Area: 45,227 km²

Coastline: 3,794 km

Land Borders: 343 km with Latvia and 338.6 km with the Russian Federation

Distance from Tallinn to Helsinki: 85 km; to Riga: 307 km; to St.Petersburg: 395 km; to Stockholm: 405 km

Type: Parliamentary Democracy

Head of State: President Toomas Hendrik Ilves

Head of Government: Prime Minister Andrus ANSI

Administrative regions: 15 counties

Estonia, officially the Republic of Estonia (Estonian: Eesti or Eesti Vabariik) is a country in Northern Europe. Estonia has land borders to the south with Latvia and to the east with Russia. It is separated from Finland in the north by the Gulf of Finland and from Sweden in the west by the Baltic Sea.

Estonia has been a member of the European Union since 1 May 2004 and of NATO since 29 March 2004.

With an area of 45,000 sq. km, Estonia is larger than, for example, Slovenia, Holland, Denmark or Switzerland. Estonia stretches 350 km from east to west and 240 km from north to south. Sea islands form one tenth and lakes about one twentieth of Estonia’s territory. Conversely, Estonia’s population ranks amongst the smallest in the world. As of January 2000, an estimated 1,361,242 people live in Estonia — a density of only 30.2 people per sq. km.

Tallinn is Estonia’s capital. Approximately a third of the nation’s population (398,434) live in Tallinn. The other larger cities in descending order are: the university town of Tartu (101,140 inhabitants), the industrial border town of Narva (68,117), and the summer capital of Pärnu (45,040), a popular vacation destination on the south western coast, where summer air and water temperatures can reach those of the Mediterranean region. The closest major city to Tallinn is the Finnish capital Helsinki, located at a distance of 85 km on the opposite shore of the Gulf of Finland. Riga is only one day’s drive away (307 km). It’s also a relatively short trip to St Petersburg (395 km) and Stockholm (405 km).

As in other northern countries, seasons vary widely in Estonia. The length of the longest day in summer is over 19 hours, while the shortest winter day lasts only six hours. However, due to the influence of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf Stream, the weather in Estonia is considerably milder than the continental climate characteristic of the same latitude. The temperature in the summer months (June–September) is typically 15 to 18º C; in winter, –4 to –5º C. Estonian weather offers many surprises. Temperatures may fluctuate by 20º C; in the early morning the thermometer might read –12º C and by afternoon it may already be 10º C. The sky over Estonia is cloudy for about half the year, and the hilly southeast region experiences up to 750 mm of precipitation due to Estonia’s maritime climate.

Seven thousand rivers and streams carry rainwater to the sea, while bogs and wooded swamplands cover over one fifth of the country — a world index topped only by the northern neighbour, Finland. Various kinds of forests comprise slightly under half of Estonia’s territory. Wetlands, together with primeval forests, represent preserved communities which have for the most part been destroyed in Europe. More than 1,000 lakes (5 % of the Estonian territory) dot the countryside, which is relatively flat. Almost two thirds of the territory lies less than 50 m above sea level with the highest point being Suur Munamägi which is 317 m above sea level, in the southeast of the country.

Estonia is the home of several mammals as well as plant species that are extinct or very rare in other parts of Europe. About 10% of the Estonian territory is subject to environment protection. The most important protection areas are resting and recreation areas for migratory birds, mainly seashore wetlands, and chaste woodland and wetland areas.