Estonian Defence League
The Estonian Defence League is the name of the unified paramilitary armed forces of the Republic of Estonia. The Defence League is a paramilitary
A paramilitary is a force whose function and organization are similar to those of a professional military, but which is not considered part of a state's formal armed forces....

Defense (military)
Defense has several uses in the sphere of military application.Personal defense implies measures taken by individual soldiers in protecting themselves whether by use of protective materials such as armor, or field construction of trenches or a bunker, or by using weapons that prevent the enemy...

An organization is a social group which distributes tasks for a collective goal. The word itself is derived from the Greek word organon, itself derived from the better-known word ergon - as we know `organ` - and it means a compartment for a particular job.There are a variety of legal types of...

 which aim is to guarantee the preservation of the independence and sovereignty of the state, the integrity of its land area and its constitutional order.

The Defence League possesses arms and engages in military exercises, fulfilling the tasks given to it by the law. The organization is divided into 15 Defence League regional units, called malev
Malev (military unit)
A malev is an ancient Estonian military unit led by a senior officer that is subordinate to an infantry division. A malev was originally based on a manpower of county and was led by a county vanem. Malev is bigger than a pataljon but smaller than a diviis...

, whose areas of responsibility mostly coincide with the borders of Estonian counties.


The Defence League is a voluntary military national defence organisation, which acts in the area of government of the Ministry of Defence. The Defence League possesses arms and engages in military exercises. The main goal of the Defence League is, on the basis of the citizens’ free will and initiative, to enhance the readiness of the nation to defend its independence and its constitutional order, including in the event of military threat.

The Defence League plays an important role in supporting the civil structures. Its members aid in putting out wildfires, volunteer as assistant police members, and ensure safety at various events. Units, consisting of voluntary members of the Defence League, also participate in international peace support operations such as in the Balkan states. The Defence League and its affiliated organisations have positive relations with partner organisations in the Nordic countries, the United States and the United Kingdom.


  • 1918 – The Estonian Defence League was preceded by Estonia's first armed home defence organisation: Omakaitse
    The Omakaitse was a militia organisation in Estonia. It was founded in 1917 following the Russian Revolution. On the eve of the Occupation of Estonia by the German Empire the Omakaitse units took over major towns in the country allowing the Salvation Committee of the Estonian Provincial Assembly...

     the Citizens' Defence Organisation (German
    German language
    German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

     Bürgerwehr) against the public disorder accompanying the Russian Revolution.
  • 1918 – On 11 November the Citizens' Defence Organisation was renamed the Estonian Defence League which performed the tasks of a national guard in the War of Independence.
  • 1924 – The attempted Communist coup on December 1 dispelled any doubts about the necessity for the Defence League. Development of the Defence League for the performance of tasks of national defence was started.
  • 1925 – In October the Estonian Defence League magazine "Kaitse Kodu!" ("Defend Your Home!") was founded.
  • 1926 – On 19–20 June the first Estonian Defence League Festival took place in Tallinn, to be followed by six more such events held before 1940.
  • 1927 – To develop the Defence League and give it a family dimension, the Commander of the Defence League approved the temporary statutes of the Women's Home Defence.
  • 1928 – The Body of Elders decided to invite the boy scout organisation the Young Eagles to join the Defence League.
  • 1931 – The Government of the Republic approved the Statutes of the Defence League which have remained in force until the present day.
  • 1932 – The Girl Scout
    Scouting in Estonia
    The Scout and Guide movement in Estonia is served by* Eesti Gaidide Liit, member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts* Eesti Skautide Ühing, member of the World Organization of the Scout Movement...

     organisation Home Daughters was established at the Women's Home Defence.
  • 1934 – To regulate the life and work of the organisation, House Rules of the Defence League were adopted.
  • 1940 – With the Soviet occupation starting from 17 June, the liquidation of both the Republic of Estonia and the Defence League started.
  • 1974 – Defence League in exile was founded by Avdy Andresson
    Avdy Andresson
    Avdy Andresson was the Estonian Minister of War in exile from April 3, 1973 until two months before his death on June 20, 1990, and disputed Commander of Armed Forces from 14 October 1975.- Biography :...

