Official name : Republic of Estonia
Area: 45,226 square kilometers (17,462 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Suur Munamāgi (318 meters/1,043 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern
Time zone: 2 P.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 350 kilometers (220 miles) from east to west; 240 kilometers (150 miles) from north to south
Land boundaries: 633 kilometers (392 miles) total boundary length; Latvia 339 kilometers (210 miles); Russia 294 kilometers (182 miles)
Coastline: 3,794 kilometers (2,352 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
Estonia is a country in northeastern Europe, located between Latvia and Russia and bordering the Gulf of Finland, the Baltic Sea, and the Gulf of Riga. With a total area of about 45,226 square kilometers (17,462 square miles), which includes about 1,520 islands in the Baltic Sea, the country is slightly smaller than the combined areas of the states of New Hampshire and Vermont. Estonia is divided into fifteen counties.
Estonia has no outside territories or dependencies.
Estonia's marine location keeps the climate moderate along the coast. Inland, temperatures are typically more extreme. Summers in Estonia are generally cool, with temperatures rarely exceeding 18°C (64°F). Winters are cold, with temperatures usually remaining below freezing from mid-December to late February. July and August are the wettest months. Precipitation is moderate, ranging from 48 to 69 centimeters (19 to 27 inches). The annual average precipitation is about 58 centimeters (23 inches). Rain and melting snow cause some flooding of rivers in the spring.
The smallest of the three Baltic states (the other two are Latvia and Lithuania), Estonia is a low, flat country with a hilly region in the southeast. It has a long, shallow coastline on the Baltic Sea, with many islands off the coast. Over a third of the country is forest. A wide variety of native birds and animals live in the wooded countryside of Estonia. The golden eagle, white-tailed eagle, spotted eagle, eagle owl, and black stork are all protected species; the European flying squirrel is a common sight in the Estonian forest.
The country is dotted with more than one thousand natural and artificial lakes. Estonia is located on the Eurasian Tectonic Plate.
The northwestern part of the country borders on the Baltic Sea, which is a part of the Atlantic Ocean. The rest of Estonia's coastline is on two major inlets of the Baltic: the Gulfs of Finland and Riga.
The Gulf of Finland reaches east about 400 kilometers (250 miles) between Finland on the north and Estonia and Russia on the south. Its width varies from 19 to 129 kilometers (12 to 80 miles), with the narrowest part at the eastern end.
The Gulf of Riga is found to the southwest of mainland Estonia, directly south of Estonia's major islands, with Latvia on the far shore. It is about 145 kilometers (90 miles) long from north to south, and ranges from 72 to 129 kilometers (45 to 80 miles) wide from east to west.
Narva Bay, at the northeastern edge of the country's coastline, links the Gulf of Finland with Lake Peipus to the south through the Narva River.
Pärnu Bay, on the southwest coast, is an inlet of the Gulf of Riga.
There are thousands of islands along Estonia's coastline. The largest islands lie west of the mainland. Saaremaa is the largest island, at 2,714 square kilometers (1,048 square miles). It lies between the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga. The Sõrve Peninsula extends off the southern end of the island, and is separated from Latvia by the Irben Strait. Raising livestock and tourism are the principal economic activities of this low-lying island.
Hiiumaa, the next-largest of Estonia's islands, measures 961 square kilometers (371 square miles) in area. It is located in the Baltic Sea, southwest of the entrance to the Gulf of Finland. The Soela Strait separates it from Saaremaa to the south. Its most distinctive feature is Cape Ristna, which projects off the western coast into the Baltic. Fishing and tourism are the island's chief industries. Many of its inhabitants are of Swedish descent.
The other islands are all much smaller. Vormsi and Muhu Islands lie between the larger islands and the Estonian mainland. Arbuka, Kihnu, and Ruhnu Islands are in the Gulf of Riga.
The two largest lakes are Lake Peipus on the eastern border with Russia and Lake Võrts (Võrtsjarv) in south-central Estonia. Lake Peipus covers 3,520 square kilometers (1,360 square miles). A long, narrow channel connects it on the south with the smaller Lake Pskov, which lies mostly within Russian territory. Lake Peipus is drained on the north by the Narva River, which flows into the Gulf of Finland. Fishing is the chief industry. Lake Peipus is navigable for about eight months of the year. Lake Võrts's area is 270 square kilometers (105 square miles).
The Pärnu is the longest river in Estonia at 144 kilometers (89 miles) long. It flows southwest, emptying into the Gulf of Riga at Pärnu Bay. Other important rivers include the Ema in the southeast and the Narva, which forms the country's northeastern border with Russia.
There are no desert regions in Estonia.
While Estonia is a flat country, much of its area is forested or marshy. Approximately 25 percent of the land (9,260 square kilometers/ 3,575 square miles) is considered arable, but with no permanent crops. Permanent pastures (1,810 square kilometers/699 square miles) comprise 11 percent of land use. About 110 square kilometers (68 square miles) of land is irrigated for crop production.
About 44 percent of Estonia's area consists of forests and woodlands. Meadows cover about 2,520 square kilometers (973 square miles). Tree species are chiefly pine, birch, aspen, and fir. Wildlife includes elk, deer, and wild boar. Beaver, red deer, and willow grouse have been protected by legislation because of their dwindling numbers.
Estonia is mostly a low-lying plain, but there are some modest hills in the central and southern regions, known as the Pandivere, Otepää, and Haanja Uplands. The country's highest point, Suur Munamägi (318 meters/ 1,043 feet), is in the extreme southeast corner of the country near the Russian border.
Along the north coast is an area of slightly elevated limestone known as the Glint. There, waterfalls as high as 56 meters (185 feet) tumble down the exposed limestone cliffs.
The hills and other uplands of Estonia are not high enough to be considered mountains, and there are no volcanoes in the country.
Humans created most of the larger caves in Estonia. The Piusa Glass Sand Caves, located near Tartu, are a series of eight caves that were dug into hills of Devonian sandstone, which is a sedimentary deposit formed in the Devonian Era about 360 to 408 million years ago. This sand was found to be highly suitable for making glass, but mining operations ceased some time ago. Now, the caves serve as a hibernation site for what is considered by naturalists to be the largest bat colony in the Baltic countries.
There are no plateau regions or monoliths in Estonia.
A hydroelectric power plant was built in 1956 near the city of Narva, on the Narva River. This dam created the artificial reservoir now known as Lake Narva.
The region known as the Baltic States includes the independent nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, all of which line the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea. Finland and Sweden, two other countries which also touch the Baltic Sea, are generally included in the region known as Scandinavia.
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Pettai, Vello A. "Estonia: Old Maps and New Roads." Journal of Democracy , Vol. 4, No. 1, January 1993, 117-125.
Vesiland, Priit J. "The Baltic Nations." National Geographic , November 1990, 2-37.
Estonia: Estonian Tourist Board. http://www.visitestonia.com (accessed May, 2003).