Ants Kurvits

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Ants Kurvits
Ants Kurvits.jpg
General Ants Kurvits
Born 14 May 1887
Died 27 December 1943 (aged 56)
Allegiance Flag of Russia.svg Russian Empire
Flag of Estonia.svg Estonia
Service/branch Imperial Russian Army
Estonian Army
Estonian Border Guard
Years of service Russia: 19141917
Estonia: 19181939
Rank Major general
Battles/wars World War I
Estonian War of Independence
Awards See below

Ants Kurvits or Hans Kurvits (14 May 1887 – 27 December 1943) was an Estonian military commander, reaching rank of major general. He participated in the Estonian War of Independence and later became the founder and long-time leader of the Estonian Border Guard. Kurvits also served briefly as Minister of War.

Estonia Republic in Northern Europe

Estonia, officially the Republic of Estonia, is a country in Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland with Finland on the other side, to the west by the Baltic Sea with Sweden on the other side, to the south by Latvia (343 km), and to the east by Lake Peipus and Russia (338.6 km). The territory of Estonia consists of a mainland and 2,222 islands in the Baltic Sea, covering a total area of 45,227 km2 (17,462 sq mi), water 2,839 km2 (1,096 sq mi), land area 42,388 km2 (16,366 sq mi), and is influenced by a humid continental climate. The official language of the country, Estonian, is the second most spoken Finnic language.

Major general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. The disappearance of the "sergeant" in the title explains the apparently confusing phenomenon whereby a lieutenant general outranks a major general while a major outranks a lieutenant.

Estonian War of Independence

The Estonian War of Independence, also known as the Estonian Liberation War, was a defensive campaign of the Estonian Army and its allies, most notably the White Russian Northwestern Army, Latvia, and the United Kingdom, against the Soviet Western Front offensive and the aggression of the Baltische Landeswehr. It was fought in connection with the Russian Civil War during 1918–1920. The campaign was the struggle of Estonia for its sovereignty in the aftermath of World War I. It resulted in a victory for the newly established state and was concluded in the Treaty of Tartu.


Early life

Ants Kurvits was born on 14 May 1887 in Mihkli-Aadu farm in Äksi, Tartu County, Estonia, then part of the Governorate of Livonia of the Russian Empire. He was the fifth child in the family. Kurvits received his early education in Hugo Treffner Gymnasium. After graduating in 1911 he went to the University of Tartu, where he studied law until the breakout of World War I in 1914. [1]

Äksi Small borough in Tartu County, Estonia

Äksi is a small borough in Tartu Parish, Tartu County in Estonia. It is located on the southern shore of Lake Saadjärv, and has a population of 477.

Tartu County County of Estonia

Tartu County, or Tartumaa, is one of 15 counties of Estonia.

Governorate of Livonia governorate of the Russian Empire

The Governorate of Livonia was one of the Baltic governorates of the Russian Empire, now divided between the Republic of Latvia and the Republic of Estonia.


Estonian Border Guard badge Estonian Border Guard badge.svg
Estonian Border Guard badge

On 1 November 1914 Kurvits joined the Imperial Russian Army. In 1915, after passing a short officer course in Vladimir Military School in St Petersburg, he was promoted to the rank of ensign. In the First World War he participated in fighting on the Polish front, becoming company commander by 1917. With the formation of Estonian national units, Kurvits was assigned to the 1st Estonian Infantry Regiment on 8 July 1917, first as company and later as battalion commander. In February 1918 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. [1] [2]

Imperial Russian Army land armed force of the Russian Empire

The Imperial Russian Army was the land armed force of the Russian Empire, active from around 1721 to the Russian Revolution of 1917. In the early 1850s, the Russian army consisted of more than 900,000 regular soldiers and nearly 250,000 irregulars.

Ensign is a junior rank of a commissioned officer in the armed forces of some countries, normally in the infantry or navy. As the junior officer in an infantry regiment was traditionally the carrier of the ensign flag, the rank acquired the name. This rank has generally been replaced in army ranks by second lieutenant. Ensigns were generally the lowest ranking commissioned officer, except where the rank of subaltern existed. In contrast, the Arab rank of ensign, لواء, liwa', derives from the command of units with an ensign, not the carrier of such a unit's ensign, and is today the equivalent of a major general.

Company (military unit) military unit size

A company is a military unit, typically consisting of 80–150 soldiers and usually commanded by a major or a captain. Most companies are formed of three to six platoons, although the exact number may vary by country, unit type, and structure.

