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Geography of Estonia

Learn about the European Country of Estonia


Estonia Flag

The Estonia flag is the pre-1940 flag restored by Supreme Soviet in May 1990 - three equal horizontal bands of blue (top), black, and white.

Source: CIA World Factbook, 2007
Updated January 09, 2011

Population: 1,291,170 (July 2010 estimate)
Capital: Tallinn
Bordering Countries: Latvia and Russia
Land Area: 17,463 square miles (45,228 sq km)
Coastline: 2,357 miles (3,794 km)
Highest Point: Suur Munamagi at 1,043 feet (318 m)

Estonia is a country located in Northern Europe along the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland. It is bordered to the south by Latvia and to the east by Russia. It was also a member of the former Soviet Union. Today, Estonia is a member of the European Union and its capital and largest city is Tallinn.

History of Estonia

Estonia has a long history and its people are believed to have been some of the earliest to settle Europe as they have lived along the Baltic Sea for over 5,000 years. Until the 13th century B.C.E, Estonia was an independent country but after that time the region was taken over by nations such as Denmark, Germany, Poland and Sweden. In 1721, Russia defeated Sweden and took control of Estonia. This control lasted until the Russian Empire collapsed during World War I and on February 24, 1918, Estonia declared its independence.

At the start of World War II, Estonia remained neutral but in 1939, it was forced to enter the war after Germany gave the Soviet Union control of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. In 1940, Estonia was then claimed as part of the Soviet Union under the name Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic. Throughout the rest of WWII, Estonia lost about 17% of its total population according to the United States Department of State and thousands of its Jewish citizens were executed in Nazi prison camps after being deported by the Soviet Union.

By 1980, after decades of being a part of the Soviet Union, Estonia began pushing for its independence. In November 1988, a declaration of sovereignty was passed and in 1990, the country again named itself the Republic of Estonia. Shortly thereafter in August 1991, a coup took place in the Soviet Union and Estonia declared its independence. On September 6, 1991, the USSR recognized the country's independence.

Following its independence, Estonia joined the United Nations and in 1992, it drafted a new constitution. Many social and governmental reforms were also implemented and it developed free-market economic policies. From 1990 to 1994 however, Estonia's economy suffered with the fall of the Soviet Union but it began to grow in 1995 because of increased relations with western countries.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Estonia began to join international organizations like the World Trade Organization and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and in May 2004, it joined the European Union.

Government of Estonia

Today the government of Estonia is considered a parliamentary republic with a chief of state filled by the president and a head of government who is the prime minister. It has a legislative branch made up of a unicameral Parliament and a judicial branch consisting of the Supreme Court. Estonia is divided into 15 counties for local administration.

Economics and Land Use in Estonia

Estonia has a free-market economy and in January 2011, it shifted its currency to the euro. It is the first of the former Soviet Union countries to adopt the euro as its currency. Estonia's economy is based mainly on industry and the service sector and the largest industries in the country are engineering, electronics, wood and wood products, textiles, information technology and telecommunications. Agriculture is practiced in Estonia but it is only a small part of the economy. The main agricultural products are potatoes, vegetables, livestock, dairy products and fish.

Geography and Climate of Estonia

Estonia is located in the eastern part of Northern Europe with borders on the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland (map). Its topography is mainly uniform throughout with marshy, flat lowlands in the north. The southern part of Estonia is slightly hilly and its highest point, Suur Munamagi at 1,043 feet (318 m), is located here. Estonia also has more than 1,500 small islands located off its coast.

The climate of Estonia is considered maritime and it has wet, mild to cold winters and cool summers. Its capital city, Tallinn, which is located on the coast, has an average January low temperature of 17˚F (-8˚C) and a July average high of 69˚F (21˚C).

To learn more about Estonia, visit the Geography and Maps section on Estonia on this website.


Central Intelligence Agency. (16 December 2010). CIA - The World Factbook - Estonia. Retrieved from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/en.html

Infoplease.com. (n.d.). Estonia: History, Geography, Government, and Culture- Infoplease.com. Retrieved from: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107501.html

United States Department of State. (12 November 2010). Estonia. Retrieved from: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5377.htm

Wikipedia.com. (4 January 2011). Estonia - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estonia

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