Saturday, November 07, 2015

October Revolution Day and General Graves

Today most Russians celebrate the 98th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution — a brave attempt of some to make the life of all better. In many aspects, it was a great success, and even though the USSR failed early in 1990-s, its collapse had nothing to do with original ideas of common wealth. Old Russian calender was a bit behind of the world; the Bolsheviks adopted the common one in 1918, but the Revolution in Russia was in October, though for the rest of the world it was November 7.

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.

Major General W.S.Graves (1865-1940)

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.

* * *
Semeonoff and Kalmikoff soldiers, under the protection of Japanese troops, were roaming the country like wild animals, killing and robbing the people, and these murders could have been stopped any day Japan wished. If questions were asked about these brutal murders, the reply was that the people murdered were Bolsheviks and this explanation, apparently, satisfied the world. