Security serivces honoured on attempted coup anniversary

The present day memorial statue outside the former Tondi barracks in Tallinn, commemorating the 1924 coup attempt victims, is a copy of an earlier version unveiled in 1928 and later removed by Soviet authorities. Source: Lohusalu/Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, 1 December is ''Internal Security Day'' (Estonian: ''Sisejulgeoleku päev''), recognising the commitments and work done members of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), the Rescue Board (Päästeamet), the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) and all other personnel connected with Estonian national security, and marking an abortive coup attempt on the First Estonian Republic.

"Today, every one of us will have the opportunity to highlight people working in the field of internal security. The updating of internal security and the state's defence capability played a significant role in the events of 1 December 94 years ago. After that day, significant changes were launched in the field of internal security. One example of this, for instance, is the establishment of a police school and move towards police education," new interior minister Katri Raik said, according to ministry spokespersons.

"Estonia's freedom and independence are not self-evident. Every day, police officers, rescuers, members of the defence forces and security officials are working to ensure that Estonia is a secure place to live. I wish to thank these people from the bottom of my heart for the contribution they have made," Ms Raik added.

The day is marked on 1 December since it is the anniversary of a failed attempt to overthrow the First Estonian Republic. On that day in 1924, close to 300 Soviet-backed and armed Comintern operatives attempted to take control of key installations including the defence college in the Tondi district of Tallinn, and a battalion of engineers based in the then-separate town of Nõmme. The insurgents' ultimate aim was to declare an Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic during uncertainty which followed the death of Lenin in January 1924, and the ensuing power struggle between Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin and their allies.

Coup plot followed mass treason trial

The coup attempt followed a trial of 149 suspected communists in late November 1924, on charges of treason and similar (''The Trial of the 149''), one of whom received the death penalty.

The insurgents, armed with around US-made 5 Thompson sub-machine guns (the famous ''Tommy Gun''), 55 rifles, 65 hand grenades, 8 explosive devices and 150 pistols, were initially successful, taking the military academy by surprise in a pre-dawn action which included throwing hand grenades into the cadets' dormitories, as well as seizing the Lasnamäe military airfield, but Estonian government forces soon reasserted their control.

Twenty-six Estonian soldiers and military cadets lost their lives in the fighting, principally at the academy. Around 125 communist insurgents were killed, at least two of them summarily executed after being captured.

Ceremonies and wreath-laying

Several events were held in Tallinn on Saturday morning to mark the occasion. The cadets who fell during the 1924 coup attempt were commemorated at the site of the former Tondi barracks at 05.23 EET (presumably the precise time the assault commenced). A speech was given by Maj. Erkki Roosnurm, head of the modern-day Estonian National Defence College in Tartu, and prayers were offered by senior EDF Chaplain Lt. Col. Aivar Sarapik.

Candles were also lit at Rahumäe Cemetery in Nõmme later on in the morning, with interior ministry representatives and police chiefs laying wreaths.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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