The Republic of Estonia is located on the shores of the Baltic Sea, bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland. Estonia shares land with Russia and Latvia, and its nearest neighbours across the waters are Sweden and Finland. The Estonian capital, Tallinn, is less than 100 km from the Finnish capital, Helsinki. The Latvian capital, Riga, and Russia`s metrpolis, St. Petersburg, are themselves just a few hundred kilometres away. Flight connections through Tallinn Airport leave the city only a few hours from all major European centres.
Estonia`s climate is temperate, with warm and somewhat wet summers and reasonably cold winters. Temperatures in summer hover mainly in the twenties, while the winter average is around -5. But just as summer can see short bursts of +30, winter can plummet -30.
Much of Estonian nature has remained largely untouched by human hand and retained its ancient beauty. Estonia has endless tracts of bogs whose likes are rarely seen elsewhere in Europe, and just as many ancient forests you can wander about in for days without ever spying another soul. The coastline is pettered with bays and small islands, while in the north-east it`s girded by tall limestone cliffs. All manner of beasts roam Estonia`s forests, among them wolves, bears and lynxes.
Estonians have lived in what we now call Estonia for almost 6000 years, making it one of Europe`s oldest continuous settlements. Its strategic importance as a bridge between east and west has seen Estonia fall victim to a number of wars over the centuries and left it governed by many foreign rulers. But despite the conquests and crusades, the Estonian people have outlasted them all.
The end of the 19th century saw the national awakening begin to gather force, and on 24 February 1918 Estonia declared its independence. The country`s arduously won freedom lasted until 1940, when it was occupied by the Soviet Union. However, the people`s desire to regain their freedom prevailed and in 1991 Estonia once again declared independence. It was one of the first countries to break away from the USSR and sealed the fate of the communist monster in doing so.
Estonia has no state religion. The Lutheran Church has a long history in the country, although so does Russian Orthodox Church. Religious freedom is guaranteed in the country`s constitution and gives everyone the right to define their own orientation. It is possible to attend foreign language religious services (mostly in Tallinn) in, amongst others, Finnish, English and Swedish.
Political System and Public Administration
Estonia is a member of the European Union and also belongs to NATO. The head of state is the president and the government is lead by the prime minister. The colours of the Estonian flag are blue, black and white.
Estonian culture has retained its ancient roots whilst on board some of the customs of its neighbours and vanquishers down the centuries. Estonians are considered a reserved and composed people, although the better you get to know them, the more you see that they`re really a friendly and helpful brunch.
Text by Marko Kaldur, www.GoEstonia.ee