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.