Roman von Ungern-Sternberg

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Baron
Roman von Ungern-Sternberg
Baron ungern.ruem.jpg
Roman Fyodorovich von Ungern-Sternberg, in 1921, in a Mongolian deel uniform with Russian Order of St. George 4th Class
Born (1885-12-29)December 29, 1885
Graz, Austria-Hungary
Died September 15, 1921(1921-09-15) (aged 35)
Novosibirsk, Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic
Allegiance  Russian Empire
Flag of Mongolia (1911-1921).svg Bogd Khaanate of Mongolia
Service/branch
Years of service 1906–1921
Rank Lieutenant general
Commands held Asiatic Cavalry Division
Battles/wars
Awards

Baron Roman Nikolai Maximilian von Ungern-Sternberg (Russian: Барон Ро́берт-Ни́колай-Максими́лиан Рома́н Фёдорович фон У́нгерн-Ште́рнберг)[1][2] (December 29, 1885 NS – September 15, 1921) was an anti-Bolshevik lieutenant general in the Russian Civil War and then an independent warlord whose Asiatic Cavalry Division wrested control of Mongolia from the occupation of Mongolia by the Republic of China in 1921. He was often referred to as Baron Ungern, or simply Ungern.

During the Russian Civil War, Ungern's attraction to Vajrayana Buddhism and his eccentric, often violent treatment of enemies and his own men, earned him the sobriquet "the Mad Baron". He was also an arch conservative pan-monarchist who aspired to restore the Russian monarchy under Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia and to revive the Mongol Empire under the rule of the Bogd Khan. During his five-month occupation of Outer Mongolia, Ungern imposed order on the capital city, Ikh Khüree, through fear, intimidation, and brutal violence against his opponents, particularly Bolshevik supporters.

In June 1921 he went on to invade South Siberia, in support of anti-Bolshevik rebellions and to head off a Red Army-Mongolian partisan invasion, and this action led to his defeat and capture two months later. He was taken prisoner by the Red Army and a month later was put on trial for counterrevolution in Novonikolaevsk. After a six-hour show trial, he was found guilty, and on September 15, 1921, he was executed.

Biography[edit]

The Young Officer[edit]

Roman Nikolai Maximilian von Ungern-Sternberg as a child

R.F. von Ungern-Sternberg was born in Graz, Austria, on December 29, 1885, to a noble Baltic-German family. Ungern-Sternberg liked to boast that he was descended from a long line of "crusaders and privateers" as the Ungern-Sternberg family was an ancient German noble family that settled in what is now Estonia during the Middle Ages.[3] Ungern-Sternberg's first language was German, but he was also fluent in French, Russian, English, and Estonian.[4] His mother was a German noblewoman named Sophie Charlotte von Wimpffen, later Sophie Charlotte von Ungern-Sternberg, and his father was Baron Theodor Leonhard Rudolph von Ungern-Sternberg (1857–1918).

In 1888 his family moved to Reval (Tallinn), the capital of the Governorate of Estonia within the Russian Empire, where his parents divorced three years later in 1891. In 1894 his mother married the Baltic German nobleman Baron Oskar Anselm Herrmann von Hoyningen-Huene.[5] Ungern-Sternberg grew up in the Russian province of Estland (modern Estonia), growing up at the Hoyningen-Huene estate at Jerwakant (modern Järvakandi, Estonia) that was set deep in the forests about forty miles from Reval.[6] In the summer, Ungern-Sternberg lived on the island of Dago (modern Hiiumaa) in the Baltic, which Ungern-Sternberg liked to boast had belonged to his family for over two hundred years.[7] Ungern-Sternberg had an extreme pride in his ancient, aristocratic family, later writing that his family had over the centuries "never taken orders from the working classes" and it was outrageous that "dirty workers who've never had any servants of their own, but still think they can command" should have any say in the ruling of the vast Russian Empire.[8] At the Lutheran cathedral in Reval, the walls were decorated with the coats-of-arms of the various noble Baltic German families, and for Ungern it was a source of great pride that the Ungern-Sternberg coat-of-arms had a very prominent place on the wall.[9]

Alongside Ungern-Sterberg's aristocratic pride was an ardent anti-Slavic racism that led him to view all Slavic peoples as naturally inferior and barbarous to the "superior" Volkdeutsche (ethnic Germans) like himself.[8] Ungern-Sternberg believed that it was the Volkdeutsche nobility of the Russian empire who were the Herrnvolk ("master race") that kept the empire working, and that if the Slavic Russians were left on their own that they would inevitably fall for the tricks of the Jews, whom the anti-Semitic Ungern-Sterberg saw as his archenemies from his childhood on.[8] The völkisch ideas so popular amongst certain elements in Germany and Austria in the early 20th century were also popular in the Volksdeutsche community in Estland, and the young Ungern-Sternberg was much influenced by völkisch racism which viewed the "German race" as the best examples of the great "Aryan race" who were locked in a battle with the "Jewish race" for world supremacy.[10] At the same time, Ungern-Sternberg, despite his disdain for the Slavic Russians as racially inferior to ethnic Germans like himself, identified very strongly with the Russian Empire, believing that Russia had a "special mission" to perform in Asia, and that family had played and would continue to play a great role in expanding the frontiers of Russia into Asia.[11] When asked if his "family had distinguished itself in Russian service", Ungern proudly answered: "Seventy-two killed in wartime!".[12] In the 19th century, many Russians regarded Asia much the same way that Americans regarded "the West" at the same time - as a vast land full of the rich bounty of nature inhabited by "savage" peoples whom they were destined to conquer.[12] Many of the Ungern-Sternberg men had served as officers in the Imperial Russian Army starting in the 18th century, fighting in the wars that saw so much of Asia conquered by Russia, and Ungern wished to follow in their footsteps, envisioning himself as winning glory as part of Russia's "special mission" in Asia.[12] Ungern-Sternberg believed not so much in Russian nationalism, but rather in the idea of the Russian Empire as the "combination of peoples" in which different peoples such as Russians, ethnic Germans, the Cossack hosts, Buryats, etc. would come together in a sacred union held together by their common loyalty to a divinely sanctioned monarchy accountable only to God.[13] Ungern-Sternberg was very proud of his family's military record and would tell anyone who would listen how the first Ungern-Sternbergs to come to Estland as conquerors in the Middle Ages had such sobriquets such as "the Axe" and "the brother of Satan", reflecting the fact his family were always great warriors who had covered themselves with the blood of their enemies.[12]

In 1898, his father was briefly imprisoned for fraud and in 1899 committed to the local insane asylum.[14] From 1900 to 1902 Ungern attended the Nicholas I Gymnasium in Reval. As a student, Ungern-Sternberg was regarded as an intelligent, but extremely difficult young man who was forever getting into brawls with his fellow students and whose grades were terrible as Ungern took the view that as an nobleman he had nothing to learn from his teachers, who were all mere commoners.[15] In 1903 he enrolled in Marine Officers Cadet School in Saint Petersburg. As a cadet, Ungern-Sternberg did well only with physical exercises and his grades with the other subjects were all extremely bad as he refused to study.[16] When one of Ungern's teachers complained that a paper he written on naval architecture was so muddled and unclear that nobody could understand what exactly he was trying to argue and that if he did not try to explain the said paper, he would fail the class, Ungern replied: "Oh, what a shame!".[16] Ungern's biographer, the British writer James Palmer wrote that remark was "...typical of his sense of humour, which even as an adult remained limited to brutal sarcasm".[16] Ungern's school records show that he was an unruly, bad-tempered young man who was constantly into trouble with his teachers owing to frequent fights with the other cadets and breaking other school rules, like smoking in bed, growing long hair, leaving without permission, etc., which finally led to the schoolmaster writing a letter in February 1905 to his stepfather and mother asking them to withdraw their son from the school as otherwise Ungern would be expelled.[16] In 1905 he left the school to join the fighting in Eastern Russia during the Russo-Japanese War, but it is unclear whether he participated in operations against the Japanese, or if all military operations had ceased before his arrival in Manchuria.[17]

