Trade in Estonia in the Past and Present

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Сергей Голубев


In this report, the commerce in Estonia is going to be described in different periods of time.

Trade in the past

The most important Estonian trading centers during Middle Ages were still Tallinn and Narva, the first as a provincial centre and a transit harbor between Western Europe and Russia. The Narva River served as a trading route to Pskov, Novgorod and Moscow.

The Baltic trade was taken over by foreign merchants, mostly from North Germany, the Netherlands and later England.

The most important export item was grain; flax from Russia and Estonia was the next important. Russian shipbuilding materials, furs, wax and timber products were sent to Western Europe via Tallinn. It was by sea that the main Estonian imports such as salt (which was then taken to Russia and Finland), spices, wine, fruit, salt, textiles etc. were imported from the West, mainly from Spain and Flanders. Iron was shipped to Estonia from Sweden and tin from England.

The trading items remained almost the same during the Middle Ages, and partly also later.

Trade in our time

Nowadays trade in the country has reached a significant level. Port of Tallinn is the leading cargo port in Estonia, as well as an important transit center in general. It handles most of the cargo flows between Russia and Western Europe.

Today Estonia exports various products: electronic devices and components of all kinds, and motor vehicle safety equipment, wood products, textiles, food products, metals and chemical products also.

Machinery and equipment, chemical products, foodstuffs, metal products, textiles are being imported from Finland, Russia, Sweden, Germany and Japan.


Estonia is situated on a busy trading route between East and West and has always had excellent ports. It is clear that foreign trade and transit are therefore ever more and more important to the Estonian economy.

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