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Estonia, the little country that could


Most Eastern European countries that were controlled by the communists have had successful political/economic transitions and are far more prosperous than they were two decades ago, but none has come as far as Estonia. The Estonians are closely related to the Finns, and their languages are close as well. Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is only about 50 miles from Helsinki, the capital of Finland, and they are in commuting distance by hydrofoil across the Gulf of Finland.


tallinn_900Before the Soviet Union conquered Estonia in 1939, the Estonians and Finns had close to the same standard of living. But the Finns were able to maintain their freedom by conducting a vigorous defense against the Soviet invasion in 1939. The Finnish economy prospered after World War II, while the Estonian economy was destroyed by the Soviets. By 1987, it is estimated that the Finns were seven times richer per capita than the Estonians. But as a result of undertaking the most radical free-market reforms of any of the transition countries, the Estonians have been gaining on their Finnish neighbors, who also have continued to do well, and now have about two-thirds of the per capita income of the average Finn.


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