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    Slovakia: Tatra Mountains. Go Now!

    The Tatra Mountains (pictured) form the backdrop of this rural country, whose culture is rooted in this beautiful landscape. Go Now!

  • Bulgaria!

    Bulgaria: An old Turkish bridge. Go Now!

    The isolated mountains of Bulgaria hide cultural gems around every corner, including this old Turkish bridge in the Rhodopi Mountains. Explore Bulgaria!

  • Italy!

    Italy: Rome' historic buildings. Go Now!

    Crumbling buildings in Rome (pictured) only add to the atmosphere in a country where old is redefined and western civilization begins. Explore Italy!

  • Portugal!

    Portugal: Palace of Pena. Go Now!

    Although next to the seas and made famous by trade, Portugal boasts dynamic landscapes and architecture, including the Palace of Pena (pictured) near the town of Sintra. Go to Portugal!

  • Denmark!

    Denmark: Landscape. Go Now!

    From cities like Copenhagen to islands, beaches, and vast fields (pictured), Denmark offers incredible history, architecture, scenery, and more. Begin Your Journey!

  • Armenia!

    Armenia: Noravank Monastery. Go Now!

    With a unique language, foods, architecture, and identity, Armenia is a fascinating country and culture unlike no other in the world. Begin Your Journey!

History of Estonia

The original Estonians were a migrant group from Central Asia, but unlike their counterparts in Finland, settled fairly early in their history. Their first influential contact with other Europeans came in 1208 when Germans and Danes invaded to convert them to Christianity, while dividing their land. The conversion wasn't easy, but the settlement did grow and the church created cities and parishes throughout the 1300s.

By 1400 the Danes had little interest in Estonia so sold the land to Christian overlords, who encouraged trade and economic prosperity. This prosperity helped encourage the local people to convert to Christianity, but in the 1500s Lutheranism was introduced and was quickly adopted over Catholicism by the locals.

In the mid-1500s modern-day Estonia was attacked by Russia and was thoroughly destroyed. The area was ravaged for nearly a century until the Swedes defeated the Russians, but with this came Swedish occupation. Not all bad, the Swedes introduced schools and encouraged education, but in the early 1700s Sweden was again overrun by the Russians and Estonia again fell under Russian rule. The Russians ruthlessly suppressed the peasants in Estonia until 1816 when these serfs were finally granted freedom.

Independence movements began in the mid-1800s as the country began to become more defiant against Russian rule, however this defiance only encouraged the Russians to send in troops to kill and deport rebelling Estonians. To respond, the Russians drafted tens of thousands of Estonians to fight in World War I, but by war's end the Russian tsar was overthrown and the Soviets were taking over, giving Estonia the opportunity to declare independence in 1918.

The declaration of independence sparked a Soviet invasion, but Estonia was backed by the Swedes, and British among others, which allowed them to maintain their independence. At first Estonia improved educationally and economically, but soon fell under poor rulers and suppression, which lasted until World War II (WWII).

At the outbreak of WWII, the Soviets invaded and successfully took all of Estonia; under a Soviet-installed government, the Estonians requested to join the Soviet Union. As the Germans began their push against Russia, the locals immediately welcomed the Germans, but soon after realized the Germans had no intention of giving them independence. As the Soviets returned, many Estonians fled to the west or to Finland as the Soviets enacted their revenge by ruthlessly bombing nearly every Estonian city.

After WWII, Estonia was a part of the Soviet Union and the Soviet government sent any Estonian nationalist or politician to the Gulag as many of the locals were forced into factories or onto collective farms. All the while, the Soviets flooded the area with Russians in order to collect a loyal base and to oversee factories and collective farms.

In 1989 the Estonian government declared the Soviet invasion in 1940 illegal, the following year they held free elections, and in 1991 they declared independence. Since then, the Estonians have successfully encouraged Russia to remove their troops, they stabilized their economy, and in 2005 Estonia joined the European Union (EU).

This page was last updated: February, 2012