In 1905 Russia exploded into revolution, and in the province of Estland, the Estonian peasants went on a bloody jacquerie against the Baltic-German nobility who owned most of the land in Estland, lynching the aristocrats and burning down their estates.[18] One of the estates burned down was the one at Jerwakant where Ungern-Sternberg had grown up.[19] The revolution of 1905 and the destruction of the Jerwakant estate were huge traumas to Ungern-Sternberg, who saw the jacquerie as confirming his belief that the Estonian peasants who worked on his family's lands were all "rough, untutored, wild and constantly angry, hating everybody and everything without understanding why".[19] More broadly, Ungern-Sternberg believed the revolution of 1905 was all the work of the Jews, calling the revolution "the horrible harvest of the seed sowed by revolutionaries" and that "in their hearts, the people remained loyal to Tsar, Faith and Fatherland", but had been tricked by the "degenerate" Russian intelligentsia and the Jews into rebelling against the natural order of things.[19] The ultra-conservative Ungern-Sternberg viewed the October Manifesto promising a democratically elected Duma and basic civil rights to the empire's subjects issued by the Emperor Nicholas II in October 1905 as a "betrayal" of the sacred principles of the Russian monarchy and the beginning of the end of the House of Romanov.[20] Even the limited concessions to democracy in the October Manifesto were too much for Ungern-Sternberg, who believed in a Russian monarchy that was an autocracy, and as such Ungern believed that Nicholas II had set the monarchy on the road to ruin with the October Manifesto.[20]

In 1906 Ungern was transferred to service in Pavlovskoe Military School in Saint Petersburg as a cadet of ordinary rank.[21] As an army cadet, Ungern proved to be a better student than he ever was as a naval cadet, and he actually studied his course material, though in the words of Palmer Ungern was only a "mediocre student" at best.[20] During the same period, Ungern-Sternberg become obsessed with the occult and was especially interested in the more esoteric and mystical strains of Buddhism.[22] Ungern-Sternberg had become interested in "Eastern mysticism" via Theosophy which was very popular with the Russian upper classes at the time.[23] Ungern-Sternberg's cousin, Count Hermann von Keyserling who knew him well later wrote that the baron was very curious from his teenage years onwards with "Tibetan and Hindu philosophy" and often spoke of the mystical powers possessed by "geometrical symbols".[24] Keyserling called Ungern-Sternberg "one of the most metaphysically and occultly gifted man I have ever met" and believed that the baron was a clairvoyant who could read the minds of the people around him.[24] People who met Ungern-Sternberg always described as an unforgettable character with such intense, piecing eyes (that depending upon the account were either blue or grey-the exact color of Ungern's eyes remains a mystery) that many felt he had psychic powers.[24] Palmer described Ungern as a man with "...the classic traits of an intelligent, but narrow-minded autodidact: contempt for the intelligentsia, a fervent belief in his own findings and reasoning, and a dangerous credulity for unusual fringe beliefs."[20]

After graduating he served as an officer in East Siberia in the 1st Argunsky and the 1st Amursky Cossack regiments, where he became enthralled with the lifestyle of nomadic peoples such as the Mongols and Buryats. Ungern had specifically asked that he been stationed with a Cossack regiment in Asia as he wanted to learn more about Asian culture, a request that was granted[25] About 12% of the men of the Amursky Cossack host were Buryats, who taught Ungern their language and further his interest in Buddhism.[26] During this period, Ungern-Sternberg was notorious for his heavy drinking and exceptionally cantankerous moods, spending a disproportionate amount of his time feuding with other officers in the daytime when not fighting duels and engaging in drunken brawls with his fellow officers in the evenings.[14] During one such brawl, Ungern-Sternberg's face was scarred when the officer he was fighting with struck his visage with his sword, leaving him with a distinctive facial scar.[14] It has been claimed that the sword-blow that caused the scar also caused brain damage that was the root of Ungern's insanity, but this is a questionable thesis as the Ungern-Sternberg family had a long history of insanity going back to the 18th century, and Ungern's father, grandfather and great-grandfather had all been committed to asylums.[27] It was much to the relief of his superiors when Ungern-Sternberg decided to forsake alcohol and took to spending his days studying Buddhism, learning Mongol and Buryat and generally spending as much time as possible with the nomads.[14] Those who knew Ungern-Sternberg well described him as very drawn towards "Eastern culture" as he was fascinated by Asian cultures, especially that of the Mongols and the Buryats.[28] At the same time, Ungern was an excellent horseman who earned the respect of the Mongols and the Buryats due to his skill at riding and fighting from a horse, being equally adept at using both a gun and his sword.[29] In 1913, at his request, he transferred to the reserves. Ungern moved to Outer Mongolia to assist Mongols in their struggle for independence from China, but Russian officials prevented him from fighting with Mongolian troops. He arrived in the town of Khovd in western Mongolia and served as out-of-staff officer in the Cossack guard detachment at the Russian consulate. The other Russian officers sent to train the Mongols in modern warfare disliked Ungern and treated him as a social pariah, owing to his rages.[30] A Russian merchant living in Urga named Aleksei Burdukov described Ungern-Sternberg at this time as "a scrawny, ragged, droopy man; on his face had grown a wispy blond beard, he had faded, blank blue eyes, and he looked about thirty years old. His military uniform was in abnormally poor condition, the trousers being considerably worn and torn at the knees. He carried a sword by his hip and a gun in his belt".[31]

First World War[edit]

On July 19, 1914, Ungern joined front-line forces as part of the second-turn 34th regiment of Cossack troops stationed on the Austrian frontier in Galicia. Ungern took part in the Russian offensive in East Prussia and from 1915-1916 he also participated in rear-action raids on German troops by the L.N. Punin Cavalry Special Task Force.[32] Ungern served in the Nerchinsk Regiment, a unit that—in Palmer's words—"would have the dubious distinction of fighting in some of the most stupid and bloody actions of the Eastern Front", as the casualty rate among officers was 170% while among the soldiers it was 200%, meaning that almost everyone in the regiment was killed or wounded together with their replacements and their replacements.[33] Throughout the war on the Eastern Front, Ungern gained a reputation as an extremely brave, but somewhat reckless and mentally unstable officer, a man with no fear of death who seemed most happy leading cavalry charges or being in the thick of combat, in short a man who thoroughly enjoyed killing people.[34] Much to his joy, Ungern won the St. George's Cross, Imperial Russia's highest decoration for his bravery in combat.[34] Although decorated with several military awards, he was eventually discharged from one of his command positions for attacking and seriously injuring another officer with his sword during one of his rages in October 1916, which led to him being court-martialed for attempted murder and given two months in prison.[35] General Wrangel mentions Ungern's determination in his memoirs.

After his release from prison in January 1917, Ungern was transferred to the Caucasian theatre of the conflict, where Russia was fighting against the Ottoman Empire.[36] The February Revolution which ended the rule of the House of Romanov was an extremely bitter blow to the monarchist Ungern-Sternberg, who saw the revolution as the beginning of the end of Russia.[37] Ungern-Sternberg regarded the new government, which was soon dominated by the Right-Socialist Revolutionary Alexander Kerensky as a "total mess", but for the want of a better alternative, Ungern accepted the authority of the new republic.[37] In the Caucasus, Ungern-Sternberg first met Cossack Captain Grigory Semyonov, a Eurasian man who was the product of the union between a Russian father and a Buryat mother, who despite having "Asiatic" facial features had managed to become an officer in the Imperial Army.[38] Ungern-Sternberg and Semyonov bonded, becoming best friends as the two were very much outsiders in the Russian Army as Semyonov was unpopular for being Eurasian while Ungern-Sternberg was unpopular for being a Volksdeutsche with a nasty temper at a time when Russia was at war with Germany.[39] Additionally, both Ungern-Sternberg and Semyonov were ambitious men with burning desires to be successful as soldiers and both had a keen interest in Asia, especially Mongolia.[39] In April 1917 near Urmia, Iran, Ungern, together with Grigory Semyonov, started to organize a volunteer military unit composed of local Assyrian Christians. The Ottoman government had waged the Assyrian Genocide, attempting to exterminate the Assyrian minority, which led to thousands of Assyrians fleeing to the Russian lines.[40] Ungern and Semyonov conceived of a scheme under which the two would organize and lead the Assyrians against the Ottomans.[41] Under Ungern's command, they went on to score some minor victories over the Turks, but their total contribution to Russia's war effort was limited.[42] Afterwards, the Assyrian scheme led Semyonov to the idea of a Buryat regiment in the Russian Army as he became convinced that with the ethnic Russian units taking enormous losses that the key to victory laid with enlisting the Asian peoples of Russia into the war (the Buryats, like the other Asians, were not subject to conscription).[41] The Kerensky government gave its approval to Semyonov's plans, and Ungern-Sternberg soon headed east to join his friend in trying to raise a Buryat regiment.[43]

