Organization of the Aizsargi

The order, Latvijas Pagaidu valdības noteikumi par aizsargu nodaļu dibināšanu pagastos[1], creating the Aizsargi summoned into duty to safeguard their parish all men, 18–60 years old, who were residents of the parish:

  • landowners,
  • those renting dwellings or land,
  • manufacturers and merchants.

If there were insufficient volunteers, an assembly of the local parish would appoint them. The Aizsargi were organized by territory: a county defined a regiment's territory, a parish—a chapter's.[2] In all, there were 19 territorial and two specialty (railroad and aviation) regiments. Notably, regiments were administrative units, not formal military units:

  • 1st Talsi Regiment
  • 2nd Ventspils Regiment
  • 3rd Ludza Regiment
  • 4th Jēkabpils Regiment
  • 5th Rīga Regiment
  • 6th Aizpute Regiment
  • 7th Valka Regiment
  • 8th Valmiera Regiment
  • 9th Madona Regiment
  • 10th Cēsis Regiment
  • 11th Tukums Regiment
  • 12th Ilūkste Regiment
  • 13th Bauska Regiment
  • 14th Kuldīga Regiment
  • 15th Liepāja Regiment
  • 16th Jelgava Regiment
  • 17th Rēzekne Regiment
  • 18th Daugavpils Regiment
  • 19th Abrene Regiment
  • Railroad Regiment
  • Aviation Regiment

Regiments were divided into companies, squadrons, and bicyclist commands. Each regiment operated within the borders of a single county, and the regiment commander was county chief of police. Numerous Aizsargi professionals were employed by the police.

Governance

The Aizsargi transitioned to a volunteer organization in 1921, its leadership consisting of a board of members. Its highest governing body was the Latvijas aizsargu kongress. On 23 August 1923, it adopted a constitutional amendment that in matters of policing and cultural affairs, the organization reported to the Minister of Interior, while in military matters, to the War Ministry. However, it was not until 1936 that any laws were adopted which clarified the legal status of the Aizsargi, subsequent to the original order of 1919 those being:

  • Law regarding the Aizsargi organization (1936) — Ulmanis was named its titular head. Its multi-fold mission was defined as: asssist in maintaining peace and order; reinforce the country against external threats; cultivate and reinforce patriotism and national culture; promote and develop physical fitness.
  • Ministry of the Interior, Chapter I section 3. regarding the Aizsargi organization status (1937) — the Aizsargi were subordinated to the Minister of Interior.
  • Minister of Justice 1937 Letter to the Minister of Interior regarding the legal status of the Aizsargi organization[3]
  • Regulations regarding the organization of the Aizsargi organization, and Aizsargi members' duties, rights, and training (1938) — These regulations were intended to set out duties, rights, et al. in greater detail, including: all retired military officers were to join the Aizsargi; Aizsargi were entitled to railway and similar transport. Further instructions followed. Disrespecting the Aizsargi organization or a unit was made punishable by jail.[4]

Militarization and Armaments

Initially, the Aizsargi were a civilian force mustered to protect their homes and property behind the lines in the Latvian War of Independence, provided captured arms unsuitable for the army. Once the Aizsargi were established as a formal, voluntary militia, it also transformed into an organized force.

Carden Loyd Mark VI tankette in Swedish museum, at Wikipedia
Active membership was initially capped at 50 individuals per parish, 472 parishes total after independence. A full uniform was approved in 1923. 1925 saw the establishing of Aizsargi headquarters and formal position of headquarters officer. As the chief of police of a county, the regiment commanders were, functionally, employed by the police. Regimental commander adjutant positions were created, staffed by regular army officers. The military leadership of the Aizsargi consisted of 150 trained army officers attached to the organization.

The Aizsargi were equipped with light infantry arms, i.e., rifles and machine guns.[5]

In 1930, the Jelgava regiment procured a British Carden Loyd Mark VI tankette. The Aizsargi aviation regiment had 31 planes, of those, four locally manufactured VEF I-12 models.


[1]"Latvian Provisional Authority's regulations regarding the establishment of Aizargi chapters in parishes" text at http://www.historia.lv/dokumenti/latvijas-pagaidu-valdibas-noteikumi-par-aizsargu-nodalu-dibinasanu-pagastos-2031919], retrieved 06-April-2017
[2]The parish unit, "nodaļa," can also be translated as "brigade" or "squad," however, we have adopted "chapter" as the activities of the Aizsargi were much broader than those of a militia.
[3]We have not been able to locate it a copy of or report regarding its specific contents.
[4]Latgale Herald (in Latvian), Friday, April 8, 1938, page 1
[5]Latvian sources indicate "Ross-Enfield" rifles when no such rifle actually existed. From archival accounts these were most likely Pattern 14 rifles, which were the standard Latvian rifle of the interwar period. "Ross" rifles were Canadian, while the Pattern 14 was British designed and American manufactured. Both shot standard .303" British ammunition. Viz. S. Kiersons, MA Boys of the Dvina - Latvia's Army 1918-1940. (Lulu Com, 2013)

Additional Reading

Updated: June, 2017

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