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BACKGROUND NOTES: ESTONIA
PUBLISHED BY THE BUREAU OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Republic of Estonia
Area: 45,226 sq. km. (18,086 sq. miles); about the size of New
Hampshire and Vermont.
Cities: Capital--Tallinn (1991 pop. 481,500). Other cities--Tartu
(115,400); Narva (82,300); Kohtla-Jarve (76,800); Parnu (54,200);
Sillamae (20,700); Rakvere (20,100).
Terrain: Flat, with an average elevation of 50 m. Elevation is
slightly higher in the east and southeast. Steep limestone banks and
1,520 islands mark the coastline.
Climate: Temperate, with four seasons of near-equal length.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Estonian(s).
Population: 1.6 million. Annual growth rate--0.7%.
Ethnic groups: Estonians 62%, Russians 30%, Ukrainians 3%,
Religions: Lutheran, Russian Orthodox, Baptist.
Language: Estonian (official). Most people also speak Russian.
Education: Years compulsory--11. By 1989, 12% of the adult populace
completed college. Attendance--214,000 students at 561 schools, plus
24,000 university students. Literacy--99%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--12/1,000 births. Life expectancy--65
years for males, 74 for females.
Work force (785,500 people): Industry--32%. Agriculture--12%.
Education, Culture--12%. Construction--10%. Trade--9%.
Transport--8%. Health care--6%. Housing--5%. Other--4%.
Type: Parliamentary democracy.
Constitution: On June 28, 1992, Estonians ratified a constitution
based on the 1938 model, offering legal continuity to the Republic of
Estonia prior to Soviet occupation.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state), elected by parliament
every five years; prime minister (head of government).
Legislative--Riigikogu (parliament: 101 members, 5-year term);
Administrative regions: 15 counties and 6 independent towns.
Political parties/coalitions: Pro Patria ("Fatherland")--30 seats in
Parliament; National Independence Party (ENIP)--11 seats; Moderates
(Social Democrats)--12 seats; Secure Home (Technocrats)--17 seats;
Popular Front--15 seats; Monarchists (independent)--8 seats; Estonian
Citizen (nationalist)--6 seats; Green Movement--1 seat;
Entrepreneurs--1 seat; Communists--0 seats.
Suffrage: Universal at 18; non-citizen residents may vote in municipal
GDP (1992 est): $834 million.
1994 growth rate: 6.4%.
Per capita income: $540.
Natural resources: Oil shale, phosphorite, limestone, blue clay.
Agriculture/forestry (20% of 1991 GDP): Milk and dairy products, meat,
cereals, potatoes. Cultivable land--1.36 million hectares (60% arable,
18% meadow, 13% pasture).
Industry (42% of GDP): Electricity, oil shale, chemical products,
electric motors, textiles, furniture, cellulose/paper products,
building materials, processed foods.
Trade: Exports--$827 million: Foodstuffs; textiles and footware;
metals and jewelry; minerals; glassware; stones; wood/wood products;
furniture; machinery and equipment. Partners--Finland (22%), Russia
(20%), Sweden (10%), Germany (9%), Latvia (8%), Netherlands (5%), U.S.
(2%). Imports--$902 million, 1993 est.: Food, fuel, raw materials,
and machinery. Partners--Finland (26%), Russia (19%), Germany (11%),
Sweden (9%), Lithuania (4%), U.S. (2%).
Exchange rate (July 1994): 13 kroon (EEK)=U.S. $ 1.
The name "Eesti," or Estonia, is derived from the word "Aisti," the
name given by the ancient Germans to the peoples living northeast of
the Vistula River. The Roman historian Tacitus in the first century
A.D. was the first to mention the Aisti, and early Scandinavians called
the land south of the Gulf of Finland "Eistland," and the people
"aistr." Estonians belong to the Baltic-Finnic group of the
Finno-Ugric peoples, as do the Finns and Hungarians. Archaeological
finds show human activity in the region as early as 8000 B.C. The
ancestors of the Estonians appear to have arrived from the east about
5,000 years ago.
