Estonia

 

A view onto Old Town in Tallinn.

I am often asked “Where is Estonia”?  My usual answer is to ask another question:  “Do you know where Finland is”?  If they do, then my answer is to say that Estonia is across the Gulf of Finland to the south and that it is the northernmost of the three Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.  Interestingly, although these countries are often mentioned together, they are quite different in terms of their languages.  In its culture Estonia is more similar to the Scandinavian countries and its language Estonian is part of the Finno-Ugric language group, the other two languages in the same group being Finnish and Hungarian. The land populated by Estonians and their ancestors has been appreciably the same in the last 1500 years.  In size it is approximately the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined.  As based on archeological findings, humans first inhabited this region about 7500 BC.  Estonia’s climate is characteristic of the continental mixed forest zone, but temperatures are more temperate in the winter due to the Baltic Sea and the Gulf Stream.  If interested in Estonian history, a relatively recent book published by the Hoover InstitutionPress is Estonia and the Estonians by Toivo U.Raun (2nd Edition, 2001).  This small country through the centuries has been overrun by the Germans, Swedes, Danes, and Russians.  Despite this, it has maintained its culture and language.

“Fat Margareta” Gate to enter the Old Town of Tallinn.

Estonia was an independent country for only a brief time between 1918 to 1939.  During this period, the country flourished and was described as a highly successful country in a book “A Search for a Happy Country” by Marion Foster Washburne in 1936-37,  after visiting this small country.  This happy country was soon to be destroyed by the Russian and German occupations between 1939 and 1944, followed again by the forceful occupation by the Soviet Union between 1944 to 1991.  After Estonia regained its independence in 1991, it has made tremendous headway in its incorporation into present day Europe.  My visits to Estonia in 1987 and again in 2007, showed a country that had undergone tremendous change.  From the grey drabness of the Soviet era to the present day shopping malls, outdoor cafes, music festivals, and cultural events, it is a wonderful place to visit where many of the populous speak English. Today it is ranked high in its economic freedoms and is one of the few European countries that still had a budgetary surplus last year.

The official website for Estonian tourismis a good source, if interested in visiting Estonia.

At the end of a slip of land in Hiiumaa.

Swans are often seen in the wild on the Baltic Sea near the two big islands Hiiumaa and Saaremaa.