Lieutenant General Baron Roman Fedorovich von Ungern-Sternberg in Irkutsk during interrogation at the headquarters of the 5th Soviet Army. 1-2 September 1921
General situation in Transbaikalia
From the middle of autumn 1919, the military situation in Siberia and Transbaikalia quickly changed in favor of the Reds. Omsk, the capital of the supreme ruler, Admiral Kolchak, was abandoned by the Whites. The White movement in Siberia was demoralized. Faith in victory collapsed. Bad news also came from the south of Russia - Denikin's army, which was rushing to Moscow, exhausted its strength and quickly rolled back.
As a result, the entire structure of white power in eastern Russia collapsed. Kolchak, his government and military command completely lost control of the situation. The race began farther and farther east. The "supreme ruler" was held hostage by foreigners: the French and the Czechs, who were solving exclusively their own tasks. Mostly selfish in nature: how to save their lives and take out as many treasures and goods looted in Russia as possible.
A split occurred in the military leadership of the White Army, intrigues and squabbles intensified. If earlier the fault line ran mainly between the atamanism of such white leaders as Semyonov and the liberal-republican entourage of Admiral Kolchak, now the seeming unity has been lost among the Kolchak generals.
The commander-in-chief of the Eastern Front and the chief of staff of the Supreme General Dieterichs refused to defend Omsk under the pretext of threatening the death of the entire army and was dismissed. Soon, the new commander-in-chief, General Sakharov, was arrested at the Taiga station by General Pepeliaev. Sakharov was accused of defeats at the front. There were several mutinies against Kolchak, the troops went over to the side of the Reds or the rebels. Kolchak himself was handed over to the pro-Socialist-Revolutionary Irkutsk political center, and he turned over the admiral to the Bolsheviks.
After the fall of the Kolchak regime, the remnants of the white forces were concentrated in Transbaikalia. The white Far Eastern army of General Semyonov, who headed the new Chita government, formed a "Chita plug" (Defeat of the Far Eastern Army. How the "Chita plug" was eliminated). In April-May 1920, the whites repulsed two attacks by the People's Revolutionary Army of the Far Eastern Republic.
However, the situation was critical, the NRA was constantly strengthened by regular units of the Red Army. White did not have such a strategic reserve. Under pressure from superior forces, including the Red partisans, the Whites rolled back to Chita. Desertion intensified again, someone surrendered or went to the Reds, others fled to the taiga, tired of the war, others prudently went abroad, believing that everything was over in Russia and, before it was too late, it was necessary to establish life in emigration.
Hope for the East
In the face of a complete military and political catastrophe, the white leaders were looking for salvation. It was obvious that the White Guards needed a reliable rear base in order to conduct hostilities against the Red Army. An attempt to establish such a base in Siberia failed. The bulk of the population supported either the Bolsheviks, the Red partisans, or the "green" rebels. The social base of the White movement was extremely narrow. Therefore, many whites began to look to the East, hoping to establish contacts and mutual support with the military and aristocratic elites of Mongolia and China. Even earlier, the Semyonovites began to focus on Japan.
It is interesting that many Bolsheviks adhered to similar views. After dashed hopes for a quick revolution in Poland, Hungary and Germany, the rest of Western Europe, the revolutionaries turned their attention to the East. It seemed that the peoples of the East were already ripe for a revolution against the colonialists and feudal lords. One has only to set fire to the combustible material and direct the erupted fire in the right direction. Huge India and China, and accompanying countries and regions could provide hundreds of millions of people and decide the fate of the world revolution. If in Europe the Bolsheviks preached internationalism, then in Asia they became preachers of nationalism.
Therefore, building his geopolitical plans to recreate the empire of Genghis Khan from the Pacific Ocean to Europe, Baron Roman Fedorovich von Ungern-Sternberg (Semyonov's mutiny and the "mad baron") did not come up with anything special. His thoughts on the creation of Great Mongolia, then on the formation of the Middle State led by the Qing dynasty with the inclusion of Manchuria, Xinjiang, Tibet, Turkestan, Altai and Buryatia, were in many ways a reflection of the communist plan for the "struggle for the East", transferring the center of the world revolution from Europe to East. According to Ungern, the creation of such a state headed by the "holy king" - Bogdo Khan, created conditions for the "export of counter-revolution" to Russia and the restoration of the monarchy not only on the territory of the former Russian Empire, but also in Europe.
