Battle of Cēsis (1919)

Last updated
Battle of Wenden
Part of Estonian War of Independence,
Latvian War of Independence
Latvia location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Battle of Cēsis (1919) (Latvia)
Date19–23 June 1919
Result Decisive Latvian-Estonian victory
Flag of Estonia.svg  Estonia
Flag of Latvia.svg  Latvia
Baltic German.svg Baltische Landeswehr
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Estonia.svg Ernst Põdder
Flag of Estonia.svg Nikolai Reek
Flag of Latvia.svg Jorģis Zemitāns
Flag of Latvia.svg Krišjānis Berķis
Baltic German.svg Alfred Fletcher
Units involved

Flag of Estonia.svg 3rd Division
Flag of Estonia.svg Kuperjanov Battalion
Flag of Latvia.svg Latvian Northern Brigade


  • 2nd Latvian Cēsis Regiment
Baltic German.svg Iron Division

6,509 infantry
65 cavalry
106 heavy machine guns
126 light machine guns
23 artillery pieces
3 armoured vehicles
3 armoured trains [1] including

2nd Latvian Cēsis Regiment:
750 infantry
8 heavy machine guns
20 light machine guns [1]
5,500–6,300 infantry
500–600 cavalry
50 heavy machine guns
90 light machine guns
42–48 artillery pieces [1]
Casualties and losses
Flag of Estonia.svg  Estonia:
110 killed
295 wounded [2]
Flag of Latvia.svg  Latvia:
13 killed
30 wounded [2]
274 killed [3]

The Battle of Cēsis (Latvian : Cēsu kaujas; Estonian : Võnnu lahingBattle of Võnnu; German : Schlacht von Wenden, Battle of Wenden), fought near Cēsis (or Võnnu, Wenden) in June 1919, was a decisive battle in the Estonian War of Independence and the Latvian War of Independence. After heavy fighting an Estonian force moving from the north, supplemented by Latvian units, repelled Baltic German attacks and went on full counter-attack.

Latvian language Baltic language, official in Latvia and the European Union

Latvian is a Baltic language spoken in the Baltic region. It is the language of Latvians and the official language of Latvia as well as one of the official languages of the European Union. It is sometimes known in English as Lettish, and cognates of the word remain the most commonly used name for the Latvian language in Germanic languages other than English. There are about 1.3 million native Latvian speakers in Latvia and 100,000 abroad. Altogether, 2 million, or 80% of the population of Latvia, speak Latvian. Of those, 1.16 million or 56% use it as their primary language at home. The use of the Latvian language in various areas of social life in Latvia is increasing.

Estonian language Finno-Ugric language spoken in Estonia

The Estonian language is the official language of Estonia, spoken natively by about 1.1 million people: 922,000 people in Estonia and 160,000 outside Estonia. It is a Southern Finnic language and is the second most spoken language among all the Finnic languages.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.


Latvia had declared independence in 1918, but was unable to stop the advance of the Red Army, resulting in the loss of Riga. The advance of the Red Latvian Riflemen was stopped by the German VI Reserve Corps. [1] The Reserve Corps under general Rüdiger von der Goltz consisted of the Baltische Landeswehr , the Freikorps Iron Division, and the Guard Reserve Division. [4] The Latvian volunteers loyal to the Provisional Government were also placed under the command of the Baltische Landeswehr. [1] On 16 April 1919, the Latvian government of Kārlis Ulmanis was toppled by the Germans, who installed a puppet German Provisional Government of Latvia headed by Andrievs Niedra. However, the Latvian Brigade led by Jānis Balodis remained passively under the German command. [1]

Red Army 1917–1946 ground and air warfare branch of the Soviet Unions military

The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, frequently shortened to Red Army was the army and the air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, and, after 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The army was established immediately after the 1917 October Revolution. The Bolsheviks raised an army to oppose the military confederations of their adversaries during the Russian Civil War. Beginning in February 1946, the Red Army, along with the Soviet Navy, embodied the main component of the Soviet Armed Forces; taking the official name of "Soviet Army", until its dissolution in December 1991.

Riga City in Latvia

Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 637,827 inhabitants (2018), it is also the largest city in the three Baltic states, home to one third of Latvia's population and one tenth of the three Baltic states' combined population. The city lies on the Gulf of Riga, at the mouth of the Daugava river. Riga's territory covers 307.17 km2 (118.60 sq mi) and lies 1–10 m above sea level, on a flat and sandy plain.

Latvian Riflemen

The Latvian Riflemen were originally a military formation of the Imperial Russian Army assembled starting 1915 in Latvia in order to defend Baltic territories against Germans in World War I. Initially the battalions were formed by volunteers, and from 1916 by conscription among the Latvian population. A total of about 40,000 troops were drafted into the Latvian Riflemen Division.

After recapturing Riga from the Red Army, the VI Reserve Corps continued its advance north. At the same time, the 3rd Estonian Division, having pushed the Soviets out of south Estonia, was advancing into Latvia from the north. Estonia continued to recognise the Ulmanis government, and neither side was ready to back down. On 5 June, fighting started, with the Landeswehr capturing Cēsis the following day. [5] On 10 June with the mediation of the Allies a ceasefire was declared, but talks failed, and on 19 June fighting recommenced.

Allies of World War I group of countries that fought against the Central Powers in World War I

The Allies of World War I or Entente Powers is the term commonly used for the coalition that opposed the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria during the First World War (1914–1918).


