Estonia

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ESTONIA

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
TOPOGRAPHY
CLIMATE
FLORA AND FAUNA
ENVIRONMENT
POPULATION
MIGRATION
ETHNIC GROUPS
LANGUAGES
RELIGIONS
TRANSPORTATION
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL PARTIES
LOCAL GOVERNMENT
JUDICIAL SYSTEM
ARMED FORCES
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
ECONOMY
INCOME
LABOR
AGRICULTURE
ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
FISHING
FORESTRY
MINING
ENERGY AND POWER
INDUSTRY
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
DOMESTIC TRADE
FOREIGN TRADE
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
BANKING AND SECURITIES
INSURANCE
PUBLIC FINANCE
TAXATION
CUSTOMS AND DUTIES
FOREIGN INVESTMENT
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HEALTH
HOUSING
EDUCATION
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
MEDIA
ORGANIZATIONS
TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION
FAMOUS ESTONIANS
DEPENDENCIES
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Republic of Estonia

Eesti Vabariik

CAPITAL: Tallinn

FLAG: Three equal horizontal bands of blue (top), black, and white.

ANTHEM: Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm (My Native Land, My Pride and Joy).

MONETARY UNIT: The Estonian kroon (eek) was introduced in August 1992, replacing the Russian ruble. eek1 = $0.08032 (or $1 = eek12.45) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is in force.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Independence Day, 24 February; Labor Day, 1 May; Victory Day, anniversary of the Battle of Vonnu in 1919, 23 June; Midsummer Day, 24 June; Christmas, 2526 December. A movable religious holiday is Good Friday, the Friday before Easter.

TIME: 2 pm = noon GMT.

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT

Estonia is located in northeastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, between Sweden and Russia. Comparatively, the area occupied by Estonia is slightly smaller than the states of New Hampshire and Vermont combined, with a total area of 45,226 sq km (17,462 sq mi). Estonia shares boundaries with the Baltic Sea on the n and w, Russia on the e, and Latvia on the s. Estonia's land boundaries total 633 km (392 mi). Its coastline is 3,794 km (2,352 mi). Estonia's capital city, Tallinn, is located in the northern part of the coast.

TOPOGRAPHY

The topography of Estonia consists mainly of marshy lowlands with a hilly region in the southeast. Over a third of the country is forest. The highest point is Suur Munamagi, located in the Haanja Uplands of the south, with an altitude of 318 m (1,043 ft). The lowest point is at sea level (Baltic Sea).

The country has more than 1,000 natural and artificial lakes. The largest lake is Lake Peipus, located along the border with Russia. The shared lake has a total area of 3,555 sq km (1,386 sq mi). The Pärnu is the longest river with a length of 144 km (89 mi). The Narva and Ema are also chief rivers.

CLIMATE

The proximity of the Baltic Sea influences the coastal climate. At the most western point, Vilsandi Saar, the mean temperature is 6°c (42.8°f). At the country's most eastern points, the mean temperature is between 4.2 and 4.5°c (36 to 40°f). Rainfall averages 50 cm (20 in) on the coast. Inland, rainfall averages 70 cm (28 in). Rainfall is heaviest during the summer and lightest in the spring.

FLORA AND FAUNA

Calcareous soil and a relatively mild climate permit rich flora and fauna in western Estonia. Native plants number over 1,600 species. The abundance of woodland and plant species provides a suitable habitat for elk, deer, wild boar, wolf, lynx, bear, and otter. As of 2002, there were at least 65 species of mammals and 205 species of birds.

ENVIRONMENT

Air, water, and land pollution rank among Estonia's most significant environmental challenges. The combination of 300,000 tons of dust from the burning of oil shale by power plants in the northeast part of the country and airborne pollutants from industrial centers in Poland and Germany poses a significant hazard to Estonia's air quality.

Estonia's water resources have been affected by agricultural and industrial pollutants, including petroleum products, which have also contaminated the nation's soil. Some rivers and lakes within the country have been found to contain toxic sediments in excess of 10 times the accepted level for safety.

The nation's land pollution problems are aggravated by the 15 million tons of pollutants that are added yearly to the existing 250 million tons of pollutants. In 1994, 24,000 acres of the country's total land area were affected. Radiation levels from the nuclear accident at Chernobyl exceed currently accepted safety levels.

In 2003, about 11.8% of the total land area was protected, including 11 Ramsar Wetlands of International importance. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included four types of mammals, three species of birds, one species of fish, and four species of invertebrates. The European mink and the Atlantic sturgeon are among those listed as endangered.

POPULATION

The population of Estonia in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 1,345,000, which placed it at number 147 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 16% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 16% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 85 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be -0.3%, a rate the government viewed as too low. The decline in population was due to an extremely low birth rate (1.7 births per woman). The projected population for the year 2025 was 1,171,000. The population density was 30 per sq km (77 per sq mi), with the northern portion of the country being the most densely populated.

The UN estimated that 69% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that population in urban areas was declining at an annual rate of -0.90%. The capital city, Tallinn, had a population of 391,000 in that year. Other cities and their populations were Tartu, 101,297; Narva, 85,000; Kohtla-Järve, 72,000; and Pärnu, 55,000.

MIGRATION

Newly independent in 1918, Estonia was occupied and annexed in 1940 by the Soviet Union. It was occupied by German troops the following year. When the Soviet army returned in 1944, more than 60,000 Estonians fled to Sweden and Germany. Other Estonians were sent to Soviet labor camps. Many Russians migrated to Estonia under Soviet rule. Some left after Estonia became independent again.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Estonia suffered from waves of transit migration. As of 1999, ethnic Estonians represent only 65% of the total population of Estonia. Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarussians represent nearly 33%, and other groups comprise the remaining 2%. Only 70% of inhabitants are citizens of Estonia, mainly the ethnic Estonians and about 100,000 Russians. Some 90,000 Russians with permanent residence in Estonia are citizens of Russia. These large ethnic minorities live segregated from ethnic Estonians and tend not to understand the Estonian language. The total number of migrants living in Estonia in 2000 was 365,000, approximately one-quarter of the population. In 2004 a population of 150,536 stateless people existed in Estonia. In 2003 remittances to Estonia were $9.1 million. In 2005 the net migration rate was estimated as -3.18 migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.

ETHNIC GROUPS

According to a 2000 census, Estonians make up about 67.9% of the population, Russians 25.6%, Ukrainians 2.1%, Belarussians 1.3%, Finns 0.9%, and others 2.2%. Non-Estonians were found chiefly in the northeastern industrial towns, while rural areas were over 80% Estonian.

LANGUAGES

Estonian is a member of the Finno-Ugric linguistic family. It is closely related to Finnish and distantly related to Hungarian. Standard Estonian is based on the North Estonian dialect. Most of the sounds can be pronounced as either short, long, or extra long. Changing the duration of a sound in a word can alter the grammatical function of the word or change its meaning completely. The language is highly agglutinative, and there are no less than 14 cases of noun declension. Most borrowed words are from German. The alphabet is Roman. The first text written in Estonian dates from 1525. Estonian is the official language and is spoken by about 67.3% of the population; however, Russian (29.7%), Ukrainian, English, Finnish, and other languages are also used.

RELIGIONS

Christianity was introduced into Estonia in the 11th century. During the Reformation it converted largely to Lutheranism, although political events in the 18th and 19th century occasioned a strong Russian Orthodox presence. Independence from the Soviet Union, achieved in 1991, relieved the pressure under which religious groups had labored since 1940.

In 2005 there were an estimated 165 congregations of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church with about 180,000 members. There were also about 59 congregations of the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church (20,000 members) and 30 congregations of the Estonian Orthodox Church (150,000 members). While Lutherans and Orthodox constitute the majority, there are smaller communities of Baptists, Methodists, Roman Catholics, Methodist, Jehovah's Witnesses, Pentecostals, and other Christian denominations. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) has a significant number of missionaries in the country. There are also Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist communities; however, each of these minority faiths has less than 6,000 followers. About 70,000 people in the country claimed to be atheists.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion and this right is generally respected in practice. All religious organizations must register with the Religious Affairs Department of the Ministry of Interior Affairs. Basic Christian ecumenical religious instruction is available in public schools as an elective. Certain Christian holidays are observed as national holidays.

TRANSPORTATION

Estonia in 2004 had a total of 958 km (596 mi) of broad gauge railroad track, all common carrier railway lines, not including industrial lines, of which 132 km (82 mi) was electrified. Tallinn, Haapsalu, Pärnu, Tartu, and Narva are provided rail access to Russia, Latvia, and the Baltic Sea. In order to overcome problems in rolling stock shortages and load fluctuations, a second line of tracks is being laid along the Tallinn-Narva route.

Highways in 2003 totaled 56,849 km (35,360 mi), of which 13,303 km (8,274 mi) are paved, including 99 km (62 mi) of expressways. Motor vehicles dominate domestic freight transportation, carrying nearly 75% of all dispatched goods.

The Baltic Sea (with the Gulf of Finland and Gulf of Riga) provides Estonia with its primary access to international markets. The principal maritime ports are Tallinn and Pärnu. The merchant fleet had 43 vessels of at least 1,000 GRT for a total capacity of 212,998 GRT in 2005. Sea transportation has increased especially since the completion of Tallinn's new harbor and the acquisition of high capacity vessels. Ships carry grain from North America and also serve West African cargo routes. In 1990, a ferry service opened between Tallinn and Stockholm. During one of these commutes in September 1994, the ferry Estonia sank off the coast of Finland, resulting in about 900 deaths. The tragedy brought international attention to the safety design of roll-on/roll-off ferries in use worldwide. As of 2003, Estonia had some 500 km (311 mi) of navigable internal waterways.

There were an estimated 29 airports in 2004, of which 12 had paved runways, and one heliport (as of 2005). The principal airport at Tallinn has direct air links to Helsinki and Stockholm. Estonian Air is the principal international airline. In 2003, about 395,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.

HISTORY

What is now Estonia was ruled in turn by the Danes, the Germans, and the Swedes from the Middle Ages until the 18th century. Russia annexed the region in 1721. During the 19th century, an Estonian nationalist movement arose which by the early 20th century sought independence.

After the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and the advance of German troops into Russia, Estonia declared independence on 24 February 1918. But after the German surrender to the Western powers in November 1918, Russian troops attempted to move back into Estonia. The Estonians, however, pushed out the Soviet forces by April 1919, and the following year Soviet Russia recognized the Republic of Estonia.

The Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939 assigned Estonia to the Soviet sphere of influence. The Red Army invaded in June 1940 and "admitted" the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic into the USSR in August 1940. However, Hitler's forces invaded the USSR in June 1941 and took control of Estonia shortly thereafter. The German Army retreated in 1944, and Soviet forces once again occupied Estonia.

Taking advantage of the relatively greater freedom allowed under Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s, an Estonian nationalist movement, the Popular Front, was launched in 1987. Estonia declared its independence from Moscow on 20 August 1991. A new constitution was adopted on 28 June 1992.

With much fanfare, the last Russian tanks and 2,000 troops were removed from Estonia on 17 August 1994, ending 50 years of military presence in Estonia. Russia also announced it would begin dismantling two nuclear reactors within Estonia. Estonia demanded the return of more than 750 sq mi of land that Russia considered part of its territory, but that belonged to Estonia before World War II. When Estonia renewed its claim to those lands, the Russian government began constructing 680 border posts, many of which are guarded by armed soldiers and linked by fences.

One of the worst maritime disasters since World War II occurred on 28 September 1994, when the ferry Estonia, en route from Tallinn to Sweden, sank off the coast of Finland, killing about 900 people. Investigators reported that locks on the huge front cargo door of the ferry failed during a storm, letting in a flood of water that caused the ship to sink in only a few minutes.

The 1995 parliamentary vote reflected dissatisfaction among rural inhabitants and pensioners and signaled a change from the vigorous free-market reforms that dominated Estonia's transition from Soviet rule. The results of the election, however, didn't significantly alter Estonia's commitment to a balanced budget, a stable currency, or a good foreign investment climate. Following the March 1995 elections, Tiit Vähi was approved as prime minister, but he and his cabinet resigned in October 1995 amidst a scandal within the administration that involved telephone tapping and the clandestine sales of weapons. President Lennart Meri later appointed a new government, which reinstated Vähi as prime minister. In September 1996 Meri won a second presidential term, although the election was turned over to an electoral college after no candidate won the required two-thirds majority in parliamentary balloting in August. Following a no-confidence vote in February 1997, Prime Minister Vähi resigned and was replaced by Mart Si-imann, who formed a minority government.

Reformers once again won control of Estonia's parliament in the March 1999 general elections, in which a coalition of center-right parties gained a slim majority, wining 53 out of 101 seats. (However, the left-leaning Center Party won 28 seats, the highest number for a single party.) Mart Laar was named prime minister. The new government was expected to emphasize political reforms as much as economic ones, focusing on the elimination of corruption and inefficiency in the civil service, courts, and police.

Since it gained its independence in 1991, Estonia's foreign policy focused on integration with Western Europe, with the specific long-range goals of EU and NATO membership. One of these goals received a boost in 1998 when Estonia was invited by the European Union to begin negotiations toward membership. In December 2002, the EU formally invited Estonia, one of 10 new candidate countries, to join the body as of May 2004. A referendum on Estonia's entry into the EU was held on 14 September 2003, and on 1 May 2004 Estonia became a member of the EU. In November 2002, Estonia was one of seven Central and East European countries to be invited to join NATO, with accession taking place on 29 March 2004. Internally, Estonia still faces the challenge of integrating its minority population of ethnic Russians fully into the nation's public life.

In September 2001 Arnold Rüütel was elected president, succeeding Meri, who was barred by the constitution from seeking a third consecutive term. Rüütel's victory was seen as a reaction to popular dissatisfaction with the government and growing economic problems in small towns and rural areas, among other reasons. However, because none of the presidential candidates received the required two-thirds vote in parliament after three rounds of voting, an electoral college, composed of all members of parliament and 266 local government representatives, elected the president. In January 2002, Laar resigned as prime minister and Siim Kallas took his place. The next presidential election was to take place fall 2006.

Parliamentary elections held on 2 March 2003 resulted in the formation of a coalition government made up of the center-right Res Publica, the right-leaning Reform Party, and the rural party People's Union. Thirty-six-year-old Juhan Parts became prime minister on 10 April. On 24 March 2005, Parts resigned, and President Arnold Rüütel asked Reform Party chairman Andrus Ansip to form a new government. Ansip became prime minister on 12 April, representing the Reform Party, the Center Party, and the People's Union. The next parliamentary elections were scheduled for March 2007.

As of 2005, Estonia had the most advanced information infrastructure of any country in the former Communist Eastern bloc. Around 700,000 of Estonia's approximately 1.4 million people bank online, up from zero in 1997. Citizens use the Internet to access state services and to conduct any number of business transactions, and many people who never owned a landline telephone now rely on wireless phones.

After nearly 10 years of negotiations, in May 2005 Russia and Estonia signed a treaty delimiting their border. In June, the Estonian parliament ratified the border treaty, but introduced an amendment referring to the Soviet occupation, despite warnings from Russia not to do so. Russia reacted by withdrawing from the treaty.

GOVERNMENT

Estonia adopted a new post-Soviet constitution on 28 June 1992. It declares Estonia a parliamentary democracy with a unicameral parliament. The parliament (Riigikogu) has 101 seats. Members of parliament serve four-year terms. The president (who is elected for a five-year term), prime minister and the cabinet make up the executive branch of government. The president is the head of state while the prime minister is the head of government. Both the parliament and the president are elected by direct universal suffrage of citizens 18 years or older.

POLITICAL PARTIES

The Independent Communist Party of Estonia split from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in January 1991. The Pro Patria Party, the Estonian Social Democratic Party, the Christian-Democratic Union of Estonia, the Estonian National Independence Party, and Estonian Green Movement were among the many parties that emerged in recent years. The Popular Front of Estonia, founded in 1988 to unite pro-independence forces, has lost much of its influence and role since the attainment of independence. The non-Estonian, mainly Russian, interests are represented by the Inter-Movement of the Working People of Estonia and the Union of Work Collectives, both founded in 1988. In addition, a Russian Democratic Movement has emerged that specifically represents the Russian-speaking population of Estonia.

In the parliamentary elections of March 1995, the Coalition Party and Rural Union (made up of four parties: Coalition Party, Country People's Party, Farmer's Assembly, and Pensioners' and Families' League) won 41 seats; Reform Party-Liberals, 19; Center Party, 16; Pro Patria, 8; Our Home is Estonia, 6; Moderates (consisting of the Social Democratic Party and Rural Center Party), 2; and Right-Wingers, 5.

The Pro Patria and the Estonian National Independence Party, which had allied themselves in the 1995 election, joined forces at the end of that year to form the Fatherland Union. In the March 1999 elections, the Fatherland Union and two other parties formed a broader coalition that won a narrow majority in parliament, garnering a total of 53 parliamentary seats (Fatherland Union, 18; Estonian Reform Party, 18; Moderates, 17). However, the party winning the single largest number of seats was the Estonian Center Party, with 28. The remaining seats were distributed as follows: the Estonian Coalition Party, 7; the Estonian Rural People's Union, 7; and the United People's Party, 6.

In the 2 March 2003 elections, the Center Party and Res Publica, a new political party, each won 28 seats in the Riigikogu; the Reform Party took 19 seats; the People's Union won 13; the Fatherland Union took 7 seats; and the Moderates won 6. The Res Publica, Reform, and People's Union parties formed a coalition government, securing 60 of 101 seats in parliament. The next parliamentary elections were to be held March 2007.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Estonia's major administrative divisions are 15 counties (maakond). The counties are further subdivided into municipalitiesrural communes (vald ) and urban municipalities (linn ). Since October 2005, there were 227 municipalities in Estonia, 34 of them urban and 193 of them rural.

While only citizens are allowed to vote in Estonia's national elections, residents of Estonia, including noncitizens, are allowed to vote in local elections. Noncitizens, however, cannot be candidates in local (or national) elections. Office-holders serve three-year terms. The last local elections were held on 16 October 2005. In the 2005 local elections, some 800,000 Estonians, or 80% of the eligible electorate, had access to a new e-voting system via the Internet, the largest run by any European country. In the end, only 1% of voters cast their vote online.

JUDICIAL SYSTEM

The 1992 constitution established a court system consisting of three levels of courts: (1) rural, city, and administrative courts, (2) circuit courts of appeal, and (3) the National Court. The National Court engages in constitutional review of legislation. At the rural and city courts, the decisions are made by a majority vote with a judge and two lay members. There are 2 city courts, 14 county courts, and 4 administrative courts in Estonia (20 courts of first instance). There are three circuit courts of appeal, at Tallinn and Tartu, and the Viru circuit court located in the city of Jõhvi. The National Court has 19 judges.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary and the judiciary is independent in practice. The Chief Justice of the National Court, nominated by the president and confirmed by the Riigikogu, nominates National Court judges, whose nominations need to be confirmed by the Riigikogu. The Chief Justice of the National Court also nominates the lower court judges who are then appointed by the president. Judges are appointed for life. The 1992 interim criminal code abolishes a number of political and economic crimes under the former Soviet Criminal Code. A new criminal procedural code was adopted in 1994.

The constitution provides for a presumption of innocence, access to prosecution evidence, confrontation and cross-examination of witnesses, and public trials.

ARMED FORCES

Active armed forces numbered 4,934 in 2005, with some 24,000 reservists. The Army maintained four defense regions with 3,429 soldiers. The Navy numbered 331 active members and the Air Force had 195 active personnel. The Estonian Border Guard numbered 2,600 and also served as the coast guard. The estimated defense expenditure in 2005 was $207 million. As of 2005, Estonian forces were deployed in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, Serbia and Montenegro, and as United Nations observers in the Middle East.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

Estonia was admitted to the United Nations (UN) on 17 February 1991 and belongs to several specialized UN agencies, such as the FAO, IAEA, World Bank, ICAO, ILO, IMF, IMO, UNESCO, and the WHO. The country is also a member of the OSCE, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Council of the Baltic Sea States, the Council of Europe, the European Investment Bank, and NATO. Estonia joined the WTO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004. It has observer status in the OAS and is an affiliate member of the Western European Union.

Estonia belongs to the Australia Group and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (London Group). In environmental cooperation, Estonia is part of the Antarctic Treaty, the Basel Convention, Conventions on Biological Diversity and Air Pollution, Ramsar, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, and the UN Convention on Climate Change.

ECONOMY

Estonia has one of the strongest economies among the former Soviet republics. Its mineral resources include 60% of former Soviet oil shale deposits, as well as phosphates. Light manufacturing dominates industry, with major sectors that include textiles, furniture, and electronics. Agriculture is based mainly on rearing livestock, but dairy farming is also significant. Estonia is self-sufficient in electrical power.

The economy started to revive after the 1992 monetary reform, reintroducing the preoccupation quasi-convertible Estonian kroon. Estonia's economy quickly became one of the strongest post-Communist economies in eastern Europe as successive governments remained committed to the implementation of market reforms. Growth continued until 1998, when Estonia underwent its first post-Soviet economic downturn. GDP growth slowed to 4% in 1998 and declined to -1.1% in 1999. The economy began to improve the following year.

Estonia's economic progress is linked to its liberal foreign trade regime (there are few tariffs or nontariff barriers), effective bankruptcy legislation, and swift privatization. State subsidies were in the process of being abolished in the early 2000s, and all of these measures helped to stabilize and restructure the economy. As a result, Estonia received high levels of foreign direct investment. Although the global economy was in a downturn in the early 2000s, Estonia was able to maintain GDP growth rates of around 5%, higher than many other European countries. Major growth sectors include information technology, transportation, and construction services. Estonia was formally invited to join the EU in December 2002, and was finally accepted in May 2004. The country became a member of the WTO in 1999.

The GDP growth rate in 2004 was 6.2%, up from 5.1% in 2003; in 2005, the economy was expected to expand by 6.0%. The inflation rate has been fluctuating, but, at 3.0% in 2004, it was well under control and did not pose any problems to the economy. Unemployment was, at 9.6%, fairly high, although on a downward trend (in 2000 the unemployment rate was 13.6%); in 2005, unemployment was expected to drop further to 9.2%. Electronics and telecommunications are two of the main growth sectors, but Estonia is strongly dependent on the economic performance of three of its main trade partners: Finland, Sweden, and Germany.

INCOME

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Estonia's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $21.8 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $16,400. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 7.1%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 4%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 4.1% of GDP, industry 29.1%, and services 66.8%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $40 million or about $30 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.4% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $85 million or about $62 per capita and accounted for approximately 1.0% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Estonia totaled $5.14 billion or about $3,800 per capita based on a GDP of $9.1 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 2.5%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 41% of household consumption was spent on food, 24% on fuel, 8% on health care, and 4% on education. It was estimated that in 1995 about 8.9% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.

LABOR

In 2005, Estonia's workforce was estimated at 670,000. As of 2003, agriculture accounted for 6.2% of the workforce, with 32.5% engaged in industry, and 61.3% in the services sector. Unemployment was estimated at 9.2% in 2005.

The Estonian constitution guarantees the right to form and freely join a union or employee association. The Central Organization of Estonian Trade Unions (EAKL) was founded in 1990 as a voluntary and culturally Estonian organization to replace the Estonian branch of the Soviet labor confederation. In 2002, the EAKL claimed 58,000 members. A rival union, the Organization of Employee Unions, split off from the EAKL in 1993, and claimed about 40,000 members in 2001. In 2005, about 10% of the Estonian workforce was unionized. Workers had the right to strike, and of collective bargaining, both of which were freely practiced. About 15% of Estonia's workforce were covered under collective bargaining agreements as of 2005.

The statutory minimum employment age is 18, although children aged 15 to 17 years may work with parental permission. Children between the ages of 13 and 15 can also work, but in addition to parental or guardian approval, they must also have the approval of a labor inspector. Minors under the age of 18 are also prohibited from performing dangerous and hazardous work. The number of hours minors can work and when they can work are also limited. The standard workweek is legally set at 40 hours with a mandatory 24-hour rest period. The monthly minimum wage was about $218 in 2005, with around 94% of the nation's workforce earning more than the minimum rate.

AGRICULTURE

In 2003, agricultural lands covered 561,000 hectares (1,386,000 acres), or 13.2% of Estonia's land area. During the Soviet period, forced collectivization reduced the share of labor in agriculture from 50% to less than 20%. By 2003, however, there were 36,859 private farms, with an average size of 21.6 hectares (53.4 acres). Agriculture accounted for 15.1% of GDP in 1991 and 4% in 2003.

Principal crops in 2004 included potatoes, 170,900 tons; barley, 289,500 tons; wheat, 184,700 tons; rye, 19,700 tons; and oats, 75,200 tons. In 2004 agricultural products accounted for 5.1% of exports and 8.4% of imports; the agricultural trade deficit was $430.8 million that year.

ANIMAL HUSBANDRY

Over 10% of the total land area is meadow or pastureland. In 2005, there were 340,100 pigs, 249,000 head of cattle, 38,800 sheep, and 2,162,000 chickens. Meat production is well developed and provides a surplus for export. In 2005, 15,300 tons of beef, 40,000 tons of pork, and 15,000 tons of poultry were produced. Th at year, Estonia's dairy cows produced 650,000 tons of milk. Cattle breeding was the main activity during the Soviet era, and production quotas were set extremely high, which required massive imports of feed. Pork production has risen in recent years to offset the decline in the total cattle herd. The wool clip in 2005 was 80 tons.

FISHING

Estonia's Baltic and Atlantic catch is marketed in the former Soviet Union, in spite of its own need for quality fish products. The fishing industry is seen as an important way to acquire access to the world market, but scarcity of raw materials currently limits its development. The total catch in 2003 was 80,580 tons. The total value of fisheries exports increased from $79.7 million in 2000 to $142.1 million in 2003. The two major species of the 2003 catch were Atlantic herring and European sprat, each of which accounted for 37%.

FORESTRY

The government estimated that some 45% of the land area was covered by forests and woodlands in 1999. The production of wood and wood products is the second-largest industry after textiles; two cellulose plants (at Tallinn and Kehra) use local raw material, but have caused significant environmental problems. There is also a fiberboard processing plant (for furniture making) at Püssi. Roundwood production amounted to 10.2 million cu m (360 million cu ft) in 2004; when exports of 3.4 million cu m (120 million cu ft) of roundwood were valued at $131.3 million. Total forestry exports in 2003 amounted to $533.3 million; imports, $205.7 million.

MINING

Oil shale was the primary mineral of importance. The country also produced cement, clays, nitrogen, peat, sand and gravel, and industrial silica sand. Production figures for 2003 were: clays for brick, 134,900,000 cu m, down from 149,000,000 cu m in 2002; clays for cement, 27.3 million cu m, up from 19.0 million cu m in 2002; and sand and gravel, 4.470 million cu m. Phosphate quarrying at the Maardu deposit ceased because of environmental concerns.

ENERGY AND POWER

Estonia gets most of its energy from oil shale, found in abundance in the northeastern region of the country. Oil shale is burned to produce electricity and accounts for approximately 6,000 barrels per day of oil production in 2004. With domestic consumption in that year totaling 60,000 barrels per day, Estonia had to import the difference primarily from Russia. There are no natural gas reserves in Estonia, which relies on imports from Russia. Natural gas consumption in 2004 stood at 50 billion cu ft, with imports accounting for all of it.

Estonia is however, a net exporter of electricity, sending its surplus power to parts of northwest Russia and to Latvia. In 2004, a total of 8.9 billion kWh was generated, most of it from Estonia's oil shale-fired plants at Narva. Domestic consumption of electricity for that year totaled 6.4 billion kWh, with generating capacity put at 3.3 GW. Surplus electricity from the two plants is exported to Latvia and the Russian Federation.

INDUSTRY

Estonian industrial production focuses on shipbuilding, electric motors, furniture, clothing, textiles, paper, shoes, and apparel. Extractive industries include oil shale, phosphate, and cement production. According to the US Central Intelligence Agency, industry accounted for 29% of GDP in 2001. In 1991, 26.6% of industrial output was accounted for by the food industry, 25.9% by light industry, 12.7% by machine-building and metalworks, 10.3% by the timber industry, and 8.5% by chemicals. The textile mills of Kreenholmi Manufacturer in Narva and Bălţi Manufacturer in Tallinn are the country's largest industrial enterprises. Construction was slated to be a principal growth sector in 2002.

Between 1990 and 1995, industrial output shrank by an average of 14.9% per year, but most of the decline occurred in the years immediately after independence; by 1994, industrial production was on the rise. In 1995, value added by industry accounted for 28% of GDP and has remained stable since.

The industrial production growth rate was 5% in 2000, lower than the GDP growth rate (7.8%), and an indication of an under-performing industrial sector. In 2004, industry had a 28.9% share in the GDP; agriculture made up a small part of the economy (4.1%), while services was the best performing sector, with a 67% share in the GDP. Current industries include engineering, electronics, wood and wood products, textiles, information technology, and telecommunications.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

The Academy of Sciences, founded in 1938, has divisions of astronomy and physics, informatics and technical sciences, and biology, geology, and chemistry, and research institutes devoted to biology, ecology, experimental biology, zoology and botany, environmental biology, marine sciences, astrophysics and atmospheric physics, chemical physics and biophysics, chemistry, geology, physics, computer research and design, cybernetics, and energy. Other research institutes in the country are devoted to preventive medicine and oil shale research. Tallinn Technical University (founded in 1918) offers science and engineering degrees. The University of Tartu, founded in 1632, has faculties of biology and geography, mathematics, medicine, and physics and chemistry, as well as an institute of general and molecular pathology. Estonian Agricultural University was founded in 1951. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 27% of university enrollment.

In 2002, expenditures for research and development (R&D) totaled $134.267 million, or 0.81% of GDP. Of that total, 53.8% came from government sources, while business provided 29.2%, followed by foreign sources at 14.4%, higher education at 2.4% and private nonprofit institutions at 0.2%. In that same year Estonia had 2,253 researchers and 386 technicians per million people that were actively engaged in R&D. In 2002 high technology exports by Estonia totaled $375 million, accounting for 12% of manufactured exports.

DOMESTIC TRADE

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Estonia's domestic trade was underdeveloped by international standards. Most trading companies were owned either by the state or by cooperatives. In recent years, many shops have been privatized or municipalized, new private shops established, and the assortment of goods widened. By 1992, there were 4,026 shops in Estonia.

Open-air markets control a large segment of domestic food sales. Market prices are usually lower than those in grocery stores, making it difficult for them to compete. Retail sales of food products amounted to $441 million in 1995.

FOREIGN TRADE

During the Soviet era, Estonia's foreign trade was characterized by large net imports, 8085% of which came from other Soviet republics, which were also the destination of 95% of Estonian exports. Beginning in 1992, the value of exports began to surpass that of imports, and the share of trade with other former Soviet

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 5,622.5 7,966.6 -2,344.1
Finland 1,231.1 1,264.5 -33.4
Sweden 700.8 610.2 90.6
Russia 643.2 811.1 -167.9
Germany 469.8 881.9 -412.1
Latvia 417.6 191.1 226.5
Lithuania 226.6 228.0 -1.4
Ukraine 200.5 340.2 -139.7
United Kingdom 199.8 177.5 22.3
Denmark 179.3 157.1 22.2
Norway 170.4 83.9 86.5
() data not available or not significant.

republics diminished. In 2000, Estonia's exports totaled $3.8 billion, 69% of which went to EU nations.

The most important export industry in Estonia is electronics (24.5%). Cork, wood, and their manufactures account for the second-largest consolidated group of commodity exports (11.9%). Other important exports include apparel (5.3%), textiles (4.4%), and furniture (3.8%).

In 2004, exports reached $5.7 billion (FOBFree on Board), while imports grew to $7.3 billion (FOB). The bulk of exports went to Finland (23.1%), Sweden (15.3%), Germany (8.4%), Latvia (7.9%), Russia (5.7%), and Lithuania (4.4%). Imports included machinery and equipment (33.5%), chemical products (11.6%), textiles (10.3%), foodstuffs (9.4%), and transportation equipment (8.9%), and mainly came from Finland (22.1%), Germany (12.9%), Sweden (9.7%), Russia (9.2%), Lithuania (5.3%), and Latvia (4.7%).

BALANCE OF PAYMENTS

Since independence, Estonia has dismantled a Soviet-era system of trade barriers and tariffs to become one of the world's most free-trading nations. In the early 1990s, exports to the West quadrupled, helping to generate a strong surplus in the current account. By the late 1990s and early 2000s, however, the balance of trade on goods became generally negative. Services and capital inflows produced income in the form of foreign direct investment, which remained strong.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2002 the purchasing power parity of Estonia's exports was $3.4 billion while imports totaled $4.4 billion resulting in a trade deficit of $1 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001 Estonia had exports of goods totaling $3.34 billion and imports totaling $4.13 billion. The services credit totaled $1.64 billion and debit $1.07 billion.

Exports of goods reached $6.0 billion in 2004, and were expected to grow to $7.6 billion in 2005. Imports were expected to reach $9.3 billion in 2005, up from $7.9 billion in 2004. The resource balance was consequently negative, reaching -$1.9 billion in 2004, and -$1.7 billion in 2005. The current account balance was also

Current Account -1,199.2
    Balance on goods -1,579.5
      Imports -6,183.0
      Exports 850.7
    Balance on income -576.7
    Current transfers 106.3
Capital Account 39.7
Financial Account 1,337.4
    Direct investment abroad -148.2
    Direct investment in Estonia 890.8
    Portfolio investment assets -394.3
    Portfolio investment liabilities 558.2
    Financial derivatives -1.8
    Other investment assets -127.3
    Other investment liabilities 560.0
Net Errors and Omissions -8.6
Reserves and Related Items -169.4
() data not available or not significant.

negative, at -$1.4 billion in 2004, and an expected -$1.5 billion in 2005. Foreign exchange reserves (excluding gold) grew to $1.8 billion in 2004, covering less than three months of imports.

BANKING AND SECURITIES

All links with the Soviet budget and financial system were severed in 1991, and today Estonia has the strongest and most advanced banking system in the Baltic States. In January 1990 the Bank of Estonia was created, which merged two years later with the Estonian branch of Gosbank (the Soviet State Bank) to form the country's new central bank. In December 1988 the authorities established the first Estonian commercial bank, the Tartu Commercial Bank, and by September 1991 there were 20 commercial banks responsible for 27% of total credit extended by banks. The commercial banks include the Bank of Tallinn (1990), Estonian Commercial Bank of Industry (1991), Cand Bank of Estonia (1990), and South Estonian Development Bank. Savings banks include the Estonian Savings Bank, a bank with 432 branches.

Like those of other Eastern European countries, Estonia's banking sector has suffered from an excessive number of banks: there were 43 by the end of 1992. Consolidations took place in 1993, with the banks being merged in Eesti Uhispank (Estonian Unified Bank). As of 2001 there were 7 licensed commercial banks in Estonia. The merger agreement between the Union Bank of Estonia and the North Estonian Bank was signed in January 1997. With combined assets of eek4.97 billion ($414 million), the merger pushed Union Bank of Estonia (the name of the new entity) from third to second place in terms of assets. Hansabank remained Estonia's largest bank, especially after its merger with Hoiupank (Saving Bank). In 1999, SwedBank bid successfully for a majority interest in Hansabank.

Since independence, Estonia's banks have played a major role in fostering a climate of economic stability. In 1997, they took the initiative in tightening credit in the wake of the Asian financial crisis. This action, which resulted in a rise in interest rates, checked fears of a too-rapid economic expansion, which would bring about inflation. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $1.4 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $2.3 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 4.92%.

There are two stock exchanges in Estonia: the Estonian Stock Exchange and the Tallinn Stock Exchange, inaugurated in May 1996. As of 2004, there were 13 companies listed on the Tallinn Stock Exchange, which had a capitalization that year of $6.203 billion. The TALSE rose 57.1% in 2004 from the previous year to 448.8.

INSURANCE

Since Estonia regained its independence, it has sought to develop a system of health insurance involving the decentralization of medical care. Third-party automobile liability insurance is compulsory.

PUBLIC FINANCE

The new government exercises fiscal responsibility characterized by a strictly balanced budget. No transfers or preferential credits are given to public enterprises, and governmental borrowing from the central bank is forbidden. In January 1996 Estonia instituted a centralized treasury system for managing the government's budget.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Estonia's central government took in revenues of approximately $5.1 billion and had expenditures of $5 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately $109 million. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 3.8% of GDP. Total external debt was $10.09 billion.

Revenue and Grants 29,896 100.0%
    Tax revenue 16,128 53.9%
    Social contributions 10,471 35.0%
    Grants 624 2.1%
    Other revenue 2,673 8.9%
Expenditures 29,237 100.0%
    General public services 5,681 19.4%
    Defense 1,450 5.0%
    Public order and safety 2,095 7.2%
    Economic affairs 2,766 9.5%
    Environmental protection
    Housing and community amenities
    Health 4,763 16.3%
    Recreational, culture, and religion 1,157 4.0%
    Education 2,137 7.3%
    Social protection 9,188 31.4%
() data not available or not significant.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were eek29,896 million and expenditures were eek29,237 million. The value of revenues was us$1,710 million and expenditures us$1,673 million, based on an exchange rate for 2001 of us$1 = eek17.478 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 19.4%; defense, 5.0%; public order and safety, 7.2%; economic affairs, 9.5%; health, 16.3%; recreation, culture, and religion, 4.0%; education, 7.3%; and social protection, 31.4%.

TAXATION

Estonia does not tax the income of resident or permanently established nonresident companies. Instead, they are subject only to a tax on distributions (dividends, fringe benefits, gifts, profit distributions, and those payments not related to the payer's business) to resident legal entities, resident and nonresident persons, and nonresident companies. In 2006, those subject are taxed at 22%. A further reduction to 20% is slated to take effect in 2007. Interest payments are subject to a 24% withholding tax that is paid to resident persons, and on that portion of interest paid to nonresident persons or companies that is over the market interest rate. Royalty payments made to nonresident firms and persons, are subject to a 15% withholding tax. Resident persons and companies are subject to a higher, 24% withholding rate. Generally, capital gains received by resident persons and companies are taxed as income. For companies, the gains are taxed as part of the distribution, when it is made. Individuals do not pay a capital gains tax on the sale of their primary residence.

Personal income taxes, in 2006, are assessed at the same flat rate of 22% as corporate profits. Some school fees, living allowances, and interest on loans for the purchase of residential housing are deductible from taxable income. A withholding tax of 22% is imposed on dividends paid to nonresidents that hold less than 20% of the share capital in the paying company. However, Estonia has double tax treaties with at least 22 countries in which withholding taxes are eliminated or substantially reduced. A new Law on Social Tax came into effect in January 1999. The rate of social tax is 33% payable by employers and self-employed individuals. There are relatively few allowable deductions from taxable income in the Estonian tax code. The annual land tax varies from 0.12.5% of assessed value.

Main indirect tax is a value-added tax (VAT) set at a with a standard rate of 18% by a new Law on VAT passed in July 2001 and effective in January 2002. Reduced rates of 0% and 5% apply to some goods and services, including a 0% rate on exported goods and a specific list of exported services. Excise duties are levied on tobacco, alcoholic beverages, motor fuel, motor oil, and fuel oil (but not liquefied or compresses gas), motor vehicles, and packages (imposed to encourage recycling of package material). There is a gambling tax, and a customs processing fee on each customs declaration submitted. Rights of recording are taxed at 0.4%. Local governments have the authority to impose taxes and municipal taxes range from 12%.

CUSTOMS AND DUTIES

Estonia has a liberal trade regime, with few tariff or nontariff barriers. Among the few items that have tariffs placed on them are agricultural goods produced in countries that are not among Estonia's preferred trading partners. There is also a value-added tax (VAT) levied ad valorem on everything except a few select commodities, including medicines and medical equipment, funeral equipment, and goods for nonprofit purposes.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Estonia has successfully attracted a large number of joint ventures with Western companies, benefiting from a well-developed service sector and links with Scandinavian countries. The foreign investment act passed by the Supreme Council in September 1991 offers tax relief to foreign investors. Property brought into Estonia by foreign investors as an initial capital investment is exempt from customs duties, but is subject to value-added tax. A foreign investor is legally entitled to repatriate profits after paying income tax.

In 1998, foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows peaked at $580.6, up from $266.7 million in 1997. FDI inflow averaged $346 million in 1999 and 2000, but increased to $538 million in 2001. Estonia's share of world FDI flows from 1998 to 2000 were 2.3 times its share of world GDP, making it 16th among the 140 countries ranked on FDI performance by UNCTAD.

Industry accounts for 46% of the total foreign investment, primarily in the pulp and paper, transportation, and services sectors. Wholesale and retail trade accounts for 27% of foreign investment; transport, 14%. Estonian agribusiness is an area of growing interest to foreign investors.

During the past decade, Estonia has been one of the best performing Central and Eastern European countries in terms of foreign investments attracted. Numerous foreign companies have considered Estonia to be an attractive market, and today companies partly or wholly owned by foreign nationals make up one-third of the country's GDP, and over 50% of its exports. In 2004, total capital inflows rose to $850 million, with Sweden and Finland being the largest investors.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

After passing an ownership act in June 1990, the government began a privatization program at the beginning of 1991. Most of the nearly 500 state-owned companies have since passed into new hands. The Estonian Privatization Agency (EPA) was established to oversee major privatization programs. In late 1995, EPA announced privatization plans for Estonian Railways, Estonian Energy, Estonian Oil Shale, Estonian Telekom, and Tallinn Ports. Estonian Gas, Estonian Tobacco, and Estonian Air were privatized in 1996. As of 2002, only the port and the main power plants remained state-controlled.

Estonia has excellent intellectual property laws, has enacted modern bankruptcy legislation, and has seen the emergence of well-managed privately held banks. The constitution mandates a balanced budget, and the climate for foreign investment is positive. In 2003, the economy was vulnerable, and the size of the current account deficit was a particular concern. The government was urged by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to pursue a fiscal surplus policy, to prepare for membership in the European Union (EU). The country joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1999 and the EU in 2004.

The economy expanded at healthy rates in the first half of 2005, and is expected to continue the trend for a couple of more years. This growth was fueled by increased private consumption and fixed investment. The export sector has been another sector that has registered high growth rates, and it is predicted to out-perform the import sector in coming years.

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

Social security programs were originally introduced in 1924. After independence from the Soviet Union, new social insurance systems were introduced. The current law was implemented in 2003. Pension systems are funded by contributions from employers and the government. Retirement is set at age 63 for men and 59 for women, and is set to increase to age 63 for both men and women. Other social welfare programs include worker's compensation, unemployment assistance, survivorship payments, maternity and sickness benefits, and family allowances. There is a family allowance for all children under 17 years of age.

Women constitute slightly more than half the work force, and in theory are entitled to equal pay. Although women on average achieve higher educational levels than men, their average pay was lower. Sexual harassment is not officially reported. Domestic violence is a widespread problem and is grossly underreported; spousal abuse is not a criminal offense. Public attention is focused increasingly on the welfare of children in the wake of family crises caused by economic dislocation. Educational issues were aggressively addressed in 2004.

Ethnic Russians sometimes face discrimination in housing and employment. Estonian language requirements make it difficult for many of them to find public sector employment. Citizenship has not automatically been extended to ethnic Russians living in Estonia, and a significant proportion of the population remain noncitizens. Discrimination based on race, sex, nationality, or religion is illegal under the constitution. Prison conditions remain poor, and police brutality is commonly reported.

HEALTH

A major reform of the primary care system was implemented in 1998, making family practitioners independent contractors with combined private and public-financed payment. In 2000, there was an estimated fertility rate of 1.2. The maternal mortality rate was 50 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births as of 1998. In 2005, the infant mortality rate was an estimated 7.87 per 1,000 and the overall death rate as of 2002 was 13.4 per 1,000 people. Life expectancy in 2005 averaged 71.77 years. In 1999, Estonia immunized children up to one year old against diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 95%; and measles, 92%.

The number of hospitals in Estonia decreased significantly during the 1990s, with the number of available beds cut by one-third between 1991 and 1995. As of 1998, there were 78 hospitals, with a total of 10,509 beds. As of 2004, there were an estimated 316 physicians and 629 nurses per 100,000 people. The country's only medical school is the Tartu University Medical Faculty.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 1.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 7,800 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 200 deaths from AIDS in 2003.

HOUSING

According to 2000 census figures, the total number of dwellings in the country was at about 628,615. Of these 617,399 were described as conventional dwellings; 424,769 were apartments and 171,086 were single-family, detached dwellings. About 85% of all conventional dwellings were owned by private citizens residing in Estonia. About 3.8% of all conventional dwellings are owned by housing associations. Only about 3.7% of all conventional dwellings were built in 1991 or later; 59% of the housing stock was built during the period 19611990. The housing costs of low-income families are subsidized.

EDUCATION

Prior to the 1990s, the Soviet system of education was followed. This was modified after Estonia's separation from the USSR. Primary education (basic school) covers nine years. This is followed by a general secondary school (gymnasium) or a vocational school, both of which cover a three-year program. Students in vocational schools may choose to continue in an advanced program of another three years. The academic year runs from September through June. The primary languages of instruction are Estonian, Russian, and English.

In 2001, most children between the ages of three and six were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 95% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 88% of age-eligible students. Most students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 14:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 10:1.

There are two well-known universities: the University of Tartu, founded in 1632, and the Talliva Technical University, founded in 1936, which mainly offers engineering courses. In 2003, about 66% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program; with 50% for men and 83% for women. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 99.8%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 5.7% of GDP.

LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS

The National Library of Estonia in Tallinn, founded in 1918, contains over 3.2 million volumes. Other important libraries located in Tallinn include the Estonian Technical Library (11.8 million volumes) and the Estonian Academic Library (2.2 million). The Tartu State University Library is the largest academic library with 3.7 million volumes. In 2004, there were 564 public libraries in the country, along with 512 school libraries and 75 research and special libraries.

The Estonian History Museum in Tallinn was established in 1864. It contains 230,000 exhibits that follow the history of the region's people from ancient times to the present. The Estonian National Museum in Tartu, established in 1909, features exhibits about the living conditions of Estonians. Also in Tallinn is the Art Museum of Estonia, the Estonian Open Air Museum, the Estonian Theater and Music Museum, and the Tallinn City Museum. Tartu University houses a Museum of Classical Antiquities.

MEDIA

Though the telecommunications system has had recent improvements in the form of foreign investment through business ventures, there are still thousands of residents on waiting lists for service lines, with the average wait for service at about 1.4 years in 2000. In 2003, there were an estimated 341 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 4,500 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 777 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

Estonian Radio began regular broadcasting in 1926. In 1937, the highest radio tower in Europe (196.7m) was built in Türi. In the 1970s, Estonian Radio was the first in the former Soviet Union to carry advertising. Estonian television began broadcasting in 1955, and started color broadcasts in 1972. It broadcasts on four channels in Estonian and Russian. As of 2001, there were 98 FM radio stations and 3 television stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 1,136 radios and 507 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 117 of every 1,000 people are cable subscribers. Also in 2003, there were 440.4 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 444 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 113 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

Journalism was subject to varying degrees of censorship from the Russian occupation in 1940 until the late 1980s. The most popular daily newspapers (with 2002 circulation figures) are Noorte Haal (The Voice of Youth, 150,000), Postimees (Postman, 59,200), Paevaleht (The Daily Paper, 40,000), and Rahva Haal (The Voice of the People, 175,000). The most widely read weeklies (with 1995 circulation figures) are the Maaleht (Country News, 50,000) and the Eesti Ekspress (Estonian Express, 55,000).

