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The Young Eagles is a youth organization of the Defence League, founded on May 27, 1930, whose mission is to value volunteering and offer young people the best opportunities for development and action through patriotic education.
The training of Young Eagles is divided into ranks and special tests, the content and complexity of which change according to age. The lowest of the rank tests is stage VI and the highest is stage I. The topics of the rank tests are hiking skills, national defence, safety, Estonian history, civic education and physical tests. Special tests provide an opportunity to develop in depth in some areas. The most popular tests are – hiker, first aid provider, singer and shooter.
One of the cornerstones of the organization is a volunteer youth leader, whose task is to create conditions for young people that support their personal development, socialization and becoming well-off members of society. Youth leaders are our key players.
Young eagles do not just straight up on the parquet, they also need forest floor to hit tent poles. One of the main activities of young eagles is camps and life in the forest. A step beyond hiking skills is learning survival skills. This is already being done by advanced young people who want to connect better with nature, who want to feel their willpower and learn better about the power and possibilities of nature.
YOUNG EAGLES (1928) 1930-1940
The historical decision to establish an organization of youngsters under the age of 17 was made by the Body of Elders of the Defence League on March 23, 1928. The organization got its name of Young Eagles from Theodor Luts’ 1927 film about the War of Independence.
The idea of the youth organization to be created was broader than to offer young people only adventurous activities or to nurture future defence allies. It was a decision that focused on the conscious transformation of the population of the Republic of Estonia – primarily youth – into citizens of their country.
Every schoolboy features a lot of militancy, thirst for adventure, interest in hiking and sports, and a desire to be a leader. The youth organization, which was scout in form and aimed at the statehood and national ideology, started its activities in the autumn of 1930.
The Young Eagles offered a wealth of knowledge-giving and educational activities and made it possible to rise gradually, through self-education, or rank testing, to an even higher level. The members were divided into young pike, young eagles and masters.
The masters were older adolescents who, after passing the advanced tests, passed ten more special tests, defended their dissertation and demonstrated themselves as potential leaders. In this way, youth leaders who grew among the young people themselves were raised over time.
The young eagle was guided in its activities and behaviour by 10 laws:
- the young eagle can be trusted,
- the young eagle loves home and is faithful to the homeland,
- the young eagle is helpful,
- the young eagle is a friend of every young eagle and defender of a weaker,
- the young eagle is polite and noble,
- the young eagle is a friend and protector of animals and nature,
- the young eagle properly obeys the orders of their parents and leaders and does nothing half-heartedly,
- the young eagle is happy, brave and smiles in front of difficulty,
- the young eagle is hardworking, frugal and tenacious,
- the young eagle is pure in word, meaning and deed.
In addition, every young eagle had to follow the so-called ‘iron’ laws: it had to be a diligent learner, harsh and was not allowed to smoke.
The motto of the young eagles was: “In honour of the Fatherland – be ready!”
The answer was, “Always ready!”
The uniform of the young eagle was finally approved in 1935. It was comfortable and durable: a bluish-grey blouse with an open collar, an organization badge on the left sleeve, dark blue trousers, a blue-grey national pattern belt on the trousers, a dark blue hat with a cut from the Defence Forces winter hat and black boots.
Like the Defence League, the Young Eagles were divided into squads and squadrons, which in turn were divided into groups, teams (6–12 boys) and nests (4–9 boys).
EAGLES RISE TO HEIGHTS
When the first groups of young eagles were opened in the autumn of 1930, mostly within schools, the groups started only in those schools where there were suitable youth leaders. In the 1930s, youth leaders were primarily teachers, defence allies, and local reserve officers.
The activities of young eagles started vigorously. Half a year later, the Young Eagles family grew to almost 1,300 members. By 1940, the organization had 19,000 young eagles and 1,800 youth leaders.
Common ideas and goals brought together young eagles to cooperate with the Home Daughters Organization, founded in 1932.
The action plan of the Young Eagles provided for national education, development of physical health, preparation of a home defender and assistance to those in need. Young eagles were active in sports, learning map and orienteering, signalling and the basics of military discipline, as well as acquiring knowledge and skills in first aid.
Shooting exercises from a sporting rifle were performed systematically. The first nationwide young eagle shooting competitions for small arms were held in Tallinn in 1938.
It was assumed that acting as a young eagle would give the young man good preparation for future military service in the Defence Forces.
Camps, infield games, hikes and competitions united young people from all over Estonia. Nationwide competitions between squads and groups were especially popular. Summer camps and trips tested the knowledge and skills of young eagles, provided an opportunity to meet peers and get to know Estonian history and nature.
