Estonia: A Guide to the Baltic State

By: Sam Burgoon

Estonia is a country located in Northern Europe, bordered by the Gulf of Finland to the north, the Baltic Sea to the west, Latvia to the south, and Russia to the east. The country has a total area of 45,227 km², with a coastline of 3,794 km.

Climate and Terrain

Estonia has a humid continental climate, with warm summers and cold winters. The average temperature in July, the warmest month, is around 16°C, while the average temperature in February, the coldest month, is around -5°C. The country experiences a fair amount of precipitation throughout the year, with an average of 600-700 mm of rainfall annually.

The terrain of Estonia is mostly low and flat, with the highest point being Suur Munamägi, which stands at 318 meters above sea level. The country is covered by forests and bogs, with approximately 50% of the land covered by forests. The bogs of Estonia are a unique feature of the country’s landscape, with over 1,400 bogs covering an area of 22% of the country’s land.

Natural Resources

Estonia has a variety of natural resources, including oil shale, phosphorite, and limestone. The country is the world’s largest producer of oil shale, which is used to produce electricity and heat. Estonia is also home to several mineral springs, which are used for therapeutic purposes.

In addition to its natural resources, Estonia has a diverse range of flora and fauna. The country is home to over 1,000 species of plants, including several rare and endangered species. Estonia is also home to a variety of wildlife, including wolves, lynx, bears, and beavers.

Overall, Estonia’s geography is characterized by its low and flat terrain, diverse range of flora and fauna, and abundant natural resources.

Government and Politics

Estonia is a parliamentary representative democratic republic, where the President of Estonia is the head of state and the Prime Minister of Estonia is the head of government. Legislative power is vested in the Estonian parliament, the Riigikogu, which has 101 members. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

E-Government

Estonia is known for its advanced e-government systems, which have been in place since the early 2000s. The country has a digital ID system that allows citizens to conduct various transactions online, such as voting, paying taxes, and accessing medical records. The system is secure and has been lauded for its efficiency and convenience.

Digital Society

Estonia is also a highly digital society, with a high percentage of its population using the internet and mobile devices. The country has implemented various initiatives to promote digital literacy and ensure that all citizens have access to the internet.

Govtech

Estonia has been at the forefront of developing govtech solutions, which use technology to improve government services and processes. The country has established an e-residency programme, which allows non-Estonians to access Estonian services and conduct business online. The programme has been successful in attracting entrepreneurs and investors to the country.

Overall, Estonia’s government and politics are characterised by a commitment to innovation and efficiency. The country’s e-government systems and digital society have been praised as models for other countries to follow.

Economy of Estonia

Estonia is a small country located in Northern Europe with a population of just over 1.3 million people. Despite its size, Estonia has a robust and rapidly growing economy. This section will explore the key factors that have contributed to Estonia’s economic success, including its focus on smart city development and digitalization.

Smart City

Estonia has made significant investments in smart city technology, which has helped to drive economic growth in the country. For example, the city of Tallinn, which is the capital of Estonia, has implemented a range of smart city initiatives, such as smart traffic management systems and smart waste management systems. These initiatives have helped to reduce traffic congestion and improve the overall quality of life for residents.

In addition to improving the lives of residents, smart city technology has also helped to attract foreign investment to Estonia. Many companies are attracted to Estonia because of its advanced technology infrastructure, which makes it an ideal location for businesses that rely on digital connectivity.

Digitalization

Estonia is widely regarded as one of the most digitally advanced countries in the world. The country has implemented a range of digital initiatives, such as e-government, e-voting, and e-residency. These initiatives have helped to streamline government services and make it easier for businesses to operate in Estonia.

One of the key benefits of digitalization is that it has helped to reduce administrative costs. For example, the Estonian government has implemented an e-tax system, which allows individuals and businesses to file their taxes online. This has helped to reduce the administrative burden on the government and has made it easier for people to comply with tax laws.

Overall, Estonia’s focus on smart city development and digitalization has helped to drive economic growth in the country. By continuing to invest in these areas, Estonia is well-positioned to continue its economic success in the future.

