In July 1922, in the Far East, the Zemskaya Host was created – the last any large military formation of the White movement, operating on their native land. Its history is short, but its fate is tragic. Without getting into ideological reasoning, let us try to reflect on whether it could have been different at that time and under the existing conditions.
By the summer of 1922, the position of the White movement in Russia was no longer catastrophic, but hopeless. All battles and battles that could have been lost have been lost. In fact, all the armies that opposed the Bolsheviks were utterly defeated. Crimea was taken, Kolchak was defeated and shot by the Left SRs, the Czechoslovak corps withdrew from the country, and the Entente countries clearly showed that they would not fight the Reds seriously.
The Far East is the last splinter of non-Soviet Russia, and even then mainly due to the fact that quite significant forces of the Japanese army are concentrated on its territory. However, they are also actively preparing for evacuation: both the Americans, whose intervention in Russia did not work out, and they categorically do not want to strengthen the position of the Japanese, and their own opponents of the war, are putting pressure on Tokyo. If in the Land of the Rising Sun it has come to the formation of the Communist Party and the “Society for Rapprochement with Soviet Russia,” then the soldier, perhaps, is better to return home. And this gamble, which turned out to be not so profitable economically, is too expensive.
In the very camp of the Whites, who hold positions only in the Amur region, meanwhile, complete discord ensues: the People’s Assembly opposes a government that is no longer decisive, it is supported by the military, and ultimately, in place of the Amur state formation, the Amur Zemsky Territory appears under the leadership of what some historians call ” the last knight of the White movement “Lieutenant General Mikhail Dieterichs. This military leader with vast combat experience was undoubtedly a monarchist to the core: in accordance with the traditions of the Russian Empire, the Priamur Zemsky Sobor was convened in Vladivostok.
The decisions made by this meeting were as noble and beautiful as they were impracticable in practice. It was decided to appeal to the surviving representatives of the Romanovs’ house for the transfer of “legal power” to them, and until the time when the true sovereign returns to the throne, transfer the powers of the supreme ruler of Russia to Diterikhs. The general, who was promoted to the rank of commander-in-chief (zemstvo governor), created a new armed forces of the Amur region – the Zemsky army by his very first decree. This army will be utterly defeated in less than 3 months after formation. The offensive against the closest Bolsheviks, the Far Eastern Republic, will be successful for only two weeks, after which it will drown and, turning into heavy defensive battles, will end in complete collapse.
Why did it happen? Indeed, under the leadership of Dieterichs, it was by no means “green” recruits that fought, but “Semenovtsy” and “Kappelevtsy”, soldiers and officers with colossal experience and combat potential. The total number of personnel of the Zemskaya army by the beginning of its offensive operations exceeded 8 thousand, most of whom were veterans, war professionals. They were also equipped quite well: the Japanese army leaving Russian land generously shared weapons and ammunition with the army of Dieterichs. Among other things, the “zemstvo” members even had four armored trains. However, the trouble was that these were in reality all the forces of the whites. In fierce battles with the advancing Red units, constantly fueled by reserves, they quickly melted away. These battles were virtually hopeless.
All attempts by Dieterichs to make up for human losses by mobilizing – first partial, and then general, in fact, did not lead to anything at all. The local population categorically did not want to fight, (at least for the whites), and potential recruits simply fled in all directions. With the same success, the zemstvo governor tried to improve the material situation of his troops: his appeals to entrepreneurs, merchants, rich people of the Amur region, for quite understandable reasons completely uninterested in the victory of the Bolsheviks, did not lead to any real results. A lot of patriotic big words – and absolutely penny “donations”, for which it was impossible to equip and arm even a company.
The tragic history and agony of the “small and fearless” Zemskaya army became the last proof that the Civil War was completely lost by the Whites. Moreover, first of all, they were defeated not on the battlefield, but in the battle for the minds and hearts of people. No matter how beautiful and noble the monarchist ideas of Dieterichs sounded, the restoration of autocracy did not suit the absolute majority of workers and peasants, to whom the Bolsheviks promised not only “freedom, equality and brotherhood”, but very specific land and factories with factories.
Moreover, in the Far East, the partisan movement played a much greater role in the defeat of the White Guards than the regular units of the Red Army. “Thank you” for the fact that the inhabitants of this region, who initially reacted to the Soviet regime without the slightest enthusiasm, began a war against the “liberators” in golden shoulder straps, the latter should have said the terror that was deployed on this territory not only by foreign invaders – the same Czechoslovak corps, the Japanese or the Americans, and the army of Kolchak. Yes, Dieterichs was a categorical opponent of any violence against those who did not want to stand under his banner, and strictly forbade any reprisals to be applied to them. He only asked with the deep sorrow of a true knight: “Where is the service to the idea?”
There were no people willing to serve among the inhabitants of the Amur region. Remained without replenishment, and very soon and without ammunition, the Zemsky army was defeated, showing, however, another example of the unyielding Russian military spirit. Having formed in the summer of 1922, it ceased to exist by October.