    , Estonian Minister of War in exile.
  • 1990 – The Defence League was re-founded on 17 February at Järvakandi on popular initiative in order to defend Estonia's independent statehood.
  • 1991 – On 4 September the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia reinstated the rights of the Defence League as a legal person.
  • 1992 – On 28 April the Defence League was included in the Defence Forces as a national defence organisation.

In 1999 the Estonian Parliament adopted the Law of Kaitseliit, which provided the position of Kaitseliit in society and national defence and also described it’s main tasks, structure, legal basis for operations and control and co-operation with other persons.


The organisation is divided into 15 Defence League regional units whose areas of responsibility mostly coincide with the borders of Estonia’s counties; Alutaguse, Jõgeva, Lääne, Hiiumaa, Pärnumaa, Põlva, Rapla,Tartu, Tallinn, Tallinn Akadeemiline, Tallinn Lääne, Tallinn Nõmme, Tallinn Ühendmalevkond, Viru, Viljandi, and Võru.

Today, the Defence League has over 11,000 members. The affiliated organisations of the Defence League combine more than 20,000 volunteers, in all, and include the Estonian Defence League’s women’s corps Naiskodukaitse, the Estonian Defence League’s boys’ corps Noored Kotkad, and the Estonian Defence League’s girls’ corps Kodutütred.

Subunits – Youth and female Corps

Defence League’s women’s corps – "Women's Home Defence"

The Defence League's women's corps – Naiskodukaitse is a support organisation of Kaitseliit with approximately 1000 special trained female volunteers.

The main functions of the women’s corps include the following:

• to assist the Defence League in defending the independence of Estonia and its constitutional order, to ensure the safety of its citizens, and to discharge any other functions;

• to organise and ensure the medical and rear services of the Defence League in co-operation with the regional units;

• to promote the ideals of the Defence League and national feelings;

• to participate in organising the social life of the Defence League.

Defence League’s girls’ corps – "Home Daughters"

The Defence League’s girls’ corps – Kodutütred was established to increase patriotic feelings and readiness to defend the independence of Estonia among young girls; to enhance the love for home and fatherland; to encourage respect for the Estonian language and ways of thinking; to be honest, enterprising, responsible, and capable of decision-making; to respect nature; and to respect one’s parents and others.

Defence League’s boys’ corps – "Young Eagles"

The Defence League’s boys’ corps – Noored Kotkad
Noored Kotkad
Noored kotkad in an Estonian war and adventure silent film about Estonian War of Independence, fought in 1918-1920.Film was filmed in 1927 in Tartu, Tartu County, Mustvee and Värska. The film was digitally restored in 2008 by Taska Productions and Digital Film Finland....

. The objective of the organisation is to raise these young people as good citizens with healthy bodies and minds. In addition to numerous interesting activities, such as parachute jumping, flying gliders, orienteering, shooting weapons, etc., the boys’ corps also participates in numerous events, the most popular but also the most difficult being the Mini-Erna 35 km reconnaissance competition.


The Estonian Victory Day (1918) has been celebrated until WW II with military parades, organized by Kaitseliit.
Since 2000, Victory Day parades have been organized by Kaitseliit again.
In 2006, the first Fleet Review in Estonian history was conducted by Kaitseliit in June in Saaremaa.


The Commander of Defence League  is the highest-ranking officer of the Defence League; though he may not be the senior officer by time in grade. The Commander has the responsibility to man, train, equip and develop the organization. He does not serve as a direct battlefield commander. The Commander is a member and head of the Chief of Staff which is the main organizational tool of the Commander. The Commander is appointed by the Commander of the Defence Forces or by the Supreme Commander in Chief of the Defence Forces. The current and 14th Commandant is Lieutenant Colonel Raivo Lumiste, who assumed the position in 2006. As of 2007, Lieutenant Colonel Kajari Klettenberg is the Defence League Chief of Staff.

