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1UpTravel - Geography Info and Facts of Countries : . - Estonia

Estonia Geography and Facts

Location: Eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland, between Latvia and Russia

Geographic coordinates: 59 00 N, 26 00 E

Map references: Europe

total: 45,226 sq km
land: 43,211 sq km
water: 2,015 sq km
note: includes 1,520 islands in the Baltic Sea

Area - comparative: slightly smaller than New Hampshire and Vermont combined

Land boundaries:
total: 633 km
border countries: Latvia 339 km, Russia 294 km

Coastline: 3,794 km

Maritime claims:
exclusive economic zone: limits fixed in coordination with neighboring states
territorial sea: 12 nm

Climate: maritime, wet, moderate winters, cool summers

Terrain: marshy, lowlands

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m
highest point: Suur Munamagi 318 m

Natural resources: shale oil (kukersite), peat, phosphorite, amber, cambrian blue clay, limestone, dolomite, arable land

Land use:
arable land: 25%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 11%
forests and woodland: 44%
other: 20% (1996 est.)

Irrigated land: 110 sq km (1996 est.)

Natural hazards: flooding occurs frequently in the spring

Environment - current issues: air heavily polluted with sulfur dioxide from oil-shale burning power plants in northeast; contamination of soil and groundwater with petroleum products, chemicals at former Soviet military bases; Estonia has more than 1,400 natural and manmade lakes, the smaller of which in agricultural areas are heavily affected by organic waste; coastal sea water is polluted in many locations

Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ship Pollution, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol



Estonia is one of the smallest independent Baltic states.

Its territory is about 45,100 square kilometers and population is more than 1.5 million people.


Temperate climate, but with considerable temperature variations. Summer is warm with relatively mild weather in spring and autumn. Winter, which lasts from November to mid-March, can be very cold.

Rainfall is distributed throughout the year with the heaviest rainfall in August. Heavy snowfalls are common in the winter months.


In and out of Swedish and Russian control over the centuries, this little Baltic state was re-incorporated into the USSR after German occupation in World War II. Independence came with the collapse of the USSR in 1991; the last Russian troops left in 1994.

Estonia thus became free to promote economic and political ties with Western Europe. The position of ethnic Russians (29% of the population) remains an issue of concern to Moscow.

Since the last Russian troops left in 1994, Estonia has been free to promote economic and political ties with Western Europe. European Union (EU) membership negotiations, which began in 1998, remain a domestic issue.



Size: 45,226 square kilometers (land area 43,200 square kilo-meters), slightly larger than Vermont and New Hampshire combined; includes 1,520 islands in Baltic Sea.

Topography: Mostly low-lying land with many lakes, rivers, and forests. Forest 1.8 million hectares, arable land 926,000 hectares, meadows 252,000 hectares, and pastureland 181,000 hectares. Highest elevation 318 meters.

Climate: Temperate, influenced by Eurasian land mass to east, Baltic Sea to west, and North Atlantic Ocean farther west. Cool summers and mild winters. Rainfall moderate, averaging about 568 millimeters per year.


Population: 1,506,927 (1994 estimate). Population declined in early 1990s because of negative natural growth rates and net out-migration. In 1993 birth rate 10.0 per 1,000 population; death rate 14.0 per 1,000 population. Total fertility rate 2.0 children per woman in 1994. Population density 33.7 persons per square kilometer. Life expectancy 70.0 years in 1994 (65.0 years for males and 75.2 years for females).

Ethnic Groups: According to 1989 census, Estonians 61.5 percent, Russians 30.3 percent, Ukrainians 3.1 percent, Belorussians 1.7 percent, Finns 1.1 percent, and others (including Jews, Tatars, Germans, Latvians, and Poles) 2.3 percent. In 1994 estimates of Estonian and Russian groups 63.9 percent and 29.0 percent, respectively.

Languages: Official language Estonian; Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Finnish, and other languages also used.

Religion: Predominantly Evangelical Lutheran. Other denomi-nations include Orthodox Christian, Old Believer, Methodist, Baptist, Seventh-Day Adventist, Jewish, and Roman Catholic.

Education: Estonian-language schools have twelve years of education (nine in elementary schools and three in secondary schools). Russian-language education lasts eleven years. Education compulsory to ninth grade. In 1993 some 215,000 elementary and secondary school students in 724 schools. About 142,000 students enrolled in Estonian-language schools and 70,000 in Russian-language schools. Individual schools offered instruction in other languages as well. Seventy-seven vocational schools, in which about 26,000 students enrolled. Literacy nearly universal. According to 1989 census results, 99.7 percent of adult population literate.

