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Estonia - Overview

Capital: Tallinn

Population: 1,332,893 (July 2005 est.)

Languages: Estonian (official) 67.3%, Russian 29.7%, other 2.3%, unknown 0.7% (2000 census)

Religions:Evangelical Lutheran 13.6%, Orthodox 12.8%, other Christian (including Methodist, Seventh-Day Adventist, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal) 1.4%, unaffiliated 34.1%, other and unspecified 32%, none 6.1% (2000 census)

Currency: Estonian kroon (EEK)

Timezone: GMT+2

The Republic of Estonia is bordered to the north and the west by the Gulf of Finland and the Gulf of Livonia, both of which are parts of the Baltic Sea. To the east, Estonia's border is Russia; to the south, Latvia. Across the sea, to the north, is Finland; the capital of which, Helsinki, is barely forty miles from Estonia's coastline. To the west of Estonia is Sweden.

Estonia is at the center of old-world Eastern Europe, an enticing prospect for expatriates for this reason alone. The country has the additional advantage of having, within the last fourteen years, emerged as an independent state. Like most other former Soviet-occupied states, it is on the brink of expansion and development.

Estonians are the longest settled of the Europeans; they have lived in their portion of the Baltic landmass since approximately 2500 B.C. Their strategic location has also rendered them the target for a succession of occupations. Adorning the countryside, even today, are traces of Teutonic knights who oversaw the building of many castles during the early thirteenth century. In 1285 Tallinn, the capital city, was made part of the Hanseatic League, and developed into a vibrant commercial center, dominated by German merchant families.

Occupation by the Danes, Swedes, Poles, and Russians occurred in the subsequent centuries. The most recent, the Soviet occupation between 1940 and 1991 has left a lasting impression. When the Red Army established itself in 1944, some 63,000 Estonians fled the country; primarily to Sweden and Germany. During the forty-seven years that followed, those who remained in the country experienced governmental corruption on many different levels.

Since the collapse of communism in 1991 Estonia has been developing and growing into a vibrant and opportunity-filled country and Tallinn is rapidly growing into a European commercial center.


Estonia has no state church. The majority of Estonians have been Lutheran since the Reformation in the early sixteenth century. Other Christian denominations include:

- The Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church. 165 congregations and approximately 175,000 members;
- The Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, under canonical subordination to Constantinople Patriarchate, with 59 parishes and about 18,000 members;
- The Estonian Orthodox Church, under canonical subordination to Moscow Patriarchate, with 20 parishes and about 100,000 members;
- The Union of Estonian Old Believer Congregations, with 11 congregations and about 5,000 members;
- The Alliance of Estonian Evangelical Baptist Congregations, with approximately 6,100 members;
- The Roman Catholic Church, with approximately 3,000 members.

Other religions in Estonia are also represented:

- The Muslims are united in the Estonian Islam Congregation, which has about 10,000 members;
- There is a small Jewish community;
- Buddhism and other minority faiths are sparsely represented.

Read more about this country

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