Monday, August 13, 2007

Estonia: The non-Baltic Baltic State!


Estonia sits smack in the middle of multiple nations and is one of the three Baltic States (Estonia, Lativia, and Lithuania) that had once been occupied by the Soviet Union.

The climate in Estonia is temperate, characterised by warm summers and fairly severe winters. The topography of Estonia is mainly marshy, lowlands; flat in the north, hilly in the south.

Tallin is the capitol of Estonia and though it is a bustiling modern city, it is also one of the best-preserved mediaeval cities in Europe.

Other major cities include:
Haapsalu - a town known for mud baths and a 13th century castle
Pärnu - the summer capital of Estonia known for its beaches and parks
Viljandi - a castle town with a beatuiful lake view
Tartu - a city containing the oldest active University, since 1632 and Narva - a border town with a 13th century castle half in Estonia and half in Russia

History: 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. 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.

Culture: Estonias have a great pride in their culture and traditions- they worked hard to maintain their language and cultural life all through their Soviet rule and other invasions.

The Estonians are a Finnic people closely related to the Finns. Estonians consider themselves a Nordic people rather than Balts, based on their linguistic, cultural and historical ties with Sweden, Denmark and particularly Finland.

Language: The national language is Estonian, a Finno-Ugric language and, along with its close relative Finnish as well as Hungarian, is one of the few official languages of the European Union that is not of Indo-European origin.

Indigenous Estonian-speaking ethnic Estonians constitute nearly 70% of the total population of about 1.3 million people. Estonian 67.9%, Russian 25.6%, Ukrainian 2.1%, Belarusian 1.3%, Finn 0.9%, other 2.2% (2000 census)

This ad is allegedly Russian peoples living in Estonia urging them to learn the Estonian language.

Singing is a major part of the Estonian culture. In fact, mass protests involving singing banned Estonian songs between 1987 and 1991 are considered a major part of what earned Estonia independence after 50 years of Soviet occupation, coined the Singing Revolution.

I did find a blogger who was concerned that Estonian pop music is stuck in the Eighties....but I am not sure if that is special to Estonia.

Food: Traditional Estonian food has its roots firmly in the countryside, relying heavily on pork, potatoes and garden variety vegetables. The main culinary influences were from Germans, who ruled over Estonia for so many centuries. Throughout history, many other nations who ruled the region – Danes, Germans, Swedes, Poles and Russians – have influenced Estonian cuisine. Among the traditional dishes are marinated eel, blood sausage and sauerkraut stew with pork.

Government: Estonia is a parliamentary democracy with three branches of power: legislative, executive, and judicial.

Estonia has been a member of the European Union since May 2004 and of NATO since March 2004.

Estonia has gained a reputation for being at the cutting edge of technology. A June 2007 survey found that 768,000 Estonians - 65% of the population - use the internet. The country held the world's first parliamentary "e-vote" in 2007.

Taxes: In 1994, Estonia became one of the first countries in the world to adopt a flat tax, with a uniform rate of 26% regardless of personal income. In January 2005 the personal income tax rate was reduced to 24%. A subsequent reduction to 23% followed in January 2006. The income tax rate will be decreased by 1% annually to reach 18% by January 2011.

Currency: The national currency of Estonia is called the Kroon and was introduced on 20 June 1992. The Kroon is abbreviated as EEK. The smaller unit is called the Sent, 1 kroon = 100 sents. The kroon is pegged to the EURO at 1 EUR = appr. 15.65 EEK.

The Estonian government is now intending to adopt the euro as the country's currency in 2010. Its economy is rated as "high income" by the World Bank.

Exports: Estonia exports machinery and equipment, wood and paper, textiles, food products, furniture, and metals and chemical products. Estonia also exports 1.562 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually.

Religion: Religion According to a recent Eurostat poll, in 2005, only 16% of Estonian citizens responded that "they believe there is a God", whereas 54% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 26% that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force". This, according to the survey, would have made Estonians the most non-religious people in the then 25-member European Union.

Historically, Estonia used to be stronghold of Lutheranism due to its strong links to the Nordic countries.

Saunas: Estonia is truly sauna-obsessed. In the capital city of Tallinn‘s Old Town, there‘s a Sauna street and a medieval "Sauna Tower."

A sauna is a magical place in Estonian lore - childbirth, dying and healing of diseases were performed here. At nighttime it was visited by both good and evil spirits. People tried to avoid sauna at dark times of the day.

Behavior: Estonians are economical with their feelings, on the whole, not eager to display great joy or sadness. At official meetings people shake hands, privately, they avoid both handshakes and hugging; a friendly 'hello!' is a good enough substitute.
In the worst cases, instead of polite superficiality, Estonians display a rather discourteous indifference. More often, however, they express a sincere and unselfish desire to communicate, and at times, an almost startling eagerness.