Estonia in the snow

Anthropology: History, Politics and Foreign Relations of Estonia

Living conditions in winter

Estonia is a country in Northern Europe. The northern boundary is the Gulf of Finland across Finland, west of the Baltic Sea across Sweden, south to Latvia, and east to Lake Peipus and Russia. Estonia’s territory consists of 2,222 islands and islands off the east coast of the Baltic Sea  that covering an area of ​​45,227 km2 (17,462 sq mi) and is influenced by the continental climate. Tallinn, the capital of Estonia and Tartu are major cities and urban centers in the country. Other major cities include Narva, Pärnu, Kohtla-Järve and Viljandi. The official language of the country, Estonian, is the second most widely spoken language in Finnish.

The Estonian territory was inhabited from at least 9,000 BC. Ancient Estonians were among the last of the Europeans to embrace Christianity following the 13th-century Crusades. After centuries of successive Germanic rule, the Danes, the Swedes, the Poles, and the Russians, a separate Estonian nationality emerged in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This culminated in Russia’s independence in 1920 after a brief Liberation War at the end of World War I, when Estonians led by General Laidoner had to fight for their newborn freedom. In the early days of democracy before the Great Depression, Estonia gained a dictatorship since 1934 during the Peace Period. During World War II, Estonia was repeatedly opposed and annexed by Germany and the Soviet Union, eventually incorporated into the latter as the Estonia SSR. After losing its de facto freedom to the Soviet Union, the continuation of the de jure state was maintained by representatives of governments and government deportations. In 1987, after the peaceful Singing Revolution, its true independence was restored on August 20, 1991.

Estonia is a developed country, with a highly developed and prosperous economy; is at the highest level in the Human Development Index. An independent state is a republic of a united democratic state divided into fifteen provinces. It has a population of 1.3 million and is one of the least populous members of the European Union, the Eurozone, the OECD, the Schengen Area, NATO, and the United Nations Security Council.

Viking Age

Middle ages in Estonia

The settlement in Estonia occurred 13,000 to 11,000 years ago, when the ice from the last ice age melted. The oldest known land in Estonia is the Pulli settlement located on the river Pärnu near the town of Sindi, in southwestern Estonia. According to radiocarbon dating, it was resolved 11,000 years ago.  The first human settlement during the Mesolithic period is connected to the Kunda culture, named after the town of Kunda in northern Estonia. At that time the land was covered with forests, and people lived in nomadic communities near water sources. The livelihood consisted of hunting, gathering, and fishing. About 4900 BC, clay vessels of the neolithic period, known as the Narva culture, appeared. From about 3200 BC the tradition of Corded Ware arose; this includes new jobs such as traditional agriculture and animal husbandry.  The Bronze Age began about 1800 BC, and saw the establishment of settlements on the first hills. The transition from collecting fishing to relocation to a single farm began about the year 1000 BC, and was completed at the beginning of the Iron Age about 500 BC. The large number of copper objects indicates the existence of active relations with the Scandinavian and Germanic tribes.

The middle Iron Age produced threats from different sides. Many Scandinavian sagas have led to serious conflicts with the Estonians, especially when the “Estonia Vikings” defeated and killed the Swedish king Ingvar. Similar threats came from the east, where Russian authorities extended westward. In 1030 Yaroslav the Wise defeated the Estonians and established a fortress in modern-day Tartu. This continued until the Estonian nation, the Sosol, was overthrown in 1061, followed by their invasion in Pskov. About the 11th century, the Scandinavian Viking period around the Baltic Sea was followed by the Baltic Viking era, invaded by the Curoni and Estonians from the island of Saaremaa, known as the Oeselians. In 1187 the Estonians (Oeselians), the Curonians, or the Karelians evicted Sigtuna, then the largest city in Sweden.

Estonia can be divided into two major cultures. The coasts of North and West Estonia were in close contact with people from overseas and Scandinavia and Finland, while the southern state of Estonia was in close contact with Balts and Psovov. Ancient Estonia had many hilly lands. Prehistoric or ancient sites were found on the coast of Saaremaa. Estonia also has numerous cemeteries from the Viking Age, both individually and collectively, with weapons and jewelry including species found mainly in Northern Europe and Scandinavia.

