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Estonia Country Information

Travel Advice with Country Information from the CIA.

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Estonia Map

Introduction

Background

After centuries of Danish, Swedish, German, and Russian rule, Estonia attained independence in 1918. Forcibly incorporated into the USSR in 1940 - an action never recognized by the US and many other countries - it regained its freedom in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since the last Russian troops left in 1994, Estonia has been free to promote economic and political ties with the West. It joined both NATO and the EU in the spring of 2004, formally joined the OECD in late 2010, and adopted the euro as its official currency on 1 January 2011.

Geography

Location

Eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland, between Latvia and Russia

Geographic coordinates

59 00 N, 26 00 E

Map references

Europe

Area

total: 45,228 sq km

land:42,388 sq km

water:2,840 sq km

note: includes 1,520 islands in the Baltic Sea

country comparison to the world: 132

Area - comparative

about twice the size of New Jersey

Land boundaries

total: 657 km

border countries (2):Latvia 333 km, Russia 324 km

Coastline

3,794 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone:limits as agreed to by Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Sweden, and Russia

Climate

maritime; wet, moderate winters, cool summers

Terrain

marshy, lowlands; flat in the north, hilly in the south

Elevation

highest point: Suur Munamagi 318 m

lowest point:Baltic Sea 0 m

mean elevation:61 m

Natural resources

oil shale, peat, rare earth elements, phosphorite, clay, limestone, sand, dolomite, arable land, sea mud

Land use

agricultural land: 22.2% (2018 est.)

arable land: 14.9% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.1% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 7.2% (2018 est.)

forest:52.1% (2018 est.)

other:25.7% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

40 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources

12.806 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Population distribution

a fairly even distribution throughout most of the country, with urban areas attracting larger and denser populations

Natural hazards

sometimes flooding occurs in the spring

Environment - international agreements

party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Heavy Metals, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulphur 85, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping-London Protocol, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 2006, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified:none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

the mainland terrain is flat, boggy, and partly wooded; offshore lie more than 1,500 islands

People and Society

Population

1,220,042 (July 2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 159

Nationality

noun: Estonian(s)

adjective:Estonian

Ethnic groups

Estonian 68.7%, Russian 24.8%, Ukrainian 1.7%, Belarusian 1%, Finn 0.6%, other 1.6%, unspecified 1.6% (2011 est.)

Languages

Estonian (official) 68.5%, Russian 29.6%, Ukrainian 0.6%, other 1.2%, unspecified 0.1% (2011 est.)

Religions

Orthodox 16.2%, Lutheran 9.9%, other Christian (including Methodist, Seventh Day Adventist, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal) 2.2%, other 0.9%, none 54.1%, unspecified 16.7% (2011 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Republic of Estonia

conventional short form:Estonia

local long form:Eesti Vabariik

local short form:Eesti

former:Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic

etymology:the country name may derive from the Aesti, an ancient people who lived along the eastern Baltic Sea in the first centuries A.D.

Government type

parliamentary republic

Capital

name: Tallinn

geographic coordinates:59 26 N, 24 43 E

time difference:UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

daylight saving time:+1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October

etymology: the Estonian name is generally believed to be derived from "Taani-linn" (originally meaning "Danish castle", now "Danish town") after a stronghold built in the area by the Danes; it could also have come from "tali-linn" ("winter castle" or "winter town") or "talu-linn" ("home castle" or "home town")

Administrative divisions

15 urban municipalities (linnad, singular - linn), 64 rural municipalities (vallad, singular vald)

urban municipalities: Haapsalu, Keila, Kohtla-Jarve, Loksa, Maardu, Narva, Narva-Joesuu, Paide, Parnu, Rakvere, Sillamae, Tallinn, Tartu, Viljandi, Voru

