The Erna Raid (Estonian: Erna retk) was an annual international military exercise and competition, one of the longest and most difficult in the world, held every August since 1995 to 2011 in Estonia. It is organised by the Erna Society and commemorates the actions of the long-range reconnaissance group 'Erna' in the summer of 1941.
The traditional parts of the competition are:
- landing, in rubber boats, onto a "hostile" shore;
- cross-country tactical movement and navigation, without night campdown, over a distance of around 150 kilometres while avoiding and escaping from "hostile" security forces;
- various (and varying over the years) minigames during the competition. These may involve grenade throwing, combat first aid and other military skills.
Foreign teams have always been welcome to partake in the competition. In 2007, 28 teams from nine different countries participated: Estonia (18 teams), Czech Republic (one), Denmark (one), Finland (two), Germany (one), Norway (two), Portugal (one), Sweden (one) and the United States (one), of which Portugal and the Czech Republic are newcomers. Teams from the United Kingdom have participated in earlier years (most recently, a British Territorial Army team in 2006), but only observed in 2007. A team from Cyprus also observed. Teams from The People's Republic of China have been traditionally successful in the competition and took 1st and 2nd place in 2002. Other successful teams have come from Finland and Norway.
The competition is named after the Erna long-range recce group (Estonian: Erna luuregrupp) and themed after its activities in the summer of 1941.
In 1993, a group of enthusiasts followed the historical route of the Erna group of 1941, and came up with the idea of organizing a commemorative competition. A first try with only Estonian participants was held in 1994. In the autumn of 1994, the Erna society was founded, and in 1995, the first international competition was held, and has been so annually since then, growing in size and the number of participants over time.
The table below records the final results for the year's competition. It does not include retired and disqualified teams. DL is the acronym for the Defence League.
Since the Stalin era, the official Soviet stance was that the original Erna team participated in the mass murder of Soviet political activists. Sometimes this included a claim that the letter 'E' was cut onto the backs of the victims.
These claims were reinforced in the 1980s as a way of distracting historians analysing the Kautla massacre, and have been repeated in the Russian media throughout the 2000s.
Recent official Russian accusations of glorifying Nazism
Since the competition's initiation, sectors of the Russian media claimed the competition's namesake was an attempt to glorify collaboration with Nazi Germany. In 2007, high-ranking government officials sharply criticized the competition, calling it "glamorization of Nazism" and expressing outrage over NATO members participating in the competition. Estonian officials attribute this recent development to the ongoing campaign for the Russian presidential election of 2008. Russian officials claim that commemoration of the Erna group today is part of alleged efforts by the Estonian authorities to glorify the Nazi past (other parts of it being the relocation of a memorial to Red Army invaders and an official greeting from the Minister of Defence to veterans of a unit of Estonians conscripted into a division organized within the Waffen SS to defend Estonia).
An analyst of the US-based think tank Jamestown Foundation believes this view follows Soviet and post-Soviet Russia's official logic on two counts: first, that resistance to the Red Army was inherently illegitimate and conflatable with "fascism" in an occupied country or one targeted for occupation; second, that Estonia should be criticized for remembering an act of national resistance and its casualties.
Estonia's Minister of Defence, Jaak Aaviksoo called the accusations "regrettable" and recalled that the Erna group saved the lives of many civilians from the vengeful Soviet paramilitary units, and specifically pointed out cases of burning farmers alive along with their farms in Kautla.
- British Embassy in Tallinn August 5, 2006: ERNA RAID 2006 1–5 August
- "This Year's Erna Endurance Event Could Be Last in Current Location". ERR. 2011-07-29. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- Mart Laar: Tavaline stalinism, printed in Postimees 16 August 2007
- Хоть кровь из носу, но до цели дойдем (Russian)
- Эстонские власти вновь признались в любви к Гитлеру (Russian)
- В Эстонии играют в гитлеровцев (Russian)
- Об участии эстонского легиона СС в военных преступлениях в 1941-1945 гг. и попытках пересмотра в Эстонии приговора Нюрнбергского трибунала (Russian)
- "Поход Эрна-2007". Часть истории или популяризация нацизма? (Russian)
- Russia’s FM: Countries participating in Erna Raid taint cherished memory of their own soldiers
- Russia complains about military competition
- Eesti Päevaleht 7 August 2007: Paet: süüdistused on osa Vene valimiskampaaniast
- "PACE Chairman bending to the Kremlin wind against Estonia". Jamestown Foundation. 2007-08-03. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-08-09.
- "Erna Raid and NKVD Destruction Battalions". Estonian Ministry of Defence. 2007-08-09. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
- "Aaviksoo: Erna retk ei möödunud ilma Venemaa laimukampaaniata" (in Estonian). Postimees. 2007-08-09. Retrieved 2007-08-09.