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Estonian Land Forces
Maavagi crest.svg
Estonian Land Forces emblem
Active 1918–present
Country  Estonia
Role Land defence
Equipment Pasi XA-180, XA-188; FH-70; D-30(2A-18); 120 mm mortars
Engagements War of Independence
Iraqi war (2003)
Afghanistan War (2001)
Commander Colonel Artur Tiganik1

The Estonian Land Forces (Estonian: Maavägi) is the name of the unified ground forces among the Estonian Defence Forces where it has an offensive military formation role. It is currently also the largest military branch with the average size during the peacetime with around 6,000 soldiers, conscripts and officers.

The Maavägi development priorities are the capability to participate in missions outside the national territory and the capability to perform operations to protect the territory of Estonia, also in co-operation with the Allies. The Maavägi component of the operational structure consists of an infantry brigade and a homeland security structure. Deployable infantry battalion tactical group and some deployable CS, CSS units will developed in the Army structure in accordance with NATO Force Proposals requirements. Infantry brigade will act as a training and support frame for deployable units. Homeland security structure units will have the capability to carry out territorial military tasks and support civil structures.

The Maavägi is structured according to the principle of a reserve force which means that the main part of the defence forces of the state are units in a trained reserve. For a state with few human and economic resources, a reserve force based on the will of defence of the citizens is the only viable form of national defence.

In peacetime the reservists conduct normal lives and the state takes care of their training and the procurement of equipment and weapons. In wartime the reservists are mobilized into military units. The reserve units are formed on the territorial principle, i.e. conscripts from one area are called up at one time to one unit and after service they are sent to the reserve as one unit. The Estonian Army is always in constant defence readiness in co-operation with the other services.

Interwar history

The 1st and 2nd Divisions were created during the Estonian War of Independence, the 2nd Division in December 1918-January 1919. The Scouts Single Infantry Battalion was formed on 21 December 1918.

On 21 November 1928 eight 'Single Infantry Battalions' were created. The peacetime purpose of these battalions was to train conscripts. In wartime the battalion would reorganize itself into a regiment with a similar order of battle as the two initial reaction force regiments covering the eastern and southern borders. Each battalion's peacetime strength was a total 237 soldiers, in a regimental staff, a Signal Platoon, an Engineering Platoon, a Ski-Bicycle Platoon, a Building Platoon, and three infantry companies.

The war time order of battle would have transformed the battalion into a regiment size unit carrying the same unit number and would have included 3 infantry battalions, Signal Company, Engineering Company, Ski-Bicycle Company, Cavalry Company, Building Company, Commandant Commando and a CB Commando. In total of 3153 men.

The 2nd Single Infantry Battalion was located at Tartu; the 3rd Single Infantry Battalion was located at Valga; the 4th at Jõhvi; the 5th at Rakvere; the 6th Single Infantry Battalion was located at Pärnu; the 8th Single Infantry Battalion at Valga; the 9th at Pärnu; and the 10th Single Infantry Battalion was located at Tallinn.

A reorganisation took place on February 1, 1940 and four divisions were created. The 4th Division staff was based in Viljandi. The division was made up by the Pärnu-Viljandi Military District and Valga Military District. The division's last commander was Colonel Jaan Maide. The four divisions were active until the Soviet occupation of Estonia.

On August 17, 1940, after Estonia's accession to USSR, the 22nd Territorial Rifle Corps of the Red Army was formed at Tallinn. It was created as a territorial Estonian body on the basis of military units and institutions of the Estonian Army. All soldiers and officers kept the Estonian Army 1936 uniforms, on which were sewn Soviet insignia. The first commander of the 22nd Territorial Rifle Corps was a former major general of the Estonian Army, Gustav Yonson, who was later arrested by the NKVD and shot. Initially, most of the corps' officer posts were occupied by former officers of the Estonian army, but by the middle of June 1941 - even before the German invasion of the Soviet Union - most of them were arrested and replaced by newcomers from the Soviet Red Army officers.