The camp of young eagles was furnished relatively homely, even comfortably, the youth themselves had set up a telephone connection with the capital and between the tents, radio music was played for entertainment, the electricity lit the tents, all that in the camp disposition. In addition to sports games and competitions, there were also competitions in the construction and maintenance of tents, diligence, courtesy and accuracy.
Kaitse Kodu!, 1934
The organization of the Young Eagles was banned after the occupation of Estonia by the Red Authorities on June 28, 1940.
The ideals and world of thought entrenched in the young eagles in the 1930s survived the occupation. At the initiative and with the strong support of the former young eagles, the organization was reborn in the newly independent Republic of Estonia.
Liquidation of the Organisation
The Soviet occupation that began in 1940 led to the liquidation of the Young Eagles organization.
Under the conditions of the German occupation, in September 1942, on the basis of the structure of the organization of the Young Eagles, the organization Estonian Youth with scout and paramilitary features was founded, which, however, was based on a foreign ideology.
The Great Escape of 1944 took many former young eagles and their leaders to the free world. As the Young Eagles movement in exile as an organization was not re-established, activities based on the laws and attitudes of young eagles were often continued in the ranks of scout units.
NEW WING STRETCH
25. juunil 1989. aastal Tahkurannas Konstantin Pätsi mälestussamba avamisel viibinud sõjaeelsete noorkotkaste ja kodutütarde hinges pakitses soov elustada mälestused jõukast, kaunist ja vabast Eestist ning taastada Noorte Kotkaste ja Kodutütarde organisatsioonid.
On August 12, 1989, the Estonian Young Eagles and Home Daughters Association and the Temporary Elders Association were established at the Metsküla Primary School in Tahkuranna, which set out to restore the activities of these organizations. In 1990, the Estonian Association of Young Eagles and Home Daughters was founded. After the legalization of the Defence League, the General Staff of the Young Eagles was established at the General Staff of the Defence League in 1992, which took over the management of the organization.
On March 16, 1992, Major Manivald Kasepõld, Commander of the Defence League, approved the Statutes of the Young Eagles. However, the document modelled on the 1930s statute was not suitable as a basis for action: the provisions of the 1930s, which at times went into too much detail, had been incorporated into it, the complex structure of the organization did not fit in with that of the Defence League. The new statutes were completed in 2003. The current Statutes of the Young Eagles were drafted together with the new law of the Defence League and entered into force on 1 December 2013.
The re-creation and growth of the organization was initially accompanied by difficulties. In particular, due to the lack of funding there were concerns about obtaining equipment and other resources, as well as finding youth leaders. In 1997, thanks to Member of the Riigikogu Enn Tarto, we managed to receive separate money for youth organizations in the budget of the Defence League. The organization was on the rise. In 2003, the first Development Plan for Young Eagles until 2008 was prepared. In the meantime, there have been two development plan periods, and in 2020 we are on the threshold of a new period. A new system of ranking and special tests was also developed, which supports the training of young people and at the same time leaves groups free to plan their training.
The interest of the Young Eagles to the national defence
Rudolf Mürk, the former head of the General Staff of the Young Eagles, wrote in a report to the Ministry of Defence in 2001 that the boys were interested in weapons and proximity to the Defence Allies. This is the case to this day, and the organization is therefore increasingly finding ways to offer its members military activities. Our own annual military camp has grown out of the international Baltic Guard camp, which has been inspired by the interests of young people.
The nationwide military camp gives young people the opportunity to experience a routine similar to that of the Defence Forces or the exercise of the Defence League. The campers practice tactical exercises, fire automatic weapons, learn combat medicine, practice teamwork and live outdoors throughout the camp.
Young people are increasingly taking part in shooting sports. Participate in shooting at the Defence League championships and organize a national shooting orienteering competition. Shooting is also embedded in advanced training and special tests.
A unified pace throughout the Defence League
Even old League, this statement proves to be true: young people who have strengthened in the youth struggle will later also be active defence allies or contribute as active citizens in other spheres of society. However, they are very much welcome to continue their activities as adults in the Defence League unit close to home.
Maintaining such team readiness is supported by daily practice: the training is planned together with the Defence League and Defence Allies are involved in the training of young people.
Side by side, they have also stepped in with another Defence League youth organization, the Home Daughters, which is two years younger than the Young Eagles. Joint camps and gatherings were held before the war, and the spirit of acting together has survived to this day. National camps, youth summer schools, hiking games and a recognition event are organized together. By region, there are groups where young people from both organizations operate, and larger camps at the county level are usually held jointly.
