Estonia 2

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An important element in Estonia's post-independence reorientation has been closer ties with the Nordic countries, especially Finland and Sweden. Indeed, Estonians consider themselves a Nordic people rather than Balts, based on their historical ties with Sweden, Denmark and particularly Finland. In December 1999, then Estonian foreign minister (and since 2006, president of Estonia) Toomas Hendrik Ilves delivered a speech entitled "Estonia as a Nordic Country" to the Swedish Institute for International Affairs(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ18M battery). In 2003, the foreign ministry also hosted an exhibit called "Estonia: Nordic with a Twist".

In 2005, Estonia joined the European Union's Nordic Battle Group. It has also shown continued interest in joining the Nordic Council. Whereas in 1992 Russia accounted for 92% of Estonia's international trade,[105] today there is extensive economic interdependence between Estonia and its Nordic neighbors(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ18 battery): three quarters of foreign investment in Estonia originates in the Nordic countries (principally Finland and Sweden), to which Estonia sends 42% of its exports (as compared to 6.5% going to Russia, 8.8% to Latvia, and 4.7% to Lithuania). On the other hand, the Estonian political system, its flat rate of income tax, and its non-welfare-state model distinguish it from the Nordic countries and their Nordic model, and indeed from many other European countries. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ210CE battery)

The European Union Agency for large-scale IT systems will be based in Tallinn, which is due to start operations at the end of 2012.[107] Estonia will hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2018.

An Estonian soldier in Baghdad, Iraq.

The military of Estonia is based upon the Estonian Defence Forces (Estonian: Kaitsevägi), which is the name of the unified armed forces of the republic with Maavägi (Army), Merevägi (Navy), Õhuvägi (Air Force) and a paramilitary national guard organization Kaitseliit (Defence League) (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31S battery). The Estonian National Defence Policy aim is to guarantee the preservation of the independence and sovereignty of the state, the integrity of its land, territorial waters, airspace and its constitutional order.[108] Current strategic goals are to defend the country's interests, develop the armed forces for interoperability with other NATO and EU member forces, and participation in NATO missions(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31Z battery).

The current national military service (Estonian: ajateenistus) is compulsory for men between 18 and 28, and conscripts serve eight-month to eleven-month tours of duty depending on the army branch they serve in. Estonia has retained conscription unlike Latvia and Lithuania and has no plan to transition to a professional army. In 2008, annual military spending reached 1.85% of GDP, or 5 billion kroons, and was expected to continue to increase until 2010, when a 2.0% level was anticipated(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31E battery).

Estonia co-operates with Latvia and Lithuania in several trilateral Baltic defence co-operation initiatives, including Baltic Battalion (BALTBAT), Baltic Naval Squadron (BALTRON), Baltic Air Surveillance Network (BALTNET) and joint military educational institutions such as the Baltic Defence College in Tartu. Future co-operation will include sharing of national infrastructures for training purposes and specialisation of training areas (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31J battery) (BALTTRAIN) and collective formation of battalion-sized contingents for use in the NATO rapid-response force. In January 2011 the Baltic states were invited to join NORDEFCO, the defence framework of the Nordic countries.

As of January 2008, the Estonian military had almost 300 troops stationed in foreign countries as part of various international peacekeeping forces, including 35 Defence League troops stationed in Kosovo; 120 Ground Forces soldiers in the NATO-led ISAF force in Afghanistan(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31M battery); 80 soldiers stationed as a part of MNF in Iraq; and 2 Estonian officers in Bosnia-Herzegovina and 2 Estonian military agents in Israeli occupied Golan Heights.

The Estonian Defence Forces have also previously had military missions in Croatia from March until October 1995, in Lebanon from December 1996 until June 1997 and in Macedonia from May until December 2003.[114] Estonia participates in the Nordic Battlegroup and has announced readiness to send soldiers also to Sudan to Darfur if necessary(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31B battery), creating the very first African peacekeeping mission for the armed forces of Estonia.

The Ministry of Defence and the Defence Forces have been working on a cyberwarfare and defence formation for some years now. In 2007, a military doctrine of an e-military of Estonia was officially introduced as the country was under massive cyberattacks in 2007. The proposed aim of the e-military is to secure the vital infrastructure and e-infrastructure of Estonia(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ32 battery). The main cyber warfare facility is the Computer Emergency Response Team of Estonia (CERT), founded in 2006. The organization operates on security issues in local networks.

