- Accession to the EU: 2004
- Accession to the Council of Europe: 1993
- Surface area: 45 227 km2
- Population: 1,32 million inhabitants (2014)
- Capital city: Tallinn (408 329 inhabitants)
- Official languages: Estonian
- Listen to Estonian
- Main religion: Protestant
- Currency: Euro (since January 1st 2011)
- Political system: Republic
- Head of state: President Kersti Kaljulaid since 3rd October 2016
- Head of government: Prime Minsiter Juri Ratas since November 20th, 2016.
- International code: +372
- National holiday: February 24
- The Estonian members of the European Parliament
After centuries of successive invasions and annexations by its neighbours, it was in the 19th century that a true sense of Estonian national identity began to emerge.
- 1917 Following the Russian Revolution, Estonia gains real autonomy vis-à-vis the Russian Empire, in which it had been incorporated since 1721.
- 1920 Russia grants Estonia its independence. During 14 years, the country works to develop a democratic and liberal regime.
- 1934 Coup d’etat by the Estonian Prime Minister, who brutally establishes an authoritarian regime.
- 1940 At the beginning of World War II, Estonia is annexed by the Soviet Union. This marks the start of a period of “Sovietization” (which affects both the society and the economy), along with the repression of political dissidents, interrupted only by the German occupation of 1941 to 1944. The Communist Party of Estonia rules the country with an iron fist until the 1980s.
- 1988 Resurgence of Estonian national feeling, encouraged by the policy of relaxation being carried out in the USSR by Gorbachev. New political groups come into being, including the Popular Front of Estonia and the radical Estonian National Independence Party.
- 1990 As leaders of the anti-Soviet movement, these parties come into power.
- 1991 Estonia declares its independence. This is recognised by the Soviet authorities a few months later.
- 1994 The last Russian troops leave the country.
- 1997 The Estonian Parliament rejects the Russian proposal guaranteeing the country’s security. Preferring a close relationship with the West since its independence, Estonia seeks to join NATO and the European Union.
- 2004 Estonia joins NATO and the European Union.
- 2006 Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Social Democrat, becomes Head of State.
- 2007 Estonia joined the Schengen area
Town Hall, Tallinn © Entreprise Estonia
In the heart of Tallinn’s old town stands the majestic Saint Olaf Cathedral, a prestigious architectural treasure of Europe. The first written mention of this monument dates back to 1267. It was the most impressive Gothic church in Europe during the Middle Ages. At that time, its height of 124 m made it the highest church in Europe. Following a fire in 1433, the church was restored. This unique architectural masterpiece symbolises the glory of this city during the Middle Ages, a city which was at the peak of its influence from the 14th to the 16th century. At the beginning of the 16th century, St Olaf became the highest monument in the world with a spire reaching 159 m in height. According to legend, Olaf was the name of the man who built the church. Olaf struck up a deal with the nobles of Tallinn: either he would succeed in keeping his identity a secret and would then be paid for the construction of the building, or else his name would be discovered in which case he would not be paid. Following the discovery of his name, the people of the town called him while he was finishing the bell tower. Surprised, Olaf fell from the tower. At the spot where he fell, visitors can still see a snake and a toad petrified in the stone. In 1991, the KGB used the pointed tower of the cathedral as a radio transmitter.
Saint-Olaf’s Cathedral © Entreprise Estonia
Singing is an important tradition in Estonia. The Museum of Estonian Literature includes more than 1.3 million pages of popular songs. Going beyond folklore, since the 19th century songs have strengthened the cohesion of the Estonian people and have enjoyed a position of real importance. It comes as no surprise, then, that during the struggle for independence in 1988, a third of the population came together to sing out their political aspirations in the Songs ground. This episode was symbolic of the singing revolution. This music-loving nation includes some great and internationally renowned conductors (Neeme Järvi and Eri Klas) and composers (Arvo Pärt and Erkki-Sven Tüür). In 2001, Estonia won the Eurovision song contest. A large variety of music, ranging from contemporary to medieval, from jazz to pop, and from folk to religious music attracts huge crowds. In 1869, the first pan-Estonian song festival was held in Tartu. This festival is now held every five years in Tallinn on a stage which can bring together up to 30 000 singers at the same time. It is said that during this festival “half of the Estonians sing and the other half listen”.
© Entreprise Estonia