Information on the Estonian League of Defence [EST10895]

Information specific to the Estonian League of Defence is not currently available to the IRBDC. However, information on an organization known as the Defence League, or Kaitseliit, in Estonia is provided in this Response.

Kaitseliit (Defence League) was "re-created" in Estonia in 1990. According to a Tass report as carried by the BBC, Kaitseliit was originally a nationalist militarised formation founded in 1917 and named in 1918 (BBC Summary 13 Apr. 1990). Membership was voluntary (Ibid.). This report states that the organization was disbanded in 1921, restored in 1924 and continued to be active until 1940 (Ibid.). According to the report, the aim of Kaitseliit is "to ensure the security of citizens of Estonia...and to train officer cadres for further national forces of self-defence of an independent Estonia" (Ibid.).

An article in The Times of 14 April 1990 also describes the Defence League as a "volunteer force formed over the past few months in response to the feeling among Estonians that the Soviet police were refusing to help Estonians in difficulties." The article further indicates that the aim of the League, whose name was taken from the territorial army of the inter-war republic, is to serve as a militia and possibly as a border force (14 April 1990).

A 3 September 1990 report by Izvestia described Kaitseliit as "a paramilitary organization that existed in bourgeois Estonia and is now being revived" and stated that activists from this group were setting up barriers "at a point where the state border used to run before Estonia became part of the Soviet Union" (Current Digest 3 October 1991)

A broadcast by Tass on 11 September 1990 indicated that the Estonian Defence League (Kaitseliit) was attempting to recruit volunteers to defend Kuwait against Iraq (BBC Summary 21 Sept. 1990). The report also stated that Kalle Eller was the head of Kaitseliit (Ibid.). A report from Estonian television on 7 September 1990 also indicated that Kaitseliit was forming "an auxiliary service for those Estonian volunteers who wish to stand for the freedom of the state of Kuwait" (BBC Summary 21 Sept. 1990).

According to Tass, Estonian television reported on 9 January 1991 that the Kaitseliit Defence League had announced a state of emergency for its members (BBC Summary 16 Jan. 1991); however, details are not given. On 12 January 1991, Rahva Haal carried an excerpt from an article by Juri Liim of Geneva-49, a movement for the protection of conscripts, indicating that Geneva-49 was counting on support from Kaitseliit among others (BBC Summary 9 Feb. 1992).

An April 1992 article from Estonian Radio indicates that the government of Estonia has decreed that Kaitseliit (defence league) "will be considered part of the Republic of Estonia's defence forces" (BBC Summary 2 May 1992). Please see the attached report for further information.

There is no further information currently available to the IRBDC on this topic.


BBC Summary of World Broadcasts. 2 May 1992. "Position of Kaitseliit Firmly Established." (NEXIS)

. 9 February 1991. "Movement for Protection of Conscripts Recommences Its Activities." (NEXIS)

. 16 January 1991. "Military Issues." (NEXIS)

. 21 September 1990. "Estonian Defence League Recruits Volunteers To Defend Kuwait." (NEXIS)

. 13 April 1990. "'Kranaya Zvezda' Criticises Formation of Pre-1940 Estonian Defence Organizations." (NEXIS)

Current Digest of the Soviet Press [Columbus, Ohio]. 3 Oct. 1990. "Weren't They in a Hurry to Put Up Barriers?" (NEXIS)

The Times [London]. 14 April 1990. "Estonia Distances Itself Further from Moscow Rule." (NEXIS)


BBC Summary of World Broadcasts. 2 May 1992. "Position of Kaitseliit Firmly Established." (NEXIS)