rural municipalities: Alutaguse, Anija, Antsla, Elva, Haademeeste, Haljala, Harku, Hiiumaa, Jarva, Joelahtme, Jogeva, Johvi, Kadrina, Kambja, Kanepi, Kastre, Kehtna, Kihnu, Kiili, Kohila, Kose, Kuusalu, Laane-Harju, Laane-Nigula, Laaneranna, Luganuse, Luunja, Marjamaa, Muhu, Mulgi, Mustvee, Noo, Otepaa, Peipsiaare, Pohja-Parnumaa, Pohja-Sakala, Poltsamaa, Polva, Raasiku, Rae, Rakvere, Räpina, Rapla, Rouge, Ruhnu, Saarde, Saaremaa, Saku, Saue, Setomaa, Tapa, Tartu, Toila, Tori, Torva, Turi, Vaike-Maarja, Valga, Viimsi, Viljandi, Vinni, Viru-Nigula, Vormsi, Voru

Independence

24 February 1918 (from Soviet Russia); 20 August 1991 (declared from the Soviet Union); 6 September 1991 (recognized by the Soviet Union)

National holiday

Independence Day, 24 February (1918); note - 24 February 1918 was the date Estonia declared its independence from Soviet Russia and established its statehood; 20 August 1991 was the date it declared its independence from the Soviet Union restoring its statehood

Constitution

history: several previous; latest adopted 28 June 1992, entered into force 3 July 1992

amendments:proposed by at least one-fifth of Parliament members or by the president of the republic; passage requires three readings of the proposed amendment and a simple majority vote in two successive memberships of Parliament; passage of amendments to the "General Provisions" and "Amendment of the Constitution" chapters requires at least three-fifths majority vote by Parliament to conduct a referendum and majority vote in a referendum; amended several times, last in 2015

Legal system

civil law system

International law organization participation

accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only:at least one parent must be a citizen of Estonia

dual citizenship recognized:no

residency requirement for naturalization:5 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal; age 16 for local elections

Executive branch

chief of state: President Kersti KALJULAID (since 10 October 2016)

head of government:Prime Minister Kaja KALLAS (since 26 January 2021)

cabinet:Cabinet appointed by the prime minister, approved by Parliament

elections/appointments:president indirectly elected by Parliament for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); if a candidate does not secure two-thirds of the votes after 3 rounds of balloting, then an electoral college consisting of Parliament members and local council members elects the president, choosing between the 2 candidates with the highest number of votes; election last held on 29-30 August 2016, but three rounds were inconclusive; two electoral college votes on 24 September 2016 were also indecisive, so the election passed back to Parliament; on 3 October the Parliament elected Kersti KALJULAID as president; prime minister nominated by the president and approved by Parliament

election results:Kersti KALJULAID elected president; Parliament vote - Kersti KALJULAID (independent) 81 of 98 votes; note - KALJULAID is Estonia's first female president; KALLAS is Estonia's first female prime minister

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Parliament or Riigikogu (101 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote to serve 4-year terms)

elections:last held on 3 March 2019 (next to be held in March 2023)

election results:percent of vote by party - RE 28.9%, K 23.1%, EKRE 17.8%, Pro Patria 11.4%, SDE 9.8%, other 9%; seats by party - RE 34, K 26, EKRE 19, Pro Patria 12, SDE 10; composition - men 72, women 29, percent of women 28.7%

Judicial branch

highest courts: Supreme Court (consists of 19 justices, including the chief justice, and organized into civil, criminal, administrative, and constitutional review chambers)

judge selection and term of office:the chief justice is proposed by the president of the republic and appointed by the Riigikogu; other justices proposed by the chief justice and appointed by the Riigikogu; justices appointed for life

subordinate courts:circuit (appellate) courts; administrative, county, city, and specialized courts

Political parties and leaders

Center Party of Estonia (Keskerakond) or K [Juri RATAS]
Estonia 200 [Kristina KALLAS]
Estonian Conservative People's Party (Konservatiivne Rahvaerakond) or EKRE [Mart HELME]
Estonian Reform Party (Reformierakond) or RE [Kaja KALLAS]
Free Party or EV [Andres HERKEL]
Pro Patria (Isamaa) [Helir-Valdor SEEDER]
Social Democratic Party or SDE [Jevgeni OSSINOVSKI]

