Estonia (Estonian: Eesti [ˈeːsʲti] (About this soundlisten)), officially the Republic of Estonia (Estonian: Eesti Vabariik), is a country on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland across from Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea across from Sweden, to the south by Latvia (343 km), and to the east by Lake Peipus and Russia (338.6 km). The territory of Estonia consists of the mainland and of 2,222 islands in the Baltic Sea, covering a total area of 45,227 km2 (17,462 sq mi), water 2,839 km2 (1,096 sq mi), land area 42,388 km2 (16,366 sq mi), and is influenced by a humid continental climate. Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, and Tartu are the largest cities and urban areas in the country. Other notable cities include Narva, Pärnu, Kohtla-Järve and Viljandi. The official language of the country, Estonian, is the second-most-spoken Finnic language.
The territory of Estonia has been inhabited since at least 9,000 BC. Ancient Estonians became some of the last European pagans to adopt Christianity following the Livonian Crusade in the 13th century. After centuries of successive rule by Germans, Danes, Swedes, Poles and Russians, a distinct Estonian national identity began to emerge in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This culminated in independence from Russia in 1920 after a brief War of Independence at the end of World War I. Initially democratic prior to the Great Depression, Estonia experienced authoritarian rule from 1934 during the Era of Silence. During World War II (1939–1945), Estonia was repeatedly contested and occupied by the Soviet Union and Germany, ultimately being incorporated into the former. After the loss of its de facto independence, Estonia's de jure state continuity was preserved by diplomatic representatives and the government-in-exile. In 1987 the peaceful Singing Revolution began against Soviet rule, resulting in the restoration of de facto independence on 20 August 1991.
The sovereign state of Estonia is a democratic unitary parliamentary republic divided into fifteen counties. With a population of 1.3 million Estonia is one of the least populous members of the European Union, the Eurozone, the OECD, the Schengen Area, NATO, and from 2020, the United Nations Security Council.
Estonia is a developed country with an advanced, high-income economy that was among the fastest-growing in the EU since its entry in 2004 The country ranks very high in the Human Development Index, and compares well in measures of economic freedom, civil liberties, education, and press freedom. Estonian citizens receive universal health care, free education, and the longest paid maternity leave in the OECD. One of the world's most digitally-advanced societies, in 2005 Estonia became the first state to hold elections over the Internet, and in 2014, the first state to provide e-residency.more » « less