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The Defence Forces and the Defence League

The Defence Forces and Defence League are the national defence institutions in Estonia that are engaged in military national defence. The Defence Forces are structured on the principle of a reserve army that is in a state of constant readiness for defending the nation. The volunteer organization Defence League and its constituent organizations likewise support the independence and constitutional order of Estonia.

Defence Forces

The Defence Forces service is divided into an active and reserve service. The core of the state’s defence forces is comprised by the reserve units. The reserve forces are made up by all citizens. The reserve army is the sole possible form of national defence for a country with limited human and economic resources. During peacetime, a country does not maintain large standing armies, but in a crisis situation, all citizens are called upon and mobilized to defend their homeland. The defence forces is divided into various services (army, air force and navy), plus, in addition, four defence districts (north, northeast, west and south) along with staffs and units subordinate to a central command. In addition, the voluntary national defence organization, the Defence League, is subordinate to the commander-in-chief of the defence forces. The functions given to the Estonian defence forces are divided into peacetime functions and crisis or wartime functions.

The basic functions of the Defence Forces during peacetime are:

  • airspace and territorial surveillance and control;
  • ensuring a state of constant defence readiness; 
  • training conscripts and preparing reserve units; 
  • preparing units and participating in international operations; 
  • assisting civil forces (in the case of natural disasters, disasters etc). 

Defence League

The Defence League is a voluntary, arms-bearing national defence organization in the area of administration of the Ministry of Defence. It is organized along military lines and engages in military exercises. The task of the Defence League is, relying on free will and self-initiative, to increase the people’s readiness to defend Estonia’s independence and constitutional order. The Defence League has 15 districts across Estonia and their activities are governed by four lead districts (Alutaguse, Harju, Pärnumaa, Tartu).

The Defence League has an auxiliary special organization, the Women’s Voluntary Defence Organization, whose membership is made up of patriotic and active women. The members of the Women’s Voluntary Defence Organization undergo basic training and specialise in auxiliary structures, such as communications, food services, propaganda and medicine. The Defence League’s youth organizations are the Noored Kotkad and Kodutütred, which are for young men and women, respectively. The Noorkotkad districts and Kodutütred districts are active as part of the Defence League in all counties. Homeland, Estonian history and Scout-type skills are topics taught at the meetings of these youth organizations.

Cyber defence

The Cyber Defence League is also part of the Defence League, the goal of which is to defend Estonia’s high-tech lifestyle, protecting information infrastructure and thereby carrying out the broad-based national defence objectives. The members of the Cyber Defence League include specialists in positions of significance, patriotically minded people with IT skills, including younger people who are prepared to provide their contribution to the country’s cyber defence, and specialists in the areas necessary for cyber defence.

The goals of the Cyber Defence League are the following:

  • developing cooperation between highly qualified IT specialist volunteers;
  • raising the level of cyber security of critical information infrastructure through raising awareness and distributing best practices; 
  • creating a network that unites public and private sector competence in a crisis situation and development of an organization for action at a time of crisis; 
  • ongoing training of members and training in the framework of the organization;
  • participating in international cooperation networks in the area of cyber security.

Last modified 8. March 2012

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