International organization participation

Australia Group, BA, BIS, CBSS, CD, CE, EAPC, EBRD, ECB, EIB, EMU, ESA (cooperating state), EU, FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, MINUSMA, NATO, NIB, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OIF (observer), OPCW, OSCE, PCA, Schengen Convention, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNTSO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Kristjan PRIKK (since 7 July 2021)

chancery:2131 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone:[1] (202) 588-0101

FAX:[1] (202) 588-0108

consulate(s) general:New York

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Brian RORAFF (since July 2019)

embassy:Kentmanni 20, 15099 Tallinn

mailing address:4530 Tallinn Place, Washington DC  20521-4530

telephone:[372] 668-8100

FAX:[372] 668-8265

email address and website:acstallinn@state.gov

Flag description

three equal horizontal bands of blue (top), black, and white; various interpretations are linked to the flag colors; blue represents faith, loyalty, and devotion, while also reminiscent of the sky, sea, and lakes of the country; black symbolizes the soil of the country and the dark past and suffering endured by the Estonian people; white refers to the striving towards enlightenment and virtue, and is the color of birch bark and snow, as well as summer nights illuminated by the midnight sun

National symbol(s)

barn swallow, cornflower; national colors: blue, black, white

National anthem

name: "Mu isamaa, mu onn ja room" (My Native Land, My Pride and Joy)

lyrics/music:Johann Voldemar JANNSEN/Fredrik PACIUS

note: adopted 1920, though banned between 1940 and 1990 under Soviet occupation; the anthem, used in Estonia since 1869, shares the same melody as Finland's but has different lyrics

Economy

Economic overview

Estonia, a member of the EU since 2004 and the euro zone since 2011, has a modern market-based economy and one of the higher per capita income levels in Central Europe and the Baltic region, but its economy is highly dependent on trade, leaving it vulnerable to external shocks. Estonia's successive governments have pursued a free market, pro-business economic agenda, and sound fiscal policies that have resulted in balanced budgets and the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in the EU.

The economy benefits from strong electronics and telecommunications sectors and strong trade ties with Finland, Sweden, Germany, and Russia. The economy’s 4.9% GDP growth in 2017 was the fastest in the past six years, leaving the Estonian economy in its best position since the financial crisis 10 years ago. For the first time in many years, labor productivity increased faster than labor costs in 2017. Inflation also rose in 2017 to 3.5% alongside increased global prices for food and energy, which make up a large share of Estonia’s consumption.

Estonia is challenged by a shortage of labor, both skilled and unskilled, although the government has amended its immigration law to allow easier hiring of highly qualified foreign workers, and wage growth that outpaces productivity gains. The government is also pursuing efforts to boost productivity growth with a focus on innovations that emphasize technology start-ups and e-commerce.

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 324,388

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:26.24 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 107

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 1,951,051

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:157.82 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 150

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: greatly improved telecom service through a range of regulatory measures, competition, and foreign investment, leading to high-quality voice, data, and Internet services; one of the most advanced mobile markets and highest broadband penetration rates in Europe; government commits 20 million euro to rural broadband program; operators supporting LTE infrastructure and launch of smart services; 5G services in major cities; government provides Internet to schools and libraries (2021) (2020)

domestic:25 per 100 for fixed-line and 147 per 100 for mobile-cellular; substantial fiber-optic cable systems carry telephone, TV, and radio traffic in the digital mode; Internet services are widely available; schools and libraries are connected to the Internet, a large percentage of the population files income tax returns online, and online voting - in local and parliamentary elections - has climbed steadily since first being introduced in 2005; a large percent of Estonian households have broadband access (2019)

international:country code - 372; landing points for the EE-S-1, EESF-3, Baltic Sea Submarine Cable, FEC and EESF-2 fiber-optic submarine cables to other Estonia points, Finland, and Sweden; 2 international switches are located in Tallinn (2019)

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced downturn, particularly in mobile device production; many network operators delayed upgrades to infrastructure; progress towards 5G implementation was postponed or slowed in some countries; consumer spending on telecom services and devices was affected by large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home became evident, and received some support from governments

