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During World War II, Estonia suffered successive occupations by Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and Soviet Union again, resulting in its annexation as the Estonian SSR.
After the loss of its de facto independence, Estonia's de jure state continuity was preserved by diplomats and government in exile.
The earliest human inhabitation during the Mesolithic period is connected to the Kunda culture, named after the town of Kunda in northern Estonia.
At that time the country was covered with forests, and people lived in semi-nomadic communities near bodies of water.
After centuries of successive German, Danish, Swedish, and Russian rule, Estonians experienced what has been described as a "national awakening" in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The German Livonian Brothers of the Sword, who had previously subjugated Livonians, Latgalians, and Selonians, started campaigning against the Estonians in 1208, and over next few years both sides made numerous raids and counter-raids.
A major leader of the Estonian resistance was Lembitu, an elder of Sakala County, but in 1217 the Estonians suffered a significant defeat in the Battle of St. In 1219, Valdemar II landed at Lyndanisse, defeated the Estonians in battle, and started conquering Northern Estonia.
Estonia is a developed country with an advanced, high-income economy that as of 2011 is among the fastest growing in the EU. The land inhabited by Estonians was called Maavald meaning "Country Realm" or "Land Realm".
One hypothesis regarding the modern name of Estonia is that it originated from the Aesti, a people described by the Roman historian Tacitus in his Germania (ca. The historic Aesti were allegedly Baltic people, whereas the modern Estonians are Finno-Ugric.
Spiritual practices were guided by shamans, with sacred groves, especially oak groves, serving as places of worship.