General Staff of the Estonian Defence Forces

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Kaitseväe Peastaap
Active 1918–1940; 1991-present
Country Estonia
Garrison/HQ Tallinn
Anniversaries 26 November[1]
Engagements Estonian War of Independence

General Staff of the Estonian Defence Forces ts the highest staff of the military defence of the state of Estonia, its operation is based on the legislation of the Republic of Estonia, decisions of the Parliament and the Government and the Statutes of the Government of the Republic of Estonia.

In peacetime the Estonian Defence Forces and the national defence organisations, including the National Guard, are led by the Commander of the Defence Forces. In wartime all these components are commanded by the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces. The Chief of the Defence Forces and the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces are appointed and released from office by the Riigikogu on the proposal of the President of the Republicof Estonia. Starting from 5 December 2006 the Chief of the Defence is Lieutenant General Ants Laaneots.

The General Staff is the headquarters of the military of Estonia and the working body of the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces. The General Staff is a joint staff engaged with operational leadership, training and development of the Defence Forces. Operational leadership is implemented by the Operational Staff, which plans and controls operations and ensures defence readiness and mobilisation.

The departments for training and development are responsible for long-term and mid-term planning, resource planning, organisation and control of the planning of training and implementation of national defence activities. The General Staff of the Defence Forces is headed by the Chief of the Headquarters of the Estonian Defence Forces.


The General Staff is made of various departments. The main unit of the staff is the General Department which deals with the PR and protocol issues of the Defence Forces along with the administration, organisational and administrative affairs of the Headquarters building.

Unit: Departments: Operational tasks:[2]
J1 Personnel Department organisation of human resources
J2 Information Department military intelligence, counterintelligence
J3/7 Operations Department training and development planning
J4 Logistics Department management of economic activity
J5 Planning Department long-term planning, resources projection, defence priorities
J6 Signals Department communications and information systems
J8 Finance Department accounting, technical preparations


Retains the readiness of the Defence Forces at a level necessary for the attainment of the national defence goals. Gathers information necessary for the defence of the state and makes plans and preparations for military national defence. Monitors and analyses the fulfilment of tasks of the troops, staffs and institutions subordinated to it and, if necessary, provides respective assistance. Participates in the leadership of the Defence Forces in wartime and peacetime in order to ensure internal and external security of the state. Organises the staffing of the Defence Forces, the active service and all aspects of training. Co-operates with the Ministries of the Republic of Estonia, state agencies and local authorities in the areas concerning the national defence tasks put on these institutions.


The history of the Headquarters of the Estonian Defence Forces starts in 1917 when, after the collapse of Czarist Russia, the Staff of the Estonian Division was formed with the permission of the Russian Provisional Government.

Date Historical names of the Staff:[3]
since 2009 Headquarters of the Estonian Defence Forces
1991–2008 General Staff of the Defence Forces
1937–1940 Staff of the Armed Forces
1929–1937 Staff of the Defence Forces
1924–1929 General Staff
1920–1924 Staff of Estonian Armies
1918–1920 Staff of the Ministry of War
1917–1918 Staff of the Estonian Division

The staff was established by the experienced officers educated in the Academy of the General Staff Andres Larka and Jaan Soots. Premises for the division staff were found in a house on the corner of Nunne and Kloostri streets in Tallinn. After the founding of the division, the formation work of the Estonian military units that had already been established by the time became more purposeful and energetic.

In 1918 after the founding of the Republic of Estonia the name of the division staff was changed into the Staff of Estonian Armies. Nikolai Reek was appointed Chief of Staff. When the War of Independence started, the Staff of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armies was formed. The General Staff and the Administrative Agency were subordinated to it. Major Generals Larka and Soots headed these structures successfully throughout the War of Independence.

In 1926 the position of the Chief of Staff was abolished and the General Staff and the Administrative Agency were subordinated directly to the Minister of War. In 1929 the Staff of the Defence Forces was created, which assumed the functions of the abolished General Staff and Administrative Agency.

In 1938 the staff was called the Staff of the Armed Forces (Sõjavägede Staap). When Estonia was occupied in 1940, the staff was abolished.

Present time[edit]

Date Chiefs of the General Staff:[4]
since 2013 Rear Admiral Igor Schvede
2011-2013 Brigadier General Peeter Hoppe
2011 Brigadier General Riho Terras
2007–2011 Brigadier General Neeme Väli
2002–2006 Brigadier General Alar Laneman
1999–2002 Lieutenant Colonel Aarne Ermus
1991–1999 Colonel Ants Laaneots
1939–1940 Major General Aleksander Jaakson
1937–1939 Lieutenant General Nikolai Reek
1925–1934 Major General Juhan Tõrvand
1920–1925 Lieutenant General Paul-Adolf Lill
1920 Colonel Jaan Rink
1917–1920 Major General Jaan Soots

On 31 October 1991 the Headquarters of the Estonian Defence Forces was set up with the order no. 404-k of the Government of the Republic.

The basic documents for the work of the Headquarters were the temporary statutes adopted by the Government of the Republic on 2 December 1991, other national defence legislation, decrees of the Parliament and the Government of the Republic prepared and adopted in 1992–1998.

Since its creation, the Headquarters of the Estonian Defence Forces has used the names of departments, structures and procedures corresponding to those at the staffs of NATO and these are constantly being developed.

In 1995 the Navy Staff and the Air Force Staff were created as independent units on the basis of the Navy and Air Force Department of the General Staff.

In 2001 the Army Staff was added to the former.

Symbols and flags[edit]

The flag of the General Staff was founded on 29 October in 2010 by the Ministry of Defence.[5] The flag has a blue background which has a text based upon carrying the silver name "General Staff of the Defence Forces". On the left bottom corner there is a historic date (26 November 1918) of the establishment of the unit and on the right side the re-establishment date (31 October 1991) is situated. A small national coat of arms is situated in the center which is supported by the silver commanders baton and a sword. Above the sword and baton there is a golden north star and around the symbols there are oak leaves and a beneath it a ribbon emblem with the message in Latin: "Viribus Unitis". The commanders baton and sword symbolize a higher level of management of the national defence, the coat of arms and the north star symbolize the state structural unity and the international cooperation. The motto symbolize the unity of the different military commands of the armed forces of Estonia.[6]

Building of the Headquarters[edit]

The house was built in 1925 for a military hospital. The architect was Aleksander Vladovski. As many other Vladovski's buildings, the house at 58 Juhkentali Street is designed as Neo-Classicist, with some elements of late Jugend style. The planning solution involves three wings. In the Soviet time the building also housed a military hospital. In the 1990s the plot was transferred to the Defence Forces.


External links[edit]