The Russian Civil War[edit]

After the Bolshevik-led October Revolution of 1917, Semyonov and Ungern declared their allegiance to the Romanovs and vowed to fight the revolutionaries. Ungern began his career as a White leader by telling the Cossack captain Stepanov that just he together with Semyonov and Ungern were going to disarm the mutinous Russian garrison at Manchuli just across the border in China where the local soldier's soviet (council) were trying their officers and declared their loyalty to the Bolsheviks.[44] When Stepanov laughingly told Ungern that his plan to have three officers take on an entire garrison was absurd and he was going home to get drunk, Ungern with his eyes blazing with fury punched him in the stomach with a rifle butt and told him the only place he was going was with him.[44] With a cowed Stepanov in tow, Ungern and Semyonov arrived at Manchuli where by sheer force of personality, the intimidating Ungern persuaded the garrison to lay down their arms and go back to Russia.[45] Ungern not only won the approval of Marshal Zhang Zuolin, the warlord of Manchuria, but also established himself as a leader of note, leading to hundreds of men to rally to his cause.[45]

Semyonov, backed by the Japanese, appointed Ungern governor of Dauria, the large area to the east-southeast of Lake Baikal. In the months that followed, Ungern distinguished himself by his exceedingly eccentric behavior, which lead many who knew of him to dub him the "Mad Baron" or in a reference to his love of war to call him "the god of war".[46] Ungern indulged his love of the occult and opium (which gave him visions that he saw as being from another world), regularly consulting Buriat soothsayers for advice.[47] For an example of his eccentricity, Ungern told an American reporter: "Spades, always spades. And the ace of hearts. You'd think there were fifty-one spades in the whole pact. You don't know what the ace of hearts means?...The Mongols believe the heart is a triangle situated in the middle of the chest and that its apex point to the right in men and the left in women...I'd give a good deal to know what the ace of hearts means. Do you think it's a good sign or a bad sign?".[48] Ungern was very interested in the story of Shambhala said to be located inside the earth and the "Hidden Masters of the World", knowing by heart the prophecy:

"Now it is a large kingdom, millions of men with the King of the World as their ruler. He knows all the forces of the world and reads all the souls of humankind and the Great Book of their destiny. Invisibly he rules eight hundred million men on the surface of the earth and they will accomplish his every order...The crowns of kings, great and small, will fall...one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight...There will be terrible battles among all the peoples. The seas will become red...the earth and the bottom of the seas will be strewn with bones...kingdoms will be scattered...whole peoples will die...hunger, disease, crimes unknown to the laws, never before seen in the world."[49]

Ungern saw the world as swiftly moving towards the abyss. Contributing to his mood was that society was disintegrating with the collapse of traditional values all around him. Visitors to Semenyov's capital of Chita described a city devoted to nightlight and pleasures of the flesh with a seemingly endless array of Russian prostitutes addled by cocaine, former officers in the Imperial Russian Army pimping out their wives and "hostesses" imported from China all offering their services for the right price as a sense grew that society as it had existed was now gone forever and all that could be done was to live for the moment.[50]

Semyonov and Ungern, though fervently anti-Bolshevik, were not part of the White movement and Semyonov refused to recognize the authority of Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak, the nominal leader of the Whites in Siberia. Instead he acted independently, supported by the Japanese with arms and money. For White leaders, like Kolchak and Denikin, who believed in a "Russia strong and indivisible", this represented high treason. Ungern was nominally subordinated to Semyonov but he too often acted independently.[51] Admiral Kolchak was a conservative, but not a monarchist who promised that after the victory of the Whites, he would reconvene the Constituent Assembly disbanded by the Bolsheviks in January 1918, which would then decide the future of Russia, including the question of whatever to restore the monarchy or not.[52] For the ultra-conservative monarchist Ungern-Sternberg, Admiral Kolchak's politics were far too moderate for his taste, and the idea that the future of Russia would be decided by a Constituent Assembly democratically elected by universal suffrage was an outrage as Ungern believed in the divine right of kings.[52] Ungern believed that emperors were accountable only to God, and the monarchy was the political system that God had chosen for Russia, so it was self-evident that the monarchy should be restored back to the way it had existed before the October Manifesto of 1905. For Ungern, the opinions of the people of Russia were irrelevant as monarchs were not accountable to the people.

Because of his successful military operations in Hailar and Dauria, Ungern received the rank of Major-General. Semyonov appointed him commandant of the Dauria railway station and entrusted him with forming military units to battle Bolshevik forces. In Dauria, Ungern formed the volunteer Asiatic Cavalry Division (Russian: Азиатская конная дивизия), a mix of Russians, Buryats, Tatars, Bashkirs, Mongols from different tribes, Chinese, Manchu, Japanese, Polish exiles and many others.[51] Ungern's unit was known as "The Savage Division" (Russian: Дикая дивизия), a term properly referring to the military unit consisting of mountain peoples from the Caucasus or Mongolic Kalmyks in the Russian Imperial Army,[citation needed] which fought in World War I and later, after the Russian Revolution, against Bolsheviks. Ungern reinforced his military station at Dauria, creating a kind of fortress from where his troops launched attacks on Red forces. Under his rule, Dauria was a well known "torture center" filled with the bones of hundreds of Ungern's victims while Ungern transformed the surrounding countryside into a wasteland full of burned villages with the silence only being broken by the cries of the women his men raped.[53] Hundreds of Ungern's officers and soldiers objected to his violence against civilians and consequently were executed for treason and mutiny.[34] One officer recalled: "On these hills, where everywhere were rolling skulls, skeletons and decaying body parts, Baron Ungern used to like to go there to rest".[54] Dauria was an execution camp where Red prisoners taken all over Siberia were sent to be killed by Ungern.[54] A visitor to Dauria recalled seeing "dried slices of human flesh dangling from nail. Blood had so saturated the ground under the building that the soil was discolored and befouled".[55] When not executing Red prisoners, Ungern spent of his time fighting Red and Green guerrillas where very active in the region.[56]

Ungern's chief executioner had been a Colonel Laurent, but Ungern had him executed after he decided he was a Red, and his replacement was the sexual sadist Colonel Igor Sipailov.[57] Sipailov had played a leading role in a massacre on Lake Baikal where a group of Bolshevik prisoners had been taken abroad a ship, promised that they would be exchanged for White prisoners abroad an another ship, and as they came on the deck expecting to be exchanged, had their heads smashed in by Sipailov and company using ice mallets.[58] Sipailov who once been a mechanic in the Imperial Russian Army (Ungern had promoted him to the rank of colonel) appeared to have suffered from Tourette's syndrome as an observer commented: "He was always nervously jerking and wriggling his body and talking ceaselessly, making the most unattractive sounds in his throat and sputtering with saliva all over his lips, his whole fact often contorted with spasms".[58] Sipailov, a man with "cold, colourless eyes under dense brows", whose "strange undulating line of his skull" caused his bald head to resemble a saddle, was much hated by Ungern's officers for "his scandalous meanness and cunning, his bloodthirstiness and cowardice".[58] Sipailov was also a sadist who openly admitted that torture and rape were his favorite hobbies, and that he greatly enjoyed killing women by striking their heads with his hammer while raping them at the same time.[59]

