Development of a Nation
How Estonia became Estonia,
and how the Estonians became Estonian.
Estonians as a people, and the country of Estonia as a nation-state,
evolved and materialized into current form, in terms of ancestral
bloodlines, the Estonian language, borders, culture, and even how they
received their name.
Development of Language
Formation of Borders
Etymology (How Name Received)
Estonia in 2008
Peoples migrating from the Ural Mountains in
modern Russia settled around the Gulf of Finland around 4000 BC,
becoming the ancient ancestors to Finnish and Estonian peoples. From this
location, they gradually began to move northwest into modern
Finland. Those that separated to the south of the Gulf of Finland
became the ancestors to modern Estonians.
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Development of Estonian Language:
- The Proto-Uralic family of languages (~ 5000
BC) originated in the Ural Mountains in Russia. This may or may not
Proto-Indo-European family language.
- The Uralic family of languages branched from
the Proto-Uralic around 4000 BC, representing a slight change.
- The Finno-Ugric branch develops around 3000
BC, west of Ural Mountains, as speakers of this language cover much
of the European portion of northern Russia.
- The Baltic-Finnic language breaks off from
Finno-Ugric around 3000 BC, as Uralic peoples subdivide into a
northern group (ancestors to modern Finns and Estonians) and a
southern group (ancestors to modern Hungarians). Spoken by Uralic
peoples that continued to migrate west from Ural Mountain region,
now gathered around Gulf of Finland.
- Around 2000 BC, as some from this Baltic-Finnic
group migrate northwest into modern Finland, as part of the group
migrates northwest (into modern Finland), and another part to the
southwest (modern Estonia), their respective languages diverge from
one another, forming the basis for the modern Finnish and Estonian
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Formation of Estonian Borders:
the 2nd millennia BC, the Finnic people had broken off
from the Baltic-Finno peoples in modern Estonia, migrating northwest
into modern Finland. The Finns that settle in this region become the
earliest forefathers to the modern Finland nation. Those that remain
behind become the forefathers to the modern nation of Estonia,
as they spread to the south of the Gulf of Finland into the
region comprising modern Estonia. Those living in this area
approximating modern Estonia would remain a loosely affiliated
group, geographically separated from their cousins to the north
(Finnish), and culturally separated from Slavs to the east and
the Baltic peoples to the south. Their ancient organization was
based on parishes (comprised of several villages) and counties (comprised
of multiple parishes).
- In 1193, the Pope issued a papal bull
(decree) to commence the Northern Crusades to bring pagan
Northern Europeans (modern Estonia and Latvia in particular) to
Christianity. By 1219, Denmark conquered the northern portion of
Estonia, while the Livonian Order (Germanic Catholic order of
knightly priests, also know as Teutonic Knights) conquered the
In 1346, Denmark sold the rebellious
Estonian provinces to the Livonian Order (a.k.a. Teutonic
Knights), giving the Order control over all of Estonia.
- Russia attempted to gain Baltic access,
invading the Livonian Order in 1558. Denmark, Sweden, Lithuania
and Poland joined the Order to restrain Russia. The Livonian
Order/Teutonic Knights are wiped out in disastrous defeats to
Russia in battle in 1560, ceding its Estonian territory to
Lithuania (Duchy of Livonia), Sweden (the northern portion), and
Denmark (island of Osel), which collectively went on to defeat
Russia. This marked the end of the Livonian Order, and the
Teutonic Knights outside of the Holy Roman Empire.
the Polish-Swedish War of 1625 – 1629 (battle for supremacy
along the southern Baltic coast), Sweden gained Livonia,
consisting of southern portion of Estonia, along with northern
Latvia. Now all of Estonia was under Sweden rule.
- In Great Northern War (1700-21, battle
over supremacy of Baltic Sea), Russia defeated Sweden, gaining
all of Estonia.
- With the Russian Revolution in 1917,
during World War I, Estonia declared independence, which was
recognized by Russia’s provisional government during Russian
Civil War. Germans occupied Estonia in 1918 as part of WWI, but
withdrew upon their defeat and surrender that same year. With
the communists firmly in control of Russia by 1918, they deemed
the ceding of Estonia by the provisional government as invalid.
Consequently, they moved in to retake Estonia in 1918, but were
driven out by the Estonians by 1920, establishing an independent
Estonia, with its current borders.
As part of a secret pact between Nazi
Germany and the USSR in 1939, the USSR claimed control over
various Eastern European nations, including Estonia, under the
agreement that Nazi would not interfere (as USSR would not
interfere with German annexation of various central European
nations). The USSR moved in to occupy Estonia in 1940, during
World War II. In betrayal of the secret pact, Nazi Germany began
its invasion of Russia in 1941, occupying Estonia in 1941. When
the Red Army had the Nazis retreating a few years later, it
reoccupied Estonia in 1944. Upon the defeat of the Nazis in
WWII, the Soviets refused to withdraw from Estonia, establishing
the Estonia SSR (Soviet Socialist Republic), as part of the
Upon the collapse of the USSR, Estonia declared independence in
1990, becoming officially sovereign as the Republic of Estonia
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Etymology (How Name Received):
Based on the Germanic word for “Eastern Way”, referring to the fact
that the land of modern Estonia was to the east of the German lands.
The name would have probably been given around the times of the
Since the Crusade period of the Middle Ages, Estonia has largely
been under foreign rule, which has impacted its cultural
characteristics accordingly, taking on elements of German, Swedish
and Russian culture. But Estonians have had to fight to maintain
their identity and distinct culture, as foreign powers have
attempted to eradicate Estonian language and culture. Stubbornly,
Estonians have maintained their pre-Crusades language, culture and
Estonia in 2008:
Economy: Modern, free-market
economy. Has made tremendous economic progress since independence from
USSR in 1991. High per capita income levels for central/eastern Europe.
Experiencing inflation since 2007. Limited resources, but strategic
location enables it to be a transportation hub.
Government: Democratic Republic
Religion: Evangelical Lutheran 13.6%, Orthodox 12.8%, mostly
unaffiliated/unspecified. Comprehensive statistics/info not available.
Demographics: Estonian 67.9%, Russian 25.6% (long-time under
Russian rule), most of remainder other East Slav/European.
Foreign Policy: Since independence, close cooperation with other
European nations (especially to the west, and Nordic countries) has been
a key objective, as evident by joining the EU and NATO. Like Finland,
wary of a powerful Russian state, due to centuries of unwanted
rule/domination by Russia. Geopolitically vulnerable to Russia, due to
long, hard-to-defend border with Russia (easy to transport troops
across, no natural barriers), and low population density.
Population: 1,307,605 (2008)
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