TURI, Estonia — Her face puffy from lack of sleep, Vivika Barnabas peered down at the springs, rods and other parts of a disassembled assault rifle spread before her.
At last, midway through one of this country’s peculiar, grueling events known as patrol competitions, she had come upon an easy task.
Already, she and her three teammates had put out a fire, ridden a horse, identified medicinal herbs from the forest and played hide-and-seek with gun-wielding “enemies” in the woods at night.
By comparison, this would be easy. She knelt in the crinkling, frost-covered grass of a forest clearing and grabbed at the rifle parts in a flurry of clicks and snaps, soon handing the assembled weapon to a referee....
Encouraging citizens to stash warm clothes, canned goods, boots and a rifle may seem a cartoonish defense strategy against a military colossus like Russia. Yet the Estonians say they need look no further than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to see the effectiveness today, as ever, of an insurgency to even the odds against a powerful army.
Estonia is hardly alone in striking upon the idea of dispersing guns among the populace to advertise the potential for widespread resistance, as a deterrent.
Of the top four nations in the world for private gun ownership — the United States, Yemen, Switzerland and Finland — the No. 3 and 4 spots belong to small nations with a minutemen-style civilian call-up as a defense strategy or with a history of partisan war.
“The best deterrent is not only armed soldiers, but armed citizens, too,” Brig. Gen. Meelis Kiili, the commander of the Estonian Defense League, said in an interview in Tallinn, the capital.