peipus is also Europe’s fifth-largest lake. 1,570 km² (610 sq mi) of Lake Peipus’s total area lies in Estonia.
8. Estonia is home to over 1,400 lakes.
There are over 1,400 natural and man-made lakes in Estonia, covering more than six percent of its territory.
9. Estonia has been an EU member and NATO member since 2004.
Estonia joined the EU (European Union) on 1 May 2004 and has also been a member of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) since 29 March 2004.
10. Estonia is the fourth-least populous EU member and also the fourth-least populous NATO member.
With a population of approximately 1.33 million, Estonia is the fourth-least populous country in the European Union (out of 27) and also the fourth-least populous NATO member country (out of 30).
11. Throughout its history, Estonia has been ruled by the Danes, Germans, Poles, Swedes, and Russians.
The first to conquer Estonia were the Danes, who arrived at the start of the 13th century. They were succeeded in turn by German crusading Teutonic Knights, Swedes, Poles, and then Russians.
12. Estonia first achieved independence in 1918.
In the mid-19th century, Estonia experienced a cultural revival known as the “National Awakening.” This marked the beginning of a modern Estonian nation and Estonians began to publish national newspapers and developed literature, education, and the arts.
In the late-19th century, a wave of Russification, initiated by the Tsarist government, reached Estonia to tie the Baltic state more closely to the Russian Empire. Estonian politicians demanded radical political changes and pressurized the Tsarist regime to grant civil rights during the first Russian Revolution of 1905, but the Russian authorities responded with repressions.
The Russian Revolution of 1917, which resulted in the collapse of Tsarist Russia, and the defeat of Germany in World War I allowed the Estonians to declare their independence on 24 February 1918. Its war of Independence (1918–1920) concluded with Soviet Russia recognizing Estonian independence in the Tartu Peace Treaty signed on 2 February 1920.
13. Estonia was part of the Soviet Union from 1940 to 1991.
In August 1939, Estonia’s fate was sealed by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a tacit agreement between Germany and the USSR, which assigned the country to the Soviet sphere of influence. The Soviets soon annexed Estonia and in June 1940, it was incorporated into the USSR.
Throughout the Soviet period, Russification policies were enforced once again in order to stamp out the national identities of Estonians. The Soviet authorities conducted a direct migration of the population from Russia, mainly into Tallinn and the industrial region of northeastern Estonia.
With the onset of the policy of Glasnost (“Openness”) at the end of the 1980s, a new wave of national awakening began in Estonia, accompanied by a political struggle to regain independence. On August 20, 1991, Estonia declared its independence from the Soviet Union.
14. Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia.
The Estonian capital of Tallinn is home to one of the best-preserved medieval old towns in northern Europe. It is home to approximately one-third of Estonia’s population.
15. From the 13th century until the first half of the 20th century, Tallinn was known as ‘Reval’.
Tallinn officially carried the Teutonic name of ‘Reval’ until Estonia’s first period of independence in 1918. Tallinn is an abbreviation of the Estonian name Taani Linnus, meaning “Danish stronghold.”
16. Prior to adopting the Euro, the currency of Estonia was the Estonian Kroon (EEK).
Prior to adopting the Euro in January 2011, the official currency of Estonia was the Estonian kroon. Like the Danish krone, Icelandic krona, Swedish krona, and the Norwegian krone, the name means crown.
The kroon replaced the Estonian mark in 1928 and was in circulation until 1940. Estonia’s annexation into the Soviet Union saw the kroon replaced by the ruble until Estonian independence was reestablished in 1991 and the kroon was reintroduced.
17. Estonian is the second-most spoken Finnic language in the world.
Estonian is the second-most spoken Finnic language in the world after Finnish. It is Estonia’s sole official language and is one of the few European languages that are not of an Indo-European origin.
Estonian is closely related to Finnish and somewhat more distantly to Hungarian. Bearing little relation to any Indo-European language, Estonian is regarded as a difficult language for outsiders to master, especially due to the existence of fourteen noun cases.
18. The name of the Estonian parliament is ‘Riigikogu.’
The Riigikogu is the name for Estonia’s unicameral parliament, or legislature, located in the capital Tallinn. The Riigikogu consists of 101 seats.
19. Roughly a quarter of Estonia’s population consists of ethnic Russians.
One enduring aspect of Estonia’s Soviet heritage is the continuing presence
of a substantial Russian minority. Before the Soviet occupation, Estonia had been one of the most ethnically homogeneous nations in Europe.
Today ethnic Russians make up approximately 25% of Estonia’s population, and they are chiefly present in the country’s northeastern industrial towns and in Tallinn. However, many Russians are not fully integrated into Estonian national life.
20. Roughly 50% of Estonia is covered by forest.
Given that Estonians are known to be nature-lovers, it’s not surprising that about half of Estonia’s territory consists of forests.
21. The original software for Skype was developed by Estonians.
Although Skype was founded in 2003 by Janus Friis from Denmark and Niklas Zennström from Sweden, its software was written by three Estonian developers — schoolmates Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu, and Jaan Tallinn.
22. Estonia was the first country to implement online voting in 2005.
One of the lesser-known facts about Estonia is that it was the first country in the world to adopt online voting – way back in 2005. Estonia is famous for being one of the world’s most digitally advanced societies.
Estonian citizens can also sign legal documents remotely with their ID cards. Programming is even taught in primary schools.
23. In 2014, Estonia became the first nation in the world to start offering E-residency.
True to its tech-savvy nature, Estonia became the first nation in the world to start offering E-residency in 2014. Anyone in the world can apply to be an Estonian e-resident, a program that gives non-Estonians access to the country’s services such as company formation, taxation, and banking.
24. Estonia is the birthplace of some notable tech startups such as Kazaa, Bolt, GrabCAD, Pipedrive, Fortumo, and Wise.
True to their tech-savvy nature, Estonians were the brains behind some notable tech startups such as Kazaa, Bolt (formerly Taxify), GrabCAD, Fortumo, Pipedrive, and Wise (formerly TransferWise). Tallinn is sometimes called the “Silicon Valley of Europe” and has one of the most startups per person on the continent.
25. Estonia offers the best maternity leave package in the OECD.
Of the 41 countries across the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union (EU), Estonia offers the best maternity leave package, providing 85 weeks of leave at full pay.
26. The melody of the Estonian national anthem is identical to the Finnish national anthem.
One of the interesting Estonia facts is that the lyrics of the country’s national anthem “Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm” (‘My Fatherland, My Happiness and Joy’) are set to the melody of the national anthem of Finland—”Maamme” (‘Our Land’), which was composed by Fredrik Pacius.
27. There are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Estonia.
The two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Estonia are the Historic Center (Old Town) of Tallinn and the Struve Geodetic Arc.
28. 85% of Estonia’s electricity comes from oil shale.
Estonia stands out in its reliance on oil shale for energy. Oil shale is a rock that contains significant amounts of organic material in the form of kerogen. Rock-like at room temperature, oil shale produces vapors and gases when crushed and heated, which in turn are condensed and turned into oil.
Although it holds less than one percent of the world’s known oil shale reserves, oil shale is Estonia’s only significant mineral resource. The oil shale industry in Estonia is arguably the most well-developed in the world and the world’s two largest oil shale fired power stations (Narva Power Plants) can be found in the country.
Estonia has been extracting oil shale since 1916 and it is the only country in the world where oil shale plays a central role in the economy.
29. The sport of kiiking was invented in Estonia.
The relatively new sport of kiiking was conceived in Estonia by Ado Kosk in 1993. This extreme sport involves swinging 360° over a spindle. The person who is able to swing with the longest spindle is the winner.