Swedish Era

Swedish era in Estonia
credit: https://wikipedia

In 1558, Tsar Ivan the Terrible of Russia invaded Livonia and began the Cold War. The Livonia Order was completely defeated in 1560, prompting Livonia groups to seek foreign protection. The majority of Livonia accepted the Polish government, while Reval and the officials of Northern Estonia pledged allegiance to the king of Sweden, and the bishop of Ösel-Wiek sold his land to the king of Denmark. Russian troops gradually captured most of Livonia, but by the end of the 1570’s, Polish-Lithuanian and Swedish troops began their own wars, and the bloody war ended in 1583 with the Russian conquest. As a result of the war, Northern Estonia became the Swedish Duchy of Estonia, Southern Estonia became the Polish Duchy of Livonia, and Saaremaa remained under Danish rule.

In 1600, the Polish-Swedish War erupted, causing extensive damage. The long war ended in 1629 when Sweden annexed Livonia, including the regions of Southern Estonia and Northern Latvia. Denmark Saaremaa was transferred to Sweden in 1645. The wars had halved the Estonian population from 250-270,000 in the mid-16th to 115-120,000 by the 1630’s.

While serfdom was kept under Swedish rule, legal changes were made that strengthened land use and property rights, which led to the modern-day “Good Old Swedish Time” in human memory. Swedish King Gustaf II Adolf established gymnasiums in Reval and Dorpat; the latter was developed at the University of Tartu in 1632. Printing presses were set up in both cities. The 1680’s saw the beginning of Estonian primary education, largely as a result of the efforts of Bengt Gottfried Forselius, who also introduced written reforms in Estonia. The Estonian population grew rapidly for 60-70 years, until the Great Famine of 1695–97 in which an estimated 70,000-75,000 people died – about 20% of the population.

Russian Era

Russian era

In 1700, the Great War in the North began, and in 1710 the whole of Estonia was annexed by the Russian Empire. The war also devastated the Estonian people, leaving 1712 people estimated at only 150,000-170,000. Russian authorities have reclaimed all political and land rights of the Baltic Germans. The rights of Estonian farmers reached their highest levels, as serfdom completely controlled agricultural relations in the 18th century. Serfdom was officially abolished in 1816-1819, but this initially had very little effect; the great advancement of farmers’ rights began with the revolution in the middle of the 19th century.

The Estonian uprising began in the 1850s as leading figures began to promote Estonian nationalism among many people. Its economic base was built with increasing farm purchases by farmers, forming a section of Estonian landowners. In 1857 Johann Voldemar Jannsen began publishing the first Estonian newspaper and began to glorify his sect as eestlane (Estonia). School principal Carl Robert Jakobson and pastor Jakob Hurt became national leaders, encouraging Estonian farmers to be proud of their nationality. The first national movement was launched, such as the Estonian Alexander School, the establishment of the Society of Estonia Literati and the Estonia Students’ Society, and the first national anthem, held in 1869 in Tartu. Linguistic translation helped to develop the Estonian language. The national historian Kalevipoeg was published in 1862, and in 1870 the first Estonian theater was produced. In 1878 a major split occurred in the national organization. Hurt’s balanced unit focused on the development of Estonian culture and education, and the Jacobson-led main body began demanding increased political and economic rights. Towards the end of the 19th century, the Russification began, as the central government introduced various administrative and cultural methods to bind the Baltic rulers very closely to the empire. Russian language was used throughout the education system, and many of Estonian’s social and cultural activities were suppressed. However, other administrative changes aimed at reducing the power of German Baltic organizations have been helpful to Estonians. In the late 1890’s, there was a new rise in nationalism with the rise of celebrities such as Jaan Tõnisson and Konstantin Päts. At the beginning of the 20th century, Estonians began to dominate local governments in German-speaking cities.

During the 1905 Revolution, Estonia’s first official political parties were formed. An Estonian national conference was convened and demanded the unification of Estonia’s territories into one independent state and the abolition of Russification. During the unrest, farmers and workers raided private homes. The Tsarist government responded with a brutal fight; about 500 people were killed and many more were arrested or deported to Siberia.