There are also many points of contact with the Women’s Voluntary Defence Organisation. Many women home defenders pass on their professional knowledge to young people about medicine, safety, etc., which are related to the ranking tests of the Young Eagles. Many youth leaders belong to the ranks of the Women’s Voluntary Defence Organisation.
PLUNGE INTO ADVENTURES
Mini-Erna – 24 years of tradition
The history of the Young Eagles annual patrol competition Mini-Erna dates 24 years back. The first Mini-Erna competition took place on the example of the Defence League Erna competition in Harju County near Kautla. Since 2009, the competition has been running in different counties of Estonia. In 2009 it was in Rapla county, and in 2020 Mini-Erna took young people to Ida-Viru county.
The Mini-Erna tests physical and mental abilities of participants and ability to act as a team in a stressful situation. The comforts of everyday life are behind the starting line, and the competition days are accompanied by cinematic excitement and unprecedented experiences. The competition lasts about 35 hours and the length of the track reaches dozens of kilometres. The track is arranged with checkpoints, where competitors can demonstrate knowledge and skills acquired in advanced training. The track usually has a first aid task, orienteering, passing an obstacle course, shooting, knowledge of nature and various tasks that require intelligence and teamwork.
The winner of the Mini-Erna gets the opportunity to represent Estonia in some foreign competitions. In recent years, this has been a Swedish home defence military competition, in the past, a domestic victory has also taken young men to Norway.
“This organization has given me many interesting, wise and athletic friends, experience for independent living, as well as skills and knowledge to cope in extreme conditions in the forest. This organization has also prepared me for military service, which I am happy to go to.”
Marios Tammes, Young Eagle of the year of 2019
A program of patriotic education of Young Eagle
In 2017, in co-operation with the Ministry of Defence, a patriotic education program for young people was established, the aim of which is to promote patriotic values among young people of basic school age and give them the opportunity to participate in civic education. The program promotes the opening of new youth groups in the Defence League and encourages the activities of existing groups. The program supports group initiatives based on projects developed by youth leaders and young people themselves to provide them with a more adventurous and diverse experience and to support their training.
’Spekter’ Big Camp
Within the framework of the patriotic youth program, the Home Daughters and Young Eagles organized the ‘Spekter’ Big Camp on July 9-13. It was intended as an open camp for youth of the basic school age to introduce the activities, patriotic values and active lifestyle of the youth organizations of the Defence League. The camp was attended by almost 800 young people from all over Estonia – in addition to members of the Defence League youth organizations, incl. Russian-speaking young people, representatives of several Estonian companies and organizations, and young people from partner organizations from abroad. On the opening day, 1,010 people stood in line. The next ‘Spekter’ was to take place in July 2020.
The big camp of 2020 took place virtually as one-day camp. On July 7, everyone had the opportunity to learn the skills that are inseparable from camping – building a live shelter, setting up a campfire, filtering water and cooking.
AT SEA AND ON LAND
Young sea eagles – their form and their small boat
The Young Eagles organization offers a variety of applications for good boys. One of the most peculiar and prominent are the groups of young sea eagles operating since the 1930s. Estonia is a maritime state and the Young Eagles Marine Group today offers the best opportunities for regular activities for young people with a maritime and national defence interest.
As craft activities are real, specific and often associated with a certain risk, they also require each member of a marine group to acquire marine wisdom and skills. Young sea eagles must be ready to perform almost all duties at the level of a sailor and non-commissioned officer on the training boat. This means an inevitable responsibility for each young eagle, and sometimes self-transcendence, and later joy and pride in their achievements, exciting experiences and impressions.
Since the beginning of 2020, the Young Eagle organisation has been using a small boat ‘Kulkuri 34’. The young eagles acquired a 10.35-meter watercraft from the Environmental Inspectorate. The introduction of the new training boat provides an excellent opportunity for members to undergo a marine service. Today, the activities of the Young Eagles groups are regular in Tallinn and on Saaremaa, but there are more interested people in other places in Estonia.
The Young Eagles Marine Group also has its own uniform, which was approved by the Central Assembly of the Defence League in the autumn of 2019.
The features of the Young Eagles organization are the eagle badge and the general flag.
In 2009, the new flag of the Young Eagles and partly the new flags of the squads were blessed in Põlva Church. In addition to the general flag, the flags of Valga County, Põlva and Sakala squads were also blessed there. The rest of the flag-blessing ceremonies were taken care of by the squads themselves. “We found it beautiful to hold blessings in places where it is better to invite local supporters who helped buy the flags,” Silver Tamm explained why not all the completed flags were blessed at once. The author of the flag designs is Priit Herodes, the chairman of the Estonian Heritage Society and the Heraldry College.
