Estonia is a state located between the gulfs of Finland and Riga. It is bordered to the East by Lake Peipus on the Russian side, to the West and to the north by the Baltic Sea, and to the South by Latvia.
It has a total area of 45,226 square kilometres (of which 4,000 square kilometres for the 1,520 Islands). Estonia is therefore larger than Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands or Switzerland. The population is 1.3 million inhabitants (2009). As a parliamentary republic, independent of the USSR since 1991 and a member of the European Union since 2004, Estonia is divided administratively into 15 provinces (maakonnad, singular : maakond). The capital is Tallinn; another major city is Tartu, the ancient Dorpat, which has been an important intellectual centre throughout history.