On 25 June 2007, Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves met with the President of the US, George W. Bush.[118] Among the topics discussed were the attacks on Estonian e-infrastructure.[119] The attacks triggered a number of military organisations around the world to reconsider the importance of network security to modern military doctrine(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ410 battery). On 14 June 2007, defence ministers of NATO members held a meeting in Brussels, issuing a joint communiqué promising immediate action. First public results were estimated to arrive by autumn 2007.[120]

As to the placement of a NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE), Bush announced his support of Estonia as this centre's location. In the aftermath of the 2007 cyberattacks, plans to combine network defence with Estonian military doctrine have been nicknamed as the Tiger's Defence, in reference to Tiigrihüpe. The CCDCOE started its operations in November 2008. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21 battery)

As a member of the European Union, Estonia is considered a high-income economy by the World Bank. The country is ranked 16th in the 2012 Index of Economic Freedom, with the freest economy in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Because of its rapid growth, Estonia has often been described as a Baltic Tiger. Beginning 1 January 2011, Estonia adopted the euro and became the 17th eurozone member state(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21S battery).

According to Eurostat newsrelease published at 21 October 2011, Estonia has the lowest ratio of government debt to GDP among EU countries as 6.7% at the end of 2010. The world media has lately started to describe Estonia as a Nordic country, emphasizing the economic, political and cultural differences between Estonia and its less successful Baltic neighbors.

A balanced budget, almost non-existent public debt, flat-rate income tax, free trade regime, competitive commercial banking sector(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21M battery), innovative e-Services and even mobile-based services are all hallmarks of Estonia's market economy.

Estonia is producing ca 75% of its consumed electricity. Over 85% of it generated with locally mined oil shale.[citation needed]. Alternative energy sources such as wood, peat, and biomass make up approximately 9% of primary energy production. Renewable wind energy part was ca 6% of total consumption in 2009. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ38M battery) Estonia imports needed petroleum products from western Europe and Russia. Oil shale energy, telecommunications, textiles, chemical products, banking, services, food and fishing, timber, shipbuilding, electronics, and transportation are key sectors of the economy. The ice-free port of Muuga, near Tallinn, is a modern facility featuring good transshipment capability, a high-capacity grain elevator, chill/frozen storage, and brand-new oil tanker off-loading capabilities(Sony VGN-NR11S/S Battery). The railroad serves as a conduit between the West, Russia, and other points to the East.

Estonia is part of the Schengen Area, the EU single market and Eurozone (dark blue).

Estonia today is mainly influenced by developments in Finland, Sweden and Germany, its three largest trade partners. The government recently increased its spending on innovation by a considerable amount. The prime minister of Estonian Reform Party has aimed to raise Estonian GDP per capita to one of the EU's highest by 2022(Sony VGN-NR11M/S Battery).

Because of the global economic recession that began in 2007, the GDP of Estonia decreased by 1.4% in the 2nd quarter of 2008, over 3% in the 3rd quarter of 2008, and over 9% in the 4th quarter of 2008. The Estonian government made a supplementary negative budget, which was passed by Riigikogu. The revenue of the budget was decreased for 2008 by EEK 6.1 billion and the expenditure by EEK 3.2 billion(Sony VGN-NR260E/S Battery). In 2010, the economic situation stabilized and started a growth based on strong exports. In the fourth quarter of 2010, Estonian industrial output increased by 23% compared to the year before.

According to Eurostat data, Estonian PPS GDP per capita stood at 67% of the EU average in 2008. In March 2011, the average monthly gross salary in Estonia was 843€

However, there are vast disparities in GDP between different areas of Estonia; currently, over half of the country's GDP is created in Tallinn, the capital and largest city(Sony VGN-NR260E/T Battery). In 2008, the GDP per capita of Tallinn stood at 172% of the Estonian average, which makes the per capital GDP of Tallinn as high as 115% of the European Union average, exceeding the average levels of other counties.

The unemployment rate is around 11.7%, which is above the EU average, while real GDP growth as of 2011 was 8.0%, five times the euro-zone average. As of 2012, Estonia remains the only euro member with a budget surplus, and with a national debt of only 6%, it is one of the least indebted countries in Europe(Sony VGN-NR11Z/S Battery).

Milton Friedman's economic theories have had a large influence on the development of the Estonian economic policies.

By 1929, a stable currency, the kroon, was established. It is issued by the Bank of Estonia, the country's central bank. Trade focused on the local market and the West, particularly Germany and the United Kingdom. Only 3% of all commerce was with the USSR.

Before the Second World War Estonia was mainly an agricultural country whose products such as butter, milk and cheese were widely known on the western European markets(Sony VGN-NR11Z/T Battery). The USSR's forcible annexation of Estonia in 1940 and the ensuing Nazi and Soviet occupation during World War II crippled the Estonian economy. Post-war Sovietization of life continued with the integration of Estonia's economy and industry into the USSR's centrally planned structure.

Since re-establishing independence, Estonia has styled itself as the gateway between East and West and aggressively pursued economic reform and integration with the West(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21E battery). Estonia's market reforms put it among the economic leaders in the former COMECON area. In 1994, based on the economic theories of Milton Friedman, Estonia became one of the first countries 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%. Another reduction to 23% followed in January 2006. The income tax rate was decreased to 21% by January 2008(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21Z battery). The Government of Estonia finalised the design of Estonian euro coins in late 2004, and adopted the euro as the country's currency on 1 January 2011, later than planned due to continued high inflation.

