country profile - ESTONIA
Background: After centuries of Danish, Swedish, German, and Russian rule, Estonia attained independence in 1918. Forcibly incorporated into the USSR in 1940 - an action never recognized by the US - it regained its freedom in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since the last Russian troops left in 1994, Estonia has been free to promote economic and political ties with the West. It joined both NATO and the EU in the spring of 2004, formally joined the OECD in late 2010, and adopted the euro as its official currency on 1 January 2011.
geography  
Location: Eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland, between Latvia and Russia
Area: total: 45,228 sq km
land: 42,388 sq km
water: 2,840 sq km
note: includes 1,520 islands in the Baltic Sea
Land boundaries: total: 657 km
border countries (2): Latvia 333 km, Russia 324 km
Coastline: 3,794 km
Climate: maritime; wet, moderate winters, cool summers
Natural resources: oil shale, peat, phosphorite, clay, limestone, sand, dolomite, arable land, sea mud
people  
Population: 1,265,420 (July 2015 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 15.99% (male 103,855/female 98,478)
15-24 years: 9.74% (male 63,840/female 59,425)
25-54 years: 41.83% (male 265,496/female 263,873)
55-64 years: 13.32% (male 75,279/female 93,264)
65 years and over: 19.12% (male 81,525/female 160,385) (2015 est.)
Median age: total: 42.1 years
male: 38.7 years
female: 45.5 years (2015 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.55% (2015 est.)
Birth rate: 10.51 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Death rate: 12.4 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Net migration rate -3.6 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.07 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.81 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.51 male(s)/female
total population: 0.87 male(s)/female (2015 est.)
Nationality: noun: Estonian(s)
adjective: Estonian
Ethnic groups: Estonian 68.7%, Russian 24.8%, Ukrainian 1.7%, Belarusian 1%, Finn 0.6%, other 1.6%, unspecified 1.6% (2011 est.)
Religions: Lutheran 9.9%, Orthodox 16.2%, other Christian (including Methodist, Seventh-Day Adventist, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal) 2.2%, other 0.9%, none 54.1%, unspecified 16.7% (2011 est.)
Languages: Estonian (official) 68.5%, Russian 29.6%, Ukrainian 0.6%, other 1.2%, unspecified 0.1% (2011 est.)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99.8%
male: 99.8%
female: 99.8% (2015 est.)
government  
Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Estonia
conventional short form: Estonia
local long form: Eesti Vabariik
local short form: Eesti
former: Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic
Government type: parliamentary republic
Capital: name: Tallinn
geographic coordinates: 59 26 N, 24 43 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
Administrative divisions: 15 counties (maakonnad, singular - maakond); Harjumaa (Tallinn), Hiiumaa (Kardla), Ida-Virumaa (Johvi), Jarvamaa (Paide), Jogevamaa (Jogeva), Laanemaa (Haapsalu), Laane-Virumaa (Rakvere), Parnumaa (Parnu), Polvamaa (Polva), Raplamaa (Rapla), Saaremaa (Kuressaare), Tartumaa (Tartu), Valgamaa (Valga), Viljandimaa (Viljandi), Vorumaa (Voru)
note: counties have the administrative center name following in parentheses
Independence: 20 August 1991 (from the Soviet Union)
National holiday: Independence Day, 24 February (1918); note - 24 February 1918 was the date Estonia declared its independence from Soviet Russia; 20 August 1991 was the date it declared its independence from the Soviet Union
Legal system: civil law system
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal for all Estonian citizens
Executive branch: chief of state: President Toomas Hendrik ILVES (since 9 October 2006)
head of government: Taavi ROIVAS (since 26 March 2014)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister, approved by Parliament
elections/appointments: president indirectly elected by Parliament for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); if a candidate does not secure two-thirds of the votes after three rounds of balloting, then an electoral assembly of Parliament and local council members elects the president, choosing between the two candidates with the highest number of votes; election last held on 29 August 2011 (next to be held in the fall of 2016); prime minister nominated by the president and approved by Parliament
election results: Toomas Hendrik ILVES reelected president; Parliament vote - Toomas Hendrik ILVES (independent) 73, Indrek TARAND (independent) 25
Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament or Riigikogu (101 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote to serve 4-year terms)
elections: last held on 1 March 2015 (next to be held in March 2019)
election results: percent of vote by party - RE 27.7%, K 24.8%, SDE 15.2%, IRL 13.7%, EV 8.7%, EKRE 8.1%, other 1.8%; seats by party - RE 30, K 27, SDE 15, IRL 14, EV 8, EKRE 7
Judicial branch: highest court(s): Supreme Court (consists of the chief justice and organized into the Civil Chamber with a chamber chairman and 6 justices, the Criminal Chamber with a chamber chairman and 5 justices, the Administrative Law Chamber with a chamber chairman and 4 justices, and the Constitutional Review Chamber with 9 members - the chief justice and 2 justices from the Civil Chamber, 3 from the Criminal Chamber and 3 from the Administrative chamber)
judge selection and term of office: the chief justice is proposed by the president and appointed by the Riigikogu; other justices proposed by the chief justice and appointed by the Riigikogu; justices appointed for life
subordinate courts: circuit (appellate) courts; administrative, county, city, and specialized courts
Political parties and leaders: Center Party of Estonia (Keskerakond) or K [Edgar SAVISAAR]
Estonian Conservative People's Party (Konservatiivne Rahvaerakond) or EKRE [Mart HELME]
Estonian Reform Party (Reformierakond) or RE [Taavi ROIVAS]
Free Party or EV [Andres HERKEL]
Social Democratic Party or SDE [Sven MIKSER]
Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica (Isamaa je Res Publica Liit) or IRL [Urmas REINSALU]
International organization participation: Australia Group, BA, BIS, CBSS, CD, CE, EAPC, EBRD, ECB, EIB, EMU, ESA (cooperating state), EU, FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, MINUSMA, NATO, NIB, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OIF (observer), OPCW, OSCE, PCA, Schengen Convention, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNTSO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of blue (top), black, and white; various interpretations are linked to the flag colors; blue represents faith, loyalty, and devotion, while also reminiscent of the sky, sea, and lakes of the country; black symbolizes the soil of the country and the dark past and suffering endured by the Estonian people; white refers to the striving towards enlightenment and virtue, and is the color of birch bark and snow, as well as summer nights illuminated by the midnight sun
communications  
Telephones - fixed lines: total subscriptions: 410,000
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 32 (2014 est.)
