Facts and figures about Estonia

AP News
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Posted: Mar 06, 2011 1:49 PM
Facts and figures about Estonia

Facts and figures about Estonia, which was holding parliamentary elections Sunday:

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GEOGRAPHY: Heavily forested Estonia lies on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, covering about 45,000 square kilometers (17,550 square miles). It is bounded to the east by Russia and to the south by Latvia.

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POPULATION: About 1.3 million people, of which two-thirds are ethnic Estonians and one-third Russian-speakers _ ethnic Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians who immigrated here during Soviet rule. Most Estonians are Lutherans, while many Russians belong to the Russian Orthodox Church. Estonians speak vowel-laden Estonian _ which is closely related to Finnish.

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GOVERNMENT: Parliamentary democracy. The government is led by the prime minister, who is selected by a single-chamber parliament _ the Riigikogu. The current government is a two-party coalition comprising the Reform Party and the IRL union, created by the merger of the Pro Patria and Res Publica parties.

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HISTORY: For most of the last 800 years, Estonia has been ruled by neighboring powers _ including Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Russia. Along with the other two Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania, it first won independence from Russia after World War I. But Soviet troops occupied Estonia again in 1940. Following a 1941-1944 German occupation, Soviet troops returned and stayed until the Baltic states regained independence in early 1990s.

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ECONOMY: Booming growth following European Union membership earned Estonia a reputation as a "Baltic tiger." Some economists hailed it as an example for other former communist states to follow, praising its flat tax and business friendly policies. Then a real estate bubble burst and the economy shifted into reverse in 2008. Gross domestic product fell more than 14 percent the next year, while the jobless rate approached 20 percent. The economy is now picking up steam again _ it's annual growth rate of 6.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 was second only to Sweden's in the 27-member EU.