As for today, I would express my sincere gratitude to General Major William Sidney Graves (1865—1940), who was in command of the American troops in Siberia in 1918—1920. His book "America's Siberian Adventure (1918—1920)" is a great evidence of what happened then in the Eastern part of our huge country. And of those 'Whites" who had nothing to do but lose the Russian Civil War, even agerssively supported and backed by foreign powers.
Admiral Kolchak surrounded himself with former Czarist officials and because these peasants would not take up arms and offer their lives to put these people back in power, they were kicked, beaten with knouts and murdered in cold blood by the thousands, and then the world called them "Bolsheviks." In Siberia, the word Bolshevik meant a human being who did not, by act and word, give encouragement to the restoration to power of representatives of Autocracy in Russia.
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There were horrible murders committed, but they were not committed by the Bolsheviks as the world believes. I am well on the side of safety when I say that the anti-Bolsheviks killed one hundred people in East-ern Siberia, to every one killed by the Bolsheviks.
The officer sent to make the investigation reported as follows:
On arrival at the Gordyevka school house, I was met by a body of seventy or eighty men, all armed with rifles, mostly Russian army rifles, with a few old single shot 45-70 caliber among them. The information I obtained was all taken in the presence of these seventy or eighty armed villagers and some twenty five or thirty women. Most of the information was from the wives of the victims, and these women broke down repeatedly, during this trying ordeal for them. The first woman interviewed said her husband was on his way to the school house with his rifle to turn it in to the Russian troops, as ordered. He was seized on the street, beaten over the head and body with his rifle, and then taken to a house a short distance from the school where he was stretched by his neck to a pin in the rafter, his hands tied, and terribly beaten about the body and head until the blood was splashed even on the walls of the room, and the marks on his body showed me that he had been hung by his feet also.
He was later stood in a row, with eight other men, and shot to death at 2 o'clock P.M. There were ten men in line and all were killed but one, he being left for dead by Ivanoff-Rinoff's troops. -The next woman I interviewed was the woman, in whose house all the men were beaten, and in the back of whose barnyard the men were shot. She stated that about 11 A.M., the morning of March 9, 1919, a number of Ivanoff-Rinoff's officers came to her house and made her take her hus-band to another house, and about 11:30 they took her husband back to her house and beat him, with the rest of them, also broke one of his arms and cut out his fingernails, and knocked out all of his front teeth. Her husband was an invalid and a cripple.The officer said in his remarks:
I found that the floor of the room these men were beaten in was covered with blood, and the walls in the room were all splashed with blood. The wire and loops of rope that were used around the men's necks were still hanging from the ceiling and covered with blood. I also found that some of these men had been scalded with boiling water and burned with hot irons, heated in a little stove I found in the room.
I visited the spot where these men were shot. These men were lined up and shot, and each body had at least three holes in it, and some as many as six or more. They were apparently shot in the feet first and then higher in the body.There was much more evidence taken and reported by the young officer making the investigation and the evidence not quoted agrees, in every detail, with that above quoted.
This seemed to be such a terribly shocking case that I ordered the young officer to report to me in person. He was not a regular Army Officer, but was in the service only for the duration of the War. I shall always remember the remark this officer made to me after I had finished questioning him. His remark was:
General, for God's sake, never send me on another expedition like this. I came within an ace of pulling off my uniform, joining these poor people, and helping them as best I could.
The methods used by the Kolchak people to mobilize these Siberians created a resentment not easily re-moved. They went into the service embittered by fear, not of the enemy, but of their own forces. The result was, as soon as they were armed and equipped they deserted by regiments, battalions, and individually to the Bolsheviks.
On April 9, 1919, I reported:
Numbers of so-called Bolshevik bands in Eastern Siberia increasing as result of mobilization order and extreme methods used in enforcing it. Peasants and working class do not desire to fight for Kolchak Government.
1. "In occupying the villages which have been occupied before by bandits (partisans) to insist upon getting the leaders of the movement, and where you can not get the leaders, but have sufficient evidence as to the presence of such leaders, then shoot one out of every ten of the people."We learned that Rozanoff kept hostages and, for every supporter of his cause that met death, he would kill ten of the people kept as hostages. He spoke of these methods used in Krasnoyarsk as handling the situation with gloves, but declared his intention of taking off his gloves when he came to Vladivostok, and handling the situation without the consideration he had shown the people of Krasnoyarsk…
"If, when the troops go through a town, and the population will not inform the troops, after having a chance to do so, of the presence of the enemy, a monetary contribution should be demanded from all, unsparingly."
"The villages where the population meet our troops with arms, should be burned down and all the full grown male population should be shot; property, homes, carts, etc. should be taken for the use of the Army."
