In October 1917, a revolution occurred in Russia. As from a huge ice floe, large and small parts began to split off from the Russian Empire, in order to set sail and then float free. What happened on the territory of the newly formed states can be described in one word - chaos. Or circus tent.
The situation in the Baltic to the beginning of 1918 year
By October 1917, all of Lithuania and part of Latvia were occupied by German troops. (We’ll try not to use obscure names Estonia, Courland, Livonia. Not everyone will understand which territories will be discussed. We will operate with modern geographical names, although this is not entirely correct with historical point of view.) After the breakdown of the negotiations in Brest in February, German troops launched an offensive. By the end of February, they occupied the remaining territory of Latvia, and by the beginning of March - Estonia.
In the Baltic territories, political life was in full swing, the parties formed coalitions, intrigued against each other, proclaimed the creation of independent states. But the first governments of their states so venerated by the Balts could remain nothing more than a historical anecdote. Ultimately, the German bayonet decided everything. The regime of occupation was established in the occupied territories.
In an effort to consolidate success, the Germans created self-government bodies controlled by them (landesrats) from the Germans of the Baltic and loyal representatives of the local population. A united Baltic Landesrat was created, announcing the creation of an independent Baltic duchy, a faithful ally of the German Empire. Adolf Frederick, Duke of Mecklenburg, was declared head of state. 22 September 1918, the German Emperor Wilhelm II officially recognized the Baltic Duchy as an independent state.
That all changed on November 11, 1918, when the head of the German delegation, Major General Detlof von Winterfeldt, signed an armistice agreement. Germany surrendered. Under the terms of the truce, the German army was to liberate the occupied territories. Germany began withdrawing its troops from the Baltic states and Ukraine. Only yesterday, the Baltic Duchy, the strongest in the Baltic States, found itself without German military support, quietly settled in the Bose. National governments, previously hiding in burrows, began to declare themselves at the top of their voices. On the ruins of the Baltic Duchy, which existed for about a month, independent Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia began to grow like mushrooms after a rain.
In the 1918-1919, the Baltic states practically simultaneously proclaimed: the Estland Labor Commune, the Zemsky Council of Estland, the Kingdom of Lithuania, the Lithuanian Soviet Republic, the Lithuanian-Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, the Latvian Republic, the Latvian Soviet Republic. Some of these governments exercised their authority over vast territories, some only within the direct line of sight. All of them claimed the full power and constantly fought with each other.
Frustrated by this turn of affairs, the Germans, however, were not going to surrender. If they left Ukraine quickly and without major scandals, they were not going to leave the Baltic so close to them geographically and in spirit. And began the "circus".
In December, the 1918 of the year, the Iron Division was formed as part of the 8 Army. The Ostsee Germans were consolidated into the Baltic Landeswehr (militia). The parts were voluntary, united by one idea - the struggle against Bolshevism. And so that their military fervor did not fade away, each volunteer on behalf of the Provisional Government of Latvia was promised (after victory) Latvian citizenship and 30 morgans of the earth (1 morgen - 0,3 ha) in inheritance possession. There was no end of volunteers. Even recruits came from Germany.
Having resorted to the help of the German army, the government of Ulmanis thus solved the problem of the armed forces of the young republic. The Germans did not object, as they hoped to get their hands on this republic in the near future. From the east, meanwhile, the troops of Bolshevik Soviet Latvia were pushing in, time was running out: starting the 9 December on December 1918, the offensive, on January 3 on the 1919, red arrows entered Riga. By the beginning of February only one port of Liepāja remained with the surroundings from the Republic of Latvia.
On April 16, the German militia decided that with such a government they would conquer only the allotment to the cemetery, and carried out a coup. The government of Niedra, directly controlled by the Germans, was brought to power. The result of the change in leadership turned out to be amazing: May 22 The Iron Guard and Baltic Landeswehr took back Riga, won back almost all of Latvia.
On this they would stop, but the militia, drunk from the hop of victory, moved northward to Estonia. The Estonians became frightened and gathered into a fist everything that they had, intensified by Finnish and Russian volunteers, units loyal to the Republic of Latvia. In the battles of Võnnu (June 19-23), the Estonian army stopped the Baltic Landeswehr. The battle was won. But not a campaign. Scales swayed in delicate balance. And then the Entente gave a vote.
Roar of the Entente
Entente was not all the same what is happening in the Baltic States. Britain and France decided that capitulated Germany behaves too much in the Baltic lands. The territory controlled by Germany (even under the flag of an independent Baltic state) threatened to become very large.
The command “Stand!” Was sounded and the Germans began. Alas, it was 1919 a year, not 1915 or 1916. Negotiations followed, truce. On June 29, the Niedra government ceased operations, and on July 5, 1919 units of the Iron Division left Riga. The power was returned to the government of Ulmanis, which all this time sat on the steamer "Saratov". 8 July legal authority solemnly returned to the capital.
