A terrible exhibit has been kept in the Petersburg Kunstkamera for more than 90 years. It has never been on public display and is unlikely to ever be on display. In the inventory, he is listed as “the head of the Mongol.” But the museum staff know much more and, if they wish, will tell you that this is the head of Ja Lama, who was considered a living god in Mongolia at the beginning of the 20th century.
In 1911, the great Manchu Qing dynasty, which had ruled China since 1644, staggered. In the south of the provinces, one after another, they announced their withdrawal from the Qing Empire and went over to the camp of supporters of the republican form of government. The future PRC was born in the blood of the civil war.
But the north was not a monolith either. On December 1, 1911, the Mongols announced the creation of their independent state. The head of Mongolian Buddhists, Bogdo-gegen, became the Great Khan. Crowds of nomads surrounded the provincial capital, Khovd, and demanded that the Chinese governor recognize the authority of Bogdo Gegen. The governor refused. The siege began. The city stood unshakably, all assault attempts were fought back with heavy losses for the attackers.
This continued until August 1912, until Dambidzhaltsan appeared under the walls, aka Ja Lama, whom the Mongols worshiped as a living god.
Descendant of Amursan
For the first time, a native of the Astrakhan province, Dambidzhaltsan appeared in Mongolia in 1890. The 30-year-old Kalmyk posed as the grandson of Amursana, the legendary Dzungarian prince, the leader of the liberation movement in Mongolia in the middle of the 18th century.
“Amursan’s grandson” walked around Mongolia, scolded the Chinese and called for a fight against the conquerors. The Chinese seized the troublemaker and wanted to execute him, but he turned out to be a Russian citizen to their displeasure. The authorities handed over the arrested person to the Russian consul and asked to take him back to their place and preferably forever. The consul sent the failed leader of the popular uprising on foot to Russia.
Ja Lama, the hero of Khovd, ruler of Western Mongolia
In 1910 Dambidzhaltsan reappeared in Mongolia, but not as a descendant of Amursan, but as Ja Lama. Within a few months, he recruited several thousand admirers for himself, began a guerrilla war against the Chinese and became not just one of the most authoritative field commanders, but an object of faith and worship of thousands and thousands of people. Legends circulated about his invulnerability, songs were composed about his learning and holiness.
Under the walls of Khovd, he came with a detachment of several thousand horsemen. Having learned from the defector that the defenders of the city lacked ammunition, he ordered to drive several thousand camels, tie a burning fuse to the tail of each and drove them under the walls at night.
The sight was not for the faint of heart. The Chinese opened fire. When the roar of firing began to subside (the defenders began to run out of cartridges) Ja-Lama led his soldiers to the assault.
The city was taken and given over to plunder. The descendants of Genghis Khan massacred the entire Chinese population of Khovd. The Ja Lama held a solemn public ceremony to consecrate his battle banner. Five captive Chinese were stabbed to death, Ja Lama personally tore out their hearts and inscribed with them bloody symbols on the banner. The grateful Bogdo-gegen awarded the conqueror of Khovd with the title of Holy Prince and appointed him the ruler of Western Mongolia.
In his lot, Ja Lama began to introduce the orders and customs of the Middle Ages. During the year, more than 100 noble Mongols were killed, and even simple ones – without counting. The holy prince tortured the prisoners with his own hand, cut off the skin from their backs, cut off the unfortunate noses and ears, squeezed out their eyes, poured molten resin into the bloodied eye sockets of the victims.
All these atrocities did not touch Bogdo Gegen, but Ja Lama more and more often showed his disobedience to the Great Khan, gradually turning Western Mongolia into a separate state. Bogdo-gegen turned to the help of its northern neighbor – Russia.
The twists and turns of fate
Russia was absolutely not indifferent to what was happening on the other side of its border. Not only is there a civil war in China, but a bandit state is forming and gaining strength right before our eyes. That and look, not today or tomorrow, the raids of the heirs of the Golden Horde will begin for tribute.
