In the past, we’ve extensively covered the Nepalese Gurkhas and, how their continued overseas (basically mercenary) service in the British Army, Indian Army, Royal Brunei military, and Singapore Police Force, is both highly sought-after by the contracting branch and life-changing for the Gurkha.
While the recent COVID restrictions have wrought havoc around the globe, the Brits still managed to have the required 340-strong Gurkha trainee draft fully fleshed out “despite one of the most challenging selection procedures in history.”
Field Marshal Viscount Slim, who had plenty of experiences in which Gurkhas saved his bacon, in his Unofficial History, said, “The Almighty created in the Gurkhas an ideal infantryman, indeed an ideal Rifleman, brave, tough, patient, adaptable, skilled in field-craft, intensely proud of his military record and unswerving loyalty.”
Official caption: “A Royal Gurkha soldier of A (Gallipoli) Company (CO), 1ST Battalion (BN), The Highlanders, United Kingdom (UK) Army, takes time from searching for illegal weapons to say hello to a little boy in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Royal Gurkhas played a key roll in searching house-to-house for illegal weapons during Operation TIMBERWOLF. The search in the Prijedor area near Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina under Operation JOINT FORGE found over 40 tons of weapons and ammunition during the three-week TIMBERWOLF operation by the Stabilization Force peacekeepers, 9/18/2003”
DOD DF-SD-05-12255 via National Archives
With a reputation of being heroic and honorable, one of the last true cultivated warrior castes, there are numerous stories of Gurkhas also being heartwarming.
Matt Easton of Schola Gladiatoria has been cleaning and testing a relic Bhojpure kukri (khukuri) from the large collection of original 19th century Nepalese Government military stores that IMA and Atlanta Cutlery scored back in 2003. Of course, he is a little late to the party as I picked up one of these a few years back and found it to be just a remarkable edged weapon. Truly excellent once you got the yak grease off.
Here is Matt testing it:
Speaking of Gurkas, this year’s intake at Infantry Training Centre Catterick has gone off swimmingly.
In honor of the whole “May the 4th be with you” thing, let’s talk a bit about the current deployment of the most real-life Mandalorians, the homegrown warriors of Nepal:
Ever read about the British Army’s (Cold War-era, 1947-94) Brigade of Gurkhas and wonder why the unit numbers are so wonky? For instance, the principal infantry units were four regiments, all of one battalion, each:
2nd King Edward VII’s Own Gurkha Rifles (The Sirmoor Rifles)
6th Queen Elizabeth’s Own Gurkha Rifles
7th Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Gurkha Rifles
10th Princess Mary’s Own Gurkha Rifles
1/7th Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Gurkha Rifles Regiment boarding the Cunard liner Canberra for the Falklands to go fight the Argentinians, in 1982, note the M72 LAWS anti-tank rocket and copious L1A1 semi-auto inch pattern FALs
That’s because these hardy Nepalese fighters, which had been part of the British Army going back to an agreement with the circa 1815 East India Company, originally numbered 10 two-battalion regiments, numbered 1-10, in the British Indian Army in 1903 when that force was reformed. When India broke away from Britain and formed their own proper force in 1947, it was agreed between New Dehli and London to split these troops in a 4:6 ratio, so the Indians picked up:
1st King George V’s Own Gurkha Rifles (The Malaun Regiment)
3rd Queen Alexandra’s Own Gurkha Rifles
4th Prince of Wales’s Own Gurkha Rifles
5th Royal Gurkha Rifles (Frontier Force)
8th Gurkha Rifles
9th Gurkha Rifles
In more modern times, the names have morphed to a more British and Indian version.
In 1994, the four units still raised by the UK were all amalgamated into the Royal Gurkha Rifles, which form the bulk of today’s 3,600-man Brigade of Gurkhas. They stay up to strength through a yearly intake of 432 potential recruits– for which as many as 20,000 young Nepalese men apply. At the end of 36-weeks training, 270 are accepted.
British Gurkha recruits successfully complete their training at the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick 2017
Since 1858, no less than 26 members assigned to British Gurkha units have earned the VC. In 2010, Sgt. Dipprasad Pun, 1/RGR, was decorated with the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross (just under the VC) for single-handedly fought off a large Taliban attack on his lightly manned position. Pun is the grandson of Rifleman Tul Bahadur Pun, 3rd/6th Gurkha Rifles, who received the VC in 1944 for single-handedly charging and capturing two Japanese light machine guns in Burma.
Recently, some 120 Gurkhas from 10 Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment, usually based at Gale Barracks in Aldershot, have been busy at Wellington Barracks training to mount the Queen’s Guard in London for the next eight weeks. They will be standing guard on public order duty at Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace, Windsor Castle as well as over the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.
Naturally, they have their kukris:
The Staff Captain, Captain Tom Mountain inspects every detail during the inspection of The Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment.
And will be using them in the Keys ceremony apparently.
A member of 10 Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment challenges on Guard during the drill practice for the Ceremony of the Keys The Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment
Looks like the Queen is in good hands.
As for the Indians, they kept the old pre-1947 regimental numbers, dropped the royal tie-ins, and started spelling Gurka as the more correct “Gorkha.” They also expanded the force from six to seven regiments, each with a whopping 6-7 battalions, in essence, more than tripling the size. Today’s Indian Army now has the very robust:
Further, the Singapore Police Force has, since 1949, fielded their own 2,000-man Gurkha Contingent. They are kept whole by taking the 120 best candidates of the British Army’s yearly 423-man intake, who in turn sign a 27-year contract right out of the door.
As described by the SPF, “The GC was formed to provide a ‘strong-arm’ within the Police Force capable of quelling civil disturbance and carrying out specialist security tasks…These Gurkhas possess the qualities best suited to service in the Contingent, specifically: physical and mental robustness, resourcefulness and an uncomplaining dependability.”
An example of the “dependability” part of that, along with their notion of being “visibly invisible” in Singapore:
Across from Singapore, the Sultanate of Brunei maintains the 2,000-strong Gurkha Reserve Unit (GRU), which was formed in 1974 as a special guard force of the Royal Brunei military, protecting the royal family, oil facilities and other vital infrastructure. Rather than recruiting directly from Nepal, members are formerly of British, Indian and Singapore units.
Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah, General of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces, inspecting local Gurka units
Since 1962 British Army Gurkhas have been based in Brunei. There is always one infantry battalion of The Royal Gurkha Rifles, supported by troops from The Queen’s Gurkha Engineers, The Queen’s Gurkha Signals, The Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment, and The Gurkha Staff and Personnel Support Company based in Tuker Lines, Seria, making later recruitment in the GRU an easy task.
Elsewhere, the Gurkha’s past service to the Commonwealth still lingers.
In Hong Kong, Chinese since 1997, there are some 40-50,000 ethnic Nepalese, descendants of Gurkhas stationed there over the years while it was a British colony and their families. They have a vibrant culture.
Plus, of course, there is the standing Nepali Army, also known as the Gorkhali Army, which numbers 95,000 men (and women) in eight divisions.
For the record, this is not a factory option from Hudson– but it should be! (Photos: Chris Eger)
Making an appearance at a range day just before this year’s NRA Annual Meeting in Dallas was a Hudson blaster that looked a little far from its home world.
Elijah Henry, Hudson’s chief of product training, was on hand for the American Suppressor Association’s Fifth Annual Media Day at Elm Fork Shooting Sports with a selection of the company’s H9 and H9A handguns which were a crowd pleaser, but he also had what he described as a “shop gun” hidden away in a green kydex holster, because even intergalactic skip tracers choose kydex.
The customized Hudson 9mm is complete with Mandalorian and Clan Fett crests along with modified Metschan alphabetic script complementing the green, blue, yellow and red cerekote scheme as an homage to a certain bounty hunter from the Star Wars saga who has was inadvertently knocked into the open maw of the Sarlacc.
This is not the Honey Badger you are looking for, it is officially “The Ghetto Blaster”
Teaming up with Kevin Brittingham and his team at Q to incorporate that company’s collapsible stock and bolt carrier group, Noveske’s “Ghetto Blaster” name is a homage to the old school boom boxes of the 1980s and 90s, which the very Honey Badger-esque series approximates in size.
And did I mention it is available in both .300BLK and 5.56mm?
Kinda reminds me of another slightly non-PC AR build out there: San Antonio-based Sons Of Liberty Gun Works custom pipe wrench fit for an intergalactic space merc and bounty hunter.