"One can expect light and salvation only from the East, and not from Europeans, who have been corrupted at the very root, even to the younger generation."
Note that the Asian reality turned out to be by no means the same as Ungern painted it (idealizing Asian traditions and orders) and the leaders of the Bolsheviks. However, this understanding came too late, when they already plunged headlong into Asian affairs. East is a delicate matter.
Soldiers of the Buryat-Mongolian regiment of the Asian cavalry division
The threat of a new Eastern Front
At the same time, the Bolsheviks were not inclined to consider Ungern's ideas "chimeras of the insane." They were able to assess the threat posed by the "mad baron", and it is in the practical, military-political terms.
On October 31, 1920, a special telegram was sent to the head of the Council of People's Commissars Lenin about the danger posed to Soviet Russia by the successes of General Ungern in Mongolia. A copy was sent to the People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Chicherin.
The document noted:
"If Ungern succeeds, the highest Mongol circles, changing their orientation, will form the government of autonomous Mongolia with Ungern's help ... We will be faced with the fact of organizing a new White Guard base, opening a front from Manchuria to Turkestan, cutting us off from the whole East."
This new front could not only cut off the Bolsheviks from the East, but also threaten Soviet Russia.
Interestingly, in 1932, on the territory of northeastern China, the Japanese created the monarchical state of Manchukuo (Great Manchu Empire) headed by Pu Yi, the last emperor of China from the Manchu Qing dynasty, whose power was dreamed of by Baron Ungern. Manchukuo was a springboard and base for Japan to fight China and Russia. Therefore, the geopolitical plans of Roman Ungern in the face of large-scale upheavals of that period stories were not fiction. Fortune favors the brave.
In the winter of 1919, Roman Fedorovich went on a business trip to Manchuria and China. He returned only in September. There he established contacts with local monarchists and married the Chinese princess Ji from the Dzhankui clan (baptized Elena Pavlovna). Her relative, a general, commanded Chinese troops on the western section of the CER from Transbaikalia to Khingan. In the summer of 1920, before going to Mongolia, the baron sent his wife to Beijing "to his father's house." This marriage was formal, political in nature with the aim of rapprochement with the Chinese nobility.
In August 1920, Ungern's Asian division left Dauria. The division consisted of about 1 sabers, 6 guns and 20 machine guns. Before the start of the campaign, the general gave release to everyone who, for health reasons or marital status, was not ready for a long raid.
Formally, it was believed that Ungern's division was to make a deep raid in the rear of the Reds in the Chita direction. In this case, the baron had to act according to the situation. In October 1920, Semyonov's army in Transbaikalia was defeated by the Reds, its remnants fled to Manchuria. Ungern decided to go to Mongolia.
By this time, the Chinese had abolished the autonomy of Mongolia, the Mongolian ministers were arrested, and Bogdo Khan (1869–1924) was placed under house arrest in his "Green" palace. The old order that existed before the establishment of autonomy in 1911 is being restored in the country. The Mongols were particularly hit by the recovery of debts to Chinese firms canceled in 1911. Accrued interest was charged on these debts. As a result, the Mongols fell into severe financial bondage to the Chinese. This caused a strong protest from the population.
At first, Ungern did not plan to stay in Mongolia and fight the Chinese. The superiority of the Chinese was too great: the Urga garrison alone consisted of at least 10 thousand soldiers, 18 cannons and more than 70 machine guns. Through Mongolian territory, he wanted to go to Russia, to move to Troitskosavsk (now Kyakhta). However, intelligence reported that artillery and carts would not pass through the mountains. The only way, bypassing the Khentei mountains, passed through Urga. On October 20, 1920, Ungern's troops reached the Mongol capital. The white general invited the Chinese to let his detachment pass through the city.
Ungern's division set up camp about 30 km from the city. A week passed in anticipation of a response from the Chinese commander. But instead of passing through the city, news came that the Chinese were preparing for defense and began repressions against the "white Russians" who were suspected of aiding the baron. In addition, it was necessary to go to Troitskosavsk before the onset of cold weather. This was the reason for the outbreak of hostilities.
