Today, 24 February, is the independence day of Estonia a country with a population of 1,331,824 citizens (source Estonia’s Census 2021)
A rough summary of Estonia’s development as a modern nation
Located to the south of Finland over the Gulf of Finland, to the West of Russia and the North of Latvia, Estonia has been threatened and fought over for centuries.
Estonia was mainly contested between the Imperial powers of Russia and Germany but Estonians continually denied the claims of both Russia and Germany to colonise their country and deny the right of Estonia to be an Independent state.
Estonia declared its independence at a few different times in history, and once again, in February 1918. To reinforce its claims Estonia joined the League of Nations on 22 September 1921 hoping that would confirm Estonia’s status as a free and independent state but, again, this was denied by Germany and Russia and so between 1940 and 1991 Estonia’s right to be an independent state was denied.
Independence for Estonia was restored on 20 August 1991 and this time the country was able to create and develop a viable and democratically run state. So much so that Estonia was warmly welcomed as a full member of the European Union on 1 May 2004.
Today, Estonia, the Baltic nation of just 1.3 million people has attracted the attention of world leaders, academics and venture capitalists thanks to its high-tech digital society. The numbers speak for themselves: taxes are completed online in less than 5 minutes, 99% of Estonia’s public services are available on the web 24 hours a day and 99% of schools had, before the Covid-19 crisis, been using some types of e-solutions. But how did Estonia become a new role model in digital education?
Once Estonia decided on a model of digital education a key initiative started in schools as Estonia pledged to put computers in every classroom, and by 2000, every school in the country was online. The government also offered free computer training to 10% of the adult population. The effort helped to raise the percentage of Estonians who use the internet from 29 per cent in 2000 to 91% in 2016.
Since 2014, Estonians have had a lifelong learning strategy in place that includes a digital transformation programme. The idea of the programme is to help develop the digital competencies of teachers and their students. IT-training courses and instructional materials helped to integrate digital technology into the learning process in order to develop digital competence throughout its whole population.
Another milestone was that Estonia set itself the goal of digitising all educational materials by and for people of all ages by 2015. The success of the digital transformation of the Estonian education system relies on thorough professional development and the training of teachers, lecturers and educational technologists.
In addition to teaching knowledge and skills in the digital field, Estonian education widely uses numerous smart solutions: digital databases, digital textbooks, e-learning materials, digital class diaries, digital assessments, not to mention various applications and programmes.
This educational development rubs off into their business world and the whole population, and the benefits are clear for all to see
International business in Estonia
Estonia takes the approach that when doing business in a foreign country it is necessary to be prepared to experience things that are different from your own culture. Without proper preparation and planning you may find yourself experiencing a culture shock, which can have a negative influence on the outcome of your business dealings. It is understandable that, as an active business person or business, you can only invest a limited amount of time into the exploration of these cultural differences so approaches to that learning must be smart, slick and effective.
The Baltic Sea Region is one of Europe’s fastest-expanding markets with more than 90 million people and Estonia is located at its heart. Since the end of the 1990s, Estonia has enjoyed a modern market-based economy as well as an income level per capita that is one of the highest in Eastern Europe.
Proximity to the Scandinavian countries, its geographical position between the East and West, a very competitive cost structure and a highly-skilled labour force have been Estonia’s major competitive advantages since the beginning of the new millennium. Tallinn, the capital has emerged as a financial centre. Estonia’s main exports are metals and chemical products, food products, textiles, wood and paper, machinery and associated equipment, and furniture.
In cultural terms Integration is one of the state’s main priorities in Estonian society. The aim is the creation of a balanced multicultural society through a two-way process. On the one hand, non-Estonians are integrated into a democratic open society and on the other, minority cultures are introduced to Estonians. This harmonises the society around a common core as well as providing the scope to maintain ethnic differences, founded on the recognition of ethnic minorities’ cultural rights. Integration is a bilateral process, meaning that both Estonians and non-Estonians, participate equally in the harmonisation of society.
Interestingly, it is widely accepted that Estonians see themselves more as Scandinavians and they are not very happy to be labelled as a Baltic state.
Some interesting/unusual facts about Estonia and what to look out for if you go there
- Estonia has over 2000 islands
- As one of the least densely populated countries in Europe, Estonia is a boon for nature lovers. Forest covers nearly 50% of the country, making Estonia one of Europe’s greenest countries
- Tallinn’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site
- No visit to Estonia is complete without some quality time spent admiring Tallinn’s Hanseatic heritage, which dates back to the 13th century. Its history clings to every inch of the city’s medieval façades.
- The country is home to an astounding array of well-preserved religious sites
- St Madeline’s Church in Ruhnu, is the country’s oldest wooden building. People find this particular building fascinating because it was fashioned entirely out of the wood from shipwrecked boats.
- St Olaf’s Church in Tallinn, is the world’s tallest building at the time of its construction and up until the early 17th century
- While Estonia is largely flat in terms of its landscape, its people are amongst the tallest in Europe.
- Estonia was the first country in the world to allow its citizens to vote online in 2005.