In 1999, Estonia experienced its worst year economically since it regained independence in 1991, largely because of the impact of the 1998 Russian financial crisis. Estonia joined the WTO in November 1999. With assistance from the European Union, the World Bank and the Nordic Investment Bank(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21J battery), Estonia completed most of its preparations for European Union membership by the end of 2002 and now has one of the strongest economies of the new member states of the European Union. Estonia joined the OECD in 2010.

Although Estonia is in general resource-poor, the land still offers a large variety of smaller resources. The country has large oil shale and limestone deposits, along with forests that cover 50.6% of the land. In addition to oil shale and limestone, Estonia also has large reserves of phosphorite, pitchblende, and granite that currently are not mined, or not mined extensively(Sony VAIO VGN-FW11 battery).

Significant quantities of rare earth oxides are found in tailings accumulated from 50 years of uranium ore, shale and loparite mining at Sillamäe. Because of the rising prices of rare earths, extraction of these oxides has become economically viable. The country currently exports around 3000 tonnes per annum, representing around 2% of world production(Sony VAIO VGN-FW11M battery).

In recent years,[when?] public debate has discussed whether Estonia should build a nuclear power plant to secure energy production after closure of old units in the Narva Power Plants, if they are not reconstructed by the year 2016.

Industry and environment

See also: Oil shale in Estonia, Narva Power Plants, and Wind power in Estonia

The Skype software was created by Estonian developers and is mainly developed in Estonia

Hanila windfarm in Lääne county(Sony VAIO VGN-FW11S battery)

Food, construction, and electronic industries are currently among the most important branches of Estonia's industry. In 2007, the construction industry employed more than 80,000 people, around 12% of the entire country's workforce.[145] Another important industrial sector is the machinery and chemical industry, which is mainly located in Ida-Viru County and around Tallinn(Sony VAIO VGN-FW21E battery).

The oil shale based mining industry, which is also concentrated in East-Estonia, produces around 90% of the entire country's electricity. The extensive oil shale usage however has also caused severe damage to the environment. Although the amount of pollutants emitted to the air have been falling since the 1980s,[146] the air is still polluted with sulfur dioxide from the mining industry that the Soviet Union rapidly developed in the early 1950s(Sony VAIO VGN-FW21J battery). In some areas the coastal seawater is polluted, mainly around the Sillamäe industrial complex.

Estonia is a dependent country in the terms of energy and energy production. In recent years many local and foreign companies have been investing in renewable energy sources. The importance of wind power has been increasing steadily in Estonia and currently the total amount of energy production from wind is nearly 60 MW while at the same time roughly 399 MW worth of projects are currently being (Sony VAIO VGN-FW21L battery)developed and more than 2800 MW worth of projects are being proposed in the Lake Peipus area and the coastal areas of Hiiumaa.

Currently, there are plans to renovate some older units of the Narva Power Plants, establish new power stations, and provide higher efficiency in oil shale based energy production. Estonia liberalised 35% of its electricity market in April 2010. The electricity market as whole will be liberalised by 2013(Sony VAIO VGN-FW41M battery).

Together with Lithuania, Poland, and Latvia, the country is considering to participate in the Visaginas nuclear power plant in Lithuania to replace the Ignalina. However, due to the slow pace of the project, Estonia does not rule out building its own nuclear reactor. Another consideration is doing a joint project with Finland because the two electricity grids are connected. The country is considering to apply nuclear power for its oil shale production(Sony VAIO VGN-FW41M/H battery).

Estonia has a strong information technology sector, partly owing to the Tiigrihüpe project undertaken in mid-1990s, and has been mentioned as the most "wired" and advanced country in Europe in the terms of e-Government of Estonia.

Skype was written by Estonia-based developers Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu, and Jaan Tallinn, who had also originally developed Kazaa(Sony VAIO VGN-FW21M battery).

Estonia has had a market economy since the end of 1990s and one of the highest per capita income levels in Eastern Europe. Proximity to the Scandinavian markets, location between the East and West, competitive cost structure and high-skill labour force have been the major Estonian comparative advantages in the beginning of the 2000s (decade) (Sony VAIO VGN-FW21Z battery). Tallinn as the largest city has emerged as a financial centre and the Tallinn Stock Exchange joined recently with the OMX system. The current government has pursued tight fiscal policies, resulting in balanced budgets and low public debt.

