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West Estonian Archipelago; a group of islands in the Baltic Sea, north-northwest of the Gulf of Riga, part of the Estonian SSR. Area, 4,000 sq km.
The islands of the archipelago are composed mainly of lime-stones covered in some places by morainic deposits. The archipelago consists of four large islands, Saaremaa, Hiiumaa, Muhu, and Vormsi, and more than 500 small islands. The shores are strongly dissected. The surface is mostly a plain, with elevations up to 54 m. The climate is moderately warm, with a mild winter (average January temperature, — 4°C) and a warm summer (average July temperature, about 17°C). The precipitation is about 550 mm a year. The greater part of the islands’ surface is covered with meadows alternating with forests; along the shores there are sand dunes covered with pine forests. The archipelago has mainly soddy calcareous and marsh soils. The main industries of the archipelago are fishing, farming, and live-stock raising. The principal city is Kingisepp on Saaremaa.