Sunday 6 January 2013

Ten Surprising Facts About Estonia

Happy New Year everyone! To kick off the new year I thought I'll post some interesting trivia about Estonia. Some of these things you may already know and some may take you completely by surprise.

1. There are no bears on the tiny remote Estonian island of Ruhnu but in 2006 a brown bear was sighted on the island. It was discovered that the bear had drifted over on a broken piece of ice from Lativa. The bear caused quite a sensation on the island, it eluded authorities for several weeks before it was captured. A Latvian chocolate manufacturer heard about the story and produced a life size scale chocolate bear which they presented to the people of the island to share.

2. The first book published in the Estonian language was in 1525 - a bible.

3. Estonia is known to have a fifth season. In late March, early April it often floods in the Soomaa National Park where people have to get around by boat. The water level rises by about 5 metres.

 4. There are approximately 15,000 Russian "Old Believers" living in Estonia. They have been there since the 1600s and still wear their traditional clothes as part of daily life. They have other customs, including it being illegal for men to shave and for any food to be consumed which they don't produce themselves.  They fled Russia in fear of persecution when they disagreed with changes introduced by the Patriarch Nikon in 1666. Many were forced to assimilate but others scattered across the globe, often to very remote corners. During the 1990s, in Eastern Siberia a community of "Old Russian Believers' were found and it was discovered that they had no idea there had been a Russian Revolution, Communism had taken place or that Russia was now a so-called democracy.  They thought the Tzar still ruled Russia.  Estonia has been home to a community of Old Believers for well over 300 years and they have had full Estonian citizenship since 1920.

5. There is a lighthouse on the island of Ruhnu which was designed by Gustave Eiffel, the man who designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

6. The first school to receive a computer in the Soviet Union was located in the village of Nõo near Tartu.  It was an Ural-1 and occupied an entire wall of a room. The school acquired it in 1965.

7. Estonia's highest point is call "Suur Munamägi" which means "Big Egg Hill". It's only 386m above sea level.

8. For over 300 years it has been an Estonian tradition for the leader (now president) to give a Christmas message on Christmas Eve. He proclaims peace then takes part in a mass.

9. The Estonian novel "Truth and Justice" by Anton Hansen Taamsaare is regarded as one of Estonia's finest peices of literature.

10. Karl Ernst von Baer was an Estonian biologist and one of the founding fathers of embryology.