Earth & Conservation

What Is Life Really Like In Estonia?

While Estonia is home to a small population and a thriving economy, it still has a huge income gap. So what is life really like in Estonia?

Hillary Clinton's bid for the presidency is getting plenty of attention internationally, but meanwhile the small Baltic nation of Estonia recently elected its first female president. Estonia, it turns out, is a pretty progressive place. Jules Suzdaltsev has the details in today's Seeker Daily report.

Estonia used to be a Soviet satellite state, but regained independence in 1991. Since then, it's developed into a rather singular society on international scene. While technically considered one of the three Baltic states, along with Latvia and Lithuania, Estonia is culturally and linguistically aligned with its northern neighbors in the Nordic states.

Estonians are particularly partial to Finnish culture and cuisine, and the official language, Estonian, is closely related to Finnish. Like their northern neighbors, Estonians tend toward progressive social policies and odd regional quirks – they like their saunas in the winter, too. Actually, the country is petitioning for inclusion in the Nordic Council, which was previously out of the question under Soviet rule.

RELATED: How Estonia Transformed A Soviet Prison

Compared to other former Soviet states, the Estonian economy is decidedly modernized and heavily focused on technology. In 2000, the country declared internet access a basic human right and has since established hundreds of free Wi-Fi zones across the land. Its capital city, Tallinn, is sometimes called the Silicon Valley of Europe. Estonia is home to more start-ups per capita than any other European country. (The core technology behind Skype was developed in Estonia.)

Estonia is also highly urbanized, with about one third of its citizens living in cities. Culturally, Estonians tend to be more progressive than the typical European. The country has the highest rate of unmarried adults within Europe, in part because many couples live together without marrying. Only 28 percent of the population identifies as religious.

Estonia has modernized rapidly – the country is now part of the EU, NATO and the OECD. In 2013, officials rolled out free public transit in Tallinn and have apparently figured out a way to make it work economically. The country is considered high-income, and consistently ranks highly in education, press freedom, quality of life and overall human development.

-- Glenn McDonald

Learn More:

CNN: Estonia: The Little Country with Big Ideas

BBC: Estonia Profile- Overview

The Guardian: Is Estonia Really the Least Religious Country in the World?