Broadcast media

the publicly owned broadcaster, Eesti Rahvusringhaaling (ERR), operates 3 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; in 2016, there were 42 on-demand services available in Estonia, including 19 pay TVOD and SVOD services; roughly 85% of households accessed digital television services

Internet country code

.ee

Internet users

total: 1,111,896

percent of population:89.36% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 136

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 431,251

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:34.88 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 92

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 3 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers:14

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers:31,981 (2018)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

ES

Airports

total: 18 (2013)

country comparison to the world: 138

Airports - with paved runways

total: 13 (2017)

over 3,047 m:2 (2017)

2,438 to 3,047 m:8 (2017)

1,524 to 2,437 m:2 (2017)

914 to 1,523 m:1 (2017)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 5 (2013)

1,524 to 2,437 m:1 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m:1 (2013)

under 914 m:3 (2013)

Heliports

1 (2012)

Pipelines

2360 km gas (2016)

Railways

total: 2,146 km (2016)

broad gauge:2,146 km 1.520-m and 1.524-m gauge (132 km electrified) (2016)

note: includes 1,510 km public and 636 km non-public railway

country comparison to the world: 71

Roadways

total: 58,412 km (includes urban roads) (2011)

paved:10,427 km (includes 115 km of expressways) (2011)

unpaved:47,985 km (2011)

country comparison to the world: 79

Waterways

335 km (320 km are navigable year-round) (2011)

country comparison to the world: 90

Merchant marine

total: 67

by type:general cargo 2, oil tanker 5, other 60 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 105

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Kuivastu, Kunda, Muuga, Parnu Reid, Sillamae, Tallinn

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Estonian Defense Forces: Land Forces, Navy, Air Force, Estonian Defence League (Reserves); Ministry of Interior: Border Guards (2021)

Military expenditures

2.3% of GDP (2021 est.)

2.33% of GDP (2020 est.)

2.03% of GDP (2019)

2.01% of GDP (2018)

2.01% of GDP (2017)

country comparison to the world: 44

Military and security service personnel strengths

the Estonian Defense Forces have approximately 6,500 active duty personnel (2021)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the Estonian Defense Forces have a limited inventory of Soviet-era and more recently acquired modern weapons systems, largely from France and the Netherlands (2020)

Military deployments

approximately 100 Mali (Operation Barkhane/MINUSMA/EUTM) (2021)

Military service age and obligation

18-27 for compulsory military or governmental service, conscript service requirement 8-11 months depending on education; NCOs, reserve officers, and specialists serve 11 months (2019)

Military - note

Estonia officially became a member of NATO in 2004

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

Russia and Estonia in May 2005 signed a technical border agreement, but Russia in June 2005 recalled its signature after the Estonian parliament added to its domestic ratification act a historical preamble referencing the Soviet occupation and Estonia's pre-war borders under the 1920 Treaty of Tartu; Russia contends that the preamble allows Estonia to make territorial claims on Russia in the future, while Estonian officials deny that the preamble has any legal impact on the treaty text; Russia demands better treatment of the Russian-speaking population in Estonia; as a member state that forms part of the EU's external border, Estonia implements strict Schengen border rules with Russia

Refugees and internally displaced persons

stateless persons: 73,214 (2020); note - following independence in 1991, automatic citizenship was restricted to those who were Estonian citizens prior to the 1940 Soviet occupation and their descendants; thousands of ethnic Russians remained stateless when forced to choose between passing Estonian language and citizenship tests or applying for Russian citizenship; one reason for demurring on Estonian citizenship was to retain the right of visa-free travel to Russia; stateless residents can vote in local elections but not general elections; stateless parents who have been lawful residents of Estonia for at least five years can apply for citizenship for their children before they turn 15 years old

Illicit drugs

growing producer of synthetic drugs; increasingly important transshipment zone for cannabis, cocaine, opiates, and synthetic drugs since joining the European Union and the Schengen Accord; potential money laundering related to organized crime and drug trafficking is a concern, as is possible use of the gambling sector to launder funds; major use of opiates and ecstasy

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