When the young people of the Defence League hoisted the national flag …
The 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia as well as of the Defence League came to the youth of the Defence League in a grand way. On this occasion, in the mornings of February, young eagles and home daughters from different Estonian counties hoisted the flag on the Tall Hermann Tower.
The hoisting of the national flag on the Tall Hermann Tower was a significant recognition for young people. A competition was organized in all counties to find candidates, so that the best representatives of the Young Eagles and Home Daughters would perform the important task of hoisting.
Young Eagles at Victory Day Parade
The Young Eagles organization participates in the Victory Day parade organized by the Defence League every year with a company-sized unit. Both festive uniforms and outdoor uniforms are represented.
The role of the fire carrier in the parade is one of the biggest recognitions. In 2016, it was an honour for the youth organizations of the Defence League, when at the Victory Day parade in Võru, a young eagle of each squad and a home daughter of the district were able to bring the victorious fire to their home county.
The parade held in Rakvere in 2017 was followed by volunteer youth leaders of the youth organizations of the Defence League, who received the victorious fire from the President and took them to their home county.
At the parade held at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds in 2018, we saw our members in the line of fire carriers again. This time, four people from each county received victory fire from the President: a defence ally, a female home defender, a young eagle and a home daughter.
In 2019, the victorious fire was carried throughout the country by good athletes, as on June 23, 125 years passed since the establishment of the International Olympic Committee. Even then, members of the Young Eagles organization could be seen in the line of fire carriers.
2020 was our year. The traditional parade did not take place, nevertheless the victory fire was shared. On the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the organization, our representatives were among the fire carriers: young eagles and youth leaders from all counties.
MAKING COOPERATION MORE POWERFUL
Recognizing outstanding members
The idea of a recognition event for young eagles and young leaders matured over the years and first materialized in December 2019. In several counties, the best names of the year were chosen earlier.
The recognition gala took place on December 13 at the Vabamu Museum. It was preceded by an open competition in October 2019, where each county nominated the best young eagle of the year, a home daughter and a candidate for youth leader from both organizations. From the 60 submissions, the evaluation committee selected the four most outstanding – the Young Eagle of the year, the Home Daughter, the Leader of the Young Eagles and the Leader of the Home Daughters. Recognition travel awards carry meaningful symbols and messages. Youth leaders are key people in our organizations, without whom it is not possible to offer young people diverse opportunities for action. Therefore, their award has the image of a key – it is the key that opens the door to young people. At the heart of the Home Daughter and Young Eagle Awards there is a large and strong compass symbolizing the Defence League youth organization as an encouraging indicator. The compass needle is reversible as the choice of direction for moving forward is still made by the young person.
“As a volunteer youth leader, I have become increasingly aware of the power of volunteering. I am impressed by the number of people who have decided to contribute through the Defence League and do so consistently and with commitment.”
Sander Kukk, Youth Leader of the Young Eagles 2019
Cooperation on the other side of the border
Cooperation with similar organizations from other countries broadens the horizons of our young people and youth leaders and offers inspiring and varied activities. The youth organizations of the Defence League currently have close co-operation with the Latvian organization Jaunsardze, the Lithuanian Shaulian Union, the Swedish National Defence and co-operation partners from Great Britain and Poland.
One of the largest co-operation projects is the Baltic Guard military camp with more than 100 participants, the organization of which rotates between Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The main goal of the international youth camp is to strengthen the unity of young people in the region, to develop their leadership qualities and to practice coping in a tense situation. Young people can get to know the culture of their neighbours and make friends. The first camp took place in 2012, and currently young people from Poland, Great Britain and Ukraine also participate in the Baltic Guard.
Kayak squad program
The history of the Kayak squad goes 26 years back. During this time, nearly a hundred study trips have taken members of scout organizations from Estonia across the ocean to the USA, for Kayak squad training. The trips have been organized and financed by the American-Estonian Goodwill Society (EABS) all these years. The training usually consists of two parts: learning the skills needed for a youth leader and then an internship as a sub-camp manager’s assistant at a summer camp in the Järvemetsa camp area in New Jersey. There are four participants, usually one member from each youth organization (Estonian Scout Association, Estonian Guides Association, Home Daughters, Young Eagles). The program is organized every other year and three times already in the intervening years a Kayak squad study project has taken place in Estonia.
In addition to the study program, the aim of this training is to develop the horizons of young people, show local life and focus on Estonian mind, and exchange contacts.
Estonians knew that what Juku does not learn, Juhan does not know. In the Defence