A strong Nordic influence is evident, the result of cultural and
religious influences gained over centuries of Germanic and Scandinavian
colonization and settlement. This highly literate society places
strong emphasis upon education, which is free and compulsory until age
16. Most Estonians belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church, but a
sizable minority are Russian Orthodox.
From 1945 to 1989 the percentage of ethnic Estonians in Estonia dropped
from 94% to 61%, caused primarily by the Soviet program promoting mass
immigration of urban industrial workers from Russia, Ukraine, and
Belarus as well as by wartime emigration and Stalin's mass deportations
and executions. Estonia's citizenship law and constitution meet
international and Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe
(CSCE) standards, guaranteeing universal human and civil rights.
Written with the Latin alphabet, Estonian is the language of the
Estonian people and the official language of the country. One-third of
the standard vocabulary is derived from adding suffixes to root words.
The oldest known examples of written Estonian originate in 13th-century
chronicles. The Soviet era had imposed the official use of Russian, so
most Estonians speak Russian as a second language, while the resident
Slavic populace speaks Russian as a first language.
Estonians are one of the longest-settled European peoples, whose
forebears, known to archaeologists as the "comb pottery" people, lived
on the southeastern shores of the Baltic Sea more than 5,000 years ago.
Like other early agricultural societies, Estonians were organized into
economically self-sufficient, male-dominated clans with few differences
in wealth or social power. By the early Middle Ages most Estonians
were small landholders, with farmsteads primarily organized by village.
Estonian government remained decentralized, with local political and
administrative subdivisions emerging only during the first century A.D.
By then, Estonia had a population of more than 150,000 people and
remained the last corner of medieval Europe to be Christianized.
Estonia also managed to remain nominally independent from the Vikings
to the west and Kievan Rus to the east, subject only to occasional
forced tribute collections.
However, the Danes conquered Toompea, the hilled fortress at what is
now the center of Tallinn, and in 1227 the German crusading order of
the Sword Brethren defeated the last Estonian stronghold; the people
were Christianized, colonized, and enserfed. Despite attempts to
restore independence, Estonia was divided among three domains, and
small states were formed. Tallinn joined the Hanseatic League in 1248.
By 1236, the Sword Brethren allied with the Order of the Teutonic
Knights and became known as the Livonian Order of the Teutonic Knights.
Finding upkeep of the distant colony too costly, the Danes in 1346
sold their part of Estonia to the Livonian Order. Despite successful
Russian raids and invasions in 1481 and 1558, the local German barons
continued to rule Estonia and preserved Estonian commitment to the
Protestant Reformation. Northern Estonia submitted to Swedish control
in 1561 during the Livonian Wars, and southern Estonia (Livonia) became
part of Lithuania's Duchy of Courland. In 1631, Swedish King Gustav II
Adolf granted the peasantry some measure of greater autonomy, opened
the first school in Tallinn, where Estonian was taught, and in the
following year established a printing press and university in the city
of Tartu. The Swedish defeat resulting in the 1721 Treaty of Nystad
imposed Russian rule in the territory that became modern Estonia,
uniting it under one rule.
By 1819 the Baltic provinces were the first in the Russian empire in
which serfdom was abolished, spurring the peasants to own their own
land or move to the cities. These moves created the economic
foundation for the Estonian national cultural awakening that had lain
dormant for some 600 years of foreign rule. Estonia was caught in a
current of national awakening that began sweeping through Europe in the
A cultural movement evolved to adopt the use of Estonian as the
language of instruction in schools, all-Estonian song festivals were
held regularly after 1869, and a national literature developed.
