Photo: Royston Rascals, Kool (Some rights reserved)
Estonia is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia and to the east by Russia, with St. Petersburg just across the northeastern border. Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, lies about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Helsinki, Finland. The country has more than 1,000 islands.
Estonians (Estonian: eestlased) are a Finno-Ugric people. Their national language is a Finnic branch known as Estonian (Estonian: eesti keel). 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. Living in the same area for more than 5,000 years would put the ancestors of Estonians among the oldest permanent inhabitants in Europe.