Estonia has an active publishing industry, although it faced economic difficulties in the early 1990s. The ISBN code has been used in Estonia since 1988. There were 2,291,000 book titles published in 1994.

The government is said to respect constitutional provisions for free expression. Foreign publications are widely available and private print and broadcast media operate freely.

ORGANIZATIONS

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Estonia promotes trade and commerce with its neighbors. Also, there is a chamber of commerce in Tartu. Professional societies and trade unions have developed for a number of careers.

Research and educational organizations include the Estonian Academy of Sciences and the Estonian Medical Association. There are also several associations dedicated to research and education for specific fields of medicine and particular diseases and conditions.

The Estonian Institute, established in 1989, promotes the appreciation of Estonian culture abroad. Ars Baltica is a multination group based in Vilnius that promotes appreciation for regional arts and culture.

Most student organizations belong to the umbrella organizations of the Federation of Estonian Student Unions or the Federation of Estonian Universities. Other youth organizations include the Estonian Green Movement, YMCA/YWCA, Junior Chamber, the Estonian Scout Associations, and the Girl Guides. In 1989 Estonian sports were reorganized and the Soviets reduced their control of Estonia's sports system. In the same year the National Olympic Committee was restored. Other sports associations have since formed, including groups for wind surfing, yachting, Frisbee, and football (soccer). The Estonian Association of University Women promotes educational and professional opportunities for women.

The Estonian Institute for Human Rights monitors actions concerning civil rights and offers legal aid and information to the public. Volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs and Kiwanis International, are also present. There is a national chapter of the Red Cross Society.

TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION

Visitors are drawn to the country's scenic landscapes, Hanseatic architecture, music and dance festivals, regattas, and beach resorts. The ancient town of Tallinn, noted for its architectural preservation, is a major tourist attraction and is linked by regular ferries to Helsinki and Stockholm.

There were 3,377,837 foreign arrivals in Estonia in 2003, almost 61% of whom came from Northern Europe. Tourist receipts totaled $886 million. The 12,445 hotel rooms with 27,487 beds had an occupancy rate of 47%. The average length of stay was two nights.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily expenses in Tallinn at $210.

FAMOUS ESTONIANS

Lennart Meri (b.1929), writer, filmmaker, and historian, became president of Estonia in 1992 and won a second term in 1996. He left office in 2001, and was succeeded by Arnold Rüütel (b.1928). Writer Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald (18031882) wrote the epic Kalevipoeg (Son of Kalev), which was published by the Estonian Learned Society in 185761 and marked the beginning of Estonian national literature.

The revolution of 1905 forced many Estonian writers to flee the country. In 1906 a stable government was established in Estonia and a literary movement took hold, Birth of Young Estonia. The movement was led by poet Gustav Suits (18831956). He fled to Finland in 1910 but returned after the Russian Revolution of 1917. Later, Suits became a professor of literature at Tartu University. His fellow writers and poets between the revolution of 1917 and 1940 included Friedbert Tuglas (18861971) and Marie Under (18831980). Writers who fled abroad during World War II include Karl Rumor (18861971) and Arthur Adson (18891977). Estonian writers banned or exiled during the Soviet period include the playwright Hugo Raudsepp (18831952). American Architect Louis Kahn (1901?1974) was born in Estonia.

DEPENDENCIES

Estonia has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Frucht, Richard (ed.). Eastern Europe: An Introduction to the People, Lands, and Culture. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2005.

Kasekamp, Andres. The Radical Right in Interwar Estonia. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.

McElrath, Karen (ed.). HIV and AIDS: A Global View. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Miljan, Toivo. Historical Dictionary of Estonia. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 2004.

Raun, Toivo U. Estonia and the Estonians. Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 2001.

Terterov, Marat (ed.). Doing Business with Estonia. Sterling, Va.: Kogan Page, 2004.

Vogt, Henri. Between Utopia and Disillusionment: A Narrative of the Political Transformation in Eastern Europe. New York: Berghahn Books, 2004.

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ESTONIA

Republic of Estonia

Major City:
Tallinn

Other Cities and Regions:
Hiiumaa, Narva, Saaremaa, Tartu

EDITOR'S NOTE

This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 1999 for Estonia. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.

INTRODUCTION

ESTONIA has had a history of domination by other countries. Ruled at times by Germans, Swedes, Russians, and finally the Soviets, Estonia had a brief period of independence from 1920 to 1940, when it was forcibly annexed by the Soviets. Occupied by German forces between 1941 and 1944, Estonia was once again claimed by the Soviets after World War II and remained a Soviet republic until its independence was declared in August 1991.

Tallinn

Built in a naturally formed harbor on the Baltic Sea, Tallinn is a picturesque capital city with a long maritime tradition. The Old Town and the adjacent Toompea (Castle Hill) contain Tallinn's oldest buildings that reflect the city's history as an important point on the east-west trade route from the Middle Ages and later. The 13th century fortress on Toompea and several church spires on Toompea and in the Old Town, built from the 13th to 16th centuries, dominate Tallinn's skyline. Near the lower town, where the artisans and merchants traditionally lived, remnants of the town wall begun in the 13th century remain. Cobbled streets wend around the Old Town, passing houses once belonging to wealthy merchants and the guildhalls from where these merchants controlled trade in agricultural commodities and artisanship during the days when Tallinn was a member of the Hanseatic League. These days the Old Town is filled with tourists and Estonians frequenting the many cafes, restaurants, and shops.

Modern Tallinn has a vibrant business and arts community. Immediately east of the Old Town is the more modern center of Tallinn (Kesklinn). Theaters and museums are located in both the Kesklinn and Old Town, as are many apartment buildings.

Utilities

Standard electric power in Estonia is 220v and runs at 50 cycles, but voltage may run lower than that. Electricity is generally reliable. Any appliances or other electrical items that run at 110v must be used simultaneously with a step-down transformer. Also, bring, and use, surge protectors and step-down transformers for 110v computer equipment.

Food

A wide variety of shops and markets in Tallinn supply basic food needs, and the number of larger supermarket-type stores continues to grow. Availability and variety of imported fruits, vegetables, locally produced meats, dairy products, and various foods imported from Western Europe have increased dramatically since independence. Many American convenience type foods and specialty items are not available in Tallinn (boxed brownie and cake mixes, chocolate chips, Crisco, boxed macaroni and cheese, pop tarts, frozen waffles, etc.).

Clothing

Men: Business suits and slack/blazer combinations are recommended for work. Various weights of wool can be worn throughout the year. Few social occasions in Tallinn require a tuxedo. For casual fall and winter wear, wool, corduroy and other heavier weight slacks are appropriate. Turtlenecks, sweaters, and clothes from various outdoor outfitters are best for keeping warm. However, you may not want to bring too many sweaters, as Estonian knitwear is of excellent quality, affordable, and readily available.

Women: Wool suits and separates are recommended, as are long-sleeved blouses, turtlenecks, and sweaters. Bring a large supply of heavier weight stockings or tights in addition to regular nylons. For some affairs, dressier cocktail-length dresses are appropriate. Heavier weight fabrics such as wool or corduroy are recommended. In general, more subdued colors are most common, but women in Estonia often wear bright colors to formal events. For social events, the fashion trend in Tallinn is stylish and follows that in any Western or northern European capital city.

Children: Good-quality, reasonably priced snowsuits and winter children's outerwear are available locally. Children, as well as adults, need to wear hats and gloves from October through May.

Both men and women should bring warm coats suitable for work and casual wear. A raincoat with a liner and umbrella is also useful throughout the year, but especially from March to October. Both men and women wear hats and gloves or mittens from October through March. Warm, breathable raingear is recommended for wet autumn months.

Winter clothes should include the warmest clothes you would wear in Washington, D.C., during January and February. These may be appropriate for fall and spring in Tallinn as well. You should count on layering and wearing sweaters and heavier dress clothes from October until May. In addition, bring several pairs of long underwear. Lightweight silk or synthetic long underwear is recommended.

In the summer, clothes worn in the fall or spring in Washington, D.C., are appropriate. Women will find separates useful, especially jackets and cardigans, because the weather is cooler in the morning and late evening during summer. As for casual clothes, those that you would wear during a northern New England summer are best. Shorts are appropriate for sports, picnics, and casual outings. It should be noted that air-conditioning is almost nonexistent in Estonia. Office buildings, stores, shops, and homes can become quite warm for short periods in the summer months, so bring a small supply of short-sleeve dress shirts or blouses suitable for work.

Footwear throughout the year should be sturdy. The cobblestone streets of the Old Town, not to mention the damp, cold winter weather, are particularly hard on shoes. For winter, bring waterproof boots with soles that will not slip on the icy sidewalks and streets. From November through April, most women wear boots because shoes are not warm enough for walking on the cold, wet, and icy sidewalks. For men, thickly soled shoes or a pair of boots is recommended. Overshoes are also a useful wardrobe addition. Generally, footwear here is slightly more expensive than in the U.S.

Supplies and Services

Since 1991, the types of goods and supplies available in Tallinn have increased week by week. The general rule of thumb is that almost any item can be obtained in Estonia's capital, but some items are prone to sporadic availability. In addition, a 18% value-added tax is placed on imported goods.

Western European and American toiletries, cosmetics, and feminine personal supplies are available in Tallinn as are cleaning supplies, food products, items for pets, clothes washing needs, contact lens supplies, and basic first-aid items. Not all brands are available, so if you are partial to a specific brand, bring it with you. Good-quality items are expensive but not prohibitively so.

Cooks interested in preparing various international or ethnic foods should bring a basic supply of what they need, such as specialty spices and condiments. Some items for international cooking (especially Tex-Mex) can be found, but they are not always available.

There are a wide variety of basic services available in Tallinn, and increasingly, the quality of these services is similar to that offered in other Western European capitals.

Everyday services such as shoe, watch, and eyeglass repair are available in Tallinn. In addition to beauty-and barbershops at the major hotels, Tallinn has many smaller salons for men's and women's haircuts. Many individuals work as dressmakers out of their own homes.

Reliable drycleaning facilities, at prices similar to or slightly lower than in the U.S. are also available.

Kodak, Fuji, and Agfa franchises are located in Tallinn and have excellent machine-assisted developing processes. The quality of color prints is high, but the cost is higher than that in the Washington, D.C., area. Kodak, Fuji, and Agfa color print and slide film, as well as black-and-white print film, are readily available for prices similar to those in Washington, D.C. Camera batteries and other smaller batteries are also readily available.

In general, most local services are similar in quality and less expensive than in Washington, D.C.

Domestic Help

Domestic help, including childcare, is available in Tallinn. Most domestics are not trained household staff, per se. Rather, they are more often under-or unemployed people, often just out of school, or with grown children who have basic cleaning, cooking, and childcare skills who are attracted by the above-average wages paid by the international community (EEK2550/hour [$2-$3.50] depending on the tasks required). Generally, younger household help will speak at least some English, will be familiar with modern appliances, and will be easier to train. However, younger staff may not be committed to more than short-term or occasional work. Older domestic staff are more likely to commit to longer, full-time work, but are less likely to speak English, less likely to be familiar with Western appliances, and less likely to adhere to Western cleanliness and hygiene standards. Generally, domestic help is employed during business hours, and on evenings and weekends as needed. Live-in domestic staff is rare in Estonia. The best way to hire help is to find someone through word of mouth. The community liaison

By law, the employer must pay the employee's social security and illness compensation coverage at a rate of 33% of the employee's salary.

Religious Activities

Tallinn has Lutheran, Catholic, Baptist, and Russian Orthodox churches. There is a service in English once a month and on holidays at a Lutheran church. The Catholic church holds services in English the first Sunday of every month. A Jewish community center, with a provisional synagogue, holds services in Russian on Saturdays and Jewish holidays.

Education

The International Elementary School of Estonia (I.E.S.E) was established in 1995 and has steadily increased its enrollment since then.

Under direction of an American, classes (preschool through grade 8) are taught in English. The curriculum follows Western education standards. Most teachers are native English speakers. Aside from the basic curriculum, German, Estonian, computer, art, music, and physical education are also taught. In fall 1997, the school moved to a new facility, sharing a wing of the Tallinn Medical School. This provided students with larger classrooms, use of a cafeteria, gymnasium, and auditorium, and a large outdoor play area. Currently, I.E.S.E. cannot accommodate children with special needs. The Tallinn International English Kindergarten, established in September 1997, is another option for preschool children.

Sports

Tallinn has a good range of sporting opportunities, including modern indoor and outdoor sports facilities. Most sports facilities and clubs cost less than in metropolitan Washington, D.C.

Indoor sports are particularly popular and, in winter, often a necessary diversion. Several sports clubs offer aerobics classes and weight lifting equipment. In addition, these clubs often have showering, sauna, massage, and solarium facilities. A couple of squash clubs have opened in Tallinn. Tallinn has several indoor swimming facilities, and a few of the large health clubs have small lap pools. Estonia's favorite team sport is basketball.

Tallinn has a bowling alley similar in quality and price to a U.S. bowling facility. Tennis players will find a tennis center in Kadriorg Park, as well as two other smaller outdoor facilities near downtown Tallinn. Some indoor courts exist, but outdoor courts offer late evening tennis during late spring and summer. Lessons with English-speaking coaches for children and adults can be arranged. Court fees are inexpensive.

Summer picnicking spots abound along the Estonian seacoast and lakes, but they make for chilly bathing, even in the midsummer. Wind-surfing, kayaking, and canoeing are possible on the Baltic as well as on Estonia's many lakes and rivers. The Tallinn Yachting Center, the site of the 1980 Olympic sailing events, is Estonia's premier sailing center. Sailboats (with or without crew) can be rented at slightly below U.S. rates. Boating equipment, particularly safety equipment, may be limited.

As soon as the first snow falls, Estonians begin to plan cross-country skiing outings. There are numerous skiing spots in wooded areas of Tallinn and at places in the countryside close enough to drive for a day trip. More adventurous skiers can plan overnight trips as well. Tallinn has two skating rinks, including a modern indoor facility. Good-quality cross-country skiing equipment and skates in all sizes are purchased easily and inexpensively.

Running is popular in Estonia, but cold temperatures, darkness, and icy sidewalks require that runners bring appropriate cold weather attire and wear safety reflectors. Sidewalks are often too icy for safe winter running. Rollerblading is increasingly popular in Estonia. Rollerblade equipment is readily available locally, at prices similar to or slightly below Washington, D.C. prices.

Estonia has one golf course, located about 12.5 kilometers from downtown. It is open to the public, well maintained, and offers a complete range of golfing services including a driving range, a pro shop, and a clubhouse. Greens fees are slightly higher than in the U.S.

Bicycling enthusiasts will find many possibilities for biking around Estonia. Rural roads just outside Tallinn and around the country are uncrowded, and the topography is usually flat. The hilly southeastern region resembles western Maryland and is also good for bike trips. Although main roads are surfaced, they are often rough. Bikes with wider tires such as "mountain bikes" are more comfortable on rough surfaces. Tallinn's many bike shops sell a variety of brands and styles at prices similar to, or less expensive, than in Washington, D.C.

Horseback riding and lessons are available in Tallinn and at several other locations near the city.

Spectators can watch many sporting events and exhibitions during the year. For example, basketball, soccer, and handball games are played at various locations in Tallinn.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

There is much to do and see while touring Tallinn, the countryside, and the Baltic Sea coastline.

With many shops, restaurants, and cafes, Tallinn is well setup for visitors, most of whom are day-or short-term travelers arriving by boat from Helsinki. In the Old Town, you can take a walking tour (on your own or with a guide) of the cobblestone streets while looking at finely preserved examples of Gothic and Hanseatic architecture. The Old Town has a heavy concentration of shops, restaurants, cafes, museums, and other diversions. In Kadriorg Park, on the eastern edge of the city center, a walk in a peaceful wooded setting leads to the baroque Kadriorg Palace, built for Catherine I, wife of Tsar Peter I. The ruins of a cloister and convent dating from 1436 located near Pirita (about 2 kilometers east of the city center) provide another picturesque and interesting place to visit. In summer, Pirita Beach is popular for swimming, sunbathing, and boating.

Possibilities for day trips within a 3-to 4-hour round-trip drive from Tallinn abound, as Estonia is filled with pine forests and shoreline waiting to be explored. The Lahemaa National Forest, 40 kilometers east of Tallinn on the Gulf of Finland, is a good place to picnic and walk in naturally beautiful surroundings. Numerous well-preserved German manor houses are found in and around Lahemaa Park.

Matsalu, a 2½-hour drive from Tallinn, is a nature preserve and waterbird sanctuary on the coast south and west of the capital. It, too, is a good place to picnic and walk. A hilly inland spot with beautiful forests and lakes is Aegviidu, a 75-minute drive from Tallinn. Aegviidu is especially popular among cross-country skiers.

Interesting overnight trips from Tallinn can easily be arranged, as overnight accommodations have existed for a long time but are just beginning to be renovated for tourists and be advertised. Tartu, a 2½-hour drive from Tallinn, is close enough for a day trip, but there is enough to do there to make it an overnight excursion. It is worth seeing Tartu's several museums, art galleries, and historical buildings, including two red-brick Gothic churches (the remains of a 13th-century church and a standing 14th century church) and Tartu University. Hotels in Tartu offer comfortable accommodations. Near Tartu is the hilly region of southeastern Estonia, and the resort town of Otepaa. Since there is generally more snow in southeastern Estonia than in other parts of the country, Otepaa is popular with cross-country skiers. Several guesthouse-type accommodations are available in the area. Parnu is a 2-hour drive south of Tallinn and is a picturesque seaside resort town with many new cafes, restaurants, and several nicely renovated hotels. Narva, a 3½-hour drive northeast of Tallinn, is located on the border with Russia. Narva Castle, built when Narva was an important Hanseatic port, dates from the 13th century and now houses a historical museum well worth visiting. The castle's setting is unique because it sits across the Narva

River from the castle in Ivangorod, Russia. Residents of Narva claim that these two fortresses are the closest, once-warring castles in the world.

Estonia's many islands offer restful vacation places. The largest of the islands, Saaremaa, is a 3½-hour drive-and-ferry ride from Tallinn. Kuressaare, the island's largest town, is quaint. The Kuressaare Episcopal Castle dates from the 14th century and is considered Estonia's best preserved castle. Like the castle at Narva, it houses a good historical museum. Saaremaahas many beaches, forests, and two wildlife preserves, including one with an established bird sanctuary. Hiumaa Island, Estonia's second largest island, is also about a 3½-hour drive-and-ferry ride from Tallinn, and well worth a visit. Many of Estonia's islands offer overnight accommodations.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of Estonia's touring possibilities. Like most European cities, in order to decide where to go, you must consult guidebooks, various locally published newspapers and periodicals (in Estonian and English), travel agents, the Tallinn City Tourist Office, and Estonian friends. Estonia has a reasonably good road system that makes it easy to travel, and touring Estonia never disappoints the resourceful traveler.

Entertainment

Music is a central aspect of Estonian culture, and, therefore, entertainment in Tallinn usually centers around various kinds of musical productions. The Estonia Opera and Ballet Theater's Concert Hall and other venues offer classical concerts, recitals, and choir performances almost daily during the winter season. Likewise, very good opera and ballet performances take place at the Estonia Opera and Ballet Theater's Opera House. Occasionally, musicals are performed at the Opera House or Linnahall. Compared to the price for attending such kinds of cultural programs in the U.S., cultural events in Estonia are inexpensive. During summer many special dance and music festivals are in Tallinn and around Estonia. Every 4 years the National Song Festival takes place near Tallinn. During summer, there are also outdoor rock concerts in Tallinn featuring Estonian, Western European, and U.S. rock bands.

Restaurants, bars, and cafes often have live music during dining hours or later in the evening, and some nightspots have dance floors. Usually local bands play rock, blues, or jazz. You can expect a small cover charge to enter when there is music.

Foreign films are featured at a few of Tallinn's theaters. Occasional foreign film festivals and special showings of lesser known "art films" are held at the Kinomaja in Tallinn's Old Town. The Kosmos and Sopruse theaters show American films in English with Estonian and Russian subtitles. New movies arrive all the time. Employees can also purchase satellite TV that offers a wide array of programs.

Many of Tallinn's museums have very good art and historic collections that are worth seeing. The Eesti Kunstimuuseum (Art Museum of Estonia) exhibits Estonian art from the 19th century to 1940 and other Baltic painters' works. The Tarbekunstimuuseum (Museum of Decorative and Applied Art) exhibits 20th century crafts and decorative arts from Estonia. At Kiek in de Kok there are usually photography exhibitions. Just outside Tallinn is the Vabaohumuuseum (Open-Air Museum) where 18th-to 20th-century rural buildings are on display throughout the year in a wooded park land. Historical artifacts are exhibited at the Linnamuuseum (City Museum) and Meremuuseum (Maritime Museum), among other museums in Tallinn.

Other activities in the Old Town include shopping for Estonian handicrafts and souvenirs, as well as eating and drinking at Tallinn's increasing number of cafes and restaurants located in renovated medieval buildings. Antique shopping is also popular, and Estonia has some genuine bargains (cut glass, silver, and amber jewelry, wooden objects and furniture).

International trade shows, special exhibitions, and presentations can be seen regularly at the Eesti Naitused (Estonian Exhibitions) Hall in Pirita. In 1997, exhibitions included a car show, a job fair, a trade fair for businesswomen, a travel fair, and a computer exposition and sale. Shows are often held through the weekends and are open to the public.

An important holiday in Estonia is on Jaanipaev (St. John's Day), or Midsummer's Eve. It is celebrated in every city, town, and village. Tallinn's big festival, Hanseatic Days, is in early summer and features folk music and dancing. Most other local festivals are celebrated by folk dancing and singing with performers and participants in traditional dress.

Social Activities

The American Chamber of Commerce is very active in Tallinn. It brings together the overgrowing American corporate community and occasionally sponsors happy hours, fund raisers, athletic activities, and other fun activities.

The international community is quite varied, but the Americans, British, Germans, Swedes, Danes, and, most of all, the Finns, are most heavily represented. There is no central meeting place for the international community, so most activities revolve around dinner parties at home, going to concerts, the opera or theater, going to restaurants, or participating in school socials/activities. For women, the International Women's Club offers many interesting activities as well as a chance to chat and socialize. The International Women's Club has a children's playgroup that meets once a week.

Security

The most prevalent problem for residents in Tallinn is cart heft. Prudence should be exercised to park in well-lit safe areas and to use any security features available (e.g., the Club, engine cutoff switches, alarms, etc.).

Personal crime is primarily nonviolent and opportunity driven. Pick-pocketing and purse snatchings are not uncommon in any crowded area but are most likely to affect visitors in Old Town, Kadaka Market, and other tourist areas. The use of violence is low by U.S. standards. Credit-card fraud can be a problem, and standard precautions should be taken when using credit cards in Estonia.

Generally, organized crime activity is more subdued in Estonia than elsewhere in the former Soviet Union. Juvenile crime, however, is on the rise.

Life in Tallinn is safe when compared to large U.S. cities. Estonians, although generally reserved, are pro-American. If people exercise the same caution and use the same common sense that they would in any large city, they can expect to have a safe and rewarding tour or visit

OTHER CITIES

HIIUMAA , the second-largest island of Estonia, is located about 14 miles west of the mainland. The main town, Kärdla, offers beautiful coastline and gardens and often serves as a gateway point to the Tahkuna Peninsula. A lighthouse built in 1874 sits at the northern tip of the peninsula. At Ristimägi, the southern base of the peninsula, lies the Hill of Crosses. Handmade crosses cover the dune marking the spot where the last Swedes living here performed their last act of worship before being deported in 1781. Traditionally, first-time visitors to the island go to place a cross on the hill.

Käina, at the south end of Hiumaa near the shore of Käina Bay, offers a major bird reserve. The ruins of a 15th century stone church are here as well.

NARVA , located in northeast Estonia on a river of the same name, less than 10 miles from the Gulf of Finland, has a population of 82,500. The city was founded by the Danes in 1223 and was a seat of the Livonian Knights and a member of the Hanseatic League. It was captured in 1558 by Ivan the Terrible of Russia, then in 1581 was taken by the Swedes. In 1700, Narva was the scene of a battle in which the Swedes, under Charles XII, successfully defended the city against the Russians, led by Peter the Great. In 1704, Narva was recaptured by Russia. During World War I, Narva was the site of many battles. In January 1919, the city was occupied by Communist forces who had also tried to occupy, but were driven out of, Latvia and Finland. During World War II, German forces occupied the city. Today, Narva is a milling center, producing cotton, jute, wool, and flax. A hydroelectric power plant was built here in the mid-1950s. At the mouth of the Narva River on the Gulf of Finland is the city's port and a summer resort, Narva-Jõesuu.

SAAREMAA , the largest island of Estonia, consists mainly of farmland and forests. Those looking for a quiet, gentle vacation spot will enjoy the quaint features of the island, including many windmills, stone churches and fishing villages. Kuressaare, the capital of the island, is the site of a 13th century castle open for tourists. Viidumäe, about 16 miles west of Kuressaare, is the site of a beautiful botanical reserve that is home to such rare plant species such as the blunt-flowered rush, the Saaremaa yellow rattle and the white-beam.

From Kuressaarre, nature buffs can take a boat to Abruka, located four miles off the southern coast of Saaremaa. A botanical-zoological reservation is open here in the summer, offering classes, horseback riding and overnight stays in a rustic farmhouse. If you happen to be on Saaremaa in the winter, you can walk to Abruka over the frozen strait.

TARTU , Estonia's second-largest city with a population of 115,500, is the site of an important university founded in 1632 by King Gustavus Adolphus II of Sweden. The university has several specialized institutes, a good library, and a botanical garden. Tartu was founded as a castle in 1030 by a Kiev prince. It was captured by the Teutonic Knights in 1224 and was a member of the Hanseatic League. Through the centuries, the city was under Russian, Polish, and Swedish authority. It became Russian in 1704. Tartu was the scene of considerable fighting during the Russian Revolution. Two important peace treaties were signed here: the first between the U.S.S.R. and Estonia in February of 1920, and the other between U.S.S.R. and Finland in October of 1920. During World War II, Tartu was occupied by the Germans and was considerably damaged.

COUNTRY PROFILE

Geography and Climate

Estonia is the northernmost of the three Baltic States. West of Estonia is the Baltic Sea, north is the Gulf of Finland, and to the east is Russia. Estonia borders Latvia on the south. The smallest of the Baltic States, Estonia covers 18,086 square miles (45,226 square kilometers), and is roughly the size of New Hampshire and Vermont combined.

Estonia is located on the Great Northern European Plain. Its topography is typically flat in coastal regions and hilly in the inland southeastern part of the country. The elevation in northwestern Estonia averages 160 feet (49 meters), but rises to 320 feet (98 meters) in the southeast. The highest point in Estonia, at 1,040 feet (317 meters) high, is a hill called Suur Munämagi in the southeast.

Estonia's inland waters include 1,400 lakes and many shallow rivers. The largest lakes are Lake Peipus in eastern Estonia on the Russian border and Lake Vðrts in south-central Estonia. Estonia's two major rivers are the Emajðgi, running east-west from Lake Was to Lake Peipus, and the Narva, that connects Lake Peipus to the Gulf of Finland. Estonia has substantial areas of bogs and wetlands, particularly in western regions. Forest and woodland, which is usually a mixture of coniferous spruce, pine, white birch, ash, maple, and aspen, cover 31% of Estonia.

Off the coast of Estonia are 1,520 islands that account for nearly 8% of the country's total land area. The largest islands are Saaremaa and Hiiumaa.

The climate is northern continental, with long winters and short summers. Winter begins in October and lasts often well into April. Snow cover is common from mid-or late November to the latter half of March. Cloud cover and slate gray skies are typical between October and early February, when drier and sunnier days arrive. Mean January temperatures are 22°F-25°F (-4°C-6°C). The Gulfs of Finland and Riga only freeze over during the coldest winters.

In addition to being cold and snowy, winter months are characterized by shortened daylight, a result of Estonia's northern latitude (59 °N, about the same latitude as Juneau, Alaska). When days are at their shortest, daylight is present only between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Prevailing gray skies from November through January make daylight seem even more fleeting. The sun, when it shines, hugs the horizon, thus giving the impression that it is early morning or late afternoon even at midday.

It is often difficult to say exactly when winter ends and spring begins. After the Vernal Equinox (March 21), daylight increases dramatically. Most days in late March, April, and May are sunny. Daytime temperatures, however, may still remain in the 30°F-45°F range into late April, and it is not safe to put winter clothing in storage until late May. Occasional snow flurries and light snow are possible through May.

Summer in Estonia is a short, magical season. Temperatures and humidity are generally cooler and lower than summer in the U.S. July and August temperatures are the warmest, averaging 67°F-75°F (19°C-24°C). Mornings are cooler and the late afternoon can warm up to the low 80s. The surface water temperature in the Baltic Sea is from 60°F-78°F (16°C-26°C). The heaviest rains occur in July and August, but they are usually passing showers. During summer months, Estonia benefits from its northern latitude, with daylight extending long into evening hours, and reappearing well before earliest risers are out of bed. From early June to mid July, there is no real "nighttime."

The short autumn can start as early as late August, and is generally cool and rainy. Autumn colors are pleasant, but not as varied or spectacular as in the northeastern U.S.

Population

Estonia has some 1,475,000 inhabitants. Throughout Estonia's modern history, people from several ethnic groups have entered the country as immigrants to work in the industrial sector. The last major influx of immigrants, primarily ethnic Russians sent to live in Estonia during the Soviet era, occurred after World War II. Ethnic groups present in Estonia include 64% Estonian, 29% Russian-speaking, 3% Ukrainians, and 2% Belarussians. The urban population of Estonia is 71% of the total population, according to the census. Tallinn is the largest city with 420,470 residents, followed by Tartu with 101,901, and Narva with 75,211. Residents of Tallinn are 47.4% Estonian and 41.2% Russian. The rural population, including the islands, is 87% Estonian.

There is no state religion in Estonia. Currently, major denominations include Lutheran, Russian Orthodox, Baptist, and Catholic. The small Jewish community consists mainly of native Russian speakers.

History

A small nation located between East and West, Estonia has spent much of its history under foreign domination. In spite of this fact, the Estonian people have preserved their language and culture. In August 1991 the Republic of Estonia regained its independence, and, thus, began the challenging tasks of nation-building and the reorientation of Estonian public institutions toward those characteristic of a parliamentary democracy.

From the 13th-to the 18th-century, Estonia was ruled by the Danes, an order of German Teutonic Knights, the Poles, and the Swedes. In 1710, during the Great Northern War, Russia defeated Sweden, and the first era of Russian rule over Estonia began. Russian rule lasted until the Russian Empire collapsed with the Bolshevik Revolution at the end of World War I. Estonia declared its independence from Russia on February 24, 1918, but a war with Russia for this independence followed. Two years later, the two sides concluded the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty in which Soviet Russia recognized the independence and sovereignty of Estonia.

On the eve of World War II, Estonian sovereignty was again undermined. On August 23, 1939, Estonia's two powerful neighbor states, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, concluded a mutual defense pact (the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact), which contained secret protocols dividing Eastern Europe into spheres of influence, with Estonia falling into the Soviet sphere. The same autumn, the Soviet Union demanded Estonia for military bases. Confronted with the threat of annihilation, Estonia acceded to this demand. This led to the forcible incorporation of Estonia into the Soviet Union in the summer of 1940. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Estonia fell under Nazi control. In 1944, the Soviets regained the country and remained in control until the August 1991 failed coup in Moscow. Amid the coup, Estonia declared its independence reestablished. In early September 1991, the U.S. reestablished diplomatic relations with Estonia, which had been suspended in 1940.

Before Estonia's August 1991 declaration of independence, the period from 1985 to 1991 was marked by a gradual movement toward economic, social, and political independence. Two primary issues engendered public demonstrations and meetings in 1987 and 1988. The first issue was a proposed phosphorite mine which opponents argued would pollute the ground water and air near the facility. Demonstrations against the mining caused Moscow to abandon the plan the same year. The second issue was that of the secret protocols to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the existence of which Soviet authorities still denied. In a dramatic public demonstration, well-known dissidents organized a public meeting on August 23, 1987, demanding the pact's publication in Estonia to prove that Estonia did not join the Soviet Union voluntarily.

In 1988, several prominent Estonians began to publicly criticize Communist leaders and call for sovereign Soviet republics. The Estonian "Popular Front" was founded and organized a rally where Estonians listened to nationalist songs and political speeches in an unprecedented show of support for national independence. This rally contributed to the independence movement's mystique and resulted in its being called "The Singing Revolution." The following autumn, the Estonian Supreme Soviet declared sovereignty.

During 1989, ethnic Estonians increasingly pushed for complete independence instead of sovereignty within the U.S.S.R. They established Estonian citizens committees throughout the country. The committees planned the first public recognition of Estonia's declaration of independence for February 24, 1989. On that day, the blue, black, and white flag of the First Republic era flew once again over Estonia. In the summer of 1989, the Popular Front organized a Baltic-wide demonstration on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact to call attention to the consequences of its secret protocols. A 400-mile-long chain of people held hands from Tallinn, Estonia, through Latvia to Vilnius, Lithuania, to demonstrate Baltic solidarity.

After nearly 50 years of occupation by the Soviet Union, the Republic of Estonia regained its independence and immediately began the difficult task of reestablishing a democratic government. A constitutional assembly was convened in the fall of 1991. By the spring of 1992, the assembly completed a draft constitution that provided for a parliamentary democracy. This constitution was adopted by referendum in June 1992.

Public Institutions

The Republic of Estonia is a parliamentary democracy with a prime minister as head of government and a president as head of state. The Riigikogu, Estonia's Parliament, is a unicameral body with 101 members elected by proportional representation. The first post-Soviet elections were held in September 1992, and the new Parliament, government, and President took office in October. The Members of Parliament are elected for 4 years and the President for 5. The President nominates the Prime Minister. Parliament then authorizes the nominated Prime Minister to form a government. The authorized nominee then presents the proposed government to the President, who formally submits their names for office. Parliament then votes the Prime Minister into office. The constitution establishes an independent judiciary composed of the National Court, district courts, and county and city courts.

Each of Estonia's 15 provinces (Maakond) has its own provincial government.

Arts, Science, and Education

Culture and language have historically been reflected in the arts. Estonian society continues its high regard for music, literature, fine arts, and traditional crafts. Science and education are also highly valued and have a long tradition in the history of modern Estonia.

As Estonia prepared for its first period of independence, the first National Song Festival occurred in Tartu in 1869. Choruses sung in the Estonian language during the first song festival set the tone for future festivals that further defined the Estonian sense of national identity. The choral music tradition continues today in modern Estonia with two primary choral groups and many smaller choruses. The two nationally known choruses are the National Male Choir and the Philharmonic Chamber Choir. The National Song Festival is now held every 4 years at the outdoor Song Festival Amphitheater near Tallinn. An international choir festival is held annually in Tallinn.

The modern musical tradition in Estonia includes classical and contemporary Estonian and foreign composers' music played by symphony and chamber orchestras. Estonia's two main orchestras are the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and the Estonian Opera and Ballet Theater Orchestra, which is conducted by well-known conductor Eri Klas. These orchestras play at the Estonia Opera and Ballet Theater's Concert Hall and Opera House, respectively. The theater has an 800-seat Concert Hall and a 700-seat Opera House. Many smaller ensembles perform in Tallinn at restored medieval and modern venues around the city. Even small Estonian towns boast well-appointed concert halls.

Several Estonian composers, choir directors, and conductors are known internationally. These include composers Arvo Part, Lepo Sumera, Veljo Tormis, and Erki Sven-Tuur, as well as the late choir director and composer Gustav Ernesaks. Especially cherished in Estonia, Ernesaks composed music set to national poet Lydia Koidula's poem My Fatherland Is My Love, which became the unofficial anthem of the recent independence movement.

Kaljuste is another well-known choir director. Occasionally, foreign conductors and musicians collaborate with their Estonian counterparts on musical productions. thus bringing outstanding musical performances to Estonia from abroad.

Opera, dance, and dramatic theater productions are also plentiful in Tallinn and around Estonia. Operas in Tallinn are performed at the Estonian Opera and Ballet Theater's Opera House and are usually sung in Estonian. Larger dramatic productions are performed at either the Estonian Drama Theater or Russian Drama Theater. The plays are written by playwrights of various nationalities and are performed in Estonian or Russian. Recent performances have included "Hello Dolly," "Nicholas Nickleby," "My Fair Lady," "Hamlet," "A Streetcar Named Desire," and others. Smaller theaters often stage more avant-garde works. Musicals are often performed at the Linnahall, a modern 4,200-seat theater with a separate 3,000 seat arena for sports and other events. Rock and pop concerts are becoming more frequent on the song festival grounds. In August 1997, Michael Jackson performed there.

The Estonian people have a strong appreciation for literary figures who have contributed to the nation's sense of identity in literature and other writings. The literature will become more widely knows as more works are translated. One contributor to Estonia's early literary history was Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald, author of the national epic Kalevipoeg, which tell, of Estonia's mythical hero. Poet Lydia Koidula wrote poems that defined the independence movement called the "National Awakening" in the mid-1880s, Koidula's father, J.V Jannsen, helped establish the Estonian-language newspaper tradition by founding the ancestor of today's Postimees daily newspaper in 1857, Modern literary figures that have added to Estonian literature include Jaan Kross. Paul-Erik Rummo, Jaan Kaplinski, and poet Doris Kareva.

Several Estonian filmmakers have gained international reputations. Two animation filmmakers, Priit Parn and Rein Raamat, have produced excellent works. Dramatic film director Leida Laius made Naerata Ometi (Smile Please) and Varastatud Kohtumine (A Stolen Meeting), both known outside of Estonia.

The Estonian national character and sense of identity have also been preserved in Estonian fine art and traditional crafts. The primary types of Estonian fine arts are painting, print-making, and sculpture. Traditional crafts include leatherwork (especially jewelry), woodwork, and knitwear. The Art Museum of Estonia has an extensive collection of paintings by Estonian and other artists from the Baltics. Modern paintings, prints, photography, glassware, and textiles are exhibited at many private galleries in Tallinn, which usually sell artists' work. Traditional and modern crafts are also sold in shops belonging to an artists' cooperative.

Centers for scientific studies in Estonia include the Estonian Academy of Sciences in Tallinn, Tartu University, and the Tallinn Technical University. Wilhelm Ostwald, a scientist who received his doctorate from Tartu University, was responsible for defining physical chemistry as a separate discipline within chemistry. Ostwald was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1909 for his research on catalysis, chemical equilibrium, and reaction velocities. Contemporary scientists are gaining worldwide attention for genetic research.

The first primary schools to teach in the Estonian language were established during the period of Swedish rule, in the 1680s. Tartu University, Estonia's first university, was founded in Tartu by King Gustav Adolf of Sweden in 1632. Tartu University has highly accomplished faculties in the hard sciences, medicine, and Russian literature. It is also the site of several ongoing U.S.-sponsored educational exchanges and training programs in public administration, political science, American studies, and English-teacher training. Estonia's Binational Center for North American Studies, which offers a minor in North American Studies through an interdisciplinary program, is located at the university. Fulbright scholars to Estonia are posted at University Tartu in Tallinn. The other major institutions of higher learning that educate Estonia's highly literate and skilled society include the Tallinn Technical University, the Tallinn Pedagogical University, the Tallinn Music Academy, the Tallinn Art University, and the Estonian Agricultural University in Tartu. Several private schools, including the prestigious Humanities Institute, and business colleges including Concordia International University, The Estonian Business School, and others, have emerged in Tallinn.

Estonia has many libraries for research and general reading purposes. The newly constructed National Library opened its 4.2 million volume collection to the public in 1993. The Library of the Estonian Academy of Sciences was established in 1947 and currently holds a 3.5 million-volume collection. This collection emphasizes materials for research in the hard and social sciences. It includes the oldest books published in Tallinn (1631) and Tartu (1634) in a special Baltic collection, as well as a substantial collection of books about Estonia published in foreign languages and many reference materials for scholars. The Academy's library has exchange relationships with libraries in 38 countries. The Tartu University and Tallinn Technical University libraries also have large research collections.

Commerce and Industry

Estonia is evolving rapidly to meet the challenges it faces as a country with a liberal, open market economy. Change is the watchword for all aspects of the Estonian economy, from market orientation and trading partners to defining the private sector and reforming financial policies.

Traditionally, Estonia had a prosperous agrarian-based economy, but it was also a crossroads for trade goods from the East and West. All of Estonia's major cities and towns were members of the Hanseatic League during the 13th century. Guildhouses in each city controlled trade in agricultural goods and artisanship. Swedish and Danish rulers also benefited from Estonia's agrarian economy and excellent geographic position for trade. In later years Estonia was industrialized by Imperial Russia. During the first period of Estonian independence from 1918 to 1940, the Estonian economy grew rapidly. By 1940, its standard of living was comparable to Finland. After annexation by the Soviet Union, its economy was fully controlled by central planners in Moscow.

After World War II, Estonia's industrial sector surpassed the agrarian sector in terms of national output.

Economic planners focused on developing Estonia's extensive oil-shale resource as a means to produce energy for domestic consumption and export to other Soviet Union republics. The planners also stressed development of industrial uses for phosphorite, Estonia's second most important natural resource. Meanwhile, in other economic sectors, there was large-scale nationalization of the banking and transportation systems, and 97% of the farms were collectivized by 1952.

The push toward industrialization continued; and, thus, the proportion of agrarian to industrial sector workers decreased throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Also, the number of Russians coming to Estonia to work in industry steadily increased during this period and into the 1980s. As one of the Soviet Union's most industrialized republics, with high employment levels and a skilled workforce, the standard of living in Estonia was higher than in the other republics.

Starting in the 1970s, there was a general sense of economic stagnation that lasted until 1987, when a loosening of the Estonian economy seemed within reach with Gorbachev's introduction of "perestroika." In 1987, Edgar Savisaar and several other prominent Estonians publicly suggested that Estonia be designated an autonomous economic zone under a plan called " Isemajandav Eesti (IME)." Although IME did not materialize, Savisaar's suggestion began a public debate on Estonia's autonomous economic and political future. In December 1989, banking legislation called for monetary reform and for the Bank of Estonia to prepare for issuing a new national currency. However, reform-minded economists held back, realizing in the late 1980s that substantive political changes were necessary before any meaningful economic reforms could happen.

With the 1991 return of independence came a new social, political, and economic era for the Republic of Estonia. Traditionally, Estonian industrial producers depended on raw materials from the former Soviet republics and Eastern Europe, and likewise finished products were sent to those republics and countries. This trend began to change in 1990 and has continued, so that Estonia has shifted its trade orientation toward Nordic countries and other Western European nations. At the same time, Estonia is pursuing widespread economic reform.

Monetary reform proposed in 1989 became a reality on June 20, 1992, when Estonia was the first of the former Soviet republics to issue its own currency. The Estonian "kroon" (EEK) was introduced with the full backing of gold and foreign exchange reserves and was pegged to the Deutsche Mark (at EEK8=DM1) with a 3% fluctuation rate. The new currency was a source of national pride from the day it was introduced and has proven to be a successful and stabilizing influence on the economy.

In addition to introducing the new currency, Estonia also implemented price reforms. In January 1992, major price reform legislation was enacted. Prices of more than 90% of Estonia's goods and services are no longer controlled. In the 1980s, subsidies represented 13% of Estonia's gross domestic product (GDP), but as early as 1991, they represented only 2.2% of GDP However, the cut in price subsidies hurt the average Estonian consumer, and consumers' purchasing power declined by 70% between 1989 and the end of 1992. Although the inflation rate rose dramatically just after price controls were lifted, it stabilized during 1992 and averaged about 2% a month in 1993. The economy appeared to bottom out in early 1993, and purchasing power has begun to increase modestly. The annual 1996 inflation rate decreased to 15%. Between January and June 1997, Estonia's total exports were $1.3 billion and imports totaled $1.8 billion. The republic's major trading partners are Finland, which accounts for 32% of its exports and 21% of its imports, Russia for 16% of its exports and 18% of its imports, and Sweden for 9% of its exports and 11% of its imports.

Estonia's major export goods are textiles/clothes, machinery/equipment, food, wood/wood products, and chemicals. The major import goods include machinery/equipment, minerals, vehicles, textiles/clothes, and food. Estonia has liberalized its import restrictions so that duties are levied only on tobacco products, alcohol, and luxury items (including automobiles). All other import items are duty free. Export licenses are only required for a handful of natural resources, such as oil shale. The lack of nontariff barriers, the favorable exchange rate of the Estonian currency, and Estonia's positive attitude toward free trade contribute to the republic's reputation as a respected trading nation.

Privatization and development of the private sector represents a significant area of reform in Estonia. The primary obstacle to privatization continues to be issues surrounding property law. Many joint ventures with Estonian and Nordic partners have established themselves in Estonia since independence. The most successful ventures are in wholesale and retail trade, industry, the service sector, construction, food service, and hotels.

A strong banking sector has developed rapidly in Estonia since independence. Unlike other newly independent countries in the region, Estonia did not provide state support to unhealthy or unstable financial institutions. The result of this sink-or-swim strategy was a significant number of bank failures and mergers of smaller banks, followed by the emergence of several large, stable banks, offering the full range of Western banking services. The largest bank in the Baltics is Estonia's Hansapank. With the emergence of easier mortgage credit in 1997, banking in Estonia is now comparable to banking in Western Europe or the U.S. Estonia has a healthy, thriving stock market. In mid-July 1997, prices of bluechip shares jumped from between 10% and 20% on average, spurred in part by the announcement that Estonia would be asked to start negotiations on the EU membership. Until October 1997, share prices of several leading stocks rose by 1,000% or more. In the wake of economic turmoil in Asia, there have been several sharp downturns in the market. However, these drops have been viewed more as needed "corrections" which have removed many inexperienced, marginal, and speculative investors from the market. Estonians pay personal and corporate income, profit, and value-added taxes. The highest personal income bracket is 33%; corporate tax stands at 36%; and the value-added tax is 18% on services and imported goods. Employers pay social taxes equal to 33% of an employee's salary. These social taxes include a 20% tax for social security and a 13% tax for the medical insurance fund. Compliance with local tax law is high compared with other newly independent countries in the region. By law, the Estonian Government must have a balanced budget.

Workers in Estonia have the constitutionally guaranteed right to join a union or employee association. They can also participate in collective bargaining. In April 1990, the Estonian Trade Union (EAKL), the largest employee organization, replaced the Labor Confederation from the Soviet period. Estonia joined the International Labor Organization in January 1992.

Estonia became a member of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in December 1991, a member of the International Monetary Fund in May 1992, and a member of the World Bank in June of the same year. Estonia has received substantial monetary assistance from the IMF, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Union (EU), and from individual countries including Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and Norway.

In 1997, Estonia received the green light by the EU to start negotiations for membership. Many observers noted that the main reason was Estonia's strong well-cultivated reputation for reform. Full membership in the EU will probably be granted in the middle of the next decade.

