Kooperation und Konfrontation: Estland im Kalkül der weißen Russen 1919

Karsten Brüggemann


The Russian Civil War was for the former Baltic Governments of the Russian Empire a war for their own independence. In the case of Estonia it came to a military co-operation between the Estonian Army and the Russian Northern Corps - an anti-Bolshevist unit of volunteers, which had been organized by the German occupying power in the autumn of 1918 and had been helping under Estonian High Command since December to repel the invading Red Army. When General Johan Laidoner - after an offensive organized in Joint action against Petrograd, which came to a standstill in front of Gateina - handed over the high command of the Northern Corps on 19 June 1919, the political confrontation with the Russian Whites, who strove for re-establishing the "One, Indivisible Russia", overshadowed the military co-operation which had been so successful before. As a precondition for further co-operation, the Estonians demanded the recognition of their State by General N. N. Judenic, the new Commander in chief of the Northwest Army which arose from the Northern Corps. Judenic turned down this wish, but both sides continued depending upon each other in military respect because of a counteroffensive of the Red Army - the Estonians in order to protect their frontiers, the Russians in order to guard the last chance for an attack against Petrograd.
The anti-Bolshevist coalition finally lost their basis when the Estonians agreed to Soviet peace offers in September 1919. As at the same time the British government informed the Estonians of the fact that no diplomatic pressure was planned to be exerted on Tallinn, the further co-operation with Judenic's Northwest Army depended on the Estonians. The participation of the Estonian army in Judenic's main attack against Petrograd in October corresponded in the first place with the primary of protecting the Estonian frontiers. Only after the Whites' defeat, the Estonians fitted in their calculation: as scapegoats. Both of them, the Russian Whites as well as the Estonians, refused to believe that the Northwest Army - irony of history - had contributed to the protection of Estonian independence in the run-up of the Peace of Tartu.