The population of Estonia (1,429,000 residents In 1998, according to an estimate) is decreasing, given the modest birth rate and the high mortality rate resulting from considerable aging: characteristics that concern the Estonian ethnic group more than the Slavic minorities.
Almost a third of the population is concentrated in the capital, Tallinn, by far the largest economic and demographic center of the country, made lively in particular by shipbuilding activities and traffic between Russia and the Atlantic. The second largest city in the country, Tartu, is just over 100,000 residents. Just under two thirds of the total population is Estonian, the Russians are close to 30 %, while small percentages of Ukrainians, Belarusians, Finns, etc. remain.
In the Estonian economy, which has almost completed a rapid privatization program, agriculture plays a marginal role and occupies only a small fraction of the active population. The main productions are those of potatoes and barley, as well as that of fodder, which feeds a decent breeding of cattle (for milk and meat) and pigs. Timber obtained from forests, which in fact reduced in area in Soviet times, and good quantities of landed fish complete the picture of the products of primary activities. THE. it is the richest of the Baltic countries for mineral resources: in addition to phosphates, used for the production of fertilizers, and modest quantities of uranium, peat and oil shale are obtained (in the North-East of the country), used directly or indirectly (through transformation into gas) for the production of energy. The range of industries is very wide, and in recent years their technological content has developed significantly. The country’s independence, however, brought with it major restructuring problems, given the previous close interconnection with the Russian productive apparatus. Incidentally, most of the industrial workforce is of Russian ethnicity. Traditionally important are tertiary activities, which occupy three fifths of the active population, especially in the numerous ports on the coast and on the islands (whose activity is severely hampered by winter ice) and in transit traffic with the Russian Federation: recently they have been significant progress has also been made in the tourism sector. For foreign trade, relations with Russia remain fundamental, alongside increased relations with Finland and to a lesser extent with Sweden and Germany. Relations with these last three countries (and, through them, with the rest of the European Community) seem to constitute the most interesting prospect that opens up for Estonia, which has rapidly become the destination of discrete investment flows in the forestry, light industry and services. In this sense, the intention of the Estonian leaders to restore to the country the historical function of mediation between Western Europe and the Russian world appears evident. * the intention of the Estonian leaders to restore to the country the historical function of mediation between Western Europe and the Russian world. * the intention of the Estonian leaders to restore to the country the historical function of mediation between Western Europe and the Russian world.