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
total: 633 km
border countries: Latvia 339 km, Russia 294 km
Coastline: 3,794 km
exclusive economic zone: limits fixed in coordination with
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: maritime, wet, moderate winters, cool summers
Terrain: marshy, lowlands
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
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
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
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
Data as of January 1995