Estonia (Estonian: Eesti), officially known as Republic of Estonia (Estonian: Eesti Vabariik), is the northernmost of the three Baltic Republics, which were the first to break away from the Soviet Union. The Estonian language is a Finno-Ugric language, closely related to Finnish, more distantly related with Saami (Laplandic) and Hungarian, and not related to any major European languages. Although a former Soviet republic, Estonia feels itself to be more Nordic than anything else, and has joined the European Union, contributing troops to the "Nordic Battle-Group" and stating a desire to join the "Nordic Council". Historically, the area has always been one where East met West - the German Teutonic Knights crusaded here against the pagans in the Baltic area (a vicious little war with much brutality on both sides) and Pskov and its lake, made famous in the legend of Alexander Nevsky, are just on the Russian side of the border. After centuries of domination by either Germany or Russia (with occasional interludes of Swedish overlordship), Estonia finally declared its independence from the ashes of the Russian Empire in 1918. It wasn't to last - the Soviet Union re-occupied the Baltic states in 1940. When the Germans rolled into town a year later, the Estonians initially greeted them as liberators, before realising that the Nazis were no better than the Soviets. (For what it's worth, the US and EU never recognised the annexation and Estonia sees itself today as the same state that became independent in 1918) Finally, in 1991, Estonia gained independence again, and had been building up to this during the Glasnost/Perestroika era with a campaign of ... singing. Estonia has always had a strong folk music tradition, and protests expressed themselves universally in song. Estonia is a land of forests and lakes, again much like Finland, with the addition of a Soviet era legacy of industrial pollution but has been in many ways the success story of the former Soviet republics in terms of economic growth and westernisation. It is one of the world's fastest growing economies. Also notable, Estonia is the most-wired (read: internet connected) nation in all of Europe. That's right, it's more internet connected than any other nation even in western europe. Even cyber-savvy Iceland is less wired than Estonia. Here, high-speed internet access is legally treated as a human right guaranteed to all citizens! Tallinn, the capital city, possesses a UNESCO protected Old Town that looks like somewhere out of a spy film. If Prague ever gets inconvenient for film-makers, Tallinn (also popular for bachelor parties and booze cruises from Helsinki) is a good alternative. Fictional Estonians
Estonia in Film
The Estonian flag
Various interpretations had been attributed to the flag's colors, of which one of the most popular is that by poet Martin Lipp: blue symbolizes the skies; black to both the soil and Estonia's troubled history; and white to purity and commitment.