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Roman Feodorovich von Ungern-Sternberg...who was this guy???

Discussions on the pre First World War era.

Postby Eddy Marz on 19 Jun 2007 11:23

Hi Balrog;
You're most welcome. I'll be back to you in a few days with the info you requested. While you wait, two more pics :

- Ungern in Daouria
- Letter from Ungern to Semenov

Regards
Eddy
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Postby Eddy Marz on 19 Jun 2007 17:53

Hi Balrog ;

I think that the Japanese Army Colonel and dozen Japanese officers episode is another propaganda myth, developed not so much to show how ‘crazy’ or uncontrollable Ungern was (which was not sufficient to indict him) but rather to reinforce the fact that he was in contact with the Japanese and therefore a ‘Japanese Agent’ or ‘Spy’ himself. There is of course no substantial evidence of this whatsoever. The claim probably finds its roots in a series of disconnected but dexterously amalgamated truths:

Ungern met Semenov in Mongolia then fought alongside him in the same regiment in 1914 (Semenov commanded the 5th Squadron, and Ungern the 6th). They became very linked, that’s true, but if their ideas can be considered similar, their characters were radically opposed. ‘Ataman’ Semenov was half Buriat (Mongolian), half Russian. It was he however who was later backed by the Japanese and, even at the time, considered their instrument because his ‘imperialistic’ views coincided with Japan’s expansionist politics much more than with Ungern’s utopian ‘Asiatic Empire’ (as a ‘rampart against Occidental corruption’). Later, Semenov also made a couple of fruitless attempts to join up with the Bolsheviks, which just goes to show the versatility of his allegiances. In February 1918, Semenov occupied Daouria, but by March the Red Army had forced him to retreat to Manchuria. By mid April he was attacking again, and re-occupied Oloviannaïa and Aksha, and finally, following the Trans-Siberian line, reached Kharbine, capital of Manchuria, at the end of May. The money necessary to all of these military advances and operations was supplied by the Japanese, the French, and even the English. Also, a large cut of Admiral Koltchak’s legendary gold-rubles bullion ended up in Semenov’s pockets, and part of it was used by him to purchase a luxurious villa in Japan. In 1919, a “Pan-Mongol Congress” took place in Tshita, in the hope of unifying the Mongols. It was presided by Prince Neisse Ghegen. Major Suzuki of Japan was also attending, and became a friend of Ungern (and there is not a single hint of him running for his life because of Ungern’s madness). Following the Koltchak bullion theft, Koltchak accused Semenov of treason. But the Japanese disliked Koltchak, and therefore financed Semenov. So when Koltchak was defeated by the Red Army, Semenov immediately became the (last) great White Russian leader to fight on Russian soil. The Japanese never financed Ungern; just Semenov. A complicated story but it is clear to see how the propaganda easily shifted the ‘Japanese question’ onto Ungern.

The rumor that Ungern’s men wore a Swastika in their emblem is also false. That was Semenov; Ungern’s emblem was a black ‘U’ on a field of yellow.

The tale about Ungern’s abnormally ‘tiny’ head is also a complete fabrication (as you can judge by the pictures). The truth is that he wasn’t very tall, but that’s it. The bit about the post autopsy ‘shrivelled brain’ is also a legend.

Cheers
Eddy
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Postby Eddy Marz on 20 Jun 2007 11:17

A few more ‘character’ precisions :

- Ungern’s ‘Religion’:

According to Ossendowski, Ungern told him that it was his father to have first introduced him to Buddhism. Once in Daouria, Ungern had wished to create a Buddhist ‘warrior-monk’ order in Transbaïkaal – by uniting religion and war in a sort of Teutonic Knights fashion. Buddhism is essentially non-violent, but there are exceptions: Zen Buddhism was encouraged by the Kamakura military cast that had taken power in Japan; as a result many Samurai had become monks. The Shaolin monks are another perfect example in China. There was therefore no apparent contradiction between war and Buddhism – or at least with its later form (although the original doctrine is quite clear in defining the ‘commerce of arms’ as a serious offence).

