Estonian Navy marks 102nd anniversary

Estonian Navy (Merevägi) personnel on the force's 102nd anniversary.
Estonian Navy (Merevägi) personnel on the force's 102nd anniversary. Source: Ministry of Defense

The Estonian Navy (Merevägi) celebrates its 102nd birthday Saturday.

Formed on November 21 1918 in the same year that Estonia declared independence, the Ministry of Defense noted the milestone on its social media page Saturday, that the date was when: "(Lt.) Rudolf Schiller was appointed commander of the armed forces headquarters' naval administration by order of the Minister of War."

Schiller (1872-1938) was a veteran of the 1905-1906 Russo-Japanese War, where he had served in the Imperial Russian Navy at a time when Estonia was under Tsarist rule.

His appointment came during the 1918-1920 Estonian War of Independence, which naturally, given Estonia's long coastline, included a key maritime theater in addition to the war on the ground.

Following the Soviet occupation of Estonia, while the country was used for important Soviet naval facilities, including at Paldiski, west of Tallinn, which hosted a nuclear submarine training center, Estonia's own navy ceased to exist, until July 1 1993.

This is the date which the defense ministry considers the reestablishment of the Merevägi took place, when a naval department was set up within the overall Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) structure.

The navy remains a part of the EDF, rather than a separate service, and one of its most important duties involve mine-hunting.

The current fleet comprises several mine-hunters, principally British-built ex-Royal Navy Sandown class vessels, including the Merevägi's flagship, the EML Admiral Cowan.

You can see a video of the Admiral Cowan — named after a British commander of a Royal Navy light cruiser squadron dispatched to Estonia's aid during the independence war — in heavy seas below.

The Merevägi also takes an active part in the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCG1).

Coastal defenses will continue to be a key part of Estonian defense doctrine in future, even as the navy's mine-hunting duties continue to include safely disposing of legacy, mostly World War Two-era sea mines, off Estonia's shores, a process the president got to see first hand earlier in the year.

ERR News plans to run an interview with defense minister Jüri Luik (Isamaa) soon, in which more on coastal defenses, as well as other aspects of Estonia's defense, will be covered.

ERR News wishes the Merevägi a happy 102nd birthday.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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