Estonia: Country and Foreign Investment
History, Population, Language and Culture
The name “Estonia” is thought to stem from Roman historian Tacitus, who referred to a people known as the Aesti (or Aestii) in his treaties "De Origine et situ Germanorum" ("Concerning the Origin and Situation of the Germans").
The country secured its independence in 1918, after centuries of Danish, Swedish, German and Russian rule, but was occupied by Germany and then the Soviet Union during World War II, only becoming independent again in 1991.
Since then, the Estonian authorities have sought to build ties with Western Europe, and the country became a member of both NATO and the European Union in 2004.
The population was estimated at just under 1.3m in July 2012, comprising (approximately) ethnic Estonians – 69%; Russians – 25%; Ukrainians – 2%; Belarusians – 1%; Finns – 1%; and other – 2%. The languages spoken reflect this balance, with 67.3% of the population speaking Estonian, 29% Russian, 2.3% other languages, and 0.7% unknown, according to the 2000 census. The official language, Estonian; the similarity of the Estonian and Finnish languages betrays the close historical relationship between the two cultures.
The dominant religions are Evangelical Lutheran and Orthodox, although a staggering 34% of the population declared themselves as being unaffiliated, 32% “other” or unspecified and 6% "none" in the 2000 Census.
Owing to its geographical location and the various periods of occupation, Estonia's culture has Finnish, German, Baltic, Russian and Swedish influences. As a consequence, Estonia has little in the way of classic literature in the Estonian language, and true Estonian culture was kept alive by oral traditions of singing and story telling. Intellectuals in the late 1980s began to challenge this, and their efforts were rewarded by the so-called “Singing Revolution” of 1988-1991 – it is said the Estonians sung their way to independence.