Russian All-Military Union
The Russian All-Military Union is an organization that was founded by White Army General Pyotr Wrangel in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes on 1 September 1924, initially headquartered in the town of Sremski Karlovci. The organization′s ostensible purpose was provision of aid to the veterans of the Russian White movement (usually of the Imperial Russian Army as well), soldiers and officers alike, who now lived outside the USSR; the undeclared aim was to maintain a Russian military organisation with a view to fighting the Bolsheviks.
Shortly after its establishment in Serbia in September 1924 by Gen Wrangel, on 16 November the supreme command of the ROVS, along with all White Army formations in exile, was assumed by Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, who had until August 1915 been the Supreme Commander of the Russian armed forces during WWI and since 1922 resided in France.
Aside from anti-communism, the ROVS did not have an official political orientation, somewhat adhering to the old Russian military dictum: "The army is outside politics" (in Russian "Армия вне политики"), believing that the political orientation of Russia cannot be predetermined by émigrés living outside of its borders (the philosophy of "non-predetermination" or in Russian "непредрешенчество"). Many (but not all) of its members had monarchist sympathies but were divided on whether the House of Romanov should return and whether the government should be autocratic or democratic.
The ROVS, along with other similar Russian émigré organizations, became a prime target for the Soviet secret intelligence service, the GPU/OGPU. The OGPU even set up a fictitious anti-communist monarchist organization, the Monarchist Union of Central Russia, which was used to undermine the ROVS′ activities in the USSR. The ROVS′ secret counter-intelligence branch, the "Inner Line" (in Russian "Внутренная Линия") set up by Gen Alexander Kutepov in the mid-1920s, was also severely compromised, among other things by suspected recruitment by OGPU of Gen Nikolai Skoblin, who was a senior operative in the Inner Line. Two of the ROVS's successive chairmen, Gen Alexander Kutepov and Gen Yevgeny Miller, were kidnapped by Soviet agents, in 1930 and 1937 respectively, Miller being brought to the USSR to be interrogated and executed. Gen Fyodor Abramov, who succeeded Miller as the ROVS chairman, had to quit the post shortly after and was expelled from Bulgaria where he had resided due to the fact that his son was exposed as a Soviet agent. The OGPU/NKVD′s successful operations against the ROVS as well as infighting, intrigues, and antagonisms in the wider Russian émigré community demoralised and rendered impotent an organisation, which by the time World War II began in 1939 had also become largely irrelevant due to the geoplolitical realignment. After the outbreak of the war, the ROVS was virtually paralysed, as the war split the ROVS′ leadership and membership into two opposing camps: those who advocated war against, or for, Germany. Gen Alexei Arkhangeksky, who assumed ROVS presidency in March 1938, was personally of pro-Germany political orientation, a stance opposed by such renowned émigré figure, among others, as Gen Anton Denikin.
During the war, the ROVS maintained a cautious position, not siding officially with Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union but waiting for the emergence of an independent Russian Liberation Army. However, some, acting as interpreters, joined the ranks of the Wehrmacht already at the early stage of war on the German-Soviet Front. The reason for that was ROVS quaisi-ideology, in no small way encapsulated in the idea of 'irreconcilability', which meant fighting against the Soviet power every which way.
According to a 1988 oral history interview with Nikita Ivanovich Yovich,
"Years passed, gradually people began dying off. In 1986, the most senior man still alive turned out to be Captain Ivanov who lived in Detroit. Captain Ivanov received a communication from Paris saying that as the most senior man he was now obliged to assume the presidency of the R.A.S.U. He was ninety-one. He needed a deputy and I was recommended to him. I received a letter from this Captain Ivanov whom I had never met, an official letter -- 'Dear Nikita Ivanovich, As of such and such a date, I have become the President of the Russian Armed Services Union. I am alone and am requesting your help.' And so I answered the letter, -- 'Dear Captain Ivanov: I was brought up to be a soldier -- that means, never volunteer for duty, but never shirk it.' A week later, I received orders from him, stating that as of such and such a date Lieutenant Nikita Ivanovich Yovich would be serving as his deputy. He gave me various orders, xeroxing lists and so forth, which I carried out. After a few years I began having problems with my health and I wrote to Captain Ivanov requesting to be relieved of my duties. I received no reply. I wrote again. All of a sudden I receive a letter saying that Captain Ivanov has had a stroke and is paralyzed. I phoned him, but there was no answer. And then I received orders from him, which he had somehow been able to sign -- I had been appointed president of the Russian Armed Services Union."