Kalevipoeg, Estonia's epic national poem, was published in 1861 in both
Estonian and German. More importantly, activists who agitated for a
modern national culture also agitated for a modern national state. As
the 1905 revolution swept the country, Estonians called for freedom of
the press and assembly, for universal franchise, and for national
autonomy. The 1905 uprisings were brutally suppressed, and Estonian
gains were minimal, but the tense stability that prevailed between 1905
and 1917 allowed Estonians to advance the aspiration of national
With the collapse of the Russian empire in World War I, Russia's
provisional government granted national autonomy to Estonia. An
autonomous Estonian government (Maapaev) was formed but was quickly
forced underground by opposing extremist political forces. The
Committee of Elders of the underground Maapaev announced the
establishment of the Republic of Estonia on February 24, 1918, one day
before German troops invaded. After the withdrawal of German troops in
November 1918, fighting broke out between Bolshevik troops and Estonian
partisans. On February 2, 1920, the Treaty of Tartu--the Soviet
Union's first foreign peace treaty--was signed by the Republic of
Estonia and the Soviet Union. The terms of the treaty stated that the
Soviet Union renounced in perpetuity all rights to the territory of
Independence lasted 22 years. Estonia underwent a number of economic,
social, and political reforms necessary to come to terms with its new
status as a sovereign state. Economically and socially, land reform in
1919 was the most important step. Large estate holdings belonging to
the Baltic nobility were redistributed among the peasants and
especially among volunteers in what they called the war of
independence. Loss of markets in the east led to considerable
hardships until Estonia developed an export-based economy and domestic
industries. Estonia's principal markets became Scandinavia, Great
Britain, and Western Europe, with some exports to the United States and
During its early independence, Estonia operated under a liberal
democratic constitution patterned on the Swiss model. However, with
between 9 and 14 politically divergent parties, Estonia experienced 20
different parliamentary governments between 1919 and 1933. The Great
Depression spawned the growth of powerful, far-rightist parties which
successfully pushed popular support in 1933 for a new constitution
granting much stronger executive powers. In a preemptive move against
the far right, Estonia's President, Konstantin Pats, dissolved
parliament and governed the country by decree. By 1938, Estonia
ratified a third, more balanced, and very liberal constitution and
elected a new parliament the following year.
The independence period was one of great cultural advancement.
Estonian language schools were established, and artistic life of all
kinds flourished. One of the more notable cultural acts of this time
was a guarantee of cultural autonomy to minority groups.
Estonia had pursued a policy of neutrality, but the signing of the
Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact on August 23, 1939, signaled the
end of independence. The agreement provided for the Soviet occupation
of Estonia, Latvia, part of Finland, and, later, Lithuania in return
for Nazi Germany's assuming control over most of Poland. The Estonian
Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed on July 21, 1940, and was
incorporated into the Soviet Union on August 6.
Soviet occupation was accompanied by expropriation of property,
Sovietization of cultural life, and the installation of Stalinist
communism in political life. Deportations also quickly followed,
beginning on the night of June 14, 1941, when more than 10,000
people--most of them women, children, and the elderly--were taken from
their homes and sent to Siberia in cattle cars. When Nazi Germany
attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, most Estonians greeted the
Germans with relatively open arms.
During two-and-a-half years of Nazi occupation, Estonia became a part
of the German Ostland, and about 5,500 Estonians died in concentration
camps. However, few Estonians welcomed the Red Army's push through the
Baltics in January 1944. Some 10% of the population fled to the West
between 1940 and 1944. By late September, Soviet forces expelled the
last German troops from Estonia, ushering in a second phase of Soviet
rule. That year, Moscow also moved to transfer the Estonian Narva and
Petseri border districts, which had large percentages of ethnic
Russians, to Russian control.
For the next decade, an anti-Soviet guerrilla movement known as "the
Forest Brethren" operated in the countryside. Composed of formerly
conscripted Estonian soldiers from the German army, fugitives from the
Soviet military draft or security police arrest, and those seeking
revenge for mass deportations, the Forest Brethren used abandoned
German and Soviet equipment and worked in groups or alone. In the hope
that protracted resistance would encourage Allied intervention for the
restoration of Estonian independence, the movement reached its zenith
in 1946-48 with an estimated 5,000 followers and held effective
military control in some rural areas.
