Estonia flag 10 x 15 cm
Estonia, officially the Republic of Estonia (Estonian: Eesti or Eesti Vabariik) is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Finland across the Gulf of Finland, to the west by Sweden across the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia (343 km), and to the east by the Russian Federation (338,6 km). The territory of Estonia covers 45,227 km² and is influenced by a temperate seasonal climate.
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. AD 98) described a people called the Aestii. Similarly, ancient Scandinavian sagas refer to a land called Eistland, close to the German term Estland for the country. Early Latin and other ancient versions of the name are Estia and Hestia. Until the late 1930s, the name was often written as Esthonia in most English speaking countries.
Estonia is a democratic parliamentary republic and is divided into fifteen counties. The capital and largest city is Tallinn. With a population of only 1.4 million, it is one of the least-populous members of the European Union. Estonia was a member of the League of Nations from 22 September 1921, has been a member of the United Nations since 17 September 1991, of the European Union since 1 May 2004 and of NATO since 29 March 2004. Estonia has also signed the Kyoto protocol.
The settlement of modern day Estonia began around 8500 BC, immediately after the Ice Age. Over the centuries, the Estonians were subjected to Danish, Teutonic, Swedish and Russian rule. Foreign rule in Estonia began in 1227. In the aftermath the Livonian Crusade the area was conquered by Danes and Germans. From 1228–1562, parts or most of Estonia were incorporated into a crusader state Terra Mariana, that became part of the Ordensstaat, and after it's decline was formed the Livonian Confederation. During the era economic activities centered around the Hanseatic League. In the 1500s Estonia passed to Swedish rule, under which it remained until 1721, when it was ceded to the Russian Empire. The Estophile Enlightenment Period (1750-1840) led to a national awakening in the mid-19th century. In 1918 the Estonian Declaration of Independence was issued, to be followed by the Estonian War of Independence (1918-1920), which resulted in the Tartu Peace Treaty recognizing Estonian independence in perpetuity. During World War II, Estonia was occupied and annexed first by the Soviet Union and subsequently by the Third Reich, only to be re-occupied by the Soviet Union in 1944.
Estonia regained its independence on 20 August 1991. It has since embarked on a rapid program of social and economic reform. Today, the country has gained recognition for its economic freedom, its adaptation of new technologies and as one of the world's fastest growing economies.
The national flag of Estonia (Estonian: Eesti lipp) is a tricolour featuring three equal horizontal bands of blue (top), black, and white. The normal size is 105 × 165 cm. In Estonian it is colloquially called the "sinimustvalge" (literally "blue-black-white") , after the colours of the bands.