Laulupidu 2011 - Põhjamaa.jpg
Estonian Song Festival 2011, in Tallinn
Total population
c. 1.1 million
Regions with significant populations
 Estonia 905,677[1]
Other significant population centers:
 Finland 49,590[lower-alpha 1][2]
 United States 27,113[3]
 Sweden 25,509[4]
 Canada 24,000[5]
 Russia 17,875[6]
 Australia 7,543[7]
 Germany 6,286[8]
 Norway 5,092[9]
 United Kingdom 3,400[10]
 Ukraine 2,868[11]
 Ireland 2,560[12]
 Belgium 2,000[13]
 Latvia 1,882[14]
 Denmark 1,606[15]
 Netherlands 1,482[16]
 France 686[17]
 Iceland 111[18]

Estonian, Võro, Seto


Majority irreligious
Historically Protestant Christian (Lutheranism)[19][20]
Currently Lutheran and Orthodox Christian minority

Related ethnic groups

other Baltic Finns

Estonians (Estonian: eestlased) are a Finnic ethnic group native to Estonia who speak the Estonian language.

History[edit | edit source]

Prehistoric roots[edit | edit source]

Estonia was first inhabited about 10,000 years ago, just after the Baltic ice lake had retreated from Estonia. While it is not certain what languages were spoken by the first settlers, it is often maintained that speakers of early Uralic languages related to modern Estonian had arrived in what is now Estonia by about 5,000 years ago.[21] Living in the same area for more than 5,000 years would put the ancestors of Estonians among the oldest permanent inhabitants in Europe.[22] On the other hand, some recent linguistic estimations suggest that Fenno-Ugrian language arrived around the Baltic Sea considerably later, perhaps during the Early Bronze Age (ca. 1800 BCE).[23][24]

The oldest known endonym of the Estonians is Maarahvas.[25] Eesti, the modern endonym of Estonia, is thought to be derived from the word Aestii, the name given by the ancient Germanic people to the Baltic people living northeast of the Vistula River. The Roman historian Tacitus in 98 AD was the first to mention the "Aestii" people, and early Scandinavians called the land south of the Gulf of Finland "Eistland" (Eistland is also the current word in Icelandic for Estonia), and the people "eistr". Proto-Estonians (as well as other speakers of the Finnish language group) were also called Chuds (чудь) in Old East Slavic chronicles.

The Estonian language belongs to the Finnic branch of the Uralic family of languages, as does the Finnish language. The first known book in Estonian was printed in 1525, while the oldest known examples of written Estonian originate in 13th-century chronicles.

National consciousness[edit | edit source]

Although Estonian national consciousness spread in the course of the 19th century during the Estonian national awakening,[26] some degree of ethnic awareness preceded this development.[27] By the 18th century the self-denomination eestlane spread among Estonians along with the older maarahvas.[25] Anton thor Helle's translation of the Bible into Estonian appeared in 1739, and the number of books and brochures published in Estonian increased from 18 in the 1750s to 54 in the 1790s. By the end of the century more than a half of adult peasants could read. The first university-educated intellectuals identifying themselves as Estonians, including Friedrich Robert Faehlmann (1798–1850), Kristjan Jaak Peterson (1801–1822) and Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald (1803–1882), appeared in the 1820s. The ruling elites had remained predominantly German in language and culture since the conquest of the early 13th century. Garlieb Merkel (1769–1850), a Baltic-German Estophile, became the first author to treat the Estonians as a nationality equal to others; he became a source of inspiration for the Estonian national movement, modelled on Baltic German cultural world before the middle of the 19th century. However, in the middle of the century, the Estonians became more ambitious and started leaning toward the Finns as a successful model of national movement and, to some extent, toward the neighbouring Latvian national movement. By the end of 1860 the Estonians became unwilling to reconcile with German cultural and political hegemony. Before the attempts at Russification in the 1880s, their view of Imperial Russia remained positive.[27]

Estonians have strong ties to the Nordic countries stemming from important cultural and religious influences gained over centuries during Scandinavian and German rule and settlement.[28] Indeed, Estonians consider themselves Nordic rather than Baltic,[29][30] in particular because of close ethnic and linguistic affinities with the Finns.