In 2007, however, a large current account deficit and rising inflation put pressure on Estonia's currency, which was pegged to the euro, highlighting the need for growth in export-generating industries. Estonia exports mainly machinery and equipment(Sony VAIO VGN-FW32J battery), wood and paper, textiles, food products, furniture, and metals and chemical products. Estonia also exports 1.562 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually.[159] At the same time Estonia imports machinery and equipment, chemical products, textiles, food products and transportation equipment.[159] Estonia imports 200 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually.

Between 2007 and 2013, Estonia receives 53.3 billion kroons (Sony VAIO VGN-FW17W battery) (3.4 billion euros) from various European Union Structural Funds as direct supports by creating the largest foreign investments into Estonia ever.[160] Majority of the European Union financial aid will be invested into to the following fields: energy economies, entrepreneurship, administrative capability, education, information society, environment protection, regional and local development, research and development activities, healthcare and welfare, transportation and labour market(Sony VAIO VGN-FW31E battery).

Main articles: Transport in Estonia and Rail transport in Estonia

There are frequent ferry connections between Tallinn and Helsinki, Stockholm, Mariehamn, and Saint Petersburg.

Estonia has been an important transit centre since the medieval period. The country's favorable geographical location, along with its developing infrastructure, offers good opportunities for all transport and logistics related activities. Rail transport dominates the cargo sector, carrying 70% of all goods, both domestic and international(Sony VAIO VGN-FW139E battery).

The road transport sector dominates passenger transport; almost 90% of all passengers travel by road. The reconstruction of the Tallinn–Tartu motorway has gained national attention as it connects two of the largest cities in the country. The motorway reconstruction (2+2 route) is part of the current Government Coalition programme. Also the proposed permanent connection to Saaremaa Island is in the national infrastructure building programme(Sony VAIO VGN-FW139E/H battery). The costs of the projects have been estimated in billions of Euros, which have also gained a lot of media attention and caused public debates over the feasibility.

Five major cargo ports offer easy navigational access, deep waters, and good ice conditions. The Old City Harbour of Tallinn is the largest passenger port, and one of the biggest and busiest passenger harbours in the Baltic region. It served a record 8.48 million passengers in 2011. There are 12 airports and one heliport in Estonia(Sony VAIO VGN-FW465J battery), of which the Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport is the largest airport, providing services to a number of international carriers flying to 23 destinations.

Before World War II, ethnic Estonians constituted 88% of the population, with national minorities constituting the remaining 12%.[165] The largest minority groups in 1934 were Russians, Germans, Swedes, Latvians, Jews, Poles, Finns and Ingrians. The share of Baltic Germans had fallen from 5.3% (~46,700) in 1881 to 1.3% (16,346) in 1934(Sony VAIO VGN-FW31M battery).

Between 1945 and 1989, the share of ethnic Estonians in the population resident within the currently defined boundaries of Estonia dropped to 61%, caused primarily by the Soviet programme promoting mass immigration of urban industrial workers from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, as well as by wartime emigration and Joseph Stalin's mass deportations and executions. By 1989, minorities constituted more than one-third of the population, as the number of non-Estonians had grown almost fivefold(Sony VAIO VGN-FW31J battery).

At the end of the 1980s, Estonians perceived their demographic change as a national catastrophe. This was a result of the migration policies essential to the Soviet Nationalisation Programme aiming to russify Estonia – forceful administrative and military immigration of non-Estonians from the USSR coupled with the mass deportations of Estonians to the USSR. During the purges up to 110,000 Estonians were killed or deported. In the decade following the reconstitution of independence(Sony VAIO VGN-FW31Z battery), large-scale emigration by ethnic Russians and the removal of the Russian military bases in 1994 caused the proportion of ethnic Estonians in Estonia to increase from 61% to 69% in 2006.

Modern Estonia is a fairly ethnically heterogeneous country, but this heterogeneity is not a feature of much of the country as the non-Estonian population is concentrated in two of Estonia's counties. Thirteen of Estonia's 15 counties are over 80% ethnic Estonian, the most homogeneous being Hiiumaa, where Estonians account for 98.4%of the population(Sony VGN-NR11Z Battery). In the counties of Harju (including the capital city, Tallinn) and Ida-Viru, however, ethnic Estonians make up 60% and 20% of the population, respectively. Russians make up 25.6% of the total population but account for 36% of the population in Harju county and 70% of the population in Ida-Viru county(Sony VGN-NR11S Battery).

The law on the Cultural Autonomy for National Minorities was passed in 1925 – the first in Europe. Cultural autonomies could be granted to minorities numbering more than 3,000 people with longstanding ties to the Republic of Estonia. Before the Soviet occupation, the Germans and Jewish minorities managed to elect a cultural council. The Law on Cultural Autonomy for National Minorities was reinstated in 1993. Historically, large parts of Estonia's northwestern coast and islands have been populated by indigenous ethnically Rannarootslased (Coastal Swedes) (Sony VGN-NR110E Battery).

