Strengthening of the national troops

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23. December 1917

Following the Decree on Peace from the Second Congress, peace negotiations begun with Germany and Austria-Hungary in the end of November (December), 1917.

Truce was signed on December 2 (15), 1918, and mass-desertion began from Russian fronts, process that could not be stopped.

This left Estonia quite defenseless against the Germans, the defense force being only ¼ of what it had been 6 months earlier.

This lead to strengthening of the Estonian troops. Already in October, in addition to the First Estonian regiment, a reserve battalion was organized in Tartu; and with the initiative of the Supreme Committee of Estonian Military Personnel, the Second Estonian Regiment was unofficially formed in Tallinn, Paide and Viljandi. After the islands had been captured, the commandant of Naval Fort gave his permission to turn the Tallinn's Regiment into autonomous Third Estonian Regiment.

In the end of November (December) 1917, the chief of reserve forces of the Northern front gave his official permission to form the Estonian Division. All military persons with Estonian background were to be brought together in that division. On the December 23, 1917 (January 5, 1918), Lieutenant Colonel Johan Laidoner was appointed as the Chief of the Division, Jaan Soots (see image) became the chief of staff on December 6 (19). In Rakvere, Fourth Estonian Regiment was formed. Effort was made to create an unofficial squadron. The new division was faced with supply problems, also several servicemen supported the Bolsheviks, and their opinion prevailed on the Conference of Estonian Military Personnel and on the Second Congress of Estonian Military Personnel in Tallinn.

On January 15 (28), 1918, The Council of People's Commissaries announced the formation of new, voluntary socialist army: the Red Army and the Red Navy. Due to this, the new Council of Estonian Socialist Army took over the Supreme Committee of Estonian Military Personnel and the headquarters of Estonian Division. The formation of socialist regiments began in Tallinn and Narva, but before this could be completed, the German forces reached Estonia.

Sources: Eesti ajalugu. VI, Vabadussõjast taasiseseisvumiseni. Tartu: Ilmamaa, 2005
Õie Elango, Ants Ruusmann ja Karl Siilivask. Eesti maast ja rahvast: Maailmasõjast maailmasõjani. Tallinn: Olion, 1998
Eesti ajalugu: kronoloogia. Tallinn: Olion, 2007
Eesti ajaloo atlas. Tallinn: Avita, 2006.

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