Health and Welfare: In 1992 thirty-two doctors and ninety-two hospital beds per 10,000 inhabitants, but shortage of auxiliary staff. Retirement pensions very low (about EKR260 per month); other welfare benefits include financial support for invalids, low-income families, and families having three or more children.

Labor Force: 785,500 (August 1994); industry 33 percent, agriculture 12 percent, education and culture 10 percent, construction 10 percent. Services sector, accounting for 44.7 percent of employment, was the most developed in former Soviet Union and is expected to expand.

Data as of January 1995


Physical Environment

Geographic Features

Estonia is a low, flat country covering 45,226 square kilometers. It is about the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. Estonia has a long, shallow coastline (1,393 kilometers) along the Baltic Sea, with 1,520 islands dotting the shore. The two largest islands are Saaremaa (literally, island land), at 2,673 square kilometers, and Hiiumaa, at 989 square kilometers. The two islands are favorite Estonian vacation spots. The country's highest point, Suur Munamägi (Egg Mountain), is in the hilly southeast and reaches 318 meters above sea level. Estonia is covered by about 1.8 million hectares of forest. Arable land amounts to about 926,000 hectares. Meadows cover about 252,000 hectares, and pastureland covers about 181,000 hectares. There are more than 1,400 natural and artificial lakes in Estonia. The largest of them, Lake Peipsi (3,555 square kilometers), forms much of the border between Estonia and Russia. Located in central Estonia, Võrtsjärv is the second-largest lake (270 square kilometers). The Narva and Emajõgi are among the most important of the country's many rivers.

Estonia has a temperate climate, with four seasons of near-equal length. Average temperatures range from 16.3°C on the Baltic islands to 17.1°C inland in July, the warmest month, and from -3.5°C on the Baltic islands to -7.6°C inland in February, the coldest month. Precipitation averages 568 millimeters per year and is heaviest in late summer.

Estonia's land border with Latvia runs 267 kilometers; the Russian border runs 290 kilometers. From 1920 to 1945, Estonia's border with Russia, set by the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty, extended beyond the Narva River in the northeast and beyond the town of Pechory (Petseri) in the southeast . This territory, amounting to some 2,300 square kilometers, was incorporated into Russia by Stalin at the end of World War II. Estonia is now disputing that territorial loss .

Data as of January 1995


Environmental Issues

One of the most burdensome legacies of the Soviet era is widespread environmental pollution. The worst offender in this regard was the Soviet army. Across military installations covering more than 80,000 hectares of Estonian territory, the army dumped hundreds of thousands of tons of jet fuel into the ground, improperly disposed of toxic chemicals, and discarded outdated explosives and weapons in coastal and inland waters. In the 1990s, during the army's withdrawal from Estonia, extensive damage was done to discarded buildings and equipment. In October 1993, the Estonian Ministry of Environment issued a preliminary report summing up part of the degradation it had surveyed thus far. The report described the worst damage as having been done to Estonia's topsoil and underground water supply by the systematic dumping of jet fuel at six Soviet army air bases. At the air base near Tapa, site of the worst damage, officials estimated that six square kilometers of land were covered by a layer of fuel; eleven square kilometers of underground water were said to be contaminated. The water in the surrounding area was undrinkable. With Danish help, Estonian crews began cleaning up the site, although they estimated the likely cost to be as much as EKR4 million. The Ministry of Environment assigned a monetary cost of more than EKR10 billion to the damage to the country's topsoil and water supply. However, the ministry was able to allocate only EKR5 million in 1993 for cleanup operations.

In a 1992 government report to the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development, Estonia detailed other major environmental concerns. For instance, for several consecutive years Estonia had led the world in the production of sulfur dioxide per capita. Nearly 75 percent of Estonia's air pollution was reported to come from two oil shale-based thermal power stations operating near Narva. The mining of oil shale in northeastern Estonia also left gigantic mounds of limestone dotting the region. Near the town of Sillamäe, site of a former uranium enrichment plant, about 1,200 tons of uranium and about 750 tons of thorium had been dumped into the Gulf of Finland. This was said to have caused severe health problems among area residents. In the coastal town of Paldiski, the removal of waste left by Soviet army nuclear reactors was also a major concern. The combined cost of environmental cleanup at both towns was put at more than EKR3.5 billion.

Data as of January 1995

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