Baltic German army
Russian army (Bolsheviks)
Latvian army
Estonian army Latvian Independence War 1919.06.22.svg
   Baltic German army
  Russian army (Bolsheviks)
  Latvian army
  Estonian army

On 19 June, fighting resumed with an Iron Division attack on the Estonian positions near Limbaži. [6] At that time, the 3rd Estonian Division, including the 2nd Latvian Cēsis Regiment under Colonel Krišjānis Berķis, had 5,990 infantry and 125 cavalry. The pro-German forces had 5,500–6,300 infantry, 500–600 cavalry and a strong advantage in cannons, machine guns and mortars. [1] German forces achieved some success under Limbaži, but were soon pushed back. The Landeswehr main attack started on 21 June, breaking through the positions of the 2nd Latvian Cēsis Regiment at the Rauna River. The situation became critical for the 3rd Estonian Division, but the German assault was stopped by three Estonian armoured trains and the Kuperjanov Partisan Battalion. [7]

Limbaži Town in Limbaži municipality, Latvia

Limbaži is a town in the Vidzeme region of northern Latvia. Limbaži is located 90 km northeast of the capital Riga. The population is 8705 people. During the Middle Ages, as part of Livonia, Limbazi was a fortified town with stone walls, second in importance only to Riga.

Krišjānis Berķis Latvian general

Krišjānis Berķis was a Latvian general. Rising to prominence as an officer of the Latvian Riflemen in World War I, he was promoted to the rank of general during the Latvian War of Independence, and served on the Army General Staff after the war.

Cannon Class of artillery which fires at a low or flat trajectory

A cannon is a type of gun classified as artillery that launches a projectile using propellant. In the past, gunpowder was the primary propellant before the invention of smokeless powder in the 19th century. Cannon vary in caliber, range, mobility, rate of fire, angle of fire, and firepower; different forms of cannon combine and balance these attributes in varying degrees, depending on their intended use on the battlefield. The word cannon is derived from several languages, in which the original definition can usually be translated as tube, cane, or reed. In the modern era, the term cannon has fallen into decline, replaced by guns or artillery if not a more specific term such as mortar or howitzer, except for high calibre automatic weapons firing bigger rounds than machine guns, called autocannons.

The Landeswehr continued attacking at several parts of the front, and more Estonian forces joined the battle. [8] After stopping the last German attacks, the Estonian forces started a full counter-attack on 23 June resulting in the recapture of Cēsis. [9] The German units started a general retreat toward Riga.

Cēsis Town in Cēsis Municipality, Latvia

Cēsis, is a town in Latvia located in the northern part of the Central Vidzeme Upland. Cēsis is on the Gauja River valley, and is built on a series of ridges above the river overlooking the woods below. Cēsis was one of the candidate cities for the title of European Capital of Culture 2014.


The Battle of Cēsis was a decisive victory for Estonia against the pro-German forces. The 3rd Estonian Division continued their advance towards Riga. On 3 July, the Estonian forces were at the outskirts of the city. Estonia, Latvia and the pro-German Provisional Government of Latvia signed the Ceasefire of Strazdumuiža on the demand of the Entente. The armistice restored the Ulmanis government in Riga. German forces were ordered to leave Latvia, the Baltic-German Landeswehr was put under command of the Latvian government and sent to fight against the Red Army. However, to circumvent Entente's orders, many German soldiers instead of leaving, were incorporated into the West Russian Volunteer Army. Fighting in Latvia and Lithuania restarted in October and continued until December 1919.

West Russian Volunteer Army

The West Russian Volunteer Army or Bermontians was an army in the Baltic provinces of the former Russian Empire during the Russian Civil War of 1918–1920.

Latvian War of Independence fought against Russian SFSR

The Latvian War of Independence, sometimes called the Latvia's freedom struggles or the Latvian War of Liberation, was a series of military conflicts in Latvia between 5 December 1918, after the newly proclaimed Republic of Latvia was invaded by Soviet Russia, and the signing of the Latvian-Soviet Riga Peace Treaty on 11 August 1920.

The Lithuanian Wars of Independence, also known as the Freedom Struggles, refer to three wars Lithuania fought defending its independence at the end of World War I: with Bolshevik forces, Bermontians, and Poland. The wars delayed international recognition of independent Lithuania and the formation of civil institutions.

Estonia celebrates the anniversary of the battle as Victory Day, a national holiday.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Colonel Jaan Maide. Ülevaade Eesti Vabadussõjast (1918–1920) (Overview on Estonian War of Independence) (in Estonian). Archived from the original on 2010-08-22.
  2. 1 2
  3. Nikolai Reek. Lemsalu — Roopa — Võnnu — Ronneburgi lahing 19. — 23. VI. 1919. a. (Lemsalu — Roopa — Võnnu — Ronneburg battle 19. — 23. VI. 1919 (in Estonian). Estonian National Defence College museum. Archived from the original on 2010-08-22.
  4. Spencer C. Tucker, ed. (2005). "Goltz, Rüdiger von der, Count (1865-1946)". The Encyclopedia of World War I: A political, social, and military history. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 492–493. ISBN   9781851094202.
  5. Traksmaa, August: Lühike vabadussõja ajalugu, pages 150-151. Olion, 1992
  6. Traksmaa, August: Lühike vabadussõja ajalugu, page 156. Olion, 1992
  7. Traksmaa, August: Lühike vabadussõja ajalugu, page 157. Olion, 1992
  8. Traksmaa, August: Lühike vabadussõja ajalugu, page 158. Olion, 1992
  9. Kaevats, Ülo: Eesti Entsüklopeedia 10, page 519. Eesti Entsüklopeediakirjastus, 1998

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Coordinates: 57°18′47″N25°16′29″E / 57.3131°N 25.2747°E / 57.3131; 25.2747