Dubbed the SOLGW EE-4 blaster, the rifle straight out of a galaxy far, far, away looks ready to “use when I’m snatching mothafuckas in outer space…”
The classic representation of the White Russian officer in the West: the fictional notorious womanizer Count Wladyslaw Sergius Karamzin, portrayed in Universal’s B&W silent 1922 classic film Foolish Wives portrayed by Austrian-American actor Erich von Stroheim in the uniform of a Russian Captain of Hussars complete with a St. George Cross and one of the Orders of St. Vladimir. The decorations are probably authentic, as many officers in exile sold their treasured awards to eat, and pawn shops across Western Europe and the U.S. were likely full of such medals in the 1920s.
Ne vse poymut, nemnogiye vspomnyat…
When the Tsar of Holy Russia was kicked from the throne by his own act of abdication in March 1917, he set in motion a chain of events that led to a short-lived democratic government swept away by the later Red October revolution. This, in turn, sparked an almost immediate civil war and famine that left the country fractured and largely turned to ash. You know, the last half of Dr. Zhivago.
The frozen nightmare that was the retreat of the White Guard army in Siberia, in 1919, by Pyotr Staronosov, 1934
Tsarist Imperial Navy Admiral Alexander Vasilyevich Kolchak, who led the White Russian volunteer army in Siberia against the Bolshevik Reds. Things didn’t work out too well for The Admiral, who before the war was a noted polar explorer. When turned over to the Reds by his own troops, he was interrogated, led to a hole in the ice of the frozen Agara River, and told he was to be executed. The Admiral asked the commander of the firing squad, “Would you be so good as to get a message sent to my wife in Paris to say that I bless my son?” as his last words, then was shot and stuffed through the ice as depicted in this painting by FA Moskvitin.
After the anti-communist Whites lost the Civil War (1917-22), some two million Russians fled to all points of the globe. If they didn’t leave, certain death was sure to follow.
The Evacuation of Wrangel’s White Army from Crimea, November 1920
The Drozdovites (Drozdovtsy) regiment and the new banner handed to them on the day of the evacuation with Wrangle’s forces, November 1920. The Kornilovites and Markovites regiments, named for killed White Russian generals, also received new banners to take into exile. They had been previously made the summer before with the idea they would be unfurled once the forces made it to a victory parade in Moscow.
White Russians leaving Crimea, in 1920
In short, they lost their Russia privileges when they lost the war.
The White Russian diaspora in the 1920s
Rear Adm. Georgy Karlovich Stark. Born in 1878 to a Scottish family that had come to Russia under Peter the Great and served under every Tsar since then, he is often confused with his uncle, Admiral Oskar Stark, who had commanded the Russian Pacific Squadron at Port Arthur in 1904– when the Japanese attacked. The younger Stark, also a naval officer, did fight the Japanese in that war, as an engineering officer on the famed cruiser Aurora. Rising to command a series of destroyers between 1912 and 1917, shortly after the March Revolution he was promoted to rear admiral under the Kerensky government in June 1917 and given command of the Mine Division of the Baltic Fleet, probably the most effective unit of that fleet. When the Red Navy abolished his rank in March 1918, he headed to the East, and by August 1918, White Russian commander Admiral Kolchak put him to work in leading first a flotilla of gunboats on the Volga, then a division of naval infantry, then the Siberian naval flotilla– the aging and neglected remnants of his uncle’s old Russian Pacific Squadron. Outlasting Kolchak and the White cause in general, his 25 ships, loaded with 10,000 refugees, escaped Vladivostok one step ahead of the Reds in October 1922, then spent the next two months as a fleet in exile, first in Shanghai (where he landed his refugees) and then in the Philippines (where he sold his ships and donated the funds to take care of the diaspora in China.) He then made his way to France where another Russian exile fleet languished in North Africa and became head of the All-Foreign Association of Russian Naval Officers. He passed in Paris in 1950, aged 71, and is buried at Sainte-Genevieve-des-Bois.
Nearly a quarter of these were military men who quite naturally formed veterans groups such as the Society of Gallipoli and the Russian Common Military Union (ROVS). This latter organization, founded in 1924 and led by former General Grand Duke Nicholas, then Lt-Gen Baron Wrangel, numbered some 100,000 members spread around the world within just a couple of years.
Baron Pyotr Wrangel was welcomed in Skopje, Macedonia, Yugoslavia, in the early 1920s. The locals seem to be really cool with the old White Russian commander, who, it should be noted, is in uniform
Lieutenant General PN Pyotr Wrangel (bottom row, second from left), next to Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) and other Russian émigrés in Yugoslavia 1927. Although this group had left Russia more than seven years before this picture, they still have immaculate uniforms. Soviet agents would soon poison Wrangel within a year of this image.
Colleagues carry a coffin with the body of General Wrangel. Lt. General Alexander Kutepov is in the foreground. The furthest (smallest) General V. In. Marushevsky. General A on the left. A. Zegelov, General AA von Lampe. General PN Chatilov.
Wrangel, “The Black Baron,” died in 1928 and was a dynamic leader of the Russian exile movement. However, the Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich of Russia, the old Imperial Army commander in 1914-15, seen here in state in 1929 under uniformed guard in France, while not officially part of the White Army during the Civil War (a body which was anything but monarchist) was also a powerful figure to the exile community.
Meanwhile, Denikin and the Whites that had escaped had become a boogeyman for Stalin and his regime. Everything that went wrong for a generation was blamed on the “monarchists” and “White Guards” in exile.
Soviet Russian Kids playing “Capture of Denikin” red propaganda Василий Сварог «Пленение Деникина», 1932 г.
Col. Pavel Ivanovich Voiloshnikov. Born in 1878 in the Transbaikal back when it was every bit as frontier as Dodge City or Tombstone in the U.S., Voiloshnikov graduated from the Siberian Cadet Corps in Omsk and the Nikolaev Cavalry School in St. Petersburg before accepting an appointment as a subaltern with the 1st Verkhneudinsk regiment of the Transbaikal Cossack army, operating in China during the Boxer Rebellion. This led to him being very active during the Russo-Japanese War with his unit, and, following promotion to Sotnik, in the subsequent 1906 punitive expeditions in the region, suppressing revolts and rebellions. The decorated young cavalryman was selected for the Life Guards of His Majesty’s Consolidated Cossack Regiment in 1909 and, after winning repeated pistol matches among the Guards regiments, was selected for the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm (where Patton also competed in shooting events and Grand Duke Dmitri, one of Rasputin’s future killers, rode in equestrian events). Voiloshnikov came away with a Silver medal in the 30m Dueling Pistols event. During the Great War, he served as a squadron commander with the Life Guards Cossacks then, by the winter of 1916, had risen to become the temporary colonel commander of the regiment. Following the March Revolution, in June 1917 he was appointed commander of the 1st Argun Cavalry Regiment, a famed irregular unit of wild Siberians that also counted Baron Ungern-Sternberg and Prince Bermondt-Avalov as former members. After Brest Litovsk, Voiloshnikov returned home to the Transbaikal and threw in his lot with Kolchak, rising to the rank of major general in command of assorted Cossack and cavalry units. Arrested in Irkutsk in March 1920, he was taken to Moscow and sentenced to 10 years in the gulag then exiled to Siberia. Apparently, after a spell with the White exiles in Manchuria in the 1930s, he returned to the Irkutsk region and worked as a draftsman until he was arrested in 1938 and shot under the purges. He was rehabilitated by the decision of the Military Tribunal of the Voronezh Military District on September 20, 1957
Artillery General Vladimir Aleksandrovich Irman (Irmanov). Born in 1852 near Kiev, he graduated from the Moscow Military Gymnasium and then served as an ensign in the 134th Feodosia Infantry Regiment before joining the 34th Artillery Brigade in 1872. After service against the Turks in 1877-78, then in the Boxer Rebellion, he was commander of the 4th East Siberian Artillery Brigade at Port Arthur (earning three St. George Crosses in personal actions) where he advocated fighting to the last man rather than surrender. While a subsequent POW in Japan, he was one of the few officers to attempt escape. By 1912, as a Lt. General, he was commander of the 3rd Caucasian Army Corps and served with distinction in the Great War against the Austrians on the Carpathian Front and formed Shkuro’s partisan unit. Falling out with the new Revolutionary government, he was cashiered to a desk job in the Caucus by June 1917. Well into his 60s, he joined Deniken’s White Army and led first the 1st Caucasian Cossack division then the 3rd Kuban Corps. During the evacuation to Gallipoli in November 1920, the 68-year-old general elected to remain on deck huddled in his cloak in 12-degree weather while other, much younger generals in their 30s, accepted warm cabins below. Settling in Yugoslavia in exile, he was active in assorted Monarchist and White organizations and died in 1931 of a stroke. Buried in Novi Sad on the banks of the Danube, his grave was later desecrated after 1944 when the Soviets entered the city.
