Estonia (officially the Republic of Estonia) is the northernmost of the three Baltic states. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland with Finland on the one side to the west and with Sweden on the other side, to the south by Latvia, and to the east by Lake Peipus and Russia.

Estonia has been dominated by foreign powers through much of its history. In 1940 it was incorporated into the U.S.S.R. as one of its constituent republics. Estonia remained a Soviet republic until 1991, when, along with the other Baltic states, it declared its independence. Estonia set about transforming its government into a parliamentary democracy and reorienting its economy towards market capitalism. It sought integration with greater Europe and in 2004 joined NATO and EU.

In the period immediately following independence, Estonia continued to use the Russian ruble as its currency. Beginning in June 1992, the republic issued its own currency, the kroon, which was replaced by the Euro in January 2011.

The Estonian landscape is largely the product of glacial activity. The south is covered with moraine hills, lakes and the central part of the country abounds in elongated hills with flat tops.

The temperate and humid climate of Estonia differs sharply from the climates of regions to the east (in Russia) at the same latitude. The country lies in the path of air masses borne by cyclonic winds that originate in the North Atlantic Ocean and carry warm air in the winter and cool air in summer. The northern and western coastal areas tend to be milder than the country’s inland regions, while the eastern and southeastern regions tend to have a continental climate. The temperature is -8 to -5 °C (17 to 23 °F) in January and 16 to 17 °C (61 to 63 °F) in July.

Compared with other European countries, Estonia has a large percentage of foreign-born residents and their children. Only about two-thirds of the population are ethnics Estonians. Russians are the most significant minority, comprising about one-fourth of the citizenry. Prominent among other ethnic minorities are Ukrainians, Belarusians and Finns. More than two-thirds speak Estonian as a first language; about an additional one-fourth speak Russian as their first language (mostly in the northeast).

There is no state religion in Estonia, and many of the people are either nonreligious or atheist. The Christian majority includes a large slice of unaffiliated Christians, along with significant Evangelical Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox communities, as well as lesser numbers of Baptists, Methodists and Roman Catholics.

Facts about Estonia:

  • The country has distinctly more women than men. For every 100 females in Estonia, there are 84 men.
  • Estonia was the first country in the world to adopt online voting – back in 2005.
  • According to a Gallup Poll, Estonia is the world’s least religious country – only 16 percent of respondents said religion was an important part of their life.
  • 52 percent of the country is forest, making it one of Europe’s greenest countries.
  • Only three cities – Tallinn, Tartu and Narva – have a population greater than 50.000.
  • Around 1.5 million people visit Tallinn each year, including more than half a million cruise passengers.