Long having since thrown off the shackles of Soviet occupation, Estonia has a lot going for it. It has become one of Eastern Europe’s most successful economies, with a world-class education system, a technologically literate population, and consistently strong rankings for freedom of speech, press, religion, and business, and is becoming something of a backpacker hotspot, especially in the medieval capital of Tallinn. So let’s learn a thing or two about this tiny little country that has so delightfully joined the world stage. Take a look below at some facts about Estonia, and get jealous and plan your next visit.
- The people may have been described way back in Roman times, when the term Aesti was used.
- It’s is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, the University of Tartu, founded in 1632.
- Estonia joined the EU in 2004, and began using the Euro as its currency in 2011.
- The region has been a major center of conflict for centuries, and has been ruled by all sorts of powers, like Sweden and Poland-Lithuania. Only in the 19th century did a nationalist movement emerge that would later lead to independence.
- Though the Estonian government surrendered to Soviet occupation, citing the impossibility of resistance, the guerrilla military group the Forest Brothers continued resisting for over a decade.
- Estonia celebrates two Independence Days; the first is the 24th of February, 1918, and the second is the 20th of August, 1991, both commemorating independence from the Soviet Union.
Check out some Estonians spontaneously breaking into independence-themed song:
- Estonia is incredibly tech savvy. Not only is Estonia the homeland of wildly successful software programs Skype and Kazaa, but you can find Wi-Fi all over, including public parks.
- Speaking of embracing technology, Estonia was the first country to use online voting for political elections.
- Estonians are part of the Finno-Ugric ethnic group, making them cousins of Finns, and somewhat more distantly, Hungarians. This group holds a rather unique place in Europe, as their languages have no connection to those around them.
- The country is considered more Nordic than Baltic, and participates in a number of economic cooperation agreements with other Nordic countries.
- Paul Keres, one of the world’s greatest chess players, hails from here. It’s estimated that about 10% of the country attended his funeral.
- Estonia has one of the highest rates of atheism in the world, with only 16% expressing a belief in a god in a 2005 poll. Religious traditions remain, however, including pagan rituals, which are still celebrated as secular cultural traditions.
- Like other Eastern and Northern European countries, you’ll find lots of saunas in Estonia. They get pretty hot.
- The country is extremely well educated, with one of the highest literacy rates in the world, and a top-performing school system when compared internationally.
- Estonia is a great place to be a mom. It has the highest survival rate in the world for mothers giving birth, and offers new mothers 100% of their former salary for 18 months, and other child support services as well.
- Estonia is home to the tallest mountain in the Baltic region, Suur Munamägi, which reaches 318 meters.
- Estonia is famous for its meteorite craters, especially around Kaali, where several craters can be found that formed just within the last several thousand years.
- Due to its location so close to the arctic circle, Estonia celebrates the White Nights phenomenon, when in the height of summer, the sun barely sets over the horizon, and daylight continues all night long.
- Due to the low population density, half the country is forested, which makes for great hiking opportunities.
Have fun in Estonia!
If you’re wondering what Estonia has to offer the savvy, globally-minded, jet-setting citizen, check out a list of places to go. It’s rather densely packed with plenty to see, and hopefully this (brief) list of fun facts about Estonia will inspire a visit. It’s a modern, multi-cultural country with a bright future, and most of them probably speak better English than you. Have fun!