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Estonia, country in northeastern Europe, located on the eastern end of the Baltic Sea. Estonia is the northernmost and smallest of the Baltic states, which also include Latvia and Lithuania. The low-lying land of Estonia features wetlands and ancient forests teeming with wildlife. Islands abound in the country’s coastal waters. Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, is an important Baltic seaport and the country’s largest city.

Ethnic Estonians make up a majority of the population. Estonians have maintained a distinctive culture despite a long history of foreign rule. Their culture is similar to the Nordic countries of Europe. In the Estonian language, which is closely related to Finnish, the country’s name is Eesti.

Russians constitute the country’s largest minority group. Many Russians settled in Estonia after it became part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). In 1940 the USSR forcibly annexed Estonia along with the other Baltic states, which had been independent countries since 1918.

Estonia regained independence in 1991. It quickly dismantled the communist institutions of the Soviet period, switching to a democratic form of government and a free-market economy. These reforms helped Estonia gain full membership in the European Union (EU) in 2004.


For younger readers

Flint, David. The Baltic States. Millbrook, 1992. Historical perspective, for readers in grades 4 to 6.

Spilling, Michael. Estonia. Marshall Cavendish, 1999. For readers in grades 7 and up.

Baltic Literature

Ezergailis, Inta. Nostalgia and Beyond: Eleven Latvian Women Writers. University Press of America, 1997.

Kelertas, Violeta, ed. 'Come into My Time': Lithuania in Prose Fiction, 1970-90. University of Illinois Press, 1992.

Moseley, Christopher, ed. From Baltic Shores. Dufour, 1994. Modern short stories.

Pruul, Kajar, and Darlene Reddaway, eds.Trans. Ritva Poom. Estonian Short Stories. Northwestern University Press, 1995.

Rubulis, Aleksis. Baltic Literatures: A Survey of Finnish, Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian Literatures. University of Notre Dame Press, 1970. History and criticism; includes texts in translation.


Iwaskiw, Walter R., ed. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania: Country Studies. Library of Congress, 1997. Covers history, politics, economy, and society.

Lieven, Anatol. The Baltic Revolution: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Path to Independence. 4th ed. Yale University Press, 1994. A portrait of the Baltic states today, an interpretation of their history and culture,and a personal report of their struggles since 1989.

Smith, Graham, ed. The Baltic States: The National Self-determination of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. St. Martin's, 1996. An overview of the three post-Soviet independent states on the Baltic Sea.

Taagepera, Rein. Estonia: Return to Independence. Westview, 1993. Estonia's evolution from prehistory to the present.


Taagepera, Rein, B.Sc., M.A., Ph.D. Professor emeritus of Political Science, University of California, Irvine, and University of Tartu, Estonia. Author of Estonia: Return to Independence and other books.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

Article key phrases:

Estonian language, Baltic states, independent countries, Tallinn, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, USSR, coastal waters, Russians, largest city, European Union, reforms, Eesti, capital, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, population, independence, wildlife, country, Islands, majority, smallest, membership

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