The number of members of the Estonian volunteer defence organization Kaitseliit (Defence League) and affiliated organisations exceeded the 26,000 mark as at the end of the first half of 2018, spokespersons for the volunteer body said.
Dein-Tom Tõnsing, Kaitseliit spokesperson, said that as at 30 June the figure which belonged to Kaitseliit and its sister organisations, Naiskodukaitse, the women's defence league, and the two youth organisations, Kodutütred (for girls) and Noored Kotkad ('young eagles', for boys), was up from 25,968 at the end of 2017, an increase of just over 200 people (see figs below).
However, most of the increase has come from Naiskodukaitse, Noored Kotkad and Kodutütred; in fact Kaitseliit itself has let the side down somewhat with a fall in total. This comes in the same year that nearly 1,700 individuals summoned for the large-scale military exercise Siil ("Hedgehog") failed to report for duty (these were regular soldiers, not from Kaitseliit ).
Men's organisation more complex in its makeup
However, it would be prudent to hesitate before apportioning opprobrium along gender or age group lines. As Dein-Tom Tõnsing explains, most of those who have quit the core Käitseliit body were not regular members. Kaitseliit mens' has four levels of membership: active, supporting, honorary and junior. Naturally the first of these groups would be most key in the event of a general mobilisation.
"Certainly this [fall in Kaitseliit numbers] has not brought with it a reduction in the activeness of Kaitseliit active members. The situation is in fact the opposite," he said, according to the Baltic News Service.
Mr. Tõnsing went on to state that Kaitseliit regions have paid increased attention of late to putting their member lists in order. As a result, some formerly 'active' members have changed their status to 'supporting', and people whose age or health condition no longer allows them to take part in Kaitseliit activities have been excluded from the lists, as have obviously those whose names were on the lists but had in fact passed away.
"Joining Kaitseliit continues to be a popular move," Mr. Tõnsing went on. "A more in-depth review of the lists has enabled us to better plan our endeavours and employ every Kaitseliit member in accordance with their abilities and expectations, as well as the resources of Kaitseliit," he said.
The review of the lists nationally yielded the following statistics:
|Unit||Number of Members||Change since year end|
|Noored Kotkad (boys')||3,728||+146|
*Note that the total increase is obscured by the fact that the mens' component of Kaitseliit , being divided into categories as it is, saw people switching from one category to the other, particularly from 'active' to 'supporting', meaning that many of the leavers were counted within their category as having left, but didn't actually leave the whole organisation, in addition to issue of those whose status was unclear, or could not be contacted, or had passed away. In any case Kaitseliit claims an increase of over 200 members to mid-2018.
Editor: Andrew Whyte