After the Treaty of Tartu (1920) recognised Estonia's 1918 independence from Russia, ethnic Estonians residing in Russia gained the option of opting for Estonian citizenship (those who opted were called optandid - 'optants') and returning to their fatherland. An estimated 40,000 Estonians lived in Russia in 1920. In sum, 37,578 people moved from Soviet Russia to Estonia (1920–1923).[31]

Estonian national costumes:
1. Kadrina 2. Mihkli 3. Seto 4. Paistu

Estonian national costumes:
5. Muhu 6. Karja 7. Tõstamaa 8. Pärnu-Jaagupi

Emigration[edit | edit source]

During World War II, when Estonia was invaded by the Soviet Army in 1944, large numbers of Estonians fled their homeland on ships or smaller boats over the Baltic Sea. Many refugees who survived the risky sea voyage to Sweden or Germany later moved from there to Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States or Australia.[32] Some of these refugees and their descendants returned to Estonia after the nation regained its independence in 1991.

Over the years of independence, increasing numbers of Estonians have chosen to work abroad, primarily in Finland, but also in other European countries (mostly in the UK, Benelux, Sweden, and Germany), making Estonia the country with the highest emigration rate in Europe.[33] This is at least partly due to the easy access to oscillating migration to Finland.

Recognising the problems arising from both low birth rate and high emigration, the country has launched various measures to both increase the birth rate and to lure migrant Estonians back to Estonia. Former president Toomas Hendrik Ilves has lent his support to the campaign Talendid koju! ("Bringing talents home!")[34] which aims to coordinate and promote the return of Estonians who have particular skills needed in Estonia.

Estonians in Canada[edit | edit source]

The largest permanent Estonian community outside Estonia is in Canada with about 24,000 people[5] (according to some sources up to 50,000 people).[35] In the late 1940s and early 1950s, about 17,000 arrived in Canada.[36] Toronto is the city with the largest population of Estonians outside of Estonia. The first Estonian World Festival was held in Toronto in 1972. Some notable Estonian Canadians include Endel Tulving, Elmar Tampõld, Alison Pill, Uno Prii and Andreas Vaikla.