Like many other White units, Ungern's troops employed plundering as source of their supply. They plundered trains passing through Dauria to Manchuria. While these confiscations did not significantly diminish the supplies of Kolchak's forces, private Russian and Chinese merchants lost considerable property.[60] Ungern took particular interest in plundering the Chinese merchants who were the mainstay of the economy of Siberia and often boarded the trains himself to oversee the "requisitions".[61] Ungern personally beat and whipped train passengers, regardless of their nationality or ethnicity whom displeased him.[62] Sometimes violence was not necessary. When an obnoxious passenger annoyed Ungern, the Baron fixed him with "the steel, steady gaze of his grey eyes and questioned him about his credentials", leading to "the arrogance and importance of yesterday's boor disappeared! Entirely disappeared!-and before the iron baron there was a pitiful, cringing coward!".[62] All of the goods plundered from the trains were sent to Harbin in Manchuria for Ungern's agents to sell and to use the profits to buy arms.[62] Those railroad passengers most in danger when the trains stopped in Dauria were Jews as Ungern murdered any and all Jews he found on the trains.[63] One Russian doctor working on a hospital train gave all of the Jewish doctors on his staff "small crosses to wear on little chains around their necks, so that they could pass superficial checks by the Baron's men", a measure that was successful.[64]

Ungern believed that monarchy was the only social system which could save Western civilisation from corruption and self-destruction. A fanatical monarchist and anti-Semite who genuinely believed in The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion and The Zunder Document (an anti-Semitic forgery alleged to have found on the body of a Jewish commissar named Zunder in 1919), Ungern-Sternberg saw the world as threatened by an insidious Jewish conspiracy that required the sternest countermeasures and led him to order the executions of all Jews his men encountered as all Jews were "Judaeo-Bolsheviks".[46] Ungern liked to quote the passage from The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion that read:

"There is no room left for doubt. With all the might and terror of Satan, the reign of the triumphant King of Israel is approaching our unregenerate world; the King born of the blood of Zion-the Antichrist-is near to the throne of universal power. Events in the world are rushing with stupendous rapidity; dissensions, wars, rumors, famines, epidemics and earthquakes-what was yesterday impossible has today become an accomplished fact".[65]

Ungern believed that the prophecies of The Protocols Of The Learned Elders of Zion were all rapidly coming true. During a discussion with another White office General Molchanov about what to do with the Jews, Ungern-Sternberg stated that it was necessary to "exterminate the Jews, so that neither men nor women, nor even the seed of this people remain".[64] A man with an iron will and a harsh disciplinarian who punished any hint of insubordination with ferocious violence, Ungern-Sternerg was much feared by his men with one of soldiers recalling: "All ranks of the division feared Ungern more than death itself".[66] Ungern had a habit of striking those officers who angered him even in the slightest with his shaska while his ordinary soldiers were kept in line with a regime of bloody floggings.[66] He began to pursue the idea of restoring Genghis Khan's Mongolian Empire - with the Qing Dynasty providing the most appropriate candidate for the throne. Ungern sought to organize a military expedition to Mongolia, at that time occupied by the Chinese troops formerly led by General Xu Shuzheng, a member of the pro-Japanese Anhui clique in the Chinese government, to restore the rule of the Bogd Khan as part of his plan to re-establish monarchies from the Far East to Europe.[67]

The Japanese ordered the pro-Japanese Chinese warlords to occupy Mongolia in order to halt a possibly revolutionary spillover from the Russian revolutionaries into Mongolia and Northern China.[68] After the fall of the Anhui Clique, Chinese soldiers in Mongolia found themselves effectively abandoned. They rebelled against their commanders, and plundered and killed Mongols and foreigners.[69] Many of the Chinese troops during the occupation were Tsahar (Chahar) Mongols from Inner Mongolia, which has been a major cause for animosity between Outer Mongols (Khalkhas) and Inner Mongols.[70]

As part of his plans, Ungern traveled to Manchuria and China proper (February through September 1919). There he established contacts with monarchistic circles, and also made preparations for Semyonov to meet with the Manchurian warlord Marshal Zhang Zuolin, the "Old Marshal". In July 1919 Ungern married Manchurian princess Ji in an Orthodox ceremony.[71] The princess was given the name Elena Pavlovna von Ungern-Sternberg. They communicated in English, their only common language.[71] This marriage had a political aim, as Ji was a princess and a relative of General Zhang Kuiwu, commander of Chinese troops at the western end of the Chinese-Manchurian Railway (in Russian: KVZhD), and governor of Hailar.[51] Ungern's attitude towards women was of aggressive misogyny and he was not close to his wife.[71] Ungern once spoke of "the entire negation of women" as one of his life-goals, was opposed to the women's rights movement, and suggested "that stupid woman Pankhurst" (the British feminist Emmeline Pankhurst) should come to Siberia where he would put her into her proper place.[71] Ungern was quoted as saying with disgust that the problems of modern Russia were: "Those dirty workers who've never had any servants of their own, but still think they can command; those Jews who started the revolution to be revenged on us; those women who lie in wait for you everywhere, in the streets, in drawing-rooms, with their legs spread out-we've got to rid of all that!".[71] There is no evidence that Ungern loved his wife or anybody else as Ungern was incapable of love.[71]

Restoring the independence of Outer Mongolia[edit]

von Ungern-Sternberg

After Kolchak's defeat at the hands of the Red Army and the subsequent decision of Japan to withdraw its expeditionary troops from the Transbaikal, Semyonov, unable to withstand the pressure of Bolshevik forces, planned a retreat to Manchuria. Ungern, however, saw this as an opportunity to implement his monarchistic plan. On 7 August 1920, he broke his allegiance to Semyonov and transformed his Asiatic Cavalry Division into a guerrilla detachment.[1] Ungern's army marched under the banner of a yellow swastika, a symbol Ungern had chosen as the swastika was an ancient Buddhist symbol of good luck and already been co-opted in the early 20th century by anti-Semitic volkische groups in Germany as an ancient Aryan symbol. The anti-Semitic and Buddhist associations of the swastika appealed to the baron.[72]

Many of Ungern's Russian soldiers were kolchakovec as followers of Admiral Kolchak who had fled east after the collapse of Kolchak's regime in early 1920 were called and been drafted into Ungern's army when they reached the Far East.[73] The lingering dispute between the followers of Ungern and Admiral Kolchak led to Ungern to treat the kolchakovec with a great deal of paranoia and harshness.[73] One of the kolchakovec recalled:

"The attitude of the Baron to everyone who was not connected with Semenov during the Civil War, and who had not been linked to the Transbaikalian torture chambers, was one of offensive suspicion and distrust. Among the gang of criminals, degenerates and bastards which Ungern brought from Dauria to take part in his Mongolian adventure, the word kolchakovec was a perjoratve nickname, a curse".[73]

However, even Ungern's loyal followers were not safe and at various times, Ungern publicly beat and flogged his most loyal officers like Colonel Rezuhin aka "the Cutter", Colonel Sipailov the sexual sadist who served as his chief executioner and the sinister Dr. Klingenberg, his chief medical officer and poisoner.[74] Many of Ungern's more elaborate and gorier executions involved using the branches of trees to slowly pull apart people.[74] Dr. Klingenberg, a fellow Baltic German who was close to Ungern because he was one of the few officers who spoke German as his first language was a Social Darwinist who believed in the "survival of the fittest" suggested to Ungern that he be allowed to poison those wounded and sick soldiers who were "unfit", an idea that Ungern gave his approval to.[75] Dozens upon dozens of Ungern's sick and wounded soldiers were poisoned by Dr. Klingenberg, who was so enthusiastic about killing his patients that many ill soldiers preferred not to visit the hospital, least they fall victim to Klingenberg.[75]