The ROVS continued to be active into the 1990s, having evolved into an organization that was principally concerned with the historical preservation of the pre-communist and anti-communist Russian military tradition. In the ROVS's possession were a significant number of Russian imperial and White Army battle flags and standards, which were meant to be returned to Russia when "a national Russian army" was once again in existence.
Although its significance and influence in the Russian émigré community had ceased several decades before, in 1992, ROVS became active in Russia itself. In the mid-1990s, however, since the communist regime had fallen and the Soviet Union was no more, a split emerged within ROVS on whether to continue the organization's existence.
In 2000, Vladimir Vishnevsky, a US resident and the ROVS chairman at that time, requested a vote on this issue. The vast majority of members voted against the dissolution of ROVS. Vishnevsky died of cancer in that same year.
Organizational structure and membership
Before WWII ROVS was divided into departments (Russian: отделы), based on regions or/and countries:
- Department I — Great Britain, Netherlands, Denmark, Egypt, Spain, Italy, Norway, Iran, Poland, Syria, Finland, France and its colonies, Switzerland, Sweden;
- Department II — Austria, Hungary, Germany, Free City of Danzig, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia;
- Department III — Bulgaria, Turkey;
- Department IV — Greece, Romania, Yugoslavia;
- Department V — Belgium;
- Department VI — Czechoslovakia;
- Far-Eastern Department with headquarters in Harbin;
- Short-lived Mongolian Department in Mongolia, later in Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang;
- North-American Department;
- Departments in Australia and New Zealand;
- South-American Department.
According to the data contained in the declassified UDBA documents of 1955, in 1934 ROVS′s global membership totaled 400,000 people, which included 206,000 people in Europe, 175,000 in the Far East, and 25,000 in America.
List of ROVS chairmen/commanders
- General Pyotr Wrangel (1924–1928) (as the commander of the Russian Army)
- Grand Duke General Nikolai Nikolaevich Romanov (1924–1929) (as the supreme commander of all Russian forces, in concurrence with General Wrangel)
- General Alexander Pavlovich Kutepov (1929–1930)
- General Yevgeny Karlovich Miller (1930–1937)
- General Feodor Feodorovich Abramov (1937–1938)
- General Alexei Petrovich Arkhangelsky (1938–1957)
- General Alexei Alexandrovich von Lampe (1957–1967)
- General Vladimir Grigorievich Zharzhevsky (1967–1979)
- Captain Vladimir Petrovich Osipov (1979–1983)
- Starshina Vladimir Ivanovich Diakov (1983–1984)
- Lieutenant Peter Alekseevich Kalenichenko (1984–1986)
- Captain Boris Mihailovich Ivanov (1986–1988)
- Sotnik Nikita Ivanovich Yovich (1988–1988)
- Lieutenant Vladimir Vladimirovich Granitov (1988–1989)
- Captain Vladimir Nikolaevich Butkov (1989–2000)
- Lieutenant Vladimir Aleksandrovich Vishnevsky (2000–2000)
- Igor Borisovich Ivanov (2000–)
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- ″Пет начелника организације РОВС: Из тајних архива УДБЕ: РУСКА ЕМИГРАЦИЈА У ЈУГОСЛАВИЈИ 1918–1941.″ // Politika, 9 December 2017, p. 22.
- Oleg Beyda, «'Iron Cross of the Wrangel's Army': Russian Emigrants as Interpreters in the Wehrmacht.» Journal of Slavic Military Studies 27, no. 3 (2014): 433.
- O. Beyda, ‘“Re-Fighting the Civil War”: Second Lieutenant Mikhail Aleksandrovich Gubanov’. Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas, Vol. 66, No. 2, 2018, pp. 255, 265.
- Richard Lourie, Russia Speaks: An Oral History from the Revolution to the Present, HarperCollins, 1991. Page 84.
- „Белоемиграција у Југославији 1918–1941”: „Црни барон” у Београду politika.rs, 2 December 22017.
- ″Врангелов неоспорни ауторитет: Из тајних архива УДБЕ: РУСКА ЕМИГРАЦИЈА У ЈУГОСЛАВИЈИ 1918–1941.″. // Politika, 8 December 2017, p. 17.