Germany occupies islands in Western Estonia

to map

29. September 1917

In order to force Russia into making a separate peace treaty, the German military leadership decided to capture Estonian islands with one swift operation.

After Riga had fallen in August 1917, the size of the Russian army in Estonia had been increased, however, even that could not protect the islands form Germany's unexpected attack.

On September 29, 1917, with the help of the navy, Germans organized a descent (see image) to Saaremaa in Tagalahe. All Russian defense lines were destroyed, and by October 8, Saaremaa, Hiiumaa and Muhumaa had been conquered. On the last moment, two battalions of the First Estonian Regiment were sent to Muhu island, but they were unable to stop the German troops. Instead, about 1600 Estonians were captured. During the following weeks however, the Baltic Fleet was able to offer strong resistance to the German ships in Suur Väin Straits and Soela region.


In November 1917, evacuation of the property of Estonian government and Tallinn's big industries begun to Russia, during which large number of, mainly Russian, workers left. To defend mainland Estonia, new battalions were formed in Western Estonia, ultimately increasing the number of soldiers in Estonia to 200,000 men.

German military operations also upset Estonian nationalists, as the possibility of German invasion became more likely. Estonians were invited to stay in Estonia, and a protest against the arbitrary actions of the Russian army was sent to Petrograd. Events in the capital developed on their own however, and in the end of October 1917, coup took place both in Russia and Estonia, bringing Bolshevik-lead Soviets of the Workers and Soldiers to the power. Estonian Provincial Assembly was disbanded in November 1917.

Source: Allikad: Eesti ajalugu. VI, Vabadussõjast taasiseseisvumiseni. Tartu: Ilmamaa, 2005
Õie Elango, Ants Ruusmann ja Karl Siilivask. Eesti maast ja rahvast: Maailmasõjast maailmasõjani. Tallinn: Olion, 1998
Eesti ajalugu: kronoloogia. Tallinn: Olion, 2007
Eesti ajaloo atlas. Tallinn: Avita, 2006.

Image source:,_Besetzung_der_Insel_Oesel,_Truppeneinschiffung.jpg/180px-Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-2005-0159,_Besetzung_der_Insel_Oesel,_Truppeneinschiffung.jpg

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