On October 26-27, the White Guards went on the offensive. It was extremely poorly organized and ended in complete failure. Two guns were lost. Ungern himself went on reconnaissance, and alone and got lost. The Chinese could leave the city and finish the job, disperse the enemy. But they did not even dare to conduct reconnaissance.
The second attack, launched on November 2, ended in another failure. The Chinese took over in numbers and technical advantage. White did not have any reserves to develop the first success in the main directions. Ammunition quickly ran out, machine guns refused in the cold. The Chinese threw reserves into the counterattack and the Ungernovites withdrew.
The losses for the small "division" were terrible: more than 100 killed, about 200 wounded and even more frostbite. Up to 40% of the officers were killed. In fact, the Asian Division (its personnel) ceased to exist. At the same time, news came that Chita had fallen, the way to Russia was closed, and there would be no help. The onset of cold weather further complicated the situation.
A threatening situation developed in the white camp: the stocks taken with them ran out. I had to switch to the local system of rationing: no bread, only meat. The horses had to be replaced by locals who did not have oats and ate pasture. White retreated to the river. Tereldzhiin-Gol in the upper reaches of the river. Tuul, and then to Kerulen. There was pasture for horses of the Mongolian breed, for Russian horses there was hay, prepared by the Mongols for the Chinese cavalry.
The general sent two outposts - to the Kalgan and Manchurian highways. Sometimes they intercepted Chinese caravans with provisions and clothing, the captured camels entered the train. It was hard in winter, they lived in shawls and light yurts bought from the Mongols. Winter clothes were made by themselves from bovine skins. Frost, lack of food, lack of any prospects led to a feeling of complete hopelessness, demoralized the soldiers. Desertion began, with which the baron fought by strengthening "stick discipline" using the most draconian methods.
So, on the night of November 28, 1920, 15 officers and 22 horsemen from the officer's hundred of the 2nd Annenkovsky regiment, led by a polesaul Tsaregorodtsev, deserted at once. The baron threw two hundred men in pursuit, they returned with three bags of heads and three surrendered officers. In this episode of the Civil War, Ungern's "bestial cruelty" can be seen. In fact, he simply dealt with the deserters in accordance with the laws of wartime.
Alliance with the Mongols
At this critical moment, friendly relations with the Mongols begin to take shape. They sensed in the Russians possible liberators from the Chinese colonialists. First, merchants arrived in the white camp, Ungern ordered to pay them in gold. Then the local feudal lords of northeastern Mongolia recognized Roman Fedorovich as the leader who would restore the country's independence. The baron began a secret correspondence with Bogdo Khan. He begins to send letters to the provinces of the country to provide assistance to the White Guards. Soon the ranks of the Asian division were joined by the Mongols, who rose to fight the Chinese. True, the fighting qualities of the new fighters were extremely low.
“It was not an easy task - putting together military units from such material. The Mongols harassed the teachers with their inactivity on foot and, in general, their organic inability (!) To the agility that was extremely necessary in war, as well as their slavish, senseless admiration for the Russian noyns (princes). "
This is to the myth of the "Mongols" who allegedly conquered most of Eurasia (The myth of the "Mongols from Mongolia in Russia). The "Mongols and Mongolia", being at a very low level of civilizational, state development, could not create a world empire in any way.
Ungern finally won the sympathy of the Mongols with his religious policy. She was extremely tolerant. Being himself a deeply religious person, the baron was extremely attentive to the religious life of his soldiers. This sharply distinguished the division of the "god of war" not only from the red units, but also from the "secular" whites.
All the shows ended with a common prayer, which each nationality sang in its own language and in its own ritual. The choir turned out to be very wonderful: Russians, various Mongols, Buryats, Tatars, Tibetans, etc.
Roman Fedorovich quickly found a common language with local lamas (Lamaism is a local variety of Buddhism). The way to the hearts of the steppe people went through the wallets of the lamas, who had indisputable authority in the eyes of the natives. The general made generous donations to Buddhist monasteries (datsans), paid for the services of numerous fortune-tellers and predictors of the future.
To be continued ...