Estonia was first settled in 2,000 B.C. The name of Estonia occurs first in a form of Aestii in the first century A.D. by Tacitus. Estonia was an independent nation until the 13th century A.D. The Vikings passed through the territory in the ninth century. Estonia remained one of the last parts of medieval Europe to be Christianized. In 1193 the Pope Celestine III called for a crusade against the Baltics and the country was overrun by Danish and German knights (Teutonic Order) by 1220. The territory in this time was divided between the Livonian branch of the German knights, the Bishopric of Dorpat and the Bishopric of Oesel-Wiek. The situation oscillated many times until the Swedish kingdom took control of the majority of the country in 1561, after the Livonian War of the 1550s. Their rule lasted until 1710, resp. 1721 when Estonia was given over to the Russian empire through the Treaty of Nystadt. Russian ruled until 1918 when Estonian independence was asserted.
The Russians wished to have Estonia to secure a "window into the Baltic" for economic as well as strategic reasons. Estonian freedom lasted until 1940 when the country was retaken under the pretence of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Nazi Germany and the Stalinist regime. During the course of the war, Estonia fell under the occupation of Germany for three years. In 1944 Stalin retook the country, and the Iron Curtain was shut for the next fifty years. Estonia would not see independence again until 1991, the year the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended. Since the reestablishment of independence the nation has been rapidly transforming and adapting to the modern world. Today Estonia boasts the most successful economy of the former Soviet region. In May 2004 Estonia became a Member State of the EU, shortly after becoming a member of NATO.
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