Annual Baltic Military History Conference focused on the Baltics in War Summer in 1941

One of the longest traditions at the Baltic Defence College (BALTDEFCOL) is the Annual Baltic Military History Conference. Over the years, BALTDEFCOL has organised the event based on its own knowledge and experiences but from 2020 the cooperation with the Estonian War Museum – General Laidoner Museum was established.

In 2021 the conference focused on the Baltic region with the title “War Summer 1941 in the Baltic Countries: Objectives, Strategies and Operations of the Opposing Sides, Results and Consequences”.

Two days have been full of fruitful discussions on historic warfare on the territories of three Baltic states delivered by well-known speakers from all over the world. Their presence in Tartu has been a privilege considering the limitations related to the COVID-19. All participants have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Conference was opened by the Commandant Brigadier General Ilmar Tamm and Director of the Estonian War Museum Mr Hellar Lill. Brigadier General Tamm highlighted the importance of historic warfare saying that the key is to study tactical and strategic decisions from the past and the ability to adapt to contemporary settings. Commandant urged the students to be proactive and engage in intellectual discussions with different experts.

Mr Hellar Lill gave an overview of the background of the conference theme and the importance of the academic study of the topic presented.

After the opening speeches, Dr Igor Kopõtin and Mr Endel Püüa were awarded the Estonian yearly Military History Award – Hendrik Sepp award.

The Annual Baltic Military History Conference program kicked off with the Keynote Address by a world-known Professor Gerhard Ludwig Weinberg. His major works are related to Second World War history and he is one of the most published authors on the subject. Professor Weinberg analysed the German goals on a global level and how the Soviet-German war affected the whole world, including the Baltics.

The first panel session titled “Objectives, Strategies and Operations during 1941” gave a comprehensive overview of wars that took place in 1941. Mr Toomas Hiio (Estonia) covered the German-Soviet War in Estonia, Dr Martin Nassua (Germany) opened a discussion on Operation Barbarossa, and Dr Jeff Rutherford (USA) analysed the Total War in the Baltics. That multinational panel was moderated by Dr Jörg Muth (BALTDEFCOL).

The second panel examined the Operations in the Baltics. Mr Valdis Kuzmins (Latvia) opened it by presenting the background of the attack of the German 41st Motorized Corps. Mr Jānis Tomaševsk (Latvia) analysed the role and actions of the former Red Army Soldiers within the Armed Anti-Soviet Resistance in Latvia during the Summer of 1941 and LTC Valerijus Šerelis (Lithuania) discussed the Lithuanian uprising in June 1941, which ultimate object was the creation of an Independent State. The discussions on different operations contribute to BALTDEFCOL Joint Command and General Staff Course’s learning objectives and the student's future assignments as well. The panel was moderated by LTC Edgars Allers (BALTDEFCOL).

The first day ended with a discussion with the participation of Mr Toomas Hiio, Mr Valdis Kuzmins and Dr Martin Nassua and was followed by a questions/answers session.

The second day focused more on the activities outside the Baltics. The first panel session focused on Finland‘s activities during 1941. Dr Mikko Karjalainen (Finland) opened a discussion on Finnish Army Operations at the end of the year 1941 and Professor Petteri Jouko (Finland) assessed the Finnish Way of Attack in 1941. The panel was moderated by Dr Kaarel Piirimäe.

The last panel pointed out that the consequences of the war were not felt only in the Baltics, but the consequences were much broader. Both speakers covered events outside the Baltics and discussed the broader implications including Czechoslovak Government actions. Dr Jiří Plachý (Czech Republic) and Dr Eric A. Sibul (USA) presented their research allowing them to comprehend such regional perspectives and beyond. The panel was moderated by Mr Art Johanson (BALTDEFCOL).

The conference ended with the speech by Mr Toomas Hiio, who said that although he as a historian has heard a lot about different battles in the Baltics in 1941 and during the Second World War in general, he still founded out something new.

He continued by appreciating on behalf of the Estonian War Museum and the BALTDEFCOL the honourable Keynote Speaker Prof Weinberg and all other speakers as well as panel moderators. We hope to see you all again next year!

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