To say that the business environment has changed for the better in the last 5 years is an understatement. Although business-to-customer services have improved, some remnants of Soviet-era business practices (mainly brusque or indifferent service) remain. However, compared to elsewhere in the former Soviet bloc, doing business in Estonia is generally a positive, pleasant experience.

The U.S. aided Estonia significantly in its drive to develop a free market economy. Between 1991 and 1996, U.S. assistance to Estonia, administered through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program, concentrated on three main areas: economic reform and privatization; democratic pluralism and local government; and environmental protection and health. In September 1996, Estonia became the first country in central and Eastern Europe to successfully "graduate" from USAID assistance. The U.S. Peace Corps, in Estonia since 1992, still sends volunteers to teach English and to assist with small business development.

A variety of U.S. technical advisers from private and public sectors have played a central role in helping Estonia establish its legal framework for reform. The fields in which U.S. technical advisers worked most extensively include privatization, constitutional and judicial reform, energy efficiency, banking, education, local government reform, national and local elections, municipal administration, taxation, national and local budget systems, cooperatives, agricultural production and agribusiness, small business development, bankruptcy issues, and environmental reform.

Transportation

Automobiles

All major car dealers are represented in Tallinn. Dealerships are able to sell, service, and obtain spare parts for American, Japanese, and Western European cars and minivans. Any model can be ordered by the dealer and shipped to Tallinn. European cars are generally cheaper than they would be in the U.S.

Dealership services in Tallinn are similar to those in the U.S. Most dealerships have maintenance facilities, and independent garage repairs are of good quality. Labor, especially at independent garages, is relatively inexpensive. Spare parts for American cars can be expensive and occasionally must be special ordered. Service and parts are readily available at reasonable prices for Russian and European cars. Quality auto bodywork for all cars is available in Tallinn.

Unleaded gas is readily available at modern, clean service stations. Many of these have convenience shops that sell Western auto-related items at prices similar to, or somewhat higher than, those in the U.S.

Estonia has the highest rate of car ownership growth in Europe. Correspondingly, many new drivers are on the road. This, combined with the fact that there are still many older Soviet cars on the road, has meant a substantial increase in traffic (similar now to a major U.S. metropolitan area) and a large number of fender-benders. Aggressive driving is the norm.

The speed limit on open roads is 90km/h (55 mph), but 50km/h (30mph) in residential areas. Car headlights must be on at all times, year round. The driver and front seat passenger must wear seat belts. Police enforce and most drivers take driving-under-the-influence-of-alcohol laws seriously. Car seats for babies and small children are mandatory and available locally. A first-aid kit, fire extinguisher, and safety reflectors in case of breakdown are mandatory. Winter tires, available locally at prices similar to or slightly lower than in the U.S., are mandatory between December and March. Studded snow tires are allowable and recommended. Estonia is a left-hand-drive country.

The Estonian Government requires that all drivers carry third-party-liability car insurance. Stiff fines are imposed on those who do not comply with this law. Third-party-liability insurance that is considered valid under Estonian law may be purchased in Estonia. However, drivers should note that valid third-party-liability coverage in Estonia may not be valid in neighboring countries, and therefore supplemental insurance must be purchased for travel to the neighboring countries. Some American insurers, such as Clements, will provide coverage that satisfies local requirements. Drivers intending car travel (via ferry) to Sweden or Finland should ensure that their liability insurance provides them with a green international insurance card.

State and private car insurance policies in Estonia offer minimal coverage compared to that in the U.S. They generally cover only damage to the driver's car and nominal personal injury coverage. The local prevailing practice is that damages to another driver's car are covered out-of-pocket, but it can be difficult to get any settlement from a delinquent driver.

Estonia's main roads are adequate for daytime, fair-weather driving, but night driving and winter driving can be difficult. Roads outside Tallinn are not lighted and often poorly marked. Road construction is not well marked. During winter months, when roads are sanded and plowed sporadically or, more often, not at all.

On the other hand, summer driving in Estonia, and throughout the Baltic States, can be pleasant. The almost endless daylight, the reasonable quality of most roads (when not wet, dark, or icy), the relatively light traffic outside the cities, and the increasing availability of tourist and roadside services will do much to counter the cabin fever that results from the lack of winter mobility. Excellent road maps are readily available in Tallinn for all of Estonia and the other Baltic countries.

Local

Public transportation in the Tallinn area is generally convenient and reliable. All forms of public transportation are more crowded than in the U.S. One can travel easily, if not always comfortably, around the city and to the outskirts of Tallinn using the extensive public transportation system.

Tallinn has many taxis, all of which must use a meter. Taxis generally fall into two categories: those from larger taxi companies with clean, modern fleets (Tulika and several others), and those from smaller firms or independents using Soviet, Russian, and older Western cars. You can either get a taxi at a taxi stand or request one by phone, for an extra fee. If they do not do so immediately, remind drivers to turn on their meters. Taxi rates are generally cheaper than in Washington, D.C. Some modern taxi companies take credit cards. Passengers usually tip the driver a small amount (5%-10%), but tipping is not considered mandatory. Overall, using taxis in Tallinn is easier and more pleasant than in most U.S. cities.

Regional

There is regular intercity travel from Tallinn to other points in Estonia, the other two Baltic capitals, points in Russia and other republics of the former Soviet Union, and major Western European cities.

Bus travel within and beyond Estonia is extensive. You can take a bus to all of Estonia's major cities and towns from Tallinn and can at least make a connection to many smaller towns not directly serviced by buses from Tallinn. You can also travel by bus and ferry to Estonia's larger islands. Buses travel regularly to Riga and Vilnius, as well as Klaipeda, St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, and cities in Germany. Bus service is faster and usually more convenient than train travel. Many buses on the longer routes meet Western standards (i.e., with bathroom and small TV), but older buses are often used on routes within Estonia. Bus travel is cheap, compared with that in the U.S.

Trains from Tallinn service all major regional cities, including Narva and Tartu in Estonia and the following cities in other countries: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Riga, Vilnius, Minsk, and Warsaw. For longer trips, an overnight sleeper car provides both for safety and comfort. Overnight train is a good way to travel to Moscow or St. Petersburg, but is substantially slower than the bus to Riga and Vilnius.

Tallinn offers frequent flights to cities in Western Europe and the former Soviet Union. Finnair flies daily to Helsinki and SAS flies to both Copenhagen and Stockholm. In addition, there is regular, nonstop, service to Riga, Vilnius, Hamburg, Amsterdam, London, Vienna, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev, and Minsk.

There is regular ferry service between Helsinki and Tallinn (several times daily) and Stockholm and Tallinn (daily), as well as hydrofoil service between Helsinki and Tallinn from April through October. Ferries can carry motor vehicles, but hydrofoils are for passengers only. All ferries have restaurants, bars, shops, and other diversions. Passage by ferry to Helsinki takes about 3½ hours; the hydrofoil takes 1½ hours. Although the hydrofoil is faster, it is more expensive, and sometimes stormy weather and/or rough seas cancel trips. The trip from Tallinn to Helsinki by ferry is cheaper than flying and then taking a taxi or bus into the Finnish capital. The ferry to Stockholm sails from Tallinn every second day and takes 14½ hours. Although this is the most direct ferry route between Tallinn and Stockholm, it is also possible and less expensive to sail to Stockholm via Helsinki.

As noted above, car travel around Estonia and the Baltics, or to cities in the Nordic countries, Russia, and Eastern Europe, is feasible. Avis, Hertz, National (Eurorent), and other Western and local rental car firms have outlets in Tallinn and the other Baltic capitals, with rates somewhat higher than in the U.S. Most borders you would cross in the region cause no problem, except the border between Lithuania and Poland and the border between Estonia and Russia, where delays are frequent.

Communications

Telephone and Telegraph

Currently, Estonia has three types of telephone systems, including an analog system, a digital system, and several cellular systems. Tallinn has upgraded 90% of the city's telephone system to digital. The rest of the country is undergoing gradual digital upgrades. Phone service in the capital is good but can be sporadic outside Tallinn.

Tallinn residents can dial international calls directly from their residential telephones or book them through the operator. It is slightly cheaper to call the U.S. from Estonia than vice versa. Calls to Eastern and Western European countries from Estonia are cheaper than calling those countries from the U.S.

Local digital calls have per-call charges, but long-distance and international-call charges are the same as those for the older system. Many individuals and businesses use cellular systems for phone calls and fax machine transmissions. Cellular systems are more expensive than the other systems for local and long-distance calls. International calls made with cellular phones currently cost 30% more than those made with digital systems.

Computer usage in Estonia is widespread. The entire range of computer software and hardware is available locally at reasonable prices. Internet hookups are reasonably priced and easy to arrange. Microlink, Gateway, and several other familiar computer firms are present in Tallinn. All major computer companies and computer stores have knowledgeable staff people, most of whom speak at least some English. As occasional fluctuations in electrical voltage occur, bring surge protectors for all computer equipment.

Mail

The international mail system for letters and packages to and from Estonia is reliable. No difficulties concerning customs, pilferage, or damage to sent or received items has been reported. Currently, mailing letters and packages from Estonia costs more than from the U.S.

Many international courier services can send small packets and larger boxes to and from Tallinn including Federal Express, DHL, and UPS. Courier firms charge prices comparable to those in the U.S. for the same service. It usually takes smaller packets 3-5 days to/from the U.S. You can use most major credit cards for the fee.

Radio and TV

Several radio stations broadcast on AM and FM in Estonia. The state-operated Eesti Raadio (Estonian Radio) airs the BBC World Service in English from noon to 5 pin daily. In Tallinn, Raadio KuKu was the first independent station; it has primarily a music format that includes an eclectic mix of American rock, jazz, blues, and country music, as well as European contemporary popular and classical music. Raadio Tallinn, another independent station, broadcasts music and news in Russian. Love Radio plays easy-listening pop with hits from the 1970s and 1980s and has news in English every hour. Since 1991, the number of independent stations on AM and FM has increased, and this trend is expected to continue. Shortwave reception in Tallinn is good and includes broadcasts in various languages.

From Tallinn you can watch Eesti Televisioon (Estonian Television), three independent Estonian stations, one Russian channel, and four Finnish channels. Satellite dishes, increasingly popular in Estonia, enable you to receive more programming from abroad. Full satellite-dish receiving equipment sets and installation services are available in Tallinn at reasonable prices. English-language programs and movies are subtitled rather than dubbed on most channels.

A TV should be able to receive both SECAM and PAL systems in Estonia, because Finnish and Western European channels require SECAM and Estonian and Russian channels use PAL. Multisystem TV's, recommended for local viewing, are available in Tallinn. Selection is limited and they can be expensive. To receive Finnish channels you will need a special antenna. Bring a multisystem VCR to watch videos. A limited selection of VCR's are available in Tallinn at generally higher than U.S. prices.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

American and European newspapers and magazines are increasingly available in Tallinn at the major hotels and some other shops. You can buy The Herald Tribune, USA Today, Time, and Newsweek regularly, but the newspapers are usually a day old.

Other popular American and English-language magazines (primarily fashion and women's magazines) are sold in Tallinn, but newsstand prices are higher here. Major newspapers and magazines in German and French are also available.

Several English-language publications written and published in the Baltics are sold regularly in Estonia. The City Paper is a bimonthly magazine and travel guide with interesting articles about current issues and politics in Estonia. The Baltic Times, a weekly newspaper published in Riga, covers the current events of the three Baltic States. Tallinn This Week, a booklet published six times a year, is a guide to Tallinn's restaurants, shopping, cafes, nightlife, and cultural events. Several Estonian-language papers and magazines also include special English pages or columns.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Health care facilities in Estonia are improving, but still fall somewhat below the Western standard. Most health care providers, however, are well-trained professionals and many are conversant in English.

Community Health

Food-handling procedures, although improving, are not yet entirely reliable here. Some food bought at older markets and the (rapidly disappearing) Soviet-style food stores may be poorly refrigerated. Although the public water supply in Tallinn is chlorinated, water treatment facilities and distribution pipes are often in disrepair. Therefore, the water supply could be contaminated. High-quality local and imported bottled water is available in all food shops and convenience stores.

NOTES FOR TRAVELERS

Customs, Duties, and Passage

A passport is required. Tourists and business travelers may stay in Estonia for up to 90 days without a visa. U.S. citizens who wish to work in Estonia or remain longer than 90 days must obtain a visa or residence permit. For further information concerning entry requirements and residency permits, please contact the Estonian Embassy, 2131 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C 20008, telephone (202) 588-0101, or the Consulate General of Estonia in New York City at telephone (212) 883-0636. Also, please see the Estonian Embassy's Internet home page at http://www.estemb.org.

Customs restrictions on Estonian cultural artifacts exported from Estonia by anyone require a 100% duty on the purchase price of the item. Special permits are also required and may be obtained from the Cultural Values Export Board.

U.S. citizens living in or visiting Estonia are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy and obtain updated information on travel and security within Estonia. The U.S Embassy in Tallinn is located at Kentmanni 20, telephone (372) 668-8100; fax (372) 668-8267; emergency cell phone (011)(372)509-2129, if dialed from the U.S., and 0-509-2129 if dialed from within Estonia. The Embassy's home page on the Internet is at http://www.usemb.ee.

Pets

The pet should have a health certificate which is less than 10 days old and a documented rabies vaccination given more than 30 days, but less than 1 year, before arrival in Estonia. Dogs should also have recent distemper and parvovirus shots. There is no quarantine restriction for household pets brought to Estonia.

Competent veterinarians, many of whom speak English, practice in Tallinn. Most veterinarians will commonly obtain pet vaccines and medicines in Finland or elsewhere in Europe. Veterinarians often make house calls to vaccinate and care for sick pets. Veterinarians' fees in Estonia are low by U.S. standards. Although pet medical care is inexpensive, pet food is more expensive compared to Washington, D.C., prices.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

The only currency that can be used legally in Estonia is the Estonian kroon (EEK). The kroon was introduced as Estonia's national currency in June 1992, nearly a year after Estonian independence. It is backed by gold and foreign currency reserves and is fully convertible. The current exchange rate is about 15.9 EEK=U. S. $1. The value of the kroon is pegged to the value of the Deutsche Mark at EEK8/DM1 with a fluctuation rate of 3%. Estonia's currency is issued in notes of the following denominations: 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500. The coins include 5-, 10-, 20-and 50-cent coins.

Credit cards are now widely accepted in Estonia. Traveler's checks are also accepted by many major hotels and restaurants.

Travelers checks may be cashed for kroons in any bank in Tallinn. Currency may be exchanged for kroons at most banks, hotels, and many foreign exchange counters around Tallinn and other parts of Estonia. The kroon is fully convertible and therefore can be exchanged for foreign currency. However, except for those arriving via Finland, it may be difficult or impossible to obtain kroons before arrival.

Credit cards can be used at the major hotels and department stores and most restaurants throughout Estonia. The most common cards used in Tallinn are American Express, Visa, and Mastercard (Eurocard). It is possible to get a cash advance in kroons with a major credit card. Advances are available for a commission fee to the bank.

A value-added tax (VAT) of 18% is placed on goods imported into Estonia and services performed in Estonia.

The weight and measurement system in Estonia is the metric system.

LOCAL HOLIDAYS

Jan. 1New Year's Day

Feb. 24Estonian Independence Day

Mar/Apr.Good Friday*

Mar/Apr.Easter Sunday*

May 1May Day

May/JuneWhitsunday/Pentecost*

June 23 Victory Day

June 24 Midsummer

Aug. 20Day of Restoration of Independence

Dec.25 Christmas Day

Dec. 26Boxing Day

*variable

RECOMMENDED READING

The following titles are provided as a general indication of material published on this country:

Clemens, Walter Jr. Baltic Independence and Russian Empire. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991.

Hiden, John and Patrick Salmon. The Baltic Nations and Europe: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the Twentieth Century. New York: Longman, Inc., 1991.

Jackson, Hampden J. Estonia. Second Edition. London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1948.

Laar, Mart. War in the Woods: Estonia's Struggle for Survival 1944-1956. Washington, D.C.: The Compass Press, 1992.

Lieven, Anatol. The Baltic Revolution. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991.

Loeber, Dietrich Andre, B. Stanley Vardys, and Laurence PA. Kitching, eds. Regional Identity Under Soviet Rule: The Case of the Baltic States. Hackettstown, N.J.: Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies, 1990.

Misiunas, Romuald J. and Rein Taagepera. The Baltic States: Years of Dependence 1940-1980. Berkeley and Los Angeles:University of California Press, 1983.

Raun, Toivo U. Estonia and the Estonians. Second Edition. Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, 1991.

Taagepera, Rein. Estonia: Return to Independence. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1992.

von Rauch, Georg. The Baltic States: Years of Independence 1917-1940. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1974.

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ESTONIA

Compiled from the February 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Estonia


PROFILE

Geography

Area: 45,226 sq. km. (17,462 sq. mi.); about the size of New Hampshire and Vermont.

Cities: Capital—Tallinn (pop. 397,150). Other cities—Tartu (101,190); Narva (67,752); Kohtla-Jarve (46,765); Parnu (44,781); Viljandi (20,509). The last population census was held in 2000.

Terrain: Flat, average elevation 50 m. Elevation is slightly higher in the east and southeast. Steep limestone banks and 1,520 islands mark the coastline. Land use—9.5% arable land, 47,4% forest and woodland, 22% swamps and bogs, 21.5% other. Coastal waters are somewhat polluted.

Climate: Temperate, with four seasons of near-equal length. Annual precipitation averages 50-75 cm.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Estonian(s).

Population: 1.367 million.

Annual growth rate: 0.4%. Birth rate—9.3/1,000. Death rate—13.6/1,000. Migration—616 persons (1999). Density—30/sq. km. Urban dwellers—70%.

Ethnic groups: Estonians 65%, Russians 28%, Ukrainians 2.5%, Belarusians 1.4%, Finns 0.9%, other 2.2%.

Religions: Lutheran; the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox, subordinated to Constantinople; the Estonian Orthodox, subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate; Baptist.

Languages: Estonian (official).

Education: Years compulsory—9. Attendance—218,600 students at 550 schools, plus 50,800 university students. Literacy—98.2%.

Health: Infant mortality rate—8.4 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy—65 yrs. men, 76 yrs. women.

Work force: 704,500.

Government

Type: Parliamentary democracy.

Constitution: On June 28, 1992 Estonians ratified a constitution based on the 1938 model, offering legal continuity to the Republic of Estonia prior to Soviet occupation.

Branches: Executive—president (chief of state), elected by Parliament every 5 years; prime minister (head of government). Legislative—Riigikogu (Parliament—101 members, 4-year term). Judicial—Supreme Court.

Administrative subdivisions: 15 counties, 42 towns, and 205 municipalities.

Political parties: Estonian Center Party—Chairman, Edgar Savisaar; Estonian Reform Party—Chairman, Siim Kallas/Coalition; Pro Patria Union—Chairman, Mart Laar; Estonian People's Union—Chairman, Villu Reiljan/Coalition; Moderates—Chairman, Ivari Padar; Estonian United People's Party—Chairman, Jevgeni Tomberg; Estonian Social Democratic Labor Party—Chairman, Tiit Toomsalu; Estonian Independence Party—Chairman, Vello Leit; Res Publica—Chairman, Juhan Parts/Coalition; Estonian Christian People's Party—Chairman, Aldo Vinkel; Russian Party in Estonia—Chairman, Stanislav Cherepanov; Estonian Democratic Party—Chairman, Jaan Laas; Republican Party—Chairman, Kristjan-Olari Leping.

Suffrage: Universal at 18 years of age; noncitizen residents may vote in municipal elections.

Government budget: $2.3 billion.

Defense: 2% of GDP.

National holidays: Jan. 1 (New Year's Day), Feb. 24 (Independence Day), Good Friday, Easter Sunday, May 1 (May Day), Whitsunday, June 23 (Victory Day—anniversary of Battle of Vonnu in 1919), June 24 (Midsummer Day), Aug. 20 (Day of Restoration of Independence), Dec. 25 (Christmas Day), Dec. 26 (Boxing Day).

Government of Estonia Web site: http://www.riik.ee/en/

Economy

GDP: (2003) $8.3 billion (World Bank).

Growth rate: (2003) 5.1%

Per capita GDP: (2003) $6,071.

Inflation: (2003) 1.3%.

Unemployment: (2003) 10%.

Natural resources: Oil shale, phosphorite, limestone, blue clay.

Agriculture: (3% of 2001 GDP) Products—livestock production (milk, meat, eggs) and crop production (cereals and legumes, potatoes, forage crops). Cultivable land—433,100 hectares.

Industry: (26% of 2002 GDP) Types-engineering, electronics, wood and wood products, and textiles.

Services: (70% of 2002 GDP) Transit, information technology (IT), telecommunications.

Trade: Exports (2002)—$4.3 billion. Partners—Finland 20%, Sweden 12%, Russia 10%, Latvia 8%, Germany 8%, U.S. 2%. Imports (2002)—$5.8 billion. Partners—Finland 16%, Germany 11%, Russia 12%, Sweden 8%.

Exchange rate: (2002) 16.6 kroon EEK=U.S.$1.

Foreign direct investment: (June 2003) Sweden 39%, Finland 30%, Netherlands 6%, U.S. 7%, Norway 3%, Denmark 2%, Germany 2%.


GEOGRAPHY

Between 57.3 and 59.5 latitude and 21.5 and 28.1 longitude, Estonia lies on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea on the level, northwestern part of the rising East European platform. Average elevation reaches only 50 meters (160 ft.).

The climate resembles New England's. Oil shale and limestone deposits, along with forests that cover 47% of the land, play key economic roles in this generally resource-poor country. Estonia boasts more than 1,500 lakes, numerous bogs, and 3,794 kilometers of coastline marked by numerous bays, straits, and inlets. Tallinn's Muuga port offers one of Europe's finest warm-water harbor facilities.

Estonia's strategic location has precipitated many wars that were fought on its territory between other rival powers at its expense. In 1944 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) granted Russia the trans-Narva and Petseri regions on Estonia's eastern frontier, which still remain contested bilaterally.


PEOPLE

The name "Eesti," or Estonia, is derived from the word "Aestii," the name given by the ancient Germans to the peoples living northeast of the Vistula River. The Roman historian Tacitus in 98 A.D. was the first to mention the "Aestii" people, and early Scandinavians called the land south of the Gulf of Finland "Eistland," and the people "eistr." Estonians belong to the Balto-Finnic group of the Finno-Ugric peoples, as do the Finns and Hungarians. Archaeological research supports the existence of human activity in the region as early as 8,000 BC but by 3,500 BC the principal ancestors of the Estonians had arrived from the east.

Estonians have strong ties to the Nordic countries today stemming from strong cultural and religious influences gained over centuries during Scandinavian colonization and settlement. This highly literate society places strong emphasis upon education, which is free and compulsory until age 16. The first book in Estonian was printed in 1525. About 20% of the population belongs to the following churches registered in Estonia: Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, Estonian Orthodox Church subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate, Baptist Church, Roman Catholic Church, and others.

From 1945-1989 the percentage of ethnic Estonians in Estonia dropped from 94% to 61%, caused primarily by the Soviet program promoting mass immigration of urban industrial workers from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, as well as by wartime emigration and Soviet premier Josif Stalin's mass deportations and executions.

Written with the Latin alphabet, Estonian is the language of the Estonian people and the official language of the country. One-third of the standard vocabulary is derived from adding suffixes to root words. The oldest known examples of written Estonian originate in 13th century chronicles. During the Soviet era, the Russian language was imposed for official use.


HISTORY

Estonians are one of the longest-settled European peoples, whose forebears, known as the "comb pottery" people, lived on the southeastern shores of the Baltic Sea over 5,000 years ago. Like other early agricultural societies, Estonians were organized into economically selfsufficient, male-dominated clans with few differences in wealth or social power. By the early Middle Ages most Estonians were small landholders, with farmsteads primarily organized by village. Estonian government remained decentralized, with local political and administrative subdivisions emerging only during the first century A.D. By then, Estonia had a population of more than 150,000 people and remained the last corner of medieval Europe to be Christianized.

In 1227 the German crusading order of the Sword Brethren defeated the last Estonian stronghold. The people were Christianized, colonized, and enserfed. Despite attempts to restore independence, Estonia was divided among three domains, and small states were formed. Tallinn joined the Hanseatic League in 1248.

Despite successful Russian raids and invasions in 1481 and 1558, the local German barons continued to rule Estonia and from 1524 preserved Estonian commitment to the Protestant Reformation. Northern Estonia submitted to Swedish control in 1561 during the Livonian Wars, and in 1582-83 southern Estonia (Livonia) became part of Poland's Duchy of Courland.

In 1625, mainland Estonia came entirely under Swedish rule. In 1631, the Swedish king Gustav II Adolf granted the peasantry greater autonomy, opened the first known

Estonian-language school in Tallinn, and in 1632 established a printing press and university in the city of Tartu. Sweden's defeat by Russia in 1721 resulted in the Uusikaupunki Peace Treaty, and Russian rule was then imposed in what became modern Estonia. Nonetheless, the legal system, Lutheran church, local and town governments, and education remained mostly German until the late 19th century and partially until 1918.

By 1819, the Baltic provinces were the first in the Russian empire in which serfdom was abolished, allowing the peasants to own their own land or move to the cities. These moves created the economic foundation for the Estonian national cultural awakening that had lain dormant for some 600 years of foreign rule. Estonia was caught in a current of national awakening that began sweeping through Europe in the mid-1800s.

A cultural movement sprang forth to adopt the use of Estonian as the language of instruction in schools, all-Estonian song festivals were held regularly after 1869, and a national literature in Estonian developed. Kalevipoeg, Estonia's epic national poem, was published in 1861 in both Estonian and German.

As the 1905 revolution in Russia swept through Estonia, the Estonians called for freedom of the press and assembly, for universal franchise, and for national autonomy. The uprisings were brutally suppressed, and Estonian gains were minimal, but the tense stability that prevailed between 1905 and 1917 allowed Estonians to advance the aspiration of national statehood.

With the collapse of the Russian empire in World War I, Russia's provisional government granted national autonomy to Estonia. A popularly elected assembly (Maapaev) was formed but was quickly forced underground by opposing extremist political forces. The Committee of Elders of the underground Maapaev announced the Republic of Estonia on February 24, 1918, 1 day before German troops invaded. After the withdrawal of German troops in November 1918, fighting broke out between Bolshevik and Estonian troops. On February 2, 1920, the Treaty of Tartu was signed by the Republic of Estonia and Soviet Russia. The terms of the treaty stated that Soviet Russia renounced in perpetuity all rights to the territory of Estonia.

Independence lasted 22 years. Estonia underwent a number of economic, social, and political reforms necessary to come to terms with its new status as a sovereign state. Economically and socially, land reform in 1919 was the most important step. Large estate holdings belonging to the Baltic nobility were redistributed among the peasants and especially among volunteers in the War of Independence. Estonia's principal markets became Scandinavia, Great Britain, and western Europe, with some exports to the United States and Soviet Union.

The first constitution of the Republic of Estonia, adopted in 1920, established a parliamentary form of government. The Parliament (Riigikogu) consisted of 100 members elected for 3-year terms. Between 1921 and 1931, Estonia had 11 governments. Konstantin Päts was installed as the first President of the republic in 1938.

The independence period was one of great cultural advancement. Estonian language schools were established, and artistic life of all kinds flourished. One of the more notable cultural acts of the independence period, unique in western Europe at the time of its passage in 1925, was a guarantee of cultural autonomy to minority groups comprising at least 3,000 persons, and to Jews.

Estonia had pursued a policy of neutrality, but the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Nonaggression Pact on August 23, 1939 signaled the end of independence. The agreement provided for the Soviet occupation of Estonia, Latvia, part of Finland, and later, Lithuania, in return for Nazi Germany's assuming control over most of Poland. After extensive diplomatic intrigue, the Estonian Socialist Republic (E.S.R.) was proclaimed on July 21, 1940, 1 month after Estonia was occupied by Soviet troops. The E.S.R. was formally accepted into the Soviet Union on August 6, and the official name of the country became the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic (E.S.S.R.).

Soviet occupation was accompanied by expropriation of property, Sovietization of cultural life, and Stalinist communism permeating political life. On June 14, 1941, mass deportations took place simultaneously in all three Baltic states. Officially, nothing was said about the arrests, and no one was prosecuted or sentenced.

When Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, most Estonians greeted the Germans with relatively open arms and hoped to restore independence. It soon became clear that sovereignty was out of the question. Estonia became a part of "Ostland." Massive repression continued. About 5,500 Estonians died in concentration camps.

In World War II Estonia suffered huge losses. Ports were destroyed, and 45% of industry and 40% of the railways were damaged. Estonia's population decreased by one-fifth (about 200,000 people). Some 10% of the population (more than 80,000 people) fled to the West between 1940 and 1944. More than 30,000 soldiers were killed in battles. In 1944 Russian air raids destroyed Narva, and one-third of the residential area in Tallinn was destroyed. By late September 1944, Soviet forces expelled the last German troops from Estonia, ushering in a second phase of Soviet rule. That year, Moscow also transferred the Estonian Narva and Petseri border districts, which held a large percentage of ethnic Russians, to Russian control. In 1944, there were massive arrests of people who had actively supported the German occupation or been disloyal to Soviet order.

An anti-Soviet guerrilla movement known as "the Forest Brethren" developed in the countryside, reaching its zenith in 1946-48. In March 1949, 20,722 people (2.5% of population) were deported to Siberia. By the beginning of the 1950s, the occupying regime had suppressed the resistance movement.

After the war the Communist Party of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic (ECP) became the preeminent organization in the republic. The ethnic Estonian share in the total ECP membership decreased from 90% in 1941 to 48% in 1952.

After Stalin's death, party membership vastly expanded its social base to include more ethnic Estonians. By the mid-1960s, the percentage of ethnic Estonian membership stabilized near 50%. On the eve of perestroika the ECP claimed about 100,000 members; less than half were ethnic Estonians and comprised less than 2% of the country's population.

A positive aspect of the post-Stalin era in Estonia was a reopening in the late 1950s of citizens' contacts with foreign countries. Ties were reactivated with Finland, and in the 1960s, Estonians began watching Finnish television. This electronic "window on the West" afforded Estonians more information on current affairs and more access to Western culture and thought than any other group in the Soviet Union. This heightened media environment was important in preparing Estonians for their vanguard role in extending perestroika during the era of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

In the late 1970s, Estonian society grew increasingly concerned about the threat of cultural Russification to the Estonian language and national identity. By 1981, Russian was taught in the first grade of Estonian language schools and also was introduced into the Estonian pre-school teaching.

By the beginning of the Gorbachev era, concern over the cultural survival of the Estonian people had reached a critical point. The ECP remained stable in the early perestroika years but waned in the late 1980s. Other political movements, groupings, and parties moved to fill the power vacuum. The first and most important was the Estonian Popular Front, established in April 1988 with its own platform, leadership, and broad constituency. The Greens and the dissident-led Estonian National Independence Party soon followed. By 1989, the political spectrum widened, and new parties were formed and re-formed almost daily.

The republic's Supreme Soviet transformed into an authentic regional lawmaking body. This relatively conservative legislature passed an early declaration of sovereignty (November 1988); a law on economic independence (May 1989) confirmed by the U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet that November; a language law making Estonian the official language (January 1989); and local and republic election laws stipulating residency requirements for voting and candidacy (August, November 1989).

Although not all non-Estonians supported full independence, they were divided in their goals for the republic. In March 1990 some 18% of Russian speakers supported the idea of a fully independent Estonia, up from 7% the previous autumn, and only a small group of Estonians were opposed to full independence in early 1990. Estonia held free elections for the 105-member Supreme Soviet on March 18, 1990. All residents of Estonia were eligible to participate in the elections, including the approximately 50,000 Soviet troops stationed there. The Popular Front coalition, composed of left and centrist parties and led by former Central Planning Committee official Edgar Savisaar, held a parliamentary majority. In May 1990, the name of the Republic of Estonia was restored, public use of the symbols of the E.S.S.R. (anthem, flag, and coat of arms) were forbidden, and only laws adopted in Estonia were proclaimed valid.

Despite the emergence of the new lawmaking body, an alternative legislature developed in Estonia. In February 1990, a body known as the Congress of Estonia was elected in unofficial and unsanctioned elections. Supporters of the Congress argued that the inter-war republic continued to exist de jure: Since Estonia was forcibly annexed by the U.S.S.R., only citizens of that republic and their descendants could decide Estonia's future.

Through a strict, nonconfrontational policy in pursuing independence, Estonia managed to avoid the violence which Latvia and Lithuania incurred in the bloody January 1991 crackdowns and in the border-customs post guard murders that summer. During the August coup in the U.S.S.R., Estonia was able to maintain constant operation and control of its telecommunications facilities, thereby offering the West a clear view into the latest coup developments and serving as a conduit for swift Western support and recognition of Estonia's redeclaration of independence on August 20, 1991. Following Europe's lead, the United States formally reestablished diplomatic relations with Estonia on September 2, and the U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet offered recognition on September 6, 1991.

After more than 3 years of negotiations, on August 31, 1994, the armed forces of the Russian Federation withdrew from Estonia. Since regaining independence Estonia has had 11 governments with 7 prime ministers: Edgar Savisaar, Tiit Vähi, Mart Laar, Andres Tarand, Mart Siimann, Siim Kallas, and Juhan Parts.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

On June 28, 1992, Estonian voters approved the constitutional assembly's draft constitution and implementation act, which established a parliamentary government with a president as chief of state and with a government headed by a prime minister.

The Riigikogu, a unicameral legislative body, is the highest organ of state authority. It initiates and approves legislation sponsored by the prime minister. The prime minister has full responsibility and control over his cabinet. Parliamentary and presidential elections were held on September 20, 1992. Approximately 68% of the country's 637,000 registered voters cast ballots. An outstanding writer and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lennart Meri, won on the first ballot and became President. He chose 32-year-old historian and Christian Democratic Party founder Mart Laar as Prime Minister.

In February 1992, and with amendments in January 1995, the Riigikogu renewed Estonia's liberal 1938 citizenship law, which also provides equal civil protection to resident aliens.

In 1996, Estonia ratified a border agreement with Latvia and completed work with Russia on a technical border agreement. President Meri was re-elected in free and fair indirect elections in August and September 1996. During parliamentary elections in 1999, the seats in Riigikogu were divided as follows: the Center Party received 28, the Pro Patria Union 18, the Reform Party 18, the Moderates 17 seats. Pro Patria Union, the Reform Party, and the Moderates formed a government with Mart Laar as Prime Minister whereas the Center Party with the Coalition Party, People's Union, United People's Party, and members of parliament who were not members of factions formed the opposition in the Riigikogu.

In the fall of 2001 Arnold Rüütel became the President of the Republic of Estonia. In January 2002 Prime Minister Laar stepped down, and President Ruutel appointed Siim Kallas the new Prime Minister. The Reform Party and the Center Party formed a new coalition government in power as of January 28, 2002. Parliamentary elections were held on March 2, 2003. A coalition government comprised of the Res Publica, Reform, and the Peoples' Union Parties took office in April 2003. President Rüütel appointed Juhan Parts of Res Publica as Prime Minister.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 11/29/04

President: Ruutel , Arnold
Prime Minister: Parts , Juhan
Min. of Agriculture: Taamsar , Tiit
Min. of Culture: Paet , Urmas
Min. of Defense: Joeruut , Jaak
Min. of Economics and Communications: Ansip , Andrus
Min. of Education and Science: Maimets , Toivo
Min. of Environment: Reiljan , Villu
Min. of Finance: Veskimagi , Taavi
Min. of Foreign Affairs: Ojuland, Kristiina
Min. of Interior: Leivo , Margus
Min. of Justice: Vaher , Ken-Marti
Min. of Law Enforcement & Regional Affairs: Ounapuu , Jaan
Min. of Population: Ruumo , Paul-Erik
Min. of Social Affairs: Pomerants , Marko
Pres., Estonian Central Bank: Kraft , Vahur
Ambassador to the US: Luik , Juri
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Joeruut , Jaak

Estonia maintains an embassy in the United States at 2131 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20008 (tel: [1] (202) 588-0101; fax: [1] (202) 588-0108). It operates a consulate at 600 Third Avenue, 26th Floor, New York, NY 10016-2001 (tel: [1[(212) 883-0636; fax: [1] (212) 883-0648).


ECONOMY

For centuries until 1920, Estonian agriculture consisted of native peasants working large feudal-type estates held by ethnic German landlords. In the decades prior to 1918 independence, centralized czarist rule had contributed a rather large industrial sector dominated by the world's largest cotton mill, a ruined postwar economy, and an inflated ruble currency. In years 1920 to 1930, Estonia entirely transformed its economy, despite considerable hardship, dislocation, and unemployment. Compensating the German landowners for their holdings, the government confiscated the estates and divided them into small farms which subsequently formed the basis of Estonian prosperity.

By 1929, a stable currency, the kroon (or crown), was established. Trade focused on the local market and the West, particularly Germany and the United Kingdom. Only 3% of all commerce was with the U.S.S.R.

The U.S.S.R.'s forcible annexation of Estonia in 1940 and the ensuing Nazi and Soviet destruction during World War II crippled the Estonian economy. Postwar Sovietization of life continued with the integration of Estonia's economy and industry into the U.S.S.R.'s centrally planned structure. More than 56% of Estonian farms were collectivized in the month of April 1949 alone. Moscow expanded on Estonian industries that had locally available raw materials, such as oil-shale mining and phosphorites. As a laboratory for economic experiments, especially in industrial management techniques, Estonia enjoyed more success and greater prosperity than other regions under Soviet rule.

Since re-establishing independence in 1991, Estonia has styled itself as the gateway between East and West and aggressively pursued economic reform and integration with the West. Estonia's market reforms put it among the economic leaders in the former Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) area. A balanced budget, flat-rate income tax, free trade regime, fully convertible currency, competitive commercial banking sector, and hospitable environment for foreign investment are hallmarks of Estonia's free-market-based economy. Estonia also has made excellent progress in regard to structural adjustment.

The privatization of state-owned firms is virtually complete, with only the port and the main power plants remaining in government hands. The constitution requires a balanced budget, and the protection afforded by Estonia's intellectual property laws is on a par with that of Europe's. In early 1992 both liquidity problems and structural weakness stemming from the communist era precipitated a banking crisis. As a result, effective bankruptcy legislation was enacted, and privately owned, well-managed banks emerged as market leaders. Today, near-ideal conditions for the banking sector exist. Foreigners are not restricted from buying bank shares or acquiring majority holdings.

Tallinn's fully electronic Stock Exchange opened in early 1996 and was bought out by Finland's Helsinki Stock Exchange in 2001. It is estimated that the unregistered economy provides almost 12% of annual gross domestic product (GDP).

Estonia is nearly energy independent, supplying more than 90% of its electricity needs with locally mined oil shale. Alternative energy sources such as wood, peat, and biomass make up about 9% of primary energy production. Estonia imports needed petroleum products from western Europe and Russia. Oil shale energy, telecommunications, textiles, chemical products, banking, services, food and fishing, timber, shipbuilding, electronics, and transportation are key sectors of the economy. The icefree port of Muuga, near Tallinn, is a modern facility featuring good transshipment capability, a high-capacity grain elevator, chill/frozen storage, and brand-new oil tanker off-loading capabilities. The railroad, privatized by an international consortium in 2000, serves as a conduit between the West, Russia, and other points to the east.

Estonia still faces challenges. Agricultural privatization has caused severe problems for farmers needing collateral to be eligible for loans. The income differential between Tallinn and the rest of the country is widening. Standards of living have eroded for the large portion of the population on fixed pensions. The formerly industrial northeast section of Estonia is undergoing a severe economic depression as a result of plant closings.

During recent years the Estonian economy has continued to grow. Estonian GDP grew by 6.5% in 2001 and by 6.0% in 2002. Inflation declined modestly to 4.2% in 2001; for 2002 the inflation rate was 2.7%. The unemployment rate in 2002 was 10.6%. Estonia joined the World Trade Organization in 1999. Estonia concluded European Union (EU) accession negotiations in December 2002 and signed the EU Accession Treaty in April 2003. In a September 2003 referendum, Estonian citizens voted to amend their constitution and join the European Union. Estonia formally joined the EU on May 1, 2004, one of 10 states, mostly from eastern Europe, to join the Union on that date. While the effects of EU membership will not be measurable in the short term, membership will likely have a positive influence on Estonia's gross domestic product, exports of goods and services, and the inflow of foreign investment.

Foreign Trade

Estonia's liberal foreign trade regime, which contains few tariff or nontariff barriers, is nearly unique in Europe. Estonia also boasts a national currency that is freely convertible at a fixed exchange rate, and conservative fiscal and monetary policies.

Estonia's business attitude toward the United States is positive, and business relations between the United States and Estonia are increasing significantly. The primary competition for American companies in the Estonian marketplace is European suppliers, especially Finnish and Swedish companies.

Total U.S. exports to Estonia in 2002 were $164 million, forming 3% of total Estonian imports. In 2002 the principal imports from the United States were meat and edible meat offal, poultry, boilers, and other electrical machinery and transmission/recording apparatus for radio/TV. The May 2004 round of EU expansion is likely to yield, over time, positive benefits for U.S. business. However, Estonia's membership is disadvantageous for certain U.S. exports to Estonia. For example, since January 2000 Estonia has imposed import tariffs on certain agricultural products from third countries, including the United States, in accordance with EU rules and regulations.

Estonia, being a small country of 1.4 million people, relies on its greatest natural asset—its location at the crossroads of East and West. Estonia lies just south of Finland and across the Baltic Sea from Sweden, both EU members. To the east are the huge potential markets of northwest Russia. Having been a member of the former Soviet Union, Estonians know how to do business in Russia and in other former Soviet countries. Estonia's modern transportation and communication links provide a safe and reliable bridge for trade with former Soviet Union and Nordic countries. According to the RIPE Network Coordination Centre (www.ripe.net), Estonia has the highest Internetconnected hosts/population ratio in central and eastern Europe and also is ahead of most other EU countries. Latest surveys indicate that 41% of the Estonian population regard themselves as Internet users.

Country Commercial Guides are available for U.S. exporters from the National Trade Data Bank's CDROM or via the Internet. Please contact STAT-USA at 1-800-STAT-USA for more information. Country Commercial Guides can be accessed via the World Wide Web at the U.S. Department of Commerce's site. They also can be ordered in hard copy or on diskette from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) at 1-800-553-NTIS. U.S. exporters seeking general export information/assistance and country-specific commercial information should contact the U.S. Department of Commerce, Trade Information Center by phone at 1-800-USA-TRAD(E) or by fax at 1-202-482-4473.


DEFENSE

Estonia achieved its main security and defense policy objective by accepting a formal invitation at Prague in November 2002 to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Alliance. Accession to NATO has been included in all coalition agreements of all Estonian governments since the 1991 restoration of independence, including the present government. The same objective also is stated in the National Security Concept of the Republic of Estonia, approved by the Parliament in March 2001. Estonia officially became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on March 29, 2004 after depositing its instruments of treaty ratification in Washington, DC.

The 2003 state budget allocated 2% of GDP for defense expenditures. The United States is among the countries with which Estonia has very intensive cooperation in the defense and security field.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

Estonia is a party to 181 international organizations, including Bank for International Settlements (BIS), Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS), Customs Cooperation Council (CCC), Council of Europe (CE), Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), European Union (EU), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, or World Bank), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (ICRM), International Finance Corporation (IFC), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRCS), International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), International Labor Organization (ILO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Maritime Organization (IMO), International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), International Olympic Committee (IOC), International Organization for Migration (IOM, observer), International Organization for Standardization (ISO, correspondent), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Partnership for Peace (PFP), United Nations (UN), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH), United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), Universal Postal Union (UPU), Western European Union (WEU, associate partner), World Health Organization (WHO), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), World Meteorological Organization (WMO), World Trade Organization (WTO).


U.S.-ESTONIA RELATIONS

The relationship between Estonia and the United States of America has been constant and strong since Estonia first became independent. Because of its global political and economic influence, the United States is one of Estonia's most important partners.

The United States recognized the Republic of Estonia on July 28, 1922. The first Estonian diplomatic mission in the United States was opened in the same year. It continued its activities throughout the period of illegal occupation by the Soviet Union from 1940 to 1991. U.S. authorities recognized Estonia's diplomatic mission as a legal representative of the Republic of Estonia. Indeed, the recognition of the legal continuity of the Republic of Estonia has been the cornerstone of Estonian-U.S. relations.

The U.S. reopened its Embassy in Tallinn on September 4, 1991, soon after the restoration of Estonia's de facto independence on August 20, 1991. Relations between the two countries have since developed at a rapid pace.

The U.S. Ambassador to Estonia is Aldona Zofia Wos. Mr. Jüri Luik has been Estonia's Ambassador to the United States since September 2003. Estonia also is represented in the United States by a Consulate General in New York and three Honorary Consuls: Jaak Treiman in Los Angeles, Mart Kask in Seattle, and Scott E. Schul in Maine.

U.S.-Baltic Charter

The Presidents of the United States, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania signed the U.S.-Baltic Charter in Washington on January 16, 1998. The main goals of this charter are to support Estonia's, Latvia's, and Lithuania's full integration into European and transatlantic structures, and to establish the general principles and aims for cooperation. The charter underlines the importance of political, defense, security, and economic cooperation. It is a statement of the United States' real, profound, and enduring interest in the security and independence of the Baltic states.

The U.S. commitment toward the Baltic and Nordic states has been reaffirmed with the articulation of the Enhanced Partnership in Northern Europe (e-PINE) in October 2003. E-PINE recognizes the progress made in the region over the preceding decade as well as the challenges that remain, both in the region and with states beyond the borders of an expanding EU and NATO. E-PINE seeks to build on past success and existing habits of multilateral cooperation in the region. Through e-PINE, the United States is engaging all eight Nordic and Baltic states on a shared agenda that focuses on three areas: political security; healthy societies and healthy neighbors; and vibrant economies. To carry out this coordination, e-PINE includes a forum for "8 plus 1" cooperation as well as contacts among the states at the working level.

E-PINE represents the evolution of the previous guiding U.S. policy, the Northern Europe Initiative (NEI). NEI, launched in 1997, promoted regional cooperation in northern Europe as a way of further integrating the Baltic states and northwest Russia and of strengthening our relations with the Nordic countries. NEI programs addressed key problems in Estonia and its neighbors—including HIV/AIDS, environmental pollution, corruption, and social integrationand built cross-border linkages to contribute to stability and security.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

TALLINN (E) Address: Kentmanni 20, Tallinn 15099, Estonia; APO/FPO: PSC 78, Box T, APO AE 09723; Phone: (372) 668-8100; Fax: (372) 668-8266; Workweek: 8:30-17:30; Website: http://www.usemb.ee/

AMB:Wos, Aldona Z.
AMB OMS:Ansah-Twum, Ellen Y.
DCM:Pekala, Mark A.
DCM OMS:Trimble, Karen B.
POL:Dwyer, Stuart A.
CON:Mayer, Paul O.
MGT:Scharpf, Norman
AFSA:Trimble, Karen
CLO:Smith, Natalya
DAO:Olson, Eric
ECO:Adams-Smith, Kelly
EEO:Mayer, Paul O.
GSO:Adams-Smith, Steve
ICASS Chair:Wyrick, Ken (DAO)
IMO:Martin, Wade C.
ISO:McFall, Steven
LEGATT:Nixon, James
PAO:Hodges, Thomas
RSO:Whitehead, David
State ICASS:Adams-Smith, Kelly
Last Updated: 9/27/2004

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

September 14, 2004

Country Description: Estonia is a rapidly developing nation that has experienced significant success in reforming its political and economic institutions since regaining independence in 1991. Tourist facilities are generally good though some amenities may be lacking in rural areas. Some goods and services may not be available outside of major cities. English is widely spoken and understood in Tallinn and, to a lesser extent, in other large cities.

