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Nationality: Noun and adjective--Estonian(s).
Population: 1.367 million.
Annual growth rate: 0.4%. Birth rate--9.3/1,000. Death rate--13.6/1,000. Migration--616 persons (1999). Density--30/sq. km. Urban dwellers--70%.
Ethnic groups: Estonians 65%, Russians 28%, Ukrainians 2.5%, Belarusians 1.4%, Finns 0.9%, other 2.2%.
Religions: Lutheran, the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox, subordinated to Constantinople, the Estonian Orthodox, subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate, Baptist.
Languages: Estonian (official).
Education: Years compulsory--9. Attendance--218,600 students at 550 schools, plus 50,800 university students. Literacy--98.2%. Health: Infant mortality rate--8.4 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy--65 yrs. men, 76 yrs. women.
Work force: 704,500.
The name "Eesti," or Estonia, is derived from the word "Aestii," the name given by the ancient Germans to the peoples living northeast of the Vistula River. The Roman historian Tacitus in 98 A.D. was the first to mention the "Aestii" people, and early Scandinavians called the land south of the Gulf of Finland "Eistland," and the people "eistr." Estonians belong to the Balto-Finnic group of the Finno-Ugric peoples, as do the Finns and Hungarians. Archaeological research supports the existence of human activity in the region as early as 8,000 BC but by 3,500 BC the principal ancestors of the Estonians had arrived from the east.
Estonians have strong ties to the Nordic countries today stemming from strong cultural and religious influences gained over centuries during Scandinavian colonization and settlement. This highly literate society places strong emphasis upon education, which is free and compulsory until age 16. The first book in Estonian was printed in 1525. About 20% of population belongs to the following churches registered in Estonia: Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, Estonian Orthodox Church subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate, Baptist Church, Roman Catholic Church, and others.
From 1945-1989 the percentage of ethnic Estonians in Estonia dropped from 94% to 61%, caused primarily by the Soviet program promoting mass immigration of urban industrial workers from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, as well as by wartime emigration and Stalin's mass deportations and executions.
Written with the Latin alphabet, Estonian is the language of the Estonian people and the official language of the country. One-third of the standard vocabulary is derived from adding suffixes to root words. The oldest known examples of written Estonian originate in 13th century chronicles. During the Soviet era, the Russian language was imposed for official use.