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Estonia Crime and Law Enforcement
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    The armed forces in 1994 numbered about 3,000, including a 2,500-member army and a 500-member navy. There were also a 6,000-member reserve militia, known as the Defense League (Kaitseliit); a 2,000-member paramilitary border guard under the command of the Ministry of Interior; and a maritime border guard, which also functioned as a coast guard. The army's equipment included eight Mi-8 transport helicopters. The navy possessed two former Soviet and four former Swedish patrol craft, as well as two small transport vessels. The government allocated some EKR250 million for defense in 1994.

    The armed forces of which Einseln took command offered no shortage of work. Serious divisions existed between several commanding officers, including the army chief of staff, who had received their training in the Soviet military and younger officers and recruits who distrusted leaders who had served in the "Soviet occupation army." The appointment of an outsider as commander was meant to close this rift, but the antipathies remained strong.

    Especially independent minded was the Defense League, a patriotic volunteer group from the interwar years that was revived in early 1990. The league staged several attention-grabbing maneuvers in 1990 (including an attempt to place border posts along Estonia's prewar frontier, now in Russia), which often drew criticism as being provocative. After independence the Defense League refused to merge with Estonia's budding army, preferring to remain a separate auxiliary force.

    In July 1993, Estonia saw the dissension within the army erupt into a minor mutiny among a group of several dozen recruits serving in Pullapää in western Estonia. The unit was upset over poor treatment during a mission in which it had been ordered to take control of parts of the former Russian military town of Paldiski. In protest, members of the group declared their intention to leave the Estonian army and devote their efforts to fighting organized crime. The Estonian government ordered the dissolution of the unit but eventually backed down. Hain Rebas resigned as defense minister over the government's inaction while also claiming an inability to work with some of the army's Soviet-trained commanders. The leaders of the infantry unit went free until their capture in November following a shoot-out with police.

    More outside help in improving Estonia's armed forces came with the purchase in January 1993 of more than US$60 million in Israeli light arms. The contract, signed by the government in private talks with TAAS-Israel Industries, later caused a political storm when many deputies in parliament questioned whether Estonia had gotten a fair deal. The government nevertheless convinced the Riigikogu in December to ratify the agreement. While increasing the army's firepower, part of the weaponry was also to go to Estonia's border guard.

    Estonia's Nordic neighbors also were active in building up the country's defenses. Finland, Sweden, and Germany all donated patrol boats, uniforms, and small transport aircraft to equip the new soldiers. No arms sales, however, were considered.

    In 1990 Estonia had been the first Soviet republic to defy the Soviet army by offering alternative service to Estonian residents scheduled to be drafted. Most Estonians, however, simply began avoiding the draft. After independence, Estonia instituted its own compulsory military service, with a minimum term of one year beginning at age eighteen. About 12,000 males reach the age of eighteen every year. Young Estonian men continue to spurn the call, however; only one-third of eligible draftees turned out for the spring 1993 conscription. In addition, the Estonian military faces a limited pool from which to choose because only citizens can be drafted and because restrictions have been placed on the induction of university students.

    Estonia's security strategy was dubbed by one observer in 1993 as the "CNN defense." Ideally, Estonia would attempt to delay a presumed Russian invasion until it could draw international attention and at least diplomatic intervention. As in the case of Poland and the Czech Republic, talks with NATO about extending Western security guarantees to the Baltic area did not meet with ready success. Still, the Nordic countries seem intent on improving Baltic defense arrangements, in part to bolster their own regional security. Another gambit is Estonia's strengthening of relations with Ukraine.

    Crime and Law Enforcement

    The number of reported crimes in Estonia rose to 41,254 in 1992, an increase of 250 percent over 1987. The overwhelming majority represented cases of theft (33,128). In Tallinn, where many residents had begun traveling to the West and acquiring Western goods, apartment break-ins accounted for 31 percent of all thefts. Street crime also mounted, especially in the capital. In 1992 the number of murders or attempted murders climbed 75 percent, to 239. In 1993 that total was equaled in only nine months. Meanwhile, only 21 percent of all crimes were being solved as of mid-1993.

    Organized crime is a major worry for law enforcement officials. Various groups originating in Russia are believed to be operating in Estonia, conducting illicit trade and exacting protection money from new shops and restaurants. A major black market in copper and other nonferrous metals developed in 1992, when lax export controls and high trading prices encouraged the theft of copper communications wire, monument plaques, and even graveyard crosses. Losses in 1992 were estimated at nearly EKR10 million. The spread of prostitution beyond hotel lobbies into fully operating brothels prompted some officials in 1993 to call for its legalization to gain at least some control over the situation.

    Popular frustration at the growth in crime focused in 1993 on the interior minister, Lagle Parek. A prominent dissident during the Soviet era, she had become head of the Estonian National Independence Party, one of the three parties in the governing coalition. She was unable, however, to shake up the ministry that had once kept tabs on her protest activities, and she was forced to resign.

    The penal code introduced in 1992 retained the death penalty for terrorism and murder. In 1993 two persons were sentenced to death for aggravated murder. In August 1993, about 4,500 persons were in custody in the country's eleven prisons.

    Data as of January 1995

    NOTE: The information regarding Estonia on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Estonia Crime and Law Enforcement information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Estonia Crime and Law Enforcement should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 10-Nov-04
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