Entry/Exit Requirements: A valid passport is required. Tourists and business travelers may stay in Estonia for up to 90 days within a six-month period without a visa. U.S. citizens who wish to work in Estonia or remain longer than 90 days must obtain a visa or residence permit. For further information concerning entry requirements and residency permits, contact the Estonian Embassy, located at 2131 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 588-0101, or the Consulate General of Estonia in New York City, telephone (212) 883-0636. The Estonian Embassy's Internet home page is http://www.estemb.org.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Safety and Security: For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found. Up to date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: Estonia is a relatively safe country, although crime in Tallinn's "Old Town" is an ongoing concern, particularly during the summer tourist season. Travelers should exercise the same precautions with regard to their personal safety and belongings they would take in major U.S. cities. The most common crimes encountered by foreign tourists are purse snatching, pickpocketing, and mugging. Tourists are often targeted by individuals and small groups of thieves working together, especially during the summer tourist season. In public places, such as the Town Hall Square ("Raekoja Plats"), airport, train stations, and the Central Market, one must exercise special care in safeguarding valuables against purse-snatchers and pickpockets. Valuables should never be left unattended in vehicles and car doors should be kept locked at all times. Violent crime, though rarely directed against foreigners, does occur, mainly at night and often in proximity to nightlife areas. Car theft and breakins also continue to be a problem in Tallinn.

Police capabilities in Estonia are improving, but still suffer from lack of equipment, training, personnel and resources. Many police officers speak only very limited English. Credit card fraud is an ongoing concern, as is internet-based financial fraud and "internet dating" fraud. Travelers should take prudent precautions to safeguard their credit cards and report any suspected unauthorized transactions to the credit card company immediately. Racially motivated verbal and, on occasion, physical harassment of Americans of non-Caucasian ethnicity can occur. If an incident occurs, it should be reported to the Embassy.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

Medical Facilities: The quality of medical care in Estonia is improving but still falls short of Western standards. Estonia has many highly trained medical professionals, but hospitals and clinics still suffer from a lack of equipment and resources. Elderly travelers and those with health problems may be at increased risk.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.

Other Health Information: Cases of resistant strains of tuberculosis have been reported in Estonia. Visitors to forest areas in warm weather should also guard against tick-borne encephalitis. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Estonia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Fair

Driving in Estonia can be more dangerous than in much of the United States. Many roads, especially in rural areas, are poorly lit and not up to Western standards. Some drivers can be aggressive and drive above the speed limit. Pedestrians should be careful when crossing the streets, as drivers do not always stop at marked crosswalks. Wild animals, such as deer and moose, and icy road conditions can create unexpected hazards. Driving at night, especially in the countryside, can be particularly risky. Dark-clothed pedestrians walking along unlit roads or darting across dimly lit streets or highways pose a risk to unsuspecting drivers.

Local law requires that headlights be illuminated at all times while driving. Use of seatbelts by all passengers is required, and children too small to be secure in seatbelts must use child car seats. The speed limit is 50 km/h in town and 90 km/h out of town unless otherwise indicated. A right turn on a red light is prohibited unless otherwise indicated by a green arrow. Laws against driving under the influence of alcohol are strict and follow a policy of zero tolerance. It is not uncommon for the police to set up checkpoints on major streets and highways; drivers should pull over when asked. Americans planning to drive in Estonia must obtain an international driver's license prior to arrival.

For information about international driving permits, contact the AAA or the American Automobile Touring Alliance. The Eesti Autoklubi (Estonian Auto Club), which is affiliated with AAA, provides emergency roadside assistance. Drivers do not need to be a member to receive assistance. However, the fees charged are higher for non-members. The number to call for roadside vehicle assistance and towing service is 1888. For ambulance, fire or police assistance the number is 112. Please note that for both numbers, the level of English spoken by the operator answering may be minimal.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Estonian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Estonian Motor Vehicle Registration Center via the Internet at http://www.ark.ee/atp/eng. Additional information may be obtained from the English-language website of the Estonian Road Administration, http://www.mnt.ee/tsp/eng, or from http://www.balticroads.net/en.

Aviation Safety and Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the U.S. and Estonia by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Estonia's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

Customs Regulations: Estonia's customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information call (212) 354-4480, send an email to at [email protected], or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. A current list of those countries with serious problems in this regard can be found at http://www.ustr.gov/reports/2003/special1301.htm

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Estonia's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Estonia are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.

Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/family/index/html or telephone Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling form overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.

Registration/Embassy Location: Americans living or traveling in Estonia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Estonia. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Tallinn is located at Kentmanni 20, telephone (372) 668-8100; fax (372) 668-8267; emergency cell phone (011)(372) 509-2129 (if dialed from the U.S., and 509-2129 if dialed from within Estonia). The Embassy's home page on the Internet is at http://estonia.usembassy.gov.

International Adoption

January 2005

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this circular relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign legal counsel.

Availability of Children for Adoption: Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance to orphans:

FY-1997: IR-3 immigrant visas issued to Estonian orphans adopted abroad – 0; IR-4 immigrant visas issued to Estonian orphans adopted in the U.S.—0
FY-1998: IR-3 Visas—4,
IR-4 Visas – 2
FY-1999: IR-3 Visas—2,
IR-4 Visas – 1
FY-2000: IR-3 Visas—5,
IR-4 Visas – 2
FY-2001: IR-3 Visas—9,
IR-4 Visas—1

According to the Estonian Family Law only those children whose parents are deceased or whose parents have had their parental rights taken away may be adopted. There are few such children and long waiting lists of Estonian families who by law take precedence. According to the current law, healthy children should remain in Estonia. Only in cases where it is impossible to take sufficient care of a child in Estonia can that child be adopted internationally.

Adoption Authority:
Consultant of the Office of Child Protection
Ministry of Social Welfare of the Republic of Estonia
Gonsiori 29, Room 217
15027 Tallinn, Estonia

Adoption Procedures: Prospective adoptive parents interested in adopting a child in Estonia should send a letter to the Estonian Ministry of Social Welfare (MSW) or to the adoption agency listed below indicating the sex and age of the child(ren) they would be interested in adopting. This letter should include information on the adoptive parents' age and profession. Since foreign parents with Estonian background are given preference over foreigners with no Estonian heritage, adoptive parents should explain their ties to Estonia.

Once prospective adoptive parents are approved for adopting in Estonia, the MSW places them on a list and begins the process of locating a suitable the child. This process can be lengthy (several years or more) as the number of children that can be adopted by foreigners is quite limited (only about 20 children a year). When the MSW finds a child that seems to meet the adoptive parents' indicated desire, the MSW sends information about the child to the adoptive parents. If the adoptive parents would like to proceed with the adoption of the specific, proposed child, they must send the MSW a notarized application stating their request to adopt the child, indicating the child's first and last names. If the parents are not interested in the child the MSW proposes, they should notify the MSW and the MSW will continue searching for appropriate children. However, no more than three successive children will be offered to one prospective parent.

The new adoption law requires court approval of international adoptions and the adoptive parents' presence at the court hearing when the adoption is finalized. The orphanage where the child is living is then notified that the child can be released into the adoptive parents' custody. After the adoption has been approved, the adoptive parents get the right to change the child's name.

Age and Civil Status Requirements: An adopting parent should be at least 25 years old (in exceptional cases the Court may give permission to adopt to a younger person). A child may be adopted by a couple only if they are legally married (two people of the same sex cannot adopt in Estonia). An individual can adopt a child if he or she is not married, or if he or she is divorced and the spouse has given permission for the adoption.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: Prospective adoptive parents may contact the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn, Estonia for a list of adoption agencies that are allowed to operate in Estonia. Neither the U.S. Department of State, nor the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn, Estonia can make any claims as to efficacy or professionalism of this agency.

Prospective adoptive parents are allowed to use an attorney. However, as of October 1st, there will be no need for an attorney as prospective adoptive parents will be required to use an agency.

Documentary Requirements: Prospective adoptive parents must send a letter of interest to the Ministry of Social Welfare (MSW) directly or through their adoption agency. The MSW will inform prospective adoptive parents to send the following documents which should also be translated into Estonian by a certified translator:

1) Home study, reflecting the material ability of the prospective adoptive parents to bring up a child, their suitability as adoptive parents and a recommendation for adoption;

2) Medical examination results indicating the prospective adoptive parents' state of health;

3) Documents pertaining to the financial condition of the prospective adoptive parents;

4) Marriage certificate (or photocopy);

5) Photocopies of the prospective adoptive parents' passports;

6) Any other information the parents feel would be useful for the MSW to know, including family heritage, ties to Estonia, letters of reference, etc.

Authentication of Documents: U.S. civil records, such as, birth, death, and marriage certificates must bear the seal of the issuing office, then be authenticated by the states' Secretary of State in your state capital, the U.S. Department of State Authentications Office, and finally by the Estonian Embassy or Consulate in the United States. For additional information about authentication procedures, please see the Judicial Assistance page of the Bureau of Consular Affairs Web site at http://travel.state.gov.

Embassy of Estonia in the United States
2131 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington DC 20008
Tel: (202)-588-0101;
Fax: (202)-588-0108

U.S. Immigration Requirements: An Estonian child adopted by a U.S. citizen must obtain an immigrant visa before he or she can enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family

Upon arrival in Tallinn, prospective adoptive parent(s) should register at the Consular Section, American Citizens Services Section of the American Embassy. The Embassy will be able to provide information about any outstanding travel advisories, any recent changes in adoption procedures and other information about the country, including lists of physicians, attorneys, interpreters and translators.

U.S. Embassy in Tallinn, Estonia
U.S. Embassy
Kentmanni 20
Tallinn, Estonia
Tel: 011-372-668-8100;Fax: 011-372-668-8267
E-mail: [email protected]

Visa Processing: The I-600 is filed at a U.S. Embassy after an adoptive parent has legal custody of a child. Immigrant visa processing for Estonian orphans is conducted at the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki, Finland. If an I-600A has already been approved, there is no additional fee for the I-600. However, if parents are adopting two or more biologically unrelated children, there will be a $525.00 fee for the second child.

Visa Fees: Once the child has an approved I-600 and the adoption is final, the family will be given the forms to schedule a medical exam with one of the Embassy's panel physicians. An interview will follow. The child must appear in person at the interview. In addition to the $525.00 filing fee for the I-600 petition (not applicable if the I-600A has been filed within one year of the I-600), there are other fees in the immigrant visa process.

Medical Exam: $55.00 (paid to panel physician)

Visa Application fee: $335.00

Visa Issuance fee: $65.00

The Embassy accepts payment of the visa fees in cash or by money order, in U.S. dollars or Finnish currency.

Questions: Specific questions regarding adoption in Estonia may be addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Estonia or the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki. You may also contact the Office of Children's Issues, SA-29, 2201 C Street, NW, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-2818, telephone 1-888-407-4747 with specific questions.

views updated

ESTONIA

Compiled from the October 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Estonia


PROFILE

Geography

Area:

45,226 sq. km. (17,462 sq. mi.); about the size of New Hampshire and Vermont.

Cities:

Capital—Tallinn (pop. 397,150). Other cities—Tartu (101,190); Narva (67,752); Kohtla-Jarve (46,765); Parnu (44,781); Viljandi (20,509). The last population census was held in 2000.

Terrain:

Flat, average elevation 50 m. Elevation is slightly higher in the east and southeast. Steep limestone banks and 1,520 islands mark the coastline. Land use—9.5% arable land, 47,4% forest and woodland, 22% swamps and bogs, 21.5% other. Coastal waters are somewhat polluted.

Climate:

Temperate, with four seasons of near-equal length. Annual precipitation averages 50-75 cm.

People

Nationality:

Noun and adjective—Estonian(s).

Population:

1.332 million.

Annual growth rate:

−0.65%. Birth rate—9.3/1,000. Death rate—13.6/1,000. Migration—616 persons (1999). Density—30/sq. km. Urban dwellers—70%.

Ethnic groups:

Estonians 65%, Russians 28%, Ukrainians 2.5%, Belarusians 1.4%, Finns 0.9%, other 2.2%.

Religion:

Lutheran; the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox, subordinated to Constantinople; the Estonian Orthodox, subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate; Baptist.

Language:

Estonian (official).

Education:

Years compulsory—9. Attendance—218,600 students at 550 schools, plus 50,800 university students. Literacy—98.2%.

Health:

Infant mortality rate—7.87 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy—65 yrs. men, 76 yrs. women.

Work force:

704,500.

Government

Type:

Parliamentary democracy.

Constitution:

On June 28, 1992 Estonians ratified a constitution based on the 1938 model, offering legal continuity to the Republic of Estonia prior to Soviet occupation.

Branches:

Executive—president (chief of state), elected by Parliament every 5 years; prime minister (head of government). Legislative—Riigikogu (Parliament—101 members, 4-year term). Judicial—Supreme Court.

Administrative regions:

15 counties, 42 towns, and 205 municipalities.

Political parties/coalitions:

Estonian Center Party—Chairman, Edgar Savisaar/Coalition; Estonian Reform Party—Chairman, Andrus Ansip/Coalition; Pro Patria Union—Chairman, Mart Laar; Estonian People's Union—Chairman, Villu Reiljan/Coalition; Moderates—Chairman, Ivari Padar; Estonian United People's Party—Chairman, Jevgeni Tomberg; Estonian Social Democratic Labor Party—Chairman, Tiit Toomsalu; Estonian Independence Party—Chairman, Vello Leit; Res Publica—Chairman, Juhan Parts; Estonian Christian People's Party—Chairman, Aldo Vinkel; Russian Party in Estonia—Chairman, Stanislav Cherepanov; Estonian Democratic Party—Chairman, Jaan Laas; Republican Party—Chairman, Kristjan-Olari Leping.

Suffrage:

Universal at 18 years of age; noncitizen residents may vote in municipal elections.

Government budget:

$2.3 billion.

Defense:

2% of GDP.

National holidays:

Jan. 1 (New Year's Day), Feb. 24 (Independence Day), Good Friday, Easter Sunday, May 1 (May Day), Whitsunday, June 23 (Victory Day—anniversary of Battle of Vonnu in 1919), June 24 (Midsummer Day), Aug. 20 (Day of Restoration of Independence), Dec. 25 (Christmas Day), Dec. 26 (Boxing Day).

Government of Estonia Web site:

http://www.riik.ee/en/

Economy

GDP (2005 est.):

$19.2 billion (World Bank).

Growth rate (2004):

6%.

Per capita GDP (2004):

$14,500.

Inflation (2004):

3.0%.

Unemployment (2004):

9.6%.

Natural resources:

Oil shale, phosphorite, limestone, blue clay.

Agriculture (3% of 2001 GDP):

Products—livestock production (milk, meat, eggs) and crop production (cereals and legumes, potatoes, forage crops). Cultivable land—433,100 hectares.

Industry (26% of 2002 GDP):

Types—engineering, electronics, wood and wood products, and textiles.

Services (70% of 2002 GDP):

Transit, information technology (IT), telecommunications.

Trade:

Exports (2004)—$5.7 billion. Partners—Finland 16.6%, Sweden 11.1%, U.K. 8.6%, Russia 6.9%, Latvia 7.4%, Germany 7.2%, U.S. 5.5%, Lithuania 4%. Imports (2004)—$7.3 billion. Partners—Finland 20%, Germany 11%, Russia 13%, Sweden 8%.

Exchange rate (2004):

12.5 kroon EEK=U.S.$1.

Foreign direct investment (June 2003):

Sweden 39%, Finland 30%, Netherlands 6%, U.S. 7%, Norway 3%, Denmark 2%, Germany 2%.


GEOGRAPHY

Between 57.3 and 59.5 latitude and 21.5 and 28.1 longitude, Estonia lies on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea on the level, northwestern part of the rising East European platform. Average elevation reaches only 50 meters (160 ft.).

The climate resembles New England's. Oil shale and limestone deposits, along with forests that cover 47% of the land, play key economic roles in this generally resource-poor country. Estonia boasts more than 1,500 lakes, numerous bogs, and 3,794 kilometers of coastline marked by numerous bays, straits, and inlets. Tallinn's Muuga port offers one of Europe's finest warmwater harbor facilities.

Estonia's strategic location has precipitated many wars that were fought on its territory between other rival powers at its expense. In 1944 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) granted Russia the trans-Narva and Petseri regions on Estonia's eastern frontier. Russia and Estonia signed a border treaty in 2005 recognizing the current border. Estonia ratified the treaty in June 2005, but Russia has not yet done so.


PEOPLE

The name "Eesti," or Estonia, is derived from the word "Aestii," the name given by the ancient Germans to the peoples living northeast of the Vistula River. The Roman historian Tacitus in 98 A.D. was the first to mention the "Aestii" people, and early Scandinavians called the land south of the Gulf of Finland "Eistland," and the people "eistr." Estonians belong to the Balto-Finnic group of the Finno-Ugric peoples, as do the Finns and Hungarians. Archaeological research supports the existence of human activity in the region as early as 8,000 BC but by 3,500 BC the principal ancestors of the Estonians had arrived from the east.

Estonians have strong ties to the Nordic countries today stemming from strong cultural and religious influences gained over centuries during Scandinavian colonization and settlement. This highly literate society places strong emphasis upon education, which is free and compulsory until age 16. The first book in Estonian was printed in 1525. About 20% of the population belongs to the following churches registered in Estonia: Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, Estonian Orthodox Church subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate, Baptist Church, Roman Catholic Church, and others.

From 1945-1989 the percentage of ethnic Estonians in Estonia dropped from 94% to 61%, caused primarily by the Soviet program promoting mass immigration of urban industrial workers from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, as well as by wartime emigration and Soviet premier Josif Stalin's mass deportations and executions.

Written with the Latin alphabet, Estonian is the language of the Estonian people and the official language of the country. One-third of the standard vocabulary is derived from adding suffixes to root words. The oldest known examples of written Estonian originate in 13th century chronicles. During the Soviet era, the Russian language was imposed for official use.


HISTORY

Estonians are one of the longest-settled European peoples, whose forebears, known as the "comb pottery" people, lived on the southeastern shores of the Baltic Sea over 5,000 years ago. Like other early agricultural societies, Estonians were organized into economically self-sufficient, male-dominated clans with few differences in wealth or social power. By the early Middle Ages most Estonians were small landholders, with farmsteads primarily organized by village. Estonian government remained decentralized, with local political and administrative subdivisions emerging only during the first century A.D. By then, Estonia had a population of more than 150,000 people and remained the last corner of medieval Europe to be Christianized.

In 1227 the German crusading order of the Sword Brethren defeated the last Estonian stronghold. The people were Christianized, colonized, and enserfed. Despite attempts to restore independence, Estonia was divided among three domains, and small states were formed. Tallinn joined the Hanseatic League in 1248.

Despite successful Russian raids and invasions in 1481 and 1558, the local German barons continued to rule Estonia and from 1524 preserved Estonian commitment to the Protestant Reformation. Northern Estonia submitted to Swedish control in 1561 during the Livonian Wars, and in 1582-83 southern Estonia (Livonia) became part of Poland's Duchy of Courland.

In 1625, mainland Estonia came entirely under Swedish rule. In 1631, the Swedish king Gustav II Adolf granted the peasantry greater autonomy, opened the first known Estonian-language school in Tallinn, and in 1632 established a printing press and university in the city of Tartu. Sweden's defeat by Russia in 1721 resulted in the Uusikaupunki Peace Treaty, and Russian rule was then imposed in what became modern Estonia. Nonetheless, the legal system, Lutheran church, local and town governments, and education remained mostly German until the late 19th century and partially until 1918.

By 1819, the Baltic provinces were the first in the Russian empire in which serfdom was abolished, allowing the peasants to own their own land or move to the cities. These moves created the economic foundation for the Estonian national cultural awakening that had lain dormant for some 600 years of foreign rule. Estonia was caught in a current of national awakening that began sweeping through Europe in the mid-1800s.

A cultural movement sprang forth to adopt the use of Estonian as the language of instruction in schools, all-Estonian song festivals were held regularly after 1869, and a national literature in Estonian developed. Kalevipoeg, Estonia's epic national poem, was published in 1861 in both Estonian and German.

As the 1905 revolution in Russia swept through Estonia, the Estonians called for freedom of the press and assembly, for universal franchise, and for national autonomy. The uprisings were brutally suppressed, and Estonian gains were minimal, but the tense stability that prevailed between 1905 and 1917 allowed Estonians to advance the aspiration of national statehood.

With the collapse of the Russian empire in World War I, Russia's provisional government granted

national autonomy to Estonia. A popularly elected assembly (Maapaev) was formed but was quickly forced underground by opposing extremist political forces. The Committee of Elders of the underground Maapaev announced the Republic of Estonia on February 24, 1918, 1 day before German troops invaded. After the withdrawal of German troops in November 1918, fighting broke out between Bolshevik and Estonian troops. On February 2, 1920, the Treaty of Tartu was signed by the Republic of Estonia and Soviet Russia. The terms of the treaty stated that Soviet Russia renounced in perpetuity all rights to the territory of Estonia.

Independence lasted 22 years. Estonia underwent a number of economic, social, and political reforms necessary to come to terms with its new status as a sovereign state. Economically and socially, land reform in 1919 was the most important step. Large estate holdings belonging to the Baltic nobility were redistributed among the peasants and especially among volunteers in the War of Independence. Estonia's principal markets became Scandinavia, Great Britain, and western Europe, with some exports to the United States and Soviet Union.

The first constitution of the Republic of Estonia, adopted in 1920, established a parliamentary form of government. The Parliament (Riigikogu) consisted of 100 members elected for 3-year terms. Between 1921 and 1931, Estonia had 11 governments. Konstantin Päts was installed as the first President of the republic in 1938.

The independence period was one of great cultural advancement. Estonian language schools were established, and artistic life of all kinds flourished. One of the more notable cultural acts of the independence period, unique in western Europe at the time of its passage in 1925, was a guarantee of cultural autonomy to minority groups comprising at least 3,000 persons, and to Jews.

Estonia had pursued a policy of neutrality, but the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Nonaggression Pact on August 23, 1939 signaled the end of independence. The agreement provided for the Soviet occupation of Estonia, Latvia, Finland, and later, Lithuania, in return for Nazi Germany's assuming control over most of Poland. After extensive diplomatic intrigue, the Estonian Socialist Republic (E.S.R.) was proclaimed on July 21, 1940, 1 month after Estonia was occupied by Soviet troops. The E.S.R. was formally accepted into the Soviet Union on August 6, and the official name of the country became the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic (E.S.S.R.).

Soviet occupation was accompanied by expropriation of property, Sovietization of cultural life, and Stalinist communism permeating political life. On June 14, 1941, mass deportations took place simultaneously in all three Baltic states. Officially, nothing was said about the arrests, and no one was prosecuted or sentenced.

When Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, most Estonians greeted the Germans with relatively open arms and hoped to restore independence. It soon became clear that sovereignty was out of the question. Estonia became a part of "Ostland." Massive repression continued. About 5,500 Estonians died in concentration camps.

In World War II Estonia suffered huge losses. Ports were destroyed, and 45% of industry and 40% of the railways were damaged. Estonia's population decreased by one-fifth (about 200,000 people). Some 10% of the population (more than 80,000 people) fled to the West between 1940 and 1944. More than 30,000 soldiers were killed in battles. In 1944 Russian air raids destroyed Narva, and one-third of the residential area in Tallinn was destroyed. By late September 1944, Soviet forces expelled the last German troops from Estonia, ushering in a second phase of Soviet rule. That year, Moscow also transferred the Estonian Narva and Petseri border districts, which held a large percentage of ethnic Russians, to Russian control. In 1944, there were massive arrests of people who had actively supported the German occupation or been disloyal to Soviet order.

An anti-Soviet guerrilla movement known as "the Forest Brethren" developed in the countryside, reaching its zenith in 1946-48. In March 1949, 20,722 people (2.5% of population) were deported to Siberia. By the beginning of the 1950s, the occupying regime had suppressed the resistance movement.

After the war the Communist Party of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic (ECP) became the preeminent organization in the republic. The ethnic Estonian share in the total ECP membership decreased from 90% in 1941 to 48% in 1952.

After Stalin's death, party membership vastly expanded its social base to include more ethnic Estonians. By the mid-1960s, the percentage of ethnic Estonian membership stabilized near 50%. On the eve of perestroika the ECP claimed about 100,000 members; less than half were ethnic Estonians and comprised less than 2% of the country's population.

A positive aspect of the post-Stalin era in Estonia was a reopening in the late 1950s of citizens' contacts with foreign countries. Ties were reactivated with Finland, and in the 1960s, Estonians began watching Finnish television. This electronic "window on the West" afforded Estonians more information on current affairs and more access to Western culture and thought than any other group in the Soviet Union. This heightened media environment was important in preparing Estonians for their vanguard role in extending perestroika during the era of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

In the late 1970s, Estonian society grew increasingly concerned about the threat of cultural Russification to the Estonian language and national identity. By 1981, Russian was taught in the first grade of Estonian language schools and also was introduced into the Estonian pre-school teaching.

By the beginning of the Gorbachev era, concern over the cultural survival of the Estonian people had reached a critical point. The ECP remained stable in the early perestroika years but waned in the late 1980s. Other political movements, groupings, and parties moved to fill the power vacuum. The first and most important was the Estonian Popular Front, established in April 1988 with its own platform, leadership, and broad constituency. The Greens and the dissident-led Estonian National Independence Party soon followed. By 1989, the political spectrum widened, and new parties were formed and re-formed almost daily.

The republic's Supreme Soviet transformed into an authentic regional lawmaking body. This relatively conservative legislature passed an early declaration of sovereignty (November 1988); a law on economic independence (May 1989) confirmed by the U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet that November; a language law making Estonian the official language (January 1989); and local and republic election laws stipulating residency requirements for voting and candidacy (August, November 1989).

Although not all non-Estonians supported full independence, they were divided in their goals for the republic. In March 1990 some 18% of Russian speakers supported the idea of a fully independent Estonia, up from 7% the previous autumn, and only a small group of Estonians were opposed to full independence in early 1990. Estonia held free elections for the 105-member Supreme Soviet on March 18, 1990. All residents of Estonia were eligible to participate in the elections, including the approximately 50,000 Soviet troops stationed there. The Popular Front coalition, composed of left and centrist parties and led by former Central Planning Committee official Edgar Savisaar, held a parliamentary majority. In May 1990, the name of the Republic of Estonia was restored, public use of the symbols of the E.S.S.R. (anthem, flag, and coat of arms) were forbidden, and only laws adopted in Estonia were proclaimed valid.

Despite the emergence of the new lawmaking body, an alternative legislature developed in Estonia. In February 1990, a body known as the Congress of Estonia was elected in unofficial and unsanctioned elections. Supporters of the Congress argued that the inter-war republic continued to exist de jure: Since Estonia was forcibly annexed by the U.S.S.R., only citizens of that republic and their descendants could decide Estonia's future.

Through a strict, nonconfrontational policy in pursuing independence, Estonia managed to avoid the violence which Latvia and Lithuania incurred in the bloody January 1991 crackdowns and in the border-customs post guard murders that summer. During the August coup in the U.S.S.R., Estonia was able to maintain constant operation and control of its telecommunications facilities, thereby offering the West a clear view into the latest coup developments and serving as a conduit for swift Western support and recognition of Estonia's redeclaration of independence on August 20, 1991. Following Europe's lead, the United States formally reestablished diplomatic relations with Estonia on September 2, and the U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet offered recognition on September 6, 1991.

After more than 3 years of negotiations, on August 31, 1994, the armed forces of the Russian Federation withdrew from Estonia. Since regaining independence Estonia has had 12 governments with 8 prime ministers: Edgar Savisaar, Tiit Vähi, Mart Laar, Andres Tarand, Mart Siimann, Siim Kallas, Juhan Parts, and Andrus Ansip.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

On June 28, 1992, Estonian voters approved the constitutional assembly's draft constitution and implementation act, which established a parliamentary government with a president as chief of state and with a government headed by a prime minister.

The Riigikogu, a unicameral legislative body, is the highest organ of state authority. It initiates and approves legislation sponsored by the prime minister. The prime minister has full responsibility and control over his cabinet. Parliamentary and presidential elections were held on September 20, 1992. Approximately 68% of the country's 637,000 registered voters cast ballots. An outstanding writer and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lennart Meri, won on the first ballot and became President. He chose 32-year-old historian and Christian Democratic Party founder Mart Laar as Prime Minister.

In February 1992, and with amendments in January 1995, the Riigikogu renewed Estonia's liberal 1938 citizenship law, which also provides equal civil protection to resident aliens.

In 1996, Estonia ratified a border agreement with Latvia and completed work with Russia on a technical border agreement. President Meri was re-elected in free and fair indirect elections in August and September 1996. During parliamentary elections in 1999, the seats in Riigikogu were divided as follows: the Center Party received 28, the Pro Patria Union 18, the Reform Party 18, the Moderates 17 seats. Pro Patria Union, the Reform Party, and the Moderates formed a government with Mart Laar as Prime Minister whereas the Center Party with the Coalition Party, People's Union, United People's Party, and members of parliament who were not members of factions formed the opposition in the Riigikogu.

In the fall of 2001, Arnold Rüütel became the President of the Republic of Estonia. In January 2002, Prime Minister Laar stepped down, and President Ruutel appointed Siim Kallas the new Prime Minister. The Reform Party and the Center Party formed a new coalition government in power as of January 28, 2002. Parliamentary elections were held on March 2, 2003. A coalition government comprised of the Res Publica, Reform, and the Peoples' Union Parties took office in April 2003. President Rüütel appointed Juhan Parts of Res Publica as Prime Minister.

On March 24, 2005, the coalition government led by Juhan Parts fell following passage of a no confidence motion in the Riigikogu. Reform Party Chairman Andrus Ansip became the new Prime Minister on April 13, 2005, leading a coalition of the Reform, Center, and People's Union parties.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 10/13/2005

President: Arnold RUUTEL
Prime Minister: Andrus ANSIP
Min. of Agriculture: Ester TUIKSOO
Min. of Culture: Raivo PALMARU
Min. of Defense: Jurgen LIGI
Min. of Economics & Communications: Edgar SAVISAAR
Min. of Education & Science: Mailis REPS
Min. of Environment: Villu REILJAN
Min. of Finance: Aivar SOERD
Min. of Foreign Affairs: Urmas PAET
Min. of Interior: Kalle LAANET
Min. of Justice: Rein LANG
Min. of Law Enforcement & Regional Affairs: Jaan OUNAPUU
Min. of Population: Paul-Erik RUUMO
Min. of Social Affairs: Jaak AAB
Pres., Estonian Central Bank: Vahur KRAFT
Ambassador to the US: Juri LUIK
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Tiina INTELMANN

Estonia maintains an embassy in the United States at 2131 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20008 (tel: [1] (202) 588-0101; fax: [1] (202) 588-0108). It operates a consulate at 600 Third Avenue, 26th Floor, New York, NY 10016-2001 (tel: [1] (212) 883-0636; fax: [1] (212) 883-0648).


ECONOMY

For centuries until 1920, Estonian agriculture consisted of native peasants working large feudal-type estates held by ethnic German landlords. In the decades prior to 1918 independence, centralized czarist rule had contributed a rather large industrial sector dominated by the world's largest cotton mill, a ruined postwar economy, and an inflated ruble currency. In years 1920 to 1930, Estonia entirely transformed its economy, despite considerable hardship, dislocation, and unemployment. Compensating the German landowners for their holdings, the government confiscated the estates and divided them into small farms which subsequently formed the basis of Estonian prosperity.

By 1929, a stable currency, the kroon (or crown), was established. Trade focused on the local market and the West, particularly Germany and the United Kingdom. Only 3% of all commerce was with the U.S.S.R.

The U.S.S.R.'s forcible annexation of Estonia in 1940 and the ensuing Nazi and Soviet destruction during World War II crippled the Estonian economy. Postwar Sovietization of life continued with the integration of Estonia's economy and industry into the U.S.S.R.'s centrally planned structure. More than 56% of Estonian farms were collectivized in the month of April 1949 alone. Moscow expanded on Estonian industries that had locally available raw materials, such as oil-shale mining and phosphorites. As a laboratory for economic experiments, especially in industrial management techniques, Estonia enjoyed more success and greater prosperity than other regions under Soviet rule.

Since re-establishing independence in 1991, Estonia has styled itself as the gateway between East and West and aggressively pursued economic reform and integration with the West. Estonia's market reforms put it among the economic leaders in the former Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) area. A balanced budget, flat-rate income tax, free trade regime, fully convertible currency, competitive commercial banking sector, and hospitable environment for foreign investment are hallmarks of Estonia's free-market-based economy. Estonia also has made excellent progress in regard to structural adjustment.

The privatization of state-owned firms is virtually complete, with only the port and the main power plants remaining in government hands. The constitution requires a balanced budget, and the protection afforded by Estonia's intellectual property laws is on a par with that of Europe's. In early 1992 both liquidity problems and structural weakness stemming from the communist era precipitated a banking crisis. As a result, effective bankruptcy legislation was enacted, and privately owned, well-managed banks emerged as market leaders. Today, near-ideal conditions for the banking sector exist. Foreigners are not restricted from buying bank shares or acquiring majority holdings.

Tallinn's fully electronic Stock Exchange opened in early 1996 and was bought out by Finland's Helsinki Stock Exchange in 2001. It is estimated that the unregistered economy provides almost 12% of annual gross domestic product (GDP).

Estonia is nearly energy independent, supplying more than 90% of its electricity needs with locally mined oil shale. Alternative energy sources such as wood, peat, and biomass make up about 9% of primary energy production. Estonia imports needed petroleum products from western Europe and Russia. Oil shale energy, telecommunications, textiles, chemical products, banking, services, food and fishing, timber, shipbuilding, electronics, and transportation are key sectors of the economy. The ice-free port of Muuga, near Tallinn, is a modern facility featuring good transshipment capability, a high-capacity grain elevator, chill/frozen storage, and brand-new oil tanker off-loading capabilities. The railroad, privatized by an international consortium in 2000, serves as a conduit between the West, Russia, and other points to the east.

Estonia still faces challenges. Agricultural privatization has caused severe problems for farmers needing collateral to be eligible for loans. The income differential between Tallinn and the rest of the country is widening. Standards of living have eroded for the large portion of the population on fixed pensions. The formerly industrial northeast section of Estonia is undergoing a severe economic depression as a result of plant closings.

During recent years the Estonian economy has continued to grow. Estonian GDP grew by 6.5% in 2001 and by 6.0% in 2002. Inflation declined modestly to 4.2% in 2001; for 2002 the inflation rate was 2.7%. The unemployment rate in 2002 was 10.6%. Estonia joined the World Trade Organization in 1999. Estonia concluded European Union (EU) accession negotiations in December 2002 and signed the EU Accession Treaty in April 2003. In a September 2003 referendum, Estonian citizens voted to amend their constitution and join the European Union. Estonia formally joined the EU on May 1, 2004, one of 10 states, mostly from eastern Europe, to join the Union on that date. While the effects of EU membership will not be measurable in the short term, membership will likely have a positive influence on Estonia's gross domestic product, exports of goods and services, and the inflow of foreign investment.

Foreign Trade

Estonia's liberal foreign trade regime, which contains few tariff or non-tariff barriers, is nearly unique in Europe. Estonia also boasts a national currency that is freely convertible at a fixed exchange rate, and conservative fiscal and monetary policies.

Estonia's business attitude toward the United States is positive, and business relations between the United States and Estonia are increasing significantly. The primary competition for American companies in the Estonian marketplace is European suppliers, especially Finnish and Swedish companies.

Total U.S. exports to Estonia in 2002 were $164 million, forming 3% of total Estonian imports. In 2002 the principal imports from the United States were meat and edible meat offal, poultry, boilers, and other electrical machinery and transmission/recording apparatus for radio/TV. The May 2004 round of EU expansion is likely to yield, over time, positive benefits for U.S. business. However, Estonia's membership is disadvantageous for certain U.S. exports to Estonia. For example, since January 2000 Estonia has imposed import tariffs on certain agricultural products from third countries, including the United States, in accordance with EU rules and regulations.

Estonia, being a small country of 1.4 million people, relies on its greatest natural asset—its location at the crossroads of East and West. Estonia lies just south of Finland and across the Baltic Sea from Sweden, both EU members. To the east are the huge potential markets of northwest Russia. Having been a member of the former Soviet Union, Estonians know how to do business in Russia and in other former Soviet countries. Estonia's modern transportation and communication links provide a safe and reliable bridge for trade with former Soviet Union and Nordic countries. According to the RIPE Network Coordination Centre (www.ripe.net), Estonia has the highest Internet-connected hosts/population ratio in central and eastern Europe and also is ahead of most other EU countries. Latest surveys indicate that 41% of the Estonian population regard themselves as Internet users.

Country Commercial Guides are available for U.S. exporters from the National Trade Data Bank's CDROM or via the Internet. Please contact STAT-USA at 1-800-STAT-USA for more information. Country Commercial Guides can be accessed via the World Wide Web at the U.S. Department of Commerce's site. They also can be ordered in hard copy or on diskette from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) at 1-800-553-NTIS. U.S. exporters seeking general export information/assistance and country-specific commercial information should contact the U.S. Department of Commerce, Trade Information Center by phone at 1-800-USA-TRAD(E) or by fax at 1-202-482-4473.


DEFENSE

Estonia achieved its main security and defense policy objective by accepting a formal invitation at Prague in November 2002 to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Alliance. Accession to NATO has been included in all coalition agreements of all Estonian governments since the 1991 restoration of independence, including the present government. The same objective also is stated in the National Security Concept of the Republic of Estonia, approved by the Parliament in March 2001. Estonia officially became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on March 29, 2004 after depositing its instruments of treaty ratification in Washington, DC.

The 2003 state budget allocated 2% of GDP for defense expenditures. The United States is among the countries with which Estonia has very intensive cooperation in the defense and security field.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

Estonia is a party to 181 international organizations, including Bank for International Settlements (BIS), Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS), Customs Cooperation Council (CCC), Council of Europe (CE), Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), European Union (EU), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, or World Bank), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (ICRM), International Finance Corporation (IFC), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRCS), International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), International Labor Organization (ILO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Maritime Organization (IMO), International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), International Olympic Committee (IOC), International Organization for Migration (IOM, observer), International Organization for Standardization (ISO, correspondent), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Partnership for Peace (PFP), United Nations (UN), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH), United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), Universal Postal Union (UPU), Western European Union (WEU, associate partner), World Health Organization (WHO), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), World Meteorological Organization (WMO), World Trade Organization (WTO).


U.S.-ESTONIA RELATIONS

The relationship between Estonia and the United States of America has been constant and strong since Estonia first became independent. Because of its global political and economic influence, the United States is one of Estonia's most important partners.

The United States recognized the Republic of Estonia on July 28, 1922. The first Estonian diplomatic mission in the United States was opened in the same year. It continued its activities throughout the period of illegal occupation by the Soviet Union from 1940 to 1991. U.S. authorities recognized Estonia's diplomatic mission as a legal representative of the Republic of Estonia. Indeed, the recognition of the legal continuity of the Republic of Estonia has been the cornerstone of Estonian-U.S. relations.

The U.S. reopened its Embassy in Tallinn on September 4, 1991, soon after the restoration of Estonia's de facto independence on August 20, 1991. Relations between the two countries have since developed at a rapid pace.

The U.S. Ambassador to Estonia is Aldona Zofia Wos. Mr. Jüri Luik has been Estonia's Ambassador to the United States since September 2003. Estonia also is represented in the United States by a Consulate General in New York and three Honorary Consuls: Jaak Treiman in Los Angeles, Mart Kask in Seattle, and Scott E. Schul in Maine.

U.S.-Baltic Charter

The Presidents of the United States, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania signed the U.S.-Baltic Charter in Washington on January 16, 1998. The main goals of this charter are to support Estonia's, Latvia's, and Lithuania's full integration into European and transatlantic structures, and to establish the general principles and aims for cooperation. The charter underlines the importance of political, defense, security, and economic cooperation. It is a statement of the United States' real, profound, and enduring interest in the security and independence of the Baltic states.

The U.S. commitment toward the Baltic and Nordic states has been reaffirmed with the articulation of the Enhanced Partnership in Northern Europe (e-PINE) in October 2003. E-PINE recognizes the progress made in the region over the preceding decade as well as the challenges that remain, both in the region and with states beyond the borders of an expanding EU and NATO. E-PINE seeks to build on past success and existing habits of multilateral cooperation in the region. Through e-PINE, the United States is engaging all eight Nordic and Baltic states on a shared agenda that focuses on three areas: political security; healthy societies and healthy neighbors; and vibrant economies. To carry out this coordination, e-PINE includes a forum for "8 plus 1" cooperation as well as contacts among the states at the working level.

E-PINE represents the evolution of the previous guiding U.S. policy, the Northern Europe Initiative (NEI). NEI, launched in 1997, promoted regional cooperation in northern Europe as a way of further integrating the Baltic states and northwest Russia and of strengthening our relations with the Nordic countries. NEI programs addressed key problems in Estonia and its neighbors—including HIV/AIDS, environmental pollution, corruption, and social integration—and built cross-border linkages to contribute to stability and security.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

TALLINN (E) Address: Kentmanni 20, Tallinn 15099, Estonia; APO/FPO: PSC 78, Box T, APO AE 09723; Phone: (372) 668-8100; Fax: (372) 668-8266; Workweek: 8:30 - 17:30; Website: http://www.usemb.ee/

AMB:Wos, Aldona Z.
AMB OMS:Cummings, Renee M.
DCM:Goldstein, Jeffrey L.
DCM OMS:Pirinen Valme, Anni K.
POL:Dwyer, Stuart A.
CON:Deuerlein, Rodger J.
MGT:Scharpf, Norman
CLO:Shedd, Barbara
DAO:Shuey, Karin
ECO:Adams-Smith, Kelly
EEO:Deuerlein, Rodger J.
GSO:Adams-Smith, Steve
ICASS Chair:Henry, Marco
IMO:Martin, Wade C.
ISO:DeRousse, Richard
LEGATT:Nixon, James
PAO:Johnson, Eric A.
RSO:Shedd, Matthew A.
State ICASS:Adams-Smith, Kelly
Last Updated: 12/22/2005

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

October 12, 2005

Country Description:

Estonia is a stable democracy with a rapidly developing economy. It has experienced significant success in reforming its political and economic institutions since regaining independence in 1991. Tourist facilities in Tallinn are comparable to other western European cities, but some amenities may be lacking in rural areas. Some goods and services may not be available outside of major cities. English is widely spoken and understood in Tallinn and, to a lesser extent, in other cities.

Entry/Exit Requirements:

A valid passport is required. Tourists and business travelers may stay in Estonia for up to 90 days within a six-month period without a visa. U.S. citizens who wish to work in Estonia or remain longer than 90 days must obtain a visa or residence permit. For further information concerning entry requirements and residency permits, contact the Estonian Embassy, located at 2131 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 588-0101, or the Consulate General of Estonia in New York City, telephone (212) 883-0636. Visit the Embassy of Estonia web site at http://www.estemb.org for the most current visa information.

Safety and Security:

Civil unrest is not a problem in Estonia, and there have been no incidents of terrorism directed toward American interests. Large public gatherings and demonstrations may occur on occasion, caused mainly by domestic political issues. In March 2003, several hundred demonstrators gathered in front of the U.S. Embassy to protest against American military action in Iraq. A small group of hooligans then damaged an Embassy vehicle and vandalized the Embassy building.

While there have been no similar events since that time, we wish to remind American citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and therefore public protests should be avoided if possible.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime:

Estonia is a relatively safe country, although crime in Tallinn's "Old Town" is an ongoing concern, particularly during the summer tourist season. Travelers should exercise the same precautions with regard to their personal safety and belongings they would take in major U.S. cities. The most common crimes encountered by foreign tourists are purse snatching, pick-pocketing, and mugging. Tourists are often targeted by individuals and small groups of thieves working together. In public places such as the Town Hall Square ("Raekoja Plats") airport, train stations, and the Central Market, one must exercise special care in safeguarding valuables against purse-snatchers and pickpockets. Valuables should never be left unattended in vehicles and car doors should be kept locked at all times. Violent crime, though rarely directed against foreigners, does occur, mainly at night and often in proximity to nightlife areas. Car theft and break-ins also continue to be a problem in Tallinn.

Police capabilities in Estonia are improving, but still suffer from lack of equipment, training, personnel and resources. Many police officers speak only very limited English. Credit card fraud is an ongoing concern, as is internet-based financial fraud and "internet dating" fraud. Travelers should take prudent precautions to safeguard their credit cards and report any suspected unauthorized transaction to the credit card company immediately. Racially motivated verbal and, on occasion, physical harassment of Americans of non-Caucasian ethnicity can occur. If an incident occurs, it should be reported to the Embassy.

Information for Victims of Crime:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information:

The quality of medical care in Estonia continues to improve but still falls short of Western standards. Estonia has many highly trained medical professionals, but hospitals and clinics still suffer from a lack of equipment and resources. Elderly travelers and those with health problems may be at increased risk. Visitors to forest areas in warm weather should also guard against tick-borne encephalitis.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Estonia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Driving in Estonia can be more dangerous than in much of the United States. Many roads, especially in rural areas, are poorly lit and are not up to Western standards. Some drivers can be aggressive, recklessly overtaking vehicles and traveling at high speed, even in crowded urban areas. Estonian laws against driving under the influence of alcohol are strict and follow a policy of zero tolerance. Unfortunately, accidents involving intoxicated drivers are distressingly frequent. It is not uncommon for the police to set up checkpoints on major streets and highways; drivers should pull over when asked. Drivers should always remain alert to the possibility of drunk drivers and drunken pedestrians.

Estonian traffic laws require drivers to stop for all pedestrians in marked crosswalks. Nevertheless, Estonian motorist do not always comply with this regulation, and pedestrians should always be careful when crossing the streets. In rural areas, wild animals, such as deer and moose, and icy road conditions can create unexpected hazards. Dark-clothed or drunken pedestrians walking along unlit roads or darting across dimly-lit streets or highways pose a risk to unsuspecting drivers. Winter roads are usually treated and cleared of snow, but drivers should remain vigilant for icy patches and large potholes.

Local law requires that headlights be illuminated at all times while driving. Use of a seatbelts by all passengers is required, and children too small to be secure in seatbelts must use child car seats. The speed limit is 50 km/h in town and 90 km/h out of town unless otherwise indicated. A right turn on a red light is prohibited unless otherwise indicated by a green arrow. According to Estonian law vehicles involved in accidents should not be moved to the side of the road until the police reach the scene. Americans planning to drive in Estonia must obtain an international driver's license prior to arrival.