The majority of Estonia's Swedish population of 3,800 fled to Sweden or were deported in 1944, escaping the advancing Red Army. In recent years the numbers of Coastal Swedes has risen again, numbering in 2008 almost 500 people, owing to the property reforms in the beginning of 1990s. In 2005, the Ingrian Finnish minority in Estonia elected a cultural council and was granted cultural autonomy. The Estonian Swedish minority similarly received cultural autonomy in 2007(Sony VGN-NR110E/T Battery).

Main article: List of cities and towns in Estonia

Tallinn is the capital and the largest city of Estonia. It lies on the northern coast of Estonia, along the Gulf of Finland. There are 33 cities and several town-parish towns in the country. In total, there are 47 linna, with "linn" in English meaning both "cities" and "towns". More than 70% of the population lives in towns. The 20 largest cities are listed below:

Estonia's constitution guarantees freedom of religion, separation of church and state, and individual rights to privacy of belief and religion. (Sony VGN-NR110E/S Battery) According to the Dentsu Communication Institute Inc, Estonia is one of the least religious countries in the world, with 75.7% of the population claiming to be irreligious. The Eurobarometer Poll 2005 found that only 16% of Estonians profess a belief in a god, the lowest belief of all countries studied (EU study).

The largest religious denomination in the country is Evangelical Lutheranism, adhered to by 152,000 Estonians (or 14.8%) of the population, principally ethnic Estonians. 143,000 inhabitants follow the Eastern Orthodox Christianity, practised chiefly by the Russian minority(Sony VGN-CR11Z Battery).

According to the census of 2000, there were about 152,000 Lutherans, 143,000 Orthodox Christians, 5,000 Roman Catholics, 4,268 Jehovah's Witnesses,[173] and 1,000 adherents of Taaraism or Maausk in Estonia (see Maavalla Koda). The Jewish community has an estimated population of about 1,900 (see History of the Jews in Estonia). Around 68,000 people consider themselves atheists(Sony VGN-CR11S Battery).

The country was Christianised by the Teutonic Knights in the 13th century. During the Reformation, Protestantism spread, and the Lutheran church was officially established in Estonia in 1686. Many Estonians profess not to be particularly religious, because religion through the 19th century was associated with German feudal rule.[177] Historically, there has been another minority religion, Russian Old-believers, near Lake Peipus area in Tartu County(Sony VGN-CR11M Battery).

Estonian society has undergone considerable changes over the last twenty years, one of the most notable being the increasing level of stratification, and the distribution of family income. The Gini coefficient has been steadily higher than the European Union average (31 in 2009), although it has clearly dropped. The registered unemployment rate in January 2012 was 7.7%(Sony VGN-CR11E Battery).

Today's Estonia is a multinational country where, according to the 2000 census, 109 languages are spoken. 67.3% of Estonian citizens speak Estonian as their native language, 29.7% Russian, and 3% speak other languages. As of 2 July 2010, 84.1% of Estonian residents are Estonian citizens, 8.6% are citizens of other countries and 7.3% are "citizens with undetermined citizenship". Since 1992 roughly 140,000 people have acquired Estonian citizenship through naturalization(Sony VGN-CR21E Battery).

The ethnic distribution in Estonia is very homogeneous, where in most counties over 90% of the people are ethnic Estonians. There is a bigger difference in larger cities like Tallinn, where Estonians account for 60% of the population. The rest is mainly comprised from Russian and other Slavic background inhabitants, who arrived in Estonia during the Soviet occupation(Sony VGN-CR21S Battery).

According to surveys, only 5% of the Russian community have considered turning back to Russia in the near future. Estonian Russians have developed their own identity – more than half of the respondents recognised that Estonian Russians differ noticeably from the Russians in Russia. When comparing the result with a survey from 2000, then Russians’ attitude toward the future is much more positive(Sony VGN-CR21Z Battery).

Upon giving birth, the Estonian government grants one of the parents 100% of their former salary for 18 months, plus 320 euros of one-time support per child. After 18 months, the parent has the right to resume her/his former position. In addition, the parent and child receive free healthcare. Parents who did not work before giving birth (unemployed, students, etc.) receive 278 euros a month; the top salary is capped at 2157 euros a month(Sony VGN-CR31S Battery). These measures, which have been in force from 2005, have not been proven to have had a major positive effect on the birth rate in Estonia, which has increased already since 2001.

Those policy measures concentrate on the first 18 months of the child's life. After 18 months, the monthly state support to a child goes down to 19 euros a month (for the first two children) and 58 euros (for three or more children), plus free healthcare. There are many exceptions and added bonuses to the rule(Sony VGN-CR31E Battery). For example, the child of a single parent receives twice the sum of child support. The child of an army member receives five times the sum of the child support, and children in foster families receive 20 times the sum of the child support. Despite considerable variation and fluctuations in the support to the family with children, the majority of Estonian families do not face great hardships and the State of The World's Mothers 2011 report ranked Estonia as the 18th best country in the world to be a mother(Sony VGN-CR31Z Battery), ahead of countries like Canada and United States.[186] According to the CIA World Factbook, Estonia has the lowest maternal death rate in the world.

