The early people of Estonia were the Aestii, who were Ancient Baltic people. These people had organized into parishes by around the 1st century AD, which existed in seclusion for several centuries. One of the Estonian groups were the Oeselians, who were known as the Estonian Vikings, and existed as far back as the 2nd century, rising in power by the 12th century.
In 1418, Estonia became part of the Livonian Confederation as the Livonian Order. This rule lasted until the Livonian War, which started in 1558 and ended in 1562. After the war, the southern part of Sweden became part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Northern Estonia was part of Sweden, until the early 1700s when the Great Northern War led to the cession of the territory to the Russian Empire.
In what became known as the Estonian National Awakening, the country declared independence in 1918. The declaration was followed by a war of independence, ending in the Tartu Peace Treaty which allowed Estonia to become independent. Estonia was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, then Germany in 1941, and finally the Soviet Union again in 1944, which lasted until its collapse in 1991, when Estonia became independent again.
Neighboring Countries :
Estonia is bordered by Latvia and Russia, and is across the Baltic Sea from Finland and Sweden.
Major Cities :
- Tallinn (capital)
Estonia is located along the Baltic Sea, with coastline along the Gulf of Finland and the Gulf of Riga. Also included in Estonia's territory are 1,520 islands off the coast. The largest of the islands are Saaremaa and Hiiumaa. Saaremaa is home to a cluster of 9 meteorite craters, known as Kaali, the largest of which has formed Kaali Lake.
Estonia's terrain features mostly lowlands, with a low average elevation of about 50 meters (164 feet), while in the southern hilly region, its highest point is at Suur Munamagi, or Egg Mountain, at 318 meters (1,043 feet) above sea level. The main rivers in Estonia are the Narva and the Emajogi. Estonia is home to about 1,500 lakes, while its most important lakes are Lake Peipus along the Russian border and Vortsjarv.
The capital of Estonia, Tallinn, is home to one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe. Tallinn's Old Town, the historic center on the hill of Toompea features architecture constructed mainly from the 15th to 17th century. Notable sites are the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a grand Russian Orthodox church, and St. Mary's Cathedral, which is the city's oldest, from 1229. The city is home to markets, museums, and palaces.
Estonia also has several popular resort destinations, including the towns of Haapsalu and Parnu. Other outdoor recreational opportunities can be found at the several national parks in Estonia, like Soomaa National Park, Vilsandi National Park, and Matsalu National Park. The country's two main islands have plenty to offer visitors, with Saaremaa being home to the Kuressaare Castle, the Kaali meteorite craters, and lakes and forests, while Hiiumaa features historic sites, ruins, a lighthouse, and the Suuremoisa castle.
The main international airport in Estonia is in the capital, Tallinn's Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport, which is a major hub of the Baltic region. Other important airports, Tartu Airport and Kuressaare Airport are great for domestic flights with some regional service. Trains are available from Moscow as well as some domestic destinations, including between Tallinn and Tartu. The bus system is more extensive, however, offering service to most cities in the country, as well as connections to Saint Petersburg, Warsaw, and several other regional destinations. The roads in Estonia are well networked and of varying quality and upkeep, but the major routes are fine. Ferries are available from Sweden, Finland, and Germany, and smaller boats can be chartered between mainland Estonia and its islands.
Last Updated : December 17, 2013