Saturday, May 18, 2013

Surprising Estonia

My ignorance of Estonia knows no bounds.

* I thought it was south of Sweden. It's east.
* I thought it was east of the other Baltic states, Latvia and Lithuania. It's north.
* I thought it was west of St. Petersburg, Russia. At least I was right about that.

I knew nothing about its history, size, ethnic make up. I still don't know much, despite what I've learned in the past few days.

It has a rich history going back to the 14th century though it only became an independent nation in about 1920. Prior to that it was overrun by the Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Russia, not necessarily in that order and often several times. Their independence from Russia of 1920 was cut short when the Russians moved in again in 1940, only to be pushed out by the Germans in 1941 before returning in 1945 to absorb the Republic of Estonia into the USSR.

Finally, in 1991, a peaceful revolution took place as the USSR was coming apart and Estonia became independent once again. Now they are a part of the EU and NATO.

They are a small nation, about the size of Belgium, with only a small army and an air force with no planes. Their total population is only 1.4 million, with about 425,000 in their largest city, Tallinn. Given their strategic location and small size their best defense from a foreign invasion would be speed bumps at the border. So they enjoy their NATO and EU relationships.

Are they Scandinavian, European or what? Their smart, style and architecture reflect their close ties with Finland and Sweden but even the Estonians are not sure how to describe themselves. They are often referred to as one of the Baltic states

Thus endeth the geography and history lesson.

One thing we do know. They are a very friendly people who have burst to life since coming out from under the Soviet yoke. Tallinn's picturesque old town and vibrant downtown reflect that new look and attitude and they welcome visitors.

We are fortunate to be here.


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