There is an excellent piece about Estonia by Jüri Estam at La Russophobe. I highly suggest you read it today, February 24, the independence day of Estonia.
In the pantheon of nationalities, Estonians are still mostly an unknown quantity. The post-war era allowed crafty tourist-oriented campaigns to "brand" the nations of Western Europe for North American travelers.
Scotland was the land of whiskey, bagpipes, and the Highland Games. France was the land of chateaus, fashion, wine, and cheese. Switzerland was chocolate and watches. Germany was beer, bratwurst, and high-end automobiles. Italy was the grandeur of Rome and pasta. Finland is the home of Santa Claus, his sauna, and his reindeer.
But what of Estonia? What is Estonian nationality? Ask an Estonian and you'll get an answer like "the land" or "the language". But, to me, after having been in touch with this windswept peninsula at the roof of Europe, Estonian nationality is something like a classic Ingmar Bergman film from the 1950s or 60s. It's not the sparse dialog, it's not the medieval costumes, it's not the haunting northern landscape -- it's the sum of the whole, it's all the parts working together that 'make' Estonian nationality.
To me, the Estonians are a quantity unchanged. Even with all their technology and love of e-fficiency, it is not hard to imagine them eking out an existence in the Swedish or Russian imperial times, married to farms owned by Baltic German nobility, cast against a manic-depressive landscape of soul trying winters and liberating summers of endless daylight.
I once asked someone at the beginning of my adventures in this country, what Estonians were like. Were they like Germans, Swedes, Finns, or, God forbid, Russians? She answered my question by making me answer it by myself. "We are not like the Finns," she said. "My girlfriend has lived for decades in Finland and she still feels like an outsider. We are not anything else; we are simply Estonians."
And this is the paradox of Estonian national identity. It is defined by concepts that seem base -- paganism, serfdom, a self-sufficient agricultural mentality. And yet, it is still a high-brow concept that may only start to coalesce after one looks past the glowing articles about Tallinn's wild nightlife or Skype's Silicon -Valley-on-Gulf-of-Finland corporate culture, and spends some time out in the countryside with guys named Eino and ladies named Aino.
The Estonian national concept, like the Estonians themselves, takes a while to get warmed up. But once it gets started, you'll find yourself being passed one day by a stubborn, individualistic driver somewhere outside of Rio de Janeiro, and think to yourself, "That guy drives like a maniac. He must be an Estonian."