Estonia -- Geography --
Official Name: Republic of Estonia
Capital City: Tallin
Religions: Lutheran, Orthodox, Christian, others
Land Area: 45,125 sq km
Landforms: Almost surrounded by water the land is low and flat (close to the sea level). There are numerous lakes and over 1000 small island.
Land Division: 15 counties
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Estonia -- History --
During the second half of the II millennium B.C. the Estonian territory is settled by ugro-finnish tribes, burst in the ancestors of the Baltic tribes. In XI century Southeastern Estonia is part of ancient Russian-Kiev state. In 1277 the country is conquered by Livonian Order and Denmark (since 1346 – only German authority). After the defeat of the Order (1561) it is separated between Poland and Sweden, since XVII century is entirely under the Sweden authority. After the World War II (1700 – 1721) is annexed by Russia (1721). In 1917 in the country is settled Soviet authority. In 1918 Estonia is occupied by German militaries. In 1919 it becomes a bourgeoisie republic. Since 1934 in Estonia is settled fascist dictatorship removed in 1940. In July 1940 Estonia become a Soviet socialistic republic, since august It is part of USSR. In 1941 is occupied by German-fascist militaries. After the war Estonia is a part of USSR. The 1970s is the beginning of the Stagnation Era under Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. In 1988 Estonian Soviet legislature declares sovereignty. In 1990 Soviet Estonian legislature declares a transition to independence.
In 29th March 2004 Estonia is accepted into NATO. In 1st May 2004 Estonia joins the European Union
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Estonia -- Economy --
Reform of Estonia's agricultural system began in December 1989 with adoption of the Law on Private Farming. Six months after implementation, nearly 2,000 farms were set up, with several thousand waiting for approval. A year later, more than 3,500 private farms were operating. Starting in October 1991, farmers were allowed to own their land. This boosted the number of farms to 7,200 by early 1992. As of the first half of 1993, a total of 8,781 farms had been created, covering approximately 225,000 hectares, or a quarter of Estonia's arable land.
Estonia has 1.8 million hectares of forest with approximately 274 million cubic meters of timber. Accounting for about 9 percent of industrial production in 1992, forest-related industries seem likely to grow further in the 1990s, thanks to expanding furniture and timber exports.
The fishing industry, once entirely under Soviet control, also has the potential to contribute to the country's economy. With 230 ships, including ninety oceangoing vessels, this profitable industry operated widely in international waters. A large share of Estonia's food-industry exports consists of fish and fish products. In 1992 about 131,000 tons of live fish were caught.
Energy and Natural Resources
Estonia is an exporter of electrical energy, but it is wholly dependent on the outside market for oil fuels and natural gas. Oil shale deposits estimated at 5 billion tons in the country's northeast help to fuel two large thermal power plants near the town of Narva. Roughly 23 million tons of oil shale were mined per year up to the early 1990s. In 1990 Estonia produced about 17.2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, of which about 8.5 billion were exported to Russia and Latvia. Dependence on Russia for natural gas continued, with Estonia consuming about 1.3 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas in 1990. Energy was in fact often used as a political weapon during the early 1990s. Estonia's two thermal power plants, for example, were staffed mostly by Russian workers who, to protest Estonian government policies, repeatedly threatened to shut down the plants. Although any disruption in production would also affect neighboring Russia, the possibility of problems persisted. Russia in turn threatened Estonia with a cutoff of gas supplies in June 1993 during the crisis surrounding Estonia's Law on Aliens.
Transportation and Telecommunications.
Estonia had a total of 30,300 kilometers of public roads (29,200 kilometers hard-surfaced and 1,100 kilometers un-paved) in the early 1990s. These was little traffic congestion, thanks to the relatively low number of automobiles per person--140 per 1,000 inhabitants. Estonia's major roads include Highway M11 to St. Petersburg and Highway M12 to Riga. In 1990 the roads carried 214 million tons of freight, or 85 percent of the total freight for that year. With a total of 1,126 kilometers of track, railroads in Estonia carried 30 million tons of freight and 16 million passengers in 1993. Estonia's main rail lines link Tallinn with Narva and St. Petersburg, Tartu with the Russian city of Pskov, and Parnu with Riga. More than 130 kilometers of rail line are electrified.
The country's main airport, located in Tallinn, can serve medium-sized jets and accommodate up to 2 million passengers per year. Airports are also located in Tartu and Parnu at former Russian air force bases. Domestic air service is provided only to Estonia's islands. In September 1991, the country inherited a fleet of about fifteen airplanes from the Soviet airline Aeroflot. It had a fleet of sixteen aircraft in 1992. A state airline, Estonian Air, was launched in December.
