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Is Estonia Nordic? 1

Is Estonia Nordic? Where is Estonia, anyway?

Estonia is a place that many people have heard of, but few know much about. So, where is Estonia? And, is Estonia Nordic? Let’s find out…

Located in North Eastern Europe, Estonia is the northernmost of a selection of three Baltic states: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. 

Situated on the Baltic Sea, Estonia covers around 1,500 islands and miniature islands, with the largest including Hiiumaa and Saaremaa. 

As a part of Northern Europe, Estonia is a confusing space for a lot of people. Some believe that it should form part of the Nordic region, while others keep Estonia separated under the “Baltic” title. 

With so much diverse history to consider, it’s challenging to determine what categories Estonia falls into. You may even struggle to answer the question: “Where is Estonia?”

Today, we’re going to help you learn a little more about Estonia, whether it’s a Nordic region, and how close it is to Scandinavia. 

Is Estonia a Nordic country?

Over the years, various foreign powers have led Estonia. In 1940, it was part of the U.S.S.R as a constituent republic. 

In 1991, Estonia declared its independence from the Soviet republic. The Soviet Union recognized the independence of the country in 1991, and the UN followed suit. 

In 2004, Estonia officially joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, along with the European Union.

Estonia is very close geographically to Finland and has even been a part of the Danish and Swedish kingdom in the past. There is still a small minority of Swedish people living in Western Estonia, on the island of Ormso. 

There are also plenty of Estonians that learn Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, and Danish too. 

Between 161 and 1710, parts of present-day Estonia were under Swedish rule. 

Following the breakup of the State of the Teutonic Order, the Baltic German group in various areas of Estonia asked for protection from the Swedish King. 

This lead to Sweden’s involvement in the Livonian War. At the conclusion of the hostilities in the early 1580s, Sweden gained control of the northern parts of Estonia, as well as Hiiumaa island (which is now part of Estonia). 

The locations were incorporated into Sweden after wars between Poland and Sweden. Denmark also ceded ownership of Saaremaa to Sweden too. 

Estonia’s time under Swedish rule ended in 1710 when all of the Swedish Baltic Provinces were capitulated to Russian troops in the later stages of the Great Northern War. 

Despite considerable changes in leadership over the decades, there are still some professionals who believe that Estonians should still be a part of the Nordic nations. 

Is Estonia part of Scandinavia?

The Scandinavian region features Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. In some cases, maps will also include Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and even Greenland too. 

Estonia doesn’t belong to Scandinavia, but it does have a close link to the Nordic countries, like Denmark and Norway. 

As a “Baltic” country, Estonia has many links with Scandinavian regions, through cultural, political, economic, and historical ties. 

A regular political dialogue and cooperative language is common between the Nordic and Baltic countries, and around 55% of Estonians also classify themselves as “Nordic” in some cases. 

Unlike Scandinavia, where connections between countries often center around geographical location, Nordic countries formed their Nordic Council based on a shared culture and history

At this time, Estonia was occupied by the USSR, which left the country out of the conversation. 

Many historians agree that if Estonia hadn’t lost its independence in the second World War, it may have been an undisputed region of the Nordic countries. 

Although Estonia does have a lot of connections with Soviet history, there’s also a lot of shared history between Estonia and Finnish people, as well as Germanic ancestry. 

For instance, here are some quick examples of Estonia’s similarities with other Nordic countries. 

  • Estonia used to be a part of Sweden from the 1500s to the 1700s. Before that, Estonia was part of Denmark between the 1200s and 1300s. Over all, the country has more than 279 years under the rule of Scandinavian countries, which is far more time than it has spent under Russian and Soviet occupation. 
  • Some people in Estonia still speak Swedish, and the time of Swedish rule is sometimes referenced as the “good old Swedish times”, which indicates the general attitude towards Scandinavia in the region. 
  • The Danish flag originates from Estonia according to some legends. All of the Nordic cross flags are derived from the same design. The Estonia Nordic flag would easily identify it as a Nordic country in some regions. Additionally, Estonia’s Coat of Arms comes from the Danish Coat of Arms in the 13th century. 
  • Around 15% of the words appearing in Estonia today are from Germanic origin. Many words also come from Old Norse, Swedish, Finnish, and various other Baltic languages. 

Estonians even call themselves põhjamaalased, which means “Northern People”. Another translation of the same word would also come out as “Nordic People”. As the term often translates to “Nordic” instead of Northern. 

Where is Estonia?

The country of Estonia sits in the region of Northeastern Europe, jutting into the Baltic Sea, which surrounds the country on the west and North. To the East, Estonia has the boundaries of Russia, and the Narva River, as well as Lakes Peipus. 

On the south, Estonia shares a border with Latvia. 

Estonia is full of rivers which actually flow into the Gulf of Finland and through to the Gulf of Riga and Lake Peipus. Like much of the Nordic region, the temperature climate of Estonia can get quite cold. 

However, there are some humid patterns too. 

The western and northern coastal areas tend to be milder than the inland regions, while the southern and eastern regions have a more continental climate. 

According to the United Nations, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania (the Baltic Countries), are all Northern European countries — not Eastern European. 

The UN also classify other Northern European countries as:

  • The United Kingdom
  • Sweden
  • Norway
  • Lithuania
  • Latvia
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland

Estonia’s inclusion in the list of Northern European countries separates it from Russia, which is an Eastern European country. 

Because the United Nations classifies Estonia alongside other Nordic Countries like Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, many experts believe this gives weight to the idea that Estonia is an Eastern country. 

Many of international experts have argued for decades that the country is Nordic but hasn’t received any official clarification about this yet. 

Is Estonia more Nordic than Soviet?

As mentioned above, Estonia has a lot in common with other Nordic countries. The country still has Swedish minorities living in the region, and Estonia’s citizens frequently speak Danish and Swedish, as well as the standard language of Estonian. 

Estonians are also well-known for their use of the Runic calendar, which is another thing they share with Nordic countries in Northern Europe. 

Even some of the traditions of the Scandinavian and Nordic regions make their way over into Estonia. 

For instance, Estonians celebrate Midsummer Day, and they like to drink mulled wine at Christmas, a day they often refer to as Yule. 

Estonians also love to cross ski and visit saunas, which give them a lot of close connections to Norway and similar regions. 

There are plenty of connections between Estonia and Russia too, however. 

For example, Russia’s people are often very patient, which is similar in Estonia. Both citizens rarely protest against injustice, as they prefer to see what happens. Russians and Estonians however, also have a habit of complaining when they see things that they don’t like. 

For now, the argument about whether Estonia is more of a Nordic country than a Soviet one is something that still causes a lot of division in social circles. 

With many of the Estonian locals classing themselves as Nordic, there’s always a chance that the country will eventually apply for the UN to classify it as Nordic too. 

Learning about the Nordic countries

Just as many people struggle to identify Scandinavian countries at times, and which locations actually belong to Scandinavia, there are also countless people who have a hard time identifying which countries are officially “Nordic”. 

The Nordic region is made up largely of Northern European countries, like Estonia, but the Nordic council classifies these countries based on a shared history and culture. 

Maybe one day Estonia will join the Nordic community based on its history with other Scandinavian regions. 

Or perhaps it will always be in a region of its own, with the other “Baltic” countries. 

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