Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Estonians are related to the Finns and have a similar history—first Swedish domination,
then Russian (1710-1918), and finally independence after World War I. In 1940, Estonians
were at least as affluent and as advanced as the Finns, but they could not preserve their in-
dependence from Soviet expansion during World War II. As a result, Estonia sank into a
50-year communist twilight from which it is still emerging. In 2004, Estonia took a signi-
ficant step forward when it joined the European Union. Estonia switched its currency from
the krooni to the euro in January of 2011.
Estonia will always face both West, across the Baltic; and East, into the Russian hinter-
lands. After the Cold War, the pendulum has swung further West. EU membership seemed
like a natural step to many Estonians; they already thought of themselves as part of the Nord-
ic world. Language, history, religion, and twice-hourly ferry departures connect Finns and
Estonians. Only 50 miles separate Helsinki and Tallinn, and Stockholm is just an overnight
boat ride away. Finns visit Tallinn to eat, drink, and shop more cheaply than at home. While
some Estonians resent how Tallinn becomes a Finnish nightclub on summer weekends, most
people on both sides are happy to have friendly new neighbors.
One problematic legacy of the Soviet experience is Estonia's huge Russian population.
Most Estonian Russians' parents and grandparents were brought to Estonia in the 1950s and
1960s to work in now-defunct factories in Tallinn and the northeastern cities. Twenty-five
percent of Estonia's population is now ethnically Russian. Making Russians feel at home in
Estonia while building a distinctly Estonian culture and identity is one of independent Esto-
nia's biggest challenges. In 2007, Tallinn made international headlines when it controver-
sially relocated a giant “Liberation Monument” depicting a WWII-era Russian soldier (as
well as actual remains of Soviet soldiers) from the city center to a cemetery on the outskirts
of town. This sparked protests in both Tallinn and Moscow. In retaliation, Estonia suffered
a flurry of cyber attacks in which many of its governmental, political, and business websites
were crippled. Many of the attacks originated within Russia, leading some to allege that the
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