Positions and insignia

The rank structure of the Estonian Defence League corresponds to that of the rest of the Estonian Defence Forces, usually the same insignia are used correspondingly. However, sometimes specific insignia denoting positions are used by staff.
Higher and staff positions Senior field positions Junior field positions
Kaitseliidu ülem Kaitseliidu Peastaabi ülem Kaitseliidu maleva pealik Maleva vaneminstruktor Malevkonna pealik Kompanii pealik Rühma pealik Rühmapealik eriüksustes Rühmapealiku abi Jaopealik Jaopealiku abi

Commander Chief of Staff Chief of Malev Senior instructor Chief of Malevkond Chief of Company Platoon commander Platoon commander
in special forces
Assistant platoon commander Section commander Assistant section commander


Standard uniforms of the Estonian Defence Forces are issued to Defence League personnel. On some festive occasions (such as parades), white armband
An armband is a piece of material worn around the arm over the sleeve of other clothing if present. they may be worn for pure ornamentation to mark the wearer as belonging to group, having a certain rank or role, or being in a particular state or condition...

s with the insignia of the given territorial unit are worn.

Armbands have also previously been worn on civilian clothing to distinguish members of the Defence League from civilians during periods when Defence League units did not have sufficient inventories to supply every member with a uniform (during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, in the beginning of the 1990s).


The basic infantry weapon of the Defence League is the 5.56mm IMI Galil family, with a majority of soldiers being equipped with the IMI Galil
IMI Galil
The Galil is a family of Israeli small arms designed by Yisrael Galil and Yaacov Lior in the late 1960s and produced by Israel Military Industries Ltd of Ramat HaSharon...

 or the 7.62mm G3 rifle. Modified U.S. M14
M14 rifle
The M14 rifle, formally the United States Rifle, 7.62 mm, M14, is an American selective fire automatic rifle firing 7.62x51mm NATO  ammunition. It was the standard issue U.S. rifle from 1959 to 1970. The M14 was used for U.S...

 rifles are used by sharpshooters. There has been talk about phasing out the Galil rifle.

Suppressive fire is provided by the Ksp 58 and MG3 machine guns at the section, troop and company levels. In addition, indirect fire is provided by the 40mm M-69
Type 69 RPG
The Type 69 85mm rocket propelled grenade , made by Norinco, is a Chinese copy of the famous RPG-7 developed by the Soviet Union. First introduced in the early 1970s, the Type 69 RPG is a common individual anti-tank weapon in service with the PLA...

 antitank weapons, and 82mm B-300
The B-300 is a reuseable man-portable anti-tank weapon system developed by Israeli Military Industries in the late 1970s for use by the Israel Defence Force. The B-300 can be carried and operated by a single operator and is effective to approximately 400 meters...

 grenade launchers as well as B455 81 mm mortar
Mortar (weapon)
A mortar is an indirect fire weapon that fires explosive projectiles known as bombs at low velocities, short ranges, and high-arcing ballistic trajectories. It is typically muzzle-loading and has a barrel length less than 15 times its caliber....

 in battalions.

Some battlegroups also include an anti-tank gun units equipped with the 84mm Carl Gustav
Carl Gustav recoilless rifle
The Carl Gustav is the common name for the 84 mm man-portable reusable multi-role recoilless rifle produced by Saab Bofors Dynamics in Sweden...

 recoilless rifles and 90mm Pvpj 1110
Pvpj 1110
The Pvpj 1110 is a Swedish 90 mm rifled recoilless gun. It is also widely known as Pv-1110. It entered service at the early 1960s and was phased out of service in the Swedish Army in the late 1990s after 1600 had been produced...

 anti-tank guns. The Defence League utilizes a variety of tactical transport vehicles and a small number armoured personnel carriers, including BTR-60
The BTR-60 is the first vehicle in a series of Soviet eight-wheeled armoured personnel carriers. It was developed in the late 1950s as a replacement for the BTR-152 and was seen first time in public in 1961...

, BTR-152
The BTR-152 was a non-amphibious Soviet wheeled armored personnel carrier that entered Soviet service in 1950. By the early 1970s it had been replaced in the infantry vehicle role by the BTR-60...

and many old swedish armoured cars.

External links

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