Russian All-Military Union
The Russian All-Military Union (in Russian Русский Обще-Воинский Союз, abbreviated РОВС, ROVS) is an organization that was founded by White Army General Pyotr Wrangel in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes on September 1, 1924. This organization united all veterans of the Russian White movement, soldiers and officers alike, who were living abroad and desired to stay united for the purpose of purging Russia of the Bolshevik regime. The Union also tried to conduct operations within the USSR for the purpose of starting a national anti-communist uprising. The ROVS was formed outside of the Soviet Union.
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 police, the OGPU. The OGPU even set up a fake anti-communist monarchist organization, the Monarchist Union of Central Russia, which was successfully used to confuse and later demoralize the ROVS. They also successfully instituted a secret provocational organization within the ROVS known as the "Inner Line" (in Russian "Внутренная Линия"), controlled by the double agent General Nikolai Skoblin, which masqueraded as a patriotic Russian intelligence organization. [clarification needed]
By the time the "Inner Line" was exposed by the Russian émigré organization National Alliance of Russian Solidarists (NTS), two of the ROVS's leaders, General Alexander Kutepov and General Yevgeny Miller, had been kidnapped and taken by force to the USSR to be murdered, in 1930 and 1937 respectively. By the time World War II started, the ROVS lost most of its significance and influence.
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 Eastern Front.
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 for the dissolution of ROVS. Vishnevsky died of cancer in that same year, but ROVS members, following the overwhelming poll results, dissolved the organization. Some, particularly in Russia, refused to accept this result and maintain that ROVS was never dissolved. According to them, ROVS is now headquartered in Russia, and its head is Igor Borisovich Ivanov.
Before WWII ROVS was divided into departments based on regions or 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.
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–)
- M.V. Nazarov, The Mission of the Russian Emigration, Moscow: Rodnik, 1994. ISBN 978-5-86231-172-3
- Russian All-Military Union (rus)
- History of ROVS (rus)
- Taylor, Brian (2003). Politics and the Russian Army: Civil-Military Relations, 1689-2000 (PDF). Cambridge University Press.
- 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.
- Richard Lourie, Russia Speaks: An Oral History from the Revolution to the Present, HarperCollins, 1991. Page 84.