I say men repeatedly, but there were also some fierce White Russian military women in exile as well.
Valentina Zimina (1-1-1899 / 12-3-1928) Was a silent screen actress, Russian-born, the daughter of a Moscow stage actress, Zimina served with the famed Women’s Battalion of Death (of 10 Days in October Winter Palace fame) during the Great War. She was in a Siberian prison, from which she escaped and made it across Asia and onto Hollywood. The rest of her family was killed in the Russian Civil War. In the photo, 1927 is an uncredited Valentina Zimina, and James Kirkwood, for the Fox Picture Gerald Cranston’s Lady.
These organizations were officer-heavy, as many of the rank and file of the White volunteer armies were either professional military officers under the Tsar, or were officer cadets at one of more than 100 military schools spread across the country. These officers in exile tended to band together.
For a generation in the 1920s and 30s, ROVs formed an exile Army in waiting and held large training camps and schools in which battalion and even regimental-size units participated. The old generals had troops to salute. The young children born overseas who had never seen Russia were given an idealized account of life in the good old days under the father Tsar.
The swashbuckling Gen. Vasily Iosifovich Romeyko-Gurko speaking in exile in Bulgaria, 1923, hard-earned orders of Sts. George, Vladimir, Anna, and Stanislaus on his chest. Born to a noble family in 1864, he graduated from the General Staff Academy in 1892 and rode with the Boers against the British then served as attache to Berlin. Commanding a Cossack brigade in the Russo-Japanese War, he then later served as the chairman of the commission to learn lessons from Russia’s shellacking in that conflict. Commanding the famed 1st Cavalry Division under Rennenkampf, his troopers were the first to raid over the Prussian frontier in August 1914. He later rose to command the Sixth Army Corps, then the 5th Army, and ultimately replaced the ailing Mikhail Alexeev in late 1916 as overall chief of staff at Stavka. Thrown into prison after the March revolution, he was released and skipped the country for the West. While he turned down command with the White Volunteer armies during the Civil War, Gurko was a force in the ROVS throughout the 1920s and 30s, as witnessed by the above image. He died in Italy in 1937 and is buried in Rome.
Some 70,000 White Russians settled in Yugoslavia in the early 1920s, with as many as 30,000– almost half– going on to serve in the Yugoslav military or police in one form or another, forming a backbone in the young country’s armed forces. Wrangel had his headquarters there and Russian general Vasily Logvinov became a celebrated figure.
Russian cadets under the portrait of Tsar Nicholas II in Cetinje-Montenegro.
Lt. Gen. Alexander Ilyich Dutov. Born in 1879 in what is now Kazakhstan, he graduated from a string of military academies in St. Petersburg on scholarship and by the Great War was a captain in the 1st Orenburg Cossack Regiment, later rising to colonel. Headed back home after the Revolution, he was named ataman of the Orenburg Cossack Army in Sept. 1917, just before the Bolsheviks took over. By November, he was one of the first counterrevolutionaries and, later allied with Kolchak and the Czechs, was part of the push to clear Siberia and the Urals of the Reds, ultimately leading a mounted force of some 6,000 horsemen. Falling back in defeat during the collapse of Manchuria in May 1920 with 2,000 stragglers including many old men, women, and children, he still posed a threat to Moscow, and in February 1921 he was assassinated by a Cheka agent. Buried in a catholic cemetery, his grave was later desecrated and his body decapitated, his head rumored to have been spirited back to Russia. He would not be the last White General to meet his end in a targeted hit while in exile. However, today in Russia he is venerated.
Gen. Nikolay Nikolaevich Baratov. Born in 1865, Baratov was a Terek Cossack officer who earned his place as a Sotnik (ensign) in 1886 after graduation from the Konstantinovskoe Artillery School and the Saint Petersburg Military Engineering-Technical University. By 1901 he was the colonel of the 1st Sunzhen-Vladikavkaz Cossack Regiment after graduation from the Nikolaev General Staff Academy. Baratov had skill in command of his horsemen, earning a Gold Sword of the Order of St. Anne during the Russo-Japanese War while leading a brigade-sized unit. Immediately after, he commanded the Consolidated Cavalry Corps as a major general. During the Great War, he commanded the 1st Caucasus Cossack Corps on the Caucasus Front and was head of the push into Persia as a full General of Cavalry. Insulated against the disintegration of the old Imperial Army in 1917 due to their isolation in their fight against the Turks, Baratov remained in the field allied with the French and British then cast his lot with the Whites in the Caucus. Losing a leg in a Red bombing in Tiflis in 1919. Following the defeat in 1920, he lived in exile in France and was involved in ROVs. Passing in 1932 at age 67 he is buried at the Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois in Paris.
Gen. Vladimir Nikolaevich Gorbatovsky. Born in 1851, by 1870 he was a second lieutenant in the 5th Kiev Grenadier Regiment. Decorated as a captain and company commander in the Russo-Turkish War in 1877, he would rise to be the colonel commander of the 44th Kamchatka Infantry Rgt by 1899 and would serve in Manchuria during the Boxer Rebellion. When the Japanese besieged Port Arthur, he was a brigade commander in the 7th East Siberian Rifle Division and, unlike the base’s overall commandant, distinguished himself during the long siege, earning the St. George post-war for “excellent courage and bravery shown” By 1909, he was commander of the 3rd Grenadier Division and opened the Great War as a Lt. Gen. in charge of the XIX Army Corps against the Austrians in Galicia. A competent general who displayed a knack for smashing Austrian lines and escaping German encirclements with the bulk of his troops, he went on to lead the 13th Army in 1915 and the 28-division strong oversized 10th Army in 1916. Cashiered in April 1917 after the Tsar’s abdication, the 66-year-old cooled his heels in Finland then threw in with Yudenich during the Civil War and remained in Estonia after the collapse of that White Army. He died in exile there in 1924, aged 73.
Col. Christopher (Krish-Indrik) Genrikhovich Kücke Krišs Ķūķis. A Lutheran and ethnic Estonian born in 1874 in the Courland province, he graduated from the Odessa infantry cadet school and accepted a spot as an ensign in the 37th Yekaterinburg Infantry Regiment in 1900. Earning a St. Anne as a subaltern with the 10th Omsk Siberian Infantry Regiment during the Russo-Japanese War, by August 1914 he picked up a St. George while leading the machine gun company of the 39th Tomsk Infantry Rgt near Loshchev, which was pinned on him by the Tsar himself. Captured while leading a battalion at Lake Naroch in April 1916, he escaped the Revolution by being a guest of the Kaiser at the Helmstedt stalag then, in early 1919, was released through the offices of the British Red Cross and made his way to join Yudenich’s White Army in the Baltics that summer as a company commander. After Yudenich melted away, Genrikhovich would join the Estonian Army (he is seen in a British-supplied Estonian uniform in the center) and held a variety of positions through the late 1920s when he retired. Active in both Estonian and exile politics and a supporter of the assorted “Forest Brothers” groups during the Soviet occupation, he was eventually liquidated by Red Partisans in February 1945.
Most of all, the exiles maintained some sort of legitimate military cohesion. In 1934 its rolls held some 300,000 members around the globe.
White Russian Anti-Communist Poster, around 1932. Such propaganda was both smuggled into Russia and used as fund-raisers in White communities
From the same 1932 series. Note the imagery of former Tsarist-era officers leading a new generation of cadets back to the Motherland under the 1917 flag
Indeed, in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, a nearly division-sized force of Whites patrolled the borders of that country looking for smugglers. The 1st Cavalry Regiment of the French Foreign Legion (1er REC), a unit that still survives today, was formed in Northern Africa in the 1920s by former Cossacks and guards cavalry of the Tsar.
Colonel Georgy Georgievich Raukh. Born in 1895, the son of Lt. Gen. Georgy Otonovich von Rauch and Princess Golitsyna, he hailed from a family of Baltic nobility. After graduating from the Corps of Pages and the Nicholas Cavalry School, he was a cornet in the Cavalier Guards Regiment when the Great War started. Rising to the rank of staff captain in 1915 after he was decorated on the Polish front, like so many other young cavalrymen of the era he took an interest in aircraft and soon became a pilot. Cashiered after the Revolution but paroled after a brief stint in Kronstadt, he fell in with the Whites under Denikin and, by 1920, was a 25-year-old colonel commanding the Consolidated Guards Cavalry Regiment, made up of former horsemen who had once been in the Imperial Guards. Thrice wounded during the Civil War, he made it to the West and spent most of the 1920s and 1930s employed as a Russian translator with the French Ministry of Foreign Trade. A ROVS member, he also published the Russian exile magazine Военная Быль (Military Story). He passed in Paris in 1971, aged 76.
