Studia Historica Septentrionalia 58


Tiina Metso, The Forgotten Volunteers. Baltic German Corps Members in Estonian War of Independence 1918 – 1920.

Estonian War of Independence (1918–1920) has been defined as a war of students and school boys, as they were the most active volunteer groups in the early days of the war. Another identifiable group were the Baltic Germans, and among them the members of the student fraternities, the Corps. This group is good base for research into the Baltic German volunteers as well as to establishing possible reasons for becoming volunteers and for choosing a specific voluntary unit.

The Corps had over 100 years of history in Estonia, at the University of Tartu, by the outbreak of the Independence War. The Corps were – and are – tightly knit fraternal student organizations, where membership lasts a lifetime. Thus the senior members form a notable group, which grows every year as members graduate from the University.

In the 1918–20 wars the Baltic Germans had two choices of volunteer military units in the battle against the Bolsheviks – Balten Regiment based in today’s Estonia and Baltische Landeswehr with its hub around Riga, present day Latvia. Both units fought on the ‘white’ side, and offered thus a chance to fight the same enemy.

Members of the Baltic German student Corps of Tartu, both students and senior members, were active volunteers. They had their roots in the historical districts of the Baltics: Estland, Livland and Courland, which also often served as base for choosing a certain geographically defined Corps.

The choice between Balten Regiment and Baltische Landeswehr was not purely ideological as both were stricktly anti-bol.heviks, but more based on geography as a closer look on the individuals’ choices indicate. As both units were based on the home guards, the volunteers tended to choose the unit closest to the home they wished to guard for practical reasons. The home in need of guarding could be parental home, birth place or the town where volunteers worked or studied. These geographical factors seem to be strong indicators for the choices, as a look into the data on 20 Corps generations shows. Data also shows that families divided between the two units without any ideological differences but often as a result of geography as mentioned above.

Takaisin Studia Historica Septentrionalia 58