Culture and Society

Languages and Ethnic Groups

Estonia has a unique culture that is heavily influenced by its history and geography. The country has a population of around 1.3 million people, with Estonians making up the majority at 68%. The next largest ethnic group is the Russians, who make up around 24% of the population. Other ethnic groups in Estonia include Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Finns.

The official language of Estonia is Estonian, which is a Finno-Ugric language closely related to Finnish. Russian is also widely spoken, particularly in areas with a higher percentage of Russian speakers. In addition, English and other European languages are commonly spoken in Estonia, particularly among younger generations and in urban areas.

Traditions and Customs

Estonia’s culture is a blend of indigenous, Nordic, and Germanic influences. The country’s traditions and customs have been shaped by its history and geography, as well as by the traditions of other Finnic peoples in the region.

One of Estonia’s most important cultural traditions is song and dance. The country has a rich tradition of choral singing, which dates back to the 19th century. The Estonian Song Festival, held every five years, is one of the largest choral events in the world, attracting tens of thousands of participants and spectators.

Estonia also has a strong tradition of folk art, particularly in the areas of weaving, embroidery, and pottery. Traditional clothing and costumes are still worn on special occasions and festivals, and many Estonians take pride in preserving their cultural heritage.

Overall, Estonia’s culture and society are unique and diverse, reflecting the country’s complex history and geography. Despite being a small country, Estonia has made significant contributions to the arts, music, and literature, and continues to be a vibrant and dynamic society.

Education and Science

Estonia has a well-developed education system that has received international recognition. The country has consistently ranked high in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests, which assess the knowledge and skills of 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics, and science.

PISA Test

In the PISA results published in 2016, Estonia ranked third in science and sixth in reading, outperforming many other developed countries. The country’s success in the PISA tests can be attributed to its focus on digital learning, which has been integrated into the curriculum since the 1990s. Estonia has also invested heavily in teacher training, ensuring that its educators are equipped with the necessary skills to deliver quality education.

Scientific Research

Estonia has a vibrant scientific community that has made significant contributions to various fields, including biotechnology, information technology, and environmental science. The country’s universities and research institutions are known for their cutting-edge research and innovative ideas. The Estonian Research Council is responsible for promoting research and innovation in the country and provides funding for research projects.

In recent years, Estonia has been focusing on integrating science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) into its education system. The aim is to develop students’ complex problem-solving skills and general competencies, including digital competence, cultural and value competence, social and civic competence. This approach is expected to produce active citizens who can use their knowledge and skills to solve real-life problems.

Overall, Estonia’s education system and scientific community are well-regarded and have contributed significantly to the country’s development.

Tourism and Landmarks

Popular Destinations

Estonia is a country that is rich in history and culture, and it has a lot to offer to tourists who are looking for an exciting and unique experience. One of the most popular destinations in Estonia is Tallinn, the capital city. It is known for its well-preserved Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Old Town is full of winding cobblestone streets, colourful buildings, and medieval architecture. Visitors can explore the city’s many museums, galleries, and restaurants, or take a stroll through one of its many parks.

Another popular destination in Estonia is the Lahemaa National Park. It is located just east of Tallinn and covers over 700 square kilometers. The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including bears, wolves, and lynx, and it has many hiking trails that offer stunning views of the Baltic Sea.

Cultural Heritage

Estonia is a country that is proud of its cultural heritage, and it has many landmarks that reflect its unique history. One of the most famous landmarks in Estonia is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn. It is a stunning example of Russian Orthodox architecture and is located in the heart of the Old Town.

Another important landmark in Estonia is the Pühtitsa Convent. It is located in the town of Kuremäe and is the largest Orthodox convent in Estonia. The convent dates back to the 17th century and is known for its beautiful frescoes and icons.

Overall, Estonia is a country that is full of history, culture, and natural beauty. Whether you are interested in exploring its many museums and galleries or hiking through its national parks, there is something for everyone in this unique and fascinating country.

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