Military history reconstruction societies from all three Baltic States played out an Estonian War of Independence battle over the weekend, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported.
Participants reenacted a battle from 1919, which pitted young Estonian fighters often of school or university age, against the notorious Latvian Red Riflemen, who had from late 1918 seized key locations on the Estonian side of the border, including the rail junction at Valga.
Hosted at the National War Museum in Viimsi, just outside Tallinn, the show heralded Estonian Independence Day, Friday, February 24, and brought around 60 military history enthusiasts from Lithuania, as well as Estonia and Latvia and was, according to the set-piece director Margus Sinimets, was comparatively authentic in its presentation.
At the same time, Sinimets, who is also director of a war museum on the island of Saaremaa, pointed to the difficulty of finding participants to recreate the red side in particular, given current realities.
"We used to have guys from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, but now it's different," Sinimets told AK.
However, there was a solution, he went on. "Our cast iron assets are the Narva boys, two clubs who are the enactors of the so-called red side. It's also the case that if I still have a tight situation, there is a Latvian club always at the ready to say that 'Margus, we're the whites, or the reds, it's your call."
The "white" side in the Russian Civil War raging at the same time as the independence wars in all three Baltic States and in Finland loosely comprised counter-revolutionaries and opponents of the Bolsheviks as a whole.
In Estonia and Latvia, this division was complicated further by the Baltische Landeswehr, forces who represented the German landowning classes in both countries, and the Freikorps, Imperial German soldiers. These were ultimately defeated at the Battle of Cesis, in Latvia (Võnnu, in Estonian).
National War Museum director Hellar Lill said that full consideration was given in advance as to the appropriateness of reenacting an Estonian War of Independence battle this year, given Russia's war on Ukraine and the fact that the current phase of the invasion started on February 24, Estonian Independence Day, this time last year.
"We reached the decision that Russia's attack on Ukraine must not force us to give up celebrating our own anniversaries and remembering our War of Independence," Lill told AK. "On the contrary, it gives us all the more reason to remember that independence is not a free gift, but we had to fight for it ourselves, with a cost, in blood."
The "Battle of Viimsi" was fought in suitably snowy conditions, in front of an audience of the public, and included the presence of an armored car, heavy machine guns, nurses tending to the wounded and more.
The original AK slot (in Estonian) is here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja
Source: Aktuaalne kaamera