Ungern was ‘Buddhist’ in the sense that he believed in ‘Karma’, Divine retribution which “stands on the threshold of our lives and knows neither anger nor pardon” (ref: Ossendowski). He told Ossendowski that he was perfectly conscious of the sufferings of each individual life just as he personally was ‘devastated by sorrow, misery and hate’. One could debate that Ungern’s system of beliefs was similar to those of the ancient Mongol princes who had adopted Lamaism, a religious form closely linked to Shamanism.

But there is also a Christian taint to it. As Ossendowsky testifies, Ungern was not ‘exclusive’; he didn’t belong to a single religion. Buddhism was just an aspect of his religious universe. Ungern often quoted from the Bible, the Old Testament prophecies, and John’s Revelation. It is therefore clear that Ungern’s Protestant upbringing was just as ‘present’ as his Buddhism. Because of his very singular character, we can assume that the Baron lived in a very religious, mystical and – maybe even – ‘magical’ universe.

According to Commander Anton Alexandrowicz (polish military instructor for the Mongol artillery), who knew Ungern well: ‘Ungern was gifted with second sight which allowed him to see through people, see them as they were’.

Ossendowsky also says that just after their first meeting, ‘He remained with his head lowered and eyes closed for a few moments, occasionally rubbing his forehead, murmuring incomprehensibly. Then suddenly he looked up at me and said: “All is clear and understood. I’ve seen your soul”.

Although the wars and the epoch (awful!) must have brought on their load of horrors and bloodshed, in which Ungern, as a ‘warrior’, must have participated, he is obviously, and by no means, the ‘Dracula’ of Mongolia that the Soviets made us believe in since so many years. On the contrary, everything points to a very peculiar, ‘dreamer-warrior-monk’, invested with a gigantic 'dream-universal mission'; original, sensitive and intense (but also very violent) on which there is, unfortunately, little data, reliable or not.

Cheers
Eddy
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Postby Eddy Marz on 24 Jun 2007 11:58

Ungern’s last stand, betrayal & death :

Prior to abandoning Urga and departing for Altan Bulag and Kiaktha, Ungern had a last meeting with the ‘Khutuktu’ (the Bogdo Geghen). Ossendowsky describes the scene : “The Bogdo Geghen’s palace was packed with a crowd of Lamas, all seated or standing according to their hierarchy. Ungern and the Khutuktu first spoke to each other in a low voice. Then the Khutuktu placed his hands on the Baron’s head, blessed him and said : ‘You will not die. You will be reincarnated in the highest form. Remember this, incarnate God of War, Khan of grateful Mongolia!’ But Ungern Khan seems to have known his time had come; the Shamans and priests had prophesied that he had but 130 days to live”.

Ungern left Urga very discreetly. In his absence, Djambulan, a Buriat ‘Duke’, was entrusted with running the city. Ungern also abandoned Sipaïlov, the murderer. After Ungern’s departure, Sipaïlov committed other atrocities for which he was later tried by a soviet tribunal in Kharbine, and condemned to a heavy prison term (other sources suggest he was committed to an insane asylum).

Ungern left Urga in May 1921 with 3.000 to 4.000 men. A group of Lamas also accompanied the division, and Ungern would meet with them each night in his tent in an attempt to circumvent the evil omens. Reaching Altan Bulag, the ‘capital’ of communist Mongolia, administered by Sukhe Bator, some of the communist Mongols joined up with Ungern. But Ungern attacked the city ‘sabre in hand’ (how incredibly romantic!) and the soviet 5th army retaliated with machine guns. Ungern lost hundreds of men, but escaped. In the meantime, Sukhe Bator and the 5th army stormed Urga and entered the city in June 1921.

Around mid-July, Ungern led the Asiatic Division into the heart of Transbaïkaal and defeated a soviet division in the vicinity of lake Gussinoï. It was to be his last victory. In August, he attempted to reach Manchuria and join-up with Semenov and General Bakchir, but he never received any help from either of them. He then decided – in harmony with his mystic facet – to head for Tibet and place his division at the disposal of the Dalaï Lama… In other words, at the service of a Buddhist country in order to, at least, preserve the ‘Dharma’.

