Newly independent in 1918, Estonia was occupied and annexed in 1940 by the Soviet Union. It was occupied by German troops the following year. When the Soviet army returned in 1944, more than 60,000 Estonians fled to Sweden and Germany. Other Estonians were sent to Soviet labor camps. Many Russians migrated to Estonia under Soviet rule. Some left after Estonia became independent again.
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Estonia has suffered from waves of transit migration. As of 1999, ethnic Estonians represent only 65% of the total population of Estonia. Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarussians represent nearly 33%, and other groups comprise the remaining 2%. Only 70% of inhabitants are citizens of Estonia, mainly the ethnic Estonians and about 100,000 Russians. Some 90,000 Russians with permanent residence in Estonia are citizens of the Russian Federation. These large ethnic minorities live segregated from ethnic Estonians and tend not to understand the Estonian language. In 2000 the net migration rate was -8.0 migrants per 1,000 population. The total number of migrants living in Estonia in that year was 365,000, approximately one-quarter of the population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.