For information about international driving permits, contact AAA or the American Automobile Touring Alliance. The Eesti Autoklubi (Estonian Auto Club), which is affiliated with AAA, provides emergency roadside assistance. Drivers do not need to be a member to receive assistance; however, the fees charged are higher for non-members. The number to call for roadside vehicle assistance and towing service is 1888. For ambulance, fire or police assistance the number is 112. Please note that for both numbers, the level of English spoken by the operator answering may be minimal.

You may also visit the website of Estonia's national tourist office at http://www.visitestonia.com. For specific information concerning Estonian driving permits, vehicles inspections and road tax mandatory insurance, contact the Estonian Motor Vehicle Registration Center via the Internet at http://www.ark.ee/atp/?keel=en Additional information may be obtained from the English language website of the Estonian Road Administration at http://www.mnt.ee/atp/?id=454, or from http://www.balticroads.net/en.

Aviation Safety Oversight:

As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Estonia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Estonian Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

Special Circumstances:

Commercial and financial transactions in Estonia are increasingly automated and on-line. Cash is almost always acceptable; the national currency is the Estonian Kroon (EEK), the value of which is pegged to the Euro (15.65 EEK= 1 Euro). Estonia plans to adopt the Euro in 2007. Most credit cards are widely recognized throughout the country. ATM machines are common and many U.S.-issued bankcards are compatible with them. For residents, bill-paying outside of retail establishments (i.e. utilities and other recurring expenses) is done more and more frequently via Internet. Bank checks are virtually unknown, and checks drawn on a U.S. bank are of little use in the country.

Estonia's customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information call (212) 354-4480, send and email to [email protected], or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.

Criminal Penalties:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Estonian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Estonia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues:

For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://www.travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location:

Americans living or traveling in Estonia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Estonia. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located approximately 1 km outside of Tallinn's "Old Town". The address is: Kentmanni 20, 15099 Tallinn, Estonia. The Embassy's main switchboard number is telephone (372) 668-8100. The Consular Section's fax number is (372) 668-8267. For after-hours emergencies, an Embassy Duty Officer may be contacted by mobile phone at: (011) (372) 509-2129, if dialing from the U.S., and 509-2129 if dialed from within Estonia. The Embassy's home page on the Internet is at http://estonia.usembassy.gov.

International Adoption

January 2006

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the InternationalAdoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer:

The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and our current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Please Note:

For U.S.-based agencies, it is suggested that prospective adoptive parents contact the Better Business Bureau and licensing office of the Department of Health and Family Services in the state where the agency is located.

Availability of Children for Adoption:

Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance to orphans:

FY-1997: IR-3 immigrant visas issued to Estonian orphans adopted abroad - 0; IR-4 immigrant visas issued to Estonian orphans adopted in the U.S. - 0
FY-1998: IR-3 Visas - 4; IR-4 Visas - 2
FY-1999: IR-3 Visas - 2; IR-4 Visas - 1
FY-2000: IR-3 Visas - 5; IR-4 Visas - 2
FY-2001: IR-3 Visas - 9; IR-4 Visas - 1

According to the Estonian Family Law only those children whose parents are deceased or whose parents have had their parental rights taken away may be adopted. There are few such children and long waiting lists of Estonian families who by law take precedence. According to the current law, healthy children should remain in Estonia. Only in cases where it is impossible to take sufficient care of a child in Estonia can that child be adopted internationally.

Adoption Authority:

Consultant of the Office of Child Protection
Ministry of Social Welfare of the Republic of Estonia
Gonsiori 29, Room 217
15027 Tallinn, Estonia

Adoption Procedures:

Prospective adoptive parents interested in adopting a child in Estonia should send a letter to the Estonian Ministry of Social Welfare (MSW) or to the adoption agency listed below indicating the sex and age of the child(ren) they would be interested in adopting.

The MSW cautions that prospective adoptive parents should not visit orphanages to locate the child since it is unlikely that the child they choose will be permitted to be adopted by foreigners. According to the new adoption law, international adoptions may be processed through an adoption agency in the parents'' home country which has signed an agreement with the Ministry of Social Welfare.

Once prospective adoptive parents are approved for adopting in Estonia, the MSW places them on a list and begins the process of locating a suitable the child. When the MSW finds a child that seems to meet the adoptive parents'' indicated desire, the MSW sends information about the child to the adoptive parents. If the adoptive parents would like to proceed with the adoption of the specific, proposed child, they must send the MSW a notarized application stating their request to adopt the child, indicating the child's first and last names.

The new adoption law requires court approval of international adoptions and the adoptive parents'' presence at the court hearing when the adoption is finalized. The orphanage where the child is living is then notified that the child can be released into the adoptive parents'' custody. After the adoption has been approved, the adoptive parents get the right to change the child's name.

After the child has been adopted under Estonian law, the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn will complete the Overseas Orphan Investigation. The Embassy in Tallinn will forward this investigation as well as the other adoption documents to the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki where the child's medical exam is performed and immigrant visa is issued. Prospective parents should contact the Embassies in Tallinn and Helsinki respectively in advance to schedule appointments for the Orphan Investigation and immigration processing.

Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family

Age and Civil Status Requirements:

An adopting parent should be at least 25 years old (in exceptional cases the Court may give permission to adopt to a younger person). A child may be adopted by a couple only if they are legally married (two people of the same sex cannot adopt in Estonia). An individual can adopt a child if he or she is not married, or if he or she is divorced and the spouse has given permission for the adoption.

Residential Requirements:

There are no residency requirements for prospective adoptive parents in Estonia.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys:

Prospective adoptive parents may contact the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn, Estonia for a list of adoption agencies that are allowed to operate in Estonia. Neither the U.S. Department of State, nor the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn, Estonia can make any claims as to efficacy or professionalism of this agency.

Note:

It is possible to apply directly to the Social Ministry until October 1, 2002. As of October 1st, 2002, the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption (29 May 1993, Hague) will come into force for Estonia. According to this convention, private adoptions will no longer be possible. Each adopting parent or family will need to find an organization in their country of residence which are accredited to operate in Estonia. In the near future, the Ministry of Social Welfare will get in touch with adoption agencies that have applied to work in Estonia during the last three years, informing them what the requirements are in order to be selected. The Minister of Social Welfare and a commission will determine which agencies will be accredited to work in Estonia.

Prospective adoptive parents are allowed to use an attorney. However, as of October 1st, there will be no need for an attorney as prospective adoptive parents will be required to use an agency.

Documentary Requirements:

Prospective adoptive parents must send a letter of interest to the Ministry of Social Welfare (MSW) directly or through their adoption agency. The MSW will inform prospective adoptive parents to send the following documents which should also be translated into Estonian by a certified translator:

  • Home study, reflecting the material ability of the prospective adoptive parents to bring up a child, their suitability as adoptive parents and a recommendation for adoption;
  • Medical examination results indicating the prospective adoptive parents'' state of health;
  • Documents pertaining to the financial condition of the prospective adoptive parents;
  • Marriage certificate (or photocopy);
  • Photocopies of the prospective adoptive parents'' passports;
  • Any other information the parents feel would be useful for the MSW to know, including family heritage, ties to Estonia, letters of reference, etc.

Authentication of Documents:

U.S. civil records, such as, birth, death, and marriage certificates must bear the seal of the issuing office, then be authenticated by the states'' Secretary of State in your state capital, the U.S. Department of State Authentications Office, and finally by the Estonian Embassy or Consulate in the United States. For additional information about authentication procedures, please see the Judicial Assistance page of the Bureau of Consular Affairs Web site at http://travel.state.gov.

Embassy of Estonia in the United States

2131 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington DC 20008
Tel: (202)-588-0101
Fax: (202)-588-0108

U.S. Immigration Requirements:

An Estonian child adopted by a U.S. citizen must obtain an immigrant visa before he or she can enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family.

U.S. Embassy in Tallinn, Estonia

The Consular Section is located at: U.S. Embassy
Kentmanni 20
Tallinn, Estonia
Tel: 011-372-668-8100
Fax: 011-372-668-8267
E-mail: [email protected]

U.S. Embassy in Helsinki, Finland:

The Consular Section is located at:

U.S. Embassy Consular Section
Itainen Puistotie 14A
Helsinki, Finland
Tel: 011-358-9-171931
Fax: 011-358-0-174681
Email: [email protected]

Additional Information:

Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult BCIS publication M-249Y, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adopted Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions.

Questions:

Specific questions regarding adoption in Estonia may be addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Estonia or the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki. You may also contact the Office of Children's Issues, SA-29, 2201 C Street, NW, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-2818, telephone 1-888-407-4747 with specific questions.

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Estonia

PROFILE
GEOGRAPHY
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
DEFENSE
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-ESTONIA RELATIONS
TRAVEL

Compiled from the October 2007 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:

Republic of Estonia

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 45,226 sq. km. (17,462 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than New Hampshire and Vermont combined.

Cities: Capital—Tallinn (pop. 396,000), situated in the north of the country, on the Gulf of Finland. Other cities—university town of Tartu (101,500); the primarily Russian-speaking industrial towns of Narva (67,100) and Kohtla-Jarve (46,000) in the north-east of Estonia; Parnu on the western coast (44,400) and Viljandi in the rural south (20,509). The last population census was held in 2000.

Terrain: Mostly flat, with some undulating terrain in the east and southeast, average elevation 50 m. Steep limestone banks and 1,520 islands mark the coastline. Land use—12.05% arable land, 47.4% forest and woodland, 22% swamps and bogs, 18.55% other. Coastal waters are somewhat polluted.

Climate: Temperate, with four seasons. Annual precipitation averages 50-75 cm.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective-Estonian(s).

Population: (2006) 1,324,333.

Annual growth rate: -0.65%. Birth rate—10.04/1,000. Death rate—13.25/1,000. Net migration—3.2 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006). Density—31/sq. km. Urban dwellers—70%.

Ethnic groups: Estonians 68%, Russians 26%, Ukrainians 2%, Belarusians 1%, Finns 1%, other 2.2%.

Religions: Evangelical Lutheran; the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox, subordinated to Constantinople; the Estonian Orthodox, subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate; Baptist. Languages (2000 census) Estonian (official) 67.3%, Russian 29.7%, other 2.3%, unknown 0.7%.

Education: Years compulsory—9. Attendance—218,600 students at 550 schools, plus 50,800 university students. Literacy—99.8%.

Health: Infant mortality rate—7.73 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy—66.3 yrs. men, 77.8 yrs. women.

Work force: 659,600.

Government

Type: Parliamentary democracy.

Constitution: On June 28, 1992 Estonia ratified its constitution based on its 1938 model, offering legal continuity to the Republic of Estonia prior to Soviet occupation.

Government branches: Executive—president (chief of state), elected indirectly every 5 years; prime minister (head of government). Legislative—Riigikogu (Parliament—101 members, 4-year term). Judicial—Supreme Court.

Political subdivisions: 15 counties, 42 towns, and 205 municipalities.

Political parties: Five parties are presently represented in the parliament: the Estonian Center Party; Estonian Reform Party; Pro Patria-Res Publica Union; Estonian People's Union; and Estonian Social Democratic Party. Other parties include: the Estonian United People's Party; Estonian Independence Party; Estonian Christian People's Party; Constitution Party; the Green Party.

Suffrage: Universal at 18 years of age; noncitizen residents may vote in municipal elections.

Government Budget: $2.3 billion.

Defense: 1.8% of GDP.

National holidays: Jan. 1 (New Year's Day), Feb. 24 (Independence Day), Good Friday, Easter Sunday, May 1 (May Day), Whitsunday, June 23 (Victory Day—anniversary of Battle of Vonnu in 1919), June 24 (Midsummer Day), Aug. 20 (Day of Restoration of Independence), Dec. 25 (Christmas Day), Dec. 26 (Boxing Day).

Government of Estonia web site: http://www.riik.ee/en/

Economy

GDP: (2006) $13.3 billion.

Real GDP growth rate: (2006 est.) 9.8%.

Per capita GDP: (2006) $9,936.

Inflation: (2006) 4.4%.

Unemployment: (2006) 4.5%.

Natural resources: Oil shale, phosphorus, limestone, blue clay.

Agriculture: (3% of 2006 GDP) Products—livestock production (milk, meat, eggs) and crop production (cereals and legumes, potatoes, forage crops). Arable land—433,100 hectares.

Industry: (26% of 2006 GDP) Types—engineering, electronics, wood and wood products, and textiles.

Services: (70% of 2006 GDP) Transit, information technology (IT), telecommunications, business services, retail, construction, real estate.

Trade: Exports (2005)—$7.85 billion. Partners—Finland 26.5%, Sweden 12.9%, Latvia 8.8%, Russia 6.5%, Germany 6.2%, Lithuania 4.8%. Imports (2005)—$ 10.34 billion. Partners—Finland 19.8%, Germany 13.8%, Russia 9.4%, Sweden 8.8%, Lithuania 6.1%, Latvia 4.7%.

Exchange rate: (2006) 12.2 kroon (EEK)=U.S.$1.

Foreign direct investment: (June 2006) Sweden 53.3%, Finland 20.3%, Netherlands 2.6%, U.K. 2.5%, Norway 2.5%, U.S. 2.4%, Germany 1.6%, Denmark 1.5%, Russia 1.3%.

GEOGRAPHY

Between 57.3 and 59.5 degrees latitude and 21.5 and 28.1 degrees longitude, Estonia lies on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea on the level, northwestern part of the rising East European platform. Average elevation reaches only 50 meters (160 ft.).

The climate resembles New England's. Oil shale and limestone deposits, along with forests that cover 47% of the land, play key economic roles in this generally resource-poor country. Estonia boasts more than 1,500 lakes, numerous bogs, and 3,794 kilometers of coastline marked by numerous bays, straits, and inlets. Tallinn's Muuga port offers one of Europe's finest warm water harbor facilities. Estonia's strategic location has precipitated many wars fought on its territory between other rival powers at its expense. In 1944, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) granted Russia the trans-Narva and Petseri regions on Estonia's eastern frontier. Russia and Estonia signed a border treaty in 2005 recognizing the current border. Estonia ratified the treaty in June 2005, but Russia subsequently revoked its signature to the treaty, due to a reference the Estonian Parliament inserted regarding the Peace Treaty of Tartu.

PEOPLE

Estonians belong to the Balto-Finnic group of the Finno-Ugric peoples, as do the Finns and the Hungarians. Archaeological research confirms the existence of human activity in the region as early as 8,000 BC, but by 3,500 BC the principal ancestors of the Estonians had arrived from the east.

Estonians have strong ties to the Nordic countries today stemming from deep cultural and religious influences gained over centuries during Scandinavian colonization and settlement. This highly literate society places great emphasis upon education, which is free and compulsory until age 16. About 20% of the population belongs to the following churches registered in Estonia: Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, Estonian Orthodox Church subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate, Baptist Church, Roman Catholic Church, and others.

As of November 2006, 84.6% of Estonia's population held Estonian citizenship, 7.6% were citizens of other countries (primarily Russia), and 8.8% were of undetermined citizenship.

Written with the Latin alphabet, Estonian is the language of the Estonian people and the official language of the country. Estonian is one of the world's most difficult languages to learn for English-speakers: it has fourteen cases, which can be a challenge even for skilled linguists. During the Soviet era, the Russian language was imposed for official use.

HISTORY

Ancient

Estonians are one of the longest-settled European peoples and have lived along the Baltic Sea for over 5,000 years. The Estonians were an independent nation until the 13th century A.D. The country was then subsequently conquered by Denmark, Germany, Poland, Sweden, and finally Russia, whose defeat of Sweden in 1721 resulted in the Uusikaupunki Peace Treaty, granting Russia rule over what became modern Estonia.

First Period of Independence

Independence remained out of reach for Estonia until the collapse of the Russian empire during World War I.

Estonia declared itself an independent democratic republic in November 1918. In 1920, by the Peace Treaty of Tartu, Soviet Russia recognized Estonia's independence and renounced in perpetuity all rights to its territory.

The first constitution of the Republic of Estonia was adopted in 1920 and established a parliamentary form of government. Estonia's independence would last for 22 years, during which time Estonia guaranteed cultural autonomy to all minorities, including its small Jewish population, an act that was unique in Western Europe at the time.

Soviet Period

Leading up to World War II (WWII), Estonia pursued a policy of neutrality. However, the Soviet Union forcibly incorporated Estonia as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, in which Nazi Germany gave control of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to the Soviet Union in return for control of much of Poland. In August 1940, the U.S.S.R proclaimed Estonia a part of the Soviet Union as the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic (E.S.S.R.). The United States never recognized Soviet sovereignty over Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania.

During World War II, between 1939 and 1945, through both the Nazi and Soviet occupations, Estonia's direct human losses reached 180,000 residents, which amounted to 17% of its total population. During the Nazi occupation from 1941 to 1944, 7,800 citizens of the Republic of Estonia (70% ethnic Estonians, 15% ethnic Russians, 12.8% Estonian Jews, and 2.2% representing other nationalities) were executed in Nazi prison camps. Of the total number executed during the period of Nazi occupation, an estimated 1,000 were Estonian Jews—or roughly 25% of the pre-war Jewish population of Estonia. Additionally, an estimated 10,000 Jews were transported to Estonia from elsewhere in eastern Europe and killed there.

Re-establishing Independence

In the late 1980s, looser controls on freedom of expression under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev reignited the Estonians' call for self-determination. By 1988, hundreds of thousands of people were gathering across Estonia to sing previously banned national songs in what became known as the “Singing Revolution.”

In November 1988, Estonia's Supreme Soviet passed a declaration of sovereignty; in 1990, the name of the Republic of Estonia was restored, and during the August 1991 coup in the U.S.S.R, Estonia declared full independence. The U.S.S.R Supreme Soviet recognized independent Estonia on September 6, 1991. Unlike the experiences of Latvia and Lithuania, Estonia's revolution ended without blood spilled.

Estonia became a member of the United Nations on September 17,

1991 and is a signatory to a number of UN organizations and other international agreements, including IAEA, ICAO, UNCTAD, WHO, WIPO, UNESCO, ILO, IMF, and WB/EBRD. It is also a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

After more than 3 years of negotiations, on August 31, 1994, the armed forces of the Russian Federation withdrew from Estonia.

Modern Period: 1990s—Today

In 1992, a constitutional assembly introduced amendments to the 1938 constitution. After the draft constitution was approved by popular referendum, it came into effect July 3, 1992. Presidential elections were held on September 20, 1992, with Lennart Meri as victor. Lennart Meri served two terms as president, implementing many reforms during his tenure. Meri was constitutionally barred from a third term. Arnold Rüütel became president in 2001, Toomas Hendrick Ilves in 2006. Since fully regaining independence, Estonia has had 13 governments with 7 different prime ministers elected: Mart Laar, Andres Tarand, Tiit Vähi, Mart Siimann, Siim Kallas, Juhan Parts, and Andrus Ansip.

Estonia began to adopt free-market policies even before it declared independence in mid-1991 and has continued to pursue reform aggressively ever since. For example, the government set privatization as an early priority and has now completed the process of putting most major industries in private hands. After independence the Government of Estonia took steps to simplify the tax system. Tax evasion is now relatively low by regional standards. Income tax is levied at a flat rate, a principle supported by all the major parties except the Center Party, for which a progressive tax system remains a keystone policy. Budget performance is exceptionally strong; the IMF projected a surplus of 3.4% of GDP in 2006.

An integral part of Estonia's transition to a market economy during the early 1990s involved reorienting foreign trade to the West and attracting foreign investment to upgrade the country's industry and commerce. In 1990, only 5% of Estonia's foreign trade was with the developed West; only 21% of this trade represented exports. About 87% of Estonia's trade was with the Soviet Union, and of that, 61% was with Russia. Estonia's main foreign trading partners today are Sweden, Finland, Germany and others in the West. Russia's share of Estonia's trade is less than 10%.

The introduction of the Estonian kroon in June 1992, with only U.S.$120 million in gold reserves and no internationally backed stabilization fund, proved decisive in stabilizing foreign trade. For stability, the kroon was pegged by special agreement to the deutsche mark (DM) at EKR8 = DM1 and later to the Euro. The new Estonian currency became the foundation for rational development of the economy. Money began to have clear value; the currency supply could be controlled from Tallinn, not Moscow; and long-term investment decisions could be made with greater confidence by both the state and private enterprise. The central bank is independent of the government but subordinate to the parliament. In addition to its president, the bank is managed by a board of directors, whose chair is also appointed by parliament.

The fall of the Soviet Union and the rapid contraction of Estonia's market to the East during the early 1990s caused Estonia's economy to shrink 36% from 1990 to 1994. But economic reforms in Estonia and the ability of its economy to reorient toward the West allowed Estonia's economy to pick up in 1995 with 4.6% growth and 4.0% growth in 1996. Russia's financial crisis in 1999 led to the only year of decline in Estonia's GDP since 1994—but the 0.7% decline was relatively small.

The 1994-2004 period was mainly dominated by the Estonian EU and NATO accession processes. Estonia was the first Baltic country to start direct accession talks with the EU. Estonia applied to join the EU in November 1995 and, while participating in accession negotiations, continued its program of major economic and social reforms. This gave Estonia a good opportunity to take into account EU objectives and to exploit the experience of existing EU member states when carrying out reforms. Examples of reform in the social area included the launch of unemployment insurance in 2002 and the 1999 implementation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which regulates safety and health requirements in the work place as well as the organizational aspects of the occupational health system.

In 1999, Estonia joined the World Trade Organization, adding to its previous membership of the IMF, World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

In November 2002, Estonia was one of seven Central and East European countries to be invited to join NATO; it officially became a member of NATO on March 29, 2004. In just fifteen years since re-establishing independence, Estonia has proven itself to be an excellent Ally, having built a military capable of participating in ever more complex and distant military operations.

EU accession negotiations proceeded rapidly, and Estonia joined the EU in May 2004, along with nine other countries, including its Baltic neighbors. The final decision was conditional on the outcome of a national referendum which was held in September 2003 and returned a large majority in favor of membership.

Estonia has developed into a strong international actor, through its membership in the EU and NATO; it is a capable advocate and promoter of stability and democracy in the former Soviet Union and beyond. Estonian troops have been in Afghanistan since 2002 and Iraq since 2003. It participates in the NATO training mission in Iraq. Estonia also provides peacekeepers for international missions in both Bosnia and Kosovo and contributes to EU battlegroups and NATO Response Force rotations. It supports democratic developments in key countries of the former Soviet Union and beyond by providing training to government and law enforcement officials as well as nongovernmental organizations. It has valuable experience to offer new democracies from its own recent history, and it works hard to promote democracy, freedom, and stability worldwide.

GOVERNMENT

Estonia is a parliamentary democracy, with a 101-member parliament (the Riigikogu) and a president who is elected indirectly by parliament or, if no candidate wins a two-thirds majority in parliament, by an electoral college composed of members of parliament and of local government representatives. Estonia holds presidential elections every five years. The last presidential election was in 2006. The President serves a maximum of two terms. The President is also the Supreme Commander of the National Defense of Estonia.

Parliamentary elections take place every four years; members are elected by proportional representation. The most recent elections took place on March 4, 2007. A party must gather at least 5% of the votes to take a seat in Parliament. Citizens 18 years of age or older may vote in parliamentary elections and be members of political parties. In addition, resident non-citizens and those who have lived permanently in the area for at least 5 years preceding the election may vote in local elections, although they may not run for office.

After parliamentary elections, the President traditionally asks the party with the most votes to form a new government. The President chooses the Prime Minister—usually the leader of the largest party or coalition in the Parliament—with the consent of the parliament to supervise the work of the government. The Estonian government has a total of 14 ministers. At the local level, Estonians elect government councils by proportional representation. The individual councils vary in size, but election laws stipulate minimum size requirements depending on the population of the municipality.

Estonia's Supreme Court, the Riigikohus, has 19 justices, all of whom receive lifetime tenure appointments. The parliament appoints the Chief Justice on nomination by the President.

Estonians may vote via the Internet in local and parliamentary elections.

POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Currently, half a dozen parties represent Estonia's 1.3 million citizens. The Reform Party, Pro Patria and Res Publica Union, and the Social Democratic parties form the current government with 31, 19, and 10 seats in parliament, respectively. Other major parties include the Center Party, the Greens, and the People's Union.

Reform Party Chairman Andrus Ansip is the current Prime Minister of the coalition government.

Toomas Hendrik lives is the President of Estonia. He was a member of the Social Democrat Party, a former Ambassador to the United States, two-time Minister of Foreign Affairs, Estonian member of parliament, and a former member of the European Parliament. President Ilves narrowly defeated incumbent Arnold Rüütel in an electoral-college vote in September 2006, and he took office on October 9, 2006.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/1/2008

Pres.: Toomas ILVES

Prime Min.: Andrus ANSIP

Min. of Agriculture: Helir-Valdor SEEDER

Min. of Culture: Laine JANES

Min. of Defense: Jaak AAVIKSOO

Min. of Economic Affairs & Communications: Juhan PARTS

Min. of Education & Research: Tonis LUKAS

Min. of Environment: Jaanus TAMKIVI

Min. of Finance: Ivari PADAR

Min. of Foreign Affairs: Urmas PAET

Min. of Internal Affairs: Juri PIHL

Min. of Justice: Rein LANG

Min. of Regional Affairs: Vallo REIMAA

Min. of Population Affairs: Urve PALO

Min. of Social Affairs: Maret MARIPUU

Pres., Bank of Estonia: Andres LIPSTOK

Ambassador to the US: Vaino REINART

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Tiina INTELMANN

Estonia maintains an embassy in the United States at 2131 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20008 (tel: [1] (202) 588-0101; fax: [1] (202) 588-0108). It operates a consulate at 600 Third Avenue, 26th Floor, New York, NY 10016-2001 (tel: [1] (212) 883-0636; fax: [1] (212) 883-0648).

ECONOMY

Estonia is considered one of the most liberal economies in the world, ranking 12th in the Heritage Foundation's 2007 Economic Freedom Index. Hall-marks of Estonia's free, market-based economy include a balanced budget, a flat-rate income tax system (the first in the world), a fully convertible currency pegged to the Euro, a competitive commercial banking sector, and a hospitable environment for foreign investment, including no tax on reinvested corporate profits (tax is not levied unless a distribution is made).

Estonia's liberal economic policies and macroeconomic stability have fostered exceptionally strong growth and better living standards than those of most new EU member states. The economy benefits from strong electronics and telecommunications sectors; the country is so wired that it is nicknamed Estonia. Many bars and cafes across the country are equipped with wireless connections. Skype, designed by Estonian developers, offers free calls over the Internet to millions of people worldwide. Tourism has also driven Estonia's economic growth, with beautifully restored Tallinn already a Baltic tourist landmark.

By the late 1990s, Estonia's trade regime was so liberal that adoption of EU and World Trade Organization (WTO) norms actually forced Estonia to impose tariffs in certain sectors, such as agriculture, which had previously been tariff-free. Openness to trade, rapid growth in investment, and an appreciating real exchange rate have resulted in large trade deficits in recent years. In 2006, exports and imports both grew rapidly, with growth reaching 24% and 29% year-on-year, respectively.

Estonia supplies more than 90% of its electricity needs with locally mined oil shale; however, it imports all of its natural gas and petroleum (roughly 30% of total energy consumption) from Russia. Alternative energy sources such as wood, peat, and biomass make up about 9% of primary energy production. An undersea electricity cable inaugurated in December 2006 allows Estonia to export electricity to Finland.

Notwithstanding these many achievements, the economy of Estonia still faces challenges. The income differential between Tallinn and the rest of the country has widened in recent years as the cost of living differential has narrowed. The formerly industrial northeast section of Estonia suffered from economic depression as a result of plant closings in the early 1990s, although even this region has experienced strong growth in the last two years.

The labor force is shrinking due to low birth rates and emigration. This tight labor market and the government's restrictive labor and immigration policies have led to wage pressure and challenges to future competitiveness. Inflation above 3% has forced the government to push back adoption of the Euro from its original target of 2007.

The Bank of Estonia predicts that the economy will grow by 7.3 % in 2007. This compares with an estimated EU-wide GDP growth rate of 2.9 % in 2007. The unemployment rate in August 2007 was 5.5%, below the EU-wide average of 6.7%.

Foreign Trade

Estonia is part of the European Union, and its trade policy is conducted in Brussels.

Estonia's business attitude toward the United States is positive, and business relations between the two countries are increasing. The primary competition for American companies in the Estonian marketplace is European suppliers, especially Finnish and Swedish companies.

Total U.S. exports to Estonia in 2006 were $180 million, forming 5.7% of total Estonian imports from outside the EU. In 2006 the principal imports from the United States were chemicals, mineral fuels and oils, electronics, and machinery. Estonian exports to the United States were around $222 million in 2006, making the U.S. Estonia's fourth-largest export market outside of the EU. U.S. imports from Estonia are primarily mineral fuels and oils, wood and wood products, and electronics.

Estonia's economy benefits from its location at the crossroads of East and West. Estonia lies just south of Finland and across the Baltic Sea from Sweden, both EU members. To the east are the huge potential markets of northwest Russia. Estonia's modern transportation and communication links provide a safe and reliable bridge for trade with former Soviet Union and Nordic countries. Many observers also see a potential role for Estonia as a future link in the supply chain from the Far East into the EU.

Country Commercial Guides are available for U.S. exporters from the National Trade Data Bank's CD-ROM or via the Internet. Please contact STAT-USA at 1-800-STAT-USA for more information. Country Commercial Guides can be accessed via the World Wide Web at the U.S. Department of Commerce's site and at the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn's website at http://estonia.usembassy.gov/commguide.php. They also can be ordered in hard copy or on diskette from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) at 1-800-553-NTIS. U.S. exporters seeking general export information/ assistance and country-specific commercial information should contact the U.S. Department of Commerce, Trade Information Center by phone at 1-800-USA-TRAD(E) or by fax at 1-202-482-4473.

DEFENSE

Estonia's regular armed forces—the Estonian Defense Forces—in peace-time number about 3,800 (Army 3,300, Navy 300, Air Force 200) persons, of whom about 1,500 are conscripts. The President of Estonia is the Commander in Chief of the Estonian Defense Forces. The National Defense Council—composed of the Chairman of the Parliament, the Prime Minister, the Chief of the Defense Forces, the Defense Minister, the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Chairman of the Parliamentary National Defense Committee—advises the President on national defense matters. Estonia officially became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on March 29, 2004 after depositing its instruments of treaty ratification in Washington, DC. The United States and Estonia cooperate intensively in the defense and security field.

Estonian defense spending has increased 13% annually since 2001. The Government of Estonia has expressed a firm commitment to meet the NATO goal of spending 2% of GDP by 2010; its current defense budget is 1.8% of GDP. In 2007, Estonia had approximately 300 military personnel deployed to support UN, NATO, and coalition military operations around the world. That number represents almost 10% of Estonia's military, a good indication of Estonia's willingness and ability to contribute to global security. Estonia currently has troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, and Bosnia.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Estonia is party to most major international organizations. It is a UN, EU, and NATO member and a strong ally and partner of the United States on all fronts. It is deeply committed to good transatlantic relations and to promoting democracy and free-market economic policy globally.

In the EU, Estonia's priorities include supporting continued EU enlargement; raising EU competitiveness through innovation; joining the Euro-zone; developing a unified European energy policy; enhancing and fostering the European Neighborhood Policy; and improving the EU relationship with Russia.

Estonia has active development assistance programs in many of the former Soviet countries (with a focus on Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova), as well as in Afghanistan.

U.S.-ESTONIA RELATIONS

The relationship between Estonia and the United States of America has been constant and strong since Estonia first became independent. The United States and Estonia are important allies and partners.

The United States recognized the Republic of Estonia on July 28, 1922. The first Estonian diplomatic mission in the United States was opened in the same year. It continued its activities throughout the period of occupation by the Soviet Union from 1940 to 1991. The U.S. Government recognized Estonia's diplomatic mission as a legal representative of the Republic of Estonia. Indeed, the recognition of the legal continuity of the Republic of Estonia has been the cornerstone of Estonian-U.S. relations.

The U.S. reopened its Embassy in Tallinn on September 4, 1991, soon after the restoration of Estonia's independence on August 20, 1991. Relations between the two countries have since developed at a rapid pace. In November 2006, President George W. Bush became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Estonia. During the visit, he announced the administration's intention to work with the U.S. Congress to make changes to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, increasing security while facilitating entry for legitimate visitors and businesspeople from countries like Estonia.

President Bush nominated Stanley Davis Phillips at the end of 2006 to be Ambassador to Estonia. Vaino Rein-art has been Estonia's Ambassador to the United States since September 2007. Estonia also is represented in the United States by a Consulate General in New York and four Honorary Consuls: Jaak Treiman in Los Angeles, Eric Harkna in Chicago, Irja Cilluffo in New Hampshire, and Paul Raidna in Seattle.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Last Updated: 2/19/2008

TALLINN (E) Kentmanni 20, Tallinn 15099, ESTonia, APO/FPO PSC 78, Box T, APO/AE 09723, (372) 668-8100, Fax (372) 668-8266, Work-week: 8:30-17:30, Website: http://ESTonia.usembassy.gov.

DCM OMS:Bates, Agnes L.
AMB OMS:Cooper, Carolee
ECO/COM:Hollister Robert M.
MGT:Graves, Andrew
POL ECO:Adkins, Jessica L.
AMB:Phillips, Dave
CON:Deuerlein, Rodger J.
DCM:Decker, Karen B.
PAO:Johnson, Eric A.
GSO:Adkins, William
RSO:Shedd, Matthew A.
AFSA:Derousse, Richard
CLO:Shedd Barbara
DAO:CDR Enkema Philip
EEO:Deuerlein, Rodger J.
ICASS:Chair MAJ Rydzynski, Mark J.
IMO:Haydter, David
IRS:Stanley, Susan W.
ISO:Derousse, Richard
LEGATT:Sylvester, John T.
State ICASS:Adkins, Jessica

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

August 23, 2007

Country Description: Estonia is a stable democracy with a rapidly developing economy. Tourist facilities in Tallinn are comparable to other western European cities, but some amenities may be lacking in rural areas. Some goods and services may not be available outside of major cities.

Entry Requirements: A valid passport is required. American citizens do not need a visa to travel to Estonia for business or pleasure for up to 90 days. That 90-day period begins with entry to any of the “Schengen group” countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, and Sweden. Multiple visits to Schengen countries may not exceed 90 days in any 6 month period. For further information concerning entry requirements and residency permits, contact the Estonian Embassy, located at 2131 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 588-0101, or the Consulate General of Estonia in New York City, telephone (212) 883-0636. Visit the Embassy of Estonia web site at http://www.estemb.org for the most current visa information.

Note: Although European Union regulations require that non-EU visitors obtain a stamp in their passport upon initial entry to a Schengen country, many borders are not staffed with officers carrying out this function. If an American citizen wishes to ensure that his or her entry is properly documented, it may be necessary to request a stamp at an official point of entry. Under local law, travelers without a stamp in their passport may be questioned and asked to document the length of their stay in Schengen countries at the time of departure or at any other point during their visit, and could face possible fines or other repercussions if unable to do so.

Safety and Security: Civil unrest is not a problem in Estonia, and there have been no incidents of terrorism directed toward American interests. Large public gatherings and demonstrations may occur on occasion, caused mainly by domestic political issues.

During periods of darkness, reflectors must be worn by pedestrians. Violators of this law may be subject to a fine of up to 600 EEK ($50.00). Reflectors are inexpensive and are available at most supermarkets and many smaller shops. To meet legal requirements, the reflector's packaging must include a reference to European safety standard EN13356.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site where the current Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts can be found. Americans are reminded to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.

Crime: Estonia is a relatively safe country, although crime in Tallinn's “Old Town” is an ongoing concern, particularly during the summer tourist season. Travelers should exercise the same precautions with regard to their personal safety and belongings they would take in major U.S. cities. The most common crimes encountered by foreign tourists are purse snatching, pick-pocketing, and mugging. Tourists are often targeted by individuals and small groups of thieves working together. In public places such as the Town Hall Square (“Raekoja Plats”), the airport, train stations, and the Central Market, one must exercise special care in safe-guarding valuables against purse-snatchers and pickpockets. Valuables should never be left unattended in vehicles and car doors should be kept locked at all times. Some violent crime does occur, mainly at night and often in proximity to nightlife areas. Car theft and break-ins also continue to be a problem in Tallinn.

Police capabilities in Estonia are improving, but still suffer from lack of equipment, training, personnel and resources. Many police officers speak only very limited English. Credit card fraud is an ongoing concern, as is internet-based financial fraud and “internet dating” fraud.

Travelers should take prudent precautions to safeguard their credit cards and report any suspected unauthorized transaction to the credit card company immediately. Racially motivated verbal harassment and, on occasion, physical assault of Americans and other nationals of non-Caucasian ethnicity has occurred. If an incident occurs, it should be reported to the police and to the Embassy.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.

The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: The quality of medical care in Estonia continues to improve but still falls short of Western standards. Estonia has many highly trained medical professionals, but hospitals and clinics still suffer from a lack of equipment and resources. Elderly travelers and those with health problems may be at increased risk. Visitors to forest areas in warm weather should also guard against tick-borne encephalitis.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organizations (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://ww.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Estonia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Driving in Estonia can be more dangerous than in much of the United States. Many roads, especially in rural areas, are poorly lit and are not up to Western standards. Some drivers can be aggressive, recklessly over-taking vehicles and traveling at high speed, even in crowded urban areas. Estonian laws against driving under the influence of alcohol are strict and follow a policy of zero tolerance. Unfortunately, accidents involving intoxicated drivers are distressingly frequent. It is not uncommon for the police to set up checkpoints on major streets and highways; drivers should pull over when asked. Drivers should always remain alert to the possibility of drunk drivers and drunken pedestrians.

Estonian traffic laws require drivers to stop for all pedestrians in marked crosswalks. Nevertheless, Estonian motorists do not always comply with this regulation, and pedestrians should always be careful when crossing the streets. In rural areas, wild animals, such as deer and moose, and icy road conditions can create unexpected hazards. Dark-clothed or drunken pedestrians walking along unlit roads or darting across dimly-lit streets or highways pose a risk to unsuspecting drivers. Winter roads are usually treated and cleared of snow, but drivers should remain vigilant for icy patches and large potholes.

Local law requires that headlights be illuminated at all times while driving. Use of a seatbelts by all passengers is required, and children too small to be secure in seatbelts must use child car seats. The speed limit is 50 km/h in town and 90 km/h out of town unless otherwise indicated. A right turn on a red light is prohibited unless otherwise indicated by a green arrow. According to Estonian law vehicles involved in accidents should not be moved to the side of the road until the police reach the scene. Americans planning to drive in Estonia must obtain an international driving permit prior to arrival.

For information about international driving permits, contact AAA or the American Automobile Touring Alliance. The Eesti Autoklubi (Estonian Auto Club), which is affiliated with AAA, provides emergency roadside assistance. Drivers do not need to be a member to receive assistance; however, the fees charged are higher for non-members. The number to call for roadside vehicle assistance and towing service is 1888. For ambulance, fire or police assistance the number is 112. Please note that for both numbers, the level of English spoken by the operator answering may be minimal.

You may also visit the website of Estonia's national tourist office at http://www.visitestonia.com. For specific information concerning Estonian driving permits, vehicles inspections and road tax mandatory insurance, contact the Estonian Motor Vehicle Registration Center via the Internet at http://www.ark.ee/atp/?keel=en. Additional information may be obtained at http://www.balticroads.net/en.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Estonia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the EstonianCivil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov.

Special Circumstances: Commercial and financial transactions in Estonia are increasingly automated and on-line. Cash is almost always acceptable; the national currency is the Estonian Kroon (EEK), the value of which is pegged to the Euro (15.65 EEK= 1 Euro). Inflation above three percent has forced the government to push back adoption of the Euro from its original target of 2007. Most credit cards are widely recognized throughout the country. ATM machines are common and many U.S.-issued bankcards are compatible with them. For residents, bill-paying outside of retail establishments (i.e. utilities and other recurring expenses) is done more and more frequently via Internet. Bank checks are virtually unknown, and checks drawn on a U.S. bank are of little use in the country.

Estonia's customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporay Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information call (212) 354-4480, send and email to [email protected], or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.

Persons violating Estonian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Estonia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration and Embassy Locations: Americans living or traveling in Estonia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Estonia. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The latest security information is available from the Embassy, including its web site, http://estonia.sembassy.gov.

The U.S. Embassy is located approximately 1 km outside of Tallinn's “Old Town”. The address is: Kentmanni 20, 15099 Tallinn, Estonia. The Embassy's main switchboard number is telephone (372) 668-8100. The Consular Section's fax number is (372) 668-8267. For after-hours emergencies, an Embassy Duty Officer may be contacted by mobile phone at: (011) (372) 509-2129, if dialing from the U.S., and 509-2129 if dialed from within Estonia. The Embassy's home page on the Internet is at http://stonia.usembassy.gov. The American Citizen Services Unit email address is [email protected]

International Adoption

September 2006

The information in this section has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Please Note: Prospective adoptive parents are advised to fully research any adoption agency or facilitator they plan to use for adoption services. For U.S.-based agencies, it is suggested that prospective adoptive parents contact the Better Business Bureau and licensing office of the Department of Health and Family Services in the state where the agency is located.

Patterns of Immigration: Please review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

According to the Estonian Family Law only those children whose parents are deceased or whose parents have had their parental rights taken away may be adopted. There are few such children and long waiting lists of Estonian families who by law take precedence. According to the Estonian Children Protection Act: Inter-country adoption shall occur primarily if it is not possible to care for the child to the necessary extent in the Republic of Estonia.

Adoption Authority: Consultant of the Office of Child Protection Ministry of Social Welfare of the Republic of Estonia Gonsiori 29, Room 217 15027 Tallinn, Estonia

Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents: An adopting parent should be at least 25 years old (in exceptional cases the Court may give permission to adopt to a younger person). A child may be adopted by a couple only if they are legally married (two people of the same sex cannot adopt in Estonia) and only with the written consent of his or her spouse. An individual can adopt a child if he or she is not married. According to the Family Law Act, adoption may be effected without consent of the other spouse if the conjugal relations of the spouses have terminated and they live apart.

Residency Requirements: There are no residency requirements for prospective adoptive parents in Estonia.

Time Frame: The entire adoption process for a child in Estonia who will depart to live in the United States takes approximately one year, including matching child and prospective parents, documentation, and court hearing.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: Prospective adoptive parents may contact the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn, Estonia for a list of adoption agencies that are allowed to operate in Estonia. Neither the U.S. Department of State, nor the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn, Estonia can make any claims as to efficacy or professionalism of this agency.

Note: According to the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (29 May 1993, Hague), each adopting parent or family will need to find an organization in their country of residence which is accredited to operate in Estonia. The Minister of Social Welfare and a commission will determine which agencies will be accredited to work in Estonia.

Adoption Fees: There is no adoption fee per se in Estonia. Court fees are approximately 10 U.S. dollars; new Estonian passports are approximately 25 dollars.

Adoption Procedures: Prospective adoptive parents interested in adopting a child in Estonia should send a letter to the Estonian Ministry of Social Welfare (MSW) through the adoption agency listed below indicating the sex and age of the child(ren) they would be interested in adopting. This letter should include information on the adoptive parents” age and profession. Since foreign parents with Estonian background are given preference over foreigners with no Estonian heritage, adoptive parents should explain their ties to Estonia.

The MSW cautions that prospective adoptive parents should not visit orphanages to locate the child since it is unlikely that the child they choose will be permitted to be adopted by foreigners. According to the new adoption law, international adoptions may be processed through an adoption agency in the parents” home country which has signed an agreement with the Ministry of Social Welfare.

Once prospective adoptive parents are approved for adopting in Estonia, the MSW places them on a list and begins the process of locating a suitable the child. This process can be lengthy (several years or more) as the number of children that can be adopted by foreigners is quite limited (only about 20 children a year). When the MSW finds a child that seems to meet the adoptive parents” indicated desire, the MSW sends information about the child to the adoptive parents through the agency representing them in Estonia.

If the adoptive parents would like to proceed with the adoption of the specific, proposed child, they must send the MSW through the agency representing them in Estonia, a notarized application stating their request to adopt the child, indicating the child's first and last names.

If the parents are not interested in the child the MSW proposes, they should notify the MSW and the MSW will continue searching for appropriate children. However, no more than three successive children will be offered to one prospective parent. Estonian adoption law requires court approval of international adoptions and the adoptive parents' presence at the court hearing when the adoption is finalized.

The Domiciliary County Government's Children Protection Officer represents the child's rights and will release the child into the adoptive parents' custody.

After the adoption has been approved, the adoptive parents get the right to change the child's name. After the child has been adopted under Estonian law, the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn will complete the Overseas Orphan Investigation.

The Embassy in Tallinn will forward this investigation as well as the other adoption documents to the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki where the child's medical exam is performed and immigrant visa is issued.

The medical exam can also be conducted in Tallinn, by the Embassy's panel physician. Prospective parents should contact the Embassies in Tallinn and Helsinki respectively in advance to schedule appointments for the Orphan Investigation and immigration processing.

Required Documents: Prospective adoptive parents must send a letter of interest to the Ministry of Social Welfare (MSW) through their adoption agency. The MSW will inform prospective adoptive parents through the adoption agency to send the following documents which should also be translated into Estonian by a certified translator:

  • Home study, reflecting the material ability of the prospective adoptive parents to bring up a child, their suitability as adoptive parents and a recommendation for adoption;
  • Medical examination results indicating the prospective adoptive parents” state of health;
  • Documents pertaining to the financial condition of the prospective adoptive parents;
  • Marriage certificate (or photocopy);
  • Photocopies of the prospective adoptive parents” passports;
  • Any other information the parents feel would be useful for the MSW to know, including family heritage, ties to Estonia, letters of reference, etc.

Embassy of Estonia
2131 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington DC 20008
Tel: (202)-588-0101
Fax: (202)-588-0108

Consulate General of Estonia:
600 Third Avenue, 26th Floor
New York, N.Y. 10016-2001, USA
phone. (+1 212) 883 06 36
fax (+1 212) 883 06 48
e-mail: [email protected]
http://www.nyc.estemb.org

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoption. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

U.S. Embassy
Kentmanni 20
Tallinn, Estonia
Tel: 011-372-668-8100
Fax: 011-372-668-8267
E-mail: [email protected]

U.S. Embassy Consular Section
Itainen Puistotie 14A
Helsinki, Finland
Tel: 011-358-9-171931
Fax: 011-358-0-174681
Email: [email protected]

Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in Estonia may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn, Estonia or the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki, Finland. General questions regarding inter-country adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.

views updated

Estonia

Compiled from the January 2007 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Estonia

PROFILE

GEOGRAPHY

PEOPLE

HISTORY

GOVERNMENT

POLITICAL CONDITIONS

ECONOMY

DEFENSE

FOREIGN RELATIONS

U.S.-ESTONIA RELATIONS

TRAVEL

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 45,226 sq. km. (17,462 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than New Hampshire and Vermont combined.