The four distinct characters in the Estonian alphabet.

The official language, Estonian, belongs to the Finnic branch of the Uralic languages. Estonian is closely related to Finnish, spoken on the other side of the Gulf of Finland, and is one of the few languages of Europe that is not of an Indo-European origin. Despite some overlaps in the vocabulary due to borrowings, in terms of its origin(Sony VGN-CR41Z Battery), Estonian and Finnish are not related to their nearest geographical neighbours, Swedish, Latvian, and Russian, which are all Indo-European languages.

Russian is still spoken as a secondary language by forty- to seventy-year-old ethnic Estonians, because Russian was the unofficial language of the Estonian SSR from 1944 to 1991 and taught as a compulsory second language during the Soviet era. In 1998, most first- and second-generation industrial immigrants from the former Soviet Union (mainly Russia (RSFSR)) did not speak Estonian.[187] However, by 2010, 64.1% of non-ethnic Estonians spoke Estonian. (Sony VGN-CR41S Battery)

The latter, mostly Russian-speaking ethnic minorities, reside predominantly in the capital city of Tallinn and the industrial urban areas in Ida-Virumaa. In the small Noarootsi Parish in Läänemaa (known as Nuckö kommun in Swedish and Noarootsi vald in Estonian) there are 22 villages with bilingual names.

The most common foreign languages learned by Estonians are English, Russian, Finnish, German, and Swedish(Sony VGN-CR41E Battery).

Education and science

Main article: Education in Estonia

See also: List of universities in Estonia, Space science in Estonia, and Tiigrihüpe

The University of Tartu is one of the oldest universities in Northern Europe and the highest-ranked university in Estonia

Building of the Estonian Student's Society in Tartu

The history of formal education in Estonia dates back to the 13th and 14th centuries when the first monastic and cathedral schools were founded. The first primer in the Estonian language was published in 1575. The oldest university is the University of Tartu, established by the Swedish king Gustav II Adolf in 1632. In 1919, university courses were first taught in Estonian language(Sony VGN-CR42Z Battery).

Today's education in Estonia is divided into general, vocational, and hobby. The education system is based on four levels: pre-school, basic, secondary, and higher education. A wide network of schools and supporting educational institutions have been established. The Estonian education system consists of state, municipal, public, and private institutions. There are currently 589 schools in Estonia(Sony VGN-CR42S Battery).

According to the Programme for International Student Assessment, the performance levels of gymnasium-age pupils in Estonia is among the highest in the world: as of 2010, the country was ranked 13th in the quality of its education system, well above the OECD average.[193] Additionally, around 89% of Estonian adults aged 25–64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, one of the highest rates in the industrialized world. (Sony VGN-CR42E Battery)

Academic higher education in Estonia is divided into three levels: bachelor's, master's, and doctoral studies. In some specialties (basic medical studies, veterinary, pharmacy, dentistry, architect-engineer, and a classroom teacher programme) the bachelor's and master's levels are integrated into one unit.[195] Estonian public universities have significantly more autonomy than applied higher education institutions(Sony Vaio VGN-CR11S/L Battery).

In addition to organizing the academic life of the university, universities can create new curricula, establish admission terms and conditions, approve the budget, approve the development plan, elect the rector, and make restricted decisions in matters concerning assets.[196] Estonia has a moderate number of public and private universities. The largest public universities are the University of Tartu, Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn University, Estonian University of Life Sciences, Estonian Academy of Arts; the largest private university is Estonian Business School(Sony Vaio VGN-CR11S/P Battery).

The Estonian Academy of Sciences is the national academy of science. The first computer centres were established in late 1950s in Tartu and Tallinn. Estonian specialists contributed in the development of software engineering standards for ministries of the Soviet Union during the 1980s. Estonia spends around 1.44% of its GDP on Research and Development, compared to an EU average of around 2%(Sony Vaio VGN-CR11S/W Battery).

Estonia Theatre

The culture of Estonia incorporates indigenous heritage, as represented by the Estonian language and the sauna, with mainstream Nordic and European cultural aspects. Because of its history and geography, Estonia's culture has been influenced by the traditions of the adjacent area's various Finnic, Baltic, Slavic and Germanic peoples as well as the cultural developments in the former dominant powers Sweden and Russia(Sony Vaio VGN-CR11Z/R Battery).