How the Balts "threw" nemchura
Having remembered the killed comrades, bandaging the wounds, the German “voluntary fighters against Bolshevism” and “fighters for independent Latvia” came to cash out checks issued to them by the Latvian government. "We knocked out the Bolsheviks?" Knocked out. We have liberated your country? Freed. You promised us for this citizenship and land? Promised. Well, we came. And here they were waited by "surprise": the Latvian government refused the obligations.
Feeling behind the backing of the Entente, the young independent state proudly declared that it owed nothing to anyone. It was a terrific trick. The Germans just went nuts. The soldiers, who did not really understand the intricacies of politics and had no idea what intrigues were lagging behind their backs, were very offended.
So that the landsknechts did not throw out anything, England and France pressed Berlin, and from there came the order to evacuate the German units. But even for the Germans, famous for their discipline, this was too much. The Iron Division refused to evacuate. Its example was followed by the German Legion and Captain von Plehve’s volunteer corps.
The British with the French pressed harder, threatened sanctions. The Reichswehr High Command demanded an "unconditional" execution of the order. Against the commander of the Iron Division, Major Bishof and the commander of the German Legion Sievert, the German military prosecutor's office opened a case. Then the Germans made a "knight's move."
Russian-German fighting brotherhood
German soldiers stubbornly did not want to return to Vaterland. Having already instilled in their thoughts 30 of the earth's morgans, they were ready to fight for them under any banner, in any army, so long as it was found. And she was found. It was the Western Volunteer Army commanded by Colonel Bermond, who was preparing to engage in a deadly battle with the Bolsheviks. The iron division in full force entered the contract service in the EDA, retained its structure, the German officers remained in their former positions.
The soldiers kept their form and remained under the jurisdiction of the German military justice. After the Bolshevik defeat, each contract soldier was promised Russian citizenship and, according to 100 (!), Land morgans. Zheleznogvardiitsy urgently disliked the Bolsheviks, sewed an eight-pointed Russian Orthodox cross on their left overcoats, fastened Russian cockades on their caps and beskorzyk, started giving honor to the Russian flag on the building, vowed to fight for the united and indivisible Russia, and learned to sing "God the king hrani."
Now a few words about the army commander. It was a personality!
Pavel Rafailovich Bermondt was born in Tiflis in 1877 year. On the maternal line belonged to the ancient Georgian family. He was brave, enterprising, so he chose for himself the path of the military. He took part in the Russian-Japanese and the First World Wars. He fought bravely, he did not hide behind the backs of the soldiers. Evidence of this - 2 of St. George's Cross, the Order of St. Anne and seven wounds. By 1917, he served as a captain. In 1917, the soldiers elected him a regiment commander. The Provisional Government gave Bermondt the rank of colonel.
The revolution opened up new perspectives for Bermondt. A spark of adventurism, peacefully smoldering in his soul, flared up until that time. In times of revolution, people of this kind occasionally flew very high. Ordinary cavalrymen became the marshals of France (Her), the young generals became emperors (Bonaparte), the sailors became people's commissars (Dybenko), and the ensigns became Supreme Commanders (Krylenko).
In Petrograd and Kiev
In 1917, an ardent monarchist Bermond flickered in Petrograd among conspirators who planned to overthrow the Provisional Government and restore the monarchy. Did not work out. In August, 1918 Bermondt moved to Kiev and came into contact with representatives of the Kaiser. The Germans sponsored the creation of the Southern Army in Ukraine. (Subsequently, it will become part of the army Krasnov.)
Bermondt simply charmed the Germans, and they appointed an active colonel as the head of counterintelligence of the army of her Kiev recruiting station. The Petliurists who took the city arrested Bermondt and wanted to shoot him, but the Germans demanded his extradition. Although Skoropadsky, supported by them, did not keep, the Germans hoped to recoup in the Baltic States. They liked the active colonel, it was decided to save a valuable shot.
The Petliurists did not artachilis and, with a light heart, gave Bermond to him: "Take it." Together with the looted values and other Russian officers, on which the Germans "laid eyes", Bermondt was sent to Germany. On the way, an echelon was attacked by a gang of one of its numerous troupes. A combat officer, Bermond, quickly organized a defense, repulsed the attack and took the trouble to ensure the safety of the train. In Germany, Bermondt presented himself to the authorities as the head of the echelon.
So in March, 1919, Bermondt was in Salzwedel (Saxony-Anhalt), where, with the consent of the Germans, he engaged in the formation of a horse-guerilla partisan detachment of Russian prisoners of war. In July, the Germans redeployed the detachment to Mitava (modern Jelgava), intending to use it for their own purposes. The partisan detachment was renamed the Volunteer Corps to them. Count Keller. (Keller is a general who in March 1917 did not recognize the abdication of Nicholas II.) At the same time, the corps of Vygolich was formed under German control in Latvia. These two corps, joined together, were the Western volunteer army into which German servicemen went to write in battles and battalions.
