Infobox Ethnic group

poptime="c. " 1,100,000
regions=EST: 930,219
Other significant population centers:

region1 = RUS
pop1 = 28,113 [ [ 1. НАЦИОНАЛЬНЫЙ СОСТАВ НАСЕЛЕНИЯ ] ]
region2 = USA
pop2 = 25,034 [ [ United States - QT-P13. Ancestry: 2000 ] ]
region3 = CAN
pop3 = 22,000
region4 = SWE
pop4 = 15,000
region5 = GBR
pop5 = 14,000 [ [ 14,000 Estonian mother tounge speakers in the UK] ]
region6 = FIN
pop6 = 11,000
region7 = AUS
pop7 = 7,543 [ [$File/20540_2001%20(corrigendum).pdf 2054.0 Australian Census Analytic Program: Australians' Ancestries (2001 (Corrigendum)) ] ]
region8 = GER
pop8 = 3,970 [cite web|url=|title= Foreign population by average-age and average duration of residence|publisher=Statistisches Bundesamt Deutschland|date=2006-12-31]
region9 = UKR
pop9 = 2,868 [cite web|url=|title= The distribution of the population by nationality and mother tongue|publisher=State Statistics Committee of Ukraine|year=2001]
region10 = LAT
pop10 = 2,504 [cite web|url=|title= Facts and statistics on residents|publisher=Latvian Board for Citizenship and Migration Affairs]
region11 = IRL
pop11 = 2,373 [ [ CSO - Statistics: Persons usually resident or present in the State on Census Night, classified by place of birth and age group ] ]
rels=Lutheran Tradition

Estonians (Estonian: "eestlased", previously "maarahvas") are a Finnic people closely related to the Finns and inhabiting, primarily, the country of Estonia. The Estonians speak a Finno-Ugric language, known as Estonian. Although Estonia is traditionally grouped as one of the Baltic countries, Estonians are linguistically and ethnically unrelated to the Baltic peoples of Latvia and Lithuania.


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 can be quite surely said that speakers of early Finno-Ugric languages related to modern Estonian had arrived to what is now Estonia by about 5000 years ago. [Virpi Laitinena et al (2002), "Y-Chromosomal Diversity Suggests that Baltic Males Share Common Finno-Ugric-Speaking Forefathers", Human Heredity, pages 68-78, [] ] Living in the same area for over 5000 years puts Estonians among the oldest nations in Europe. [ [,M1 Unrepresented Nations and peoples organization By Mary Kate Simmons; p141] ISBN 9789041102232]

The name "Eesti", or Estonia, is thought to be derived from the word "Aestii", the name given by the ancient Germanic peoples 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" ("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 Balto-Finnic branch of the Finno-Ugric group of languages, as does the Finnish language. The first book in Estonian was printed in 1525, while the oldest known examples of written Estonian originate in 13th century chronicles.

Although Estonian national consciousness spread in the course of the 19th century during the Estonian national awakening [Gellner, Ernest (1996). Do nations have navels? "Nations and Nationalism" 2.2, 365–70.] , some degree of ethnic awareness preceded this development.Raun, Toivo U. (2003). [ Nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Estonian nationalism revisited] . "Nations and Nationalism" 9.1, 129-147.] By the 18th century the self-denomination "eestlane" spread among Estonians along with the older "maarahvas". [Ariste, Paul (1956). Maakeel ja eesti keel. "Eesti NSV Teaduste Akadeemia Toimetised" 5: 117–24.] The Bible was translated 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 were able to read. The first university-educated intellectuals identifying themselves as Estonians, including Friedrich Robert Faehlmann (1798-1850), Kristjan Jaak Peterson (1801-22) and Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald (1803-82), 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, was the first author to treat the Estonians as a nationality equal to others and 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 towards the Finns as a successful model of national movement and, to some extent, 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.

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. [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.] Indeed, Estonians consider themselves a Nordic people rather than Balts, [ [ Estonian foreign ministry report] , 2004] [ [ Estonian foreign ministry report] , 2002] in particular because of a close ethnic and linguistic affinity with the Finns.

From 1945-89 the share of ethnic Estonians in Estonia dropped from 94% to 61%, caused primarily by the deportations organized by the Soviet regime and the Soviet mass immigration program from Russia and other parts of the former USSR into industrial urban areas of Estonia, as well as by wartime emigration and Stalin's mass deportations and executionsFact|date=May 2008. The ethnic Estonian population has now risen close to 69%.

Most of émigré Estonians live in Russia, Finland, Sweden, US, Canada, or other Western countries. In neighbouring Latvia, there are around 2,700 ethnic Estonians (1997 census), in Lithuania, the number was 600 in 1989.


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 of those refugees who survived the risky sea voyage to Sweden and Germany, later moved on from there and settled in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia. Some of these refugees and their descendants returned to Estonia after the nation regained its independence in 1991.

ee also

* List of notable Estonians
* Demographics of Estonia
* List of Estonian Americans
* Estonian national awakening

Further reading

* cite journal
quotes =
last = Petersoo
first = Pille
authorlink =
coauthors =
date =
year = 2007
month = January
title = Reconsidering otherness: constructing Estonian identity
journal = Nations and Nationalism
volume = 13
issue = 1
pages = 117–133
doi = 10.1111/j.1469-8129.2007.00276.x
id =
url =
language =
format =
accessdate =
laysummary =
laysource =
laydate =
quote =

External links

* [ From Estonia To Thirlmere ] (online exhibition)
* [ Our New Home Meie Uus Kodu: Estonian-Australian Stories ] (online exhibition)

Notes and references

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