Ungern's troops crossed the northern border of Outer Mongolia on October 1, 1920, and moved south-westwards.[76] Ever since the 17th century when Mongolia had subjected to the Qing Empire, there had been prophecies circulating around Mongolia that a messianic figure known as "Hidden King" who ruled the vast and fabulous kingdom of Shambhala inside of the earth would take human form as a great warrior who gave no mercy in battle who riding a white horse would invade Mongolia from the north to end the Chinese rule.[77] Starting in the 19th century, the Qing had started to settle vast numbers of Han into both Inner and Outer Mongolia and by 1911 in Inner Mongolia the Han settlers had outnumbered the native Mongols by a ratio of 19 to 1, which led to fears the Han would also likewise swamp the Mongols in Outer Mongolia, making them a minority in their own land.[78] The Han disliked the Mongols, seeing them as stupid, debauched and inclined to laziness with Chinese literature having "...Mongolian henchmen, often Oddjob to a Japanese Blofeld, who habitually threatened the hero or heroine with sadistic torture".[79] For their part, the Mongols saw the Chinese as arrogant, pushy, and greedy, leading them to look back to the days of Genghis Khan when the "proper" order of things was in place with the Mongols ruling China.[78] The great savior would not only expel the much hated Chinese from Mongolia, but also restore the mighty Mongol Empire, which at its height in the 13th century stretched across Eurasia from Hungary to Korea and from the Mediterranean to the Pacific.[77] As Ungern-Sternberg rode a white horse, invaded Mongolia from the north, spoke fluent Mongol, worshiped at Buddhist shrines and spoke of his desire to restore the Mongol empire, the rumors spread all over Mongolia that the savior had at long last arrived to free Mongolia from the Chinese yoke and Mongol princes followed by their bannerman rallied to the baron's army. Mongols and Chinese have traditionally hated each other with a passion, and the behavior of General Xu's occupying army had stoked anti-Chinese resentments to a fever pitch, leading to many Mongol nobles together with their bannermen to rally to the baron.[80] Mongolia had no army, but every Mongol man had a gun, knew how to ride and shoot and under the bannermen system were obliged to go to war if the nobleman whom they were loyal to demanded their service.[81] When the Ungern entered Mongolia, the rumors spread like wildfire that the day of deliverance was now at hand as the savior from the north had at long last come and soon Mongolia would be restored to its former greatness.[77]

Ungern entered into negotiations with Chinese occupying forces. All of his demands, including disarmament of the Chinese troops were rejected. On October 26–27 and again on November 2–4, 1920, Ungern's troops assaulted Mongolia's capital, Urga (officially Niislel Khuree; now Ulaanbaatar) but suffered tremendous losses. After the defeat, Ungern's troops retreated to the upper currents of the Kherlen River in Setsen-Khan Aimag (district ruled by princes with the title Setsen Khan) in eastern Outer Mongolia. He was supported by Mongols who sought independence from Chinese occupation, especially the Bogd Khan, who secretly sent Ungern his blessing for expelling Chinese from Mongolia. The Chinese had tightened their control of Outer Mongolia by this time, strictly regulating Buddhist services in monasteries and imprisoning Russians and Mongols whom they considered "separatists". According to memoirs by M.G. Tornovsky, the Asiatic Division numbered 1,460 men, while the Chinese garrison was seven thousand men strong. The Chinese had the advantage in artillery and machine guns, and had built a network of trenches in and around Urga.[76] At his camp, Ungern imposed a ferocious discipline on his Russian soldiers, especially those who had previously served Admiral Kolchak.[82] Ungern was forever on the look out for Bolshevik spies, and executed anyone who he suspected might be Jewish.[83] By contrast, the Mongol bannermen who rallied to his cause were well treated as they could always leave.[83] One of Ungern's Russian soldiers Dmitri Alioshin bitterly wrote in his 1941 memoirs My Asian Odyssey: "What the Baron dared not do to his Orientals he did all too readily to his own countrymen".[83] Even Ungern's Russian officers, who long been accustomed to the harsh discipline of the Imperial Russian Army when fifty lashes was considered to be a lenient act of punishment thought that Ungern was going too far, complaining variously of his "insane", "inhuman" and "incomprehensible" punishments he inflicted on his Russian soldiers for trivial offenses or for no reason at all.[83] Alioshin wrote:

"To maintain discipline, he invented penalties that only his insanity could have invented. Those penalties began by whipping with bamboo lashes. A hundred strokes was considered a mild reminder. Saltanov was given fifty bamboo strokes every day for ten days, until his flesh was cut through to the bone. He was taken to the hospital to be cured so that more bamboo could be administered. He was beaten for two months and finally went insane, and the executioners shot him".[75]

An astonished Ungern after having inflicted his standard "a hundred blows to each part of the body" punishment at one point exclaimed: "Did you know that men can still walk when the flesh and bone are separated?".[84]

Alioshin described Ungern's Russian officers as "dressed in rags, with pieces of leather tied to the soles of their feet. Unshaven and dirty, cynical and cunningly cruel, they were lost to the world. Death was always welcome to them, and they fought like devils".[85] Ungern himself called his Russian officers as "rotten through and through, demoralised, sunk into the depths".[73] Colonel Boris Rezhuhin, known as "Rezhukin the Cutter" who served as Ungern's right-hand man emulated his master, through Ungern sometimes had Rezhukin flogged and beaten.[86] Ungern's bodyguard was a tall Cossack, Evgenie Burdokovskii, known as "Teapot" since whenever Ungern poured a guest a cup of tea, that was the signal for Burdokoskii to strangle the guest to death.[87]

On February 1, 1921, Ungern's detachment, led by B.P. Rezukhin, captured Chinese front-line fortifications in a night attack.[88] During the night, the constant ratter of the Chinese machine guns, the rifles fired by both sides, the war cries of the Chinese and Mongols together with the fires started by Ungern's artillery and the sky lit up by rockets made for a scene of utter chaos that terrified the people of Urga.[89] Other troops moved to Urga and to the Manjusri Monastery on Bogd Khan Uul mountain south of Urga. On February 2, Ungern's troops battled for control of Chinese front lines and secured parts of Urga.[76] The assault on Urga took place in a raging blizzard with a temperature of -20 Celsius at day and -40 Celsius at night; this, together with Urga's remote location, gave the battle the reputation as a desperate fight at the end of the world.[90] During the battle Ungern's special detachment of Tibetans, Mongols, Buryats and Russians rescued the Bogd Khan from house-arrest and transported him through the Bogd Uul to Manjusri Monastery. The Chinese guarding the Bogd Khan were all killed quietly by arrows or by Tibetans disguised as pilgrims coming to pay their respects to the Bogd Khan.[91] The major problem with the rescue operation turned out to be the obesity of the Bogd Khan who proved to be too fat to ride a horse, thus requiring two Tibetans to ride to next to him to hold him in place.[92] On February 3, Ungern gave his soldiers a respite. Borrowing a tactic from Genghis Khan, Ungern ordered his troops to light a large number of camp fires in the hills surrounding Urga, using them as reference points for Rezukhin's detachment. This also made the town appear to be surrounded by an overwhelming force.[93] On February 4, Ungern launched a major assault on the remaining Chinese positions in Urga from the east, capturing the most fortified positions at the barracks and the Chinese trade settlement (Chinese: 買賣城, Maimaicheng) during a fierce blizzard. During the fighting, Ungern was in his element, fighting with a reckless, suicidal courage and maniacal energy as he personally led cavalry charges to cut down the Chinese with his sword, his uniform and sword drenched with blood, shouting it either was victory or death while giving the impression that he was having the time of his life.[94] Ungern's artillery caused much of the city to catch on fire, which further contributed to the chaos as the Mongols and Russians fought the Chinese in the streets of Urga.[94] The Mongol cavalry had reached the rear of the Chinese positions, throwing the defenders into disarray.[95] Upon reaching the Maimaicheng, Ungern had his men smash their way in by blasting the gates with explosives and improvised battering-rams.[94] After breaking in, a general slaughter set in as both sides fought with bayonets together with what Palmer called "...an extraordinary variety of knives, swords and even cleavers", which were all used as weapons.[94] To clean out houses, Ungern's men tossed in hand grenades, and then charged in, bayoneting any Chinese they found.[94] For their part, the Mongols who long loathed the Chinese went about sacking the Maimaicheng with great enthusiasm, but were exceeded by the Russians.[96] Ungern's Russian soldiers were brutalized, desperate men who were a long away from home which they had little hope of returning to, battling an enemy they viewed as subhuman, which led many to abandon all decency and to rape and kill with a ferocity that surpassed that of the Mongols.[96] The American author Jim Cornelius wrote that: "There is something atavistic about the warfare in Central Asia during this period, even though the ragtag armies were armed with bolt-action rifles, machine guns and even some modern artillery. Ungern-Sternberg’s conquest of the Chinese-occupied city of Urga in Mongolia in the winter of 1921 was an evocation of hell, a kind of steppe-“Blood Meridian.”".[97] Some of the Ungern's Russian soldiers were so crazed with blood-lust and a "Yellow Peril" hatred of all Asians that they cut down all Asians they saw, Mongol and Chinese, soldiers and civilians without regard to age or sex.[96] One drunken Cossack was so filled with bloodlust that he suddenly started to kill his fellow Cossacks for no apparent reason before he was shot dead by his former comrades.[98] The entire capital was finally taken after several fierce battles, although a part of Chinese troops had abandoned the town earlier. Nevertheless, small battles continued through February 5.