On 16 November 1918, after the end of the Imperial German Occupation in Estonia, Kurvits became commander of the Estonian Defence League in Tartu County. On 25 December he started forming the Viljandi Volunteer Battalion. On 5 February 1919 Kurvits was assigned to head the 2nd Infantry Regiment, which he led during fighting on the Petseri front. Briefly in late 1919 and early 1920, while major fighting was ongoing, he served as garrison commander of Narva and aide to the commander of the 1st division. After the end of the war Kurvits served as commander of the 2nd and later the 7th infantry regiments until his retirement in October 1921. [1]

Estonian Defence League paramilitary branch of Estonias military

The Estonian Defence League is the name of the unified paramilitary armed forces of the Republic of Estonia. The Defence League is a paramilitary defence organization whose aim is to guarantee the preservation of the independence and sovereignty of the state, the integrity of its land area and its constitutional order.

Narva City in Ida-Viru, Estonia

Narva is the third largest city in Estonia. It is located at the eastern extreme point of Estonia, at the Russian border, on the Narva River which drains Lake Peipus.

On 1 November 1922 Kurvits was recalled to service and made head of the newly forming Estonian Border Guard, becoming its first commander. [1] [3] In 1924 he briefly served as Minister of War in the government of Friedrich Akel. After that he returned to head the Border Guard, holding this position up to 1939. In February 1928 he was promoted to colonel, and in February 1932 to major general. As head of the border guard, Kurvits made official visits to Latvia, Finland and Poland. [1] Head of Border Guard was subordinate to the High Commander of the defence forces, holding rights equal to a division commander. [4]

Estonian Border Guard

The Estonian Border Guard was the national security agency responsible for the border security of Estonia. It was subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior. The Border Guard also assisted with Search and Rescue missions. In 2010, the organization was superseded by the Police and Border Guard Board.

Minister of Defence (Estonia) in Estonia

The Minister of Defence is the senior minister at the Ministry of Defence (Kaitseministeerium) in the Estonian Government. The Minister is one of the most important members of the Estonian government, with responsibility for coordinating the governments policies on national defence and the military forces.

Friedrich Akel Estonian diplomat and politician

Friedrich Karl Akel was an Estonian diplomat and politician, a member of the International Olympic Committee., and Head of State of Estonia in 1924.

By May 1923 the Border Guard had taken over from Defense Forces guarding of the whole Estonian border. Border Guard guarded 1159 km of sea border at north and west, 276 km of Soviet border at east and 365 km of Latvia border at south. During period of 1923 - 1939 the Border Guard exposed 4491 cases of smuggling and caught 4651 illegal border crossers. [5] While subordinate to the Minister of Internal Affairs, border guards were all professional military personnel. [4] General Kurvits retired on 22 December 1939. [1]

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 30 December 1922 to 26 December 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk.


After the start of Soviet Occupation in 1940, Kurvits's family lost their flat in Tallinn and moved back to Mihkli-Aadu farm. On 14 June 1941 Kurvits and his wife Anna were deported as part of first Soviet mass deportation from the Baltic states. Kurvits was moved to Kirov prison camp in Sosva, Sverdlovsk oblast. On 27 December 1943 he died in Soviet imprisonment. [1] [2]


During his lifetime Kurvits received numerous awards from Estonia, Russian Empire, Latvia, Finland and Poland, including Estonian Cross of Liberty 1st grade 2nd class, Russian Order of St. George 4th class and Latvian Order of Lāčplēsis 3rd class. [1]

In May 2012 a new multi-purpose ship of the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board Kindral Kurvits (PVL-101), was named after General Kurvits. [6]

Personal life

Kurvits married with his wife Anna Ariva on 26 December 1917. They had three daughters. After Kurvits became head of the border guard, his family moved to Tallinn, where they lived up to Soviet Occupation period. The home farm at Mihkli-Aadu remained the family's summer home. [1]

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Võime, Lembit (1997-05-08). "Eesti kutselise piirivalve ülesehitaja" (in Estonian). Postimees. Archived from the original on 2000-06-09. Retrieved 2013-03-25.
  2. 1 2 Kaevats, Ülo; et al. (2000). Eesti entsüklopeedia 14 (in Estonian). Eesti Entsüklopeediakirjastus. p. 199. ISBN   9985700643.
  3. Teesalu, Ingrid (2012-05-14). "Estonian, Georgian Border Guards Step Up Cooperation". Eesti Rahvusringhääling . Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  4. 1 2 "Ministry of the Interior 1918 - 1940". Estonian Ministry of the Interior. Archived from the original on 2012-07-28. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  5. "Eesti piirivalve 1918–1940" (in Estonian). Police and Border Guard Board . Retrieved 2013-03-25.
  6. Barbieri, Thomas (March 2012). "Kindral Kurvits - the right solution to fight pollution". Lamor. Retrieved 2013-03-25.
Political offices
Preceded by
Oskar Amberg
Minister of War
Succeeded by
Jaan Soots