Cities: Capital—Tallinn (pop. 396,000), situated in the north of the country, on the Gulf of Finland. Other cities—university town of Tartu (101,500); the primarily Russian-speaking industrial towns of Narva (67,100) and Kohtla-Järve (46,000) in the north-east of Estonia; Pärnu on the western coast (44,400) and Viljandi in the rural south (20,509). The last population census was held in 2000.

Terrain: Mostly flat, with some undulating terrain in the east and southeast, average elevation 50 m. Steep limestone banks and 1,520 islands mark the coastline. Land use—12.05% arable land, 47.4% forest and woodland, 22% swamps and bogs, 18.55% other. Coastal waters are somewhat polluted.

Climate: Temperate, with four seasons. Annual precipitation averages 50-75 cm.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Estonian(s).

Population: (2006) 1,324,333.

Annual growth rate: -0.65%. Birth rate—10.04/1,000. Death rate—13.25/1,000. Net migration—3.2 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006). Density—31/sq. km. Urban dwellers—70%.

Ethnic groups: Estonians 68%, Russians 26%, Ukrainians 2%, Belarusians 1%, Finns 1%, other 2.2%.

Religions: Evangelical Lutheran; the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox, subordinated to Constantinople; the Estonian Orthodox, subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate; Baptist.

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

Education: Years compulsory—9. Attendance—218,600 students at 550 schools, plus 50,800 university students. Literacy—99.8%.

Health: Infant mortality rate—7.73 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy—66.3 yrs. men, 77.8 yrs. women.

Work force: 659,600.

Government

Type: Parliamentary democracy.

Constitution: On June 28, 1992 Estonia ratified its constitution based on its 1938 model, offering legal continuity to the Republic of Estonia prior to Soviet occupation.

Government branches: Executive—president (chief of state), elected indirectly every 5 years; prime minister (head of government). Legislative—Riigikogu (Parliament—101 members, 4-year term). Judicial—Supreme Court.

Political subdivisions: 15 counties, 42 towns, and 205 municipalities.

Political parties: Five parties are presently represented in the parliament: the Estonian Center Party; Estonian Reform Party; Pro PatriaRes Publica Union; Estonian People’s Union; and Estonian Social Democratic Party. Other parties include: the Estonian United People’s Party; Estonian Independence Party; Estonian Christian People’s Party; Constitution Party; the Green Party.

Suffrage: Universal at 18 years of age; noncitizen residents may vote in municipal elections.

Budget: $2.3 billion.

Defense: 1.8% of GDP.

National holidays: Jan. 1 (New Year’s Day), Feb. 24 (Independence Day), Good Friday, Easter Sunday, May 1 (May Day), Whitsunday, June 23 (Victory Day—anniversary of Battle of Vonnu in 1919), June 24 (Midsummer Day), Aug. 20 (Day of Restoration of Independence), Dec. 25 (Christmas Day), Dec. 26 (Boxing Day).

Economy

GDP: (2006) $13.3 billion.

Real GDP Growth rate: (2006 est.) 9.8%.

Per capita GDP: (2006) $9,936.

Inflation: (2006) 4.4%.

Unemployment: (2006) 4.5%.

Natural resources: Oil shale, phosphorus, limestone, blue clay.

Agriculture: (3% of 2006 GDP) Products—livestock production (milk, meat, eggs) and crop production (cereals and legumes, potatoes, forage crops). Arable land—433,100 hectares.

Industry: (26% of 2006 GDP) Types—engineering, electronics, wood and wood products, and textiles.

Services: (70% of 2006 GDP) Transit, information technology (IT), telecommunications, business services, retail, construction, real estate.

Trade: Exports (2005)—$7.85 billion. Partners—Finland 26.5%, Sweden 12.9%, Latvia 8.8%, Russia 6.5%, Germany 6.2%, Lithuania 4.8%. Imports (2005)—$10.34 billion. Partners—Finland 19.8%, Germany 13.8%, Russia 9.4%, Sweden 8.8%, Lithuania 6.1%, Latvia 4.7%.

Exchange rate: (2006) 12.2 kroon (EEK)=U.S.$1.

Foreign direct investment: (June 2006) Sweden 53.3%, Finland 20.3%, Netherlands 2.6%, U.K. 2.5%, Norway 2.5%, U.S. 2.4%, Germany 1.6%, Denmark 1.5%, Russia 1.3%.

GEOGRAPHY

Between 57.3 and 59.5 degrees latitude and 21.5 and 28.1 degrees longitude, Estonia lies on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea on the level, northwestern part of the rising East European platform. Average elevation reaches only 50 meters (160 ft.).

The climate resembles New England’s. Oil shale and limestone deposits, along with forests that cover 47% of the land, play key economic roles in this generally resource-poor country. Estonia boasts more than 1,500 lakes, numerous bogs, and 3,794 kilometers of coastline marked by numerous bays, straits, and inlets. Tallinn’s Muuga port offers one of Europe’s finest warm water harbor facilities. Estonia’s strategic location has precipitated many wars fought on its territory between other rival powers at its expense. In 1944, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) granted Russia the trans-Narva and Petseri regions on Estonia’s eastern frontier. Russia and Estonia signed a border treaty in 2005 recognizing the current border. Estonia ratified the treaty in June 2005, but Russia subsequently revoked its signature to the treaty, due to a reference the Estonian Parliament inserted regarding the Peace Treaty of Tartu.

PEOPLE

Estonians belong to the Balto-Finnic group of the Finno-Ugric peoples, as do the Finns and the Hungarians. Archaeological research confirms the existence of human activity in the region as early as 8,000 BC, but by 3,500 BC the principal ancestors of the Estonians had arrived from the east.

Estonians have strong ties to the Nordic countries today stemming from deep cultural and religious influences gained over centuries during Scandinavian colonization and settlement. This highly literate society places great emphasis upon education, which is free and compulsory until age 16. About 20% of the population belongs to the following churches registered in Estonia: Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, Estonian Orthodox Church subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate, Baptist Church, Roman Catholic Church, and others. As of November 2006, 84.6% of Estonia’s population held Estonian citizenship, 7.6% were citizens of other countries (primarily Russia), and 8.8% were of undetermined citizenship.

Written with the Latin alphabet, Estonian is the language of the Estonian people and the official language of the country. Estonian is one of the world’s most difficult languages to learn for English-speakers: it has fourteen cases, which can be a challenge even for skilled linguists. During the Soviet era, the Russian language was imposed for official use.

HISTORY

Ancient

Estonians are one of the longest-settled European peoples and have lived along the Baltic Sea for over 5,000 years. The Estonians were an independent nation until the 13th century A.D. The country was then subsequently conquered by Denmark, Germany, Poland, Sweden, and finally Russia, whose defeat of Sweden in 1721 resulted in the Uusikaupunki Peace Treaty, granting Russia rule over what became modern Estonia.

First Period of Independence

Independence remained out of reach for Estonia until the collapse of the Russian empire during World War I. Estonia declared itself an independent democratic republic in November 1918. In 1920, by the Peace Treaty of Tartu, Soviet Russia recognized Estonia’s independence and renounced in perpetuity all rights to its territory. The first constitution of the Republic of Estonia was adopted in 1920 and established a parliamentary form of government. Estonia’s independence would last for 22 years, during which time Estonia guaranteed cultural autonomy to all minorities, including its small Jewish population, an act that was unique in Western Europe at the time.

Soviet Period

Leading up to World War II (WWII), Estonia pursued a policy of neutrality. However, the Soviet Union forcibly incorporated Estonia as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, in which Nazi Germany gave control of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to the Soviet Union in return for control of much of Poland.

In August 1940, the U.S.S.R proclaimed Estonia a part of the Soviet Union as the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic (E.S.S.R.). The United States never recognized Soviet sovereignty over Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania.

During the course of WWII, Germany occupied Estonia for three years. In 1944, Stalin retook the country and resumed the mass deportations of ethnic Estonians to Siberia that had been initiated in 1941. Together with migration into Estonia from other parts of the Soviet Union, this resulted in the share of ethnic Estonians in the country decreasing from 88% in 1934 to 62% in 1989.

Re-establishing Independence

In the late 1980s, looser controls on freedom of expression under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev reignited the Estonians’ call for self-determination. By 1988, hundreds of thousands of people were gathering across Estonia to sing previously banned national songs in what became know as the “Singing Revolution.”

In November 1988, Estonia’s Supreme Soviet passed a declaration of sovereignty; in 1990, the name of the Republic of Estonia was restored, and during the August 1991 coup in the U.S.S.R, Estonia declared full independence. The U.S.S.R Supreme Soviet recognized independent Estonia on September 6, 1991. Unlike the experiences of Latvia and Lithuania, Estonia’s revolution ended without blood spilled.

Estonia became a member of the United Nations on September 17, 1991 and is a signatory to a number of UN organizations and other international agreements, including IAEA, ICAO, UNCTAD, WHO, WIPO, UNESCO, ILO, IMF, and WB/EBRD. It is also a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). After more than 3 years of negotiations, on August 31, 1994, the armed forces of the Russian Federation withdrew from Estonia.

Modern Period: 1990s– Today

In 1992, a constitutional assembly introduced amendments to the 1938 constitution. After the draft constitution was approved by popular referendum, it came into effect July 3, 1992. Presidential elections were

held on September 20, 1992, with Lennart Meri as victor. Lennart Meri served two terms as president, implementing many reforms during his tenure. Meri was constitutionally barred from a third term. Arnold Rüütel became president in 2001; Toomas Hendrick Ilves in 2006. Since fully regaining independence, Estonia has had 12 governments with 8 prime ministers: Mart Laar, Andres Tarand, Tiit Vähi, Mart Siimann, Siim Kallas, Juhan Parts, and Andrus Ansip. Estonia began to adopt free-market policies even before it declared independence in mid-1991 and has continued to pursue reform aggressively ever since. For example, the government set privatization as an early priority and has now completed the process of putting most major industries in private hands. After independence the GOE took steps to simplify the tax system. Tax evasion is now relatively low by regional standards. Income tax is levied at a flat rate, a principle supported by all the major parties except the Center Party, for which a progressive tax system remains a keystone policy. Budget performance is exceptionally strong; the IMF projected a surplus of 3.4% of GDP in 2006.

An integral part of Estonia’s transition to a market economy during the early 1990s involved reorienting foreign trade to the West and attracting foreign investment to upgrade the country’s industry and commerce. In 1990, only 5% of Estonia’s foreign trade was with the developed West; only 21% of this trade represented exports. About 87% of Estonia’s trade was with the Soviet Union, and of that, 61% was with Russia. Estonia’s main foreign trading partners today are Sweden, Finland, Germany and others in the West. Russia’s share of Estonia’s trade is less than 10%. The introduction of the Estonian kroon in June 1992, with only U.S.$120 million in gold reserves and no internationally backed stabilization fund, proved decisive in stabilizing foreign trade. For stability, the kroon was pegged by special agreement to the deutsche mark (DM) at EKR8 = DM1 and later to the Euro. The new Estonian currency became the foundation for rational development of the economy. Money began to have clear value; the currency supply could be controlled from Tallinn, not Moscow; and long-term investment decisions could be made with greater confidence by both the state and private enterprise. The central bank is independent of the government but subordinate to the parliament. In addition to its president, the bank is managed by a board of directors, whose chair is also appointed by parliament.

The fall of the Soviet Union and the rapid contraction of Estonia’s market to the East during the early 1990s caused Estonia’s economy to shrink 36% from 1990 to 1994. But economic reforms in Estonia and the ability of its economy to reorient toward the West allowed Estonia’s economy to pick up in 1995 with 4.6% growth and 4.0% growth in 1996. Russia’s financial crisis in 1999 led to the only year of decline in Estonia’s GDP since 1994—but the 0.7% decline was relatively small.

The 1994–2004 period was mainly dominated by the Estonian EU and NATO accession processes. Estonia was the first Baltic country to start direct accession talks with the EU. Estonia applied to join the EU in November 1995 and, while participating in accession negotiations, continued its program of major economic and social reforms. This gave Estonia a good opportunity to take into account EU objectives and to exploit the experience of existing EU member states when carrying out reforms. Examples of reform in the social area included the launch of unemployment insurance in 2002 and the 1999 implementation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which regulates safety and health requirements in the work place as well as the organizational aspects of the occupational health system.

In 1999, Estonia joined the World Trade Organization, adding to its previous membership of the IMF, World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. In November 2002, Estonia was one of seven Central and East European countries to be invited to join NATO; it officially became a member of NATO on March 29, 2004. In just fifteen years since re-establishing independence, Estonia has proven itself to be an excellent Ally, having built a military capable of participating in ever more complex and distant military operations.

EU accession negotiations proceeded rapidly, and Estonia joined the EU in May 2004, along with nine other countries, including its Baltic neighbors. The final decision was conditional on the outcome of a national referendum which was held in September 2003 and returned a large majority in favor of membership.

Estonia has developed into a strong international actor, through its membership in the EU and NATO; it is a capable advocate and promoter of stability and democracy in the former Soviet Union and beyond. Estonian troops have been in Afghanistan since 2002 and Iraq since 2003. It participates in the NATO training mission in Iraq and in the international police training mission for Iraq in Jordan. Estonia also provides peacekeepers for international missions in both Bosnia and Kosovo and contributes to EU battle groups and NATO Response Force rotations. It supports democratic developments in key countries of the former Soviet Union and beyond by providing training to government and law enforcement officials as well as nongovernmental organizations. It has valuable experience to offer new democracies from its own recent history, and it works hard to promote democracy, freedom, and stability worldwide.

GOVERNMENT

Estonia is a parliamentary democracy, with a 101-member parliament (the Riigikogu) and a president who is elected indirectly by parliament or, if no candidate wins a two-thirds majority in parliament, by an electoral college composed of members of parliament and of local government representatives. Estonia holds presidential elections every five years. The last presidential election was in 2006. The President serves a maximum of two terms. The President is also the Supreme Commander of the National Defense of Estonia.

Parliamentary elections take place every four years; members are elected by proportional representation. The next elections are scheduled for March 4, 2007. A party must gather at least 5% of the votes to take a seat in Parliament. Citizens 18 years of age or older may vote in parliamentary elections and be members of political parties. In addition, resident non-citizens and those who have lived permanently in the area for at least 5 years preceding the election may vote in local elections, although they may not run for office.

After parliamentary elections, the President traditionally asks the party with the most votes to form a new government. The President chooses the Prime Minister—usually the leader of the largest party or coalition in the Parliament—with the consent of the parliament to supervise the work of the government. The Estonian government has a total of 14 ministers.

At the local level, Estonians elect government councils by proportional representation. The individual councils vary in size, but election laws stipulate minimum size requirements depending on the population of the municipality.

Estonia’s Supreme Court, the Riigikohus, has 19 justices, all of whom receive lifetime tenure appointments. The parliament appoints the Chief Justice on nomination by the President. Estonians may vote via the Internet in local and parliamentary elections.

POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Currently, half a dozen parties represent Estonia’s 1.3 million citizens. The Center Party, the People’s Union, and the Reform Party form the current government with 28, 13, and 19 seats in parliament, respectively. Other major parties include the Pro Patria-Res Publica Union and the Social Democratic Party.

Reform Party Chairman Andrus Ansip is the current Prime Minister of the coalition government.

Toomas Hendrik llves (Social Democrat Party), a former Ambassador to the United States, two-time Minister of Foreign Affairs, Estonian parliamentarian, and a former member of the European Parliament, is the President of Estonia. President Ilves narrowly defeated incumbent Arnold Rüütel in an electoral-college vote in September 2006, and he took office on October 9, 2006.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 1/9/2007

President: Toomas ILVES

Prime Minister: Andrus ANSIP

Min. of Agriculture: Ester TUIKSOO

Min. of Culture: Raivo PALMARU

Min. of Defense: Jurgen LIGI

Min. of Economic Affairs & Communications: Edgar SAVISAAR

Min. of Education & Science: Mailis REPS

Min. of Environment: Rein RANDVER

Min. of Finance: Aivar SOERD

Min. of Foreign Affairs: Urmas PAET

Min. of Internal Affairs: Kalle LAANET

Min. of Justice: Rein LANG

Min. of Regional Affairs: Jaan OUNAPUU

Min. of Population Affairs: Paul-Eerik RUUMO

Min. of Social Affairs: Jaak AAB

Pres., Bank of Estonia: Andres LIPSTOCK

Ambassador to the US: Juri LUIK

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Tiina INTELMANN

Estonia maintains an embassy in the United States at 2131 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20008 (tel: [1] (202) 588-0101; fax: [1] (202) 588-0108). It operates a consulate at 600 Third Avenue, 26th Floor, New York, NY 10016-2001 (tel: [1] (212) 883-0636; fax: [1] (212) 883-0648).

ECONOMY

Estonia is considered one of the most liberal economies in the world, ranking 7th in the Heritage Foundation’s 2006 Economic Freedom Index (above the United States and just below the U.K.). Hallmarks of Estonia’s free, market-based economy include a balanced budget, a flat-rate income tax system (the first in the world), a fully convertible currency pegged to the Euro, a competitive commercial banking sector, and a hospitable environment for foreign investment, including no tax on reinvested corporate profits (tax is not levied unless a distribution is made).

Estonia’s liberal economic policies and macroeconomic stability have fostered exceptionally strong growth and better living standards than those of most new EU member states. The IMF projected real GDP growth at over 9% in 2006, slightly below its 2005 level. The economy benefits from strong electronics and telecommunications sectors; the country is so wired that it is nicknamed E-stonia. Bars and cafes are universally equipped with wireless connections. Skype, designed by Estonian developers, offers free calls over the Internet to millions of people worldwide. Tourism has also driven Estonia’s economic growth, with beautifully restored Tallinn already a Baltic tourist landmark.

By the late 1990s, Estonia’s trade regime was so liberal that adoption of EU and World Trade Organization (WTO) norms actually forced Estonia to impose tariffs in certain sectors, such as agriculture, which had previously been tariff-free. Openness to trade, rapid growth in investment, and an appreciating real exchange rate have resulted in large trade deficits in recent years. In the first six months of 2006, exports and imports both grew rapidly, with growth reaching 30.8% and 31% year-on-year, respectively.

Estonia supplies more than 90% of its electricity needs with locally mined oil shale; however, it imports all of its natural gas and petroleum (roughly 30% of total energy consumption) from Russia. Alternative energy sources such as wood, peat, and biomass make up about 9% of primary energy production. An undersea electricity cable inaugurated in December 2006 will allow Estonia to export electricity to Finland.

Notwithstanding these many achievements, the economy of Estonia still faces challenges. The income differential between Tallinn and the rest of the country has widened in recent years as the cost of living differential has narrowed. The formerly industrial northeast section of Estonia suffered from economic depression as a result of plant closings in the early 1990s, although even this region has experienced strong growth in the last two years. The labor force is shrinking due to low birth rates and emigration. This tight labor market and the government’s restrictive labor and immigration policies have led to wage pressure and challenges to future competitiveness. Inflation above 3% has forced the government to push back adoption of the Euro from its original target of 2007.

The Estonian Finance Ministry predicts that the economy will grow by 8.7% in 2007. This compares with an estimated EU-wide GDP growth rate of 2.1% in 2006 and 2.4% in 2007. The unemployment rate in the second quarter of 2006 was 5.4%, below the EU-wide average of 8.5%.

Foreign Trade

Estonia is part of the European Union, and its trade policy is conducted in Brussels.

Estonia’s business attitude toward the United States is positive, and business relations between the two countries are increasing. The primary competition for American companies in the Estonian marketplace is European suppliers, especially Finnish and Swedish companies.

Total U.S. exports to Estonia in 2005 were $138.4 million, forming 1.4% of total Estonian imports. In 2005 the principal imports from the United States were electronics, iron and steel, and machinery. Estonian exports to the United States grew 27% in 2005 to $240 million, making the U.S. Estonia’s eighth-largest export market. U.S. imports from Estonia are primarily mineral fuels and oils, wood and wood products, and electronics.

Estonia’s economy benefits from its location at the crossroads of East and West. Estonia lies just south of Finland and across the Baltic Sea from Sweden, both EU members. To the east are the huge potential markets of northwest Russia. Estonia’s modern transportation and communication links provide a safe and reliable bridge for trade with former Soviet Union and Nordic countries. Many observers also see a potential role for Estonia as a future link in the supply chain from the Far East into the EU.

Country Commercial Guides are available for U.S. exporters from the National Trade Data Bank’s CDROM or via the Internet. Please contact STAT-USA at 1-800-STAT-USA for more information. Country Commercial Guides can be accessed via the World Wide Web at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s site and at the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn’s website at http://estonia.usembassy.gov/commguide.php. They also can be ordered in hard copy or on diskette from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) at 1-800-553-NTIS. U.S. exporters seeking general export information/assistance and country-specific commercial information should contact the U.S. Department of Commerce, Trade Information Center by phone at 1-800-USA-TRAD(E) or by fax at 1-202-482-4473.

DEFENSE

Estonia’s regular armed forces—the Estonian Defense Forces—in peacetime number about 3,800 (Army 3,300, Navy 300, Air Force 200) persons, of whom about 1,500 are conscripts. The President of Estonia is the Commander in Chief of the Estonian Defense Forces. The National Defense Council, composed of the Chairman of the Parliament, the Prime Minister, the Chief of the Defense Forces, the Defense Minister, the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Chairman of the Parliamentary National Defense Committee, advise the President on national defense matters.

Estonia officially became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on March 29, 2004 after depositing its instruments of treaty ratification in Washington, DC. The United States and Estonia cooperate intensively in the defense and security field.

Estonian defense spending has increased 13% annually since 2001. The Government of Estonia has expressed a firm commitment to meet the NATO goal of spending 2% of GDP by 2010; its current defense budget is 1.8% of GDP. In 2006, Estonia had deployed approximately 300 military personnel to support UN, NATO, and coalition military operations around the world and will increase its commitment in 2007. That number represents almost 10% of Estonia’s military, a good indication of Estonia’s willingness and ability to contribute to global security. Estonia currently has troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, and Bosnia.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Estonia is party to most major international organizations. It is a UN, EU, and NATO member and a strong ally and partner of the United States on all fronts. It is deeply committed to good transatlantic relations and to promoting democracy and free-market economic policy globally. In the E.U., Estonia’s priorities include supporting continued EU enlargement; raising EU competitiveness through innovation; joining the Euro-zone; developing a unified European energy policy; enhancing and fostering the European Neighborhood Policy; and improving the EU relationship with Russia.

Estonia has active development assistance programs in many of the former Soviet countries (with a focus on Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova), as well as in Afghanistan.

U.S.-ESTONIA RELATIONS

The relationship between Estonia and the United States of America has been constant and strong since Estonia first became independent. The United States and Estonia are important allies and partners.

The United States recognized the Republic of Estonia on July 28, 1922. The first Estonian diplomatic mission in the United States was opened in the same year. It continued its activities throughout the period of occupation by the Soviet Union from 1940 to 1991. The U.S. Government recognized Estonia’s diplomatic mission as a legal representative of the Republic of Estonia. Indeed, the recognition of the legal continuity of the Republic of Estonia has been the cornerstone of Estonian-U.S. relations.

The U.S. reopened its Embassy in Tallinn on September 4, 1991, soon after the restoration of Estonia’s independence on August 20, 1991. Relations between the two countries have since developed at a rapid pace. In November 2006, President George W. Bush was the first sitting U.S. president to visit Estonia. During the visit, he announced the administration’s intention to work with the U.S. Congress to make changes to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, increasing security while facilitating entry for legitimate visitors and businesspeople from countries like Estonia.

The U.S. Chargé d’affaires to Estonia is Mr. Jeffrey Goldstein. President Bush nominated Mr. Stanley Davis Phillips at the end of 2006 to be the next Ambassador to Estonia. Mr. Jüri Luik has been Estonia’s Ambassador to the United States since September 2003. Estonia also is represented in the United States by a Consulate General in New York and three Honorary Consuls: Jaak Treiman in Los Angeles, Mart Kask in Seattle, and Scott E. Schul in Maine.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

TALLINN (E) Address: Kentmanni 20, Tallinn 15099, Estonia; APO/FPO: PSC 78, Box T, APO AE 09723; Phone: (372) 668-8100; Fax: (372) 668-8266; Workweek: 8:30–17:30; Website: http://estonia.usembassy.gov/.

AMB:Vacant
AMB OMS:Vacant
DCM:Goldstein, Jeffrey L.
DCM OMS:Pirinen Valme, Anni K.
POL/ECO:Adkins, Jessica L.
CON:Deuerlein, Rodger J.
MGT:Kruglikova, Kira G.
AFSA:DeRousse, Richard
CLO:Shedd, Barbara
DAO:Shuey, Karin
ECO/COM:Hollister, Robert M.
EEO:Deuerlein, Rodger J.
GSO:Flaxman, Eric G.
ICASS Chair:Doss, Darrell
IMO:Martin, Wade C.
IRS:Stanley, Susan W.
ISO:DeRousse, Richard
LEGATT:Sylvester, John T.
PAO:Johnson, Eric A.
RSO:Shedd, Matthew A.
State ICASS:Lee, Peter H.

Last Updated: 1/18/2007

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet : January 22, 2007

Country Description: Estonia is a stable democracy with a rapidly developing economy. Tourist facilities in Tallinn are comparable to other western European cities, but some amenities may be lacking in rural areas. Some goods and services may not be available outside of major cities.

Entry/Exit Requirements: A valid passport is required. Tourists and business travelers may stay in Estonia for up to 90 days within a six-month period without a visa. U.S. citizens who wish to work in Estonia or remain longer than 90 days must obtain a visa or residence permit for themselves and any family members who will be living with them in Estonia. For further information concerning entry requirements and residency permits, contact the Estonian Embassy, located at 2131 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 588-0101, or the Consulate General of Estonia in New York City, telephone (212) 883-0636. Visit the Embassy of Estonia web site at http://www.estemb.org for the most current visa information.

Safety and Security: Civil unrest is not a problem in Estonia, and there have been no incidents of terrorism directed toward American interests. Large public gatherings and demonstrations may occur on occasion, caused mainly by domestic political issues.

During periods of darkness, reflectors must be worn by pedestrians. Violators of this law may be subject to a fine of up to 600 EEK ($50.00). Reflectors are inexpensive and are available at most supermarkets and many smaller shops. To meet legal requirements, the reflector’s packaging must include a reference to European safety standard EN13356.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet web site where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found. Americans are reminded to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: Estonia is a relatively safe country, although crime in Tallinn’s “Old Town” is an ongoing concern, particularly during the summer tourist season. Travelers should exercise the same precautions with regard to their personal safety and belongings they would take in major U.S. cities. The most common crimes encountered by foreign tourists are purse snatching, pick-pocketing, and mugging. Tourists are often targeted by individuals and small groups of thieves working together. In public places such as the Town Hall Square (“Raekoja Plats”) airport, train stations, and the Central Market, one must exercise special care in safeguarding valuables against purse-snatchers and pickpockets. Valuables should never be left unattended in vehicles and car doors should be kept locked at all times. Some violent crime does occur, mainly at night and often in proximity to nightlife areas. Car theft and break-ins also continue to be a problem in Tallinn.

Police capabilities in Estonia are improving, but still suffer from lack of equipment, training, personnel and resources. Many police officers speak only very limited English. Credit card fraud is an ongoing concern, as is internet-based financial fraud and “internet dating” fraud. Travelers should take prudent precautions to safeguard their credit cards and report any suspected unauthorized transaction to the credit card company immediately. Racially motivated verbal harassment and, on occasion, physical assault of Americans and other nationals of non-Caucasian ethnicity has occurred. If an incident occurs, it should be reported to the police and to the Embassy.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: The quality of medical care in Estonia continues to improve but still falls short of Western standards. Estonia has many highly trained medical professionals, but hospitals and clinics still suffer from a lack of equipment and resources. Elderly travelers and those with health problems may be at increased risk. Visitors to forest areas in warm weather should also guard against tick-borne encephalitis.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Estonia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. Driving in Estonia can be more dangerous than in much of the United States. Many roads, especially in rural areas, are poorly lit and are not up to Western standards. Some drivers can be aggressive, recklessly overtaking vehicles and traveling at high speed, even in crowed urban areas. Estonian laws against driving under the influence of alcohol are strict and follow a policy of zero tolerance. Unfortunately, accidents involving intoxicated drivers are distressingly frequent. It is not uncommon for the police to set up checkpoints on major streets and highways; drivers should pull over when asked. Drivers should always remain alert to the possibility of drunk drivers and drunken pedestrians.

Estonian traffic laws require drivers to stop for all pedestrians in marked crosswalks. Nevertheless, Estonian motorist do not always comply with this regulation, and pedestrians should always be careful when crossing the streets. In rural areas, wild animals, such as deer and moose, and icy road conditions can create unexpected hazards. Dark-clothed or drunken pedestrians walking along unlit roads or darting across dimly-lit streets or highways pose a risk to unsuspecting drivers. Winter roads are usually treated and cleared of snow, but drivers should remain vigilant for icy patches and large potholes.

Local law requires that headlights be illuminated at all times while driving. Use of a seatbelts by all passengers is required, and children too small to be secure in seatbelts must use child car seats. The speed limit is 50 km/h in town and 90 km/h out of town unless otherwise indicated. A right turn on a red light is prohibited unless otherwise indicated by a green arrow. According to Estonian law vehicles involved in accidents should not be moved to the side of the road until the police reach the scene. Americans planning to drive in Estonia must obtain an international driver’s license prior to arrival.

For information about international driving permits, contact AAA or the American Automobile Touring Alliance. The Eesti Autoklubi (Estonian Auto Club), which is affiliated with AAA, provides emergency roadside assistance. Drivers do not need to be a member to receive assistance; however, the fees charged are higher for non-members. The number to call for roadside vehicle assistance and towing service is 1888. For ambulance, fire or police assistance the number is 112. Please note that for both numbers, the level of English spoken by the operator answering may be minimal. You may also visit the website of Estonia’s national tourist office at http://www.visitestonia.com. For specific information concerning Estonian driving permits, vehicles inspections and road tax mandatory insurance, contact the Estonian Motor Vehicle Registration Center via the Internet at http://www.ark.ee/atp/?keel=en Additional information may be obtained from the English language website of the Estonian Road Administration at http://www.mnt.ee/atp/?id=454, or from http://www.balticroads.net/en.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Estonia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Estonian Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s internet web site at http://www.faa.gov.

Special Circumstances: Commercial and financial transactions in Estonia are increasingly automated and on-line. Cash is almost always acceptable; the national currency is the Estonian Kroon (EEK), the value of which is pegged to the Euro (15.65 EEK= 1 Euro). Inflation above three percent has forced the government to push back adoption of the Euro from its original target of 2007. Most credit cards are widely recognized throughout the country. ATM machines are common and many U.S.-issued bank-cards are compatible with them. For residents, bill-paying outside of retail establishments (i.e. utilities and other recurring expenses) is done more and more frequently via Internet. Bank checks are virtually unknown, and checks drawn on a U.S. bank are of little use in the country.

Estonia’s customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information call (212) 354-4480, send and email to [email protected], or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Estonian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Estonia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children’s Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location: Americans living or traveling in Estonia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Estonia. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The latest security information is available from the Embassy, including its website, http://estonia.usembassy.gov.

The U.S. Embassy is located approximately 1 km outside of Tallinn’s “Old Town.” The address is: Kentmanni 20, 15099 Tallinn, Estonia. The Embassy’s main switchboard number is telephone (372) 668-8100. The Consular Section’s fax number is (372) 668-8267. For after-hours emergencies, an Embassy Duty Officer may be contacted by mobile phone at: (011) (372) 509-2129, if dialing from the U.S., and 509-2129 if dialed from within Estonia. The Embassy’s home page on the Internet is at http://estonia.usembassy.gov. The American Citizen Services Unit email address is [email protected]

International Adoption : September 2006

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Patterns of Immigration: According to the Estonian Family Law only those children whose parents are deceased or whose parents have had their parental rights taken away may be adopted. According to the Estonian Children Protection Act: Inter-country adoption shall occur primarily if it is not possible to care for the child to the necessary extent in the Republic of Estonia. Please review current reports online at travel. state.gov/family.

Adoption Authority:
Consultant of the Office of Child
Protection
Ministry of Social Welfare of the Republic of Estonia
Gonsiori 29, Room 217
15027 Tallinn, Estonia

Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents: An adopting parent should be at least 25 years old (in exceptional cases the Court may give permission to adopt to a younger person). A child may be adopted by a couple only if they are legally married (two people of the same sex cannot adopt in Estonia) and only with the written consent of his or her spouse. An individual can adopt a child if he or she is not married. According to the Family Law Act, adoption may be effected without consent of the other spouse if the conjugal relations of the spouses have terminated and they live apart.

Residency Requirements: There are no residency requirements for prospective adoptive parents in Estonia.

Time Frame: The entire adoption process for a child in Estonia who will depart to live in the United States takes approximately one year, including matching child and prospective parents, documentation, and court hearing.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: Prospective adoptive parents may contact the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn, Estonia for a list of adoption agencies that are allowed to operate in Estonia. Neither the U.S. Department of State, nor the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn, Estonia can make any claims as to efficacy or professionalism of this agency. Note: According to the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (29 May 1993, Hague), each adopting parent or family will need to find an organization in their country of residence which is accredited to operate in Estonia. The Minister of Social Welfare and a commission will determine which agencies will be accredited to work in Estonia.

Adoption Fees: There is no adoption fee per se in Estonia. Court fees are approximately 10 U.S. dollars; new Estonian passports are approximately 25 dollars.

Adoption Procedures: Prospective adoptive parents interested in adopting a child in Estonia should send a letter to the Estonian Ministry of Social Welfare (MSW) indicating the sex and age of the child(ren) they would be interested in adopting.

The MSW cautions that prospective adoptive parents should not visit orphanages to locate the child since it is unlikely that the child they choose will be permitted to be adopted by foreigners. According to the new adoption law, international adoptions may be processed through an adoption agency in the parents’ home country which has signed an agreement with the Ministry of Social Welfare.

Once prospective adoptive parents are approved for adopting in Estonia, the MSW places them on a list and begins the process of locating a suitable the child. When the MSW finds a child that seems to meet the adoptive parents’ indicated desire, the MSW sends information about the child to the adoptive parents through the agency representing them in Estonia.

If the adoptive parents would like to proceed with the adoption of the specific, proposed child, they must send the MSW through the agency representing them in Estonia, a notarized application stating their request to adopt the child, indicating the child’s first and last names. No more than three successive children will be offered to one prospective parent. Estonian adoption law requires court approval of international adoptions and the adoptive parents’ presence at the court hearing when the adoption is finalized.

The Domiciliary County Government’s Children Protection Officer represents the child’s rights and will release the child into the adoptive parents’ custody. After the adoption has been approved, the adoptive parents get the right to change the child’s name. After the child has been adopted under Estonian law, the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn will complete the Overseas Orphan Investigation. Please review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family for more details.

Documentary Requirements: Prospective adoptive parents must send a letter of interest to the Ministry of Social Welfare (MSW) through their adoption agency. The MSW will inform prospective adoptive parents through the adoption agency to send the following documents which should also be translated into Estonian by a certified translator:

  • Home study, reflecting the material ability of the prospective adoptive parents to bring up a child, their suitability as adoptive parents and a recommendation for adoption;
  • Medical examination results indicating the prospective adoptive parents’ state of health;
  • Documents pertaining to the financial condition of the prospective adoptive parents;
  • Marriage certificate (or photocopy);
  • Photocopies of the prospective adoptive parents’ passports;
  • Any other information the parents feel would be useful for the MSW to know, including family heritage, ties to Estonia, letters of reference, etc.

Embassy of Estonia:
2131 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington DC 20008
Tel: (202)-588-0101
Fax: (202)-588-0108

Consulate General of Estonia:
600 Third Avenue, 26th Floor
New York, N.Y. 10016-2001, USA
phone. (+1 212) 883 06 36
fax (+1 212) 883 06 48
email: [email protected]
http://www.nyc.estemb.org

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoption.

U.S. Embassy:
Kentmanni 20
Tallinn, Estonia
Tel: 011-372- 668-8100
Fax: 011-372-668-8267
E-mail: [email protected]

Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in Estonia may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn, Estonia or the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki, Finland. General questions regarding inter-country adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children’s Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.

views updated

ESTONIA

Compiled from the October 2003 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Estonia

PROFILE
GEOGRAPHY
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
DEFENSE
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-ESTONIA RELATIONS
TRAVEL


PROFILE


Geography

Area: 45,226 sq. km. (17,462 sq. mi.); about the size of New Hampshire and Vermont.

Cities: Capital—Tallinn (pop. 397, 150). Other cities —Tartu (101,190); Narva (67,752); Kohtla-Jarve (46,765); Parnu (44,781); Viljandi (20,509). The last population census was held in 2000.

Terrain: Flat, average elevation 50m. Elevation is slightly higher in the east and southeast. Steep limestone banks and 1,520 islands mark the coastline. Land use—9.5% arable land, 47,4% forest and woodland, 22% swamps and bogs, 21.5% other. Coastal waters are some what polluted.

Climate: Temperate, with four seasons of near-equal length. Annual precipitation averages 50-75 cm.


People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Estonian(s).

Population: 1.367 million.

Annual growth rate: 0.4%. Birth rate—9.3/1,000. Death rate—13.6/1,000. Migration—616 persons (1999). Density—30/sq. km. Urban dwellers—70%.

Ethnic groups: Estonians 65%, Russians 28%, Ukrainians 2.5%, Belarusians 1.4%, Finns 0.9%, other 2.2%.

Religions: Lutheran, the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox, subordinated to Constantinople, the Estonian Orthodox, subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate, Baptist.

Languages: Estonian (official).

Education: Years compulsory—9. Attendance—218,600 students at 550 schools, plus 50,800 university students. Literacy—98.2%.

Health: Infant mortality rate—8.4 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy—65 yrs. men, 76 yrs. women.

Work force: 704,500.


Government

Type: Parliamentary democracy.

Constitution: On June 28, 1992 Estonians ratified a constitution based on the 1938 model, offering legal continuity to the Republic of Estonia prior to Soviet occupation.

Branches: Executive—president (chief of state), elected by Parliament every 5 years; prime minister (head of government). Legislative—Riigikogu (Parliament—101 members, 4-year term). Judicial—Supreme Court.

Administrative regions: 15 counties, 42 towns, and 205 municipalities

Political parties/coalitions: Estonian Center Party—Chairman, Edgar Savisaar; Estonian Reform Party—Chairman, SiimKallas/Coalition; Pro Patria Union—Chairman, Mart Laar; Estonian People's Union—Chairman, Villu Reiljan/Coalition; Moderates—Chairman, Ivari Padar; Estonian United People's Party—Chairman, Jevgeni Tomberg; Estonian Social Democratic Labor Party—Chairman, Tiit Toomsalu; Estonian Independence Party—Chairman, Vello Leit; Res Publica—Chairman, Juhan Parts/Coalition; Estonian Christian People's Party—Chairman, Aldo Vinkel; Russian Party in Estonia—Chairman, Stanislav Cherepanov; Estonian Democratic Party—Chairman, Jaan Laas; Republican Party—Chairman, Kristjan-Olari Leping.

Suffrage: 18 years-universal; noncitizen residents may vote in municipal elections.

Government budget: $2.3 billion.

Defense: 2% of GDP.

National holidays: Jan. 1 (New Year's Day), Feb. 24 (Independence Day), Good Friday, Easter Sunday, May 1 (May Day), Whitsunday, June 23 (Victory Day-anniversary of Battle of Vonnu in 1919). June 24 (Midsummer Day), Aug. 20 (Day of Restoration of Independence), Dec. 25 (Christmas Day), Dec. 26 (Boxing Day)


Economy (2003 figs.)

GDP: $6.5 billion (2002).

Growth rate: -6.0.

Per capita GDP: $4,720.

Consumer price index: 3.5 (2002).

Unemployment: (2002)—10.6%.

Natural resources: Oil shale, phosphorite, limestone, blue clay.

Agriculture: (3% of 2001 GDP) Product s—livestock production (milk, meat, eggs) and crop production (cereals and legumes, potatoes, forage crops). Cultivable land—433,100 hectares.

Industry: (26% of 20 02 GDP) Types—engineering, electronics, wood and wood products, and textiles.

Services: (70% of 2002 GDP) Transit, IT, telecommunications.

Trade: Exports (2002)—$4.3 billion. Partners—Finland 20%, Sweden 12%, Russia 10%, Latvia 8%, Germany 8%, U.S. 2%. Imports (2002)—$5,8 billion. Partners—Finland 16%, Germany 11%, Russia (12%), Sweden 8%.

Exchange rate: (2002) 16.6 kroon EEK=U.S.$1.

Foreign direct investment: (June 2003) Sweden 39%, Finland 30%, Netherlands 6%, U.S. 7%, Norway 3%, Denmark 2%, Germany 2%.


GEOGRAPHY

Between 57.3 and 59.5 latitude and 21.5 and 28.1 longitude, Estonia lies on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea on the level northwestern part of the rising East European platform. Average elevation reaches only 50m (160 ft.).


The climate resembles New England's. Oil shale and limestone deposits, along with forests which cover 47% of the land, play key economic roles in this generally resource-poor country. Estonia boasts more than 1,500 lakes, numerous bogs, and 3,794 km of coast line marked by numerous bays, straits, and inlets. Tallinn's Muuga port offers one of Europe's finest warmwater harbor facilities.


Estonia's strategic location has precipitated many wars that were fought on its territory between other rival powers at its expense. In 1944 the U.S.S.R. granted Russia the trans-Narva and Petseri region son Estonia's eastern frontier, which still remain contested bilaterally.


PEOPLE

The name "Eesti," or Estonia, is derived from the word "Aestii," the name given by the ancient Germans to the peoples living northeast of the Vistula River. The Roman historian Tacitus in 98 A.D. was the first to mention the "Aestii" people, and early Scandinavians called the land south of the Gulf of Finland "Eistland," and the people "eistr." Estonians belong to the Balto-Finnic group of the Finno-Ugric peoples, as do the Finns and Hungarians. Archaeological research supports the existence of human activity in the region as early as 8,000 BC but by 3,500 BC the principal ancestors of the Estonians had arrived from the east.


Estonians have strong ties to the Nordic countries today stemming from strong cultural and religious influences gained over centuries during Scandinavian colonization and settlement. This highly literate society places strong emphasis upon education, which is free and compulsory until age 16. The first book in Estonian was printed in 1525. About 20% of population belongs to the following churches registered in Estonia: Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, Estonian Orthodox Church subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate, Baptist Church, Roman Catholic Church, and others.


From 1945-1989 the percentage of ethnic Estonians in Estonia dropped from 94% to 61%, caused primarily by the Soviet program promoting mass immigration of urban industrial workers from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, as well as by wartime emigration and Stalin's mass deportations and executions.


Written with the Latin alphabet, Estonian is the language of the Estonian people and the official language of the country. One-third of the standard vocabulary is derived from adding suffixes to root words. The oldest known examples of written Estonian originate in 13th century chronicles. During the Soviet era, the Russian language was imposed for official use.


HISTORY

Estonians are one of the longest-settled European peoples, whose for-bearers, known as the "comb pottery" people, lived on the southeastern shores of the Baltic Sea over 5,000 years ago. Like other early agricultural societies, Estonians were organized into economically self-sufficient, male-dominated clans with few differences in wealth or social power. By the early Middle Ages most Estonians were small landholders, with farmsteads primarily organized by village. Estonian government remained decentralized, with local political and administrative subdivisions emerging only during the first century A.D. By then, Estonia had a population of more than150,000 people and remained the last corner of medieval Europe to be Christianized.


In 1227 the German crusading order of the Sword Brethren defeated the last Estonian stronghold. The people were Christianized, colonized, and enserfed. Despite attempts to restore independence, Estonia was divided among three domains, and small states were formed. Tallinn joined the Hanseatic League in 1248.


Despite successful Russian raids and invasions in 1481 and 1558, the local German barons continued to rule Estonia and since 1524 preserved Estonian commitment to the Protestant Reformation. Northern Estonia submitted to Swedish control in 1561 during the Livonian Wars, and in 1582-83 southern Estonia (Livonia) became part of Poland's Duchy of Courland.


In 1625, mainland Estonia came entirely under Swedish rule. In 1631, the Swedish king Gustav II Adolf granted the peasantry greater autonomy, opened the first known Estonian-language school in Tallinn, and in 1632 established a printing press and university in the city of Tartu.

Sweden's defeat by Russia in 1721 resulted in the Uusikaupunki Peace Treaty, and Russian rule was then imposed in what became modern Estonia. Nonetheless, the legal system, Lutheran church, local and town governments, and education remained mostly German until the late 19th century and partially until 1918.


By 1819, the Baltic provinces were the first in the Russian empire in which serfdom was abolished, allowing the peasants to own their own land or move to the cities. The se moves created the economic foundation for the Estonian national cultural awakening that had lain dormant for some 600 years of foreign rule. Estonia was caught in a current of national awakening that began sweeping through Europe in the mid-1800s.


A cultural movement sprang forth to adopt the use of Estonian as the language of instruction in schools, all-Estonian song festivals were held regularly after 1869, and a national literature in Estonia developed. Kalevipoeg, Estonia's epic national poem, was published in 1861 in both Estonian and German.


As the 1905 revolution in Russia swept through Estonia, the Estonians called for freedom of the press and assembly, for universal franchise, and for national autonomy. The uprisings were brutally suppressed, and Estonian gains were minimal, but the tense stability that prevailed between 1905 and 1917 allowed Estonians to advance the aspiration of national statehood.


With the collapse of the Russian empire in World War I, Russia's provisional government granted national autonomy to Estonia. A popularly elected assembly (Maapaev) was formed but was quickly forced underground by opposing extremist political forces. The Committee of Elders of the underground Maapaev announced the Republic of Estonia on February 24, 1918, one day before German troops invaded. After the withdrawal of German troops in November 1918, fighting broke out between Bolshevik and Estonian troops. On February 2, 1920, the Treaty of Tartu was signed by the Republic of Estonia and Soviet Russia. The terms of the treaty stated that Soviet Russia renounced in perpetuity all rights to the territory of Estonia.


Independence lasted 22 years. Estonia underwent a number of economic, social, and political reforms necessary to come to terms with its new status as a sovereign state. Economically and socially, land reform in 1919 was the most important step. Large estate holdings belonging to the Baltic nobility were redistributed among the peasants and especially among volunteers in the War of Independence. Estonia's principal markets became Scandinavia, Great Britain, and we stern Europe, with some exports to the United States and Soviet Union.


The first constitution of the Republic of Estonia, adopted in 1920, established a parliamentary form of government. The Parliament (Riigikogu) consisted of 100 members elected for 3-y ear terms. Between 1921 and 1931, Estonia had 11 governments. Konstantin Päts was installed as the first President of the Republic in 1938.

The independence period was one of great cultural advancement. Estonian language schools were established, and artistic life of all kinds flourished. One of the more notable cultural acts of the independence period, unique in western Europe at the time of its passage in 1925, was a guarantee of cultural autonomy to minority groups comprising at least 3,000 persons, and to Jews.