Getting wind of this ultimate project, a handful of officers of the Asiatic Division decided to assassinate Ungern. But Lieutenant Mashtakov, entrusted with the murder, was unable to locate Ungern (who had in fact spent the night elsewhere, in the company of Lamas and Shamans). A few days later, the plotters proposed that General Riutschin take over the Division. Riutschin flew into a rage and refused. One of the Cossacks present shot him in the head. Finally understanding the scale of the treason, Ungern escaped and attempted to join-up with Mongol prince Sundaï Gun’s squadron, as he felt the Mongols would be faithful.

According to Pershin, Sundaï Gun was in fact in Sukhe Bator’s paybook, and had promised the Bolsheviks that he would deliver Ungern into their hands. Apparently, Sundaï Gun had Ungern arrested by his personal guard as the both of them were strolling about and talking, then delivered to the waiting soviets During his trial, Ungern gave a slightly different version : after having been tied-up, he was led away and the group in whose custody he was ‘accidentally’ came across a soviet patrol. Whatever really happened, he was immediately taken to 5th Red Army headquarters in Troïtskosarsk. As I said in an earlier post, he was tried on 15 September 1921 in Novonikolaïesk and shot the same day.

'Ataman' Semenov went on to live in Corea, Japan, and even northern China. He fought alongside the Japanese against Russia, was captured by the Red Army in Manchuria, condemned to death and hung in 1945.

Cheers
Eddy
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Postby Balrog on 28 Jun 2007 13:35

Your posts are fantastic!

Do you have any details about his trial?

Is there anyone in his extended family that is still alive? Did the title die with him, or did it pass on to someone else?

Do you the details about how his 1st wife and child died?
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Postby Eddy Marz on 28 Jun 2007 18:26

Hi Balrog ;
Thanks again for your kind comments.

As weird as it sounds, I could never find any clear-cut data or solid testimony about Ungern Sternberg’s first wife and child, or even about his marriage for that matter. They are not mentioned in 95% of the (bare) literature concerning the Baron. Also no info concerning their alleged deaths. Which, if they really did exist, is a strange thing, historically speaking, as it suggests that no biographer deemed it important enough to expand on. One would imagine that such an occurrence in the life of a man like Ungern could have led to a good many interesting psychological interpretations and hypothesis (negative or positive)… But no; I have nothing. No names, no dates, no pics. One vague claim was that they died ‘during WW1’ (of disease – unspecified) ; another ‘during the early days of the revolution’ (presumably massacred – which would “explain his bloodthirsty hatred of Bolschevism’). But again, no concrete evidence of their real existence at all. Sorry.

Details about his trial are also scarce (Russian archives – but where?). According to the rare testimonies and (extremely) partial transcripts (this was a ‘shotgun’ trial), Ungern didn’t talk much, behaved contemptuously towards the Court, claiming to have ‘absolutely nothing to say to them’. When one of the judges finally asked him what his family had done for Russia, he barked back: “Seventy-two killed in various wars!” He was then accused of having fought against Communist society (as well as being a Japanese agent or spy).

One of the recent authors most responsible for the bullshit, cheaply sensational (and totally unbelievable) legends behind Ungern is Rhys Hughes, whose book, “The Brutal Buddha” cannot in anyway be considered as a historical study (Davey Boy’s first message in this thread is a series of excerpts from Hughes’ book). As you can see, Hughes’s presentation of Ungern as some improbable monster, even physically speaking, bares no correspondence whatsoever with reality. Ungern was already known as « The Mad Baron » by his men in the Daouria and Urga days … but this was essentially due to his eccentric and taciturn nature.

I don’t know about Ungern’s extended family (essentially because I haven’t looked into it) but here’s a couple of tips :

- Anna Dorothea, Baroness von UNGERN-STERNBERG (1769-1846) married Count Alexis BOBRINSKY and her descendents bares the name of BOBRINSKY.

- There was a Professor Jürgen von UNGERN-STERNBERG at Bâle (Switz erland) University in 2001.

