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Estonian Americans (Estonian: Ameerika eestlased) are Americans who are of Estonian ancestry, mainly descendants of people who left Estonia before and especially during World War II. According to the 2013 American Community Survey, there were over 27,000 Americans of full or partial Estonian descent,[1] up from 26,762 in 1990.

Estonian Americans
Ameerika eestlased
Total population
27,113 (2013)[1]
Regions with significant populations
California · New York · New Jersey · Washington · Florida
American English, Estonian
Protestant (Lutheran), Deism
Related ethnic groups
Estonian Canadians, Finnish Americans



Estonian-American population
as of the 2000 U.S. census[2]
California 3,465
New York 2,892
New Jersey 2,331
Washington 1,401
Florida 1,393

Estonians first started coming to the United States in the late 19th century, and continued until the mid-20th century. The beginnings of industrialization and commercial agriculture in the Russian Empire transformed Estonian farmers into migrants. The pressures of industrialization drove numerous Estonian peasants to emigrate to the United States continuing until the outbreak of World War II. In 1944, in the face of the country being re-occupied by the Red Army, 80,000 people fled from Estonia by sea to Germany and Sweden, becoming war refugees and later, expatriates. Some thousand of them moved on from there and settled in the United States. After the war's end, these displaced persons were allowed to immigrate to the United States and to apply for citizenship. Some of these refugees and their descendants started returning to Estonia at the end of the 1980s.

Notable peopleEdit

Conductor Neeme Järvi was the music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, as well as the international Gothenburg Symphony, and Het Residentie Orkest of The Hague. His three children, conductors Paavo Järvi and Kristjan Järvi, and flautist Maarika Järvi, are prominent American musicians in their own right. Paavo Järvi is the chief conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

Chemist Lauri Vaska emigrated to United States in 1949. He is distinguished for his research in organometallic chemistry, winning the prestigious Boris Pregel Award. Hillar Rootare, a materials scientist, is best known for his work in the development of mercury porosimetry, high pressure liquid chromatography, and the formulation of the Rootare-Prenzlow Equation.

In journalism, Edmund S. Valtman, a successful editorial cartoonist, won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.

Ene Riisna is an Estonian-born American award-winning television producer, known for her work on the American news program 20/20.

Alar Toomre is an astronomer recognized for his research on the dynamics of galaxies. The Toomre sequence and Toomre Instability are named in his honor.

In entertainment, singer and actress Miliza Korjus was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in the 1938 film The Great Waltz.

Hollywood actor Johann Urb (born January 24, 1977) is an Estonian living and working in the United States.

Kerli Kõiv (born February 7, 1987), better known mononymously as Kerli, is an Estonian pop singer residing in the United States since 2005.

Psychologist, psychobiologist and neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp (born June 5, 1943) coined the term 'affective neuroscience', the name for the field that studies the neural mechanisms of emotion.

Mena Suvari (born February 13, 1979) is an American actress, fashion designer, and model.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves, born December 26, 1953 in Sweden but raised in New Jersey, was the President of Estonia.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Total ancestry categories tallied for people with one or more ancestry categories reported 2013 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2 September 2014.
  2. ^ People of Estonian Ancestry, U.S. 2000 Census

External linksEdit