Lt. Gen. Borys Rostyslavovich Khreshchatytskyi (also seen as Boris Hreschatitsky in the West) was born in 1881 in the village of Novomykolaivska in the Don, in 1900, he graduated from the Oleksandrovsky Cadet Corps and the Page Corps then went on to fight in the Russo-Japanese War with the Life Guard Cossacks Regiment. When the Great War started, he was a colonel in command of the 52nd Don Cossack Regiment, a mobilized reserve unit. Earning the St. George cross during the Great Retreats in the summer of 1915, by 1916 he was a brigadier general in the 1st Don Divison. Between the Kornilov affair and the Bolshevik Revolution in Sept. 1917, he was made commander of the newly-forming Ussuri Cossack Division and sent to the Far East, arriving in Harbin soon after where he also wore the cap of the chief of staff of Russian troops guarding the China-Eastern Railway. Now if a Don Cossack officer recruiting in outer Manchuria sounds odd, keep in mind he was sent to the “Zelényy Klyn” or “Green Wedge” so-named because it was chiefly populated from among the 300,000 Ukrainian peasants shipped to the region in the late 19th Century to displace Manchurians with the Tsar’s blessing in return for land allotments. Once the Whites were on the move in Siberia in the summer of 1918 and Allied Interventionists were landing at Vladivostok, Khreshchatytskyi created the Army of the Green Wedge (also seen as the Far Eastern Ukrainian Army) with his Ussuri Cossack Division at its center. Fighting under a Ukrainian flag, they were part of Semenov’s overall command and were in turn well-equipped by the Japanese. With the general defeat of Kolchak’s and then Semenov’s forces in late 1920, Khreshchatytskyi’s regiments were disbanded and slipped back to Harbin where they enjoyed a decent exile. Emigrating to France in 1924, he was one of the founding officers of the 1er Régiment Étranger de Cavalerie (1er REC) earning the Legion of Honor for fighting in Syria and North Africa and becoming a full French citizen in 1933, in turn working in a shadowy function for colonial authorities. Returning to the French colors in 1939 to form White Russian units to fight the Bosche, he passed away at age 59 while on service in Tunisia in 1940 and is buried there at Sousse on the shores of the Mediterranean. He is seen as a Ukrainian hero in that country to this day.
Lt. Gen. Ataman Afrikan Petrovich Bogaewsky. Born in 1873 in a Don Cossack stanitsa near Rostov to a hereditary noble family, he graduated from the Don Yunkers school in 1890, then the Nikolaev Cavalry School in Petersburg two years later, joining the Atamansky Guards Cossack regiment as a cornet in 1892. After service in the Boxer Rebellion, the Russo-Japanese War, and the punitive expeditions of the 1905-06 revolution, he was a colonel by 1908, serving as chief of staff on the 2nd Guards Cavalry Division. Earning a St. George Cross commanding the 4th Mariupol Hussar Regiment against the Austrians in 1914, he finished the Great War as a major general in charge of the 1st Trans-Baikal Cossack Division. Escaping execution in December 1917 (his brother, Mitrofan Petrovich, was not so lucky), he took command of anti-Bolshevik Cossacks near Rostov and, in Feb. 1919, was elected ataman of the All-Great Don Army, ousting Pytor Kransov. Leaving Russia in November 1920 with Wrangel, he helped form and lead the exiled All-Cossack Union in the West and was seen as “the last ataman elected on the Don land.” He died in Paris of a somewhat mysterious heart attack in 1934 and is buried in the Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois Russian Cemetery.
Col. Andrey Valeryanovich Kvitka (Kvitko). Born in Kharkov in 1849, this swashbuckling eye-patched officer came from Cossack nobility and earned a spot at the elite Corps de Pages, serving as a cornet with the Life Guards by 1868. Fighting as a major with the 29th Don Cossack Regiment in the Turkish War in 1877, where he was decorated, he then took part in Gen. Skobelev’s camel-borne Akhal-Teke expedition against the Tekin tribes in Turkmenistan in 1880, which included the siege and storming of the vast citadel at Geoktepe, a bit of Russian campaigning every bit as colonial as that of the time waged by the British across Central Asia and India. Retired in 1885, he moved abroad and spent most of the next 20 years writing, making wine, and advocating early automobiles in France. When war came again in 1904, he returned to active service as a 55-year-old colonel of the 2nd Nerchinsk Cossack Regiment, serving in Manchuria. Released from service in 1907, he penned no less than four popular (though romanticized) books about his time with the Cossacks while building a Western European-style castle/dacha of gray stone in Sochi for his Italian wife. Too old (68) to serve in a line unit in the Great War, he nonetheless helped with training and organizing Cossack units and hospital trains, then fled to the West after the Revolution and Civil War. He died in Rome in 1923 and his dacha, still around after stints as a Cheka headquarters, sanitorium, military hospital during WWII, and health resort, has taken on a life of its own.
Nikolay Nikolaevich Turoverov was a Don Cossack officer during the Great War assigned to the Ataman Life Guards regiment. He led a partisan detachment under Colonel V. Chernetsov in the South during the Civil War before the evacuation of the Russian army of Wrangel from Crimea. Settling first in Serbia and then in France, he later joined the 1st Cavalry Regiment (1er Régiment Étranger de Cavalerie) of the Foreign Legion and fought in North Africa then, in 1940, after the unit he was assigned to (97e GRDI) laid down its arms, he went to ground and fought with the Resistance until 1944 then rejoined the Army proper for the push on Germany. He died in 1972 and is buried at the Russian cemetery in Sainte-Genevieve-des-Bois near the graves of fellow soldiers of the Ataman regiment. The Russian government in 1992 moved to add some of Turoverov’s selected works to the Collection of Russian Poets of the Silver Age and he now has several markers in the Motherland.
The Exodus Monument was opened on October 12, 1985, in memory of those killed in the Civil War in Novorossiysk. The composition consists of a figure of a White officer with his warhorse. The famous character of Vladimir Vysotsky of the disillusioned White Guard officer Brusentsov from the 1968 film “Two Comrades Were Serving” served as a prototype.
Turoverov’s poem on the last White Cossack horses in November 1920:
We left the Crimea
Between the smoke and fire;
I’m out of the feed all the time
Shot a horse in his head.
And he floated, exhausted,
Behind the high feed,
I don’t believe everything, without knowing everything,
What’s going on with me.
How many times one grave
We waited for a fight.
The horse all floated, losing its strength,
Believing in my loyalty.
My dayman shot not past –
The water turned a little red…
Leaving the Crimea coast
I have remembered forever.
Active the West
These veteran groups also formed underground units to send sabotage and intelligence-gathering teams into the Soviet Union. Under the auspices of such names as the Brotherhood of Russian Truth and the Fighting Organization General Kutepov, (which in Cyrillic has the unenviable abbreviation BORK), they gave the Reds a series of bloody noses.
This got the attention of the Soviets and the OGPU/NKVD soon started rubbing out influential White Russian officers in the West, including Gen. Kutepov himself. Kutepov’s replacement, Lt. Gen. EK Miller, was likewise liquidated.
Kutepov, inherited the White Russian volunteer Army in exile after Wrangel passed in 1928.
Headquarters of the I Army Corps of Generals from Infantry A.P. Kutepov, 1920. Born in 1882 in the far Northern part of the country near Archangel, he graduated from a yunker school in St. Petersburg, fought in the Russo-Japanese War in the 85th Vyborg Infantry Regiment, and by the Great War was a company commander in the famed Preobrazhensky Life Guards, a regiment formed by Peter the Great himself. The last commander of the unit, he joined the White Guard in its infancy in Ukraine in early 1918 and by the next year was a Lt. Gen. in charge of a corps in Denikin’s army. Escaping to Bulgaria and later settling in Serbia after Wrangel was chased out of the South, he became the commander of ROVs after the Baron’s death in 1928. Less than two years later, he was kidnapped in Paris by agents of the Bolsheviks and reportedly buried in an unmarked grave in the French countryside. Maj. Gen. Nikolai Skoblin, sitting to Kutepov’s right, has historically been blamed for selling him out. A memorial to Kutepov is at the Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois Russian Cemetery in Paris.