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. ^ Statistics Finland does not record ethnicity rather categorizes the population by their native language; in 2017, Estonian was spoken as a mother tongue by 49,590 not all of which may be ethnic Estonians.[2]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. ^ "Population by ethnic nationality". Statistics Estonia. Retrieved 30 March 2017. 
  2. ^ a b "Population". Statistics Finland. 4 April 2018. Retrieved 6 June 2018. 
  3. ^ "Total ancestry categories tallied for people with one or more ancestry categories reported 2013 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2 September 2014. 
  4. ^ "Eestlased Rootsis". 
  5. ^ a b "Canada-Estonia Relations". Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  6. ^ "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}" (in ru) (PPT). Russian Federal State Statistics Service. Archived from the original on 18 January 2012. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  7. ^ "2054.0 Australian Census Analytic Program: Australians' Ancestries (2001 (Corrigendum))". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2001.$File/20540_2001%20(corrigendum).pdf. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  8. ^ "Pressemitteilungen - Ausländische Bevölkerung - Statistisches Bundesamt (Destatis)". 
  9. ^ "Immigrants and Norwegian-born to immigrant parents, 1 January 2016". Statistics Norway. Accessed 01 May 2016.
  10. ^ "United Kingdom". Ethnologue. Retrieved 12 May 2016. 
  11. ^ "The distribution of the population by nationality and mother tongue". State Statistics Committee of Ukraine. 2001. Archived from the original on 5 December 2008. 
  12. ^ "Persons usually resident and present in the State on Census Night, classified by place of birth and age group". Central Statistics Office Ireland. Archived from the original on 6 August 2011. 
  13. ^ "Estemb in Belgium and Luxembourg". Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ "Statistikbanken". 
  16. ^ Official CBS website containing all Dutch demographic statistics. Retrieved on 4 July 2017.
  17. ^ "Présentation de l’Estonie". France Diplomatie. Retrieved 17 April 2018. 
  18. ^ "Dialog". 
  19. ^ Ivković, Sanja Kutnjak; Haberfeld, M.R. (10 June 2015) (in English). Measuring Police Integrity Across the World: Studies from Established Democracies and Countries in Transition. Springer. p. 131. ISBN 9781493922796. "Estonia is considered Protestant when classified by its historically predominant major religion (Norris and Inglehart 2011) and thus some authors (e.g., Davie 2003) claim Estonia belongs to Western (Lutheran) Europe, while others (e.g., Norris and Inglehart 2011) see Estonia as a Protestant ex-Communist society." 
  20. ^ Ringvee, Ringo (16 September 2011). "Is Estonia really the least religious country in the world?". The Guardian. "For this situation there are several reasons, starting from the distant past (the close connection of the churches with the Swedish or German ruling classes) up to the Soviet-period atheist policy when the chain of religious traditions was broken in most families. In Estonia, religion has never played an important role on the political or ideological battlefield. The institutional religious life was dominated by foreigners until the early 20th century. The tendencies that prevailed in the late 1930s for closer relations between the state and Lutheran church [...] ended with the Soviet occupation in 1940." 
  21. ^ Virpi Laitinena (2002). "Y-Chromosomal Diversity Suggests that Baltic Males Share Common Finno-Ugric-Speaking Forefathers" (PDF). Human Heredity. pp. 68–78. 
  22. ^ Unrepresented Nations and peoples organization By Mary Kate Simmons; p141 ISBN 978-90-411-0223-2
  23. ^ Petri Kallio 2006: Suomalais-ugrilaisen kantakielen absoluuttisesta kronologiasta. — Virittäjä 2006. (With English summary).
  24. ^ Häkkinen, Jaakko (2009). "Kantauralin ajoitus ja paikannus: perustelut puntarissa. – Suomalais-Ugrilaisen Seuran Aikakauskirja" (PDF). p. 92. 
  25. ^ a b (1956) "Maakeel ja eesti keel. Eesti NSV Teaduste Akadeemia Toimetised 5: 117–24; Beyer, Jürgen (2007). Ist maarahvas (‚Landvolk'), die alte Selbstbezeichnung der Esten, eine Lehnübersetzung? Eine Studie zur Begriffsgeschichte des Ostseeraums". Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropa-Forschung 56: 566–593. 
  26. ^ (1996) "Do nations have navels?". Nations and Nationalism 2 (2): 365–70. 
  27. ^ a b (2003) "Nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Estonian nationalism revisited". Nations and Nationalism 9 (1): 129–147. DOI:10.1111/1469-8219.00078. 
  28. ^ Piirimäe, Helmut. Historical heritage: the relations between Estonia and her Nordic neighbors. In M. Lauristin et al. (eds.), Return to the Western world: Cultural and political perspectives on the Estonian post-communist transition. Tartu: Tartu University Press, 1997.
  29. ^ Estonian foreign ministry report Script error: No such module "webarchive"., 2004
  30. ^ Estonian foreign ministry report Script error: No such module "webarchive"., 2002
  31. ^ Лоткин И.В.. "Оптационная кампания и эвакуация граждан прибалтийских государств на историческую родину в начале 1920-х годов" (in Russian) (PDF). 
  32. ^ Past, E. (2015). By Land and By Sea. 
  33. ^ "The CIA World Factbook Country Comparison of net migration rate". 
  34. ^ "Toome talendid Eestimaale tagasi - Talendid Koju!". 
  35. ^ "Estonian Embassy in Ottawa". Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  36. ^ "The Estonian Presence in Toronto". Archived from the original on 12 March 2012. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 

Further reading[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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