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Estonia at a glance

Town Square, TallinnTown Square, Tallinn

"Tere" (Hello)

The Republic of Estonia is tucked away on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea. It lies on the south side of the Gulf of Finland, north of Latvia and to the west of Russia. The border (disputed) with Russia is mainly taken up by Europe’s fourth largest inland water, Lake Peipsi, which spreads placidly along more than half of the divide between Estonia and its mighty neighbour. Estonia also has many islands in and around its waters. The largest of these, Saaremaa, at over one thousand square miles, is four times larger than Britain’s Isle of Man.

A large proportion of the 1.4 million inhabitants live in the capital, Tallinn, and the other major towns: Tartu, Narva, Pärnu and Kohtla-Järve. About 25% of the population are ethnic Russians, a legacy of the Soviet empire. About 80% of the religious population are Lutheran; the remainder are Orthodox, Catholic or Non-conformist. Russian, very different from Estonian, is still the main language. The dual-language aspect of Estonian life impacts our work as we need two interpreters at most of our meetings.

Our members

There are only a few baptised members: Tallinn has 5; Tartu, 4; Pärnu, 2 and Valga just 1. Travel by bus is frequent and reliable, so we are able to visit most of them during a one-week visit. We also see a large number of contacts, mostly at Tallinn.

Typical visits begin with a study day in Tallinn, followed by a tour of the other towns where brothers, sisters and other friends are to be found. The four or five visits made each year are usually for a week or ten days; in recent years one of the visits has taken the form of a Bible weekend, giving greater opportunity for fellowship and discussion. On these occasions, we provide accommodation to those travelling from a distance. Since Estonia’s accession to the European Union in 2004, a visitor will not fail to be impressed by the extensive building and construction work that is taking place, particularly in Tallinn and Tartu. Indeed, a recent visitor to Estonia after a lapse of thirteen years reported what she described as a ‘vast difference’ in the country, where living conditions were greatly improved and the people were obviously more prosperous.

Our preaching to Estonian friends consistently teaches the nearness of the Lord’s return but one wonders at times how much of the urgency is lost in translation. Similarly, our ability to know a person well depends almost entirely upon conversation: it is often the small talk about superficial matters reveals the person but it is difficult to gain that insight when you can’t speak the language but are obliged to converse through an interpreter.

2011 has been a good year. The topics have been well received, the sessions have been generally well attended, and we have been pleased to meet new contacts. What must also be said is that Estonia is a pleasant country to visit. It’s a well-watered land of forests, farms and friendly people. We in the Estonia team look forward to 2012 and the stirrings, God willing, of some of our friends towards baptism.

"Nagemiseni" (Goodbye)

Peter Craddock in The Bible Missionary no.203 January 2012

Information about Estonia