|Republic of Estonia
|Anthem: Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm
(English: "My Fatherland, My Happiness and Joy")
and largest city
|Ethnic groups||68.8 % Estonian
25.5 % Russian
5.7 % other minority groups
|-||President||Toomas Hendrik Ilves (nonpartisan, previously SDE)|
|-||Prime Minister||Andrus Ansip (RE)|
|-||Parliament speaker||Ene Ergma (IRL)|
|-||Current coalition||(RE, IRL)|
|Independence from Russia|
|-||Autonomy declared||12 April 1917|
|24 February 1918
2 February 1920
|-||1st Soviet occupation||1940–1941|
|-||2nd Soviet occupation||1944–1991|
|-||Independence restored||20 August 1991|
|-||Total||45,228 km2 (132nd2)
17,413 sq mi
|-||2010 estimate||1,340,021 (151st)|
|GDP (PPP)||2009 estimate|
|GDP (nominal)||2009 estimate|
Error: Invalid HDI value · 34th
|Time zone||EET (UTC+2)|
|-||Summer (DST)||EEST (UTC+3)|
|Drives on the||right|
|1.||Võro and Seto in southern counties are spoken along with Estonian. Russian is spoken in Ida-Virumaa and Tallinn, due to the Soviet program promoting mass immigration of urban industrial workers from the USSR in the post-war period.|
|2.||47549 km² were defined according to the Treaty of Tartu in 1920 between Estonia and Russia. Today the remaining 2323 km² are nowadays still part of Russia.
The ceded areas include the Petserimaa county and the boundary in the north of Lake Peipus as the Lands behind the city of Narva including Ivangorod (Jaanilinn).
|3.||Before 2011: Estonian kroon (EEK; 1 EUR = 15.6466 EEK).|
|4.||.eu is also shared with other member states of the European Union.|
Estonia, officially the Republic of Estonia (Estonian: Eesti or Eesti Vabariik; Germanic languages: Estland), is a country in Northern Europe. Estonia has land borders to the south with Latvia and to the east with Russia. It is separated from Finland in the north by the Gulf of Finland and from Sweden in the west by the Baltic Sea.
The Estonians are a Finnic people closely related to the Finns, with the Estonian language sharing many similarities to Finnish. The modern name of Estonia is thought to originate from the Roman historian Tacitus, who in his book Germania (ca. 98 AD) described a people called the Aestii. Similarly, ancient Scandinavian sagas refer to a land called Eistland. Early Latin and other ancient sources of the country's name are Estia and Hestia.
- 1 History
- 2 World War II
- 3 Contemporary Era
- 4 Ethnoracial Situation
- 5 References
The land area that now makes up Estonia (and includes the northern parts of old Livonia) is thought to have been settled immediately after the Ice Age, beginning from around 10,000–8500 BC. This would make Estonians one of the oldest peoples of Europe.
The region has been populated since the end of the last glacial era, about 10,000 B.C. The earliest traces of human settlement in Estonia are connected with Kunda Culture. The Early Mesolithic Pulli settlement is located by the Pärnu River. It has been dated to the beginning of the 9th millennium BC. The Kunda Culture received its name from the Lammasmäe settlement site in northern Estonia, which dates from earlier than 8500. Bone and stone artifacts similar to those found at Kunda have been discovered elsewhere in Estonia, as well as in Latvia, northern Lithuania and southern Finland.
The beginning of the Neolithic period is marked by the ceramics of the Narva culture, appear in Estonia at the beginning of the 5th millennium. The oldest finds date from around 4900 B.C. The Narva type ceramics are found throughout almost the entire Estonian coastal region and on the islands. The stone and bone tools of the era have a notable similarity with the artifacts of the Kunda culture. The beginning of the Late Neolithic Period about 3200 B.C. is characterized by the appearance of Comb Ceramic with corded decoration and well-polished stone axes (s.c. boat-shape axes). Evidence of agriculture is provided by charred grain of wheat on the wall of a corded-ware Comb Ceramic vessel found in Iru settlement. Osteological analysis show an attempt was made to domesticate the wild boar.
The beginning of the Bronze Age in Estonia is dated to approximately 1800 B.C. The development of the borders between the Finnic peoples and the Balts was under way. The first fortified settlements, Asva and Ridala on the island of Saaremaa and Iru in the Northern Estonia began to be built. The development of shipbuilding facilitated the spread of bronze. Changes took place in burial customs, a new type of burial ground spread from Germanic to Estonian areas, stone cist graves and cremation burials became increasingly common aside small number of boat-shaped stone graves.
The Pre-Roman Iron Age began in Estonia about 500 B.C. and lasted until the middle of the 1.st century A.D. The oldest iron items were imported, although since the first century iron was smelted from local marsh and lake ore. Settlement sites were located mostly in places that offered natural protection. Fortresses were built, although used temporarily. The appearance of square Celtic fields surrounded by enclosures in Estonia date from the Pre-Roman Iron Age. The majority of stones with man-made indents, which presumably were connected with magic designed to increase crop fertility, date from this period. A new type of grave, quadrangular burial mounds began to develop. Burial traditions show the clear beginning of social stratification.
