You’re driving down a dirt road near the village of Misa, Latvia, roughly 32 miles south east of Riga, when suddenly a dozen youngsters emerge from the woods. They’re dressed in military garb, and their faces are painted green and brown; they wear tree branches around their heads and arms—camouflage. They’ve just finished a training simulation: liberating a hostage from enemy soldiers. They are members of the Youth Guard, a section of Latvia’s National Guard. With its more than 8,000 volunteers, it is the country’s largest paramilitary group.

Tomaso Clavarino is an Italian documentary photographer who spent nearly a month reporting from Eastern Europe and the Baltic states. Between April and June of this year, he followed several Baltic paramilitary groups, including the Lithuanian Lietuvos Šaulių Sąjunga (“Riflemen’s Union”), the Estonian Defense League, and the National Guard, which was recently folded into Latvia’s 1,500-strong National army. While these groups have existed for decades, their ranks have swelled in recent years in response to Russian aggression.

Among the paramilitary volunteers are bikers, ex-soldiers, hunters, and stockbreeders. Each group has its own division dedicated to training young men and women in military tactics and patriotism; some volunteers are as young as 12 years old. These groups insist they are apolitical. They seek to defend their borders and train the warriors of tomorrow to prepare for whatever Putin has planned next.

1. Algirdas Genys, head of the city of Jurbarkas' section of the Lietuvos Šaulių Sąjunga (the "Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union"), is a survivor of Soviet-era deportation.
2. A group of young volunteers at a training camp in Smalininkai, Lithuania. About half of the volunteers of the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union are under 18. During their training, they walk more than 18 miles through rural areas, carrying heavy backpacks and plastic AK-47s and soft-air weapons.
3. The Russian town of Ivangorod is only a 15-minute drive from Narva, an eastern city in Estonia. In Narva, 90 percent of the population speaks Russian; only 3 percent speaks Estonian. Stanislav Pupkevich, a border guard, said that NATO's presence has increased tensions between the countries. “Why should Russia attack us? We are not strategically important and they are busier on much hotter borders,” he explained. Narva’s mayor, Tammo Tammiste, believes that a Russian invasion is very unlikely. “Of course,” he said, “in Narva there are pro-Russian groups, they make propaganda of false news and accuse the government of Tallinn of forgetting about the Russian-speaking population.” But “up until now they [have been] poorly organized.”
4. One of the few Soviet-era monuments left in Latvia, in the forest near Aluksne.
5. A group of young men and women from the Latvian Youth Guard clean themselves after a morning of training in the woods.
6. A camp in the woods near Talsi, Latvia, where the Latvian Youth Guard organizes patriotic camps for young women and men, aged 17 or younger, to participate in athletic training, patriotic lessons, and orienteering courses.
7. Arvis,14, wants to be a soldier when he grows up. He decided to join the Youth Guard to help his country, and now finds himself fending off the mosquitos that infest the dark forest outside Talsi. With 200 other young men and women, he spent four days running, doing push-ups, and learning to find his way through the woods. “My friends stay home and watch television, playing video games or loading videos on YouTube. I’m not interested in that, I want to be useful to my country. I am a patriot.”
8. At the end of the training day, fatigue sets in for a young member of the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union.
9. Members of the Estonian Defense League practice with soft air pistols near Tallinn. The leaders of the league encourage members to carry arms, keep guns in their homes, and be ready to use them when necessary.
10. Andrei Obidin, 34, is a customs guard and volunteer for the Estonian Defense League.
11. The classroom in the basement of the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union office in the Lithuanian city of Jurbarkas.
12. Rimalda Liesyte, a member of the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union, teaches religion in a high school on the outskirts of Klaipeda, Lithuania. “I believe groups like the Lietuvos Šaulių Sąjunga are important to countries like ours ... We cannot delegate the defense of our nation to the army. Every citizen must be ready. This is why I invite members of the group to speak to my classes, so that youngsters have the chance to understand how patriotism is important in everyone’s education.” According to Liesyte, patriotism and religion are strongly connected. “Europe is at war. We cannot turn our backs to that."
13. Estonian Defense League members inspect their performance after a shooting session in the countryside near Narva.
14. A young Lithuanian member of the Riflemen’s Union learns how to carry a gun on his shoulder.
15. Young volunteers run across a road in the Lithuanian countryside.
16. A group of bikers from the Lithuanian city of Klaipeda are part of a U.S.-based group called the Legacy Vets Motorcycle Club. These men are members of the Lithuanian chapter. Most of the group's members are former soldiers, nationalists, and volunteers in the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union. "Every week we gather to train ourselves to shoot. We do this in firing grounds or out in the fields," Aurimas Mocku, 35, explained. "We do this because we are faithful to our country, because we are ready to protect it. Lithuanians have already made a mistake once, losing their independence without fighting back. We will not allow that again.”
17. Members of the National Guard and the Youth Guard stand in line after training in the countryside surrounding Misa, Latvia.