Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Kaitseliit: The Estonian Defence League



Today I am going to write about the Estonian Defence League known as the Kaitseliit. I am proud knowing that my grandfather Alexander was a member of the Kaitseliit's Tallinn brigade (malev) from 1938 until 1939. His unit was the Põhja Malevkond. In 2004 this unit was renamed Põhja Kompanii.


What is the Kaitseliit?

The Estonian Defence League is a voluntary national defence organisation operating in the jurisdiction of the Estonian Ministry of Defence, organised in accordance with military principles, possessing weapons and holding exercises of a military nature. The purpose of the Defence League is to enhance, by relying on free will and self-initiative, the readiness of the nation to defend the independence of Estonia.

Estonian Defence League troops at the parade in Tartu (1925)


The Kaitseliit was established on 11th November 1918 and operational in Estonia until 1940 when the country was occupied by the Soviet Union. In 1990 the organisation was restored. The Kaitseliit is divided into 15 regional units called malevs whose areas mostly correspond with the borders of Estonia's counties.

The League has 16,000 members. Together with its affiliated organisations Women's Voluntary Defence Organisation (Naiskodukaitse), Young Eagles (Noored Kotkad) and Home Daughters (Kodutütred), the Estonian Defence League has a total of 26,000 volunteers.

Last year saw the Kaitseliit celebrate its 100th birthday.



Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Thousands Gather in Tartu for Song Festival

Almost 20,000 people attended the main concert of the Tartu Song Festival on Saturday, the first event to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Song and Dance Festival.


Around 9,000 singers and musicians, and the same number of spectators, gathered in the city's song festival grounds after a procession through the town. 

The line-up featured songs by well known composers such as Arvo Pärt, Veljo Tormis, Gustav Ernesaks, and Miina Härma, which were accompanied by the Vanemuine Symphony Orchestra. 

Speeches inspired by the first song festival were made by President Kersti Kaljulaid, and poets, writers, editors, from Finland, Latvia, and Estonia.   

The Song and Dance Celebration will take place at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds from July 4 to July 7. Dancers and choirs from around the world will take part in the celebrations. 

The first nationwide song festival was held in Tartu in 1869 and has taken place every five years since. The concerts are featured on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Source: ERR NEWS

You can watch some of the procession here:


Sunday, 23 June 2019

What is JAANIPÄEV? (St. John’s Day in Estonia)

One of my favourite Estonian YouTubers, Artur Rehi, made this video about Jaanipäev. Tonight Estonians will come together and party until the early hours of the morning. Tomorrow is a public holiday in Estonia that goes to show just how important Jaanipäev is in Estonian culture.

Friday, 21 June 2019

Estonian Javelin Thrower Magnus Kirt Shines at the Ostrava International Athletics Competition

29-year-old Magnus Kirt holds the Estonian record for javelin throwing at 89.75m, yesterday in the Czech Republic he beat that record at 90.34m. That's an excellent result and he's left handed too!

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Johannes Carl Assmuth: the man behind the winning choir of the first Estonian Song Festival

As the 150th anniversary of the Estonian Song Festival approaches, now is the time to take a look at its history. The event originally began in Tartu as a competition for male church choirs and brass bands and has since bloomed into something much bigger and spectacular. Today,  male, female, children and mixed choirs  participate in the event dressed in the national costume.

Tallinn's Jaani Kirik (St.John's Church)
Produced fine male choirs.

Singing has always been apart of Estonian culture and Estonia can boast one of the largest collections of folk song in the world.  Johann Voldemar Jannsen initiated the first Estonian Song Festival as part of the Estonian National Awakening movement. His daughter Lydia Koidula penned the lyrics “Mu isamaa on minu arm”, a song that performed regularly to this day.

For centuries the church played an important role in Estonian lives. Local parishes were the keepers of family records and song often united people. By the 1860s the men's choir at St. John's Church in Tallinn had earned itself a reputation of producing fine singers. The cantor of that church Joahnnes Carl Assmuth (my fourth great uncle) was a respected man in Tallinn at the time and was the head of the men's choir. When his church heard the news about the first ever Estonian Song Festival they decided to take part in the event. It wasn't an easy task however, they had to borrow wagons for the journey to Tartu, which in those days took four days. It was well worth it though for they won the competition!

Elfriede Lender, the founder of the first Estonian-language girls' school in Estonia and wife of former Tallinn Mayor Voldemar Lender, had this to say about Johannes Assmuth:

'I liked the clerk of St. John's Church, Assmuth, who looked like a clergyman with his intelligent face and great beard. He was a well-known figure in Tallinn and considered to be a great story, especially as he had the same surname as one of St. John's Church's teachers (Alexander Carl Woldemar Assmuth (1845 - 1929). People used to talk about them having the same family name and differentiated them by saying the teacher was German and the cantor was Estonian'. 

("Ka meeldis mulle Jaani kiriku köster Asmuth, kes oma intelligentse näo ja suure habemega nägi välja nagu vaimulik. Ta oli tuntud kuju Tallinnas ja temast peeti õige palju lugu, eriti veel sellepärast, et tal oli sama liignimi kui ühel Jaani kiriku õpetajaist (Alexander Carl Woldemar Assmuth (1845 - 1929)). Inimesed arutasid omavahel, et sakslasel ja eestlasel oli sama liignimi, seega peeti õpetajat sakslaseks, köstrit eestlaseks. -- Elfriede Lender:.)

Song Festival Grounds Tallinn

The Estonian Song Festival is a truly wonderful event cherished by all Estonians. Every five years the event takes place and sees tens of thousands of people singing together. It is a magical, emotional and deeply enriching spectacle to behold.


Monday, 17 June 2019

Saturday, 15 June 2019

78 years since the June 1941 Soviet deportations

Around 10 000 people were deported from Estonia by Soviet authorities on 14 June 1941. While embarking trains fathers were separated from their wives and children and taken to labour camps. The members of their families were mostly deported to the Kirov and Novosibirsk oblasts of the USSR. Many families were never able to reunite. This video interviews survivors who were deported in 1941 and 1949.