A small and heavily forested country, Estonia is the most northerly of the three former Soviet Baltic republics. Not much more than a decade after it regained its independence following the collapse of the USSR, the republic was welcomed as an EU member in May 2004. The move came just weeks after it joined Nato.
These historic developments would have been extremely hard to imagine in not-so-distant Soviet times.
Tallinn: The Capital's long history is evident in its old town
Estonia Tourist Attractions
Estonia was part of the Russian empire until 1918 when it proclaimed its independence. Russia recognised it as an independent state under the 1920 Treaty of Tartu. During the two decades that followed it tried to assert its identity as a nation squeezed between the rise of Nazism in Germany and the dominion of Stalin in the USSR.Bahamas
After a pact between Hitler and Stalin, Soviet troops arrived in 1940 and Estonia was absorbed into the Soviet Union. Nazi forces pushed the Soviets out in 1941 but the Red Army returned in 1944 and remained for half a century.
The rapidly expanding Soviet planned economy brought hundreds of thousands of Soviet immigrants to Estonia, causing widespread fear among Estonians that their national identity would eventually vanish. Russians account for up to a third of the population.
The legacy of the Soviet years has left a mark which the country carries with it into its EU era: Many Russian-speakers complain of discrimination, saying strict language laws make it hard to get jobs or citizenship without proficiency in Estonian. Some Russian-speakers who were born in Estonia are either unable or unwilling to become citizens because of the language requirements.
After a decade of negotiations, Estonia and Russia signed a treaty defining the border between the two countries in May 2005. The Estonian parliament ratified it soon afterwards but only after it had introduced reference to Soviet occupation. Moscow reacted by pulling out of the treaty and saying talks would have to start afresh.
The Estonian language is closely related to Finnish but not to the languages of either of the other Baltic republics, Latvia and Lithuania, or to Russian. The country has unique traditions in folk song and verse, traditions which have had to be strong to survive the many centuries of domination by foreign countries.
Estonia has enjoyed strong economic growth in recent years.
Full name: Republic of Estonia
Population: 1.3 million (UN, 2007)
Area: 45,227 sq km (17,462 sq km)
Major languages: Estonian, Russian
Major religion: Christianity
Life expectancy: 66 years (men), 77 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 kroon = 100 sents
Main exports: Machinery, textiles, wood products
GNI per capita: US $9,100 (World Bank, 2006)
Internet domain: .ee
International dialling code: + 372