President: Toomas Hendrik Ilves (2006)
Prime Minister: Taavi Rõivas (2014)
Land area: 16,684 sq mi (43,211 sq km); total area: sq mi (sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 1,257,921; growth rate: –0.68%; birth rate: 10.29/1000; infant mortality rate: 6.7/1000; life expectancy: 74.07
Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Tallinn, 400,000
Other large city: Tartu, 100,100
Monetary unit: Kroon
National name: Eesti Vabariik
Languages: Estonian (official) 68.5%, Russian 29.6%, Ukrainian 0.6%, other 1.2%, unspecified 0.1% (2011 est.)
Ethnicity/race: Estonian 68.7%, Russian 24.8%, Ukrainian 1.7%, Belarusian 1%, Finn 0.6%, other 1.6%, unspecified 1.6% (2011 est.)
National Holiday: Independence Day, February 24
Religions: Lutheran 9.9%, Orthodox 16.2%, other Christian (including Methodist, Seventh-Day Adventist, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal) 2.2%, other 0.9%, none 54.1%, unspecified 16.7% (2011 est.)
Literacy: 99.8% (2011 est.)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2013 est.): $29.94 billion; per capita $22,400. Real growth rate: 1.5%. Inflation: 3.4%. Unemployment: 10.9.%. Arable land: 13.97%. Agriculture: potatoes, vegetables; livestock and dairy products; fish. Labor force: 692,900; industry 20.2%, agriculture 4.2%, services 75.6% (2010 est.). Industries: engineering, electronics, wood and wood products, textile; information technology, telecommunications. Natural resources: oil shale, peat, phosphorite, clay, limestone, sand, dolomite, arable land, sea mud. Exports: $15.11 billion (2013 est.): machinery and equipment 33%, wood and paper 15%, textiles 14%, food products 8%, furniture 7%, metals, chemical products (2001). Imports: $16.38 billion (2013 est.): machinery and equipment 33.5%, chemical products 11.6%, textiles 10.3%, foodstuffs 9.4%, transportation equipment 8.9% (2001). Major trading partners: Finland, Sweden, Germany, Latvia, Russia, Lithuania, Poland, China, Russia, (2012).
Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 448,200 (2012); mobile cellular: 2.07 million (2012). Broadcast media: the publicly owned broadcaster, Eesti Rahvusringhaaling (ERR), operates 2 TV channels and 5 radio networks; growing number of private commercial radio stations broadcasting nationally, regionally, and locally; fully transitioned to digital television in 2010; national private TV channels expanding service; a range of channels are aimed at Russian-speaking viewers; high penetration rate for cable TV services with more than half of Estonian households connected (2008). Internet hosts: 865,494 (2012). Internet users: 971,700 (2009).
Transportation: Railways: total: 1,196 km (2011). Highways: total: 58,412 km (2011). Waterways: 335 km (2011). Ports and harbors: Kuivastu, Kunda, Muuga, Parnu Reid, Sillamae, Tallinn. Airports: 18 (2013).
Estonia is mainly a lowland country that is bordered by the Baltic Sea, Latvia, and Russia. It has numerous lakes and forests and many rivers, most draining northward into the Gulf of Finland or eastward into Lake Peipus, its largest lake.
Estonians resisted the assaults of Vikings, Danes, Swedes, and Russians before the 13th century. In 1346, the Danes, who possessed northern Estonia, sold the land to the Teutonic Knights of Germany, who already possessed Livonia (southern Estonia and Latvia). The Teutonic Knights reduced the Estonians to serfdom. In 1526, the Swedes took over, and the power of the German (Balt) landowning class was reduced. But after 1721, when Russia succeeded Sweden as the ruling power under the Peace of Nystad, the Estonians were subject to a double bondage—the Balts and the czarist officials. The oppression lasted until the closing months of World War I, when Estonia finally achieved independence after a victorious war (1918–1920). But shortly after the start of World War II, the nation was occupied by Russian troops and incorporated as the 16th republic of the USSR in 1940. Germany occupied the nation from 1941 to 1944, when it was retaken by the Soviets.
Estonia declared independence from the Soviet Union in March 1990. Soviet resistance ensued, but after recognition by European and other countries, the Soviet Union acknowledged Estonian nationhood on Sept. 6, 1991. UN membership followed on Sept. 17. The newly independent nation embraced free-market reforms. Fueled by foreign investments, economic advances continued. In 2004, Estonia became a member of the European Union as well as of NATO. In Sept. 2006, Toomas Hendrik Ilves was elected president, defeating incumbent Arnold Rüütel.
In March 2007, Estonia allowed Internet voting for Parliamentary elections, becoming the first country to do so. Prime Minister Andrus Ansip's Reform Party narrowly won the election, taking 31 out of 101 seats, just two more than the Centre Party.
Violent protests erupted in April 2007, when Estonian officials moved a controversial bronze statue of a Soviet soldier from a park in Tallinn and placed in it a military cemetery. One person died in the protests and dozens were injured. Ethnic Russians—as well as the Russian government—say the memorial honors Red Army soldiers who died fighting Nazi Germany and object to its relocation. Estonians, however, believe the statue glorifies Soviet occupation of Estonia.
In March 2014, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip resigned. Minister of Social Affairs Taavi Rõivas was selected by President Ilves to succeed Ansip. According to Ansip, he resigned to allow a successor to prepare and lead his party through the 2015 elections. When he resigned, Ansip was the European Union's longest-serving head of government. He had been prime minister since April 2005.