The Roman Iron Age in Estonia is roughly dated to between 50 and 450 A.D., the era that was affected by the influence of the Roman Empire through trade links. In material culture this is reflected by few Roman coins, some jewellery and artifacts. The abundance of iron artifacts in Southern Estonia speaks of closer mainland ties with southern areas while the islands of western and northern Estonia communicated with their neighbors mainly by sea. By the end of the period three clearly defined tribal dialectical areas: Northern Estonia, Southern Estonia, and Western Estonia including the islands had emerged, the population of each having formed its own understanding of identity.
The name of Estonia occurs first in a form of Aestii in the first century AD by Tacitus. The term was used thereafter in Northern Sagas (9th century) to indicate the Estonians. Ptolemy, in his Geography III in the middle of the 2nd century AD, mentions the Osilians among other dwellers on the Baltic shore. According to the fifth-century Roman historian Cassiodorus the people known to Tacitius as the Aestii were the Estonians. The extent of their territory in early medieval times is disputed but the nature of their religion is not. They were known to the Scandinavians as experts in wind-magic, as were the Lapps (known at the time as Finns) in the North.
In the first centuries AD political and administrative subdivisions began to emerge in Estonia. Two larger subdivisions appeared: the parish (kihelkond) and the petty kingdom (maakond). The parish consisted of several villages. Nearly all parishes had at least one fortress. The defense of the local area was directed by the highest official, the parish elder. The petty kingdom was composed of several parishes, also headed by an elder. By the 13th century the following major counties had developed in Estonia: Saaremaa (Osilia), Läänemaa (Rotalia or Maritima), Harjumaa (Harria), Rävala (Revalia), Virumaa (Vironia), Järvamaa (Jervia), Sakala (Saccala), and Ugandi (Ugaunia).
The period from 800–1250 AD is referred to in Estonian history as the Viking age. During this period, Estonians, as well as other Nordic peoples, traveled abroad on longships, as raiders, explorers, settlers and traders. In the 1st millennium the main raiders of Estonia were Swedes and there are several records of retaliatory raids against Sweden. However, Estonians allied with the Swedes in the Battle of Bråvalla against the Danes, who were aided by the Livonians and the Wends of Pomerania.
According to the 12th century Kievan Primary Chronicle, a group of Swedish Varangians (Vikings) arrived in 862 in what they called Holmgardr, and which Slavs called Novgorod (New Town), then a Finnic & Scandinavian settlement, under the leadership of Rurik and his two brothers, Sineus and Truvor. Rurik's relative Oleg went on to conquer Kiev in 882, and established the state of Kievan Rus', which was later ruled by Rurik's descendants. From Rurik's time Novgorod became an expansionist threat to its neighbours.
According to the Heimskringla sagas, in the year 967 the Norwegian Queen Astrid escaped with her son, Olaf Tryggvason, from her homeland to Novgorod, where her brother Sigurd held an honoured position at the court of Prince Vladimir. On their journey, Estonians raided the ship, killing some of the crew and taking others into slavery. Six years later, when Sigurd Eirikson traveled to Estonia to collect taxes on behalf of Valdemar, he spotted Olaf in a market on Saaremaa and paid for his freedom.
A battle between Estonian and Icelandic vikings off Saaremaa is described in Njál's saga as occurring in 972 AD. About 1008, Olaf the Holy, later king of Norway, landed on Saaremaa. The Estonians, taken by surprise, had at first agreed to pay the demands made by Olaf, but then gathered an army during the negotiations and attacked the Norwegians. Olaf nevertheless won the battle.
With the movements of the eastern Slavs northwards from the great European central plain by the 9th century, those who later became Russians were seen as a further threat. The first known battles between Estonians and Novgorod took place in 1030s, when Estonians defeated a Novgorod fleet in a sea battle near Reval. The monk, Nestor, called the Estonians in the earliest Russian chronicles the "Chuds". According to Nestor, in 1030 Prince Yaroslav I 'the Wise' of Novgorod invaded Estonia and temporarily conquered Tartu.
In 1170, 1184, 1194 and 1197, Denmark made large-scale raids on Estonia using the excuse that the Estonians were pagans. Pope Alexander III had pointed the way to the east for all Scandinavian believers; the growing volume of trade with Novgorod and Polotsk made the destruction of Sambian, Kuronian and Estonian sea-power desireable aims also, and the subjugation of the homelands of these pirates seemed the way forward. In 1206 the Danish King Waldemar II, Archbishop Andrew and Bishop Nicholas of Schleswig sailed to Osel with a well-prepared army and forced the Estonian islanders to submit. Following these campaigns, the Danes saw Estonia as their sphere of influence. In 1218 Pope Honorius III promised King Waldemar that he could annex as much land as he might conquer from the heathens.
