Estonia Table of Contents
Armed Forces: Following establishment of Ministry of Defense in April 1992, Estonia began to form independent armed forces. In 1994 total armed forces numbered 3,000, including army (2,500) and navy (500). Also reserve militia of about 6,000. Paramilitary border guard of 2,000 under command of Ministry of Interior. Military service lasts twelve months. By end of 1993, fewer than 3,500 Russian troops remained in Estonia; last Russian troops withdrawn in August 1994.
Military Budget: About EKR250 million allocated for defense in 1994.
ESTONIA'S FOUR-YEAR STRUGGLE for sovereignty and independence from the Soviet Union culminated in victory in August 1991. A failed coup d'état in Moscow was followed by a final declaration of freedom in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, and by worldwide recognition of the country's renewed statehood a few days later. The determination of the Estonians to regain their independence, lost since 1940, had been proclaimed by artist and future politician Heinz Valk in 1988: "One day we will win in the end!" ("Ükskord me vőidame niikuinii!"). Indeed, when victory came, it was at a surprisingly low cost. Unlike Latvia and Lithuania, Estonia suffered no casualties in its independence struggle. Unlike Lithuania, Estonia was spared any direct economic blockade by Moscow. Unlike most secessionist campaigns, that of Estonia, like those of the other Baltic states, enjoyed the tacit support and acknowledgment of Western governments, which had not recognized the incorporation of the Baltic states into the Soviet Union a half-century earlier and which supported their right to seek redress. The events of 1988-91 were in many ways a process of advancing step by step, keeping the pressure on a wavering Soviet Union and laying the groundwork for a leap to statehood.
In campaigning for independence, most Estonians were intent on escaping and reversing their Soviet past: years of stifling social and political rule, growing economic inefficiency and languor, cultural deprivation under a policy of Russification, and increasing environmental waste and destruction. This was the sentiment that came forth in the "singing revolution" of 1988, when Estonians gathered in large, peaceful rallies to sing their national songs and give voice to their pent-up frustrations. At the same time, the Estonians were equally intent on a future as an independent nation enjoying economic prosperity in a post-Cold War Europe.
In the mid-1990s, several years after independence, Estonia's past as a Soviet republic was proving itself a legacy that could not easily be put aside. The challenges Estonians faced included integrating a 500,000-strong Russophone population that was largely the product of Soviet-era immigration policy, as well as restructuring an economy that had been developed along impractical guidelines dictated by an overbearing center. The future, meanwhile, was not unfolding entirely as had been expected. The process of regaining prosperity by means of economic shock therapy was beginning to tear at the fabric of Estonian society, which, despite Soviet rule, had achieved a certain equilibrium since the 1960s. Widening gaps between the newly rich and the newly poor were putting a strain on the Estonians' erstwhile social cohesion. On the diplomatic front, a new Europe and genuine Estonian sovereignty also were proving slow to materialize. Estonia's proximity to vast Russia was still a given, despite a desire to be rid of Russian influence once and for all. Post-Cold War Europe calculated its policies with an eye to the superpower to the east just as much as it had in the days when the Soviet Union was still intact. Still, as Estonia marked four years of independence in 1995, domestic peace and a measured pace of progress--the hallmarks of the independence struggle--had been maintained; these two factors offered the best guarantee of the country's continued advancement.
Data as of January 1995
Estonia Table of Contents