After the war, the Estonian Communist Party (ECP) became the
pre-eminent organization in the republic. Most of the new members were
Russified Estonians who had spent most of their lives in the Soviet
Union. Not surprisingly, Estonians were reluctant to join the ECP and
thus take part in the Sovietization of their own country. The ethnic
Estonian share in ECP membership went from 90% in 1941 to 48% in 1952.
After Stalin's death, party membership vastly expanded its social base
to include more ethnic Estonians. By the mid-1960s, ethnic Estonian
membership stabilized near 50%. On the eve of perestroika, the ECP
claimed about 100,000 members; less than half were ethnic Estonians and
they comprised less than 2% of the country's population. Russians or
Russified Estonians continued to dominate the party's upper echelons.
A positive aspect of the post-Stalin era in Estonia was a reopening of
citizens' contacts with foreign countries late in the 1950s. Ties were
also restored with Finland, boosting a flourishing black market. In
the mid-1960s, Estonians began watching Finnish television. This
electronic "window on the West" afforded Estonians more information on
current affairs and more access to Western culture and thought than any
other group in the Soviet Union. This expanded media environment was
important in preparing Estonians for their vanguard role in extending
perestroika during the Gorbachev era.
By the 1970s, national concerns--including worries about ecological
ruin--became the major theme of dissent in Estonia. Estonian society
grew increasingly concerned about the threat of cultural Russification
to the Estonian language and national identity. By 1981, Russian was
taught in the first grade of Estonian-language schools and was also
introduced into Estonian pre-schools. These acts had prompted 40
established intellectuals to write a letter to Moscow and the republic
authorities. This "Letter of the Forty" spoke out against the use of
force against protestors and the increasing threat to the Estonian
language and culture.
By the beginning of the Gorbachev era, concern over the cultural
survival of the Estonian people had reached a critical point. Although
these complaints were first couched in environmental terms, they
quickly became the vehicles for expressing straightforward political
national feelings. Estonian nationalists drew upon the two decades of
independence after World War I as inspiration for their struggle.
The ECP remained stable in the early perestroika years and appeared
strong at its 19th Congress in 1986. By 1988, however, the ECP's
weakness became clear when it was unable to assume more than a passive
role and was relegated to a reactive position in government.
Praising the 1980 "Letter of the Forty," Vaino Valjas replaced Karl
Vaino as party chief and thereby temporarily enhanced the ECP's
reputation. Nevertheless, the party continued its downward spiral of
influence in 1989 and 1990. In November 1989, the Writers' Union Party
Organization voted to suspend its activity, and the Estonian Komsomol
In February 1990, Estonia's Supreme Soviet eliminated paragraph 6 of
the republic's constitution, which had guaranteed the Party's leading
role in society. The final blow came at the ECP's 20th congress in
March 1990 when it voted to break with the Communist Party of the
Soviet Union (CPSU). The party splintered into three branches, then
consolidated into a pro-CPSU (Moscow) party and an independent ECP.
As the ECP waned, other political movements, groupings, and parties
moved to fill the vacuum. The first and most important was the
Estonian Popular Front, established in April 1988 with its own
platform, leadership, and broad constituency. The Greens and the
dissident-led Estonian National Independence Party soon followed. By
1989, the political spectrum widened and new parties were formed and
reformed almost daily.
A number of changes in the republic's government brought about by
political advances late in the 1980s played a major role in forming a
legal framework for political change. This involved the republic's
Supreme Soviet being transformed into an authentic regional law-making
body. This relatively conservative legislature managed to pass a
number of laws, notably a package of laws that addressed the most
sensitive ethnic concerns. These laws included the early declaration
of sovereignty (November 1988); a law on economic independence (May
1989) confirmed by the U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet that November; a
language law making Estonian the official language (January 1989); and
local and republic election laws stipulating residency requirements for
voting and candidacy (August, November 1989).
