Semyonov’s mutiny and the “mad baron”

Soldiers of the Buryat-Mongolian regiment of the Asian cavalry division

Semyonov’s speech

In the White movement, there were few outspoken monarchists among the command staff. The leaders of the “February” nature, bourgeois-liberal, pro-Western, prevailed completely. Among the exceptions was Baron Roman Fedorovich von Ungern-Sternberg (Daurian knight against the Troubles). His monarchist consciousness largely coincided with the popular, peasant views of the tsar.

“I look like this

– said the baron during his interrogation in 1921, –

the king must be the first democrat in the state.

It must be outside the class, it must be a resultant between the class groups existing in the state ”.

“The bourgeoisie is only capable of sucking the juices from the state, and it was it that brought the country to what has now happened.”

In the face of the failure of Kornilov’s speech and the complete disintegration of the state and army under the rule of Kerensky’s Provisional Government, Ungern decided to head to the Far East, where his brother-soldier, Esaul Semyonov, had previously called him. Semyonov had the authority from the Provisional Government and the Petrograd Soviet to form alien units.

In Transbaikalia (to Semyonov) Roman Fedorovich arrived at the end of autumn 1917.

Esaul Semyonov and Ungern considered Bolshevism the most terrible threat to Russia.

Semyonov did not recognize the power of the Bolsheviks and revolted. In December 1917, he arrived at Dauria station. Baron Ungern was among the ranks of his small detachment.

Dauria was the last relatively large station before the border. Its garrison consisted of a completely decayed militia detachment that guarded the prisoners of war. The garrison committee was controlled by the Bolsheviks.

In general, the Russian units guarding the CER were in a state of complete disintegration. Railway personnel constantly complained about robberies, theft and violence of those who had to protect the road and its employees on duty.

An even greater danger was posed by the Chinese, who wanted to use the Troubles in Russia to clean up the strategic road.

In order to resist the Bolsheviks, Semyonov began to form a detachment, which included captured Germans and Turks. It was headed by Semyonov’s deputy Ungern-Sternberg. He was fluent in German, was a longtime associate of the chieftain, so the choice fell on him.

The security guards of the CER (headquartered in Harbin) had more than 4 thousand bayonets and sabers. General Dmitry Horvat was the Commissioner of the Provisional Government and the manager of the Chinese Eastern Railway. Semyonov hoped for his material support. But Horvath took a wait-and-see attitude, taking advantage of his exceptional position.

However, the Bolsheviks decided to put their own man at the head of the Chinese Eastern Railway – the Bolshevik Arkus, who left Harbin for Irkutsk in December to receive instructions.

Horvath asked Semyonov to detain Arkus, he could not pass the Dauria station. As a result, Arkus was executed, which was the first political execution of a leader of the new ruling regime, which was carried out by the White movement. Then the Semyonovites arrested Kudryashov, assistant to the people’s commissar for maritime affairs, on the way to Vladivostok. He was shot, and his companions were whipped and sent back to Irkutsk.

This story caused a fairly wide response. Dauria began to be afraid.

This is how Semyonovshchina began.

Ataman Grigory Mikhailovich Semyonov

Daurian front

On December 18, 1917, Semyonov and Ungern with a small detachment disarmed 1.5 thousand garrison of Manchuria station. The garrison has completely decayed. Thus, Baron Roman Ungern with one Cossack disarmed a railway company and a horse reserve team.

Along the way, the White Guards dissolved the Socialist-dominated Manchu Council and arrested Bolshevik activists. They were put in a “sealed” carriage and sent to Russia.

Manchuria station became Semyonov’s headquarters. Despite the refusal of General Horvath and the Chinese authorities to help him, the chieftain armed and equipped over 500 soldiers. It was the Special Manchu Squad (OMO).

Then Ungern was appointed commandant of the city of Hailar, in the exclusion zone of the CER. He disarmed the local garrison, parts of the railway brigade and the equestrian units of the Horse Guards Corps of the CER (about 800 people). All the disarmed soldiers were sent through the Manchuria station into the interior of Russia.

In January 1918, the Whites invade Transbaikalia and occupy its eastern part – Dauria. One of the first “fronts” of the Civil War was formed – Daurskiy (Zabaikalskiy).

Later, in his memoirs, Semyonov will assess the baron:

“The success of our most fantastic performances in the first days of my activity was possible only with that mutual faith in each other and close ideological cohesion that united me with Baron Ungern.

The valor of Roman Fedorovich was out of the ordinary …

In the field of his military-administrative activities, the baron often used methods that are often condemned …

All the oddities of the baron were based on a deep psychological meaning and a desire for truth and justice. ”

In January – March 1918, the Semyonovites launched the first offensive against Chita. Semyon Lazo headed the fight against whites.

The Bolsheviks mobilized the Red Guards, workers from the Trans-Baikal mining plants, railway workers and former Czechoslovak prisoners. Semyonov’s detachments were driven out of Transbaikalia. After the end of the fighting on the border, a screen was set up from the Red Guard.

