Estonia lies along the Baltic Sea, just below Finland. Tallinn, Estonia’s capital city is only about 40 miles south of Helsinki, across the Gulf of Finland. Sweden is Estonia’s Western neighbour across the Baltic Sea, Russia lies in the east and Latvia in the south. Estonia is 45 226 km2, which is divided into 15 counties.
Estonian fauna is relatively young as it evolved only after the last glacial period. As in the case of flora, among the animals inhabiting Estonia there are many rare and endangered species, some of them relics of colder climatic periods of the past. Estonia is one of the richest countries in the world in forests, which cover 50% of the territory. Estonia likewise other Baltic States have mainly flat landscape – over 60% of the country’s territory lies at an absolute height of 0 to 50 metres and only one tenth has an elevation over 100 metres above sea level. The influence of the maritime location can be observed in virtually every aspect of Estonian nature.
The country has 3794 km of coastline, 2540 km of it on the islands. The land border, in comparison, is mere 633 km. The coast varies from the sheer limestone cliff in the North to sandy beaches and shelving coastal meadows in the West.
There are some 1 450 natural and man-made lakes in Estonia (6.1% of the nation’s territory). Birds were probably the first creatures to arrive in Estonia after the last glacial period. Since then, Estonia forms an important link in a migratory track of a variety of Arctic water birds flying every spring northwards to their nesting places and every autumn back to their southern wintering areas.
Estonia’s population is 1 340 600 inhabitants (2008) of which 69% are Estonians, 26% Russians and the rest Ukrainians, Belorussians, Finnish etc. Estonian capital Tallinn has about 400 445 (2006) inhabitants, of which 54% Estonians, 37% Russians and the rest of the other nationalities. It is not exactly known when was Tallinn founded – the location probably attracted attention as a suitable port area long before first written sources mention a settlement there. The early history of Tallinn begins from suburban Iru, where a castle together with a nearby settlement was built in the end of the first millennium. In the Middle Ages Tallinn, similarly with Riga, was an important Hanseatic trading town.
The old town of Tallinn belongs to the UNESCO’s list of the world’s most important cultural and natural sites.