Although not all non-Estonians supported full independence, they were
divided in their goals for the republic. In March 1990, some 18% of
Russian speakers supported the idea of a fully independent Estonia, up
from 7% the previous autumn, and only a small group of Estonians were
opposed to full independence early in 1990. Estonia held free
elections for the 105-member Supreme Council on March 18, 1990. All
residents of Estonia were eligible to participate in the elections,
including the approximately 50,000 Soviet troops stationed there. The
Popular Front coalition, composed of leftist and centrist parties and
led by former teacher Edgar Savisaar, won a parliamentary majority.
Despite the emergence of the new lawmaking body, an alternative
legislature developed in Estonia. In February 1990, a body known as
the Congress of Estonia was elected in unauthorized, unofficial
elections. Supporters of the Congress argued that the interwar
republic continued to exist, since Estonia was forcibly annexed by the
U.S.S.R., so only citizens of that republic and their descendants could
decide the future of Estonia.
Through a strict, non-confrontational policy in pursuing independence,
Estonia managed to avoid the violence which Latvia and Lithuania
incurred in the bloody January 1991 crackdowns and in the border
customs-post guard murders that summer. During the August coup in the
U.S.S.R., Estonia was able to maintain constant operation and control
of its telecommunications facilities, thereby offering the West a clear
view into the latest coup developments and serving as a conduit for
swift Western support and recognition of Estonia's redeclaration of
independence on August 21. Following Europe's lead, the U.S. formally
reestablished diplomatic relations with Estonia on September 2, and the
U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet offered recognition on September 6.
During the subsequent cold winter which compounded Estonia's economic
restructuring problems, Prime Minister Edgar Savisaar demanded
emergency powers to deal with the economic and fuel crises. A
subsequent no-confidence vote by the Supreme Council caused the Popular
Front leader to resign, and a new government led by former
Transportation Minister Tiit Vahi took office.
On July 26, Estonian President Meri and Russian President Yeltsin
signed an agreement in Moscow calling for the withdrawal of Russian
troops by August 31, 1994. Slightly more than 2,000 such troops remain
in Estonia. An agreement was also signed regarding social guarantees
of Russian military pensioners. Disposition of the inactive nuclear
submarine training reactor facility at Paldiski remains to be resolved
within the near future.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
On June 28, 1992, Estonian voters approved the constitutional
assembly's draft constitution and implementation act, which established
a parliamentary government with a president as chief of state and with
a government headed by a prime minister.
The Riigikogu, a unicameral legislative body, is the highest organ of
state authority. It initiates and approves legislation sponsored by
the prime minister. The prime minister has full responsibility and
control over his cabinet.
Free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections were held on
September 20, 1992, the first in Estonia in more than 50 years.
Approximately 68% of the country's 637,000 registered voters cast
ballots, and 10% of the Russian population also were eligible to vote.
The leading presidential contenders, President Ruutel (43% of the
popular vote) and former Foreign Minister Lennart Meri (29% of the
vote), faced a secret parliamentary vote to determine the winner.
Ruutel's former association with the ruling Communist Party probably
helped Meri win on the first ballot. Meri chose 32-year- old historian
and Christian Democratic Party founder Mart Laar as Prime Minister.
In February 1992, parliament renewed Estonia's liberal 1938 citizenship
law, which also provides equal civil protection to resident aliens.
Dual citizenship is allowed for Estonians and their families who fled
the Soviet occupation. Accordingly, those who were citizens in 1940
are citizens now. Those who arrived after the occupation began can
become citizens following a two-year residence retroactive to March 30,
1990, and demonstration of a 1500-word comprehension of Estonian. Most
non-citizen ethnic Slavs (35% of the populace) became eligible for
naturalization in March 1993, and the government funds Estonian
language training. In nationwide municipal elections held on October
17, 1993, opposition party and ethnic Russian candidates gained a
majority in most areas, especially in Tallinn and the northeast.
