Estonia is a democratic parliamentary republic country located in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by the Gulf of Finland to the north, the Baltic Sea to the west, Latvia to the south, and Lake Peipus and Russia to the east. Estonia has an area of 45,339 square kilometers and a population of 1.3 million, making it one of the least populous state of the European Union. It is divided into fifteen counties and its capital and largest city is Tallinn. Estonia’s territory also consists of 2,222 islands and islets in the Baltic Sea.
The official language of Estonia is Estonian, which is closely related to Finnish and one of the few European languages that does not have an Indo-European origin. Estonian has borrowed approximately one third of its vocabulary from Germanic Languages, making it easy to identify similar words in Estonian and German. Russian is a commonly spoken second language by older ethnic Estonians, since Russian was the unofficial language of the Estonian SSR. Aside from Russian, Estonians often speak numerous other foreign languages as well: English, German, French, Finnish, Spanish, and Swedish.
Estonian citizens are provided with universal healthcare, free education, and the longest paid maternity leave in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Easily accessible education is a major reason why Estonia boasts a literacy rate of 99.8%. Additionally, about 91% of Estonian adults, ranging from ages 25 – 64, have earned a high-school degree or its equivalent. This percentage is one of the highest rates in the industrialized world.
More recently, Estonia has been further developing its information technology sector and has been considered the most “wired” advanced country in Europe. In fact, Estonia became the first country in the world to hold elections over the Internet. The Internet is extremely valued in Estonia and the country now provides e-residency, which allows non-Estonians access to Estonian services like company formation, banking, payment processing, and taxation.
Fun fact: Estonia is the birthplace of Skype!