Global Estonian | Estonians abroad and the Estonian Defence League
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Estonians abroad and the Estonian Defence League

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Estonian Defence League members Erlend Sild and Maria Grünberg write about contributing to Estonia’s national defence as a volunteer while living abroad.

In these anxious times, we must increasingly pay attention to national defence. Even now, when Estonia is free and not facing a direct threat, we must be prepared. How do we ensure Estonia’s security even better and how can we contribute to it at home and abroad?


Estonia has three main types of defence forces

The Estonian state currently has three main types of defence forces – the Defence Forces of Estonia, the Estonian Defence League and NATO Allies. The Defence Forces of Estonia have two main lines of activities – training a reserve army based on compulsory military service, and hosting Allies and organising joint exercises. The Defence Forces of Estonia provide work for professional military staff that include officers, instructors and soldiers who have both peace-time and wartime jobs. Their daily job is to preserve Estonia’s freedom and security.

The Estonian Defence League, on the other hand, is a lot more diverse. The first great difference is that it is mostly made up of volunteers, both men and women, who are united by their desire to contribute to national defence out of their free time. The Estonian Defence League also has many professional officers and watch units; however, for the majority of citizens in the Defence League, national defence is not their primary profession. The Estonian Defence League also has subunits with different specialisations: the Women’s Voluntary Defence Organization, Home Daughters and Young Eagles. As the name of the Women’s Voluntary Defence Organization indicates, it comprises women united by their desire to contribute to Estonia’s security. The goal of Home Daughters and Young Eagles is to offer young people adventurous and patriotic extracurricular activities but they are not part of the wartime structure of the organisation.


Various options in the Estonian Defence League

Not all members of the Estonian Defence League and the Women’s Voluntary Defence Organization have to wear fatigues and a wartime position does not always mean fighting in a forest with a helmet on your head and a gun in your hand. It involves many different tasks and roles ranging from organising civilian cooperation and ensuring catering to evacuation and recruitment. Likewise, many members of the Estonian Defence League (and the Defence Forces) are active in schools, teaching young people about the various aspects of national defence, career opportunities and options in the Defence Forces and the Estonian Defence League, and organising forest camps. The Estonian Defence League also has many supporting members who usually do not have training or a wartime position but who support the Estonian Defence League and national defence more broadly with various resources. Their contribution is crucial because without them, there would be no rear and without the rear, no one would be fighting on the front. 


Accommodators, amplifiers and active fighters

We can highlight three notional social groups who are participating in national defence directly or indirectly. Let us call them accommodators, amplifiers and active fighters. The role of active fighters is perhaps the easiest to understand – these are the people who are part of both the Estonian Defence League as well as the Defence Forces and they have a wartime position. Anyone, both in Estonia and abroad, can be an accommodator and amplifier. Accommodators include the above-mentioned supporting members of the Estonian Defence League who are paying their annual membership fee and contribute financial and other resources to national defence on the level of an average private citizen. Accommodators include citizens who permit the use of their premises, equipment etc. The crucial value of accommodators in defence activities is that they are based in a certain location – as they know the peculiarities of their home and are acquainted with local people and conditions, we can use their support if necessary.

Amplifiers could also be called ‘major sponsors of national defence.’ They include private citizens and companies that are contributing considerable financial and other resources to national defence, such as fuel, food, drones, and necessary contacts. They are partners who make it possible to organise and carry out training in a more efficient way, and indirectly, to ensure the existence of our state. Amplifiers also certainly include the people who have supported Ukraine and Ukrainians in one way or another during this horrible war.


What can an Estonian abroad do and how can they participate in national defence?

Estonia is a small country and there are not many Estonians at home and abroad. This is why it is important for all of us to stick together and help to preserve what we cherish the most – so that we maintain our democratic values and we are able to live in our free country and, in addition to peace, preserve the independence of our state. It is crucial that our Allies see our own contributions and efforts in defending our country and that we are equal partners. Naturally, our adversary will also see us as strong and united, and think that the price of a conflict with us would be too high and painful.

As an Estonian abroad, you can assume the role of both an accommodator and an amplifier. The precondition for a supporting member of the Estonian Defence League is not their location on the map; instead, it is their determination to provide some extra military and non-military power to Estonia’s defence capabilities. No aspiring partner, either a private citizen or a company, has to be in Estonia physically; instead, it is important to contact the Estonian Defence League or the Defence Forces and tell them how you or your company can reinforce Estonia’s defence capabilities.

The actions of our own unit in the Estonian Defence League is an example, with us doing more in our free time than the role of an active fighter would suggest. In addition to our usual training, we are also contributing to broad-based national defence. The fighters of our unit are giving lessons on national defence, organising and implementing training programmes in national defence camps. For many years, we organised a course on identifying disinformation with a practical training, and we went to schools as members of the Estonian Atlantic Treaty Organisation to teach classes on NATO topics. Since the war started in Ukraine, we have sent equipment and medical tools, mediated the shipment of more than 50 cars to the front and much more.

There is currently a campaign underway in Estonia, where some of our fighters are involved to share their experiences: it is a nation-wide motivational campaign aimed at reserve forces.

You can also support our unit as an amplifier – more information is available on the website

Erlend Sild and Maria Grünberg

Members of the Tartu District of the Estonian Defence League



Veebilehte haldab Integratsiooni Sihtasutus.
Sihtasutuse asutaja on Eesti Vabariik, kelle nimel teostab asutajaõigusi Kultuuriministeerium.