Estonia had pursued a policy of neutrality, but the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Nonaggression Pact on August 23, 1939 signaled the end of independence. The agreement provided for the Soviet occupation of Estonia, Latvia, part of Finland, and later, Lithuania, in return for Nazi Germany's assuming control over most of Poland. After extensive diplomatic intrigue, the Estonian Socialist Republic (ESR) was proclaimed on July 21, 1940, 1 month after Estonia was occupied by Soviet troops. The ESR was formally accepted into the Soviet Union on August 6, and the official name of the country became the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic.


Soviet occupation was accompanied by expropriation of property, Sovietization of cultural life, and Stalinist communism permeating political life. On June 14, 1941, mass deportations took place simultaneously in all three Baltic states. Officially, nothing was said about the arrests, and no one was prosecuted or sentenced.


When Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, most Estonians greeted the Germans with relatively open arms and hoped to restore independence. It soon became clear that sovereignty was out of the question. Estonia became a part of "Ostland." Massive repression continued. About 5,500 Estonians died in concentration camps.


In World War II Estonia suffered huge losses. Ports were destroyed, and 45% of industry and 40% of the railways were damaged. Estonia's population decreased by one-fifth (about 200,000 people). Some 10% of the population (more than 80,000 people) fled to the West between 1940 and 1944. More than 30,000 soldiers were killed in battles. In 1944 Russian air raids destroyed Narva, and one-0third of the residential area in Tallinn was destroyed. By late September 1944, Soviet forces expelled the last German troops from Estonia, ushering in a second phase of Soviet rule. That year, Moscow also transferred the Estonian Narva and Petseri border districts, which held a large percentage of ethnic Russians, to Russian control. In 1944, there were massive arrests of people who had actively supported the German occupation or been disloyal to Soviet order.


An anti-Soviet guerrilla movement known as "the Forest Brethren" developed in the countryside, reaching its zenith in 1946-48. In March 1949, 20,722 people (2.5% of population) were deported to Siberia. By the beginning of the 1950s, the occupying regime had suppressed the resistance movement.

After the war the Communist Party of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic (ECP) became the preeminent organization in the republic. The ethnic Estonian share in the total ECP membership decreased from 90% in 1941 to 48% in 1952.


After Stalin's death, party membership vastly expanded its social base to include more ethnic Estonians. By the mid-1960s, the percentage of ethnic Estonian membership stabilized near 50%. On the eve of perestroika the ECP claimed about 100,000 members; less than half were ethnic Estonians and comprised less than 2% of the country's population.


A positive aspect of the post-Stalin era in Estonia was a reopening in the late 1950s of citizens' contacts with foreign countries. Ties were reactivated with Finland, and in the 1960s, Estonians began watching Finnish television. This electronic "window on the West" afforded Estonians more information on current affairs and more access to Western culture and thought than any other group in the Soviet Union. This heightened media environment was important in preparing Estonians for their vanguard role in extending perestroika during the Gorbachev era.


In the late 1970s, Estonian society grew increasingly concerned about the threat of cultural Russification to the Estonian language and national identity. By 1981, Russian was taught in the first grade of Estonian language schools and also was introduced into the Estonian pre-school teaching.


By the beginning of the Gorbachev era, concern over the cultural survival of the Estonian people had reached a critical point. The ECP remained stable in the early perestroika years but waned in the late 1980s. Other political movements, groupings, and parties moved to fill the power vacuum. The first and most important was the Estonian Popular Front, established in April 1988 with its own platform, leadership, and broad constituency. The Greens and the dissident-led Estonian National Independence Party soon followed. By 1989, the political spectrum widened, and new parties were formed and re-formed almost daily.

The republic's Supreme Soviet transformed into an authentic regional lawmaking body. This relatively conservative legislature passed an early declaration of sovereignty (November 1988); a law on economic independence (May 1989) confirmed by the U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet that November; a language law making Estonian the official language (January 1989); and local and republic election laws stipulating residency requirements for voting and candidacy (August, November 1989).


Although not all non-Estonians supported full independence, they were divided in their goals for the republic. In March 1990 some 18% of Russian speakers supported the idea of a fully independent Estonia, up from 7% the previous autumn, and only a small group of Estonians were opposed to full independence in early 1990. Estonia held free elections for the 105-member Supreme Soviet on March 18, 1990. All residents of Estonia were eligible to participate in the elections, including the approximately 50,000 Soviet troops stationed there. The Popular Front coalition, composed of left and centrist parties and led by former Central Planning Committee official Edgar Savisaar, held a parliamentary majority. In May 1990, the name of the Republic of Estonia was restored, public use of the symbols of the ESSR (anthem, flag, and coat of arms) were forbidden, and only laws adopted in Estonia were proclaimed valid.


Despite the emergence of the new lawmaking body, an alternative legislature developed in Estonia. In February 1990, a body known as the Congress of Estonia was elected in unofficial and unsanctioned elections. Supporters of the Congress argued that the inter-war republic continued to exist de jure: Since Estonia was forcibly annexed by the U.S.S.R., only citizens of that republic and their descendants could decide Estonia's future.


Through a strict, nonconfrontational policy in pursuing independence, Estonia managed to avoid the violence which Latvia and Lithuania incurred in the bloody January 1991 crackdowns and in the border-customs post guard murders that summer. During the August coup in the U.S.S.R., Estonia was able to maintain constant operation and control of its telecommunications facilities, thereby offering the West a clear view into the latest coup developments and serving as a conduit for swift Western support and recognition of Estonia's redeclaration of independence on August 20, 1991. Following Europe's lead, the United States formally reestablished diplomatic relations with Estonia on September 2, and the U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet offered recognition on September 6.


After more than 3 years of negotiations, on August 31, 1994, the armed forces of the Russian Federation withdrew from Estonia. Since regaining independence Estonia has had 11 governments with 7 prime ministers: Edgar Savisaar, Tiit Vähi, Mart Laar, Andres Tarand, Mart Siimann, Siim Kallas, and Juhan Parts.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

On June 28, 1992, Estonian voters approved the constitutional assembly's draft constitution and implementation act, which established a parliamentary government with a president as chief of state and with a government headed by a prime minister.


The Riigikogu, a unicameral legislative body, is the highest organ of state authority. It initiates and approves legislation sponsored by the prime minister. The prime minister has full responsibility and control over his cabinet. Parliamentary and presidential elections were held on September 20, 1992. Approximately 68% of the country's 637,000 registered voters cast ballots. An outstanding writer and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lennart Meri, won on the first ballot and became president. He chose 32-year-old historian and Christian Democratic Party founder Mart Laar as prime minister.

In February 1992, and with amendments in January 1995, the Riigikogu renewed Estonia's liberal 1938 citizenship law, which also provides equal civil protection to resident aliens.


In 1996, Estonia ratified a border agreement with Latvia and completed work with Russia on a technical border agreement. President Meri was re-elected in free and fair indirect elections in August and September in 1996. During parliamentary elections in 1999, the seats in Riigikogu were divided as follows: the Center Party received 28, the Pro Patria Union 18, the Reform Party 18, the Moderates 17 seats. Pro Patria Union, the Reform Party, and the Moderates formed a government with Mart Laar as Prime Minister whereas the Center Party with the Coalition Party, People's Union, United People's Party, and Members of Parliament who were not members of factions formed the opposition in the Riigikogu.


In the fall of 2001 Arnold Rüütel became the President of the Republic of Estonia. In January 2002 Prime Minister Laar stepped down, and President Ruutel appointed Siim Kallas the new Prime Minister. The Reform Party and the Center Party formed a new coalition government in power as of the 28th of January 2002. Parliamentary elections were held on March 2, 2003. A coalition government comprised of the Res Publica, Reform, and the Peoples' Union Parties took office in April 2003. President Rüütel appointed Juhan Parts of Res Publica as Prime Minister.

Principal Government Officials
Last Updated: 2/9/04


President: Ruutel, Arnold

Prime Minister: Parts, Juhan

Min. of Agriculture: Taamsar, Tiit

Min. of Culture: Paet, Urmas

Min. of Defense: Hanson, Margus

Min. of Economics and Communications: Atonen, Meelis

Min. of Education and Science: Maimets, Toivo

Min. of Environment: Reiljan, Villu

Min. of Finance: Palts, Tonis

Min. of Foreign Affairs: Ojuland, Kristiina

Min. of Interior: Leivo, Margus

Min. of Justice: Vaher, Ken-Marti

Min. of Law Enforcement & Regional Affairs: Ounapuu, Jaan

Min. of Population: Ruumo, Paul-Erik

Min. of Social Affairs: Pomerants, Marko

Pres., Estonian Central Bank: Kraft, Vahur

Ambassador to the US: Luik, Juri

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Pajula, Merle



Estonia maintains an embassy in the United States at 1730 M Street, Suite 503, NW Washington DC 20036, tel: [1] (202) 588-0101; FAX: [1] (202) 588-0108 It operates a consulate at 630 Fifth Ave., Suite 2415, New York, NY 10020 (tel: 212-247-7634).


ECONOMY

For centuries until 1920, Estonian agriculture consisted of native peasants working large feudal-type estates held by ethnic German landlords. In the decades prior to independence, centralized Czarist rule had contributed a rather large industrial sector dominated by the world's largest cotton mill, a ruined post-war economy, and an inflated ruble currency. In years 1920 to 1930, Estonia entirely transformed its economy, despite considerable hardship, dislocation, and unemployment. Compensating the German landowners for their holdings, the government confiscated the estates and divided them into small farms which subsequently formed the basis of Estonian prosperity.


By 1929, a stable currency, the kroon (or crown), was established. Trade focused on the local market and the West, particularly Germany and the United Kingdom. Only 3% of all commerce was with the U.S.S.R.


The U.S.S.R.'s forcible annexation of Estonia in 1940 and the ensuing Nazi and Soviet destruction during World War II crippled the Estonian economy. Postwar Sovietization of life continued with the integration of Estonia's economy and industry into the U.S.S.R.'s centrally planned structure. More than 56% of Estonian farms were collectivized in the month of April 1949 alone. Moscow expanded on those Estonian industries which had locally available raw materials, such as oil-shale mining and phosphorites. As a laboratory for economic experiments, especially in industrial management techniques, Estonia enjoyed more success and greater prosperity than other regions under Soviet rule.


Since re-establishing independence, Estonia has styled itself as the gateway between East and West and aggressively pursued economic reform and integration with the West. Estonia's market reforms put it among the economic leaders in the former COMECON area. A balanced budget, flat-rate income tax, free trade regime, fully convertible currency, competitive commercial banking sector, and hospitable environment for foreign investment are hallmarks of Estonia's free-market-based economy. Estonia also has made excellent progress in regard to structural adjustment.


The privatization of state-owned firms is virtually complete, with only the port and the main power plants remaining in government hands. The constitution requires a balanced budget, and the protection afforded by Estonia's intellectual property laws is on a par of that of Europe's. In early 1992 both liquidity problems and structural weakness stemming from the communist era precipitated a banking crisis. As a result, effective bankruptcy legislation was enacted, and privately owned, well-managed banks emerged as market leaders. Today, near-ideal conditions for the banking sector exist. Foreigners are not restricted from buying bank shares or acquiring majority holdings.

Tallinn's fully-electronic Stock Exchange opened in early 1996 and was bought out by Finland's Helsinki Stock Exchange in 2001. It is estimated that the unregistered economy provides almost 12% of annual GDP.


Estonia is nearly energy independent supplying more than 90% of its electricity needs with locally mined oil shale. Alternative energy sources such as wood, peat, and biomass make up about 9% of primary energy production. Estonia imports needed petroleum products from western Europe and Russia. Oil shale energy, telecommunications, textiles, chemical products, banking, services, food and fishing, timber, shipbuilding, electronics, and transportation are key sectors of the economy. The icefree port of Muuga, near Tallinn, is a modern facility featuring good transshipment capability, a high-capacity grain elevator, chill/frozen storage, and brand-new oil tanker off-loading capabilities. The railroad, privatized by an international consortium in 2000, serves as a conduit between the West, Russia, and other points to the East.


Estonia still faces challenges. Agricultural privatization has caused severe problems for farmers needing collateral to be eligible for loans. The income differential between Tallinn and the rest of the country is widening. Standards of living have eroded for the large portion of the population on fixed pensions. The formerly industrial northeast section of Estonia is undergoing a severe economic depression as a result of plant closings.


During recent years the Estonian economy has continued to grow. Estonian GDP grew by 6.5% in 2001 and by 6.0% in 2002. Inflation declined modestly to 4.2% in 2001; for 2002 the inflation rate was 2.7%. The unemployment rate in 2002 was 10.6%. Estonia joined the World Trade Organization in 1999. Estonia concluded European Union (EU) accession negotiations in December 2002 and signed the EU Accession Treaty in April 2003. In a September 2003 referendum, Estonian citizens voted to amend their constitution and join the European Union. After a ratification procedure, Estonia will be set to join the EU during the next round of enlargement scheduled for May 2004. Estonia currently has EU observer status, and Estonian delegates have been participating in the work of the EU Council and other institutions. Experience from previous EU enlargements suggests that EU membership will positively influence Estonia's gross domestic product, exports of goods and services, and the inflow of foreign investment.


Foreign Trade

Estonia's liberal foreign trade regime, which contains few tariff or nontariff barriers, is nearly unique in Europe. Estonia also boasts a national currency which is freely convertible at a fixed exchange rate, and conservative fiscal and monetary policies. Estonia has free trade regimes with EU and EFTA countries and also with Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Turkey, the Faro Islands, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic.


Estonia's business attitude toward the United States is positive, and business relations between the United States and Estonia are increasing significantly. The primary competition for American companies in the Estonian marketplace are European suppliers, especially Finnish, and Swedish companies.


Total U.S. exports to Estonia in 2002 were $164 million, forming 3% of total Estonian imports. In 2002 the principal imports from the United States were meat and edible meat offal, poultry, boilers, and other electrical machinery and transmission/recording apparatus for radio/TV.

Estonia's future membership in the EU is not expected to have major bilateral trade implications for the United States. However, this membership will be disadvantageous for certain U.S. exports to Estonia. For example, since January 2000 Estonia has imposed import tariffs on certain agricultural products from third countries, including the United States, in accordance with EU rules and regulations.


Estonia, being a small country of 1.4 million people, relies on its greatest natural asset—its location at the crossroads of East and West. Estonia lies just South of Finland and across the Baltic Sea from Sweden —the EU's newest members. To the East are the huge potential markets of Northwest Russia. Having been a member of former Soviet Union, Estonians know how to do business in Russia and in other former Soviet countries. Estonia's modern transportation and communication links provide a safe and reliable bridge for trade with former Soviet Union and Nordic countries. According to the RIPE Network Coordination Centre (www.ripe.net), Estonia has the highest Internet-connected hosts/population ratio in central and eastern Europe and also is ahead of most of the EU countries. Latest surveys indicate that 41% of the Estonian population regard themselves as Internet users.


Country Commercial Guides are available for U.S. exporters from the National Trade Data Bank's CD-ROM or via the Internet. Please contact STAT-USA at 1-800-STAT-USA for more information. Country Commercial Guides can be accessed via the World Wide Web at, and. They also can be ordered in hard copy or on diskette from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) at 1-800-553-NTIS. U.S. exporters seeking general export information/assistance and country-specific commercial information should contact the U.S. Department of Commerce, Trade Information Center by phone at 1-800-USA-TRAD(E) or by fax at 1-202-482-4473.


DEFENSE

Estonia achieved its main security and defense policy objective by accepting a formal invitation at Prague in November 2002 to join the NATO Alliance. It should become a full member in 2004. Accession to NATO has been included in all coalition agreements of all Estonian governments since the restoration of independence, including the present government. The same objective also is stated in the National Security Concept of the Republic of Estonia, approved by the parliament in March 2001.


The 2003 state budget allocates 2% of GDP for defense expenditures. The United States is among the countries with which Estonia has very intensive cooperation in the defense and security field.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

Estonia is a party to 181 international organizations, including BIS, CBSS, CCC, CE, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, EU (applicant), FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO (correspondent), ITU, OPCW, OSCE, PFP, UN, UNC TAD, UNE SCO, UNM IBH, UNMIK, UNTSO, UPU, WEU (associate partner), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO.


U.S.-ESTONIA RELATIONS

The relationship between Estonia and the United States of America has been constant and strong since Estonia first became independent. Because of its global political and economic influence, the United States is one of Estonia's most important partners.


The United States recognized the Republic of Estonia on July 28, 1922. The first Estonian diplomatic mission in the United States was opened in the same year. It continued its activities throughout the period of illegal occupation by the Soviet Union from 1940 to 1991. U.S. authorities recognized Estonia's diplomatic mission as a legal representative of the Republic of Estonia. Indeed, the recognition of the legal continuity of the Republic of Estonia has been the cornerstone of Estonian-U.S. relations.

The U.S. reopened its embassy in Tallinn on September 4, 1991, soon after the restoration of Estonia's de facto independence on August 20, 1991. Relations between the two countries have since developed at a rapid pace.


The U.S. Ambassador to Estonia is Joseph M. DeThomas, who took the oath of office on November 9, 2001. Mr. Jüri Luik has been Estonia's Ambassador to United States since September 2003. Estonia also is represented in the United States by a Consulate General in New York and three Honorary Consuls: Jaak Treiman in Los Angeles, Mart Kask in Seattle, and Scott E. Schul in Maine.


U.S.-Baltic Charter

The Presidents of the United States, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania signed the U.S.-Baltic Charter in Washington on January 16, 1998. The main goals of this charter are to support Estonia's, Latvia's, and Lithuania's full integration into European and transatlantic structures, and to establish the general principles and aims for cooperation. The charter underlines the importance of political, defense, security, and economic cooperation. It is a statement of the United States' real, profound, and enduring interest in the security and independence of the Baltic states.


The U.S. commitment toward the Baltic and Nordic states has been reaffirmed with the articulation of the Enhanced Partnership in Northern Europe (e-PINE) in October 2003. E-PINE recognizes the progress made in the region over the preceding decade as well as the challenges that remain, both in the region and with states beyond the borders of an expanding EU and NATO. E-PINE seeks to build on past success and existing habits of multilateral cooperation in the region. Through e-PINE, the United States is engaging all eight Nordic and Baltic states on a shared agenda that focuses on three areas: political security; healthy societies and healthy neighbors; and vibrant economies. To carry out this coordination, e-PINE includes a forum for "8 plus 1" cooperation as well as contacts among the states at the working level.

E-PINE represents the evolution of the previous guiding U.S. policy, the Northern Europe Initiative (NEI). NEI, launched in 1997, promoted regional cooperation in northern Europe as a way of further integrating the Baltic states and northwest Russia and of strengthening our relations with the Nordic countries. NEI programs addressed key problems in Estonia and its neighbors—including HIV/AIDS, environmental pollution, corruption, and social integration—and built cross-border linkages to contribute to stability and security.


Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Tallinn (E), Kentmanni 20, Tallinn 15099, Tel [372] 668-8100, Duty Officer Cell Phone Tel [372] (5) 092-129, Fax [372] 668-8134; Direct-dialing: EXEC Tel 668-8103; ADM Tel 668-8105, Fax 668-8266; CON Tel 668-8111, Fax 668-8267; IPO Tel 668-8277; PAO Tel 668-8124 or 668-8125; PA Fax 668-8253; DAO Tel 668-8200, Fax 668-8257.

AMB: Joseph M. DeThomas
AMB OMS: Fredie Barron
DCM: Mark A. Pekala
POL/ECO: Stuart Dwyer
POL: Dana Linnet
ECO: Kelly Adams-Smith
CON: Paul O. Mayer
MGT: Norman T. S charpf
PAO: Thomas Hodges
IPO: [Vacant]
ISO: Steven McFall
COM: Karen Pilmanis (res. Riga)
GSO: Steve P. Adams-Smith
RSO: David R. Whitehead
RAO: Steve Levan
ODC: LTC Kenneth Pope
DAO: CDR Eric W. Olson
LEGATT: James Nixon
AGR: Lana Bennett (res. Stockholm)
EST: Paul Stephenson (res. Copenhagen)
FAA: George Andeler (res. Brussels)
IRS: Margaret J. Lullo (res. Berlin)
DEA: Arthur L. Kersey (res. Copenhagen)

Last Modified: Monday, December 15, 2003


TRAVEL


Consular Information Sheet August 19, 2002


Country Description: Estonia is a rapidly developing nation that has experienced significant success in reforming its political and economic institutions since regaining independence in 1991. Tourist facilities are generally good though some amenities may be lacking in rural areas. Some goods and services may not be available outside of major cities. The capital is Tallinn.

Entry Requirements: A valid passport is required. Tourists and business travelers may stay in Estonia for up to 90 days within a six month period without a visa. U.S. citizens who wish to work in Estonia or remain longer than 90 days must obtain a visa or residence permit. For further information concerning entry requirements and residency permits, please contact the Estonian Embassy, temporarily located at 1730 M. Street, N.W. Suite 503, Washington, D.C. 20036, tel. (202) 588-0101, or the Consulate General of Estonia in New York City (212) 883-0636. Also, please see the Embassy's Internet home page at http://www.estemb.org.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Crime: Travelers in Estonia should exercise the same precautions with regard to their personal safety and belongings that they would take in major U.S. cities. The most common crimes encountered by foreign tourists are purse snatching, pick-pocketing and mugging. Violent crime, though rarely directed against foreigners, does occur. Intoxicated people leaving bars alone or in small groups late at night are a favorite target for muggings, which can turn violent. Car thefts are common, and they can occur in daylight. Police capabilities in Estonia are improving, but they still suffer from lack of equipment, training, personnel and resources. Few police officers speak English. Credit card fraud is on the rise. Travelers should take prudent precautions to safeguard their credit cards and report any suspected unauthorized transactions to the credit card company immediately. Racially motivated verbal and, on occasion, physical harassment of Americans of non-Caucasian ethnicity can occur. If an incident occurs, it should be reported to the U.S. Embassy.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/index.html, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

Medical Facilities: The quality of medical care in Estonia is improving, but it still falls short of Western standards. Estonia has many highly trained medical professionals, but hospitals and clinics still lack equipment and resources. Elderly travelers and those with health problems may be at increased risk.

Medical Insurance: U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.

Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

Other Health Information: Cases of resistant strains of tuberculosis have been reported in Estonia.

Visitors to forest areas in warm weather should also guard against tick-borne encephalitis. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Estonia is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor


Driving in Estonia can be more dangerous than in much of the United States. Many roads, especially in rural areas, are poorly lit and not up to Western standards. Some drivers can be aggressive and drive above the speed limit. Pedestrians should be careful when crossing the streets, as drivers do not always stop at marked crosswalks. Icy road conditions and wild animals, such as moose, can create unexpected hazards. Driving at night, especially in the countryside, can be particularly risky. Dark-clothed pedestrians walking along unlit roads or darting across dimly lit streets or highways pose a risk to unsuspecting drivers.

Local law requires that headlights be turned on while driving during the day as well as at night. Use of seatbelts by all passengers is required, and children too small to be secure in seatbelts must use child car seats. The speed limit is 50 km/h in town and 90 km/h out of town unless otherwise indicated. A right turn on a red light is prohibited unless otherwise indicated by a green arrow. Laws against driving under the influence of alcohol are strict, and they follow a policy of zero tolerance. It is not uncommon for the police to set up checkpoints on major streets, and drivers should pull over when asked. Americans planning to drive in Estonia must obtain an international driver's license prior to arrival.

For information about international driving permits, please contact AAA or the American Automobile Touring Alliance. The Eesti Autoklubi (Estonian Auto Club) which is affiliated with AAA provides emergency roadside assistance. Drivers do not need to be a member to receive assistance, however, the fees charged are higher for non-members. The number to call for roadside vehicle assistance and towing service is 118. For ambulance, fire or police assistance, the number is 112. Please note that for both numbers, the operator may speak little English.

For additional information about road safety, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page road safety overseas feature at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.

Aviation Safety and Oversight: As there is no direct air commercial service at present between the United States and Estonia, nor economic authority to operate such service, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Estonia's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Estonia's air carrier operations.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at tel. (618) 229-4801.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Estonia's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Estonia are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Customs Regulations: Estonia's customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information, please call (202) 354-4480, or send an e-mail to [email protected], or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone 1-888-407-4747.

Registration/Embassy Location: U.S. citizens living in or visiting Estonia are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy and obtain updated information on travel and security within Estonia. The U.S. Embassy in Tallinn is located at Kentmanni 20, tel. (372) 668-8100; fax (372) 668-8267; emergency cell phone: (011)(372) 509-2129, if dialed from the United States, and 0-509-2129, if dialed from within Estonia. The Embassy's home page on the Internet is at http://www.usemb.ee.

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ESTONIA

Republic of Estonia

Eesti Vabariik

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

LOCATION AND SIZE.

Located in northeastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea on the west, the Gulf of Finland on the north, Latvia on the south, and Russia on the east, Estonia has an area of 45,226 square kilometers (17,500 square miles), smaller than New Hampshire and Vermont combined. The capital, Tallinn, is situated on the Gulf of Finland; other major cities include Tartu, Parnu, and Narva. Estonia is the smallest of the Baltic countries (the others being Latvia and Lithuania) that emerged as independent republics when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.

POPULATION.

The population of Estonia was estimated at 1.43 million in July 2000, with a density of 32 persons per square kilometer (82 per square mile), one of the lowest population densities in Europe. In 2000 the birth rate was 8.45 per 1,000 population, while the death rate was 13.55 per 1,000, giving Estonia a negative population growth rate of negative .59 percent. The government may introduce tax breaks for families with 3 or more children in 2001 in an attempt to increase the population growth rate. Estonia is relatively prosperous and has not experienced any massive emigration , yet its net migration rate was estimated at-0.79 migrants per 1,000 population in 2000. The population is also aging, with just 18 percent below the age of 14, and approximately 14 percent older than 65 years of age. The urban population makes up about 73 percent of the total.

Ethnic Estonians, ethnically and linguistically close to the Finns, make up 64 percent of the population, and ethnic Russians (living mostly in and around Narva) form 29 percent of the population. Other minorities include Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Finns.

Ethnic Russians made up only 4 percent of the population before the Soviet Union annexed Estonia in 1940, but Russians immigrated in large numbers during the Soviet period of industrialization. After Estonia restored its independence in 1991, only Russians (and their descendants) who had lived in the country before 1940 were granted Estonian citizenship. All others were subject to a citizenship exam testing Estonian language proficiency. Many did not speak Estonian, and by 1998 about 22 percent of the Estonian population was considered foreign (9 percent had Russian or other foreign passports and 13 percent were stateless). In 1998, under pressure from Russia and the European Union, the government eased the citizenship provisions and amended the language law.

OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY

Until World War II, Estonia was poor and mostly agricultural. Its industrial economy was shaped during the Soviet period (1940-91) with the nationalization of industry and the collectivization of agricultural land into large state-run farms. Soviet central planning stressed the development of heavy industries. Prior to restoring its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Estonia was the most prosperous Soviet republic. Its policy since independence has focused on building up relations with the Nordic countries, particularly Finland and Sweden, Western Europe, and its Baltic neighbors, while weakening ties with the rest of the former Soviet countries.

Estonia's economic record is among the strongest in Eastern Europe. Although its gross domestic product per capita was only US$3,951 in 1998, its total gross domestic product grew by over 4 percent in 2000, and expectations for 2001 were for a strong 5-6 percent growth. The Estonian monetary and banking system, which suffered after independence, stabilized with the introduction of a currency board . The central bank holds foreign currency reserves to cover all circulation and reserves in krooni. It cannot refinance commercial banks unless there is extreme need, and the government's freedom to take on debt is restricted, as recommended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Estonian kroon was pegged to the German mark at a fixed exchange rate of 8:1. Despite the limitations of the currency board, stable finances and economic reforms have created a predominantly free market European-style economy.

Many state-owned assets were privatized after independence, and the sale of public companies was still underway in the energy, telecommunications, and transportation sectors in 2000. High levels of foreign direct investment have supported the privatization program. Foreign investors in Estonia have been most active in communications, financial services, manufacturing, transportation, and real estate. They have acquired control of local assets relatively cheaply, while increasing the value of domestic companies through capital expenditures. Approximately 60 percent of foreign investments in Estonia are from Finland and Sweden, followed by the United States, Denmark, Norway, Liechtenstein, and the United Kingdom.

In 1998 Estonia began negotiations with the European Union for accession by the end of 2002. It is among the front-runners for membership, with a functioning market economy and the ability to cope with competitive pressure in the single European market. Estonia's foreign debt is estimated at a manageable US$270 million. Estonia also receives economic aid from the European Union (US$137.3 million in 1995).

POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION

Estonia is a democratic republic with the legislative power vested in a Riigikogu (a 101-member unicameral , or single-chambered parliament) elected by universal suffrage for 4-year terms. The Riigikogu appoints the cabinet, which is led by the prime minister, who is the head of government. The president, who is elected by the Riigikogu and who appoints the prime minister, has limited executive power. Political parties include the center-right Fatherland Union (Isamaaliit), the Reform Party (RE), the Moderates, the Center Party, the left-centrist Coalition Party, the agrarian Rural Union (KMU), the Country People's Party, and the mostly ethnic Russian United People's Party (UPPE). In 1999 the opposition Coalition Party received the highest percentage of votes (23.4 percent), but the Fatherland Union, led by Prime Minister Mart Laar (16.1 percent), was able to form a coalition with the RE (15.9 percent) and the Moderates (15.2 percent) to win the elections. Particular policies may spur political feuds but the major Estonian parties are committed to economic stability, openness, and EU integration.

Economic reforms have curbed the government's role in the economy due to the currency board regime and the legal requirement of a balanced budget. The tariff regime was liberalized dramatically by removing import tariffs (excluding agricultural products from certain countries) and by restricting excise taxes to several goods. Yet the state exerts considerable influence with the public sector accounting for roughly half of gross domestic product and the public consuming over one-fifth of the total gross domestic product.

The average income tax burden for citizens was 26 percent in 1999 but the government was trying to reduce it by 2001. Reductions were expected in the form of tax breaks for families with a third child and an increase in the minimum taxable personal income base. Amendments sanctioning the taxation of dividends and other income earned by foreign companies in Estonia were passed in 2000.

INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS

The transportation infrastructure includes 1,018 kilometers (634 miles) of railroads but only 132 kilometers (82 miles) of electrified rail lines. There are 10,935 kilometers (6,835 miles) of paved roads, including 75 kilometers (47 miles) of expressways. Estonia had 320 kilometers (200 miles) of navigable waterways and 420 kilometers (263 miles) of natural gas pipelines in 1992. All international flights use the Tallinn Airport, and there are several ports on the Baltic Sea, the port of Tallinn being the third largest in the Baltic Sea. A two-thirds stake in the state-run Eesti Raudtee railroad company was expected to be sold in a tender (possibly to RailAmerica) and the second-largest city, Tartu, was also expected to sell its public transportation company AS Liikor to a private investor in 2000.

Estonia's 2 oil-shale power plants produce twice what is consumed domestically. Under Soviet rule the country exported energy to Russia and Latvia but these markets dried up after independence. The government is forming a joint venture with the American NRG Energy company to renovate and operate the plants, bringing them into line with international environmental standards, and its priorities include creating an energy connection to western European electricity grids via an undersea cable.

The telecommunications market in Estonia is among the most liberalized in Eastern Europe. In 1998 a 49 percent stake in the state-held Eesti Telekom was sold to a consortium of state-controlled Telia (Sweden) and Sonera (Finland), and the government was considering selling the remainder of its stake in the company. Modern phone lines extend throughout Estonia. There are 3 mobile phone service providers: Eesti Mobiiltelefon (a subsidiary of Eesti Telekom), Radiolinja Eesti (a subsidiary of Finland's Radiolinja), and Ritabell (a joint venture between the British Millicom International and local Levi-com). Estonia has the highest number of mobile phone users per capita in Central and Eastern Europe. Eesti Telefon, the fixed line division of Eesti Telekom, had a monopoly in domestic and international fixed line calls until 2001. In 2000, it had 521,901 subscribers (36.3 lines per 100 inhabitants), and the 3 cell phone operators had 514,000 users (35.7 per 100 inhabitants). The number of cell phones is expected to grow to 700,000 in 2003, when 1 out of every 2 Estonians is expected to own a cell phone. Estonia has one of the highest numbers of Internet subscribers in Eastern Europe, and the government intends to provide all schools with Internet access. In 2000 over 28 percent of the Estonians were online and 34 percent of them banked over the Internet.

ECONOMIC SECTORS

The economy of Estonia is service-based, with services contributing 65.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1999, while industry is responsible for 30.7 percent, and agriculture and forestry comprise 3.6 percent of GDP. Estonia has natural deposits of shale oil, peat, phosphorite, amber, cambrian blue clay, limestone, dolomite, and timber and arable land. Services, especially transportation and tourism, are the principal growth sectors, although the manufacturing and the forest products sectors are also likely to see growth.

AGRICULTURE

Arable land covers 25 percent of the territory, permanent pastures 11 percent, and woodlands 44 percent. The foods produced include animal products, cereals, potatoes, fruits and vegetables, and fish. Agriculture was the traditional livelihood of most Estonians before

Communications
Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Estonia 174 693 480 15.1 170 N/A 34.4 174.65 200
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Russia 105 418 420 78.5 5 0.4 40.6 13.06 2,700
Latvia 247 710 492 58.0 68 N/A N/A 50.86 105
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium (http://www.isc.org) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

Soviet collectivization in the 1940s and there were over 100,000 family-held farms. After independence in 1991 land privatization carved thousands of new private farms out of the Soviet cooperatives. By the mid-1990s, these farms produced nearly 70 percent of the crops and 40 percent of the livestock, but most were unable to afford fertilizers, fuel, seeds, or capital investments. Competition from foreign producers put many farms out of business, and adjusting the sector to EU standards has been controversial. As a result, agricultural output decreased and almost one-fourth of the arable land was abandoned.

INDUSTRY

Traditional Estonian industries include oil shale mining, shipbuilding, phosphates, electric motors, excavators, cement, furniture, clothing, textiles, paper, shoes, and apparel. Many of these industries stagnated after independence, deprived of their Soviet markets and sources of cheap raw materials. Yet the sector has been growing at a rate of 3 percent (1996 estimates), mostly due to the rapid privatization and the entry of foreign (mostly Scandinavian) investors in electronics, cement, chemicals, and forest products. Estonia has developed adequate assembly capacities to supply electronic components to leading Scandinavian telecommunications companies and suppliers. In addition, with its low taxes, low labor costs, and trained workforce, the country is an ideal location for electronics manufacturing. In early 2001 telecommunications giant Ericsson (Sweden), the world's leading maker of telecommunications equipment, sold its loss-making mobile handset operation, dramatically cutting its orders with Elcoteq (Finland). Elcoteq terminated the manufacture of Ericsson handsets in its Estonian subsidiary, Elcoteq Tallinn/ET, which was responsible for one-quarter of Estonian exports in 2000. But Elcoteq quickly refocused on mobile systems components for Ericsson, reflecting its long-term demand. ET continues producing handsets for Nokia (Finland), and will launch systems components production in Estonia later in 2001.

SERVICES

FINANCE.

The Bank of Estonia was established in 1990, and became the central bank following its merger with the Estonian branch of Gosbank (the Soviet central bank) in 1992. The early days of independence witnessed a rapid proliferation of banks42 were started by the end of 1992when they encountered serious solvency difficulties, caused by stagnation and bad loans (granted to insolvent private debtors or loss-making state firms). The sector has since been consolidated through mergers and the closure of loss-makers, and in 1998 there were 11 banks. The 4 largest in 1998 were Eesti Uhispank (Union Bank of Estonia), Hansapank, Eesti Hoiupank (Estonian Savings Bank), and Tallinna Pank, and there was only 1 foreign bank branch (Merita Bank of Finland) and 5 foreign bank offices. In 2000 Hansapank and Uhispank were owned, respectively, by Swedbank and SEB (both Swedish). The financial sector is considered modern and efficient. About 10 percent of Estonians banked online in 2000, and since only a few users had credit cards, banks developed other online payment systems.

TOURISM.

Boosted by crowds of Finns visiting Tallinn for shopping and pleasure, tourism has grown by 15 percent yearly since 1993. The number of visitors in 1998 was 1.5 million and the revenues US$660 million. In 1998 the number of visitors increased by one-third from the previous year due to the abolition of visa requirements for Nordic countries and the lower costs of travel to Estonia. The government-funded Estonian Tourism Board, besides attracting visitors to Tallinn and Tartu, advertises Estonia's national parks and reserves and its Baltic seaside resorts.

RETAIL.

Estonia's consumer goods boom is based on economic growth and high consumer confidence. Estonians have a passion for household electronics and, as the absence of customs tariffs keeps imported household appliances cheaper, toasters, coffee makers, and mixers are found in the majority of Estonian homes. Finnish retailers, attracted by liberal regulations, dominate retail in Tallinn. Finnish tourists form a quarter of the retailers' clientele, lured by Estonia's lower value-added tax . Estonia's clothing is 20 percent less expensive than in Finland; and Estonian food, especially cheese and alcohol, is cheaper. In 2000 Estonia had an upper-income class of about 10,000 and a growing middle-class numbering about 60,000, both fueling domestic retail demand.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Estonia benefits from its location between prosperous Finland and Sweden and the economic potential of Russia. Estonians, both Nordic in culture and experienced in working with Russia, can provide a bridge between these growing markets. Estonia's open economy, although constrained by the currency board, is export-oriented, but still unable to reduce its foreign trade deficit of about 12 to 13 percent of gross domestic product. Exports in 1999 amounted to US$2.5 billion, while imports stood at US$3.4 billion. In 1999 chief exports included electronic components, machinery, and appliances (19 percent), wood products (15 percent), textiles (13 percent), food products (12 percent), metals (10 percent), and chemical products (8 percent). Estonia's leading export markets were Sweden (19.3 percent), Finland (18.8 percent), Russia (8.8 percent), Latvia (8.8 percent), Germany (7.3 percent), and the United States (2.5 percent). Chief imports included machinery and appliances (26 percent), food (15 percent), chemical products (10 percent), metal products (9 percent), and textiles (8 percent). Leading suppliers of imports were Finland (23 percent), Russia (13.2 percent), Sweden (10 percent), Germany (9.1 percent), and the United States (4.7 percent).

MONEY

The currency board and the requirement for a balanced budget has prompted Estonia to establish an offshore stabilization fund where it deposits income above its expenditures. Such revenue comes from privatization, including the initial public offering of Eesti Telekom at

Exchange rates: Estonia
krooni (EEK) per US$1
Jan 2001 16.663
2000 16.969
1999 14.678
1998 14.075
1997 13.882
1996 12.034
Note: Krooni are tied to the German deutsche mark at a fixed rate of 8 to 1.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

the Tallinn Stock Exchange in 1998. The 2 largest banks, Hansapank and Uhispank, acquired by Swedish financial institutions, opened their own brokerage houses that fueled the boom of the Tallinn Stock Exchange after 1998. Swedish SEB and Swedbank have also made Estonia a center of financial consolidation in the Baltics as they target the largest Latvian and Lithuanian banks for acquisition. Inflation , which had been a serious problem in the years immediately following independence, has been tamed since the mid-1990s and was estimated at 3.3 percent a year in 1999.

POVERTY AND WEALTH

Under the Soviet regime, Estonia was arguably a land of economic equality and the most affluent republic of the Soviet Union. The vast majority of the population was state-employed, no private initiative was allowed, and government funds were allocated equitably (for free health care, higher education, pensions, and other benefits). The only exceptions to this modest standard of living were the nomenklatura (the Communist Party elite) and the informal economy players. Market reforms in the 1990s generated new poverty and wealth, however. Unemployment, hitherto unknown, increased, although not as dramatically as elsewhere in the region. Social benefits suffered from inflation in the early 1990s. The withdrawal of the Russian military from the territory

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Estonia N/A 4,022 4,451 4,487 3,951
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Russia 2,555 3,654 3,463 3,668 2,138
Latvia 2,382 2,797 3,210 3,703 2,328
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Estonia
Lowest 10% 2.2
Lowest 20% 6.2
Second 20% 12.0
Third 20% 17.0
Fourth 20% 23.1
Highest 20% 41.8
Highest 10% 26.2
Survey year: 1995
Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

and the breakup of collective farms deprived many Estonians of their livelihood.

At the same time, many entrepreneurs made fortunes and a new middle class started taking shape as privatization and free initiative changed economic rules. Estonia generally avoided the surge of corruption and crime that plagued other Eastern European countries. In 1995 its Gini index (measuring economic equality with 0 standing for perfect equality and 100 for perfect inequality) was 35.4more equitable than the United States, but much less equitable than most Eastern European countries and Nordic countries. Although extreme poverty in Estonia was nowhere near the size in other Eastern European countries, 6.3 percent of its population lived below the poverty line in 1994. As a country with an aging population, Estonia is struggling to maintain its pension system, and the government is formulating a much-needed pension reform.

WORKING CONDITIONS

Estonia is party to all major universal and European legal instruments on economic and social rights, the rights of the child, the right to equal compensation and collective bargaining, and the elimination of discrimination in the workplace. The Estonian labor force numbered 785,500 in 1999. Unemployment is around 10 percent, yet working conditions are considerably better than in many other Eastern European countries. The labor force is skilled and educated and the average salary in 1997 was US$257 a month (US$322 in the manufacturing sector), a fraction of the rate elsewhere in Scandinavia but higher than most Eastern European countries. The percentage of people working in the services industry was 69 percent, industry 20 percent, and agriculture and forestry 11 percent. Labor unions have limited influence and have a non-confrontational approach to government and employers. With a decreasing and aging population, Estonia faces serious demographic challenges. Many labor practices are inefficient and improving productivity is key for Estonia's economy.

COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

1561. Estonia is subjugated by Sweden; reforms improve the economic situation of the peasants.

1721. Estonia is ceded to Russia's Peter the Great.

1816. Russian reforms abolish serfdom, and peasants obtain the right to buy land. Nationalism grows.

1905. In the wake of the first Russian revolution, nationalism is boosted by modern press and literature.

1917. The Russian tsar is toppled by the second Russian Revolution.

1918. On February 24 an independent Estonian democratic republic is proclaimed.

1920. The Tartu peace treaty between Soviet Russia and Estonia recognizes Estonia's sovereignty.

1921. The Estonian Republic is recognized by Western powers, becoming a League of Nations member.

1934. A coup establishes an authoritarian regime.

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All Food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Estonia 41 7 24 8 4 9 7
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Russia 28 11 16 7 15 8 16
Latvia 30 5 16 6 23 11 10
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

1939. Estonia is left in the Soviet sphere by a non-aggression pact between Germany and the USSR.

1940. The Soviets invade Estonia and on August 6 the country is incorporated into the USSR.

1941. Nazi Germany invades the USSR and occupies Estonia until it is driven out in 1944.

1945. Soviet rule is restored and the economy is reformed along Soviet lines.

1985. With the reforms of Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, Estonia moves towards independence.

1991. Communist rule collapses and the USSR recognizes the independence of Estonia in September.

1991. Estonia becomes a member of the United Nations and adopts reforms for democratization and privatization.

1994. Russia withdraws troops from Estonia.

1995. Estonia becomes an associated member of the European Union.

1998. Estonia starts negotiations for full membership in the European Union.

1999. Estonia joins the World Trade Organization.

FUTURE TRENDS

Estonia is a leading candidate for EU membership and hopes that its accession could be finalized as early as 2002, although internal problems in the union may postpone it. Political consensus on EU accession will generate stability throughout the transition from a communist to a free-market economy. Gross domestic product growth may accelerate slightly in 2001 due to domestic demand. Exports will grow in line with international demand but the negative foreign trade balance is not likely to be offset in the first half of the decade. The Estonian economy will become more service-based and financial services will receive more weight. Domestic manufacturing will be dependent on the high-tech sector in Sweden and Finland and is likely to grow. Privatization may be almost completed with the railroad sale in 2001. New foreign direct investments will enter Estonia and the flow will increase when the country joins the European Union. Reform of the finance services sector may lead to a further rise in credit growth. Pension reform will be key in 2001 with the government making its new pension scheme obligatory for all new employees. The living standards of the Estonians will rise gradually after the country's EU accession. Access to the development funds and the expertise of the European Union, once full membership is achieved, will be greatly beneficial for the development of the country's infrastructure, rural regions, education, social services, and virtually all aspects of economic life.

DEPENDENCIES

Estonia has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Estonia. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

Iwaskiw, Walter R., ed. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania: Country Studies. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1997.

Open Estonia Foundation. Welcome to the Estonia Country Guide. <http://www.ciesin.ee/ESTCG>. Accessed August, 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2000 Country Commercial Guide: Estonia. <http://www.state.gov/www/about_state/business/com_guides/2001/europe/index.html>. Accessed March 2001.

Welcome to the Embassy of Estonia. <http://www.estemb.org>.Accessed September 2001.

Valentin Hadjiyski

CAPITAL:

Tallinn.

MONETARY UNIT:

Estonian kroon (EEK). One kroon equals 100 sents. There are bills of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 krooni, and coins of 1 and 5 krooni and 5, 10, 20, and 50 senti. The EEK is pegged to the German mark at a rate of 8:1.

CHIEF EXPORTS:

Manufactured goods, machinery and transport equipment, timber, chemicals, food.

CHIEF IMPORTS:

Machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, chemicals, fuels and lubricants, food.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:

US$7.9 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).

BALANCE OF TRADE:

Exports: US$2.5 billion (f.o.b., 1999). Imports: US$3.4 billion (f.o.b., 1999).

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Estonians

LOCATION: Estonia
POPULATION: 1.3 million total population of country, of which 68% are ethnic Estonians
LANGUAGE: Estonian
RELIGION: Lutheran; Russian Orthodox

INTRODUCTION

After the last Ice Age, the area now known as Estonia was inhabited by people whose ethnic origin was unknown. There are signs of human activity from the middle of the 8th millennium bc. In the middle of the 3rd millennium bc, Finno-Ugric tribes arrived from the east and became mixed with the forerunners of the Baltic people who had previously migrated there. Estonians have thereafter lived on their land for 5,000 years, being one of the longest-settled European peoples. The oldest written record of Estonia was made by an Arab geographer, al-Idrisi, in ad 1154. By the beginning of the 13th century ad, a state had not yet developed, a feudal system was unknown, there were no towns, and the effect of Christianity was minor. There was a population of approximately 100,000 people. Until the end of the 12th century, Estonians had been successful in repelling the attempts of Scandinavians and Old Russians to conquer and dominate the area.

At the end of the 12th century, the militant German religious expansion to the east increased. Warfare commenced at the beginning of the 13th century, when the pagan Estonian society fought against the more advanced European society. German, Danish, Swedish, and Russian conquerors encountered armed resistance. By the year 1227, Estonia had been conquered, tying Estonia's development to that of Europe.

After the conquest, small feudal states were formed. Estonia was divided between the Livonian Order, Denmark (who sold its territory to the Livonian Order in 1346), and the bishops of Tartu and Saare-Lääne. The economy of the towns was based on East-West transit trade. The legal status of peasants deteriorated: by the end of the 14th century, they were attached to the land and by the beginning of the 16th century, serfdom had developed.

In 1558 Prince IV of Moscow invaded Estonia and defeated the divided small states. The rulers sought foreign aid. In 1561 northern Estonia yielded to Sweden and southern Estonia to Poland. By the year 1583, the Russian armies were forced out of Estonia. As a result of the Swedish-Polish wars, all of Estonia became Swedish territory in 1625.