Telephones - mobile cellular: total: 2.1 million
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 162 (2014 est.)
Telephone system: general assessment: foreign investment in the form of joint business ventures greatly improved telephone service with a wide range of high-quality voice, data, and Internet services available
domestic: substantial fiber-optic cable systems carry telephone, TV, and radio traffic in the digital mode; Internet services are widely available; schools and libraries are connected to the Internet, a large percentage of the population files income tax returns online, and online voting was used for the first time in the 2005 local elections
international: country code - 372; fiber-optic cables to Finland, Sweden, Latvia, and Russia provide worldwide packet-switched service; 2 international switches are located in Tallinn (2011)
Broadcast media: the publicly owned broadcaster, Eesti Rahvusringhaaling (ERR), operates 2 TV channels and 5 radio networks; growing number of private commercial radio stations broadcasting nationally, regionally, and locally; fully transitioned to digital television in 2010; national private TV channels expanding service; a range of channels are aimed at Russian-speaking viewers; high penetration rate for cable TV services with more than half of Estonian households connected (2008)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 0, FM 34, shortwave 0 (2009)
Television broadcast stations: 15 (2008)
Internet country code: .ee
Internet hosts: 706,449 (2009)
Internet users: total: 1 million
percent of population: 81.6% (2014 est.)
transportation  
Airports: 18 (2013)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 13
over 3,047 m: 2
2,438 to 3,047 m: 8
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2013)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 5
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 3 (2013)
Heliports: 1 (2012)
Pipelines: gas 868 km (2013)
Railways: total: 1,196 km
broad gauge: 1,196 km 1.520-m and 1.524-m gauge (133 km electrified)
note: includes 277 km of private rail (2014)
Roadways: total: 58,412 km (includes urban roads)
paved: 10,427 km (includes 115 km of expressways)
unpaved: 47,985 km (2011)
Waterways: 335 km (320 km are navigable year round) (2011)
Merchant marine: total: 25
by type: cargo 4, chemical tanker 1, passenger/cargo 18, petroleum tanker 2
foreign-owned: 3 (Germany 1, Norway 2)
registered in other countries: 63 (Antigua and Barbuda 10, Belize 1, Cambodia 1, Canada 1, Cook Islands 1, Cyprus 6, Dominica 6, Finland 2, Latvia 3, Malta 16, Russia 1, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 8, Sierra Leone 2, Sweden 3, Venezuela 1, unknown 1) (2010)
Ports and terminals: major seaport(s): Kuivastu, Kunda, Muuga, Parnu Reid, Sillamae, Tallinn
transnational issues  
Disputes - international: Russia and Estonia in May 2005 signed a technical border agreement, but Russia in June 2005 recalled its signature after the Estonian parliament added to its domestic ratification act a historical preamble referencing the Soviet occupation and Estonia's pre-war borders under the 1920 Treaty of Tartu; Russia contends that the preamble allows Estonia to make territorial claims on Russia in the future, while Estonian officials deny that the preamble has any legal impact on the treaty text; Russia demands better treatment of the Russian-speaking population in Estonia; as a member state that forms part of the EU's external border, Estonia implements strict Schengen border rules with Russia
Refugees and internally displaced persons: stateless persons: 88,076 (2014);
note - following independence in 1991, automatic citizenship was restricted to those who were Estonian citizens prior to the 1940 Soviet occupation and their descendants; thousands of ethnic Russians remained stateless when forced to choose between passing Estonian language and citizenship tests or applying for Russian citizenship; one reason for demurring on Estonian citizenship was to retain the right of visa-free travel to Russia; stateless residents can vote in local elections but not general elections; stateless parents who have been lawful residents of Estonia for at least five years can apply for citizenship for their children before they turn 15
Illicit drugs: growing producer of synthetic drugs; increasingly important transshipment zone for cannabis, cocaine, opiates, and synthetic drugs since joining the European Union and the Schengen Accord; potential money laundering related to organized crime and drug trafficking is a concern, as is possible use of the gambling sector to launder funds; major use of opiates and ecstasy
Update: This page was last updated on 10 November 2015
Sources: CIA, The World Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html