Estonian national troops in the Russian army 1917-1918

​In spring 1917, after the February revolution, Estonians and other nationalities living in Russia began forming their national troops, claiming that this would raise the morale of the army. A central role was played by numerous military committees and offices, such as the Estonian Military Bureau in Tallinn, the Estonian Central Committee of Organising Contingents in Petrograd, and the Supreme Committee of the Estonian Military, established in summer 1917.

​In April 1917 the Russian Provisional Government only allowed one infantry regiment in Tallinn. The temporary commander of the 1st Estonian Regiment was Colonel Siegfried Pinding, soon replaced by Colonel Aleksander Tõnisson. In summer and autumn 1917, another infantry regiment and a reserve battalion were formed. In October 1917 the 1st Estonian Regiment took part in the Moonsund (Muhu Strait) operation, where two battalions of the regiment on Muhu Island were captured by the Germans. In December 1917 preparations were made to form the 1st Estonian Infantry Division (commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Johan Laidoner, with the position of Chief of Staff being offered to Lieutenant Colonel Jaan Soots). The division consisted of four infantry regiments, one reserve battalion, an artillery brigade, an engineer corps, and transport and field hospital units.

​In February the Estonian Division came under the control of the German occupation forces and existed until April 1918, when the Germans disbanded it. Between April 1917 and February 1918, the national troops numbered about 35 000 Estonian soldiers and 2000 officers in Estonia. The Estonian People’s Army was largely based on this group in autumn 1918.

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