Backgrounder: Key facts about Estonia

20:41, December 31, 2010      

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Estonia will become the 17th European Union (EU) country to adopt the euro on Saturday, at a time when the euro zone is still mired in a debt crisis. Following are basic facts about the Baltic state.

The Republic of Estonia, located in the Baltic Region of northern Europe, is bordered to the east by Russia, to the south by Latvia, to the north by Finland across the Gulf of Finland, and to the west by Sweden across the Baltic Sea.

The country covers an area of about 45,000 square kilometers and has a population of some 1.34 million.

Estonians constitute a majority of the country's population. Minority ethnic groups include Russians and immigrants from Ukraine and Belarus. Estonian is the official language but English and Russian are also widely used in the country.

The capital Tallinn, located on the northwestern coast, used to be an important transit center in the medieval period. Tallinn is also the biggest port city of Estonia.

In history, Estonia had once been occupied and ruled by Prussia, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Germany and Russia. Estonia declared independence on Feb. 24, 1918 but was brought into the Soviet Union in July 1940. On Aug. 20, 1991, Estonia declared independence again.

Since then, Estonia has carried out market reforms and free trade policies. In 1994, it became one of the first countries to adopt zero tariff.

Joining the EU in 2004, Estonia has also become one of the strongest economies of the new member states of the bloc.

In recent years, the Estonian economy has been growing with admirable rates. In 2009, the country's GDP registered 19.1 billion U.S. dollars, or, 14,238 dollars per capita.

Source: Xinhua
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