In 1721 Estonia became part of Russia. At the beginning of the 19th century, peasants were granted ownership of their movable property, as well as the right to cultivate their farms in perpetuity. Estonian county schools were established on the farm lands of the manors. Tartu University, which was reopened in 1802, became the most important scientific and cultural center in all of Russia. More peasants bought farms and became independent from the manors. Estonian language journalism began and an Estonian intelligentsia developed. In 1857 the national epic Kalevipoeg was published, an Estonian-language school for peasants was established shortly thereafter, the first Estonian national song festival was held in 1869, the collection of folklore began, and national theaters were founded. This politically active period enabled Estonians to become organized, with increasing individualism and self-consciousness. In 1884 the Estonian University Students' Society's blue, black, and white tricolor flag was consecrated. Later, this became the Estonian national flag.

In the late 1800s, Russian nationalism was strengthened in order to tie the peripheral provinces to the center. Local authorities became increasingly under the control of the Russian center. Organizations in the national Estonian movement were closed down, censorship became stricter, and the Russification (Russianizing) of the indigenous population increased. However, Russification policies ended in 1897. Development began in the metal and machinery industries, and cotton and wood processing industries were established. Agricultural cooperatives flourished, and farmers' associations were formed. The towns became more Estonian. A new generation of educated people, including politicians, quickly restored the awareness of a national identity.

In 1918 Estonians finally had the opportunity to create their own state. The subsequent War of Independence was concluded by the Treaty of Tartu, signed in February 1920, whereby Russia recognized Estonia as an independent nation. Soon afterwards, Estonia became a full member of the League of Nations.

Between the two world wars, the Estonian economy grew rapidly. By 1939, national income per capita was approximately equal to that of Finland. At that time Estonia was mainly an agrarian and trading nation. It had also developed an industry well suited to its own needs and quite competitive in international trade.

After the collapse of Germany in November 1918, the Estonian Provisional Government assumed power. Soviet Russia attacked Estonia, and in an attempt to conceal the aggression, the Estonian Working People's Commune was set up in Narva. By the beginning of 1919, two-thirds of Estonia was under Soviet control. The Estonians counterattacked and freed the land in three weeks. In June and July 1919, successful battles were conducted against the Baltic-German Landeswehr army in northern Latvia. The victory at Vonnu on June 23 is commemorated by a national holiday, Victory Day. Military activity against Soviet Russia continued in the autumn, and on 2 February 1920, the Tartu Peace Treaty was concluded, wherein Soviet Russia recognized the Republic of Estonia.

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty signed in 1939, however, consigned Estonia to the Soviet Union's sphere of influence. In 1940 the country was occupied and incorporated into the USSR. The Estonian economy became a supplier to Moscow, and the whole society came under total Soviet control. In the period of July 1940-June 1941, an estimated 1,000 people were arrested and disappeared. On 14 June 1941, mass deportations began: over 10,000 people were sent to Siberia without any legal proceedings. Many went into hiding in forests to escape the terror.

On 5 July 1941, German troops crossed the Estonian border. Around 35,000 people joined the retreating Soviet forces, in addition to the 33,000 Estonian people who had been forcibly conscripted into the Red Army. Approximately 5,500 Estonians were killed in concentration camps. Germans also carried out forced conscription. In February 1944, when the Soviet forces again advanced on Estonia, 40,000 Estonians had joined the German Army and, together with German troops, stopped the Red Army. On 22 September 1944, however, the Red Army entered Tallinn and the whole country was conquered again. Some 70,000-80,000 people fled the country by sea.

From 1944, the Sovietization of Estonia continued. Forced industrialization was accompanied by the immigration of more than 240,000 settlers, mainly Russians. Agriculture went through forced collectivization. On 25-26 March 1949, 20,700 Estonians were deported to Siberia. During the Soviet era, the economy became largely urbanized and industrialized. Despite the inefficiencies of the Soviet central planning system, Estonia enjoyed one of the highest standards of living in the former Soviet Union.

In the second half of the 1980s, under the deepening economic and political crises in the Soviet Union, the Estonian Supreme Soviet proclaimed the Estonian Declaration of Sovereignty. This sent a signal of rebellion throughout the Soviet Empire, bringing about the beginning of its eventual collapse. On 20 August 1991, at the peak of the attempted coup in the Soviet Union, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia issued a decision on the reestablishment of independence on the basis of historical continuity of statehood.

On 17 September 1991, the Republic of Estonia was accepted as a full member of the United Nations. In 2004 Estonia officially entered both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU).

LOCATION AND HOMELAND

Estonia is located in the northeastern region of Europe, on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. It has been inhabited for more than 5,000 years by the Estonians, who belong to the Balto-Finnic group of Finno-Ugric nations. The territory of Estonia is approximately 45,000 sq km (17,300 sq mi). The longest distance from east to west is 350 km (220 mi), and from north to south it is 240 km (150 mi). Estonia's nearest neighbors are Russia in the east, Latvia in the south, and Finland and Sweden across the Baltic Sea to the north and west.

The climate of Estonia is moderate. The mean daily temperature in Tallinn is -5.3°c (22°f) in January and 16.5°c (62°f) in July: the annual average is 4.9°c (41°f). The lowest temperature (-43.5°c or -46°f) was measured in Estonia in January 1941, but as a rule the temperature seldom drops below -25°c (-13°f). The highest recorded temperature is 35°c (95°f), but it is unusual for the temperature to exceed 30°c (86°f). Usually, there is snow cover from December to March.

Estonia has more than 1,500 islands, the largest of which are Saaremaa (2,673 sq km/1,032 sq mi), Hiiumaa (989 sq km/382 sq mi), Muhu (200 sq km/77 sq mi) and Vormsi (92.9 sq km/35.9 sq mi). The length of the coastline is approximately 3,800 km (2,360 mi). There are over 1,400 lakes in Estonia. The largest of them are Lake Peipsi (3,555 sq km/1,373 sq mi), which is the border lake between Estonia and Russia and is therefore divided between the two countries, and Lake Vortsjärv (270 sq km/104 sq mi). The deepest lake is Lake Rouge Suurjärv (38 m or 125 ft deep). The three largest rivers, in order of larger to smaller are the Narva, the Emajogi, and the Pärnu.

There are extensive oil shale deposits in the northeast region of Estonia. These are mainly used for two purposes: production of electricity and as raw materials for the chemical industry. The electricity produced is partially consumed in Estonia and partially exported to the neighboring countries of Latvia and Russia. North Estonia and the islands have deposits of limestone and dolomite rocks used for architectural and building needs, as well as for decorative purposes. In the northern part of Estonia there are also deposits of phosphorite. Cambrian blue clay is used for manufacturing bricks, drainage pipes, and cement. Peat is mainly used for farmers' needs and for the production of pressed blocks that are used as heating material.

Many wild animals and birds live in Estonian woodlands and wetlands. Approximately 48% of Estonia's territory is covered by forests. These have importance not only as hunting areas, but also as a valuable national resource for the relatively well-developed woodworking industry. There are many companies in Estonia involved in fishing, fish processing, and the marketing of fish products.

The total population of Estonia is about 1.3 million, with a density of 30 inhabitants/sq km (78/sq mi). The breakdown of ethnic groups is as follows: Estonians, 68%; Russians, 26%; Ukrainians, 2%; Belarusans, 1%; Finns, 1%; and others, 2%. Some 70% of the population is urban, and 30% is rural. The capital of Estonia is Tallinn (population 395,000). The other largest cities are Tartu (102,000), Narva (66,000), Kohtla-Järve (45,000), and Pärnu (44,000).

In addition to those in the Estonian homeland, there are many Estonians living abroad who fled to the West because of the Soviet occupation in 1944. The largest expatriate Estonian communities are in Sweden, the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, and Finland.

LANGUAGE

The Estonian language is related to Finnish in that it is in the Finnic branch of the Ural-Altaic language family, along with Karelian, Komi, Mari, and Mordvin. Besides Finnish (and, to a lesser degree, Hungarian), no other prominent modern European language is related to Estonian. Although Estonian is a distinct language, it also uses words borrowed from Swedish, German, and Russian. Standard Estonian is based upon the Northern Estonian dialect.

The earliest example of written Estonian dates back to the 13th century, and the oldest known texts are from the 16th century. Estonian grammar was not standardized until the late 1800s, with many revisions taking place in the 1920s and 1930s to reduce the influence of German.

Written Estonian uses the Latin alphabet, with a few added characters: ä, ö, ü, õ, š, and ž. The added vowels are pronounced similarly to German, and the õ is a variant of the German ö. The š carries the "sh" sound, and ž has a "zh" sound. The letters c, q, w, x, and y only appear in words of foreign origin. Spelling is phonetic, so there are no silent letters or consonant clusters. However, there are durations of sounds in spoken Estonian that are not distinguished in written Estonian, as well as some words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently. Estonian uses no articles, noun genders, verb aspects, or prepositions. There is, however, a system of 14 cases, of which 10 act as "prepositions." There is also no future tense, and word order is very flexible.

Estonian first names for males often end in the letter o (as in Finnish). Typical first names include Arno, Eino, Ivo, Jaak, Jaan, Peeter, Rein, and Ülo. Female first name examples include Aime, Ester, Krista, Leida, and Mari. Estonian spellings of many common Scandinavian first names are also typical.

Examples of everyday Estonian words include Tere (How do you do?), palun (please), tänan (thank you), and head aega (goodbye). Estonian tends to incorporate newer international words rather than inventing its own equivalents.

FOLKLORE

The runic folk song is the oldest form of Estonian folklore, originating some 2,000-3,000 years ago as an oral tradition. There are about 3,600 of these runic folk songs known to exist, with about 133,000 variations. The oldest songs are mythic themes and family ballads. When an agricultural society developed, many of the songs dealt with labor and rituals. Most of the songs that originated in the Middle Ages were sung by women and had female-oriented themes, but many of the more modern folk songs are male-centered. Many of the folk stories are legends associated with certain objects or places. As a result, most prominent physical features (large rocks and trees, bodies of water) in Estonia have some sort of legend associated with them.

The national epic Kalevipoeg utilizes themes from Estonian folklore. It describes the battles and adventures of Kalevipoeg (Kalev's son), the mythical hero and ruler of ancient Estonia, and ends with his violent death and the country's conquest by foreign invaders. According to Estonian folklore, Kalevipoeg created the Estonian landscape with his own two hands by cutting down the forests to form the plains, uprooting gardens to make the hills, and drawing water to fill in the lakes.

Two popular Estonian legends are based in Tallinn. One legend has it that when Tallinn is completely built, it will be flooded. The flood will happen because Jarvevana, the legendary old man who lives at the bottom of Lake Ulemiste (which is the city's water source), will pull out the plug of the lake. Another legend tells the story of a warrior-maiden who secretly brought in the building stones under cover of night.

RELIGION

Pagan and totem worship, along with shamanism, were widely practiced in ancient times. Christianity came to the Estonians in the 11th century ad. Over the next two centuries, the majority of Estonians gradually became Christian. During the period of Swedish rule (1629-1710), a state church was established that was based on Lutheran doctrine. Lutheranism is the most widely practiced faith among Estonians today, though there are also Russian Orthodox and Baptist communities within Estonia. From the 1740s until the 1840s, the immense political influence of imperial Russia on the Estonians resulted in a weakened role for the state Lutheran Church and an increase in conversion to the tsar's religion-Russian Orthodoxy. By the early 1900s, however, greater religious tolerance of the Lutheran Church was shown by Russia.

During Estonia's brief period of independence (1918-1940) before the Soviet invasion, the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church had a leading role in society. When the Soviet occupation began in 1940, anti-Christian legislation was enacted, and policies were carried out immediately. These policies included banning church activities, shutting down churches and confiscating the property, and limiting religious services to a negligible level. Official antireligious bias and repression by the Soviet government continued to some extent until 1988, but all antireligious legislation was repealed in 1990. Since the end of Soviet rule in Estonia, many Estonians have become interested in religion.

MAJOR HOLIDAYS

The national holidays are New Year's Day (January 1), Independence Day (February 24), Good Friday (late March or early April), Labor Day (May 1), St. John's Night or Midsummer Day (June 23 and 24), and Christmas (December 25 and 26).

The most beautiful and long-awaited holiday among Estonians is probably Christmas. Winter is the time of the year when there is almost no sunshine, and it is light for only a couple of hours a day. So, people start decorating their homes and often begin lighting candles at the end of November. At the beginning of December there are Christmas decorations everywhere, and soon Christmas trees (fir) are brought into homes. They may be decorated in many ways. During recent years, however, Christmas decorations have become more commercialized. On Christmas Eve many people go to church. It is a tradition in every Estonian family to bake gingerbread. Children look forward to the arrival of Santa Claus, who brings presents. This is traditionally a quiet holiday, which is celebrated with family and close friends. A traditional Estonian Christmas dinner is oven-baked pork with sauerkraut, potatoes, and blood sausage, often served with lingonberry sauce or pickled pumpkin. During the Soviet occupation, celebrating Christmas was prohibited. At home, most Estonians did it secretly anyway.

Another important national holiday for Estonians is St. John's Day. The 24th of June is the peak of summer and the lightest and warmest time of the year. In fact, it never gets completely dark at night. On June 23, people everywhere light bonfires at night. They drink beer and bake sausages over the fire, sing, and have fun. In the cities people can make small fires in their gardens or in open fireplaces. Real bonfires are made mostly in the country. In times past, children and young people jumped over the bonfires and swung on big village swings.

Another reason to celebrate June 23 is because on that day in 1919, the Estonian national army won the battle of Vonnu, which was decisive in the War of Independence.

RITES OF PASSAGE

Rites of passage for Estonians are related to family occurrences like births, deaths, and marriages. A child's first day at school and, especially, the day of graduation from high school are also celebrated. Graduation from university is an important event that may be celebrated for several days among the graduates, as well as with family members and relatives. High school and university reunions are also traditional.

INTERPERSONAL RELATIONS

Estonians are generally regarded as shy and withdrawn. They do not communicate with other people easily. However, among friends and family, they are quite friendly and hospitable.

In formal communications, men are referred to as Härra (Mr.) and women as Proua (Mrs.) or Preili (Miss). Usually people shake hands when meeting and departing, and it is polite to look into other people's eyes. The polite form of addressing someone in the Estonian language is teie, which is used when meeting someone for the first time or with those one does not know well.

Among good friends and business associates, the informal sina is used to address each other. Close friends also greet each other with a wave of the hand and use foreign expressions like ciao, "hi," or "bye."

LIVING CONDITIONS

The Estonian economy has been growing rapidly since entry into the European Union, resulting in an increased standard of living for many Estonians. Nearly all Estonians now have hot and cold running water, telephones (including land line and cellular), refrigerators, washing machines, and other modernconveniences. There are numerous television stations, and cable is becoming increasingly available, along with internet connections.

The bottom segment of society, however, has experienced a decline in standard of living with a resulting increase in the number of homeless in urban centers. The estimated total number of homeless people in Estonia in the past decade has risen from 100-150 to some 3,500 people.

The number of automobiles in Estonia is growing constantly. However, the importance of a car in the family is not as great as in the United States. Public transportation is quite well developed and covers all areas in major cities and throughout the country. For example, city transportation in Tallinn includes buses, trolleys, and streetcars. There is no subway in Estonia.

The mortality rate is 13.35 per 1,000 people, and the birth rate is 10.28 per 1,000 people.

FAMILY LI FE

Most Estonians get married for the first time when they are in their 20s. Usually, people are not engaged before they get married. More than 50% of these marriages end in divorce. In recent years, more couples are choosing to live together without marrying; in 2003 an estimated 58% of all children were born to unmarried couples. A law was proposed in 2008 to register domestic partnerships.

Among Estonians, it is common in that both the husband and wife work full-time. A typical work day ends between 5:00 and 6:00 pm. After that, people do their housework (cook, wash, tidy up, etc.). It is common to watch TV and read books. The role of women is important in Estonia as they are more active in the household than are men. Children normally get home from school earlier and have to spend hours at home alone. As people are not very mobile in Estonia, it is quite typical that several generations live together or close to one another. Grandparents often take care of their grandchildren and help in the household. It is also common that children take care of their parents when they are no longer able to live by themselves.

CLOTHING

Clothing in Estonia mostly depends on what type of work one does. As in many other countries, traditional office dress for men is a Western-style suit and tie. Women wear suits, skirts and blouses, or sometimes pantsuits. In some places, people may dress more casually. When not at work, Estonians often wear jeans and sweaters or tee-shirts. In general, however, Estonian people prefer to "dress up" rather than "dress down." For example, Estonians rarely wear jeans and a sweater to the theater or a concert. Most people are quite style-conscious. Wearing gold and silver jewelry is also common. As the climate is rather cold, people need to wear warm and weather-proof clothes. On a cold winter day, women in fur coats are a common sight in the streets of Estonian cities. It has always been characteristic for Estonian women to make clothes for themselves instead of buying what is available at shops. Many women have sewing machines at home. They also knit woolen socks, mittens, and sweaters with traditional Estonian patterns that are admired by foreigners.

Estonian children are not required to wear uniforms to school. The most popular clothes among students are jeans and tee-shirts. On festive school occasions, girls have to wear a white blouse and dark skirt, and boys must wear a dark suit and white shirt. For hygienic reasons, they also have to put on other shoes inside the school building.

FOOD

Over the centuries, Estonian cuisine has been influenced by Scandinavians, Germans, and Russians. Estonian eating habits are best characterized by the saying: "Eat your breakfast yourself, share your lunch with your friend, and give your dinner to your enemy." The most typical breakfast would consist of a Scandinavian-style open-faced sandwich (a slice of black or white bread with butter and cheese or sausage, with some slices of fresh tomato, radish, cucumber, etc.) and a cup of rich, good coffee. Coffee is definitely the most popular drink in Estonia. It is served in offices in the morning and during lunch, as well as at home to guests. Children, though, prefer tea, milk, or juice. During recent years, yogurt and cornflakes have become more popular, especially among children.

In Estonia, lunch is the most substantial meal of the day. People try to get out of their offices for an hour between 12:00 and 3:00 pm and have their lunch in cafés, restaurants, bars, or canteens. A typical meal consists of meat and potatoes with gravy and a fresh salad. Some people may have soup, salad, and a light dessert only. Although pizza and hamburgers are becoming increasingly popular, the consumption of fast food is not characteristic of Estonians. Children are served lunch at school.

Dinner is usually eaten at home after work, seldom later than 8:00 pm. In families, dinner may be basically the same as lunch, depending on how much food they have had during the day. For convenience, many people prefer warmed sausages and/or bread and butter and soup. As Estonian people try to avoid heavy food in the evening, yogurt and cottage cheese of all varieties are popular. But, in most cases, women still try to provide warm dinners for their families after work. Going out for dinner is quite expensive and therefore not customary.

In general, Estonians are quite health-conscious and educated. Most people try to supplement their diet with fresh fruits and vegetables that are available throughout the year (mostly imported from Western countries), although they are quite expensive. Snacks like potato chips and popcorn are not popular.

Most Estonian women are skilled at cooking. At home parties (like birthdays), guests are served delicious salads and hors d'oeuvres, homemade pies, and cakes. People also pay attention to how nicely their food is served.

EDUCATION

Estonians start school when they are six or seven years old. Primary education lasts for four years. Secondary education, following primary, is divided into two parts: basic education (grades 5-9) and upper secondary education (grades 10-12). Primary and basic education (grades 1-9) is compulsory for all children of Estonia. There are two main options after basic school-upper secondary school or vocational school. Some vocational schools provide secondary education in addition to vocational education. The secondary school certificate gives a student the right to continue his or her education either in universities or in other institutions of higher education.

Estonia has one of the highest levels of education in the European Union, with literacy and school enrollment rates at ornear 100%. The rates are approximately equal for males and females.

Many of the graduates from secondary school continue their studies at institutions of higher education, and a large number attend vocational schools. The oldest university in Estonia is Tartu University, founded in 1632. Undergraduate academic studies in universities lasts 4-6 years. The secondary education certificate does not allow a student automatically to enter an institution of higher education or a university. Applicants must pass entrance exams. Most Estonians learn two languages in school, in addition to Estonian. The most common foreign language is English, and the second is usually Russian, German, or French.

CULTURAL HERITAGE

Traditional runic folk songs form the basis of Estonian folk music. Although the lyrics are often repetitive, the tunes associated with these folk songs are complex. Estonian folk musicians often play the zither, violin, or concertina when singing traditional songs. Song festivals are popular Estonian cultural events, dating back to 1869. The song festivals nowadays are a major event occurring every five years, with male, female, children's, and boys' choirs all giving performances.

Arvo Pärt, born in 1935, has become internationally renowned for his modern classical compositions based on a method he calls "tintinnabuli" (or "little bells"). Although he now lives in Germany, he is still celebrated in Estonia as a contemporary cultural icon.

The first book in the Estonian language was produced in 1525. Literacy was furthered by the establishment of a village school network. An Estonian edition of the New Testament was published in 1686, and a complete translation of the Bible appeared in 1739. The national epic, Kalevipoeg (The Son of Kalev), consists of 19,023 runic verses based on various themes from old Estonian folklore and was written during 1857-61 by Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald. Estonian literature of the late 1800s and early 1900s experienced a romantic and then a naturalist phase. The five-volume epic Tõde ja Õigus (Truth and Justice) was finished by the revered Estonian novelist A. H. Tammsaare in 1933 and provides an historical overview of Estonian cultural development during the years 1870-1930.

In 1944, most of Estonia's prominent writers and poets fled the country because of the Soviet Union's invasion and occupation. Estonian literature was tightly censored during the Soviet era, and any material that was critical of the Soviet system was not published. Furthermore, some writers whose ideas were seen as threatening by the government were imprisoned. The Soviet government started to relax its control over Estonian literature in the 1960s. A common literary theme since the 1940s has been the injustices committed by the Soviet government against Estonians.

WORK

Economic reform and the consequent structural changes have significantly affected the structure of labor demand. Employment in distribution services, catering, and financial services has increased, thanks to the growing number of small private business enterprises. The economy has grown rapidly since Estonia's entry into the European Union in 2004, resulting in one of the highest employment rates and highest per capita income levels in Central Europe.

Most people in Estonia work between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm or between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm. The lunch break usually lasts between 30 minutes to 1 hour and is between 12:00 and 3:00 pm, but most businesses do not close for lunch. Most people in Estonia receive a fixed monthly salary and are not paid for the work they do past 40 hours a week. People are entitled to a paid vacation after they have worked for one year. The length of the vacation varies, depending on the company, from 21 to 35 days. The retirement age is 65 for men and 60 for women.

SPORTS

Estonians are especially fond of basketball. Skiing, volleyball, soccer, and motor sports are also popular. Joggers or runners are becoming a common sight in the suburbs, especially in summertime. For years, aerobics has been a popular way of keeping in shape for women. Also, public health clubs with their body-building facilities are widely used by both men and women. Public indoor swimming pools are open to everyone for a moderate fee, and there are swimming pools in some schools. People of all ages can take lessons in tennis, riding, etc., but they are quite expensive. During recent years, bowling, golf, and squash have become popular. As Estonia is a sea country, there are yachting clubs in many seaside places. Spectator sports are not greatly admired by Estonians. On TV, mostly basketball, ice hockey, soccer, and figure skating are watched.

ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION

One of the most popular forms of entertainment in Estonia is the theater. Many people also go to motion pictures. The TV is still the most accessible form of entertainment at home, especially for elderly people. Nearly all Estonian homes have TV sets, and cable TV has become available for more and more TV fans. In most homes, the radio is nearly always turned on as well.

Many Estonians, especially women, enjoy gardening. Collecting things (like stamps, coins, beer bottles, postcards, etc.) is also widespread. Younger people, though, prefer going out. Discotheques and dancing are popular among young people of both sexes.

Traveling is an increasingly popular form of recreation- during the Soviet occupation the borders of Estonia were closed and it was impossible for the average person to travel abroad. Nowadays, even those who cannot afford more exotic and faraway places still try to make it to the close-by Scandinavian countries or Germany.

FOLK ART, CRAFTS, AND HOBBIES

Estonian folk art traditions date back to ancient times when clothes, tools, footwear, utensils, toys, etc., were made by hand. During long and dark winter nights, Estonian women wove fabrics for national costumes. Striped, multicolored skirt fabrics were made of yarn that was colored with herbs. Blouses were made of linen and embroidered by hand. Woolen sweaters, cardigans, mittens, and socks were knitted with elaborate patterns. Each county had its own characteristic patterns. Traditional Estonian jewelry is made of silver. Estonian craftspeople were already known for their skills during the Middle Ages.

Nowadays Estonia is full of shops selling all kinds of national handicrafts. The Estonians excel at leather goods (especiallyleather-bound notebooks), ceramics, woolens, jewelry, and wrought ironwork. Wicker baskets and wooden beer mugs are also specialties, as are table implements of aromatic juniper wood from the Estonian islands. Also from the islands come tightly woven snowflake-design sweaters with red trim-real Estonian classics. Although most Baltic amber comes from Lithuania, amber jewelry and specimens are also widely sold in Estonia.

Even today, many Estonian women enjoy knitting and embroidering and prefer handmade craft items to those made by mass industry.

SOCIAL PROBLEMS

All people living in Estonia are guaranteed human and civil rights by Estonian legislation. However, there are still some social problems in Estonia, most of which are related to the consequences of more than 50 years of Soviet occupation. During the Soviet occupation, there were tensions between Estonians and ethnic Russians living in Estonia. Although ethnic Russians have been allowed to become full citizens of Estonia since independence, they are required to learn the Estonian language in order to participate fully in society. Many ethnic Russians complain of discrimination and mistreatment.

One serious social problem in Estonia is the lack of financial resources for social guarantees, such as cash assistance for young families, single parents, families with many children, disabled persons, and retired people. In many cases, wages and salaries are very small and barely enable one to make ends meet. The same applies to health care. The rapid economic growth of the 21st century has not benefitted the lowest strata of society; in fact, the increasingly unequal distribution of wealth in Estonia has become a concern for the European Union, which is pushing Estonia to address the problem.

Alcoholism and crime are also major issues in Estonia and efforts are being made by the government to increase security and people's trust in the police. Estonia has become a major transporter of illegal drugs and drug use is increasing among Estonians as well.

GENDER ISSUES

Estonia is considerably more advanced than other former Soviet republics in its attitude toward homosexuality. Homosexual acts were legalized in 1992 and, in 2004, Estonia became the first Baltic country to have a gay pride parade. The 2006 parade was marred by violent protests, injuring 15 people, but the parades in other years have met with at least tolerance, if not enthusiastic support.

There are a number of gay clubs in Tallinn that operate openly and attract heterosexuals as well as gays and lesbians. The Gay and Lesbian Information Center (GLIC) opened in 2004 and began to be funded by the Estonian Institute for National Health in 2008. A law was proposed in 2008 to register domestic partnerships, including same-sex couples, granting them some legal rights, though stopping short of recognizing their union as a "marriage."

This is not to say that Estonia is free of homophobia. Physical violence against homosexuals is rare in Estonia, but verbal abuse and other forms of discrimination continue to occur. In 2005 the Estonian Ministry of Justice proposed a new Family Law stating that marriage is exclusive to heterosexual couples, sparking a spirited debate that remained unresolved in 2008. The 2008 domestic partnership proposal was an attempt to find a middle ground. The Dutch ambassador to Estonia, Hans Glaubitz, resigned in 2006 after only a year in office because of homophobic and racist harassment; Glaubitz is gay and his partner is Afro-Cuban.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Baltic States, The. Tallinn, Estonia: Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian Encyclopaedia Publishers, 1991.

Estonia in Facts. System of Education. The Estonian Institute, October 1995.

EU Business. "Estonia," http://eubusiness.com/Estonia (12 August 2008).

Grew, Tony. "Estonian Gay Activist to Stand for Parliament."Pink News, 6 December 2006, http://www.pinknews.co.uk/news/view.php?id=3190 (12 August 2008).

Estonia. Free and Independent. Estonian Encyclopedia Publishers, 1992, 1994.

Invest in Estonia. Factsheets. Estonian Investment Agency, 1995.

Statistical Yearbook. Statistical Office of Estonia, 2008.

Tallinn-Life.com. "Gay Tallinn," http://www.tallinn-life.com/tallinn/gay-tallinn (12 August 2008).

World Info Zone, http://www.worldinfozone.com/country.php ?country=Estonia&page=2 (12 August 2008).

-revised by Dianne De Mott

views updated

Estonia

Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Estonia
Region: Europe
Population: 1,431,471
Language(s): Estonian, Russian, Ukrainian, English, Finnish
Literacy Rate: 100%
Academic Year: September-June
Number of Primary Schools: 727
Compulsory Schooling: 9 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 7.2%
Libraries: 743
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 125,718
  Secondary: 112,288
  Higher: 43,468
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 94%
  Secondary: 104%
  Higher: 42%
Teachers: Primary: 7,276
  Secondary: 11,098
  Higher: 4,435
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 17:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 93%
  Secondary: 109%
  Higher: 46%



History & Background

Estonia is located in Eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland, between Latvia and Russia. The total land area is 43,211 square kilometers, of which 44 percent is forest and woodland. It is slightly smaller than New Hampshire and Vermont combined. The estimated population in July 2000 was nearly 1.5 million, with the two largest ethnic groups being Estonian (65.1 percent) and Russian (28.1 percent).

The Russians first mentioned Estonia in the eleventh century, but the first signs of human life in Estonia are 10,000 years old. Chronicled history began with the conquest of Estonian territory by German and Danish feudal landlords in the thirteenth century; it may also be regarded as the starting point of schooling in Estonia because the first schools were established in the larger towns. As a result of the Protestant Reformation, the first books in Estonia (the Lutheran Catechism-1535) were published. After the Livonian War, which began in 1558 and lasted 25 years, Estonia was divided between Poland and Sweden. After all of Estonia came under Swedish rule in the seventeenth century, a time of peace and prosperity ensued. In 1632, Tartu Grammar School was reorganized and given the name Academia Gustaviana, which is regarded as the establishment of the first university in Estonia, Tartu University. However, only students of Baltic German, Swedish, or Finnish origin could attend; Estonians were excluded. Public schools were established and, as a result, a majority of Estonians became literate. As a result of the Great Northern War, Tartu University was forced to close in 1710. Estonia became a part of the Russian empire.

The nineteenth century was a period of economic development and urbanization. Estonians were freed from serfdom, and, in the 1860s, they acquired the right to buy farmland. Not only was there an increase in wealth, but there was also a period of national awakening that was interrupted by a resurgence of Russification in the 1880s. In 1802, the University of Tartu reopened with the first native Estonians among its scholars. By the end of the century, 96 percent of Estonians were literate.

Independence came with the declaration of the Republic of Estonia on February 24, 1918. The independence period (1920-1940) resulted in the formation of the Estonian language national culture. The economic improvements during that period resulted in a living standard similar to Estonia's Scandinavian neighbors. As a result of the desire for a well-educated population, new upper-secondary schools and seminaries opened. In 1919, instruction in the Estonian language was introduced at the University of Tartu. In addition, Tallinn Technical University and the Estonian Academy of Music were established in Tallinn.

Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940. During the first year of occupation, Estonian political and social leaders were either killed or deported to Siberia. A second deportation took place on June 14, 1941, when a large number of ordinary citizens, including women and children, were sent to Siberia. On June 26, 1941, Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union and also conquered Estonia; however, the Soviet Union reoccupied Estonia in 1944. Rather than live again under Soviet domination, approximately 80,000 Estonians fled to the West. Furthermore, Estonia lost one-third of its population as a result of World War II. The Soviets began a process of forced collectivization of the farms in the late 1940s, which included another deportation in March 1949. The rural life that had been the basis of the economy was destroyed. During the process of industrialization, a migratory labor force was imported from other regions of the Soviet Union with the purpose of inhabiting Estonia with a Russian-speaking population. By the end of the Soviet period, large regions of Estonia were populated almost entirely with Russian-speaking people. It was difficult to have an independent education policy because of the pressure to adopt the Soviet educational structure and curricula. However, the Estonian educational system was permitted to maintain instruction in the Estonian language.

At the beginning of the 1980s, student demonstrations began in Tallinn. Forty members of the Estonian Intelligentsia composed the "letter of the forty," which condemned Soviet policy and demanded cultural autonomy. The period of perestroika and glasnost permitted even more criticism of Soviet policy. The Heritage Protection Movement, the goal of which was to teach the correct history of politics and culture in Estonia, initiated a new wave of national awakening often termed "the singing revolution." On August 21, 1991, independence was restored, and, in 1992, Estonia implemented a new democratic constitution. In 1989, the Education Committee was reorganized to create a new Ministry of Education to administer general, vocational, and higher education. Reorganization in 1993 led to the establishment of the Ministry of Culture and Education, which had control over education policy, higher education, and science. A separate Ministry of Education was reestablished in 1996. Since 1991, extensive reforms have been instituted with the aim of integrating Estonia into the structures of the European Union (EU).


Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Estonia is a democratic republic, and the supreme power of the state is vested in the people. The powers of the state are exercised solely pursuant to the constitution and specific laws that are in conformity therewith. The activities of the Riigikogu (Parliament), President of the Republic, Government of the Republic, and the courts are organized on the principle of separation and balance of powers.

The Constitution of the Republic of Estonia determines the right of every citizen to an education. Education is compulsory for school-age children to the extent specified by law and is free in state and local government general education schools. Other education institutions, such as private schools, may also be established pursuant to law. Parents have the final choice of education for their children. The 1992 Estonian Law on Education established the following general goals of education: to promote the development of personality, family, and the Estonian nation, as well as of national minorities; to promote Estonian economic, political, and cultural life and of nature preservation in the global economic and cultural context; to educate loyal citizens; and to set up prerequisites of continuing education for citizens. In addition, the Law on Education established a compulsory nine-year basic education (grades 1-9).


Educational SystemOverview

The Estonian educational structure is divided into four levels. Preschool education is provided at kindergartens and other childcare institutions. Primary education (grades 1-6), as well as basic education (grades 7-9), is compulsory in Estonia. Secondary education (grades 10-12) may be completed at a gymnasium in general secondary education school or at a secondary vocational school. Students have three options at the higher education level: vocational higher education, diploma level (applied) higher education, or academic higher education.

In Estonia basic education (grades 1-9) is compulsory. A child that is seven years old on October 1 of the current year must attend school and remain in school until the completion of grade 9 or age 17. Children of foreign citizens or stateless people who are residents of Estonia must fulfill the requirement of compulsory school attendance.

The duration of a school year is from the start of study in one calendar year until the start of study in the next calendar year. A school year consists of a period of study, an examination session, and school holidays. The school year starts on September 1. A study period must include no less than 175 days of study. School holidays are determined in an ordinance issued by the Minister of Education.

The official language of instruction is Estonian; however, instruction in a basic school may be in another language. In a municipal school, the local government decides the language of instruction, and in a state school, the Ministry of Education decides. Since Russians are the largest minority group in Estonia, the Russian language is the second most common language of instruction behind Estonian. In the 2000/2001 academic year, Estonia had 566 Estonian schools, 100 Russian schools, 19 Estonian/Russian schools, 2 English schools, and 2 Finnish schools. By the year 2007, the level of competence in the Estonian language must allow students to continue studying all subjects in the tenth grade in Estonian, regardless of the basic school attended.

One week of study includes five days of study. The weekly study load and the number of lessons for students is determined by the curriculum of the school. The length of each lesson is 45 minutes, with a break of not less than 10 minutes. Usually, there is one meal break of 15 minutes. The school director determines the number of lessons and their sequence.

In planning the location of schools throughout the country, government officials keep in mind that basic education is compulsory; however, secondary schools for general education and vocational education must also be available. Primary schools are located as close to the homes of the children as possible. An upper-secondary school must have a large enough student population that will enable the school to provide elective courses in the curriculum and employ a teaching staff with excellent qualifications. The establishment of a school requires that the following number of children of an appropriate age must reside permanently within the district area of the school:

  • 30 students to establish a three-grade primary school
  • 60 students to establish a six-grade primary school
  • 90 students to establish a basic school
  • 60 students to establish an upper-secondary school (grades 10-12)

A local government also may establish a municipal school in a district area with a number of children at an appropriate age smaller than the number specified. In this case, the deficit in the salaries must be covered from the local governmental budget.

The network of vocational schools must take into consideration regional needs. At least one vocational school must be located in every county.

The list of children subject to the compulsory attendance law is composed by local authorities according to the children's places of residence. A school is required to ensure study opportunities for each child who resides in the district area of the school. Parents may freely choose a school for a child if there are vacancies in the school they wish their child to attend.

The obligation to attend school may also be fulfilled by studying at home. The procedures for home schooling have been established in an ordinance issued by the Minister of Education.

Local governments must allow children with special needs to attend a local school under the conditions established by the Minister of Education. If suitable conditions are not found, disabled children and children who need special support may attend the nearest school that meets their requirements. The conditions for admission to a private school are established by the school.

Religious education is offered, but it is nonconfessional and attendance is voluntary. The teaching of religious studies is compulsory for a school if at least 15 students in a specific age group desire such a course. The school director approves the curriculum.


Preprimary & Primary Education

Preschool education is available at kindergartens and other childcare institutions. The role of preschool education is to support and complement families by promoting the growth, development, and individuality of children. Several practices have emerged including family care, the setting up of integration groups, family counseling services, and the establishment of private kindergartens and centers for children. The childcare institutions offer primary education until the age of seven.

The 1992 Law on Education replaced compulsory secondary education with compulsory nine-year basic education (grades 1-9). The government of the Republic approves the state curriculum for basic and general secondary education; the simplified state curriculum for basic education and the state curriculum for students with moderate and severe learning disabilities have been established in an ordinance issued by the Minister of Education.

The state-approved curriculum for grades 1 through 3 consists of the following subjects: mother tongue, Estonian (non-Estonian schools), nature study, civics, mathematics, music, art and handicraft, physical education, and foreign language. For grades 4 through 6 the subjects are mother tongue, Estonian (non-Estonian school), foreign language A (Estonian school), foreign language B, mathematics, nature study, history, civics, music, art, physical education, and manual training/handicraft/domestic studies. For grades 7 through 9 the subjects are mother tongue, Estonian (non-Estonian school), foreign language A (Estonian school), foreign language B, mathematics, natural sciences, geography, biology, chemistry, physics, history, civics, music, art, manual training/handicraft/domestic studies, physical education, and elective subjects.


Secondary Education

Students have two options after completing basic education; they may attend either the gymnasium or a vocational education institution. The 1993 Law on Basic Schools and Gymnasiums established the gymnasium as the main structural unit of secondary education replacing the former secondary school. Educational standards are established in the national curriculum. This curriculum determines the objectives; duration of studies; relationship of the national curriculum to the school curriculum; list of compulsory subjects together with the number of lessons and their content, options, and conditions for selection of subjects; and graduation requirements.

Study in the gymnasium lasts for three years (grades 10-12). The maximum weekly course load is 35 hours. The national curriculum accounts for 75 percent of the total load, and the remaining 25 percent includes subjects selected jointly by the students and the school. The compulsory courses are mother tongue, Estonian (non-Estonian schools), foreign language A (Estonian schools), foreign language B, mathematics, geography, biology, chemistry, physics, history, civics, philosophy, art, music, and physical education. Certain subjects can be taught in more depth, and schools can develop their own instructional approach or course content. In 2001, schools exist with special focus on language, mathematics, natural sciences, and other subjects. State examinations at the secondary level were introduced in 1997.


Vocational Education: The 1998 Law on Vocational Education Institutions established two levels of vocational education in Estonia: secondary vocational education and vocational higher education. Secondary vocational education (length of study at least three years) has the prerequisites of basic education and one year of general secondary education. Vocational higher education (length of study three to four years) has the prerequisite of secondary education (gymnasium or secondary vocational education). In the 1999-2000 academic year, there were 87 different vocational education institutions in Estonia enrolling 34,312 students, with 3,165 students on the vocational higher education level. Vocational education institutions offer programs in 35 fields of study. The following fields of study are a priority of developmentservices: catering, tourism, hotel management, and trading; logistics (transportation and communications); information technology; electronics; and telecommunications.


Higher Education

Administration of higher education is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education; the institutions may be state, public, or private. Two types of higher education institutions exist in Estonia. The first type is the university, which provides academic higher education and applied, professionally oriented study programs. The second type is applied higher education institutions, which offer applied, professionally oriented diploma-study and vocational higher education programs. The tendency has been to merge applied higher education institutions into the universities as colleges.


Universities: A university is an institution of learning and research in which a student may acquire the academic qualifications of higher education. It is also possible to complete applied diploma-study at the universities. However, the broader objective of a university is to foster research and academic practices and to develop opportunities for obtaining higher education according to the standard of higher education.

Public universities are autonomous under the administrative jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education. Universities have the right to independently determine academic and organizational structure, develop academic content of courses, organize research, employ staff, and select candidates.

Private higher education institutions provide at least one baccalaureate-level study program. These institutions provide their own financing, but the state may participate in some programs if the public demand is apparent.

In the 2000-2001 academic year, six public universities and six private universities (with at least one study program accredited or conditionally accredited) operated in Estonia. The remainder of the 40 institutions and universities operating in Estonia during this period had nonaccredited programs.


Applied Higher Education Institutions: Applied higher education institutions offer non-academic higher education (diploma-study) with an emphasis on professional skills and abilities. These institutions may also offer vocational higher education programs. State supported applied higher education institutions are funded by the state budget. Private higher education institutions provide study programs mainly in the field of social sciences, business administration, or theology.


Admission to Higher Education: The general requirement for admission to higher education is the gymnasium certificate. However, secondary education may also be obtained at a secondary vocational school in which secondary education is combined with vocational education.

Since 1997, secondary school students have been required to pass state exams. These exams are conducted mainly in written form. However, examinations in foreign languages include an oral section. These state exams serve as entrance examinations to higher education institutions. Although some higher education institutions may conduct interviews, the state exams serve as the most important selection criteria.


Administration: The collegial decision-making body of a higher education institution is the council, whose function is determined in the statutes of the higher education institution. All higher education institutions operate primarily under the direction of the rector who acts under the council. The rector is responsible for the daily operation and development of the higher education institution, as well as for the legal and effective use of financial resources.


Academic Staff: The academic staff of a university is comprised of professors, associate professors, lecturers, assistants, and teachers. Senior researchers and researchers conduct the research work at the universities. All tenured education staff are selected from public applications of staff who have completed at least five years at a public university.


Students & Courses of Study: Higher education institutions offer diploma-study, baccalaureate study, master's degrees, doctoral degrees, and vocational higher education study. In the 1999-2000 academic year, approximately 49,574 students, of which 956 were foreign students, were enrolled in Estonia's higher education institutions. The language of instruction is usually Estonian, but an increasing number of courses are taught in English. In addition, some courses are taught in Russian.


Administration, Finance, & Educational Research


Administration at the National Level: The Parliament passes laws and resolutions including those that impact education. Three tasks regarding education are assigned to Parliament only. One is the establishing of principles regarding the formation, operation, and development of the education system. Another is setting the fees for studies in public institutions of education and in public universities. The final task is determining the foundation, merging, splitting, and termination of a public university.

Since independence in 1991, the Parliament has passed several acts regarding education. The Child Protection Act establishes the right of a child to an education, freedom of study, and the principles of instruction. The Education Act defines the different types of education, including basic education, the principles of organization and management of the educational system, the forms of study, and compulsory school attendance, and also determines the types of institutions. The Basic and Upper-Secondary Schools Act determines the legal status and organization of a basic school under state or municipal ownership, as well as the organization of instruction and education at a school. The Private School Act regulates the same issues in a private school.

The Government of the Republic implements these acts, and all the state programs of education, through the Ministry of Education.


Administration at the Regional Level: The Preschool Institutions Act and the Basic and Upper-Secondary Schools Act mandate that the governor of each county act as the manager of the educational system on a regional level. The task of the county is to compose regional development plans on the same basis as the county development plans of education are composed.


Administration at the Local Level: The Education Act determines the authority of local governments in the general administration of education at the local level. The local authorities:

  • Administer and implement education programs at the local level
  • Establish, reorganize, and terminate municipal educational institutions within the limits established by legal acts and keep the register of the educational institutions in the area of administration
  • Provide the economic and financial oversight of the educational institutions
  • Appoint and dismiss the heads of the educational institutions
  • Keep the register of children of the age of compulsory school attendance and support children in fulfilling the obligation of compulsory school attendance by providing financial aid, transportation, medical services, or meals at school
  • Provide vocational counseling for students
  • Keep the register of people with special needs and provide instruction for them.

The executive body of the local government establishes a structural unit or appoints a person who is responsible for the implementation of the education development plans of the local authorities.


Summary

One of the serious problems in the Estonian educational system is that the smaller towns are not able to provide the same quality of education as the larger cities. In addition, the teaching profession is not attractive to students. Almost half the teachers in Estonia are at retirement age or will reach that age by 2005. This older staff is very resistant to changes in educational philosophy and teaching strategies. The low teacher salaries are not attracting high-achieving students into the profession. Yet, the majority of students in Estonia meet the compulsory education requirement. In the 2000-2001 academic year, only 2 percent of 8- to 14-year-olds were not in school.

Estonia's low birth rate presents serious problems for the country. In the 1980s, an average of 22,000 babies were born each year. However, in the late 1990s the average birth rate dropped to between 14,000 and 15,000 births each year. The result has been fewer jobs for students who want to be primary teachers because 15 to 20 primary schools in rural areas are closing each year.

The required State Curriculum of 2000 is more student-centered than it was 10 years ago. A new revision, started in 2000, will be completed in 2007. The priorities of this new curriculum are student-centered instruction, Information Communication Technology (ICT), team work, skill development, and technology integration. In order to implement this new curriculum, more emphasis must be placed on initial and in-service teacher training.

The vocational educational track must be improved because, in the 1990s, it was often viewed as the place for students who failed in the academic track. A clear and successful job placement program must follow completion of the vocational track.

One of the most successful educational programs has been the integration of technology into the classroom. In the 1990s the government initiated the "Tiger Leap Project" with the goal of integrating computer technology into the educational system. In the 2000-2001 academic year, close to 100 percent of the schools had Internet connections, and computer science was the most popular elective. Schools had homepages with study materials accessible through the Internet. Since most of the instructional technology equipment was purchased since 1996, the equipment in the classrooms during the 2000-2001 academic year was modern and fast. It is common for students to use computer technology to make presentations even at the primary level. This emphasis on the integration of technology into the classroom at all levels should ensure that the Estonian educational system will graduate students who understand international issues and will be able to compete in the global economy.


Bibliography

Eurydice Database on Education Systems in Europe. The Education System in Estonia, 2 March 2001. Available from http://www.eurydice.org/Eurybase/Application/eurybase.htm.

Vaht, Gunnar, ed. Higher Education System in Estonia. Tallinn: Academic Recognition Information Center, 1997.

Vaht, Gunner, Maiki Udam, and Kadri Këutt, eds. Higher Education in Estonia. 2nd ed. Tallinn: Academic Recognition Information Center, 2000.


Terry L. Simpson and Hasso Kukemelk

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