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Estonia 

General information
Estonia, officially the Republic of Estonia (Estonian: Eesti or Eesti Vabariik), is a country in northern Europe. Estonia has land borders with Latvia (339 km) to the south and Russia (229 km) to the east. It is separated from Finland to the north by the narrow Gulf of Finland and from Sweden to the west by the Baltic Sea. Estonia has been a member of the European Union since 1 May 2004 and of NATO since 29 March 2004.

· Capital and largest city: Tallinn
· Total population: 1,340,602 (1 January 2007)
· National day: 24 February (Independence Day)
· Official language: Estonian
· Government: Parliamentary democracy
· Area: 45,227 km²
· Currency: Euro

Location
The Republic of Estonia is located on the shores of the Baltic Sea, just below Finland. Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, is only about 60 km south of Helsinki across the Gulf of Finland. Sweden is Estonia's western neighbour across the Baltic. Russia lies to the east, with St. Petersburg just across the northeastern border. To the south is Latvia with its capital, Riga. You can depart from Tallinn's international airport and in less than two hours be in Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Riga, Moscow, St. Petersburg or Vilnius.

Estonian History

Estonians have lived in what we now call Estonia for almost 6000 years, making it one of Europe’s oldest continuous settlements. Its strategic importance as a bridge between east and west has seen Estonia fall victim to a number of wars over the centuries and left it governed by many foreign rulers. But despite the conquests and crusades, the Estonian people have outlasted them all.
The end of the 19th century saw the national awakening begin to gather force, and on 24 February 1918 Estonia declared its independence. The country’s hard-fought freedom lasted until 1940, when it was occupied by the Soviet Union. However, the people’s desire to regain their freedom prevailed and in 1991 Estonia once again declared independence. It was one of the first countries to break away from the USSR and sealed the fate of the communist carbuncle in doing so.

Climate
Estonia lies in the northern part of the temperate climate zone and in the transition zone between maritime and continental climates. Because Estonia (and all of northern Europe) is continuously warmed by the Gulf Stream it has a mild climate, despite its northern latitude. The Baltic Sea creates differences between the climate of the coastal and inland areas. The average annual temperature in Estonia is 4.5 degrees Celsius. The average temperature in February, the coldest month of the year, is -5.2 degrees Celsius. The average temperature in July, which is considered the warmest month of the year, is 17 degrees Celsius.
The climate is also influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, the North-Atlantic Stream and the Icelandic Minimum, which is an area known for the formation of cyclones and where the average air pressure is lower than in neighbouring areas.
Estonia is located in a humid zone in which the amount of precipitation outnumbers total evaporation. There are about 160 to 180 rainy days a year, and average precipitation is biggest on the western slopes of the Sakala and Haanja Uplands. Snow cover, which is deepest in the south-eastern part of Estonia, usually lasts from mid-December to late March.

Current weather in Estonia

Politics
Estonia is a constitutional democracy, with a president elected by its unicameral parliament (elections being held every four years). The government or the executive branch is formed by the prime minister, nominated by the president, and a total of fourteen ministers. The government is appointed by the president after approval by the parliament.
Legislative power lies with the unicameral parliament, called the Riigikogu (State Assembly), which is made up of 101 seats. Members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. The supreme judiciary is the National Court or Riigikohus, with 19 justices whose chairman is appointed by the parliament for life once nominated by the president.
Internet voting has been used in local elections in Estonia. Lawmakers in the country have also authorised internet voting for parliamentary elections.

Religion
According to the constitution there is a freedom of religion, no state church and that every person has the right to privacy of belief and religion. Although Estonia has one of the highest level of irreligious individuals in the world, with over 76% of the population stating no specific religious affiliation, the dominant religion in the country is Evangelical Lutheranism. The dominant religions in Estonia were Taara (Tharapita) and maausk (earth religion), until the Christianization by the Teutonic Knights in late 13th century. During the Reformation, Lutheranism spread, and the church was officially established in Estonia in 1686. Still, Estonians generally tend not to be very religious, because religion through the 19th century was associated with German feudal rule.

Counties of Estonia
A county is an administrative subdivision of Estonia. Estonia is divided into 15 counties. The government of each county is led by a county governor, who represents the national government at the regional level. He or she is appointed by the government for a term of five years.
Each county is further divided into municipalities which are of two types: urban municipality, or town, and rural municipality, or commune.
List of counties: Harju, Hiiu, Ida-Viru, Jõgeva, Järva, Lääne, Lääne-Viru, Põlva, Pärnu, Rapla, Saare, Tartu, Valga, Viljandi, Võru

Transport

International traffic:
By Air. The main international airport in Estonia is in Tallinn. A large number of international flights connect Tallinn with a variety of European cities. Tallinn Airport is just 3 kilometres from the city centre and is easily accessible by taxi or bus.
Copterline’s 12-seat helicopters cover the Tallinn-Helsinki route all day, seven days a week. The flight time between the two cities is just 19 minutes.
By Sea. Fast ferries ship enormous numbers of people between Tallinn and Helsinki every day during the summer period.
By Coach. There are regular international bus connections between Tallinn and other European cities. Long line coaches offer direct services to Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Ukraine and Russia.
By Rail. The Tallinn-Moscow express is a convenient way to travel between the Estonian and Russian capitals.

Domestic traffic:
By Coach. There is a well-developed bus network in Estonia between cities and smaller towns. Express coaches connect the bigger cities, while local buses service more out-of-the-way areas.
By Rail. Trains travel between the larger Estonian cities.
By Car. Estonia has a serviceable highway network, and passable roads connect even the smallest of villages. The bigger cities are connected by well-maintained highways with plenty of roadside services for passing tourists – cafes and restaurants, hotels and guesthouses, campsites, garages and petrol stations. Estonia is crisscrossed by two pan-European routes: the Via Baltica leading from Tallinn to Pärnu and thereafter to the Latvian capital, Riga; and the Via Hanseatica, hugging the northern coastline through Narva to St. Petersburg.
By Coastal Ferry. There are regular ferry connections to Estonian’s larger islands. Timetables and prevailing conditions can be checked on the Internet.

Useful links about Estonia
 




Last update on 30. January 2015