Lt. Gen. Evgeniy-Lyudvig Karlovich Miller. The White General with the English name. Of Baltic extraction, Miller was born in 1867 in what is now Latvia. After service with the Imperial Guard, the multilingual and socially graceful officer spent a decade as a military attaché in assorted European capitals. By the Great War, he proved a decent field commander, rising to lead the 26th Infantry Corps in the field. Managing to remove himself from Petrograd during the Revolution, he was in Archangel at just the right time and, mixing with the Allied Interventionists, stood up the White government in Northern Russia until it collapsed after the Allied withdrawal in early 1920. In exile, Miller served as the first chief of staff to Baron Wrangel and was assistant to the chief of the ROVs. He later moved up in the organization as Wrangel and others passed. Following the kidnapping and killing of Kutepov, Miller was the de facto head of ROVS in Western Europe in the late 1930s. Smelling a rat when going to a Sept. 1937 meeting with Maj. Gen. Nikolai Skoblin, who was in fact in the pay of Soviet intelligence, Miller left a note pointing to Skoblin’s way should he disappear. Kidnapped and spirited out of France in a trunk, he spent the next two years undergoing torture at Lubyanka. Then, in May 1939, Miller was burned alive by Blokhin – Stalin’s favorite executioner– in the ovens of the crematorium located at the Church of Seraphim of Sarov.
General M.N. Grabbe with the Cossacks in Billancourt (France), 1932. Grabbe was the last commander of the Tsar’s bodyguards.
Col. Prince Anatol Leonid von Lieven. Born to a family of well-connected Baltic German nobility in 1872, the young Prince Lieven graduated from law school in St. Petersburg and then joined the Chevalier (Cuirassier) Guard Regiment– the most upper crest unit in the Army– as a volunteer student officer in 1896. Passing into the reserve list in 1898 to rejoin his business and political concerns, he returned to his regiment in 1914 as a 32-year-old cornet (junior lieutenant). Earning St. George in tough fighting near the village of Yakyany in August 1915 in which his troop broke a German position, he would rise to the rank of captain by 1916. Cashiered after the Revolution and later arrested in February 1918 by the Reds, he was sent to Ekaterinburg in the Urals for safekeeping- the same city as the Tsar’s exile and execution. However, he and 161 other Germanic hostages were paroled in conjunction with the Brest-Litovsk treaty in March and Prince Lieven soon was riding as an officer of the German-allied anti-Red Baltische Landeswehr under German Maj. Gen. Rüdiger von der Goltz. Post-war, in January 1919, Lieven raised a Friekorps-style unit of his own, the Libau Volunteer Rifle Detachment, and his “Līvenieši” soon helped drive the Reds out of Riga that summer in conjunction with British forces (earning a British Military Cross in the process). Folding his regiment in with Yudenich’s Northwest White Army and leading a 4,000-man force for the failed attempt on Petrograd in late 1919, he withdrew his band back to Latvia and laid down his arms following the collapse of that offensive. He spent the interwar period as head of a brickmaking work, wrote a book about his service under several flags, and was Brother No. 1 in the Latvian Brotherhood of Russian Truth, a monarchist White Russian exile group formed by Duke George of Leuchtenberg, the former colonel of the Chevalier Guards. Prince Lieven died in Latvia in 1937, aged 64.
Other Russian officers became soldiers of fortune. They appeared in Mexico during the government oppression of the Cristeros and as well as in the Chaco Wars in Latin America in the 1930s where Maj-Generals NF Erna and IT Belyaev helped keep the Paraguayans in the fight against, ironically, German-led Bolivians.
Ivan Timofeyevich Belyaev was an artillerist and cartographer by trade, graduating from the Mikhailovsky Artillery School in 1893. Starting the Great War as a light colonel, and by the time of the Revolution he was a major general on the injured list. After serving on Wrangel’s staff with the White Guard in Ukraine, he ended up in Latin America by 1923 and, by 1925 under the name Juan Belyaev, had been appointed an officer in the Paraguayan Army. In a short time, he had at least a dozen fellow White Russian exiles on the staff and was teaching at the country’s military academy. He mapped the controversial Gran Chaco region throughout 13 expeditions, which played a big part in the Chaco War. After he passed in 1957, with a general’s rank in the Paraguayan military, he was seen as a messiah figure for the Maká tribe as he was an activist for the rights and education of Paraguayan Indians, and was interred in a mausoleum on their land.
Whites, in a unit some 75 members strong led by Maj. Gen. Nikolai Shinkarenko Brusilov, then showed up in the Spanish Civil War carrying the torch for Franco, with some 34 émigrés, including former Maj. Gen Anatole Fock was killed in action.
White Russian volunteers in the Spanish Civil War wearing requeté uniforms, Russian medals, and insignia
Many a Chinese warlord of the period owed their military might to the assistance of a former Tsarist commander.
White Russian Maj. Gen. Viktorin Mikhailovich Molchanov, seen second row, second from right, with his staff (one of which wears a Great War pickelhaube trophy) and a Japanese liaison officer, in the Vladivostok area 1921-22. Born in 1886, he joined the Tsarist Army in 1906 as a sapper officer, rising to colonel by 1916. He was a division commander in Kolchak’s army until that fell apart, covering the rearguard for Kappel during the Ice Campaign, then led, with Dietrichs, the rump of the Siberian Volunteer Army from Vladivostok until 1922 when the Japanese left and the pocket collapsed. Evacuating with Admiral Stark’s White Russian Pacific Squadron, after a stint in Manchuria, he eventually wound up in America. He died in San Francisco in 1975, aged 88.
Lieutenant General Urzhin Garmaev of the Manchukuo Imperial Army, was formerly a junior officer of the Imperial Russian Army. One of Semenov’s Cossack commanders, Garmaev beat feet to Manchuria and was soon recruiting Buryat-Mongolian anti-Communist troops to patrol the border on behalf of the Japanese-backed government. Involved in both the Battle of Khalkhyn Temple in 1935 and the Battle of Khalkhin Gol in 1939, he commanded the 10th District of the Manchukuo Imperial Army until he took the position of the head of the puppet state’s military academy. Captured by Red Army troops in Sept. 1945, he was sent to Moscow for trial and f executed by firing squad on 13 March 1947
White Russian paramilitary formation attached to the Far Eastern Academy in the city of Tianjin late 1930s Photo via Kyoto University. Note the Japanese-supplied Arisakas
Russian soldiers of the Imperial Manchukuo Army`s Asano Detachment, organized for sabotage against Soviet forces along the Manchurian Border. In all, some 4,000 White Russians served in this Japanese-equipped unit through 1945
Early M1927 type Zlatoust-marked Soviet “Red Cossack” sword-shashka with companion dragoon-style bayonet scabbard. The blade is dated 1929 while the hilt is dated 1931. This sword was recovered in China in 1945 along with other curious items by a U.S. soldier with Merrill’s Mauraders and likely came across the Soviet border in the hands of a defector or was captured in Manchu-White Russian-Japanese skirmishes along said border in the 1930s. The shashka is currently in the collection of the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum. (Photo: Chris Eger)
White Russian Cossacks at the Russian Ball in Shanghai, the 1930s
Col. Fedor Ivanovich Eliseev. Born in 1892 in the Kuban region, he volunteered for the 1st Koshevoi Ataman Chepega’s Yekaterinodar Regiment of the 3rd Caucasian Cossack Division in 1910 then was picked for officers (junkers) training and, by 1914, was a cornet (ensign) with the 1st Catherine’s Viceroy General-Field Marshal Prince Potemkin’s Caucasian Regiment of the Kuban Cossack Host. Rising to the rank of captain, he was sent to join the Tsar’s own Konvoy Cossacks in 1917 then, post-Revolution sent back to the front. Casting his lot with the Whites, he would eventually rise to the rank of colonel and inherit command of the battered 2nd Kuban Cossack division in 1920. Escaping to France after the endgame, he formed a Cossack circus group performing the traditional Kuban dzhigitovka horse gymnastics. He toured the globe throughout the 1930s, ranging as far as Singapore and Shanghai. In the Far East when WWII began, he enlisted in the French Foreign Legion in Indochina in 1939, eventually fighting the Japanese there and earning the Croix de Guerre before the war was over. Returning to private life, he reformed his circus and toured Europe as late as 1948. Eliseev then settled in New York and died there in 1987, aged 95.
