The smallest and most Western-oriented of the former Soviet-ruled Baltic states, Estonia is also the most developed, but its standard of living is well below the EU average.
Geography: Estonia’s terrain is flat, boggy, and partly forested, with over 1500 islands. Lake Peipus forms much of the eastern border with Russia.
Climate: Maritime, with some continental extremes. Harsh winters, with cool summers and damp springs.
People and Society: Estonians are related ethnically and linguistically to the Finns. Friction between ethnic Estonians and the large Russian minority led to a reassertion of Estonian culture and language. Outright discrimination against the Russian language was only ended in 2000. Estonians are predominantly Lutheran. Families are small and divorce rates are high. Market reforms have increased prosperity; a few people have become very rich.
The Economy: Timber and oil shale. Currency pegged to euro: hopes to join in 2011. Good productivity. Strong growth accompanied EU accession, but first EU country to enter recession in 2008.
Insight: Estonia pioneered online voting in 2007, and plans voting by cell phone in 2011
Official Name: Republic of Estonia
Date Of Formation: 1991
Population: 1.34 million
Total Area: 17,462 sq. miles (45,226 sq. km)
Density: 77 people per sq. mile
Languages: Estonian*, Russian
Religions: Evangelical Lutheran 56%, Orthodox Christian 25%, other 19%
Ethnic Mix: Estonian 68%, Russian 26%, other 4%, Ukrainian 2%
Government: Parliamentary system
Currency: Kroon = 100 senti