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The Republic of Estonia (Estonian: Eesti Vabariik) is in the Baltic region of Northern Europe (figures 1⇓–3). This wonderful country (no bias) is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia and to the east by Russia and Lake Peipsi (not ‘Lake Pepsi’ as thought of by at least one of my British friends!). Across the Baltic Sea lies Sweden in the west and a short ferry ride takes you to Finland in the north, just 80 km away.1 The territory of Estonia covers about 45 000 km2, and our population is just over 1.3 million.2
Estonia became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991, but is more strongly influenced by Nordic tastes and traditions. It has been a European Union member state since 2004. The local currency is the euro, though some of us still miss the old ‘kroon’! The Estonian language is a Finno-Ugric language that closely resembles Finnish, and is very different from the Latvian and Russian languages spoken by our bordering neighbours. English is also widely spoken. Our claims to fame include Tallinn being the ‘stag-party capital’ for a few years in the early 2000s (thankfully more recently challenged by Riga) and of course winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 2001 (surely you remember the Dave Benton and Tanel Padar duo performing ‘Everybody’?). But on a more serious note, we have always been a ‘singing’ nation: we have a long ongoing tradition dating back to 1869 of having national song festivals (figure 4). These are among the largest amateur choral events in the world, held once every five years, in which >30 000 singers perform to an audience of 80 000. …
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