Johan Laidoner was born in Viiratsi (Wieratz), Governorate of Livonia, which was then part of the Russian Empire. In 1901, he volunteered for the army.
Following his graduation from the Imperial Nicholas Military Academy, Laidoner achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Russian Army. He received seven medals before the Russian Empire dissolved.
Laidoner later returned to Estonia and took command of the First Estonian Division, part of the national independence army in the Estonian War of Independence. In 1918, he was promoted to the Commander in Chief of the Estonian Armed Forces, and subsequently to the rank of major general. As such, he established the Estonian Military Academy in 1919.
In 1920, he was promoted to lieutenant general in the new official National Army. On February 24, 1939, Laidoner was promoted to the rank of general. Laidoner was Commander-in-chief of the Estonian Army in 1918–1920, 1924–1925, and 1934–1940.
In 1939, Laidoner put forward a plan to the government to modernize and upgrade the Estonian Army’s equipment in the face of rapid foreign expansion and upgrades, and to draft more soldiers. When the Soviet Union occupied Estonia on June 17, 1940, Laidoner was deported to Russia. Laidoner died on March 14, 1953 in Vladimir prison.
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