After the battle, Ungern staged a pogrom against the Russian Jewish refugees living in Urga as he led his Cossacks against the Jews, ordering that all Jews be killed as he stated, "in my opinion, the Jews are not protected by any law".[99] The Mongols, who had no tradition of anti-Semitism, did not understand why Ungern wanted to slaughter the Jews, and as Ungern led a Jewish baker named Moshkovich, renowned for his kindness, away to be hacked to pieces, many ordinary people were heard to ask "What harm has he done, this good old man?", only to brushed aside.[99] In Russia, gang rape had always been an integral part of the pogroms, though usually only men were killed in pogroms.[100] In the Urga pogrom, gang rape was very common, but this time women and children were killed as Ungern gave orders to kill every Jew without regard to age or sex.[101] Prince Togtokh, a Mongol prince famed as an anti-Chinese guerilla fighter and until then one of Ungern's strongest allies, had attempted to hide some Jews in his house that he just reclaimed from the Chinese.[100] Ungern stormed into Togtokh's house, had the Jews taken out to be beaten to death on the streets and when Prince Togtokh protested at this violation of the sacred Mongol law of hospitality, nearly had him hanged.[100] When a Danish missionary named Olsen protested, Ungern had him tied to a horse and killed by dragging him through the streets.[100] So many bodies were left on the streets of Urga that packs of wild dogs started to devour the dead.[102] One German businssman living in Urga spoke of his horror as packs of "growling and yapping creatures drew and tore at long bloodstained strings of entrails, and under the whirl of their many trampling feet the pale soles of the dead Mongol's boots shifted about as the corpse was dragged to and fro upon the ground."[102] At the same time, Ungern had his Cossacks and Mongol horsemen ride down the Chinese trying to flee Urga, cutting them down with their swords and lances the disorganised rabble of small groups of Chinese desperately heading down the road south back to China.[103]

Between March 11 and 13, Ungern captured a fortified Chinese base at Choir south of Urga; while Chinese soldiers abandoned Zamyn-Üüd without a battle.[76]

When remaining Chinese troops, having retreated to northern Mongolia near Kyakhta, then attempted to round Urga to the west in order to reach China, Russians and Mongols feared an attempt to re-capture Urga. Several hundred Cossack and Mongol units were dispatched to meet the Chinese troops of several thousand strength in the area of Urga - Uliastai road near the Tuul river in central Mongolia. There battles raged from March 30 to April 2, the Chinese troops were routed and pursued to the southern border of the country. Thus Chinese forces left Outer Mongolia.[104]

Mongolia before the entry of Bolsheviks, 1921[edit]

The Bogd Khan (1869–1924) of Mongolia

Ungern, Mongolian lamas and princes brought the Bogd Khan from Manjusri Monastery to Urga on February 21, 1921. On February 22, a solemn ceremony took place, restoring the Bogd Khan to the throne.[105][106] As a reward for ousting the Chinese from Urga, the Bogd Khan granted Ungern the high hereditary title darkhan khoshoi chin wang in the degree of khan, and other privileges. Other officers, lamas and princes who had participated in these events also received high titles and awards.[107] For seizing Urga, Ungern received from Semyonov the rank of Lieutenant-General. Mongolia was proclaimed an independent monarchy under the theocratic power of Bogd Khan, or the 8th Bogd Gegen Jebtsundamba Khutuktu.

On March 13, 1921, Mongolia was proclaimed an independent monarchy, under Ungern as a dictator. Ungern had Dr. Klingenberg poison General Evtina, an elderly and popular White officer who arrived in Urga in early 1920 and whom many saw as a possible rival.[108] General Evtina had been a kolchakovec and Ungern feared that the kolchakovec in his army would rally to him. Ungern established a Bureau of Political Intelligence headed by the sexual sadist Colonel Igor Sipailov to hunt and kill all political opponents.[59] Ungern sometimes had the alcoholic Sipailov whipped and beaten for being drunk on the job, but many believed that because Ungern never had him executed for his drunkenness indicated that Sipailov had some special hold on the baron.[59] In a city such as Urga, where a steady steam of refugees from Russia who were constantly arriving to escape the civil war in their country together with an equally constant stream of visitors from China, Ungern feared that Bolshevik infiltrators were entering the city, and an atmosphere of paranoia ensured that the Bureau soon had plenty of "Reds", both real and alleged to investigate.[109] Sipailov was also very greedy, and many of the people he executed for being "Reds" were in fact killed so he could confiscate their wealth, most notably a Danish businessman named Olufsen who was tied to a car and dragged across the countryside to make him reveal where he had supposedly hidden a vast cache of gold that he did not possess.[110] Sipailov's greed meant that it was the better-off people in Urga who were killed for being alleged communists. Between March and July 1921, the Bureau killed between 250 and 300 people, mostly from the expatriate community in Urga as few Mongols had enough wealth to interest Sipailov.[111]

A mystic who was fascinated by beliefs and religions of the Far East such as Buddhism and who believed himself to be as the successor to Genghis Khan, Ungern von Sternberg's philosophy was an exceptionally muddled mixture of Russian nationalism with Chinese and Mongol beliefs. His traditionalism and orientalism, quite atypical for Western culture at that time, contributed to his reputation as the "Mad Baron". Ungern-Sternberg inverted Western fears of the "Yellow Peril", arguing that the West was morally corrupt and degenerate with the forces of "mad revolution" controlled by the Jews were running amok while the East had mostly maintained its moral purity, and he would lead a pan-Asian army to cleanse the West of its sickness via a bloodbath.[112] The insane anti-Semitic fanatic Ungern-Sternberg had conquered Mongolia in 1921 with the aim of using it as a base for the conquest of the Soviet Union, after which he would "exterminate" all of the Jews and Communists in Russia.[113] Ungern-Sternberg intended to revive the Mongol Empire as he believed that West was corrupt and degenerate, and needed to be destroyed by a pan-Asian army under his leadership.[114] The exceptionally sadistic Ungern-Sternberg regarded extreme violence as spiritually cleansing based on his understanding of Buddhism, and believed the world needed a bloodbath to undergo a spiritual regeneration.[115] The Buddhist hell differs from the Christian hell in that Buddhists believe in reincarnation. Thus in the Buddhist view of things the violence inflicted by demons on the sinners sent to hell is essentially redemptive and therapeutic, and in a certain sense the demons are agents of good as once the sinners repent, they will be reborn in a new life in this world to be given a new chance at redemption. Buddhist scrolls and monasteries often feature "hell galleries" showing various sinners - almost always naked or nearly naked nubile young women - being graphically tortured and torn to pieces by demons.[84] Ungern-Sternberg had seen the "hell galleries" showing scenes of sinners suffering at the hands of the demons, which inspired him with the idea that in a depraved, sinful world falling prey to the forces of "mad revolution" that what the world needed was to bring to life the scenes from the "hell galleries", and as such Ungern spent much of his time having people tortured to death in a variety of gruesome ways directly inspired by visions of hell.[116] Ungern managed to be both a Buddhist and a Christian at the same time, and in a letter to a Mongol nobleman quoted the line from the Book of Revelations, namely that "There will come a time when men shall pray for death, but shall not receive it" as an explanation for what he was going to do to a sinful, corrupt world.[117] Palmer added that the Buddhist Mongol nobleman would have been undoubtedly very confused by Ungern's Biblical quotations.[117] Ungern regarded Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam as all expressing the same great, mystical spiritual truth he was seeking and saw no contradiction in praying at churches, Buddhist shrines, Hindu temples and mosques as he viewed all four religions as part and parcel of the same great mystical truth.[118] The only religion that Ungern hated was Judaism, which he saw as the font of all evil in the world.[119]

