State of ‘ Europe north, overlooking the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland. It borders on the E with Russia, on the S with Latvia, while on the other sides it is bathed by the sea. They belong to the Estonia several islands, of which the largest are Saaremaa (2709 km 2) and Hiiumaa (965 km 2).
- Physical characteristics
Peripheral area of the Russian lowland, Estonia is a flat region in the northern sector, more rugged in the eastern and southern ones, consisting of morainic hills – whose height is around 300 m – covered with woods and prairies. These reliefs, with fluvio-glacial furrows and numerous small bodies of water, also of glacial origin, characterize the landscape of Estonia southern. The main rivers are the Ema, which connects the Võrts Lake with the Ciudi Lake (or Peipus Lake), and the Narva, on which the north-eastern border runs. The climate is temperate-humid.
The population consists of Estonians (68.6%), ethnically and linguistically belonging to a fraction of the Baltic Finns, Russians (25.7%), Ukrainians (2.1%) and Belarusians (1.2%). The number of residents, which between the years 1950 and 1980 registered a significant increase thanks to the immigration caused by the industrialization of the second post-war period, has fallen again today. In fact, since the last decade of the 20th century, the profound political, economic and social changes that have taken place in the country have considerably influenced the demographic situation: the combined effect of the decrease in the birth rate (10.8 ‰ in 2008), of an almost stable mortality rate (13.3 ‰) and emigration, constantly increasing during the 1990s, determined a negative demographic trend (−0.6% in the years 2008-09). The residents mostly reside in small urban centers. The major cities are Tallinn, the capital, and Narva, industrial centers, and Tartu, an important cultural center.
- Economic conditions
Agricultural country until the Second World War, Estonia it also had a notable development in the energy and industrial sectors, especially with the discovery and consequent exploitation of oil shales in the north-eastern region. The economic conditions had been transformed in the twenty years 1921-40 mainly due to the agrarian reform which expropriated (1919) the large possessions, creating a state land reserve, which was divided by four sevenths between new owners and the rest between the old tenants; with the annexation to the USSR there was a much more radical reform, which led to the collectivization of the lands. Since the proclamation of independence, the Estonian government has taken steps to eliminate obstacles to foreign trade and quantitative restrictions on imports, and has favored the privatization of existing companies. The reorganization of the economy after the Soviet collapse was successful, as is also shown by the admission of Estonia to the European Union (2004) and the adoption of the single currency (1 January 2011), thanks to which Estonia it became the seventeenth country in the eurozone.
- Oil shale, methane, peat and phosphorite deposits supply the raw material to the petrochemical and chemical industries, while the forests feed the wood and paper industries; these are the most developed production activities (together with the mechanical, textile and footwear sectors). Agriculture and livestock supply the food and canning industries. Along the coasts, in addition to fishing, port activities and shipyards thrive, and from the main ports (Tallinn, Narva, Paldiski, Haapsalu) conspicuous commercial traffic branch off, which, starting from the last decade of the 20th century, they have seen the increasing involvement of the states of the European Union, in particular Finland and Sweden, as main partners.
- The tertiary sector contributes over 70% to the formation of GDP: already developed before independence, it experienced a further expansion thanks to the growth of tourism and the increase in foreign capital, which also favored the creation of modern infrastructures. The road network (about 17,000 km, of which 13,384 are asphalted) and the railway network (over 1000 km) are well developed; the inland waterways extend for more than 520 km.