Text size:

The Estonian Defence League between two wars

However, the Bolshevik’s attempted rebellion in Tallinn, on 1 December 1924, clearly demonstrated that there could be no indifference in ensuring national security. The activities of the self-initiated Estonian Defence League received state support when, two weeks after the Bolshevik’s rebellion attempt, Commander of the Defence Forces Lieutenant General Johann Laidoner established, under his directive, the temporary statutes of the Estonian Defence League.

On 2 February 1925, the Government of the Republic approved the new Statutes of the Estonian Defence League, which in many ways supplemented and specified the current temporary statutes. The new Statutes specified the command of the entire organisation. In addition to the Commander of the Estonian Defence League (1925-1940 Major General Johannes Roska-Orasmaa) and the Deputy Commander, the Statutes provided for a Central Assembly and Board of Elders, comprised of well-known public figures. Command of regional district units and their relations to the Defence Forces were also specified.

The organisational structure of the Estonian Defence League provided for regional district units (15), these in turn were divided into sub-units and further into companies, platoons and sections, similar to the Defence Forces. 1925 saw the laying down of a foundation for the organisation and further development of the Estonian Defence League.

In 1926, a solid foundation was set for training, when the main focus was shifted towards training work from the previous focus on activities intended to increase the organisation’s membership.

1927 brought along a change in shooting. The conducting of shooting exercises had, until then, been restricted by a shortage in the number of available shooting ranges. Construction of new shooting ranges was based on the principle that it should not take more than an hour for any member of the Defence League to get to a shooting range. By 31 March 1932, the members of the Defence League had 650 shooting ranges at their disposal. This contribution to the development of shooting meant that world sport shooting saw a rise in the number of Estonian shooters in the 1930s.

Concern for young defenders of the home land forced mothers and fathers to take their sons and daughters with them. This is how the youth organisations Young Eagles and Home Daughters were formed in the second half of the 1930s, in addition to the Defence League and Women’s Home Defence. Establishment of affiliated organisations continuously increased the scope of tasks and responsibility of the Estonian Defence League. Regular training was supplemented by youth education, which was precisely the basis for increasing the membership of the Defence League in the future.