Estonia

Estonia is a testament to the productive and ennobling power of freedom. After waves of successive invasions from East and West, the small and fledgling country on the Baltic Sea was dragooned into the Soviet Union in 1940. There its people were trapped for five decades. Eventually, Estonia’s workers and intellectuals decided they had nothing to lose but their chains. So, they joined hands—literally—in a mostly peaceful revolution. Finally free, the Estonians thrived, achieving a degree of prosperity and equality promised but never realized under socialism.

Estonia

Videos

Farm Collectivization

Farm Collectivization

Under socialist rule, Estonian farmers were forced to give up their land and join collective farms. As a result, farm production fell dramatically.
Low Incomes

Low Incomes

Before socialism, average Estonian incomes were higher than in neighbouring countries. After socialism was imposed on Estonia, incomes plummeted.
Cost of Basic Goods

Cost of Basic Goods

By the 1980s, after forty years of socialist rule, Estonians had to work many times longer than neighbouring Finns in order to buy basic goods.
Falling Behind on Housing

Falling Behind on Housing

Before socialism, Estonian had, on average, larger homes than Finnish people. But after socialism was imposed on Estonians, they had less living space than Finns, and their homes had fewer features, too.
Lower Life Expectancy

Lower Life Expectancy

Life expectancy in Estonia was once the same as in high-income countries, but after five decades of socialist rule, the average Estonian could expect to die nine years earlier than people in high-income countries around the world.
Post-Socialist Reforms

Post-Socialist Reforms

After Socialism, Estonia moved quickly to introduce bold and broad economic reforms, including balanced budgets and lower government spending, a flat personal income tax, deregulation, and privatization of previously state-owned companies.
Personal and Economic Freedom

Personal and Economic Freedom

Following its independence from the Soviet Union, Estonians are now among the freest people on earth, enjoying high levels of both economic freedom as well as individual freedom.
A Thriving Nation

A Thriving Nation

Estonia has thrived since the fall of socialism. Not only does Estonia have the lowest poverty rate of any former Soviet state, Estonia also has a lower infant mortality rate than neighbouring Finland.

Infographics

  • All
  • Economy
  • Income
  • Farming
Estonian Average Incomes

Estonian Average Incomes

Before socialism, the average Estonian had higher income than the average Finn.

Collective Farming

Collective Farming

Socialist leaders deported up to 60,000 reluctant farmers and their families.

Collectivization

Collectivization

Estonian farm production declined after collectivization.

Estonian Incomes

Estonian Incomes

Estonians just 22% of what Finns earned in 1988 under socialism.

Living Standards

Living Standards

Estonians had to work many times longer than neighbouring Finns to afford household items.

Standard of Living

Standard of Living

Compared with Estonians, Finns had a much higher standard of living.

Estonian Homes vs. Finnish Homes

Estonian Homes vs. Finnish Homes

Neighbouring Finnish homes had more features than Estonian homes.

Life Expectancy

Life Expectancy

After socialism, the average Estonian could expect to die 9.3 years earlier than others.

Economic Reforms

Economic Reforms

After socialism, Estonia introduced bold and broad economic reforms.

Income Tax Rates

Income Tax Rates

Estonia adopted the world's first flat-rate personal income tax rate.

Government Debt

Government Debt

Estonia's total debt level is less than one-fourth as large as the average.

Economic Freedom

Economic Freedom

Estonia became one of the most economically free countries in the world.

Human Freedom

Human Freedom

Estonians became some of the freest people in the world.

GDP Growth

GDP Growth

Estonians are now twice as wealthy as an average citizen from former Soviet states.

Poverty Rate

Poverty Rate

Estonia's poverty rate is less than 1/10th of the average poverty rate.

Infant Mortality

Infant Mortality

Estonian infant mortality is now less than Finish infant mortality.

Number of Startups

Number of Startups

Estonia has more start-ups than any other European country.

Corruption

Corruption

Estonia is perceived as the least-corrupt former Soviet state.

Explore the book

The Road to Freedom: Estonia’s Rise from Soviet Vassal State to One of the Freest Nations on Earth recounts the fall of Estonian freedom when, for five decades, it was trapped in the Soviet Union. Eventually, following a mostly-peaceful revolution, Estonians regained their freedom and reformed their nation quickly to become one of the freest nations on earth.

  • Chapter 1: The Emergence of the Estonian Nation: 1850–1940    
    This chapter details Estonia’s first century as a thriving nation and the awakening of the Estonian national identity.
  • Chapter 2: Between Two Wolves: 1940–1944 During World War II    
    Estonia would endure a Soviet invasion, then a Nazi invasion, and another Soviet invasion all in the span of four years.
  • Chapter 3: Socialism in Estonia: 1944–1991    
    This chapter documents the misery of Estonians during the nearly five decades of socialist rule, including housing, agriculture, deportations and arrests, industry, and resistance.
  • Chapter 4: Living Standards in Late Socialist Estonia   
    A look at Estonians life just before the Soviet Union collapsed, as compared to other Soviet citizens and Estonia’s non-Soviet Finnish neighbours to the north.
  • Chapter 5: The Singing Revolution: 1987–1991  
    This chapter chronicles the events that led to Estonia’s independence, when Estonian nationalists capitalized on Mikhail Gorbachev’s new “glasnost” policies and chaos within the Soviet Union.
  • Chapter 6: Building a Free Society: 1992–  
    Now free from Soviet rule, Estonians moved quickly to liberalize the economy, create a new currency, introduce sound fiscal policies and provide social services. The results of which have made Estonians among the most prosperous, healthiest, well-educated and freest people on earth.

 

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Our Partners

This project is brought to you by the following organizations

Fraser Institute

The Fraser Institute

Institute for Economic Affairs

Institute of Economic Affairs

Institute of Public Affairs

Institute of Public Affairs

The Fund for American Studies

The Fund for American Studies

Acknowledgements

Made possible by generous grants from the John Templeton Foundation, the Lotte and John Hecht Memorial Foundation and the FI Foundation.

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