Estonia's defense system is based upon the Swedish-Finnish concept of a
rapid response force composed of a mobilization base and a small group
of career professionals. The army consists of three battalions of 714
troops each, and there is a mandatory one-year draft period of active
duty. Alternative conscription for 18 months for conscientious
objectors is available. There are no plans for a navy, and Estonia is
as yet financially unable to fulfill plans for an air force.
Border guards fall under the interior ministry's supervision.
Comprised of 250-300 troops each, the seven border guard districts,
including a "coast guard," are responsible for border protection and
passport and customs duties, as well as smuggling and drug trafficking
interdiction. A volunteer paramilitary organization (Kaitseliit)
serves as a type of national guard.
Principal Government Officials
Prime Minister--Mart Laar
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Juri Luik
Estonia maintains an embassy in the United States at 1030 15th Street,
NW, Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20005 (tel: 202-789-0320). It operates
a consulate at 630 Fifth Ave., Suite 2415, New York, NY 10020 (tel:
Until 1920, Estonian agriculture consisted of native peasants working
large feudal-type estates held by ethnic German landlords. In previous
decades, centralized czarist rule had contributed a rather large
industrial sector dominated by the world's largest cotton mill, then a
ruined postwar economy and an inflated ruble currency.
By the 1930s, however, Estonia entirely transformed its economy,
despite considerable hardship, dislocation, and unemployment.
Compensating the German landowners for their holdings, the government
confiscated the estates and divided them into small farms which
subsequently formed the basis of Estonian prosperity. By 1929, a
stable currency, the kroon (or crown), was established, and by 1939,
Estonia's living standard compared well with Sweden's. Trade focused
on the local market and the West, particularly Germany and the United
Kingdom. Only 3% of all commerce was with the U.S.S.R.
The U.S.S.R.'s forcible annexation of Estonia in 1940 and the ensuing
Nazi and Soviet destruction during World War II crippled the Estonian
economy. Postwar Sovietization of life continued with the integration
of Estonia's economy and industry into the U.S.S.R.'s centrally planned
structure. More than 56% of Estonian farms were collectivized in April
1949 alone. Moscow expanded on those Estonian industries which had
locally available raw materials, such as oil-shale mining and
phosphorites. As a laboratory for economic experiments, especially in
industrial management techniques, Estonia enjoyed more success and
greater prosperity than other regions under Soviet rule.
As the author of the then-radical "Self-Accounting Estonia" plan in
1988, Prime Minister Savisaar succeeded by early 1992 in freeing most
prices and encouraging privatization and foreign investment far earlier
than other former Soviet bloc countries. This experimentation with
Western capitalism has promoted Estonia's clear advantage in
reorienting to Western markets and business practice.
With independence, the transitional government styled Estonia as the
gateway between East and West and aggressively pursued trade reform and
economic integration with the West. Estonia has passed bankruptcy,
trademark, copyright, and investment laws and has negotiated trade and
investment agreements with many Western countries to attract foreign
businesses and joint ventures, which now number more than 2,000 in
Estonia. Estonia's major trading partners are the Nordic countries,
while Russia now accounts for only one-fourth of all trade.
Estonia is reliant on an inefficient, over-industrialized economy. The
country supplies 60% of its own energy converted from peat, wood,
hydroelectric plants, and environmentally polluting oil shale. Estonia
has no domestic capacity to refine crude oil and depends heavily on
Russian and Belarusian petroleum exports. Fishing and shipbuilding are
key industries, while the agricultural sector is small but largely
self-sufficient. The ice-free port of Muuga, near Tallinn, is an
underused modern facility with good transshipment capability, a
high-capacity grain elevator, chilled/frozen storage, and newly
completed oil tanker off-loading capabilities. As a new member,
Estonia received critical restructuring loans from the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, as well as from G-24 nations, in
order to remedy critical energy, medicinal, and feed grain shortages
and financial shortfalls caused by the disruption of traditional Soviet
markets. By spring 1992, Estonia basically decontrolled prices; that
year, industrial production fell 40%.
