BALTDEFCOL's Building



The Main Building

The Baltic Defence College (BALTDEFCOL) is located in the right-hand wing of the building on 12 Riia Street in Tartu, Estonia. BALTDEFCOL's location is quite historical, and the building shares significant historical value in Tartu and Estonia.

During the Swedish rule in Estonia, Riia Street was located in the hub of Tartu, and the inn-post station was located at the current place of the building. In 1843, a new post office was built. During the 1920s, there was a bus station for rural lines, and in the 30s, it was decided to build the Tartu headquarters of the Estonian Defence League.

In its current form, the Riia Street 12 building was completed in 1940 according to the project of the architects Alar Kotli and Elmar Lohu. The building was planned for the Estonian Defence League, but it was taken over by the occupation authorities. At first, it was called the Worker's House. In 1941, the building was damaged during the war and was restored by the Germans. During the German occupation, the commissariat operated in the building. The building was also damaged during the battles of 1944, and after the restoration, the regional office of the Academy of Sciences of the Estonian SSR was located there. The building housed regional administrative institutions – for example, the court and various institutions of the Communist Party apparatus. In addition to other features of the Soviet occupation, a Lenin monument was erected in front of the building in 1948, replaced by a new one in 1953.

Educational life began in the building at Riia Street 12 in 1954. Then, it became the main building of the Estonian Agricultural Academy. The building remained in the hands of the Academy until the mid-90s, and many graduates still visit their „old schoolhouse “. The building was used as a telephone exchange from the 1920s. Radio stations also operated in the building until the early 90s.

In 1995, the Estonian Ministry of Defence took possession of the educational building on Riia Street. In addition to the Baltic Defence College, the Estonian National Defence Academy (now Estonian Military Academy) and the regional headquarters of the Defence League also started operating in the building.  Read more about BALTDEFCOL's journey.

The City Hub

In 2024, BALTDEFCOL opened The City Hub in the city centre of Tartu.  A modern and centrally located BALDEFCOL facility enhances students' learning experience and provides access to various resources and amenities in Tartu. As the number of students keeps growing, acquiring additional space to rent is a practical solution to ensure that BALTDEFCOL can continue to meet the needs of its students effectively.

Classrooms and Syndicate Rooms


It has been a custom here at the BALTDEFCOL that we name our classrooms and syndicate rooms based on the persons or events that have played a significant role in the history of the Baltic states or the BALTDEFCOL itself. 

Key educational activities occur in the Björn von Sydow Hall (one hundred seats) and Admiral Cowan Hall (fifty seats). The former bears the name of the former Swedish Minister of Defence, and the latter was named after British R. Adm. Sir Walter Cowan, who assisted on behalf of the United Kingdom to Estonia and Latvia during their respective wars of independence in 1919-1920.

Björn von Sydow Hall


Mr von Sydow has played a significant role in developing the BALTDEFCOL.

Mr von Sydow, being the Minister of Defence of Sweden and the representative of Sweden as the Supporting Lead Nation of the BALTDEFCOL Project during the establishment of the college, signed the first Memorandum of Understanding of the Baltic Defence College on 12th of June 1998 in Brussels.

On 31 August 1998, Mr von Sydow honoured the College by participating in the College’s first seminar, “The Role of Defence Structures in Foreign Countries”. 16 October 2001 marks a noteworthy day in the College's history as it was when Mr von Sydow opened the new study areas and the lecture hall bearing his name on the fourth floor.

Admiral Cowan Hall

On 21 October, Brigadier James Cowan, current Head of Counter-terrorism and UK Operations in the UK Ministry of Defence and Commander of Estonian troops in Afghanistan from October 2009 until April 2010, visited the BALTDEFCOL.

During his stay at the BALTDEFCOL, the honoured guest had an opportunity to visit Admiral Cowan-Hall, a lecture room at the BALTDEFCOL named after Brigadier Cowan’s great-uncle Admiral Sir Walter Cowan who commanded the British naval squadron in Estonian waters during the Estonian War of Independence in 1918-1920.

Baltic Way Room


The Baltic Way or Baltic Chain, also known as a Chain of Freedom, was a peaceful political demonstration where around two million people joined their hands for freedom, forming a human chain across the three Baltic States connecting the three capitals – Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn. 

The protest drew global attention by demonstrating a popular desire for re-independence for each of the Baltic States and their solidarity in defiance of the illegal Soviet occupation. The emotionally captivating and visually stunning scene told the world that Baltic independence was not merely a political issue but a matter of moral importance.

The wall painting portraying a scene of the Baltic Way was created by Ms Kamille Saabre.

City of Tartu Room


On March 7, 2024, the opening ceremony of the conference hall named after the city of Tartu was held.

The mural painted by the Tartu city artist Ingmar Järve was revealed to the public.

This piece of art depicts the Arch Bridge, the Town Hall, the Tartu University, the Botanical Garden, the parks and other locations and symbols of the city, but in a very simplified way to leave the viewer space to fill the missing streets with their memories.