Meanwhile, about 1202, Bishop Albert of Buxtehude established the small knightly Order of the Sword Brothers of Livonia at Riga, where there had been a mission for 20 years, to persuade the Livonians and Letts to convert to Christianity. Preaching, he said, was not enough. By 1211 the Sword-Brothers were slowly advancing into southern Estonia which they had entirely subjugated by 1218. However, alarmed at an invasion into Livonia from Novgorod, Bishop Albert appealed to the Danes for assistance. King Waldemar now came in 1219 with a fleet, landing in the harbour of Lindinisse, and began building the fort which the Estonians called Tallinn, to the Danes and Germans: Reval. The Estonians attacked but were defeated with heavy losses. When the fort was ready a garrison of knights, priests and bishops moved in. The following year the king returned with reinforcements and Dominican friars, and both Danes and the Sword-Brothers subjugated the northern Estonians, while King John of Sweden conquered the north-western coast (Rotala) and built a fort at Leal. The Rotalians, however, drove the Swedes out, and the Danes moved in. In 1222 Estonia was partitioned. Bishop Albert had to surrender all of northern Estonia to the Danes, doing fealty for the Order's lands in southern Estonia. The Sword-Brothers by now had conquered all of Livonia and Kurland, and in 1227 they entered Estonia again and besieged Reval, which fell to them. It was handed back to the Danes by their successors, the Teutonic Knights, at the Treaty of Stensby in 1238 for which, in return, he Order gained the fortress of Weissenstein (Paide) which in 1265 the Order had converted into a major castle. Reval, like Riga, was now starting to look very much like a German city. Much of the Danish King's Estonian lands had been subjugated for him by the Sword-Brothers, and colonised by immigrants from German states who brought with them German feudal law institutions. This ruling hierarchy would remain in Estonia until 1920. The Danes also built Wesenberg in 1252, halfway between Narva and Reval. After that, Danish fleets sailed to Reval in 1268 and 1270 to meet serious incursions by Novgorod and Lithuania, but thereafter they did little more than sit on their Estonian province for about a century.
Teutonic Knights province
The decline of Danish power, and beset by pressing problems at home, unable to break the Hanseatic League's trade monopoly at sea, and now with a major revolt in Estonia by the indigenous tribes against their masters, the survivors appealed to Grand Master von Dreileben of the Livonian Order of the Teutonic Knights who now marched in and forcibly restored order. King Waldemar IV accepted 10,000 marks in 1343 from the Livonian Order and Estonia became a dependency of the Grand Master, loosely federated with the Order's Livonia, until 1562. By the fifteenth century, the freer Estonians were either serving the German landowners, or they had emigrated to Reval to work for the German burghers as carters, porters, boatmen, watchmen, servants and journeymen. Some were smallholders, some prosperous, some destitute. Professor Christiansen states: "whether most of them were worse off under German rule than they had been under their own warlords is impossible to assess." A full feudal and hereditary system was in place and a powerful baronage emerged; the Knights of Estonia held their fiefs in return for military service which, in 1350, was one German warrior and two Estonians per hundred unci (approx. 3000 acres). From 1350 to 1500 Estonia was an increasingly prosperous country.
In 1496, Ivan III, Grand Duke of Moscow, having absorbed Novgorod, was now at war with the Swedish Regent, Sten Sture. A Swedish Armada sailed over from Viborg and took Ivangorod; some Estonians helped them pillage the fortress, and, when the Swedes left, they bequeathed the place to the Livonian Order. It was accepted that war with Moscow appeared inevitable by 1500, and Grand Master von Plettenberg now entered into an alliance with the Grand Duke Alexander of Lithuania with the intention of a crusade into Russia. However after commencing the invasion he waited in vain for the Lithuanians and was forced to return home after destroying Ostrov on 7th September 1501. Muscovite armies were now en route for Livonia. The Order could not hope to even defend Livonia, Kurland and Estonia alone. The Russians arrived in November with three armies who proceeded to devastate everything in their path. When the Landtag was summoned by the Grand Master at Wolmar in January 1502, three of the Bishops and the Estonian Barons failed to attend. When the Grand Master sent to Lithuania begging for help, his "ally" merely told him to 'fight on'. Von Plettenberg agreed. He would. In September he marched his army on Pskov in an attempt to draw the Russians out of his Order's dominions. They miraculously defeated the numerically superior Russians on the eve of the "Exaltation of the Cross", September 14th, the Master having been said to have seen a vision of the Virgin. Duke Ivan made peace with the Master at Pskov in 1503, and von Plettenberg passed into history as a great hero. His provinces gained another fifty years grace before the serious invasions by all and sundry began.
By 1500 the Livonian Order controlled 60 castles in Livonia and Estonia and many had been thoroughly modernised. After 1450, several castles sported massive round towers, pierced by musket loops. At Reval there were several artillery towers, including 'Kiek in de Kok', a six-storey tower that still stands today. The border fortress of Narva also had angle bastions. On Oesel (Saaremaa) stood the Order's huge castle of Arensburg (Kiressaare).
Estonia was invaded by Sweden in the 16th century and remained their province until 1721, when it was ceded to the Russian Empire. Throughout this period the Baltic-German nobility enjoyed autonomy, where the language of administration and education was German.
Estonian national awakening
The Estophile Enlightenment Period in 1750-1840 led to the Estonian national awakening in the middle of the 19th century.
Invasions of Estonia
- 1008 - Norwegians invade Saaremaa.
- 1030 - Estonians and Prince Yaroslav of Novgorod at war. Latter takes Tartu.
- c1053 - Prince Yaroslav of Novgorod's military commander Ostromir attacks Estonia, but is defeated.