Spurred by an acute ruble shortage, high inflation, and a desire for
national financial independence, Estonia reintroduced the kroon in June
1992. Pegged to the German mark and freely convertible, the kroon is
backed by more than $262 million in gold and timber reserves.
Projected 1994 inflation is 30%.
Fear of massive unemployment among the largely urban Russian work force
had delayed privatization of inefficient factories, and the issue of
compensation or restitution to pre-1940 property owners remains
contentious. However, the Laar administration is showing much
toughness and promise on economic reform and privatization. Nearly
42,000 private businesses are now registered in Estonia, and another
10,000 businesses are expected in 1994. GDP growth has reached 6.4% in
1994--the first positive growth rate in one of the former Soviet bloc
countries and one of the world's highest rates. A national
privatization agency, patterned after Germany's Treuhandan-stalt,
handles privatization/reorganization of state property. Eighty percent
of small to medium-sized enterprises are now privately owned, and
nearly 80,000 new jobs have been created. Nearly one-third of the
present budget, $81 million, remains frozen in the defunct Soviet
foreign trade bank, which has contributed to the insolvency of several
banks. With a balanced budget for the past two years, the government
refuses to weaken its strong fiscal reputation and has allowed the
banks to fold or be merged into the national bank. Estonia plans GATT
membership in 1994 and, with practically no agricultural subsidies and
few trade restrictions, it actively seeks EU membership by the year
2000. Estonia ratified a free trade agreement with the EU in July.
Estonia joined the United Nations on September 18, 1991, and is a
signatory to a number of UN organizations and other international
agreements. It also is a member of the Conference on Security and
Cooperation in Europe, Partnership for Peace, the North Atlantic
Cooperation Council, and the Council of Europe. Estonia is
unaffiliated directly with any political alliance but welcomes further
cooperation and integration with NATO, the EU, and other Western
organizations. Estonia maintains embassies in the United States,
Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, the United Kingdom, France,
and Russia. It operates missions in Lithuania, Latvia, to the United
Nations, and has a consulate general in Toronto, Canada. Honorary
consuls are located in Austria, Switzerland, Australia, and Seattle.
The United States established diplomatic relations with Estonia on July
28, 1922. U.S. representation accredited to Estonia served from the
U.S. legation in Riga, Latvia, until June 30, 1930, when a legation was
established with a non-resident minister. The Soviet invasion forced
the closure of the legation in Tallinn on September 5, 1940, but
Estonian representation in the United States has continued
uninterrupted for more than 70 years. The U.S. never recognized the
forcible incorporation of Estonia into the U.S.S.R. and views the
present Government of Estonia as a legal continuation of the interwar
republic. Estonia has enjoyed most-favored-nation (MFN) treatment with
the U.S. since December 1991. In 1991-92, it received approximately $6
million annually in humanitarian and medical aid, technical assistance,
and professional training and about $38 million in feed grain credits
from the U.S. since 1991. In 1993, Estonian trade with the United
States amounted to $20 million in exports and $54 million in imports,
the latter being mainly agricultural commodities under concessional
programs. U.S. investment, consisting of about 145 firms, makes up $20
million of $185 million in foreign investment in Estonia.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Charge d'affaires--Keith Smith
Political Officer--Elo-Kai Ojamaa
Economic Officer--Ingrid Kollist
Administrative Officer--David Buss Consular Officer--Robin Haase
AID Director--Adrian deGraffenreid
Public Affairs Officer--Victoria Middleton
The U.S. embassy in Estonia is located at Kentmanni 20, Tallinn (tel.
Customs: Estonia does not require visas for American, Canadian, or
British citizens. Visitors are encouraged to register at the U.S.
Embassy. Hard currency exceeding 1,000 DM ($630) must be declared upon
entry; foreigners need not declare hard currency exports less than this
sum but may not export more currency than that declared upon arrival.
Articles with a total value of less than 5,000 kroons ($380), either
already declared or purchased in Estonia, are duty-free upon departure.