Eliseev’s group in a grainy 1930s film:
Maj. Gen. Georgy Petrovich Tatonov. Born in 1884, he graduated from the Mikhailovsky Voronezh Cadet Corps (1902) and the Nikolaev Cavalry School (1904), then served in the Russo-Japanese War as a cornet in the 1st Sunzha-Vladikavkaz regiment (Terek Cossacks). On the staff of the 13th Cavalry Division at the start of the Great War, he ended the conflict as the head of the Wild Division, made up of Caucasian volunteers (Ossetian, Dagestani, Chechnyan) and formerly led by the Tsar’s brother, the Grand Duke Michael. Casting his lot with the Whites in the Terek and later Kuban regions during the Civil War, Tatonov rose to command the Terek-Astrakhan brigade by 1920 and later was chief of staff of the 3rd Kuban Corps under Wrangel. Exiled to Yugoslavia and then France, where he was active in ROVs, Ossetian independence organizations, and Cossack groups, he opened up a paper company, was reportedly active in the Resistance underground against the Germans, and died in Paris in 1970. He is buried in the cemetery of Sainte-Genevieve-des-Bois.
Col. Vsevolod Petrovich Aglaimov. Born in Kherson in 1892 to a noble family, he graduated from the Nicolas Cavalry School in St. Petersburg in 1911 and joined the historic 12th Akhtyrsky Hussar Regiment (the Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrova was the honorary colonel) as a cornet. During the Great War, the young hussar rose to command a squadron and was decorated. Cashiered in 1917, he joined the White Volunteer Army in the South and rose to command a scratch regiment, personally leading a charge near the village of Tokmachka in July 1920 that captured a four-gun Red battery. In exile in Yugoslavia, he led a group of former officers of the Akhtyrsky Hussars, 12th Belgorod Lancers, and 11th Izyumsky Hussars in service to the local government around Belgrade then later emigrated to France and the U.S., where he was active in Russian officers associations and worked as a civilian cartographer in the American army during WWII. He died in Washington in 1965
Wladimir Vassilevitch Petropavlovsky was born on 29 June 1897 in Russia and, a young artillery officer in the Great War, cast his lot early with the White Volunteer Army and commanded Romanian troops in the anti-Bolshevik Intervention, then settled in France after the Civil War and apparently served in the Foreign Legion as an officer for a term, fighting the Riff in Morocco. Known as “Petro” to his friends which included American writer Emily Hahn, he bumped around China and the Far East for over a decade and, in 1940, joined the 2/19th Punjabis in Hong Kong as a 42-year-old lieutenant but was soon seconded into the SOE as he was fluent in French, Arabic, Russian, English, Chinese, and a smattering of assorted Yugoslavian tongues. Writing as W. Petro, he is best known for his swashbuckling 1968 memoir “Triple Commission.” Buried in New York, he is listed on one memorial as a “Soldier of the Tsar, of France, and of England.”
Baron Alexei Pavlovich von Budberg. Born in 1869 to a family of Baltic German nobles long in the service of the Tsar, he graduated from the Orlovsky Bakhtin Cadet Corps then the Mikhailovsky Artillery School, and in 1889 received a posting in the elite Guards Grenadier Artillery Brigade. Service in the exotic Russian Far East with Siberian units– which included seeing combat in the Boxer Rebellion– led to his command of the mighty fortifications around Vladivostok by 1905, the most strategically key base for the country on the Pacific following the loss of Port Arthur. Quartermaster General of the Vladivostok-based 10th Army in 1914, he was soon sent to Europe for the first time in almost two decades and rose to Lt. General by 1916 and at the time of the March, Revolution was head of the XIV Army Corps of the 5th Army, one of the few combat-ready units still on the Northern Front. Seeing the writing on the wall, he left his post by October for a position back “home” in the Far East and by early 1919 was Chief Supply Officer of the White’s Siberian Army then became the Minister of War of the Kolchak government while simultaneously commanding the Vladivostok fortress (again.) Leaving for Manchuria once the Whites collapsed, he then emigrated to France and finally to the U.S. where he passed in 1945 in San Francisco. In exile, he wrote extensively and was a figure in the Society of Russian Veterans of the Great War and ROVS.
A smaller unit of Whites, operating under the protection of the British, passed on to Japanese control in 1939 and only vanished when the Soviets appeared at the end of the war. The foreign legation in Shanghai was patrolled by a White Russian regiment employed by the Shanghai police until 1942.
The White Russian Regiment of the Shanghai Volunteer Corps, 1930s. Note the British kit. When the Brits withdrew from China in 1940, these Whites were left to befriend the Japanese the next year.
In 1934, one infamous Boris Skossyreff, a self-styled former White Russian officer, once an adviser to the Japanese Army and full-time con man seized power in the tiny nation of Andorra (pop 20,000), calling himself “Boris I, Prince of the Valleys of Andorra, Count of Orange and Baron of Skossyreff, sovereign of Andorra and defender of the faith.” Spain, it would seem, who is jointly in charge along with France of Andorra’s defense in times of war, two weeks later sent a group of military police into the country to politely show Boris I the fastest way over the Pyrenees. This did not stop him from serving later in the German Army in World War II.
The commander of Wrangel’s 2nd Army Corps in South Russia, Lt. Gen. Yakov Aleksandrovich Slashchov (third from right) with his chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Georgy Alexandrovich Dubyago (fourth from right), April-May 1920. Slashchov, born in 1886, graduated from the Pavlovsk Military Academy in 1903 and served in the Finland Regiment of the Imperial Guard where he was wounded five times during the Great War, earning multiple St. George Crosses. The colonel in command of the Moscow Regiment of the Imperial Guards in the summer of 1917, by the end of the year he had joined Kornilov and Alexev in the South where he fought with Shukuro’s partisan command and eventually became head of a Corps, famed for the defense of the Perekop Isthmus. Exiled in 1920, he negotiated a return to Bolshevik Russia in the 1920s and even appealed to Moscow for others to do the same. He was assassinated there in 1929. Dubyago, born in 1884, graduated from the Nikolaev Engineering School in 1904 and by December 1916 was a colonel in the Tsarist Army. After serving as a general with the Whites, he evacuated Crimea in November 1920 and settled in New York, passing there in 1954.
Maj. Gen. Vladimir Nikolaevich von Dreyer in his Tsarist uniform. The son of Baltic German nobles with a 200-year history of service to the Romanovs, he was trained as an artillery officer and then lectured on the subject at the Vilnius Military Academy before the war. A scholarly man, he served as a military correspondent in the Italian-Turkish war in 1911 and then, from 1912 to 1913, in the Balkan Wars. During WWI, while a colonel, he assumed command of the encircled 20th Army Corps in February 1915 and led a breakout. He went on to command the 275th Khotyn Infantry Regiment (69th Inf Division) then the 8th Zaamurskii Frontier Border Regiment, and by 1917 was commander of the 7th Cavalry Division until he was cashiered with the Revolution. Rumored to have been a secret force behind the uprising against the Bolsheviks in Moscow in 1918, when he appeared in the South and offered his services to Denikin he was turned down. Ultimately living in exile in the U.S. and France, he went on to write no less than four times of military history. Passing away in 1967 at age 90, he is buried among other high-ranking White Russians in their Russian cemetery in Saint-Genev de Bouis in Paris.
The dashing Alexander Mikhailovich Ionov– son of the famed “Great Game” explorer who interacted with Francis Younghusband, triggering the so-called Wakhan Corridor that still exists today— was a colonel under the Tsar, commanding the 2nd Semirechensky Cossack Regiment during the Great War. Bringing his boys home, he was elected the last Ataman of the Semirechenskies and was made a general in the White Guard, commander of a separate Semirechensky Cossack army. After Kolchak collapsed in Siberia, he evacuated from Vladivostok through China and New Zealand, then to Canada, and finally to the U.S. where he headed the North American branch of ROVS during WWII and was a celebrated figure among cosmopolitan White Russian exiles on the East Coast. There, on July 18, 1950, he died in New York, aged 70.
3rd Cavalry Corps of Andrei Grigorievich Shkuro. Sakura would escape to the West after the Civil War, then reemerge in WWII to join the Germans’ recruiting efforts for the anti-Bolshevik SS Cossack divisions. More on that is below.
Generals N.N. Yudenich and A.P. Rodzianko at the headquarters of the 1st Rifle Corps of the North-Western Army. Perhaps the White Russian general that came closest to success, Yudenich, who had commanded the Turkish front in the Great War, made it to the outskirts of Petrograd/St. Petersburg in 1919 only to falter at the last minute. He died in exile in France in 1928. Rodzianko, meanwhile, would travel to Ireland and coach the Irish Army’s cavalry to worldwide equestrian acclaim.
