A memorial plaque was unveiled on the wall at the Pärnu Kuursaal, a restaurant in the resort town, marking 30 years since the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit) was reestablished in Pärnu County, after a 50-year break.
The Defense League as a national organization was established in February 1990 in Järvakandi. At that time, it was the first national defense structure of the soon-to-be independent Estonia since the Soviet occupation of 1940.
Hannes Toomsalu, who was chosen the deputy chief of the regiment at the Pärnu grand assembly, said that now it doesn't take that much courage to join the Defense League, but at that time, some were nonetheless fearful.
"There were also those who did not dare to make their name public, and this was the case not only with us but all over Estonia. I would say that joining the Defense League today does not require any heroic doings, but back then, we still needed a little courage and the values needed to be set out that we stand for the Republic of Estonia," Toomsalu recalled.
According to his memory, about 300 members were registered at that time, but about a hundred people actually came.
Lieutenant Colonel Rasmus Lippur, the head of the Pärnu County Regiment of the Defense League, said that over 30 years, the organization has changed a lot.
"We have learned a lot, developed, the structure has become more specific, the tasks have become more specific. The essence is the same: it is a voluntary organization," Lippur said.
By the end of August 1990, the Pärnu County Regiment had 500 members. There are currently about 1,600.
Estonia became independent around 18 months after the Pärnu Defense League regiment was founded.
Editor: Roberta Vaino