At the head of the army
By August, the 1919 of the year, the APA, which had previously numbered 15 thousands of bayonets, absorbed the Iron Division and the German Legion in full force. At the expense of the “recruits,” the number of personnel passed for 55 thousand. In addition to the replenishment Bermondt received from the Germans machine guns, guns, mortars, 4 armored trains, 120 airplanes, armored vehicles and 300 million marks. On September 21, the commander of the German forces in the Baltic States, General von der Goltz, and the commander of the PDA, Bermondt-Avalov, concluded an agreement by which all German troop property was transferred to the PDA.
All this was given not for nothing. In Berlin, the West Russian government was molded by the Germans, whose primacy over itself was recognized by Bermond, who by that time became the prince of Bermond-Avalov. As a result of such a multi-pass combination, an interesting situation has developed in Latvia.
Officially, Germany met the requirements of the Entente and left the Baltics. In fact, a large military group remained in place, at the head of which was a German protege. The group was able to take control of a large territory. In case of success in Berlin, the government was already ready.
Bermondt-Avalov himself, being at the head of an entire army (for comparison, we note that in the North-Western Army of Yudenich 18.5 thousand people were under arms), he decided that he could well play an independent game. By his order stamps and even money were printed.
Bermondt sent letters inviting Kolchak, Denikin and Yudenich to join the military alliance. Dependent on the help of the Allies on the Entente, Kolchak and Denikin did not hurry to establish contacts with the German protégé. Britain and France warned that in the case of contacts with Germany, assistance would be terminated. (The Allies did not want to share the fruits of their future victory with a recent enemy.) Kolchak left Bermond’s letter simply unanswered. Denikin imposed a resolution "To hell with this Bermondt together with his Germans!"
Yudenich was not so categorical. In the planned attack on Petrograd, every bayonet, every soldier, every machine gun was dear to him. It was agreed to cooperate, Bermondt-Avalov received from Yudenich the rank of lieutenant general. On the 20 of September, Yudenich's army launched an attack on Petrograd. Zda moved to his aid. But help to Yudenich did not come. The Latvian authorities refused to let the following ones pass to the Bolshevik front.
Why did Latvia support the Bolsheviks?
18 November 1918 of the Year The People’s Council of Latvia declared the independence of the Latvian state. After 4 of the day, the Council of People's Commissars recognized the new state. The Bolsheviks politically beat the whites. Distributing sovereigns to the right and left, they secured the neutrality of the national outskirts of the Russian Empire. (At the same time, they managed to carry on revolutionary propaganda in these countries and contributed to the emergence of alternative Soviet governments.)
In the whites, stubbornly standing on the positions of a united and indivisible Russia, the young Baltic states saw a threat to their sovereignty. Feeling outright hostility towards the Bolsheviks, the Balts were against the victory of the whites. The short-sightedness of this policy was confirmed by the events of the following years. By the end of the 40s, of all the states that gained independence from the hands of Soviet Russia, only Poland and Finland remained on the map. The last "fell" in 1944 year Tuvan People's Republic.
Bermondt-Avalov's finest hour
In response to the demarche of the Latvian authorities, Bermondt-Avalov, as a true monarchist, who did not recognize the sovereignty of Latvia, announced that he was taking full authority in the Baltic States, deployed his units and launched an offensive against Riga. In fact, he declared war on the Baltic state. The Latvian government did not feel ridiculous. On October 7, units of the WDA launched an offensive, and 9 entered the outskirts of the capital. The government of Ulmanis hastily left the city (ie, fled). Not remained in Riga and the Minister of War, who decided to lead the defense of the capital from the side.
End of the Western Volunteer Army
The victory was close, but was unattainable. By 11 of October, loyal government units approached Riga, reinforced by 4 armored trains and Estonian military units ready to defend the city. But the true savior of Latvia were the British. In the mouth of the Dvina, 9 of English ships entered, which, from heavy ship guns, opened fire on the positions of the ATS. The German government in response to the note of the Entente disown its protege. ZDA was abandoned by all. The Latvian army began displacing parts of the WDA from its territory. The last soldiers of Bermondt-Avalov crossed the Latvian-German border in late December.
On this story of the adventure of Bermondt-Avalov can be completed. Pavel Rafailovich himself went to Germany, where he spoiled the blood of local authorities and emigre brothers, becoming the organizer of the Russian fascist movement. Having received money from the Nazis for his party, he could not account for them, for which the Gestapo sent him to a concentration camp (and not steal!). He did not stay in the concentration camp for long, but this saved him from denazification in the 1945 year. He died in the USA in the 70's.
In the period under review, other equally interesting events took place in the Baltics, but this is a topic for another discussion.