Estonia Country Overview
Estonia’s history records successive struggles for independence, won in 1918, lost in 1940 to the Soviets and fully recovered in 1991.
Located in northeastern Europe, Estonia covers an area of 45,226 km2 and is limited to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the east by Russia, to the west by the Baltic Sea and to the south by Latvia. It comprises a continental part and about 800 islands.
The Estonian landscape shows traces of the glacial activity of the Pleistocene. The south of the country is covered by Morainas; in the central part glacial mountains abound, with flattened tops. There are many lakes and most rivers flow into the Gulf of Finland; others on Lake Peppus, on the border with Russia, and the rest on the Gulf of Riga. In the great forests, about sixty species of mammals live, including elk, deer, deer, wild pigs, bears and lynx.
According to PARADISDACHAT, Estonia has a temperate continental climate, conducive to agriculture. The lowest temperatures occur in February, when they reach -6 C; in July, the maximum temperatures reach 17 C. The average annual precipitation is 570 mm.
Estonians, who speak a language belonging to the Baltic-Finnish branch of the Ural-Altaic group, make up about three-fifths of the population. Russians make up a third. There are also Ukrainian, Finnish and Belarusian minorities.
The main mineral resource is shale, whose extraction and processing employs a large part of the country’s industrial workers. Shale is used mainly for the production of gas, which is essential for the operation of thermoelectric plants, which generate energy for the industrial park in Estonia and other Baltic countries. The chemical industry, also based on shale, produces benzene, adhesives, resins, formaldehydes and detergents. The country also produces building materials, textiles, wool, silk and shoes.
Farming occupies an important place in the economy, mainly due to the creation of cattle and pigs and the production of forage. Agricultural activity is limited by the existence of large glacial stones, which have to be removed for farming, and the need for drainage of pastures. (For economic data, see DATAPEDIA.)
The first record about Estonians dates back to the first century of the Christian era. In the 9th century, Viking invaders implanted the currency and encouraged trade. In the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, there were Danish, Swedish and Russian incursions, always repelled. From the 13th century, Estonia was Christianized by the Knights of Gladius, and later by the Teutonic Knights.
In 1561 the Swedes defeated the Russians who had captured part of Estonia, as well as the Poles and Danes. Until the 17th century, Swedes defended the rural population and reduced the power of the German nobility. With the defeat of Charles XII of Sweden by Tsar Pedro I in 1709, the Baltic territories became a Russian possession, which was ratified by the Treaty of Nystad (1721). The German nobility regained power and the population returned to dependency, misery and oppression. In 1811, Tsar Alexander I decreed the abolition of serfdom, although the right to property remained the privilege of the German aristocrats.
These reforms, added to the growth of the urban population, industrialization and the raising of the cultural level of the people, aroused Estonian national awareness. In 1917, Estonia was constituted in an autonomous state, but with the Russian revolution it was occupied by the Bolsheviks and later by the Germans. On February 24, 1918, the government proclaimed independence, enshrined in the Treaty of Tartu (1920). In World War II, Estonia was reoccupied by the Soviets and incorporated into the Soviet Union. Invaded by the Nazis in 1941, it rejoined the Soviet Union in 1944. In 1991, with the overthrow of the Soviet regime, Estonia gained independence.
Society and culture
Subjugated by different peoples, throughout history, Estonians retain few traces of their original culture, which only survived in folklore. The Estonian language incorporated Russian, Swedish and, above all, German words. Although forcibly Christianized in the Middle Ages, with the advent of the Reformation, Estonians opted for Lutheranism.
The cultural life of Estonians was marked by the revival of Finnish nationalism. Inspired by the popular Kalewala epic, Friedrich Kreutzwald collected popular poetry and narratives and wrote Kalevipoeg. The main representative of realism was Juhan Liiv, author of Kumme lugu. But the renovator of literature was Eduard Vilde, author of Mäekula, the milkman, and one of the founders of the Young Estonia movement, to which Tammsaare and Suits belonged. The Soviets imposed socialist realism, but with the end of Soviet hegemony, the country restarted the search for its cultural identity.