Estonia was part of the Holy Roman Empire until it became a Swedish possession in the 17th century. On Sweden’s defeat by Peter the Great, Estonia passed to the Russian Empire in 1721. The workers’ and soldiers’ Soviets, which came to prominence in 1917, were overthrown with the assistance of British naval forces in May 1919 and a democratic republic proclaimed. In March 1934 this regime was, in turn, overthrown by a fascist coup. The secret protocol of the Soviet-German agreement of 23 Aug. 1939 assigned Estonia to the Soviet sphere of interest. An ultimatum (16 June 1940) led to the formation of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic. At a referendum in March 1991, 77·8% of votes cast were in favour of independence. A fully independent status was conceded by the USSR State Council on 6 Sept. 1991. Estonia was admitted to the Council of Europe in 1993, and became a member of NATO in March 2004 and the European Union in May 2004.
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