Renowned Estonian photographer, Kaupo Kikkas, has released a series of portraits of members of Estonia’s Defence League. Kikkas’s series follows a series that was recently published online by Lithuanian photographer Neringa Rekasiute which portrays men dressed in the same uniform who are apparently reacting to Lithuanian conscription legislation. A few of the men are photographed crying.
In February, the Lithuanian government announced that it would reintroduce national conscription for men aged between 19 and 27. The length of compulsory service is nine months. While neighbouring Latvia does not currently have plans to reintroduce conscription, Estonia has never ended it. After compulsory service, many Estonian men and women participate in the voluntary Estonian Defence League, which represents an important part of Estonia’s defence strategy.
Part of Rekasiute’s series of “Lithuanian soldiers” “reacting” to Lithuanian conscription.
The series by Kaupo Kikkas published originally on his website is accompanied by the letter below:
Dear Lithuanian Friends,
Your 14 powerful portraits of men expressing their feelings towards conscription service proved to be really powerful, but perhaps not in a way you envisioned.
We are both small, freedom-loving nations living in a dangerous neighbourhood. It is only our determination, our love of freedom and our way of life, for our home and the dear ones that can uphold the peace and the freedom for us and our children.
To this end, it is essential to be ready and determined to defend our freedom.
The Estonian Defence League is a voluntary military organization consisting of people like me and you, of people who have chosen to spend part of their time on serving their country. We learn and train to then shed our uniforms and continue our lives as teachers, drivers, lawyers, architects, etc. We believe the best response to the powers feeding on fear and aggression is to be prepared, and then go on with our lives.
We have taken these 16 portraits to support you and say: you do not have to be a gun nut, you do not need to prove your manliness, an assault rifle or a grenade launcher does not have to give you boners.
You just have to love freedom!
Lauri and Kaupo
On behalf of our friends, the citizens of Estonia, and members of the Defence League,