Historians note that Ungern was viewed as the incarnation of the "God of War" (the figure of Jamsaran in Tibetan and Mongol folklore). The Mongols always referred to Ungern as the "God of War", a title of great respect given the militaristic nature of Mongol society, but it is not clear just what god Ungern was supposed to be as the Mongols had dozens of war gods as the Red Horseman, the hero turned god Geser Khan, the combative Begtse who carried fifty severed heads with him, the pre-Buddhist god Pehar who had been forced by monks to become a defender of Buddhism, and the most fearsome of them all, the tamed demon Makakala who devoured the enemies of Buddhism alive.[120] Regardless about just god Ungern was supposed to be, it is clear that Ungern was seen as one of the dhamapala ("defenders of the faith"), the fierce demons forced by the magic of the lamas to become defenders of Buddhism, a type of god very popular in both Tibet and Mongolia.[121] Alternatively, Palmer suggested that the Mongol word Bogd which translates as "holy" or "sacred" may had been misunderstood by Ungern's Russian troops as the word sounds similar to the Russian word bog (god).[121] The Russian term bog voiny ("god of war") for Ungern may had been a mistranslation of the Mongol term "holy warrior".[122] Although many Mongols may have believed him to be a deity, or at the very least an incarnation of Genghis Khan, Ungern was never officially proclaimed to be any of these incarnations.[1]

Civil power over Mongolia formally belonged to the Bogd Khan.[1] According to some eyewitnesses (his engineer and officer Kamil Giżycki, and Polish adventurer and writer Ferdynand Antoni Ossendowski, etc.), Ungern was the first to institute order in Urga; imposing street cleaning and sanitation, and promoting religious life and tolerance in the capital, and attempting to reform the economy. Ossendowkski, one of the most popular Polish writers in his lifetime (at the time of his death in 1945, Ossendowski's overseas sales were the second-highest of all the writers of Poland), had served as an official in Admiral Kolchak's government and after its collapse, fled to Mongolia.[123] Wisely, Ossendowski did not mention to Ungern that he had once been a left-wing revolutionary deported to Siberia in 1905, where he served a two-year sentence, and written a best-selling novel Of Human Dust based on his experiences.[124] Despite his distaste for the kolchakovec, Ossendowski managed to persuade Ungern not to execute him as Ossendowski shared Ungern's interests in the occult, Asia and mysticism.[125] The previous man and the next man summoned to Ungern's ger were not so lucky as both were beheaded on the spot for having "secret Bolshevik codes" on them, which Ungern decided were contained in the patterns of their coats.[126] Ossendowski become one of Ungern's very few friends and in 1922 published a bestselling book Men, Beasts and Gods in English about his adventures in Siberia and Mongolia, which remains the book by which the Ungern story is best known in the English-speaking world.[127] Palmer wrote this is somewhat unfortunate as Ossendowski had a habit of inventing things, most notably the two chapters in Men, Beasts and Gods which describes his visit to the kingdom of Shambhala inside the earth, which is not only obviously not true, but also plagiarised from the 1886 book Mission de l'Inde by the French occultist Alexandre Saint-Yves d'Alveydre.[127]

His Asiatic Cavalry Division consisted of national detachments, such as the Chinese regiment, Japanese unit, various Cossack regiments, Mongol, Buryat, Tatar and other peoples' units. Ungern said that 16 nationalities served in his division. Dozens of Tibetans also served as part of his troops. They might have been sent by 13th Dalai Lama, with whom Ungern communicated, or these Tibetans may have belonged to the Tibetan colony in Urga.[1] The staunchly anti-Semitic Ungern ordered the execution of 38 Jews in Urga, while the total number of executions was approximately 846.[1] The Kalmyk Oirat Mongol leader Ja Lama murdered all the members of a delegation sent by Ungern to Lhasa in 1920.[128] Ungern apparently became dissillusioned of Ja-lama, having previously been an admirer, only to allude to him by insults after actually entering Mongolia.[129] Ungern had been to China, but never farther south than Beijing, and he believed mistakenly that the vast majority of the Chinese would welcome a Qing restoration.[130] Ungern did not understand that most Chinese are Han whereas the Qing were Manchus, and that for the most Han the entire Qing era from 1644 to 1912 was one long humiliating foreign occupation.[130] Regardless Ungern sent off a letter to the former emperor Puyi living in the Forbidden City promising to restore him after he was finished with Russia while explaining that the revolution of 1911-12 that had toppled the Chinese monarchy was all the work of the Jews, a claim that confused and bemused Puyi.[130]

Defeat, capture, and execution, 1921[edit]

Ungern von Sternberg in 1921

The Bolsheviks started infiltrating Mongolia shortly after the October revolution 1917, i.e., long before they took control of the Russian Transbaikal. In 1921, various Red Army units belonging to Soviet Russia and to the Far Eastern Republic, invaded newly independent Mongolia to defeat Ungern. These forces included Red Mongolian leader and independence hero Damdin Sükhbaatar. Spies and various smaller diversionary units went ahead to spread terror and betrayal to weaken Ungern's forces. Ungern organized an expedition to meet these forces in Siberia and to support ongoing anti-Bolshevik rebellions. Believing he had the unwavering popular support of locals in Siberia and Mongolia, Ungern failed to properly strengthen his troops despite being vastly outnumbered and out-gunned by the Red forces. However, unbeknownst to Ungern, the Reds had successfully crushed uprisings in Siberia, and the Soviet economic policies had temporarily softened in Lenin's NEP. Upon Ungern's arrival, few local peasants and Cossacks volunteered to join him.

In the spring the Asiatic Cavalry Division was divided into two brigades: one under the command of Lieutenant-general Ungern and the second under Major-General Rezukhin. In May, Rezukhin's brigade launched a raid beyond the Russian border to the west of the Selenge River. Ungern's brigade left Urga and slowly moved to the Russian town of Troitskosavsk (present-day Kyakhta in Buryatia). Meanwhile, the Reds moved large forces towards Mongolia from different directions. They had a tremendous advantage in equipment (armored cars, airplanes, rail, gunboats, ammunition, human reserves, etc.) and in numbers of troops. As a result, Ungern was defeated in battles that took place between June 11 and 13 and failed to capture Troitskosavsk. Then the combined Bolshevik and Red Mongol forces entered Mongolia and captured Urga after a few small skirmishes with Ungern's guard detachments.[1]

Having captured Urga on July 6, 1921, the Red forces failed to defeat the main forces of the Asiatic Division (Ungern's and Rezukhin's brigades). Ungern regrouped and attempted to invade Transbaikal across the Russo-Mongolian border. To rally his soldiers and local people, Ungern quoted an agreement with Grigory Semyonov and pointed to a supposed Japanese offensive which was to support their drive, although neither Semyonov, nor Japanese were eager to assist him. After several days rest, on July 18, the Asiatic Division started its raid into Soviet territory. Eyewitnesses Kamil Giżycki and Mikhail Tornovsky gave similar estimates of their numbers: about three thousand men in total.[131] Ungern's troops penetrated deep into Russian territory. The Soviets declared martial law in areas where the Whites were expected, including Verkhneudinsk (now Ulan-Ude, the capital of Buryatia). Ungern's troops captured many settlements; the northernmost being Novoselenginsk, occupied by them on August 1. By this time, Ungern understood that his offensive was ill-prepared; he also heard about the approach of large forces of the Reds. On August 2, 1921 he began his retreat to Mongolia, where he declared his determination to fight Communism. While Ungern's troops wanted to abandon the war-effort and to head towards Manchuria to join with other Russian émigrés, it soon became clear that Ungern had other ideas. He wanted to retreat to Tuva, then to Tibet. Troops under both Ungern and Rezukhin effectively mutinied and hatched plots to kill their respective commanders. On August 17, Rezukhin was killed. A day later conspirators unsuccessfully tried to assassinate Ungern. His command then collapsed as his brigade broke apart. On 20 August Ungern was captured by the Soviet detachment led by the famous guerrilla commander P.E. Shchetinkin (later a member of the Cheka).[132]

After a show trial of 6 hours and 15 minutes on 15 September 1921, prosecuted by Yemelyan Yaroslavsky, the Baron was sentenced to execution by firing squad. The sentence was carried out that very evening or night in Novonikolaevsk.