- 1060 - Prince Izyaslav (d.1078) of Novgorod attacked Estonia and conquered big part of it. The next year Estonians began an uprising, drove out Novgorod's forces and recovered Tartu.
- 1077 - Duke of Smolensk, Vladimir, and Duke of Novgorod, Gleb, jointly attack Estonia.
- Beginning of 12th century - Duke of Novgorod, Mstislav attacked Adsele county in South Estonia
- 1113 - According to Russian sources, Mstislav attacked Estonians and obtained victory in Metsepole or Irboska
- 1116 - Mstislav attacked South Estonia, conquering Otepää on 1st November, burning many villages and taking many prisoners
- 1130 - Mstislav sent his sons Vsevolod, Izjaslav and Rostislav against Estonians. They killed men, burned villages and took women and children as prisoners.
- 1132 - Vsevolod from Novgorod attacked Estonians, but his army was defeated by Estonians in January 23 in Vaiga.
- 1134 - Vsevolod attacked Estonians again and conquered Tartu in February 9.
- 1170 - Danes raid Estonia.
- 1180 - Mstislav from Novgorod attacked Adsele. Local people left their homes and escaped until the sea.
- 1184 - Danes raid Estonia.
- 1190 - Russians killed a group of Estonian sailers on Peipsi lake.
- 1192 - Yaroslav from Novgorod attacked Estonians at winter and conquered Tartu.
- 1192 - In summer Yaroslav sent his army to burn down Otepää.
- 1194 - Danes Raid Estonia.
- 1197 - Danes Raid Estonia.
- 1206 - Danes conquer Estonia's Osel islands.
- 1210 - Mstislav and Vladimir attacked Southern Estonia. They captured Otepää and baptized local people.
- 1210 - Livonian Order of the Sword-Brothers invades southern Estonia.
- 1211 - Russians attacked Soontagana in January.
- 1212 - In the beginning of year, 15,000 Russians attack Varbola castle in Northern Estonia. Estonians payed them in silver for the end of siege.
- 1216 - Vladimir from Pskov conquered Otepää. To fight against Russians, Estonians made an alliance with German crusaders.
- 1219 - Danish invasion, founding Reval.
- 1220 - Danes invade and conquer northern Estonia.
- 1220 - Sweden invades the north-western coast (Rotala).
- 1221 - During their returning from Livonia, Russians plundered Ugandi.
- 1223 - Yaroslav from Novgorod, Georgi from Suzdal, Vladimir from Pskov and other Russian dukes came to Estonia with 20,000 men and started ravaging the country.
- 1227 - Livonian Order of the Sword-Brothers invades Danish northern Estonia and takes Reval.
- 1234 - Yaroslav attacked Tartu area in March with a large army.
- 1241 - Alexander from Novgorod attacked Koporje, conquered it and ordered all prisoners to be hanged.
- 1242 - The Battle of Ice on Peipsi lake in April 5. Russians killed many Estonians, who fought against them with Germans.
- 1248-1250 - Chief of Tallinn Stigot Amison wrote a letter to Lübeck in the name of people of Tallinn, requesting help to people who had suffered under Russians.
- 1253 - Russians came over the Narva river and ravaged its western bank.
- 1262 - Russians attacked Tartu. They couldn't conquer the castle, but killed and burned many local people and took women and children as prisoners.
- 1267 - Russians attacked Rakvere surroundings and ravaged large area.
- 1268 - In January, 30,000 Russians came near Rakvere, killing many local people who had escaped to the caves. In February 18, Russians were defeated.
- 1342 - Duke Yuriy Vitovtovich attacked Vastseliina, but his army was destroyed by defenders.
- 1343 - Danes sell all their interests in Estonia to the Teutonic Knights.
- 1343 - In May, Russians came until Otepää, destroying all the villages on their way.
- 1348 - King Magnus of Sweden arrives with an army in Estonia & Livonia for a 'crusade' against Novgorod. He returned to Sweden in 1355.
- 1367 - Russians from Pskov invaded Estonia until Vastseliina.
- 1371 - Russians attacked Vastseliina area. They burned down Kirumpää and killed all local people.
- 1406 - Danilo and Yuriy from Pskov attacked Estonia, coming until Vastseliina and Kirumpää.
- 1407 - In June 29, Russians invaded Northern Estonia and went back to Russia with many booty.
- 1480 - Russians attacked Tartu area and destroyed Kastre castle.
- 1481 - Russians from Moscow, Pskov and Novgorod attacked large area in South Estonia. They conquered Viljandi, Tarvastu, Karksi and Ruhja. Russians ravaged a large area and terrorized population to break their resistance.
- Beginning of 16th century - Russia is known as a cruel and ruthless enemy, Russians are mentioned as historical enemies.
- 1501-2 - Russians (Muscovites) invade Estonia & Livonia with great destruction.
- 1558-1582 - The Livonian War.
- 1558 - Russian troops occupied Tartu and Narva, laying siege to Tallinn and destroying villages. In summer another Russian invasion started with about 80,000 men.
- 1559 - Russians invaded Alulinna and Villaka area.
- 1560 - Russians ravaged mid-Estonia. In May they conquered Viljandi with 40,000 men. Russians took many local people as prisoners.
- 1570 - Large Russian army engaged in a failed siege of Tallinn. They gave up on March 16, 1571.