An interesting bit of trivia (which may or may not be at the origins of the ‘shrivelled brain’ legend) : Remember that Ungern was (although never proven) associated with Dja-Lama (Tuchegun Lama), the Mongolian prince famous for his sadistic behavior... Well, a Russian researcher, Inessa Lomakina, began looking into Ungern and Dja-Lama, back in 1989. In 1991 she was in Ulan Bator and in touch with Peter Sadetski who advised her to have a picture taken of ‘item n° 3394’ in Saint Petersburg’s Ethnographic Museum. The item was labeled ‘Mongol head’. It had never been put on display nor photographed, but it was known to be the head of Dja-Lama. After much wheeling and dealing, Mrs Lomakina secured permission (probably costly). On 11 May 1990, a german female photographer shot Dja-Lama’s head under all angles… « A real nightmare ! » said Mrs Lomakina.

A few more pics :
- Ungern as a boy
- Ungern as a young Officer
- Dja-Lama
- The Bogdo-Geghen's bride

Cheers
Eddy
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Postby Eddy Marz on 28 Jun 2007 18:28

Sorry, here's the two others...
- Ungern as officer
- Dja-Lama

Eddy
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Postby Eddy Marz on 30 Jun 2007 12:50

Just for fun :

The reknowned Italian comic strip artist Hugo Pratt (now deceased), famous for his "Corto Maltese" series, has depicted Roman Von Ungern Sternberg at length in one of the Corto Maltese adventures : "Corto Maltese in Siberia". The story is lengthy, packed with real historical details (and fiction) and great reading. Here's one of the pics showing Ungern... The Baron has just sent for Corto Maltese, and as the latter enters the tent, Ungern recites the beginning of one of S. T. Coleridge's most famous poems, 'Kubla Khan' :

"In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea..."

Cheers
Eddy
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Postby J on 30 Jun 2007 13:42

There was a cinematic adaptation of that particular episode called Corto Maltese: La Cour secrète des Arcanes. I rather enjoyed it.

Image
Shot at 2007-06-30

Picture from http://www.cortomaltese.com/ site.
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Postby Balrog on 02 Jul 2007 07:34

The Corto series was one of my first encounters with the Baron. I've only scanned through copies written entirely in French. Does anyone know where I can get a copy of the "Baron" episode of the book and a copy of the DVD with English subtitles?

Eddy Marz, thank you for your posts. I have been researching the Baron for the last few months(or rather trying to) and have only been able to find scattered bits of information about him. All of it negative. This forum is invaluable to me because of people like you.
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Postby Eddy Marz on 02 Jul 2007 09:01

Hi Balrog;
I'm glad to have managed to be helpful in a small way. From what I gather, the ultimate source on Roman Von Ungern Sternberg is Sergueï Kiz'Min who, fairly recently, edited a large study (2 volumes) on him, containing all the data available (a very lengthy research). Unfortunately, I have no real info on this work, nor its title, apart from the fact that it was only published in russian.

Good luck
& cheers
Eddy
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Postby Eddy Marz on 02 Jul 2007 12:40

Just for good measure, 3 extra pics :

- Ungern in Daouria
- 'Ataman' Semenov
- A group of Ungern's Kazakh officers (in Daouria or Urga)

I would imagine that an english language version of Hugo Pratt's "Corto Maltese in Siberia" (although the title may be different ; the original Italian title being : "Corte sconta detta arcana") should be easy enough to find, you should just get hold of the UK or US editor is (Internet ?). To help you along, here's the original Italian editor : Rizzoli Libri S.p.A., Milano (original reference ISBN 88 - 17 - 81089 - 4)

Cheers
Eddy
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Postby J on 02 Jul 2007 22:44

Eddy Marz wrote:Hi Balrog;
I'm glad to have managed to be helpful in a small way. From what I gather, the ultimate source on Roman Von Ungern Sternberg is Sergueï Kiz'Min who, fairly recently, edited a large study (2 volumes) on him, containing all the data available (a very lengthy research). Unfortunately, I have no real info on this work, nor its title, apart from the fact that it was only published in russian.

Good luck
& cheers
Eddy



http://www.pensoft.net/authors/kuzminsl.stm

end of the page :wink:

my compliments on your posts in this thread, by the way
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Postby Eddy Marz on 03 Jul 2007 07:32

Hi J;
Great, thanks alot. Does that mean the book is available in English ? Thanks for your comments and you're welcome.

Eddy
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Postby J on 03 Jul 2007 14:09

No, I think it's russian only. :(
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