Telecommunications required much modernization in Estonia after independence. Poor-quality telephone connections and outmoded equipment were among the major problems. The country's first mobile telephone networks were set up in 1990. Esttelecom, the state telecommunications company, had approximately 341,000 subscribers in 1992. Only two-thirds of telephone customers had long-distance access within Estonia and to the former Soviet Union. In 1993 there were approximately 600,000 television receivers in use, or one television per 2.6 persons. There was one radio per 1.7 persons and one telephone per 3.9 persons.
Tourism was a major area of growth for Estonia in the late 1980s and even more so after independence. With the expansion of ferry and air links, Estonia began to receive a growing number of visitors from Western countries as the number of tourists from the former Soviet Union dropped off. In 1990 the number of tourists was estimated at 500,000; by the mid-1990s, that figure was expected to top 1 million. New accommodations were being built, and several of Tallinn's major hotels were being privatized. Estonia established visa requirements for visitors after independence but soon rescinded them for many European countries, the United States, and Canada. The Baltic states also signed agreements allowing foreigners to travel with one country's visa in all three states. Tallinn's medieval old town, although in need of repairs, is Estonia's main tourist attraction. Many visitors also tour Tartu and the island of Saaremaa. The greatest number of visitors come from Finland and Sweden. Net tourism receipts totaled about EKR26 million in 1992.
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Estonia -- Culture --
Estonian mythology is based on primitive animistic beliefs and is closely related to Finnish mythology. Some parts of Finnish epic Kalevala are believed to originate from Estonia and some events, locations and characters may have connections with Estonia as well.
Intriguingly, it has been suggested, by ethnologist and former president Lennart Meri among others, that a meteorite which passed dramatically over populated regions and landed on the island of Saaremaa around 3,000-4,000 years ago was a cataclysmic event that may have influenced the mythology of neighboring countries, especially those from whose vantage point a "sun" seemed to set in the east.
Estonians made offerings to local fertility and thunder gods. The Setonian ethnic group worshipped their Peko idol until modern times. After the reformation, also old Catholic saints were confused with local deities and revered as "gods".
In 19th century literates of Tartu University started to study Estonian mythology. F.R. Faelmann and Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald compiled the Kalevipoeg and described the following pantheon (which is not entirely authentic folklore):
The supreme god is Taara. He is celebrated in sacred oak forests around Tartu. Uku is his other name. Uku's daughters are Lindu/Linda and Jutta, the queen of the birds. Uku has two sons: Kou (Thunder) and Pikker (Lightning), who protect the people against Vanatuhi, the lord of the Underworld and demons. Pikker possesses powerful musical instrument, which makes demons tremble and flee. He has naughty daughter Ilmatutar (Air Maiden). Vanatuhi (The Devil) is depicted as giant farmer with wife, children, farm hands and maidens. Estonian devils are usually more stupid than malevolent. Vanatuhi/Vanapagan can be easily outwitted by smart people, like Crafty Hans, his farm hand. Another 'devil' is Sarvik (Horned One), Tuhi's brother in law. He is the main enemy of giant Kalevipoeg, the king of Estonians.
The Estonian rock scene is one of the more active scenes out of the former Eastern Bloc. The country has an especially strong background in progressive rock.
The first major Estonian progressive band was Ruja, who formed in 1971. The band used original compositions as well as some verses by Estonia's best-known poets. Prog from outside of Estonia was difficult to find, as it consisted entirely of smuggled recordings of bands like King Crimson. Nevertheless, by the middle of the 1970s, progressive rock was a major part of the Estonian music scene. The band Meie and Sven Grunberg's Mess were among the earliest bands to arise during this time, and they were followed by the improvisatory Psycho and Noor Eesti, who introduced the bassoon to progressive rock.
Instruments, especially keyboards, were in short supply in the 1970s. People like Harmo Harm created their own synthesizers and other instruments.
At the very end of the decade, the first recordings, a few singles including Ruja's "Pohi, louna, ida, laas", were released. However, progressive rock soon dwindled in popularity as punk rock grew more popular. Many progressive musicians joined together to form the punk band Propeller.
Ruja, Erkki-Sven Tuur and Olav Ehala helped engineer prog's return to popularity in the early 80s, with their rock opera Johnny. The show was shut down, however, after only a few performances, because Soviet authorities felt its message was subversive.