- 1573 - Russians invade Estonia and took Weissenstein (Paide) castle, but were defeated by Swedish forces near Koluvere.
- 1574 - Russians invaded northern Estonia. 10,000 Russians burned all villages near Tallinn, although they couldn't defeat the city and killed many local people.
- 1575 - Russians conquered Pärnu.
- 1575 - Russians attacked Northwestern Estonia. They destroyed most of population in Haapsalu and Lihula area and ravaged Saaremaa, Hiiumaa, Muhumaa, Vormsi and Noarootsi islands.
- 1576 - Russians ravage Tallinn surroundings. In July, they started ambushing people working in farms and killed them and took many prisoners.
- 1577 - Tallinn was unsuccessfully besieged.
- 1579 - Russians and Tatars frequently raid Estonia. Near Tallinn, they killed all old people and took young as prisoners. Soon after that, another Russian army attacked the area and killed all survivors.
- 1656-1658 - Russo-Swedish war, Russians invaded Estonia. They ravaged Eastern Estonia and captured Tartu.
- 1700-1721 - The Great Northern War.
- 1700 - In September the first Russian troops invaded Alutaguse. Russians besieged Narva, but were defeated by Swedish army, consisting many Estonian soldiers.
- 1701 - Russians invaded South Estonia. In September battles were fought at Räpina, Kasaritsa and Rõuge. Cossacks and tatars ravaged Alulinna area. Villagers formed their self-defence units.
- 1702 - Russians completely ravaged the Southern Estonia after the battle of Hummuli. They burned down all churches, more than 1000 villages and 100 manors. They used violence of any description, killed men, women and children and took prisoners. Tatars took several hundred children as slaves.
- 1703 - Russian raid through Estonia, only western parts of Estonia survived. Russians burned downs and churches and up to 1500 villages. Many people were killed and children took as prisoners.
- 1703-1704 - Frequent Russian attacks in Narva area.
- 1704 - Russians attacked Tartu area and took many prisoners, forcing them to walk naked on snow. Ones who couldn't walk any more, were thrown under the ice.
- 1704 - Tartu surrendered to Russians in July 13. Russians broke the agreement and didn't let the defenders to escape.
- 1704 - Russians conquered Narva. Russian soldiers started ravaging the town as the Tsar Peter I had ordered. Adult people were thrown down on waterfall and children aged 6-14 were forced to work as slaves.
- 1707 - Russian cavalry invaded northern part of Tartu county. They burned Valga again.
- 1708 - A new Russian invasion of Livonia. Valga area was wildly ravaged. Farms and manors were burned and fields were destroyed.
- 1708 - People of Narva and Tartu were taken to Russia. Many of them died. Tartu was completely destroyed.
- 1709 - Russians conquered Pärnu.
- 1710 - Tallinn surrendered to Russians.
- 1710-1918 - Estonia was part of the Russian Empire.
- 1917 - Russian military ravaged in Estonia.
- 1918 - Russian army started attacking Estonia in November. There followed massacres in Rakvere, Tartu and elsewhere.
- 1924 - Soviets organized an attempt of coup d'etat, what failed.
- 1939 - Soviet Union demanded Estonia to have military bases on Estonian territory. Soviets violated the treaty.
- 1940 - Soviets occupied Estonia in June 17.
- 1944 - The Red Army invaded Estonia in January. The battles for Estonia began, what resulted with whole Estonia being occupied by Soviets in December.
Bolshevism and Independence
Under the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, in March 1918, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, were detached from Russia, and the German and Bolshevik Governments finally concluded protocols to this effect which were signed in Berlin on August 27th. After two centuries the Russian yoke had been overturned. The war and revolution also finally cut the Baltic Barons' loyalty to Russia. In 1918 the Estonian Declaration of Independence was now issued. However, the plutocratic western Allies now declared that the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was null and void, and Estonia became first a battleground for Tsarist forces against Bolsheviks, both of whom wanted Estonia to remain in Russia. The 'Whites' were soon out of the picture, and what some call the Estonian Liberation War ensued on two fronts between the newly proclaimed state and Bolshevik Russia to the east, and the forces of the United Baltic Duchy, 'Baltische Landeswehr' to the south. The British Government gave provisional recognition of the Estonian Government as a de facto body in May 1918 pending the Paris Peace Conference deliberations. Under pressure on other fronts the Bolsheviks lost ground and a Military Convention (Armistice) between Estonia and Bolshevik Russia was concluded and signed at Dorpat on December 31, 1919 which dictated that all military operations between the two would cease at 10 a.m. on January 3rd, to be followed by a formal Peace Treaty. Terrible atrocities were committed at both Dorpat and Wesenberg by the Bolsheviks. After Estonians had reconquered Wesenberg from the Bolsheviks, the district and town officials presided over the opening of three large graves of victims of the Red Terror on January 17, 1919. Shockingly vivid descriptions of what took place and the names of those victims of all classes (i.e: Jeanette, Baroness Wrangel, plus priests) and professions, found therein were carefully entered into a report sent to the British War Office. Final victory came, and in the Peace Treaty signed at Tartu between Bolshevik Russia and Estonia the Reds recognised Estonian independence "in perpetuity".
