Estonia Recent History

With the advent of the Bolshevik government in Russia, the Estonian Communists, who were represented by 12-15 thousand men among the Russian revolutionary troops, and who joined them in the country, hindered the further activity of the National Council, demanding the immediate establishment of workers ‘and soldiers’ councils and the extension of the Russian Soviet dictatorship to Estonia. Soon the country was thrown into the utmost confusion, to free it from which, on desperate appeals, especially from the German-Baltic, a German expeditionary force set in motion. As soon as the news spread, the Reds began to withdraw and the special committee of the National Council, delegated for this purpose, was able to proclaim Estonia an independent democratic republic (February 24, 1918). The next day, troops of the German 8th Army, boldly advanced over the frozen sea from the islands of Ösel and Dagö to Hapsal, they reached Tallinn, and extended the occupation to the whole territory. In the Treaty of Brest-Litowsk (March 1918) it was agreed that “Estonia and Livonia should be cleared of Russian troops and Red Guards, and instead be manned by a German police force until security could be said to be guaranteed. by sufficient local institutions, and by a definitive state order “. But the German occupation soon revealed a completely different character. In close collaboration with the German-Baltic, the German authorities restored all the privileges of the feudal nobility, which had been partially repealed during the Russification process, and embarked on a vigorous Germanization of the country, especially by imposing the German language in offices, schools and churches. A clause of the armistice, imposed (November 1918) on Germany by the allies, obliged Germany to immediately vacate the territories of Estonia and Livonia. However, the Entente powers did not promptly replace the German troops with their own occupation corps, so that the immediate occupation of the Baltic territories by the Bolshevik troops could not be avoided. The Estonian Provisional Government, established on 11 November 1918, immediately organized the resistance with the help of the Entente powers, which since the previous May, and in opposition to the Germanic aims, had recognized de facto the independence of the new state. About three thousand Finnish volunteers and a small group of Swedes joined a corps of Estonian volunteers, formed by General Laidoner; while the Russian general Rodzianco gathered around him all the Russian counter-revolutionaries of the region. The Bolshevik army had arrived at the end of the year thirty-five kilometers from Tallinn, but the rush of the British team prevented it from conquering the capital. The following year, under the supreme command of the Laidoner, the revival began and on February 24, 1919, the first anniversary of the proclamation of national independence, the whole Estonian territory could be said to have been liberated from the Russian invasion. The Constituent Assembly was therefore able to meet in Tallinn on 23 April,

New military complications arose in the summer, when Estonian forces, engaged against red forces on the southern border, moved to Latvian territory and came into conflict with the voluntary corps, mainly made up of German-Baltic elements, with the favor of the German general. von der Goltz, left sidelined with his so-called “iron division” in Courland. Those bodies (Baltische Landeswehr) aimed at imposing, on both Latvia and Estonia, the establishment of conservative governments against the advent of popular democracies, respectively Latvian and Estonian; but the Estonian troops were able to give another proof of their value and achieve victory. With the armistice of July 3, 1919, sanctioned by the Entente powers, the German-Baltic had to abandon Riga, and let the democratic government of Ulmanis be restored there (see Latvia).

In relation to the offensives undertaken at that time by Russian counterrevolutionary forces to invade the Soviet republic from all borders, an army of Russian volunteers (the so-called northwestern army) was also formed in Estonia under the command of General Yudenitch, and launched his final offensive in the direction of Petrograd on October 8, 1919. But, despite the rapid initial successes, which brought his avant-garde to the vicinity of Petrograd, the he Soviet army, commanded by Trotsky himself (Trotsky), had the victorious upper hand. The Estonian army had not taken part in the enterprise. Peace was made between Estonia and Russia in Tartu on February 2, 1920. Soviet Russia recognized, among other things, the independence of Estonia and allowed the south-eastern border to be rectified for its benefit, giving it the district by Petseri.

In the meantime, a radical agrarian reform had been adopted with the law of 8 October 1919, on the basis of which the expropriation of the large estates and the distribution of the land (in parcels not exceeding 50 ha.) Among the peasants was carried out. To understand the door of the measure, it must be remembered that in 1914 there were 1149 large properties in Estonia with an average extension of 2113.2 ha. (2.428.087 ha.) And 50.961 small properties with an average extension of 34.1 ha. (1,761,015 ha.) And that 655 thousand residents live in the country exclusively from agriculture. Most of the large and rich woodlands passed to the state property. The new constitution was finally promulgated on 19 June 1920.

Once peace was re-established, the constitution was promulgated, the agrarian reform implemented, and the recognition of its independence was obtained (from the conference of ambassadors, also de jure, on January 25, 1921), the Social Democratic party withdrew from the government coalition and the various governments that followed began to orient themselves more to the right. A difficult moment crossed the country again at the end of 1924, when, for a sensational trial brought against about 150 communists accused of conspiring against the state, revolutionary elements incited and aided by the III International attempted a daring coup to seize the powers of the state. state (iDecember). Promptly equipped with dictatorial authority, General Laidoner was once again able to save the country and quickly restore order and normal order (9 January 1925).

Despite the continuous general progress (of which the trend of the trade balance is an indication), the awareness of the double danger, of a Germanic expansionist tendency, and of a similar Russian tendency to regain possession of the important Baltic ports (especially Baltiski, always free from ice), has induced the Estonian leaders to consider favorably any initiative for an intimate union (confederation) with the other Baltic states proper (Latvia, Lithuania), and to strengthen such a union by joining it Finland and Poland.

But the many conferences held for this purpose could not lead to the desired result. Only with Latvia have so far been possible more intimate contacts and understandings, which seem to be the prelude to lasting agreements, not only in economic but also political matters.

Estonia Recent History