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Estonia

Driving Directions Estonia

ESTONIA is a low-lying republic in northeastern Europe bounded by the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea in the north and west, Russia in the east and Latvia in the south. Estonia is a former constituent republic of the USSR and consists largely of a marshy, undulating plain with numerous forests, lakes, wetlands and offshore islands. The largest of the islands, Saaremaa and Hiiumaa, lies across the mouth of the Gulf of Riga. The largest lakes are Peipus, which straddles the Russian border, and Vorts-Jarv in the southern central part of the country. Numerous rivers and streams drain the country, including the Narva, which runs along the border with Russia, and the Párnu.

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Almost one-quarter of Estonia is forested, mainly with coniferous species such as firs and pine but also some birch, aspen, and oak. There is a good variety of wild animals, including beaver, elk and wild boar and birds, especially wetland species. The republic has a temperate climate, but inland it becomes more continental.

The summers are generally warm to hot, and the winters can be very cold with plenty of snow. Precipitation falls all year but is most plentiful in late summer and autumn. About 62 percent of the people of the republic are Estonians, who are closely related to the Finns, and the second largest group are Russians, making up about 30 percent of the population. Over 70 percent of the population live in cities, towns or urban areas and this is particularly true of the Russians who are mainly employed in industrial centers.

Agriculture is very important in Estonia, with the raising of livestock, particularly dairy cattle and pigs, being the prime activity. Crops grown include oats and rye, vegetables, especially potatoes, and flax. The forests provide valuable sawn timber and raw materials for paper, pulp and furniture-making. The country has a modest marine and freshwater fishing industry. Estonia has significant reserves of high-quality oil shale and some deposits of phosphorus.

The oil shale is mined and processed to provide fuel, gas, electricity and petrochemicals. Peat deposits are substantial and supply some of the electric power stations. Most industries are based in the north and the manufacturing industry includes the production of light machinery, electronic equipment, electrical goods, vehicle parts, textiles (flax, wool), leather and wooden goods, furniture and foods. The economy is currently undergoing a major transformation to a free market system. Tourism and investment from the West have greatly contributed to the country’s economy.

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