23/6/1919 Cēsis: Estonia and Latvia smash the Baltic Freikorps

German leaders are still struggling with the Allied peace terms. Meanwhile in the Baltic, German mercenaries are attempting to establish their own little empire. Initially these Baltic Freikorps were hired by the government of Latvia to help it against Soviet Russia’s Red Army, but the Freikorps have since then overthrown the Latvian government and replaced it with one headed by their puppet, Andreas Needra. Under Goltz, their commander, the Freikorps hope to turn all of the Baltic States into a German colony. Feeling themselves secure in Latvia after evicting the Red Army from Riga, they now prepare an invasion of Estonia, aimed not at further weakening the Soviets but at bringing Estonia under their rule.

Unfortunately the ambitions of the Freikorps prove greater than their ability. The Latvians and Estonians pool their resources and at Cēsis they soundly defeat the Germans. With the Freikorps in retreat, Needra’s government prepares to flee from its capital. With increasing Allied pressure on Germany to rein in the Baltic Freikorps, it looks like Goltz’s dream of empire is now doomed.


Estonian commanders Karl Parts, Ernst Pödder, and Nikolai Reek (Wikipedia: Nikolai Reek)

16/4/1919 Revolt of the Freikorps: German mercenaries seize power in Latvia

Germany’s defeat allowed Latvia to gain its independence, but soon after it found itself being invaded by the Red Army. In desperation the Latvians began to recruit German volunteers to form a mercenary army. The German volunteer units are known as Freikorps, like the volunteer militias busily suppressing ultra-leftism in Germany itself. The Latvian Freikorps are led by Rüdiger von der Goltz, who previously commanded the German intervention force during the Finnish Civil War.

Recruiting the Freikorps proves something of a faustian pact for the Latvians. The Germans are openly contemptuous of the Latvians they have supposedly come to save and are casually brutal to any they suspect of Bolshevik sympathies. And now they break completely free of control of the Latvians, with Goltz deposing the Latvian government and instead appointing Andreas Needra, a Lutheran pastor, to head a puppet regime. Goltz and his supporters hope to turn Latvia into a de facto German colony and to then use it to dominate the eastern Baltic.

image source:

Freikorps members in Latvia (Patrick Chovanec (@prchovanec) on Twitter)

Rüdiger von der Goltz (Wikipedia)