Today, Estonian society encourages liberty and liberalism, with popular commitment to the ideals of the limited government, discouraging centralized power and corruption. The Protestant work ethic remains a significant cultural staple, and free education is a highly prized institution. Like the mainstream culture in the other Nordic countries, Estonian culture can be seen to build upon the ascetic environmental realities and traditional livelihoods(Sony Vaio VGN-CR13/B Battery), a heritage of comparatively widespread egalitarianism out of practical reasons (see: Everyman's right and universal suffrage), and the ideals of closeness to nature and self-sufficiency (see: summer cottage).[200] However, Estonians separate themselves from Nordic culture in that they believe freedom is more important than equality.

The Estonian Academy of Arts (Estonian: Eesti Kunstiakadeemia, EKA) is providing higher education in art, design, architecture, media(Sony Vaio VGN-CR13/L Battery), art history and conservation while Viljandi Culture Academy of University of Tartu has an approach to popularize native culture through such curricula as native construction, native blacksmithing, native textile design, traditional handicraft and traditional music, but also jazz and church music. In 2010, there were 245 museums in Estonia whose combined collections contain more than 10 million objects. (Sony Vaio VGN-CR13/P Battery)

Main article: Literature of Estonia

A painting depicting a scene from the national epic Kalevipoeg written by Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald.

Ilon Wikland has illustrated many book series by Astrid Lindgren, for example The Six Bullerby Children and Karlsson-on-the-Roof.

The Estonian literature refers to literature written in the Estonian language (ca. 1 million speakers).[202] The domination of Estonia after the Northern Crusades, from the 13th century to 1918 by Germany(Sony Vaio VGN-CR13/R Battery), Sweden, and Russia resulted in few early written literary works in the Estonian language. The oldest records of written Estonian date from the 13th century. Originates Livoniae in Chronicle of Henry of Livonia contains Estonian place names, words and fragments of sentences. The Liber Census Daniae (1241) contains Estonian place and family names. (Sony Vaio VGN-CR13/W Battery)

The cultural stratum of Estonian was originally characterized by a largely lyrical form of folk poetry based on syllabic quantity. Apart from a few albeit remarkable exceptions, this archaic form has not been much employed in later times. One of the most outstanding achievements in this field is the national epic Kalevipoeg. At a professional level, traditional folk song reached its new heyday during the last quarter of the 20th century, primarily thanks to the work of composer Veljo Tormis(Sony Vaio VGN-CR13G Battery).

Oskar Luts was the most prominent prose writer of the early Estonian literature, who is still widely read today, especially his lyrical school novel Kevade (Spring).[204] Anton Hansen Tammsaare's social epic and psychological realist pentalogy Truth and Justice captured the evolution of Estonian society from a peasant community to an independent nation. In modern times, Jaan Kross and Jaan Kaplinski are Estonia's best known and most translated writers. (Sony Vaio VGN-CR13G/B Battery) Among the most popular writers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries are Tõnu Õnnepalu and Andrus Kivirähk, who uses elements of Estonian folklore and mythology, deforming them into absurd and grotesque.

See also: List of Estonian films and List of Estonian war films

The cinema of Estonia started in 1908 with the production of a newsreel about Swedish King Gustav V's visit to Tallinn.[209] The first public TV broadcast in Estonia was in July 1955. Regular, live radio-broadcasts began already in December 1926. Deregulation in the field of electronic media has brought radical changes compared to the beginning of 1990s(Sony Vaio VGN-CR13G/L Battery). The first licenses for private TV broadcasters were issued in 1992. The first private radio station went on the air in 1990.

Today the media is a vibrant and competitive sector. There is a plethora of weekly newspapers and magazines, and Estonians have a choice of 9 domestic TV channels and a host of radio stations. The Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, and Estonia has been internationally recognized for its high rate of press freedom, having been ranked 3rd in the 2012 Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders. (Sony Vaio VGN-CR13G/W Battery)

Estonia has two news agencies. The Baltic News Service (BNS), founded in 1990, is a private regional news agency covering Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The ETV24 is an agency owned by Eesti Rahvusringhääling who is a publicly funded radio and television organization created on 30 June 2007 to take over the functions of the formerly separate Eesti Raadio and Eesti Televisioon under the terms of the Estonian National Broadcasting Act(Sony Vaio VGN-CR13G/P Battery).

Main article: Music of Estonia

See also: Estonian national awakening, Estonian Song Festival, and Estonia in the Eurovision Song Contest

A moment before the opening of the 25th Estonian Song Festival (2009) at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds

Kerli Kõiv performing in Tallinn in 2008.

Arvo Pärt, Estonia's most renowned composer.

The earliest mentioning of Estonian singing dates back to Saxo Grammaticus Gesta Danorum (ca. 1179). (Sony Vaio VGN-CR13G/R Battery) Saxo speaks of Estonian warriors who sang at night while waiting for a battle. The older folksongs are also referred to as regilaulud, songs in the poetic metre regivärss the tradition shared by all Baltic Finns. Runic singing was widespread among Estonians until the 18th century, when rhythmic folk songs began to replace it.