Politics in Estonia

Kersti Kaljulaid President since 2016
credit: wikipedia

Estonia is a republic of a united state. Legitimate parliament Riigikogu serves as a legislature and the government is an official.  Estonian parliament Riigikogu is elected by citizens over the age of 18 for a four-year term with equal representation, and has 101 members. Riigikogu’s duties include the approval and preservation of the national government, the enactment of legislation, the passing of state budget, and the oversight of parliament. At the suggestion of the president Riigikogu appoints the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the chairman of the board of the Bank of Estonia, the Auditor-General, the Legal Councilor and the Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Forces.  The Government of Estonia was established by the Prime Minister of Estonia on the recommendation of the President, and was approved by the Riigikogu. The government, led by the Prime Minister, represents the country’s political leadership and formulates domestic and foreign policy. Ministers are heads of departments and represent their interests in government. Non-departmental ministers, sometimes known as inactive ministers, are sometimes appointed. Estonia was ruled by a coalition government because no party was able to get a full majority in parliament.

Kaja Kallas Prime Minister since 2021
credit: wikipedia

The head of state is the President who has a major role to play in the military and the military. The president is elected by the Riigikogu, or special election college. The President announces the laws passed in Riigikogu, and has the right to reject the proclamation and repeal the law dealing with the new debate and decision. If Riigikogu passes the law unchanged, the President has the right to propose that the Supreme Court declare the law unconstitutional. The President also represents the country in international relations. The Constitution of Estonia also provides for a more democratic referendum, although since the adoption of the constitution in 1992 only one referendum has been the European Union membership referendum in 2003. Estonia strives for e-government development, with 99 percent of the social services available on the web 24 hours a day. In 2005 Estonia became the first country in the world to introduce Internet voting nationwide in the 2005 local elections. In the 2019 Parliamentary elections 44% of the total votes were cast online.

Political Culture

Reform Party leader Andrus Ansip was Prime Minister of Estonia from 2005 to 2014. At the end of his nine years, he was the longest-serving prime minister of the European Union. ​​In August 2011, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, in his post since 2006, was re-elected. In March 2014, following Ansip’s resignation, Taavi Rõivas of the Reform Party became the new prime minister. Rõivas, 34, was the youngest prime minister of Europe at the time. In March 2015, the ruling Reform party, led by Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas, won parliamentary elections In October 2016, the Estonian parliament elected Kersti Kaljulaid as the new President of Estonia. She was the first female president of Estonia. In November 2016, the new chairman of the Center Party, Jüri Ratas, became the Prime Minister of Estonia. He has followed Prime Minister Rõivas whose government has lost a parliamentary vote of no confidence. In the last parliamentary elections of 2019, five parties won seats in Riigikogu. The head of the Center Party, Jüri Ratas, founded the government and the Conservative People’s Party and Isamaa, while the Reform Party and the Social Democratic Party formed an opposition party. On January 13, 2021 Ratas resigned as Prime Minister following a corruption scandal.

On January 26, 2021, Revolutionary Party leader Kaja Kallas became the first female prime minister in Estonia, making Estonia the only country in the world now led by a female president and prime minister. The new government was a two-party alliance between the two major political parties, the Reform Party and the Center Party.

Foreign Relations

Estonia has been a member of the United Nations since September 22, 1921, and became a member of the United Nations on September 17, 1991. The European Union since May 1, 2004. In 2007, Estonia joined the Schengen Area and in 2011 the Eurozone. The European Union Agency for major IT programs is based in Tallinn, which became operational at the end of 2012. Estonia held the position of President of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2017.

Since the early 1990s, Estonia has been involved in active Baltic state cooperation with Latvia and Lithuania, as well as Nordic-Baltic cooperation with Nordic countries. The Baltic Council is a joint forum for the Baltic Council of Parliament and the Inter-Ministerial Council. Estonia has developed close ties with the Nordic countries, especially Finland and Sweden, and is a member of the Nordic-Baltic Eight (NB-8) that includes the Nordic and Baltic states. Nordic-Baltic integrated projects include the Nordplus education program and business and industrial travel programs and public administration. The Nordic Council of Ministers has an office in Tallinn with subsidiaries of Tartu and Narva. The Baltic provinces are members of the Nordic Investment Bank, the Nordic Battle Group of the European Union, and in 2011 they were invited to work with NORDEFCO on selected projects.

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