Does Estonia have a King?

In the past, various foreign monarchs have ruled over parts or the whole of Estonia, including the kings of Denmark, Sweden and Poland, and the tsars of Russia, but since the proclamation of national independence in 1918, Estonia has been a republic.

Although they have never had their own king, Estonians do have a State coat of arms of royal origin. The heraldic motif of the three lions dates back to the 13th century when the Danish King Valdemar II donated the arms to the city of Tallinn. Despite arguments against the use of a foreign monarchical emblem and calls to include the griffin to represent the historical coat of arms of Southern Estonia, the three lions were adopted as the national coat of arms in 1925. Estonia’s blue, black and white national flag dates back to the 19th century. The tricolour, which the ethnically Estonian students of Tartu University chose for their association’s flag, was embraced by the vast majority of Estonians at the beginning of the 20th century.

The foundation of the Estonian system of governance was laid in the aftermath of WW I and consolidated during the Estonian War of Independence in the Constitution of 1920, which vested extensive authority in parliament. After the forced hiatus caused by the Soviet occupation in 1940, Estonian statehood was restored on the basis of de jure continuity in 1991.

Today, Estonian governance is based on the fusion of the legislative and executive branches of power typical of parliamentary democracies. Estonian citizens elect a 101-member unicameral Riigikogu (Parliament) for a four-year term. In addition to its legislative powers, Parliament regulates taxation and adopts the State budget. The top executive institution, the Government of Estonia headed by the Prime Minister, conducts the nation’s daily domestic and foreign policy, and directs the work of government institutions.

Estonia’s Head of State is the President; however, his or her role, much like that of the constitutional monarchs of Europe and quite unlike the presidents of the USA or France, is largely representative and ceremonial.

​Estonia’s Head of State is the President; however, his or her role, much like that of the constitutional monarchs of Europe and quite unlike the presidents of the USA or France, is largely representative and ceremonial.

Decisions on the matters closest to the Estonian people are taken by urban and rural municipal councils, which are elected every four years. Suffrage in local elections is extended to all permanent residents who are at least 18 years old.

Among the rural municipalities the population may range widely from the 16 000 inhabitants of Viimsi, a de facto suburb of Tallinn, to the little more than 100 permanent residents on the island municipality of Piirissaar.

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