The Republic of Estonia is one of three Baltic republics, the first among the former Soviet countries to grasp the failure signals USSR and take the path that led to emancipation. It was in Tallinn in 1987 that the ‘singing revolution’ began, the street movement that accompanied the country towards independence, reached on August 20, 1991 during the failed Moscow putsch.
Both domestic and foreign politics in Estonia are still significantly influenced by the Soviet heritage, in a context in which the memories of the communist period arouse intense reactions and political and social opposition. Since 1991, Estonia’s strong pro-Western propensity and the strengthening of relations with structures of a Euro-Atlantic nature have mainly responded to the need to counterbalance the traditional Russian influence. In this perspective, in the phase immediately following August 1991, Estonia joined the United Nations, the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe and, above all, the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (Nacc)., an advisory forum between the members of the Atlantic Alliance and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The entry into the Nacc marked the beginning of the active pursuit of NATO membership which – seen as a guarantee with respect to the attempts of Russian interference – came more than a decade later, in 2004. In May of the same year, moreover, the Estonia became a member of the European Union, following a negotiation that began in April 1998.
Against the backdrop of Moscow’s opposition to NATO enlargement to include the Baltic countries, relations with the Russian Federation have gone through various moments of tension. The main objects of the dispute were the protection of the large Russian minority residing in Estonia and the demarcation of the borders between the two countries. However, the achievement, in 2013, of an agreement on the delimitation of land and sea borders seems for the moment to have put an end to the disputes over small portions of territory, including that for the ‘Boot of Saatse’.
The other fundamental line of Estonian foreign policy is directed towards the Scandinavian countries and Denmark, and is pursued primarily through cooperation with the Nordic Council (NC).
Estonia is a parliamentary republic with a unicameral structure. The internal political system has been generally unstable since independence. Despite the disappearance of the Communist Party with the fall of the regime and the preference of all political forces for liberal and liberal systems, a highly personalistic political competition tends to prevail over party programs, contributing to the general fragility of the governing coalitions that have followed one another. in power over the years. The parliamentary elections of March 2015 led the country to the coalition formed by the Estonian Reformist Party, the Union of the Fatherland – Res Publica party, and the Social Democratic Party.
Estonia is home to a large Russian-speaking minority, which accounts for about a quarter of the total population. The ethnic configuration of the country is the result of the Soviet ‘engineering of nationalities’, which led to the deportation of a significant number of Estonians, at the same time favoring the influx of citizens of Russian ethnicity.
Relations with the Russian-speaking minority represent one of the most serious and frequent factors of internal tension in the country and one of the reasons for friction in bilateral relations with Russia. In 1992, a very restrictive law revoked Estonian citizenship from that section of the Russian-speaking population who had failed to prove that they had a relative residing in the country before the Soviet occupation.
On the other hand, the street clashes in February 2007, following the decision of the Riigikogu (the Estonian parliament) to remove the monuments that recalled the Soviet phase, demonstrate the weight that a historical memory not shared between ethnic groups still plays in social life. and politics of Estonia. In recent years, however, the Estonian government has launched socio-cultural integration programs. In the meantime, it has promoted Estonian language courses to facilitate the naturalization of foreign citizens.
The drastic reduction of the population is the other problem that afflicts Estonia: since 1991 the resident population has decreased by 15%, as a consequence of both the emigration rate and the low birth rate (1.56 in 2013).