Rozanoff proved to be the third worst character known to me in Siberia, although he could never quite reach the plane occupied by Kalmikoff and Semeonoff.
"It is estimated that on July i, outside the office holding and military class, the Omsk Government had less than 5% of followers. It was estimated that the Red followers were about 45 %, Social Revolutionists about 40%, with about 10% divided among other parties, giving 5% to the military, office-holders and Kolchak followers."From this period on, even to the fall of the Omsk Government, Kolchak's Army represented a retreating mob.
The ambassador and I left Omsk for Vladivostok about the loth of August. We stopped at Novo-Nicolaevsk, Irkutsk, Verkhne-Udinsk, and Harbin. Nothing of interest happened until we reached Semeonoff's territory. By this time it was well known that Semeonoff had established what were known as his " killing stations " and had openly boasted that he could not sleep at night when he had not killed some one during the day.
We stopped at a small station and two American Russian Railway Service Corps men got on our train and told us of the killing by Semeonoff soldiers, two or three days before our arrival, of a trainload of Russians consisting of three hundred and fifty people. I do not remember if there were only men in the train, or if there were men and women. These two Americans stated substantially as follows:
The trainload of prisoners passed the station and it was generally known in the station that they were to be killed. The Service Corps men started to go to the place of execution but were stopped by Semeonoff's soldiers. In one hour and fifty minutes the empty train returned to the station. The following day these two men went out to the killing place, and saw evidences of the wholesale execution and it was evident from the shells on the ground that the prisoners had been killed with machine guns, as the empty shells were in piles just as if they had been ejected from machine guns. The bodies had been placed in two ditches which had been freshly dug. In one ditch the bodies were entirely covered, in the other ditch many arms or legs were left uncovered.
I doubt if history will show any country in the world during the last fifty years where murder could be committed so safely, and with less danger of punishment, than in Siberia during the regime of Admiral Kolchak. As an example of the atrocities and lawlessness in Siberia, there was a typical case in Omsk, Kolchak's Headquarters, on December 22, 1918, just one month and four days after Kolchak assumed power as " Supreme Ruler." On this date, there was an uprising of workmen in Omsk against the Kolchak Government. The revolutionaries were partly successful, opened the jail and permitted two hundred prisoners to escape.
Among these, one hundred and thirty-four were political prisoners including several members of the Constituent Assembly. The day this occurred, the Kolchak Military Commander at Omsk issued an order calling upon all who had been released to return to jail, and stated, that in case of failure to return within twenty-four hours, they would be shot on sight. All members of the Constituent Assembly and some other prominent political prisoners returned to confinement. During the night some Kolchak officers took the members of the Constituent Assembly from the jail, telling them they were taking them to a place of trial for their alleged offenses, and shot and killed all of them. Nothing was done to the officers for this brutal and illegal murder. As conditions were in Siberia, such atrocities could be easily concealed from the world.
The foreign press was constantly being told that the Bolsheviks were the Russians who were committing these terrible excesses, and propaganda had been used to such an extent that no one ever believed that atrocities were being committed against the Bolsheviks.
Colonel Morrow induced a Japanese and a French-man to go with the American Army officer to investigate this wholesale murder, and what I have just stated is substantially what was contained in a report signed by the American, the Frenchman, and the Japanese. In addition to the above stated executions these officers reported that they found the bodies of four or five men who had evidently been burned alive.
Naturally, people wondered what could be the object of such terrible murders. The object is similar to the reason why men in charge of prison camps keep bloodhounds, and employ other means to terrorize prisoners, with a view to deterring them from trying to escape. In Siberia the people who were victimized were not prisoners, but the people responsible for the terrors were determined that all Russians should, at least, act as if they were whole-heartedly supporting Kolchak's cause. This treatment sometimes succeeds to the extent of temporarily preventing the real sentiment of the people. from being known. This was the case in Siberia, and I am convinced that the American people know nothing of these terrible conditions.
When the Americans first reached Siberia, naturally most of us expected to find the experiences of the War and the Revolution would have changed the ideas of Government of the former official class, but as soon as this official class began to commit the terrible atrocities that were committed in Siberia, or supinely permitted or condoned these atrocities, then it was clear they had learned nothing.
It was well known in Vladivostok that from November 18, 1919, to January 31, 1920, Rozanoff had killed between five and six hundred men, without any comment relative to his murders. The method to decide to execute and then convene a military tribunal to legalize the intended murder, was the method used by Rozanoff. This procedure was well known in Vladivostok, and I tested the accuracy of the information in one case, at the request of a Russian woman who had lived in New York at one time.
I, personally, never thought that Kolchak had any chance of establishing a Government in Siberia, but the belief of Knox and others like him, that the mass of the people were swine, and could be treated as such, hastened the downfall of Kolchak.