Estonians have been living in this tiny portion of the Baltic lands since approximately 2,500 B.C., making them the longest settled of the European peoples. Due to Estonia’s strategic location as a link between East and West, it has been highly coveted through the ages by rapacious kings and conquerors.
At the beginning of the 13th century, Estonia was subjugated by the Teutonic knights. Their castles still dot the countryside, in varying states of eerie decay. By 1285, Tallinn was part of the Hanseatic League. Trading activities were dominated by the German merchant families which settled there, and successive generations of Germans built their manor houses across the country.
But the Germans were only the first of successive waves of conquerors. Danes, Swedes, Poles and Russians all swept across Estonia, setting up successive regimes, fortifying their towns and castles, and shipping their goods through Estonian ports.
In the late 19th century a powerful Estonian nationalist movement arose. Eventually, on 24 February 1918, Estonia declared its independence. Its period of independence was brief, however, and Estonia was forcibly annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940. But in 1991 Estonians again reasserted their independence, and peacefully broke away from the Soviet Union.
Estonia is the most northern of the three Baltic Countries. It lies between Latvia in the south, Russia in the east and the Baltic Sea in the north and west. Finland is only 80 km away across the Gulf of Finland.
Nearly 10% of Estonia’s land is made up of 1,520 islands and islets, the biggest of which are Saaremaa and Hiiumaa in the west. Estonia has the biggest lakes in the Baltic region – Lake Peipsi is the fourth biggest in Europe. In 1991, Estonia regained its independence. It is now a parliamentary republic, and a member of NATO and the European Union. The head of State is the President.
Language: Estonian belongs to the Finno-Ugric language family. It is closely related to Finnish, which is widely spoken, as well as English, Russian and German.
Capital city: Tallinn
Population: 1,325,000 of which 430,000 live in Tallinn. Estonians form 60% of the population – most of the others are Russian.
Area: 45,226 square km nearly 10% of which is formed of 1,520 islands in the Baltic Sea.
International telephone calling code: 372 Dial 00 for outbound international calls.
IDD system is available at all hotels. Telephone cards are widely used and GSM and NMT net are generally available.
Emergency Number: 112 is the emergency number for ambulance, police or fire, and can be dialled free of charge and without a phone card from any public phone.
Time zone: Eastern European Time (GMT + 2 hours). Daylight saving time (GMT + 3) is in operation from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October.
Electricity: 220 Volts/50 Hz. European-style 2-pin plugs are in use.
Internet in every hotel: most hotels in Tallinn have a free wireless Internet — WiFi. Outside Tallinn, it is available in shopping centres, eating places and petrol stations on the road. Many hotels also have a computer corner with Internet for their guests.
Estonian currency: EUR. 1 euro = 100 cents.
Exchange: Foreign currencies can be easily exchanged in banks and exchange offices. Most hotels, restaurants, banks, larger stores and petrol stations also accept credit cards, and banks also offer cash advances on major credit cards.
Entry requirements: Citizens of other EU countries and most European countries do not require visas.
For further info visit the Foreign Ministry homepage.
National holidays January 1st (New Year''s Day), February 24th (Independence Day), March/April (Good Friday and Easter) May 1st (May Day), June 23rd (Victory Day) June 24th (Midsummer Day) August 20th (Re-Independence Day), December 25th (Christmas Day), December 26th (Boxing Day).
Religion: mainly Protestant (Lutheran), with some Russian Orthodox.
Weather: Estonia has a temperate climate, with warm summers and cold winters. Its position on the Baltic Sea means the weather is often windy and wet. Average temperatures range from + 20’ C in summer (July is the hottest month) to –9’ C in winter. Although occasionally the temperature may rise to 30’ C and above in summer or sink below – 23’ C in winter, it is unusual.