Nevertheless, Ruja was revitalized and began moving in new directions with their music. They incorporated elements of punk and rockabilly. Tuur's band In Spe soon rivalled Ruja in popularity, and their debut LP even got some attention from prog fans abroad. The band Kaseke, with Ain Varts and Riho Sibul, formed as Propeller fell apart. These three bands dominated Estonian prog for several years, playing during this time at the Tartu Rock Festival.
In the middle of the decade, however, these bands' fortunes dwindled. After the re-departure of Rein Rannap from Ruja, the band's popularity grew slow, while Tuur left In Spe, and its new leader, Alo Mattiisen moved more towards jazz than rock.
With the addition of Igor Garshnek replacing Rannap, Ruja again rejuvenated their career, but only briefly. The band broke up amidst infighting in 1988. Other bands arose, however, including Garshnek Nevil Blumberg's duo, Synopsis, Linnu Tee and Proov 583.
In the late 80s, Alo Mattiisen and other musicians became a major part of the Singing Revolution, which promoted Estonia's non-violent fight for independence.
When Estonia regained independence (1991) the country's economy suffered in the process, though it quickly picked up. Nevertheless, the brief recession hurt the music scene, and imported techno became more popular than rock.
In the 90s, a few prog bands remained active, such as WW, while outside interest in Estonian rock grew. Ruja released a five CD box set and In Spe's re-released its old LP. New bands like Echosilence arose, while older bands like VSP Projekt became more active again.
The 2000s Estonian band Vanilla Ninja have recently stated that their musical direction is starting to become more rock-oriented, although their music is still mostly pop-rock.
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Estonia -- Life style --
Estonia is, in effect, two entirely different countries - summer Estonia and winter Estonia. Perhaps inside every Estonian, every citizen of a northern country, there are two different people - a summer one and a winter one.
In October, the whole of the country plunges into a dank darkness which penetrates to the bone and does not begin to recede till March. In November and December, all hope of light disappears. At midday there is a short period of daylight, but by three o'clock in the afternoon night is once again beginning to draw in.
In summer, things are quite the opposite. From March onwards, daylight increases right up until June when night is almost banished. Dusk slips over into dawn. This descent from light into darkness and the rise back into light continues incessantly. This has no doubt influenced the Estonian language, way of thinking and, through that history, much more than any other factor.
Estonia differs both from Scandinavia and other Baltic countries in that its geographic location means that from the end of April until halfway through August, its territory lies in what is termed a zone of astronomical twilight. No more than a couple of hundred kilometres in breadth, this zone is quite unique in the world as a whole. In practice this means that after sunset it is no longer light, but neither does it become completely dark immediately. This phenomenon is unknown outside the zone of astronomical twilight. It must therefore affect the Estonian spirit in a way that it cannot for those who do not know twilight. It is possible that the basic characteristics of the nation come from the constant oscillation between light and darkness in the surrounding landscape.
One interesting phenomenon is that Estonians are held together more by language and geographical location than by blood. History books confirm that through Estonian veins flows the blood of nearly all the peoples of Europe, since Estonia has known wars, famine and plagues and therefore has relatively frequently lost a large proportion of its population, leaving the country empty for invading peoples, Swedes and Danes, Finns and Germans, Dutch and Scots, Russians and Poles, all of whose descendants constitute the Estonians of today. For this reason, Estonians can look quite varied and there is no dominant color of eye or hair, shape of head or face. Some have brown eyes, others blue, grey or green; hair can be blond or dark. Estonians can be slow and aloof or fiery and impatient.
Nevertheless, Estonians have several striking and uniting qualities. The first of these is nostalgia. This is a constant theme of Estonian poetry and folk song, literature and journalism. It is possible that the huge upheavals of the 20th century - the Siberian labor camps and German refugee camps have increased the strength of the this feeling. But the roots of this go deeper to the time when the Scottish soldier, the Danish sailor and the Swedish settler ended up in the foreign soil of the far North and who in the twilght of Estonia longed for his distant home.
Another quality which unites Estonians is a reverence for science and technology. An Estonian wants everything scientifically confirmed, otherwise he cannot believe in it. On the one hand, Estonians tend to rapidly take on board every innovation, on the other, they find it almost impossible to promote things new and untried until their worth has been scientifically proven. In general, in every Estonian there is a battle between conservatism and a sense of adventure. As with the landscapes of winter and summer. Sometimes one wins, sometimes the other.