However, the main forces were disbanded: the Argun Cossack regiment was demobilized, the workers returned to production, the railway workers – to service. This allowed Semyonov to regroup, replenish his forces and go on the offensive again.

During the first offensive on Chita, Roman Ungern was engaged in organizational activities in the rear. The war required people, weapons, ammunition, equipment, transport and provisions.

However, Siberian industrialists and merchants who fled from the horrors of the Troubles to Manchuria were in no hurry to fork out. They preferred to spend money in hot places, like other rich people who fled from Russia. The capitalists, bourgeois and bankers wanted to return to Russia as masters, but they did not want to fight or finance the anti-Bolshevik forces.

The political situation was difficult.

The Chinese planned not only to occupy the Chinese Eastern Railway, taking advantage of the Civil War in Russia, but also to move on. We looked closely at Primorye, the Ussuriysky Territory and Transbaikalia.

Separate Chinese detachments passed through the Russian border. The Chinese gunboats entered the Amur. In addition, the Chinese factor was important as thousands of Chinese fought on the side of the Red Army.

Ungern believed that it was necessary to connect the Chinese in swars with the Manchu and Mongol tribes.

And Semyonov decided to rely on Japan, which did not want to strengthen China at the expense of the Russians (she had her own plans for expansion in the Russian Far East). Also, the Japanese decided to create a White Guard buffer on the path of the Bolsheviks in order to calmly develop the riches of the region.

Foreign division

Ungern began to form the Foreign Equestrian Division (the future Asian Cavalry Division). The basis of the division was made up of Buryat and Mongolian horsemen.

In January 1918, a large group of Kharachins, a militant Mongol tribe that fought the Chinese, joined the division. They formed the Khamar regiment. Part in the summer of 1918 took part in the battles on the Trans-Baikal Railway and showed good fighting qualities.

Ungern applied the same techniques that were used during the First World War to create the so-called “Wild Division”.

The command was carried out by Russian officers or representatives of noble foreign families, who proved themselves to be brave and loyal. The rank and file were natives.

The formation was based on personal loyalty to the leader. Absolutely everything was based on the personal authority of the immediate commander. Without the authority-leader, the native part immediately turned into a simple gang, wild and uncontrollable. Later, during a trial in Novonikolaevsk, Roman Fedorovich, answering a question about the combat effectiveness of Mongolian units, noted:

“It all depends on the boss. If the boss is ahead, they are ahead. ”

In such units, in contrast to regular Russians, the entire system of relationships along the commander-subordinate line was different. In addition to personal courage, military gifts and care for subordinates, the commander was reported

“Causes a thunderstorm.”

Kindness, humanity, politeness and mercy were perceived by wild tribes (highlanders or steppe dwellers) as weakness. Respect for the commander was based on fear.

In accordance with this principle, Ungren built his division. The Baron suggested the “cane system” and emphasized that he considered the ideal of the discipline of the troops of the times of Frederick the Great, Paul I and Nicholas I.

Dauria station became the white stronghold between Chita and China. The division occupied a military town near the station. Four barracks located at the corners of the town have been converted into forts. Windows and doors are walled up, machine guns are installed on the upper floors and roofs.

The Asian division guarded the section of the railway between the stations of Tin and Manchuria. The division consisted of a commandant squadron, 3 cavalry regiments, a separate Buryat cavalry regiment, and a horse battery.

Even Ungern’s ill-wishers noted the discipline in the division, strict uniform, the command and enlisted personnel were provided with everything necessary (uniforms, food). The military received a salary in gold rubles and on time, and their families received cash benefits. The commander treated monetary and food allowance with special attention.

Ungern also took care of the employees and workers of the CER, who were in his area of ​​responsibility. They received their wages on time. No conflicts (strikes, sabotage, delayed wages, etc.), which was common in the rear of the white armies, were not observed in his sector.

Interestingly, Ungern did not trust highly qualified, educated officers. He preferred to nominate officers from the “lower ranks”. The baron emphasized courage, fighting qualities and personal loyalty. He felt distrust of the “intelligentsia”, of the intelligentsia in general.

This was due to the fact that the liberal intelligentsia staged a revolution. It was the more numerous “left” republican-liberal wing that prevailed in the White movement. The right, monarchists like Ungern-Sternberg were outcasts, underground.

Later (after the campaign in Mongolia) Ungern will report on his difference in ideological views with the majority of Kolchak’s generals and their “pinkness”. And Kolchak’s officers considered Ungern


Baron Ungern was very attentive to the life of the soldiers. Many have noted that

“At the baron’s all the people are shod and dressed, they never go hungry”.

With pedantry, unique for the Civil War, the Daurian baron delved into every little detail that concerned the supply and life of the troops and the population, the activities of the rear, and the arrangement of the personal affairs of subordinates.

In particular, he very closely monitored the condition of the infirmary and the position of the wounded.

At the same time, he could not stand the paperwork that pursued the White Army.

“All your paperwork is fucking good.”

– said the commander to the clerks.

On his site, in the general chaos and disintegration of the Troubles, there was an amazing order.

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