Esthonia comprises the former Russian Government of Estland, the northern part of Livland, the north-western portion of the Pskoff Government, and the Islands Saaremaa (Oesel), Hiiumaa (Dago), and Muhumaa in the Baltic Sea.
After the Bolshevist coup d'état, Esthonia, on February 24, 1918, declared her independence, and was recognised in the same year as a de facto independent body by Great Britain (May 3), France (May 13), and Italy (May 29). The following year (1919) Esthonia was recognised de facto by Japan, Sweden and Poland, and in 1920 de jure by Russia and Finland. On January 26, 1921, the Supreme Council accorded de jure recognition to Esthonia.
Constitution and Government.—Pending the elaboration of a permanent constitution, Esthonia was governed according to a Provisional Constitution adopted by the Constituent Assembly on June 4, 1919. According to this the Supreme Power was vested in the Constituent Assembly, which was composed of 120 members.
The Constitution of the Esthonian Republic was passed by the Constituent Assembly on June 15, 1920, and has been in force since December 20, 1920.
The power of the State is in the hands of the people. The sovereign power is assured to the people by means of the elections to the Legislative Assembly (Riigikogu, State Assembly), the referendum, and the right of initiating legislation.
The State Assembly is composed of 100 members, elected for three years on the basis of proportional representation, and by universal, direct, equal, and secret suffrage. The Assembly forms the Government, and accepts its resignation, promulgates the laws, passes the budget, decides the financial policy generally, ratifies treaties, the mobilisation decree, and state of siege, &c.
The signatures of 25,000 citizens are necessary in demanding a referendum, proposing a new law, or amending the existing laws. The budget and measures affecting war, peace and foreign treaties cannot he submitted to a referendum.
The executive power consists of the State Head (Riigiwanem, State Elder), and ministers, who form the Government. The Government directs the foreign and home policy of the Republic, appoints officials (except where special laws exist), and introduces legislation. It is chosen by the State Assembly, and is responsible to that body. The Government collectively and individually must possess the confidence of the Assembly, and must resign if a vote of no confidence is passed. The Government is the Commander-in-Chief of the Republican defence forces in peace time.
The members of local organs of self-government are elected on a basis similar to that on which rests the elections to the State Assembly. If the law has not created special offices, the executive power of the Government is exercised through the local government institutions.
All Esthonian citizens are equal in the eyes of the law. There is no death penalty.
The national flag of Esthonia is blue, black and white in horizontal stripes.