Lt. Gen. Grigory Mikhaylovich Semyonov (mustache and hat, front) with staff officers, 1920. Note the Japanese advisors. Born in the Transbaikal region of eastern Siberia in 1890, he enlisted in 1908 and was a Cossack captain during the Great War, tasked by the Kerensky government with the later notorious Baron Ungern-Sternburg, first to raise a regiment of Assyrian Christians in the Caucus to fight the Turks, then to the Baikal region to form a regiment of Buryat volunteers. When Kerensky was swept from power, Semyonov and company took their act on the road and became warlords in Siberia, ruling an enclave around Chita and Lake Baikal that existed with Japanese blessing into 1920, when he was forced to withdraw to Manchuria. After 25 years of machinations with the exiled Whites and Japanese in the puppet Manchukuo, he was captured by the Soviets in 1945 with the destruction of the Kwangtung Army and sent back to Russia, where he was executed in 1946.
Semyonov (upturned mustache) with the Cossacks of the Special Manchurian Detachment, 1918
Maj. Gen. Pavel Pavlovich Gudim-Levkovich. The son of decorated Gen. Pavel Konstantinovich Gudim-Levkovich, an artillery specialist who served at the siege of Plevna against the Turks in 1877 and went on to teach art at the Nikolaev Academy, it should be no surprise that Pavel Pavlovich would become cannon cocker. Born in 1873, after passing through the Cops of Pages– where he served directly as one of Tsar Alexander III’s pages– by 1892 he became a lieutenant in the Guards Cavalry Artillery Brigade. After earning multiple St. Anne’s, St. Vladimir, and St. Stanislaus medals on service in the Russo-Japanese War, in which he was severely wounded during the Battle of Mukden and sent to seek specialist treatment in France– where he met and married his English wife, Evelyn Green, a cousin of Winston Churchill– the junior Gudim-Levkovich became ADC to Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolayevich and then a military adviser/attache to Greece throughout the Balkan Wars. Following service in the Great War, in which he tried to patch together the Russian artillery branch and reached the rank of major general, he left the country in 1920 after the victory of the Reds. Settling in France, he established an informal Russian military museum there culled from artifacts and relics brought out by the White exiles including a set of military soldiers figurines once owned by Peter the Great and numerous sets of dress uniforms of the Imperial Guards– the latter items almost entirely destroyed back in Bolshevik Russia. Fearing the Germans would either seize or burn the museum, he was able to spirit the bulk of the collection from occupied France to Denmark in 1941 with the assistance of exiled spymaster Maj. Gen. Sergei Nikolaevich Pototsky– who was big in Danish officer circles there and both chairman of the Russian Officers’ Union in Copenhagen and the Red Cross Society in Denmark. While Gudim-Levkovich passed in France in 1953, aged 79, and is buried there, his relics endure in the collection of the Danish War Museum.
On Gudim-Levovich, below is an hour-long talk with Dr. Seerup, curator at the Museum of Bornholm in Denmark, who examines his military uniforms and their journeys through multiple world wars to Copenhagen. Essentially, a blend of Downton Abbey and Doctor Zhivago with a little WWII tension thrown in.
The image of a scarred White Russian officer, wandering the globe from conflict to conflict like a Ronin of Old Japan, or a Mandalorian of a galaxy far, far, away became a familiar trope between the World Wars.
Kinda like this but more vintage:
Medals issued by the White Russian forces, most were actually awarded in the 1930s for service during the Civil War
When WWII came, many of these now elderly officers dusted off their spurs and helped to form the 30,000-strong XV Cossack Cavalry Corps in the German Army (who began the war often in the uniform of the Russian Imperial Army!). Leaders, in spirit, if not in deed, included Kuban Cossack Maj-Gen. Pytor Kransov, the swashbuckling White bandit Andrei Shkuro, Sultan Kelech Ghirey, and Timofey Domanov among others. While the corps mostly fought against Yugoslav red partisans and were able to withdraw in good order to Austria at the end of the war to surrender to the British, they were handed over to the Soviets for execution and exile in Siberia.
Lt. Gen. Boris Sergeevich Permikin. Born in 1890 in the Urals, he left St. Petersburg University while still a student to volunteer with the Russian Legions fighting against the Turks in the Balkan Wars in 1912. Returning to Russia just before the Great War, he signed up as a trooper with the 9th (Bug) Lancers Regiment, a Ukrainian/Polish formation, and by January 1915 he was promoted to ensign, rising to the rank of Staff Captian by 1917 and earning the St. George Cross. Soon after the Revolution, he donned a red stripe and continued fighting under the Bolsheviks against the Germans into 1918 then, that October, brought the bulk of the Balakhovich regiment over to the Whites, rechristening his unit the Talab Battalion after the Talab Islands in Lake Pskov, where they switched sides. Fighting as part of Yudenich’s Northern Army, he was made a colonel in May 1919, and the Talabs grew to regimental size, then distinguished himself and the regiment by taking Gatchina during Yudenich’s failed attempt to seize Petrograd that fall. Retreating to Estonia and then Northern Poland, he was tasked with forming what was referred to graciously as the 3rd Russian Army from White units in exile in early 1920 with the blessing of Pilsudsky and the promotion to the rank of Lt. Gen. by Wrangel. Consisting of two infantry “divisions” (under Major General Lev Aleksandrovich Boboshko– a Great War colonel– and Lieutenant General Count Alexis Petrovich von der Pahlen– the last wartime colonel of the Life Guards Cavalry Regiment) and a Cossack “division” under Major General V. A. Trusov, along with an artillery unit and support troops, his force never numbered more than 8,000 at its strongest. Permikin’s Third Army took the field against the Reds until October 1920 when a truce between the Poles and Moscow took effect, then remained active against Red Ukrainian partisans into 1921 when it was disbanded and interned. Remaining in Poland, Permikin continued in White exile affairs until 1941 when, aged just 51, he was recruited by the Germans to help support Vlasov’s Russian Liberation Army as a major general attached to the staff and tasked with training. He retreated with the rump of the German Cossacks into Austria in 1945 and was allowed to remain there post-war, passing in Salzburg in 1971, aged 80.
Cossack Maj.-Gen. Vyacheslav Naumenko (tall) and Lt.-Gen Andrei Shkuro (short) are seen inspecting Hitler’s Cossacks during World War II. These elderly White generals did not lead troops during the war but helped with support, morale, and recruiting among captured Soviet army personnel. Naumenko survived the war, escaping to the U.S. while Shkuro was turned over by the British to the Soviets and hung in 1947. Note the decorations for the old Emperor Nicholas Military Academy on Naumenko’s lower left tunic along with the Tsarist Cross of St Ann. The medal on the upper left tunic is the Ice March award, showing a sword piercing a crown of thorns, awarded to White volunteers who survived the 1st Kuban Campaign in 1918.
This whiskered Cossack colonel is one Alexander Nikolayevich Pugovochnikov, who graduated from the Nikolaev Cavalry School in 1905. By 1917, he was a colonel who saved his regimental standard and icons from being destroyed by red-armband-wearing troopers, ending his career even before the Bolsheviks took over. Fighting with Kornilov’s Volunteer Army by early 1918 as a private by 1920 he was again commanding a horse regiment under Wrangel as a colonel. Moving to Yugoslavia after the Whites lost, he was a jockey in Belgrade before landing a job as an instructor in the country’s cavalry school, helping to prep the country’s equestrian team for the ill-fated 1940 Olympic Games. Captured by the Germans in April 1941, within a year he was a volunteer for the German-raised 600th Cossack battalion fighting partisans. Finishing the war as a colonel (for a third time) he gave the Soviets the slip and by 1949 was living in New York City, teaching horseback riding in Central Park. He died in 1968.
Alexander Vasilievich Golubintzev, born in 1882, joined the Imperial Russian army during the Russo-Japanese War in 1904 and was colonel of the 3rd Don Cavalry Regiment by the time the Russian Revolution broke out in 1917. He went on to become a Major General of the counterrevolutionary White movement in Ukraine during the Civil War, commanding the 5th Don Cavalry Division under Mamontov/Denikin. He was then exiled to Bulgaria in 1920 and later Germany, where he served as a colonel in German-allied ROA units (Vlasov’s Russian National Liberation Army) in WWII. After the war, he fled to the United States and died in Cleveland in 1963.
Don’t get the idea that the Whites just worked for the Germans or Japanese.