Traditional wind instruments derived from those used by shepherds were once widespread, but are now becoming again more commonly played(Sony Vaio VGN-CR13T/L Battery). Other instruments, including the fiddle, zither, concertina, and accordion are used to play polka or other dance music. The kannel is a native instrument that is now again becoming more popular in Estonia. A Native Music Preserving Centre was opened in 2008 in Viljandi.[214]

The tradition of Estonian Song Festivals (Laulupidu) started at the height of the Estonian national awakening in 1869. Today, it is one of the largest amateur choral events in the world. In 2004, about 100,000 people participated in the Song Festival. Since 1928(Sony Vaio VGN-CR13T/P Battery), the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds (Lauluväljak) host the event every five years in July. The next festival takes place in 2014. In addition, Youth Song Festivals are also held in every four or five years, last of them in 2011.

Professional Estonian musicians and composers such as Rudolf Tobias, Mart Saar, and Artur Kapp emerged in the late 19th century. At the time of this writing, the most known Estonian composers are Arvo Pärt, Eduard Tubin, and Veljo Tormis(Sony Vaio VGN-CR13T/R Battery).

In the 1950s, Estonian baritone Georg Ots rose to worldwide prominence as an opera singer.

In popular music, Estonian artist Kerli Kõiv has become popular in Europe, as well as gaining moderate popularity in North America. She has provided music for the 2010 Disney film Alice in Wonderland and the television series Smallville in the United States of America.

Estonia won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2001 with the song "Everybody" performed by Tanel Padar and Dave Benton. In 2002, Estonia hosted the event(Sony Vaio VGN-CR13T/W Battery). Maarja-Liis Ilus has competed for Estonia on two occasions (1996 and 1997), while Eda-Ines Etti, Koit Toome and Evelin Samuel owe their popularity partly to the Eurovision Song Contest. Lenna Kuurmaa is a very popular singer in Europe, with her band Vanilla Ninja. "Rändajad" by Urban Symphony, was the first ever song in Estonian to chart in the UK, Belgium, and Switzerland(Sony Vaio VGN-CR150E/B Battery).

Main article: Public holidays in Estonia

The Estonian National Day is the Independence Day celebrated on 24 February, the day the Estonian Declaration of Independence was issued. As of 2010, there are 12 public holidays (which come with a day off) and 12 national holidays celebrated annually.

Historically, the cuisine of Estonia has been heavily dependent on seasons and simple peasant food, which today is influenced by many countries(Sony Vaio VGN-CR190 Battery). Today, it includes many typical international foods. The most typical foods in Estonia are black bread, pork, potatoes, and dairy products.[218] Traditionally in summer and spring, Estonians like to eat everything fresh – berries, herbs, vegetables, and everything else that comes straight from the garden. Hunting and fishing have also been very common, although currently hunting and fishing are enjoyed mostly as hobbies. Today, it is also very popular to grill outside in summer(Sony Vaio VGN-CR190E/L Battery).

Traditionally in winter jams, preserves, and pickles are brought to the table. Estonia has been through rough times in the past and thus gathering and conserving fruits, mushrooms, and vegetables for winter has always been essential. Today, gathering and conserving is not that common, because everything can be bought from stores, but preparing food for winter is still very popular in the countryside and still has somewhat ritual significance. Being a country with a large coastline, fish has also been very important(Sony Vaio VGN-CR190E/P Battery).

Estonian delegation in Vancouver, 2010.

Sport plays an important role in Estonian culture. After declaring independence from Russia in 1918, Estonia first competed as a nation at the 1920 Summer Olympics, although the National Olympic Committee was established in 1923. Estonian athletes took part of the Olympic Games until the country was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940. The 1980 Summer Olympics Sailing regatta was held in the capital city Tallinn. After regaining independence in 1991(Sony Vaio VGN-CR190E/R Battery), Estonia has participated in all Olympics. Estonia has won most of its medals in athletics, weightlifting, wrestling and cross-country skiing.

The list of notable Estonian athletes include wrestlers Kristjan Palusalu, Voldemar Väli, and Georg Lurich, skiers Andrus Veerpalu and Kristina Šmigun-Vähi, decathlonist Erki Nool, tennis player Kaia Kanepi, cyclists Jaan Kirsipuu and Erika Salumäe and discus throwers Gerd Kanter and Aleksander Tammert(Sony Vaio VGN-CR21/B Battery).

Kiiking, a relatively new sport, was invented in 1996 by Ado Kosk in Estonia. Kiiking involves a modified swing in which the rider of the swing tries to go around 360 degrees.

Paul Keres, Estonian and Soviet chess grandmaster, was among the world's top players from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s. He narrowly missed a chance at a World Chess Championship match on five occasions(Sony Vaio VGN-CR21E/L Battery).

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