However, in 1940 Estonia was occupied and illegally annexed by the Soviet Union. During the war Estonians fought against the Soviets with the help of Germany, until the Soviet Union reoccupied Estonia in 1944. Estonia regained independence in mid-1991 during the collapse of the USSR and joined the European Union in 2004.
World War II
The Year of Suffering (1940–1941)
Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union in June 1940, after Joseph Stalin gained Hitler's agreement to divide Eastern Europe into "spheres of special interest" according to the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact and its secret protocol.
On September 24, 1939, warships of the Red Navy appeared off Estonian ports and Soviet bombers began a threatening patrol over Tallinn and the nearby countryside. The Estonian government was forced to give their assent to an agreement which allowed the USSR to establish military bases and station 25,000 troops on Estonian soil for "mutual defence".
On June 12, 1940 the order for a total military blockade on Estonia was given to the Soviet Baltic Fleet.
On June 14, 1940 while world’s attention was focused on the capture of Paris by Germany a day earlier, the Soviet military blockade on Estonia went into effect, two Soviet bombers downed a Finnish passenger airplane "Kaleva" flying from Tallinn to Helsinki carrying three diplomatic pouches from the U.S. legations in Tallinn, Riga and Helsinki.
On June 16 1940, the Soviet Union invaded Estonia. The Red Army exited from their military bases in Estonia on June 17. The following day, some 90,000 additional troops entered the country. On June 17 1940 The Estonian government decided, given the overwhelming Soviet force, not to resist, to avoid bloodshed and open war. The military occupation of Estonia was complete by the June 21 1940.
Most of the Estonian Defense Forces and the Estonian Defense League surrendered according to the orders believing that resistance was useless and were disarmed by the Red Army. Only the Estonian Single Signal Battalion stationed in Tallinn at Raua Street showed resistance. As the Red Army brought in additional reinforcements supported by six armored fighting vehicles, the battle lasted several hours until sundown. There was one dead, several wounded on the Estonian side and about 10 killed and more wounded on the Soviet side. Finally the military resistance was ended with negotiations and the Single Signal Battalion surrendered and was disarmed.
In August 1940, Estonia was formally annexed by the Soviet Union as the Estonian SSR. Those who had fallen short of the "political duty" of voting Estonia into the USSR, who had failed to have their passports stamped for so voting were allowed to be shot in the back of the head by Soviet tribunals. The repressions followed with the mass deportations carried out by the Soviets in Estonia on 14 June 1941. Many of the country's political and intellectual leaders were killed or deported to remote areas of the USSR by the Soviet authorities in 1940-1941. Repressive actions were also taken against thousands of ordinary people.
When the German Operation Barbarossa started against the Soviet Union, about 34,000 young Estonian men were forcibly drafted into the Red Army. Less than 30% of them survived the war. Political prisoners who could not be evacuated were executed by the NKVD.
Many countries including the United States did not recognize the seizure of Estonia by the USSR. Such countries recognized Estonian diplomats and consuls who still functioned in many countries in the name of their former governments. The aging diplomats persisted in this anomalous situation until the ultimate restoration of Baltic independence.
Contemporary Russian politicians, however, deny that the Republic of Estonia was illegally annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940. They state that the Soviet troops had entered Estonia in 1940 following the agreements and with the consent of the government of the Republic of Estonia, regardless of how their actions can be interpreted today. They maintain that the USSR was not in a state of war and was not waging any combat activities on the territory of Estonia, therefore there can be no talk about 'occupation'. The official position of Russia is a refusal to recognize the fact of Estonia's occupation and claims that Estonians decided to lose their statehood voluntarily and officially calls separatist fighters of 1944-1953 "bandits" and "nazis". The Russian position isn't recognized internationally.
In January 1941 Order № 001223 "On the Procedure for carrying out the Deportation of Anti-Soviet Elements from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia" was issued, providing for the deportation of those deemed to be 'anti-Soviet'. This order was operationalised on June 14 1941, when mass deportations took place simultaneously in all three Baltic countries; almost 10,000 Estonians were deported in just coupler of days.
The Summer War
After the war between Germany and Soviet Union began on June 22, 1941, Finland sided with Germany in the Continuation War. On July 3, Stalin made his public statement over the radio calling for a scorched earth policy in the areas to be abandoned. In North Estonia, the Soviet destruction battalions had the greatest impact, being the last Baltic territory captured from the Soviets. Anti-Soviet Forest Brothers, numbering about 50,000, attacked the forces of the NKVD and the 8th Army, killing 4,800 and capturing 14,000.
After the German 18th Army crossed the Estonian southern border on July 7–9, the Forest Brothers organized themselves into bigger units. They took on the Red Army units and Extermination Battalions in Võrumaa at Antsla on July 5, 1941. The next day a larger offensive happened in Vasteliina where the Forest Brothers prevented Russian destruction of the town and trapped the Russians, the extermination battalion chiefs and local communist administrators. On July 7 the Forest Brothers were able to hoist the Estonian flag in Vasteliina. Võru was subsequently liberated and by the time the German army arrived the blue-black-white flags were already at full mast and the Forest Brothers had organised into Omakaitse – self defense units.