The third characteristic of Estonians is a sense of humor, of mockery, irony and self-irony. Estonian humour is blacker than that of the English, and is mostly gallows humour. Behind the brave facade of Estonian irony lurks eternal nostalgia and a tender heart. For generation upon generation, Estonians have learnt to be fighting fit, even in the most hopeless of circumstances.
And it is, incidentally, hope which unites Estonians. They hope to return home, even though home may mean different things to different Estonians.
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Estonia -- Political system, law and government --
Parliamentary and administrative system
Estonia has a unitary parliamentary and administrative system. That is to say,
legislative authority is vested in the uni-cameral parliament, the Riigikogu, and
there are no regional or devolved legislatures. For administrative purposes
Estonia is divided into 15 counties (maakonds), 47 towns and 207 rural
At regional level the central government is represented by counties financed by
the state budget. The county governor is at the head of county governments and
is appointed by the central government on the proposal of the Prime Minister.
County governments supervise and advise local authorities.7 Estonia has a
single-tier system of local government, with municipalities, boroughs and towns
granted self-governing status in 1990. The main principle regulating local
government is stated in the constitution, and stipulates that all local issues should
in theory be managed locally and independently from central government, where
this is in accordance with the law. This derives from the European Charter of
The uni-cameral legislature, the Riigikogu, comprises 101 members elected by
universal adult suffrage for 4 years using a party list system of proportional
representation. The Riigikogu initiates and passes law, adopts the national
budget, and scrutinises the work of the government. Individual members and
committees of the legislature can initiate their own legislation as well as members
of the government.
There are 10 standing committees in the Riigikogu (Environment Committee,
Cultural Affairs, Rural Affairs, Economic Affairs, Constitutional, Finance, National
Defence, Social Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Legal Affairs), with an average
membership of between 8 and 12. A member of the Riigikogu can only belong to
1 standing committee but may be a deputy member (or substitute) in other
standing committees. The work of the committee is directed by the chairman of
the committee or, in his/her absence, the deputy chairman. Bills are passed to the
appropriate committee for scrutiny and amendments. These committees are responsible for the legislation until it is finally approved in plenary. Committees
pass resolutions by majority vote. A third of a committee’s members must be
present in order to achieve a quorum.
The Riigikogu can also form ad hoc and select committees, determining their
membership, range and duration of authority at the time of establishment. These
committees are formed by a resolution of the Riigikogu to fulfil specific or
Political parties are considered policy-making bodies in Estonia, and not strictly
part of the legislative structure. Their power in the Riigikogu is thus limited. Once
elected Members officially only represent their constituents. Members of parties
therefore form factions in the Riigikogu, which are an important part of its
organisation. They must have at least 5 members, but members are not obliged
to join a faction if they do not wish to do so. Party members will normally try to
combine to form factions, thus ensuring that party policies are followed through in
Factions can present bills in the Riigokogu and also have the right to suggest
amendments to bills. Since March 1999 approximately 15.7% of bills were
presented by factions.
Estonia has a strong presidential system. The Riigikogu elects the President of
the Republic, the official Head of State, for a term of five years. The President
must receive two-thirds of the vote to be elected. Otherwise, the decision is made
by an electoral body consisting of members of the Riigikogu and representatives
from local government. The President represents Estonia in international and
diplomatic relations, initiates amendments to the constitution, calls elections for
the Riigikogu, and is the head of the armed forces. It is also the formal role of the
President to nominate the candidate for Prime Minister, but the nomination must
then be ratified by the Riigikogu. The President can be in office for no longer than
2 consecutive terms and has to relinquish party affiliations whilst in post.
Executive power is held by the Council of Ministers (i.e. the Cabinet) which is led by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister nominates 15 ministers after being authorized to do so by the Riigikogu. If the Riigikogu fails to select a Prime Minister the President may dissolve parliament and call for a new election. This would happen automatically should there still be no selected Prime Minister after four attempts in the Riigikogu. The government sets national policies and implements these by initiating legislation. Bills are, and a draft of the national budget is, submitted to the Riigikogu for scrutiny and approval.
County governments, headed by county governors, act as the conduit between
central and local administration. They are responsible for representing the
interests of the state at local level, concluding contracts on the delegation of tasks
from central to local government, liaising on regional policy and co-ordinating cooperation between regional offices of government ministries, agencies and local
authorities. The county governor must also scrutinize local government decisions for their legality.
Municipal councils and other local authorities are directly elected by the populate
and in turn establish municipal governments responsible for matters such as the
provision of public service such as education and social welfare.
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