Therefore, in February 1914, a hundred Trans-Baikal Cossacks went on an expedition to Western Mongolia and, without losing a single person, brought the invincible Ja-Lama to Tomsk, “killing hordes of enemies with one glance.” The Mongol god was sent into exile under police supervision in his native Astrakhan. This could have ended the story of this adventurer, but the revolution broke out.
In January 1918, when in Astrakhan no one cared about the exiled Kalmyk (there were street fights in the city), Dambidzhaltsan packed his things and went east to distant Mongolia. At that time, complete chaos reigned in Mongolia: dozens of gangs roamed the steppe, living by robbery and robbery. With the arrival of the Ja-Lama, there were one more of them.
State of the Ja Lama
Taking into account the experience of 1914, Ja-Lama in Dzungaria built the Tenpai-Baishin fortress with the hands of slaves. The garrison consisted of 300 well-armed soldiers. And in each camp, at the call of the holy lama, hundreds of men were ready to stand under his banner. The main source of income for the “state” was the robbery of caravans.
At that time, detachments of the Chinese, Baron Ungern, and the red Sukhe-Bator walked and galloped back and forth across the Mongolian steppes. Ja Lama fought with everyone and did not adhere to anyone, striving to preserve the status of a feudal ruler.
In 1921, the People’s Government of Mongolia took power in the country with the support of Moscow. Gradually, it took control of the distant regions of the country. In 1922, the turn came to the territory controlled by Ja Lama. On October 7, the State Internal Security Service (Mongolian Cheka) received a document that began with the words “top secret.” This was the order to liquidate Ja Lama.
Joint operation of fraternal special services
First, they wanted to lure him to Urga. A letter was sent to Tenpai-Baishin with a proposal to Ja-Lama to accept the post of Minister of Western Mongolia with the granting of unlimited powers throughout the territory he controls. For the solemn ceremony of the transfer of power, the formidable saint was invited to the capital. The cautious Ja-Lama refused to go to Urga, but asked to send plenipotentiary representatives to him along with all the documents.
A government delegation left for Western Mongolia. It was headed by really high-ranking officials: the head of the intelligence service of Mongolia Baldandorzh and a prominent military leader Nanzan. Another member of the delegation was a man in the uniform of an official of the first rank – it was a Kalmyk Kharti Kanukov, an adviser to Soviet Russia at the intelligence department. It was these three who were in charge of the operation.
Death of the Mongol God
The Ja Lama agreed to let only a few people into his fortress, and to meet directly with only two. Send Nanzan Bator and Cyric (soldier) Dugar-beise. The red ambassadors pretended to be loyal admirers of the Ja Lama, and on the second day the ruler of Western Mongolia trusted so much that he let go of the guards.
Then Dugar knelt down and asked for a holy blessing. When the lama raised his hand, the cyric grabbed his wrists. Nanzan, who was standing behind Ja Lama, drew a revolver and shot the lama in the back of the head. Jumping out into the street, Urga’s messengers fired shots into the air and gave a signal to their comrades that it was time to start the second part of the operation – the seizure of the fortress and the liquidation of the bandit nest.
Tenpai-Baishin was captured in a few minutes and without firing shots. The death of the living god shocked the soldiers of the garrison so much that they did not put up the slightest resistance. All the inhabitants of the fortress were gathered in the square, several of Ja-Lama’s close associates were immediately shot. Then they lit a fire on which they burned the remains of the one who, it was believed, in his youth ate the leaves of the tree of life, which bestows immortality.
The admirers of the formidable saint were ordered to disperse to their homes, announcing that their god was a mere mortal man, moreover a bandit. The next day, the detachment left the fortress. At the head rode a tsirik with the head of Ja Lama worn on a lance.
For a long time, the head was taken all over Mongolia: “Here he is, the formidable Ja-Lama, who was defeated by the people’s government!” …
Songs and legends about the exploits of Ja Lama are still alive in Mongolia. How this is simultaneously combined with stories about his own atrocities, we do not understand. East is a delicate matter.
The article was posted on the website 2017-07-24