Estonians resisted the assaults of Vikings, Danes, Swedes, and Russians before the 13th century. In 1346, the Danes, who possessed northern Estonia, sold the land to the Teutonic Knights of Germany, who already possessed Livonia (southern Estonia and Latvia). The Teutonic Knights reduced the Estonians to serfdom. In 1526, the Swedes took over, and the power of the German (Balt) landowning class was reduced. But after 1721, when Russia succeeded Sweden as the ruling power under the Peace of Nystad, the Estonians were subject to a double bondage—the Balts and the czarist officials. The oppression lasted until the closing months of World War I, when Estonia finally achieved independence after a victorious war (1918–1920). But shortly after the start of World War II, the nation was occupied by Russian troops and incorporated as the 16th republic of the USSR in 1940. Germany occupied the nation from 1941 to 1944, when it was retaken by the Soviets.
Estonia declared independence from the Soviet Union in March 1990. Soviet resistance ensued, but after recognition by European and other countries, the Soviet Union acknowledged Estonian nationhood on Sept. 6, 1991. UN membership followed on Sept. 17. The newly independent nation embraced free-market reforms. Fueled by foreign investments, economic advances continued. In 2004, Estonia became a member of the European Union as well as of NATO. In Sept. 2006, Toomas Hendrik Ilves was elected president, defeating incumbent Arnold Rüütel.
In March 2007, Estonia allowed Internet voting for Parliamentary elections, becoming the first country to do so. Prime Minister Andrus Ansip's Reform Party narrowly won the election, taking 31 out of 101 seats, just two more than the Centre Party.
Violent protests erupted in April when Estonian officials moved a controversial bronze statue of a Soviet soldier from a park in Tallinn and placed in it a military cemetery. One person died in the protests and dozens were injured. Ethnic Russians—as well as the Russian government—say the memorial honors Red Army soldiers who died fighting Nazi Germany and object to its relocation. Estonians, however, believe the statue glorifies Soviet occupation of Estonia.
Estonia is mainly a lowland country that is bordered by the Baltic Sea, Latvia, and Russia. It has numerous lakes and forests and many rivers, most draining northward into the Gulf of Finland or eastward into Lake Peipus, its largest lake.
- Tallinn attractions
- Tartu attractions
- Parnu attractions
- Saaremaa attractions
- Haapsalu attractions