Back in February, 1918, the world was quite different. The First World War was not yet over (it was last until November of that year). Meanwhile, the Bolsheviks had just blasted their way to power after their revolution in October, 1917. Well, they were not totally in power,. They were fighting a civil war with the White Russian forces who were supported from the west.
One month after the bolshevik revolution, an Estonian “diet” proclaimed that they were sovereign over Estonian territory. But they were quickly forced underground by Russian forces still in Tallinn. Then, those forces pulled out, and on February 24, 1918, the Estonians declared a “provisional government”. A day later, the German army arrived in Tallinn to shut that down. In fact, it was not until the end of the great war in November 1918 that the Estonians were once again able to organize their own government. This time the Germans who were still hanging around went along with it.
When the Estonians did that, the Soviet Union immediately invaded from the east. That was November, 1918. While the Estonians were desperately trying to organize a fighting force in Tallinn (with considerable help from abroad), the Soviets advanced to within 34 kilometers of Tallinn itself itself. Things looked grim. But behind the scenes, things were coming together.
The call to arms had been heard, and young Estonian lads were leaving the farms to take up the rifle for the cause of independence. In January of the new year, reorganized better equipped Estonian forces stopped the red army and began a counter-offensive. Things then moved swiftly. Narva was re-taken on January 17. By the end of January, Tartu was liberated and Valga as well. The Soviets attacked again in February, but were repulsed at Narva.
An Estonian counterattack in March pushed the red army behind the Optjok River, but fighting continued and the front was unstable.
In June 1918, the Estonians encountered a new enemy – the German Landeswehr. This was a force composed of German army units and Baltic Germans that had been fighting the Soviets. They toppled the Latvian provisional government and moved to try to consolidate power. Fighting broke out with the Estonians and centered on the Latvian town of Cēsis.After hard fighting, the Estonians took the town and advanced towards Riga.
Around this time, the allies tried to negotiated a resolution of the conflict between the Estonians and Germans in Latvia in order to stop the Soviets. This was achieved. and the Estonians cooperated with the allies, who supported the White Russian forces attempting to take Petrograd up into the autumn of 1919.
To make a long story short, this eventually failed, and the White Russians fell back. The Estonians did not trust them, and when they re-entered Estonia, they were disarmed. This opened the door for the Estonians to negotiate its peace treaty with the Soviet Union. That was signed on February 2, 1920. Estonia had won its independence through force of arms.
We celebrate this on February 24th each year.! Hoist a glass of A Le Coq or Sake Premium with us!