Between 2020 and 2022, Estonia is celebrating the centenary of de jure recognition by and the establishment of diplomatic relations with various countries.
Below is a chronology of the de jure recognition of the Republic of Estonia by other countries since 1920. The source document and information about appointing foreign representatives has been added to most countries. The documents and photographs are sourced from the National Archives of Estonia. The chronology was compiled by Heini Vilbiks.
In this overview, the definition of the establishment of diplomatic relations is based on the principle that any sovereign state that is recognised de jure by other countries has the right to post diplomatic representatives and receive the representatives of other countries.
“Therefore, there is a link between de jure recognition and establishing diplomatic relations but it is not an immutable one,” Eero Medijainen notes in his book Saadiku saatus (The Ambassador’s Destiny).
In 1918, Estonia joined European and global diplomacy and in hindsight, it can be noted that it was a success. In his book Saadiku saatus, Eero Medijainen notes that, “… establishing the Foreign Ministry and embassies was one of the greatest achievements of Estonia before 1940”.
Just as the history of Estonian diplomacy began in 1917 before the Republic of Estonia was declared, the first Estonian foreign missions were established in 1918 and 1919 before the Republic of Estonia had been recognised de jure and formal diplomatic relations with these countries had been established. The same scenario was repeated in 1990, when Lennart Meri, immediately after becoming the Foreign Minister of the Estonian SSR, began founding Estonia’s cultural and information points, which became the predecessors of the embassies of the Republic of Estonia that had by then become independent.
It is important to underline that the Foreign Ministry continued to operate as the only state institution between 1940 and 1991 through Estonian diplomats who had remained in the West, thus preserving the continuity of the Republic of Estonia. For example, Ernst Jaakson was in the Estonian diplomatic service for 79 consecutive years and worked at the Estonian representation in the United States from 1929 to 1998 – this way, he was also able to serve the restored Republic of Estonia. Lennart Meri was also a son of a diplomat and had lived in Berlin and Paris with his family before the Second World War.
By now, the Republic of Estonia has established diplomatic relations with 193 states. Estonia has a total of 47 foreign representations: 36 embassies, 3 consulates general (and one consular service in Pskov) and 7 permanent missions to international organisations. Additionally, nearly 200 honorary consuls are upholding the interests of the Estonian state and people in regions where Estonia has no official representation.