"When he learnt of his death, the Bogd Khan ordered prayers for his soul to be read throughout Mongolia. They were undoubtedly needed." [133]

References in popular culture[edit]

In the words of the British journalist Andrew Stuttaford: “To find even a quick allusion to... von Ungern-Sternberg (1886–1921) is to be pulled into a past too strange to be believable and too terrible not to be. Three years ago, I was working on an article on Mongolia for National Review. When the text I’d submitted for editing was returned, a reference to the country’s “brief, brutal, and bizarre rule by a crazed Baltic baron” was questioned: “Are you certain about this?...this gargoyle khan, exterminationist anti-Semite, paranoid mystic, and (some thought) reincarnated god shows, when it comes to Ungern, certainty has a way of vanishing into myth, rumor, and whispered campfire tale: There is much about the baron that remains, in Palmer’s perfect adjective, “elusive.”[134] As such, Ungern remains the subject of enduring fascination, a window into the dark side of humanity who has been featured numerous times in popular culture.[134]

  • In 1938, Ungern-Sternberg was the protagonist of what Palmer called a "trashy novel" published in Germany titled Ich befehle! Kampf und Tragödie des Freiherr Ungern-Sternberg (I Order! The Struggle and Tragedy of Baron Ungern-Sternberg) by Berndt Krauthoff, which depicted Ungern-Sternberg as a noble Aryan hero battling the Jews.[135]
  • “Ungern-Sternberg” is a song by French punk rock group Paris Violence which contains the lyrics “Ungern-Sternberg, chevalier romantique / Tu attends la mort comme un amant sa promise” (“Ungern-Sternberg, romantic knight / You wait for death like a lover).[134]
  • Ungern-Sternberg is the main villain in the video game Iron Storm.[136]
  • Ungern-Sternberg is often mentioned in the novels of the Spanish thriller writer Arturo Pérez-Reverte.[136]
  • Ungern-Sternberg is featured in the graphic novel Corto Maltese in Siberia by the Italian writer Hugo Pratt.[136]
  • The novels of the Russian surrealist writer Victor Pelevin often feature Ungern-Sternberg, most notably his 1996 novel Chapayev and Void.[136]
  • Ungern-Sternberg is used fictionally as a key character in the backstory of the 2010 novel The Fuller Memorandum by the British writer Charles Stross.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Bodisco Th. von, Dugin A., Evola J., Fernbach M., Freitag Y., Greiner A.W., Mutti C., Nesmelow A. 2007. Baron Ungern von Sternberg – der letzte Kriegsgott. Straelen: Regin-Verlag.
  • Hopkirk, Peter (1986) Setting the East Ablaze: on Secret Service in Bolshevik Asia. Don Mills, Ont.
  • Kamil Giżycki (1929). Przez Urjanchaj i Mongolje. Lwow – Warszawa: wyd. Zakladu Nar. im. Ossolinskich.
  • Kuzmin, Sergei L. (2011). The History of Baron Ungern. An Experience of Reconstruction. Moscow: KMK Sci. Press, ISBN 978-5-87317-692-2.
  • Kuzmin, S.L. (compiler) (2004). Baron Ungern v Dokumentakh i Memuarakh. Moscow: KMK Sci. Press, ISBN 5-87317-164-5.
  • Kuzmin, S.L. (compiler) (2004). Legendarnyi Baron: Neizvestnye Stranitsy Grazhdanskoi Voiny. Moscow: KMK Sci. Press, ISBN 5-87317-175-0.
  • Maclean, Fitzroy (1974). To the Back of Beyond. Little, Brown & Co., Boston.
  • Michalowski W.St. (1977). Testament Barona. Warszawa: Ludowa Spoldzielnia Wyd.
  • Ossendowski, Ferdynand (1922) Beasts, Men and Gods. New York.
  • Palmer, James (2008) The Bloody White Baron. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-23023-7
  • Pershin, D.P. (1999) Baron Ungern, Urga i Altanbulak. Samara: Agni.
  • Pozner, Vladimir (1938) Bloody Baron: the Story of Ungern–Sternberg. New York.
  • "Personal survey of some books". Retrieved 2009-04-01. 
  • du Quenoy, Paul. “Perfecting the Show Trial: The Case of Baron von Ungern-Sternberg,” Revolutionary Russia, 19: 1, June 2006.
  • du Quenoy, Paul. “Warlordism à la russe: Baron von Ungern-Sternberg’s Anti-Bolshevik Crusade, 1917-1921,” Revolutionary Russia, 16: 2, December 2003
  • Sunderland, Willard. The Baron's Cloak: A History of the Russian Empire in War and Revolution, Cornell University Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0-8014-5270-3
  • Yuzefovich, Leonid. Le baron Ungern, khan des steppes
  • Znamenski, Andrei (2011) Red Shambhala: Magic, Prophecy, and Geopolitics in the Heart of Asia. Wheaton, IL: Quest Books. ISBN 978-0-8356-0891-6
  • Paratico, Angelo The Dew of Heaven Cactus Moon, 2016.

References[edit]

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  2. ^ adopted Russian name: Роман Фёдорович фон Унгерн-Штернберг, which transliterates as Roman Fyodorovich fon Ungern-Shternberg
  3. ^ Palmer, James The Bloody White Baron: The Extraordinary Story of the Russian Nobleman Who Became the Last Khan of Mongolia, New York: Basic Books, 2008 pages 16-17
  4. ^ Palmer, James The Bloody White Baron: The Extraordinary Story of the Russian Nobleman Who Became the Last Khan of Mongolia, New York: Basic Books, 200p page 18.
  5. ^ Kuzmin, S.L. (2011) pp. 22-23
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  7. ^ Palmer, James The Bloody White Baron: The Extraordinary Story of the Russian Nobleman Who Became the Last Khan of Mongolia, New York: Basic Books, 2009 page 19.
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  67. ^ *Andrei Znamenski, "Baron Ungern, Bolsheviks, and Mongol Nationalism" on YouTube
  68. ^ John S. Major (1990). The land and people of Mongolia. Harper and Row. p. 119. ISBN 0-397-32386-7. in 1919, a Japanese influenced faction in the Chinese government mounted an invasion of Outer Mongolia and forced its leaders to sign a "request" to be taken over by the government of China. Japan's aim was to protect its own economic, political, and military interests in North China by keeping the Russian Revolution from influencing Mongolia. 
  69. ^ Pershin, D.P. Baron Ungern, Urga and Altan Bulak. Samara: Agni, 1999
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  107. ^ Facsimile of the original and translations of the Bogd Khan edict see in: Kuzmin, S.L. (compiler) Baron Ungern v Dokumentakh i Memuarakh. Moscow: KMK Sci. Press, 2004, ISBN 5-87317-164-5, p.90-92; Kuzmin, S.L. 2011. The History of Baron Ungern. An Experience of Reconstruction. Moscow: KMK Sci. Press, ISBN 978-5-87317-692-2, p. 433-436
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