They also carried water for the Allies as well.
It should be noted that most professional European armies, especially countries in the east such as Poland and Greece, before 1939 contained cadres of field-grade officers who cut their teeth in the service to the Tsar.
Imperial Guards cavalry Col. Pavel Pavlovich Rodzianko– who rode for Russia in the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm– helped teach the young Windsors how to ride immediately after making it out of Siberia after the Civil War and in 1926 formed the Irish Army Equitation School. The jumping team got good in just a few years. In fact, in the 1930s they scored 20 Nations Cups wins. The school still exists today.
One former Imperial Russian naval officer, George Ermolaevich Chaplin, fled to England to exile and became a major in the British Army, even leading a group of engineers ashore at Normandy on D-Day. He later retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel as the head of the Royal Pioneers. Moreover, of course, you cannot forget exiled Georgian Prince Dimitri Zedguinidze-Amilakhvari, who died as a colonel in the French Foreign Legion during the Second Battle of El Alamein against the Germans.
Heck, even Finland’s Field Marshal Carl Mannerheim had learned his military service in the Imperial Guards– and was such a fierce monarchist, he was forced to leave Russia at the onset of the Revolution for Finland under penalty of prison.
Immediately following the war, the CIA made careful efforts to revitalize the vehemently anti-communist White officer groups by using them as a backdoor into the old country. However, this was only marginally successful as whatever contacts they had that Stalin had missed, time soon claimed.
By the 1960s, with even the youngest of these exiled, stateless officers in their seniors, the veterans’ groups became smaller and smaller. The battalion-sized gatherings were no more.
Typically, meetings would be held with only a handful of veterans from the First World War/Russian Civil War at the head, with the bulk of attendees instead being sons and grandsons of such men.
With this, the group lost its last semblance of a military force in exile and became more of a historical and genealogical association.
The final Imperial Army general in exile, Alexei von Lampe– who had served in the Russo-Japanese War, was a member of the Tsar’s General Staff at Stavka during WWI, and had led ROVs for the last ten years of his life– died in Paris in 1967 at age 81.
Old von Lampe had served as an intelligence organizer during the Russian Civil War and the Nazis thought him such a threat that they threw him in prison in Germany in the 1930s. Odds are he likely remembered where a lot of bodies were buried. Indeed, the Nazis let him go and he continued to live in Berlin until 1945 when he beat feet.
The Final Chapter
One of the last of the White Russian generals, Vladimir G. Harzhevsky, had started World War I as a reserve ensign in the 47th Infantry Regiment. Advancing through the ranks, he was a captain by the time the Tsar fell and later rose meteorically through the officer list of the Southern White Russian army under Denikin and later Wrangel, making major general in September 1920 at the age of 28.
However, just three months later, he was exiled when the shattered remnants of Wrangel’s forces were evacuated from Crimea. Bouncing around Europe for decades, he settled finally in New Jersey.
Unknown White Army Kornilovets regiment veteran in exile. Los Angeles. The mid-1970s.
White Russians at the Sunodalny Znamensky temple in the New York 1970s. Col. Fedor Ivanovich Eliseev (see above) is at the right, in Kuban Cossack colonel’s uniform
Regiment holiday of the Life Guard of the Cossack Regiment in Paris (Courbevoie) October 17, 1979. Some participants of World War I and the Civil War are still alive. Their young sons and grandchildren, who are now older people, are also present to hear of the bad old days.
Picking up the helm of ROVs on von Lampe’s death, being the senior-most officer left, Harzhevsky died in 1981 at age 89.
Major General Mikhail Georgievich Kripunov. Born in 1889, he graduated from the Donsk Cadet Corps and Nicholas Cavalry School, joining the Ataman Cossack regiment of the Imperial Guard in 1909 as a cornet. By the Great War, he was a captain in charge of a squadron and was decorated. By 1915, he had been seconded to the Tsar as an ADC. Returning to his regiment in 1916, he brought what Cossacks he could home in late 1917 as the army disintegrated and cast his lot with first Kaledin and then Kransnov’s successive Cossack armies in the Don and Kuban region. Rising to major general by 1920, he ultimately commanded the 2nd Cavalry Division under Wrangel. Post-Civil War exile led him to Greece, then Yugoslavia, and by 1924 to France. He spent WWII in Ireland before ultimately settling in Jerusalem in the 1960s. A popular figure in ROVs circles and among Cossack and Imperial Guard veterans, he died in 1983, aged 94, the last living ADC to the Tsar, the last White general from the Civil War, and the last officer of the Ataman Cossack Regiment.
Smyslovskiy as a cadet
The last of the old guard who wore the epaulets of an officer in the Tsar’s military was one Boris Smyslovskiy.
Born in 1897, Boris was a military academy cadet (junkers) in the 1st Moscow Cadet Corps (Mikhailovsky academy) when the First World War erupted. As a young Lieutenant, he was wounded in the Russian Revolution, fighting against the Reds in Moscow in October 1917. He went on to serve in the White Army under Denikin, as a captain, then a major, before his exile in Germany. Taking up with various underground groups there, he found himself working for the Abwehr (German army intelligence), helping to run agents in Poland and Ukraine.
During WWII, Smyslovskiy took a commission in the German army as a Major in the Wehrmacht and was leading a battalion of Russian troops on the Eastern Front by the end of the war.
General Smyslovskiy, in German service
In March 1945, he led some 500 Russian veterans of the German army into exile once again, crossing over into tiny but neutral Liechtenstein where he surrendered to the principality’s 33-man army. While the Soviets steadfastly petitioned the Liechtenstein government to hand over Smyslovskiy on war crimes, they did not. He then wandered to Argentina in 1947 and became an adviser to Peron’s army before returning to Liechtenstein in 1966. Smyslovskiy died there in 1988, just before the Berlin Wall came down.
The ROVs organization continued in the West for another decade, its commanders being chosen from men who were officers in White Russian units in WWII, as all of the Tsar’s few good men were gone.
The last commander of ROVS in the West was Cadet Vladimir Vishnevsky. Born in 1917 and leaving the country of his birth for the last time in 1922, he had served in the Yugoslav Royal Army before joining the German/White Russian Corps during World War Two, rising to the rank of an officer cadet in the organization. With no more regular meetings due to declining membership, Vishnevsky was informed of his new post via correspondence that Capt. Vladimir Butkov, who himself was only a year old when the Winter Palace fell, had died in New York, leaving the former cadet as the seniormost ranking officer.
Finally in 2000, after 76 years, ROVs dissolved (after Vishnevsk’s death of cancer) as even this pool of WWII veterans had dwindled. However, with the recent resurgence of Tsarist love in the new Russia, a Moscow-based version has taken its place.
In a final gesture of homecoming, the remains of General Anton Ivanovich Denikin and his wife, who were buried in the Orthodox Cossack St. Vladimir’s Cemetery in New Jersey, were repatriated to Russia in 2005.
He was buried with military honors and is now seen as something of a patriot there, bringing the saga to a full circle.
Murals of the infamous “Bloody Baron” Lt. Gen. Roman von Ungern-Sternberg have appeared in Siberia, his old stomping grounds, while other White generals are publicly venerated.
Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg mural in Novosibirsk
Rehabilitation of Gen. Pyotr Nikolaevich Krasnov, Born in 1869 to a long line of Cossack generals, by 1888 he was an officer in the Ataman Cossack regiment of the Life Guards of the Imperial Russian Army. Spending much of his early career in the Far East, he fought in the Boxer Rebellion and Russo-Japanese War, then by the Grea War had risen to the command of the 3rd Cavalry Corps. One of the first counterrevolutionaries against the Reds, he was named Ataman of the Don Cossack Host by May 1918, sheltered the fledging White Russian Volunteer Army as he threaded the needle with German occupation forces, and eventually, after falling out with Denikin, left for Germany in 1919. Later moving to France, he penned several books, helped organize underground networks back into Russia, and, after 1941, worked with the Nazis to help recruit anti-Bolshevik units for Berlin. This left him to be one of the legacy White commanders handed over to the Soviets in 1945, who stretched the elderly general’s neck two years later. He was rehabilitated in 2008 and a pundit for the Putin regime has listed Krasnov as one of the figures from Russian history, whom he believes deserves a monument
Monument to the heroes of the First Kuban Campaign of the Volunteer Army near the Museum of Anti-Bolshevik Resistance in Podolsk (sculptor K. R. Chernyavsky).
Today in modern Russia under Tsar Vladimir IV of the House of Putin, it’s become fashionable once again to be a White Russian.