A 100% export duty exists on items of greater total value, and 10-100%
export duties can be levied on tobacco, alcohol, gasoline, precious
metals and jewelry, furs, and cultural objects.
Climate and clothing: Tallinn and the coast are temperate, with
pleasant, cool summers and damp winters; eastern Estonia is
continental, with warmer summers and harsher winters.
Health: Medical care does not meet Western standards. There are
severe shortages of basic medical supplies, including disposable
needles, anesthetics, and antibiotics. Raw fruits and vegetables are
safe to eat, and the water is potable. Heat and hot water are readily
Transportation: Several international airlines, including SAS, Finnair
and Estonia Airlines, provide service between European cities and
Tallinn Airport. Train service is available via Moscow, St. Petersburg
and Warsaw/Frankfurt, and a bus line connects the Baltic capitals with
Warsaw. Bus and taxi service within the capital and its environs is
good. Excellent Tallinn-Helsinki ferry links exist year-round. Taxis
are inexpensive and available at stands or may be ordered by phone.
Rental cars are available, and gasoline prices are at market rates.
Telecommunications: Improved telephone and telegraph services are
readily available at standard international rates. Tallinn is 7 hours
ahead of eastern standard time.
Work week: Most stores and shops are closed on Sunday, open
Monday-Friday from 10:00am - 6:00 pm and on Saturday from 9:00am -
1:00pm. The U.S. embassy is closed on U.S. federal holidays.
Currency, Weights and Measures: The freely convertible kroon is pegged
to 1/8 the value of the German deutschmark. Traveler's checks and
major credit cards can be used at most banks and hotels. Estonia uses
the metric system and 220v current.
These titles are provided as a general indication of the material
published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse
Estonia 1993: A Reference Book. Tallinn: Estonian Encyclopedia
Kreutzwald, F.R., comp. Kalevipoeg, An Ancient Estonian Tale.
Moorestown, NJ: Symposia Press, 1982.
Magi, Arvo. Estonian Literature. Stockholm: Baltic Humanitarian
Parming, Marju Rink, and Tonu Parming. A Bibliography of
English-Language Sources on Estonia: Periodicals, Bibliographies,
Pamphlets, and Books. New York: Estonian Learned Society in America,
Parming, Tonu. The Collapse of Liberal Democracy and the Rise of
Authoritarianism in Estonia. London: Sage Publications, 1975.
Parming, Tonu, and Elmar Jarvesoo, eds. A Case Study of a Soviet
Republic: The Estonian SSR. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1978.
Rank, Gustav. Old Estonia: The People and Culture, translated by
Betty Oinas and Felix Oinas. Bloomington: Indiana University's Uralic
and Altaic Series, vol. 128, 1976.
Raun, Toivo U. Estonia and the Estonians, 2nd edition. Stanford, CA:
Hoover Institution Press, 1991.
Rikken, Mari-Ann, and Michael Tarm, eds. Documents from Estonia:
Articles, Speeches, Resolutions, Letters, Editorials, Interviews
Concerning Recent Developments, two volumes. New York, 1990.
Rodgers, Mary M., and Tom Streissguth, eds. Estonia: Then and Now.
Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company, 1992.
Uustalu, Evald. History of the Estonian People. London: Boreas
Williams, Roger, ed. Baltic States: Insight Guides. Boston:
Houghton-Mifflin Company, 1993.
For information on economic trends, commercial development, production,
trade regulations, and tariff rates, contact the International Trade
Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington, DC 20230 at
(202)482-4915, or any Commerce Department district office. For
information on business opportunities, call the Commerce Department's
East European Business Information Center at (202) 482-2645.
Published by the United States Department of State -- Bureau of Public
Affairs -- Office of Public Communication -- Washington, DC August
1994 -- Managing Editor: Peter A. Knecht -- Editor: Peter Freeman
Department of State Publication 10194 -- Background Notes Series -For
sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing
Office, Washington, DC 20402.
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