CENTENARY OF THE REPUBLIC OF ESTONIA: FROM ASES OF WAR TO INDEPENDENCE
The small country of Estonia on February 24 marks the 100th anniversary of the proclamation of its state independence. Like the neighboring Finland, this Baltic republic chose the path of independence, guided by its own national principles, but, like the Ukrainian People's Republic, Estonia was crushed by the Bolsheviks, following a rebellion in Petrograd in October 1917.
However, as one old saying says, happy are the peoples whose history gave the opportunity to exercise their right to self-determination - that is, to create their own state. Estonians succeeded! After all, as the Finns proclaimed independence, they forgot about party ambitions and jointly began to defend it, while the Ukrainians were torn apart by a civil war and a struggle for the rule of the left ideology, the wounds we are healing to this day.
But the Estonian Free State or Eesti Vabariik was not created in one night. And the "Manifesto of Independence", which was solemnly proclaimed February 24, 1918, in the revolutionary Tallinn, being the most important state-building document, serves merely to formalize the birth of Estonia. Certainly, to such a step, the local authorities, concentrated in the hands of the counterpart of the Ukrainian Central Rada, the Provisional Land Council or Maapäev, came up by weighing all "pro et contra" on state independence.
What followed this important step? Bloody and prolonged World War I gave birth to an internal crisis in the state of the Romanov's. The February Revolution and the abdication of the king became an opportunity for the national provinces of the empire to take power in their own land. Representatives of the Estonian nation, like Ukrainians, increasingly began to demand from the Provisional Government an administrative association of their ethnic territory.
Certainly, for the new Moscow authorities, the Estonians did not present either a threat or any interest. Thus, on April 12, 1917, the formation of Estonian autonomy took place - the northern part of the Livonia province was annexed to the Estland province. Subsequently, on July 14, a democratically elected Maapäev, consisting of 62 deputies from six existing parties (four of which propagandized socialism in its various manifestations) and two national minorities - the Baltic Germans and Baltic Swedes. The chairman was elected representative of the Estonian faction of the Bolshevik Russian Social-Democratic Party, Arthur Wallner.
The successful seizure of power in Petrograd and Moscow by the Bolsheviks at the end of October 1917 deepened internal disagreements within the Estonian autonomy. Despite the fact that the frank supporters of Lenin and Trotsky had an impact on the majority of the population, radical-minded deputies of the Maapäev had other plans for the further development of events. In the unstable conditions of the creeping revolutionary anarchy, on November 28, by unanimous vote, it was decided to recognize the Supreme State Authority in Estonia as the Maapäev (the new chairman of which was the radical socialist Otto Strandman) and the date of the Estonian Constituent Assembly was approved for the further development of Estonia's state system.
The offensive of the Bolshevik Red Guard (from December 1917 to January 1918) to the West, with the aim of "returning" to the womb of the new Moscow state of the national environs, fundamentally changed the plans of the power of Estonian autonomy. If earlier the understanding of independence was recognized as a step for implementation in the distant future, now it has become sacred. During the elections to the Estonian Constituent Assembly on February 3-4, 1918, two-thirds of voters supported independent parties that insisted on the immediate declaration of Estonia's independence.
Taking into account that two months earlier state sovereignty was proclaimed by Finland, and by two weeks by the UNR, the Bolsheviks in Estonia tried to seize power. The local Red Guards detained the building where the Estonian Constituent Assembly was held, but the members of the Maapäev were ahead. So, on February 19, the Estonian National Committee or Eesti Päästekomitee was created in Pärnu, a temporary Estonian government with special powers, headed by Konstantin Päts (representative of the Conservative Agrarian Party). The first steps of the new state body were the preparation of the Declaration of Independence of Estonia entitled "Manifesto for all peoples of Estonia", the country's exit from the outbreak of the World War and the establishment of peaceful relations with the international community.
At the same time, a peace agreement signed in Brest-Litovsk between imperial Germany, the UNR and Bolshevik Muscovy entered into force. According to its main points, the Red Guard had to leave the previously occupied land along the Rakvere-Riga-Minsk-Kyiv-Odesa route and retreat to the frontier of the Muscovites' ethnic residence. Taking advantage of the military chaos on February 23, 1918, the Estonian Rescue Committee publicly read the text of the Declaration of Independence of Estonia on a crowded face in the middle of Pärnu. The following morning, independence was proclaimed in Tallinn. Estonian statehood began to acquire a very real outline of sovereignty.
Attempts by Estonian settlers, at first, to take power and bring the country into order were overthrown by the German intervention. Berlin viewed Estonia, like its neighbor, Latvia, as a zone of its direct influence, because there lived a large national minority of the Baltic Germans who needed to be protected (familiar fairy tale, is not it?). On the evening of February 24, a national uprising against the German and Bolshevik occupiers began in Tallinn. Estonian patriots seized arsenals of weapons and began the formation of their own armed forces, which had to immediately go underground. The reason was the significant advantage of the German troops, whose army units began to operate at their own discretion in Tallinn, Pärnu, Kuressaare and Paldiski from the front on February 26.
During March-October 1918, Estonia was under the military occupation of Germany. Interim government of independent Estonian State was illegal, while many members of the Estonian Constituent Assembly were arrested, someone managed to flee to neighboring Sweden and Finland. And on September 22, 1918, Wilhelm II recognized Estonia as an integral part of the German Empire as an autonomous Crown Duchy. But the Germans were not happy for a new territorial annexation...
The wind of change on the Western Front of the World War infuriated the revolution in Germany as well. As a result, a forced armistice with the winners and the forced evacuation of their own troops from the Eastern Front home. Already on November 19, representatives of the German occupation administration transferred the full power to the newly formed Estonian Provisional Government or Eesti Ajutine Valitsus. The following day, armed Estonian troops from the underground came out, which were organized in the State Defense League or Kaitseliit, the formation of profile ministries began. The Estonian State began to operate a little.
That new threat from the East did not delay - on Nov. 28, 1918, the Bolshevik horde seized Narva. Thus began the Estonian liberation war ... In a difficult wartime, it was necessary to take immediate decisions that were simply necessary to maintain the state system. Among these, the dissolution of the Estonian Provisional Government on May 9, 1919, the members of which transferred the powers to the newly formed first government of the Republic of Estonia or the Eesti Vabariigi Valitsus. At the same time, Maapäev lasted until June 23, 1919 - in the future the Estonian Parliament adopted the name Legislative Assembly or the Riigikogu. That same day, the Estonian troops, together with the Latvian detachments, defeated the German Baltic Division in the Battle of Võnnu (or Battle of Cēsis). This triumph allowed the Estonians to develop an offensive to the East, pursuing Bolshevik troops to Pskov and Yamburg.
The breakthrough battles of the Estonian War of Liberation, during which the offensive was stopped and the counterattack was launched, were conducted throughout the entire length of the front. Bolsheviks, understanding the secondary character of the Estonian Front, were the first to go to peace. So, on January 3, 1920, a final truce agreement was made in Tartu, and a month later, on February 2, the Peace Agreement was signed - representatives of the Estonian Republic and the RSFSR stopped the war and recognized each other at the state level. Subsequently, there were 20 years of autonomy and social and political development of society, which were interrupted by the 50-year Bolshevik occupation. In August 1991, Estonia, along with other Soviet republics, left the cone of the prison of nations, regaining its state sovereignty. Today the Estonian nation celebrates 100 years of its independence with pride and honor, recalling the courageous rank of its heroes.