Estonia: what to know?

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Estonia, located on the Baltic Sea, has a tumultuous history of foreign rule. After gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, it joined the UN and later the EU and NATO. Its climate is wet and mild, and its economy is strong, particularly in the IT sector.

Estonia, formally known as the Republic of Estonia, is a northern European country located on the Baltic Sea. It borders Latvia and Russia, and its neighbors Finland and Sweden are on the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea, respectively. While the current state of Estonia is peaceful and stable, the country has had a tumultuous history.

Estonia was settled as early as 7500 BC, but most of today’s Estonians are related to Finns, descendants of Finno-Ugric hunters who settled in the area around 3000-2000 BC. Like many other countries in the region, Estonia succumbed to Europe’s power struggle and has been under foreign rule for several hundred years. In the 13th century, Germanic rulers settled down, influencing the area until the 18th century. The Danes took over from the 13th to the 16th century, followed by the Swedes. During Swedish rule, which lasted until the 18th century, when the Russians gained control, it was known as the “good old Swede” due to the increase in peasant rights and education.

The period of Russian and later Soviet domination was marked by immense suffering on the part of Estonians. Although serfdom was abolished in the 1800s when the Russians gained control of it, by 1939 Estonians were feeling the pinch. The purges resulted in the murder, deportation or flight of 60,000 Estonians. It was so bad that in 1941, when Hitler invaded the country, they were happy to be “liberated”. As history would show, they were simply occupied by another oppressive government. The Estonian people would continue to suffer post-war under Soviet rule and collectivization, notably until Stalin’s death in 1953.

In 1988, Estonians staged a “singing revolution,” in which some 300,000 people gathered to proudly sing banned Estonian songs. A declaration of sovereignty was made that same year, followed by protests calling for secession from the Soviet Union. In August 1991, independence was again declared and achieved and Estonia officially became a member of the United Nations. In 2004, Estonia joined the European Union, the first Baltic nation to do so, as well as NATO. Today Estonia is a parliamentary democracy with executive, judicial and legislative powers.

Estonia’s climate is greatly influenced by its geography. With more than 1400 lakes, numerous rivers, marshes, islands and islets, it is a wet and humid country. About 160-181 days a year are rainy. The climate is mild, with an average temperature of 40° F (4.5° C). Winters are snowy, dark, and cold with an average February temperature of 23°F (-5.2°C). Summers are mild, averaging 63°C (17°F) in July. Most will recommend traveling to Estonia from April to May to avoid the dark, gloomy winters and rainy season, which runs from May to September.

Estonia’s economy is relatively robust for a Baltic nation. It has a high per capita income for the region and low unemployment rates. Today, Estonia is internationally known for its thriving information technology (IT) sector.

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