Population: 1.340.000 (2010)
Density: 31 inhabitants per km²
Urban population: 70%
Rural population: 30%
Death rate: 13%
Child death rate: 6%
Longevity: M 69 F 78
Ethnic composition: 69% Estonian, 25% Russians, 2% Ukrainians, 2% Finns
Inhabited since the 8th Century B.C. by Finno-Ugric tribes coming from East, today Estonia has a population of about one million and a half inhabitants.
The first estimates on Estonian population date back to the 13th Century. A census conducted at that time detected 150.000 people living in the Estonian territory. In the modern age, the two World Wars had a great influence on population, which shifted from 1.130.00 inhabitants (1939) to 850.000 inhabitants (1944).
Nowadays Estonia is interested by a demographic phenomena occurring in many other European countries. A remarkable diminution in birth rate has led to natural decrease in population. Living density (31 inhabitants per km²) is one of the lowest in Europe and it is even remarkable if compared to Netherlands density (380 inhabitants per km²) or to Denmark one (126 inhabitants per km²). There is also a stream from rural areas to urban ones, especially towards Tallinn, Tartu and Narva, the main Estonian cities.
48 percent of the population, in Tallinn, has Russian origin. In Narva, 90 per cent. In the rest of the country, most of people have Estonian origin. Such an ethnic composition caused many problems from a social and a political viewpoint. Almost one Estonian in a three has no citizenship because of his origin. This causes different limitations with a deprivation of important right, such as the right to vote.
THE RUSSIAN QUESTION
Estonian government carries out a strict policy towards population of Russian origin. This policy is characterized by many restrictions concerning the granting of citizenship. People of Russian origin have a limited right to vote. They can only take part in administrative elections.
From this point of view, the relationship between Estonia and Russia is quite difficult. Nowadays the massive presence of Russian minority causes many tensions in Estonian society.
In 2005, about 250.000 foreign people were counted. Most of them were Russians. One inhabitant in three has Russian origin. To understand the inter-ethnic problems between Estonians and Russians, it is necessary to compare present situation to the Soviet period one. In the first half of the 20th century Estonian population was about 90 percent of the total population, while Russian one was only about 8 percent. From 1945 to 1955 there was a massive immigration from other USSR areas.
In the following three decades, till the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Estonia had the highest immigration rate of all the Republics of the Soviet Union. Nowadays the situation keeps on being complex. In Tallinn there is a certain integration between the two communities. In the Eastern area of Estonia, instead, Russian community – that constitutes the majority of the population – has to face many problems, among which unemployment.
Those people who started to live in Estonia before 1990 can ask for naturalization. All those people who were born in Estonia after February 26, 1992, are legally recognized as Estonian citizens.
When Estonia became independent, some of its residents could not ask for citizenship. Those who Estonian citizens before 1940 and their progeny obtained it automatically. As far as concerns other people, they were subjected to a “naturalization process”. For this very reason, Estonian government introduced a linguistic test in order to verify the knowledge of the Estonian language. Only those people who have citizenship can vote for Parliament elections. The other can only participate in administrative elections.
In 2006 there were about 250.000 persons classified as “no-Estonians”. They were mainly of Russian origin. Even the United Nations focused their attention on the social problem of Estonian citizenship. They considered Russian minority deeply limited in their job and political rights. Since 2004 Estonian government has begun to simplify the process for getting citizenship, but many nationalist groups keep on contrasting this effort, because they are worried about a new russianification of the country. For this very reason European Union is trying to warrant a gradual process of integration.