The battle of Tartu lasted for two weeks, and destroyed a large part of the city. Under the leadership of Friedrich Kurg, the Forest Brothers drove out the Soviets from Tartu, driving the Soviet troops behind the Pärnu River – the Emajõgi line and securing South Estonia under Estonian control by July 10. The NKVD murdered 193 people in Tartu Prison on their retreat on July 8.
Soviet Extermination Battalions wrought havoc on the countryside while combating the national partisans. Formed in Estonia on June 27, 1941 in face of the advancing German Army. Ostensibly to fight against saboteurs and traitors, they were given wide mandate by the Soviet authorities to summarily execute any suspicious person. Thousands of people including a large proportion of women and children were killed, while dozens of villages, schools and public buildings were burned to the ground. A school boy Tullio Lindsaar had all bones in his hands broken then was bayoneted for hoisting the Estonian tri-colour. Mauricius Parts, son of the Estonian Liberation War hero Karl Parts, was doused in acid. In August 1941, all residents of the village Viru-Kabala were killed including a two-year old child and a six-day old infant. A partisan war broke out in response to the atrocities of the destruction battalions, with tens of thousands of men forming the Forest Brothers to protect the local population from these battalions.
Extermination Battalions participated also in the Kautla massacre. Examples are the murder of Gustav and Rosalie Viljamaa of Simisalu farm, which farm was then set alight and destroyed. In the coming days, the destruction battalions undertook the systematic murder of all civilians in the region as well as burning their farms. The Kautla farm was burnt down by the Red Army with the family and staff inside burning alive Johannes Lindemann, Oskar Mallene, Ida Hallorava, Arnold Kivipõld, Alfred Kukk and Johannes Ummus. In total, more than twenty people, all civilians, were murdered at Kautla, many of them after torture, Hundreds of farms were destroyed. The low death toll in comparison with the number of burnt farms is due to the Estonian 'Erna team' breaking the Red Army blockade on the area, allowing many civilians to escape.
The Germans resumed their advance in Estonia by working in cooperation with the Forest Brothers. The joint Estonian-German forces liberated Narva on August 17. By the end of August Tallinn was surrounded by the German army, while in the harbor was the majority of the Red Banner Baltic fleet. On August 19, the final German assault on Tallinn began. The joint German & Estonian forces liberated the Estonian capital on August 28. Soviet evacuation of Tallinn was carried out with heavy losses.
Subsequently, the country was occupied by Germany from 1941 to 1944. There were many opinions in Germany about their Estonian allies, for example Heinrich Himmler and Rudolf Hess supported granting independence to Estonia.
Many Estonian volunteers fought in the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS (including the Estonian Legion and later 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian)) on the Eastern Front. Also, some thousand Estonians joined the Finnish army to fight against the Soviet Union. Finnish Infantry Regiment 200 AKA (Estonian: soomepoisid) was formed out of Estonian volunteers in Finland.
Defending Estonia in 1944
By January 1944, the front was slowly pushed back by the Red Army almost all the way to the Estonian border. Narva was evacuated. Jüri Uluots, the prime minister of Estonia, delivered a radio address that implored all able-bodied men born from 1904 through to 1923 to report for military service. The call drew support across the country: 60,000 volunteers jammed registration centers and 38,000 of them were mobilized. In August, several thousand Estonians who had joined the Finnish army came back across the Gulf of Finland to join the newly formed Territorial Defense Force, assigned to defend Estonia against the Soviet advance.
Soviet forces reconquered Estonia in the autumn of 1944 after fierce battles in the northeast of the country on the Narva river and on the Blue Hills. With the country being re-occupied by the Red Army, tens of thousands of people chose to either retreat together with the Germans or flee to Finland or Sweden, becoming war refugees and later, expatriates.
Russia today maintains that Soviet forces liberated the 'Estonian SSR' from German occupation. Many would disagree with this ridiculous claim.
In 1949, in response to slow progress in forming collective farms, about 20,000 people were forcibly deported over a few days either to labor camps or Siberia. Within the few weeks that followed, almost all of the remaining rural households had been subjected to collectivisation. In addition to the human and material losses suffered due to war, thousands of civilians had been killed and tens of thousands of people were now deported from Estonia by the Soviets until 1953. Material damage caused by the war and Soviet rule significantly stunted Estonia's economic growth, resulting in a wide wealth gap in comparison with neighboring countries such as Finland and Sweden.
Half of the deported perished; the other half were not allowed to return until the early 1960s (several years after Stalin's death). That and previous repressions in 1940-1941 sparked a guerrilla war against the Soviet authorities in Estonia which was waged into the early 1960s by the Forest Brothers consisting mostly of Estonian veterans of Waffen-SS as well as some civilians.
Militarization was another aspect of the Soviet regime. Large parts of the country, especially the coastal areas were restricted to anyone but the Soviet military. Most of the sea shore and all sea islands (including Saaremaa and Hiiumaa) were declared "border zones". Estonians not directly living there were restricted from traveling there without a permit and were punished if they did so. A notable closed military installation was the city of Paldiski which was entirely closed to all public access. The city had a support base for the Soviet Baltic Fleet's submarines, and several large military bases, including a nuclear submarine training centre complete with a full-scale model of a nuclear submarine with working nuclear reactors. The reactor building passed to Estonian control a year after the Soviet troops left.
