Today we are talking about Estonia. Estonia is a country in Northern Europe, borders the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland. Including more than 1,500 islands. Here are the top 10 things you didn’t know about Estonia.
10: Russians in Estonia
Estonia depending on your perspective as either a large or small Russian population as persistent and unmistakable. It comes onto a sizeable 320,000 ethnic Russians. Now on paper, that might sound like nothing and it would be if it were the United States. But Estonia has a much smaller total population than either the United States or other European countries, totaling out 1.316 million people. So, in reality, that is a lot of Russians.
The history of continuous Russian settlement about Estonia goes back to the early 17th century. When Russian religious minorities fleeing for persecution settled in areas that now encompass modern Estonia. Of course, the most relevant part of the Russian presence about Estonia is that Estonia was once part of the Soviet Union, along with other Baltic states. Since then the Russian presence has been incredibly persistent and strong. Unfortunately, many of the Russian speakers particularly those in Tallinn do not speak Estonian. They live in their own clustered communities cut off from Estonian culture and language. This is especially true of the older generations and less true of the younger ones. Whether or not full-scale integration of Russians into greater Estonian culture is a real possibility is anyone’s guess. But given historical precedent, this seems unlikely.
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9: Estonian Language
The Estonian language belongs to the Finnick branch of the finno-ugric languages. Which makes it very closely related to Finnish and distantly related to Hungarian. Its structure is thus similar to Hungarian in that it is a language that can be classified as agglutinative. This means the meaning of words is built up by stacking on endings to each word, with each new one adding meaning. It is less genetically not related to most European languages and is grammatically and structurally different from them. However, due to the course of history, Estonian has been influenced by Swedish, German and Russian in the realm of vocabulary. All the while remaining highly distant from them.
8: Digital Government of Estonia
Unlike many other countries, Estonia is a trailblazer when it comes to integrating essential services and obligations into accessible online activity. Taxes, healthcare, pharmaceutical prescriptions and more can all be done online. This is because Estonia’s government is what one might call a digital government. And that virtually everything of importance related to government in public life can be accomplished in less than 30 seconds by left-clicking your mouse. Many people have marveled at this accomplishment. Particularly because until 1991 Estonia was part of the Soviet Union. Unlike most other former Eastern Bloc countries?
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Unlike many other former Eastern Bloc countries such as Poland and Ukraine, Estonia is one of the least religious countries on earth. While you find many old churches with historical significance and all the attendant art and murals, not many Estonians are believers. Less than 25% of all Estonians are religious. Those who claim to be are overwhelmingly Lutheran, the truth is, in progressive and tech-savvy countries such as Estonia, religion is just kind of well, old fashioned. Thus, none of this should come as a surprise to anyone.
6: Food of Estonia
Estonian cuisine is similar in some ways to that of its Scandinavian neighbors but still distinct and unique. One of the most surprising things to many people is that Estonia is a producer of high-quality wine. Above all the type of wine called fruit wine, which usually has more than just grapes as an ingredient and can include berries, flowers and other things. The basis of most Estonian food is meat, potatoes and fish. Estonian cuisine is hearty and filling, in particular, rye bread, pork and dairy products are popular. Estonia’s eating habits are closely linked to the changing of the seasons. In addition, perhaps in emulation of the Germans and Russians, Estonians consume copious amounts of beer and vodka.
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5: Tallinn (Capital of Estonia)
Many foreigners might be shocked to hear this but Tallinn is the capital city of Estonia. Tallinn is actually the best-preserved medieval city in all of northern Europe. In fact, the city has been granted world heritage status by UNESCO, otherwise known as the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization. The reason for this is simple. As when one walks through the cobblestone streets looking up at the centuries-old buildings and churches? One cannot help but marvel that at all, especially when considering how well-preserved it all is. Tallinn has changed hands throughout the centuries from the Danes and sweet to the Germans, czarist and finally the Soviet Union.
4: More Women Than Men in Estonia
Strangely enough, Estonia has a disproportionately higher female population than male ones. For every 100 women, there are only 84 men. In addition to the disproportionate numbers, Estonian women also live an average of 10 years longer than Estonian men. Which could at least partly account for this discrepancy. There are all kinds of theories as to why this is the case, but no conclusive evidence for any of them. Either way, Estonian men seem to be an advantage when it comes to the dating market and less so in terms of longevity.
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Who doesn’t know Skype these days and who can live without it. Most people would be inclined to believe that Skype was an American invention. Not so fast because it’s incredibly useful and now omnipresent telecommunication software is, in fact, Estonian in origin. Skype was created by the Estonians Ahti Heinla, Jaan Tallinn and Priit Kasesalu in 2003. It was beyond innovative for its time and now a must for virtually anyone in the world. It was later acquired rather uncreatively by Microsoft, which is why most people think it is American. Fully 44% of Skype employees are based in Tallinn and Dokdo. Tallinn is sometimes called the Silicon Valley of Europe. Today Skype is the preeminent means of telecommunications between people across the globe. We have three Estonian to thank for it.
There was a time when the majestic gray wolf roamed all of Europe. But for most European countries those times are long past. Not so about Estonia because Estonia has one of the largest wolf populations in Europe in proportion to its relative size of the country. Many of these wolves reside in Soma National Park. Which is only a few hours away from Tallinn. The wolf has been both historically and ecologically important to Europe in most of the world. Estonia rather uniquely can be proud to be able to lay claim to have so many of these majestic creatures.
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1: Most Libertarian Country in the World
One of the questions libertarians get asked all the time is what country actually runs and operates on the libertarian model or at least something close to it. Estonia has been called the most libertarian country on earth by the state of the world liberty project. It is easy to see why? Estonia has low taxes that are easy to pay with virtually no bureaucracy. Estonians have the lowest debt to GDP ratio in the EU, a balanced budget free trade and a flat income tax. All of which has led to their high economic growth and prosperity.
Estonians now rank globally 22 out of 152 countries on the human freedom index. 8 out of 186 economies on the index of economic freedom and are in the number 1 category in the freedom in the world report. One of the keys to this is, of course, Estonia’s eGovernment, which streamlines many prophecies. Is it any wonder why many people consider Estonia to be a libertarian’s dream?
So, that’s a wrap on our list of top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Estonia. What do you think of Estonia? Don’t forget to check out our other lists and thanks for staying with us for a while.