Many of the Estonian officers of the 22nd Territorial Rifle Corps body were arrested and died in 1941 - 1942 in camps in the Russian Federation; many were shot. The former commander of the 180th Rifle Division, 22nd Corps, Richard Tomberg, survived after dismissal only because since 1942 he has been claimed by the Frunze Military Academy as a teacher . He was arrested in February 1944 (he was released from the camp and rehabilitated in 1956.) Some officers of the 22nd Rifle Corps, among whom was Alfons Rebane, managed to escape from the authorities in the period between the dismissal of the army and the plan for their arrest. Someone managed to escape abroad, others came out of hiding only after the arrival of German troops in July - August 1941, some of them volunteered for the Estonian units that fought on the side of Nazi Germany, or to enlist in the Estonian organisations controlled by the German authorities.

The 22nd Territorial Rifle Corps was part of the 'operational army' during World War II from 22 June 1941 to 31 August 1941. On June 22, 1941 the corps headquarters was stationed in Rev.


The Estonian Land Forces actively uses seven sizes of military unit: the Lahingpaar (English: Fire and maneuver team), the Salk (English: Fireteam), the Jagu (English: Section), the Rühm (English: Platoon), the Kompanii (English: Company), the Pataljon (English: Battalion), and the Brigaad (English: Brigade). The Diviis or in (English: Division) is not in active use.

Peacetime structure

Maavägi Peacetime Structure
Estonian military units and bases
Source: Jane's World Armies Issue 23 - 2008
Tapa Garrison: is also for the HQ Northeastern Defence District and fields the 1st Artillery, Air Defence, and Engineer Battalions.
Note 2: Tallinn is HQ Northern Defence District, HQ Estonian Navy, and garrison for the Guard Battalion.

1st Infantry Brigade (Estonia) emblem.png 1st Infantry Brigade (likely to be motorized with APC-s) (Paldiski)

Northeastern Defense District of Estonia emblem.svg North-Eastern Defence Command (Tapa)
Northern Defence Command (Tallinn)
Southern Defence Command (Võru)
Western Defence Comamand (Pärnu)
  • no regular military units

Wartime structure

The Maavägi is an army that is based on the principles of the Military reserve force both for practical and historical reasons. The relatively small peacetime Army will be reinforced during wartime by the military reservists of the Estonian Defence League (Estonian: Kaitseliit). Once fully mobilized the Maavägi can man and arm during the conflict the following wartime structure:

  • 4 infantry brigades
  • 3 air-defence battalions
  • 2 engineer battalions
  • 3 artillery battalions
  • 2 combat support service battalions
  • 2 scouts companies
  • 2 anti-tank companies
  • 2 signal companies


Since the restoration of the Estonian Defence Forces on September 3, 1991 the Maavägi has developed with a great deal.2 Today the Land Forces operate with modern weapons and weapon-systems on foreign missions and future battlefields. Even though the current logistic support is still based on variety of different and mainly older Western vehicles, also former Soviet, the modernization of the army branch is in the national defence policy agenda. In recent years Estonia has purchased more modern transport vehicles for the armed forces of the republic.


Based on a long-term defense development plan, the Land Forces are currently undergoing a modernization program. By the year 2018 the Land Forces are likely to be equipped with modern tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, along with the additional armored personnel carriers.3 The artillery capabilities were greatly increased in 2008 with the purchase of 122mm field howitzers from Finland.4 The Land Forces are also planning to create tactical air surveillance and transport capabilities with the purchase of new helicopters.

What follows is a partial list of planned equipment purchases for the Defence Forces :

An Estonian XA-180 in Afghanistan.
Armoured fighting vehicles
Armoured vehicles
Anti-tank systems
  • C-90 grenade launchers 6
  • Milan-2 anti-tank guided missiles
Anti-air systems
  • Currently unspecified types 7
  • EC-135 transport and utility helicopters (most likely) 8

Main bases of Estonian Land Forces

Closed and reorganised units

See also


External links

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