Russification was another effect brought about by the Soviet occupation. Hundreds of thousands of Russian-speaking migrants from the Soviet Union were relocated to Estonia by the Soviets to conduct industrialization and militarization, contributing an increase of about half million to Estonia's population within 45 years of occupation and colonisation. By 1980, when part of the Moscow Olympic Games were also held in Tallinn (the Olympic Regatta), Russification and state-orchestrated immigration had achieved a level at which it started sparking popular protests. The immigrants then stayed on to form part of the population today.
Estonia has been a very successful country by ex-communist standards since 1991. There have been two central problems: A large Russia next-door and large numbers of Russian-settlers still in Estonia (See Ethnoracial Situation).
- In 1994, the last Russian troops left Estonia.
- Some territories of eastern Estonia remain occupied by Russia as of 2010.
- In 2004, Estonia was incorporated into the European Union. Estonian nationalists, including the Estonian Independence Party, opposed this move. 34% of Estonians voted against joining in a referendum.
- Because of 1945-1991 Soviet "colonization", nearly half of the population of Tallinn is still Russian-speaking as of 2010, as well as all of the city of Narva.
- AIDS: The large number of Russian prostitutes in Tallinn has caused Estonia to have among the highest AIDS rates in the EU. The ethnic-Estonian AIDS rate is minimal.
Hostility to Estonia
Jewish and Russian media often refer to Estonia as a "National Socialist country", because Estonians opposed Soviet Communism and because Estonians honor the several-hundred-thousand Estonian men who fought against the Red Army, 1941-1945. This includes the Waffen-SS, of which an all-Estonian division was established. There are several monuments honoring the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian).
- In 2007, the Estonian government removed a Red Army statue from a prominent place in Tallinn. Local Russians rioted.
- On several other occasions, cyber-warfare emanating in Russia took down Estonian government websites.
Estonians, as an ethnic group, are a Finnic people.
The modern state of Estonia is home to about 950,000 ethnic-Estonians, but 350,000 non-Estonians.
The Dark Shadow of 1940-1991
- The number of ethnic-Estonians today is lower than it was upon independence in 1920. This is because of the mass killings by the NKVD in the 1940-1949 period. (See Idel Jakobson). In the decade of the 1940s, Estonia lost up to one-fourth its population to deportations, executions, and those who fled into exile.
- The share of "Others" is high because during the 1945-1991 Soviet occupation, "colonists" were brought in for political reasons from the USSR. Moscow's stated goal was to "sovietize" Estonia. By 1991, almost 40% of the residents of the Estonian-SSR were non-Estonian. They came from every other SSR. The Soviet policy of cultural genocide by mass-resettlement is well-attested to, but was only absolute in the city of Narva which Stalin ordered completely emptied and replaced by Russians after the Battle of Narva.
The non-Estonian residents of the country reside predominantly in the capital city (Tallinn) and the industrial urban areas in northeastern Estonia (Ida-Virumaa county) and Narva. There is also a small group of Finnish descent, mainly from Ingermanland (Ingria).
Ethnic-Estonians raised during the communist occupation (born before ~1980) have a high degree of fluency in Russian. The communist government in Moscow mandated Russian fluency and discouraged publishing material in Estonian, until the mid 1980s.
Non-Estonians in Estonia, even in cases when they have lived in Estonia for 30 years, are often only fluent in Russian. Some non-Estonians can hardly speak Estonian at all.
Younger Estonians (born after 1980) can usually speak English, having learned it as their first foreign language.
Russian immigrants and their descendants have demanded for Estonian citizenship for years. According to Estonian officials, in 1992, 32% of Estonia residents lacked any form of citizenship.
In July 2007, the Population Registry of the Estonian Ministry of the Interior reported that
- 8.5% of Estonia's residents still had undefined citizenship,
- 7.8% had foreign citizenship.
- This means around 10% of the Estonian population consists of non-ethnic-Estonians who gained citizenship since 1991.
According to the Estonian Statistical Office, ethnic Russians comprised 25.7% of the population in 2006. Of that 25.7%, approximately 27% of ethnic Russians in Estonia hold Russian citizenship, 35% hold Estonian citizenship, and 35% continue to have undefined citizenship. Residents without Estonian citizenship may not vote in Riigikogu (the national parliament) elections, residents without citizenship of any EU member state may not vote in European Parliament elections, but all legal residents regardless of citizenship status are eligible to vote in local (municipal) elections under Estonian law.
- Population by ethnic nationality, 1 January, year. stat.ee. Statistics Estonia. Retrieved on 2010-Dec-29.
- Statistics Estonia. Stat.ee (1 January 2010). Retrieved on 2 June 2010.
- (2001) "2000. Aasta rahva ja eluruumide loendus (Population and Housing Census)" (in Estonian and English) (PDF) 2. Statistikaamet (Statistical Office of Estonia).
- Estonia. International Monetary Fund. Retrieved on 21 April 2010.
- Human Development Report 2010. United Nations (2010). Retrieved on 4 November 2010.
- Territorial changes of the Baltic states#Actual territorial changes after World War II Soviet territorial changes against Estonia after World War II
- Pechory under Russian control
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