Estonia commemorated the 95th anniversary of the first of many military threats to its proclaimed independence with candle-lighting and wreath-laying ceremonies in two locations in Tallinn.
“I call on Estonians to light candles at graves and memorials to those who fought for Estonia, to remember our forebears’ heroism and courage in the early days of the War of Independence,” said Defense Minister Urmas Reinsalu.
Reinsalu spoke at the Cross of Liberty monument in central Tallinn this afternoon. A ceremony was held earlier at the Defense Forces Cemetery as well.
He added that Estonian self-reliance was crucial to achieving freedom. “Our state was forged with iron and blood. In the War of Independence, our grandfathers and great-grandfathers fulfilled our people’s ancient dream of independence and statehood. From out of the fires of the War of Independence, they brought freedom.”
With a power vacuum developing after the German surrender in World War I, on November 28, 1918, 7,000 men in the 6th Rifle Division of the Red Army attacked Estonia from across the Narva River, where they were met by Estonian national forces - the predecessor of the Defense Forces.
They had only 2,200 men at the time, and no heavy artillery. They were joined by 14,000 in the Defense League.
The rest of the year was dark for the Estonians, with the Red forces capturing Tartu and driving to within 40 kilometers of Tallinn. Only with the appointment of Gen. Johan Laidoner as commander, a mobilization, and foreign aid did things start turning around by early January 1919.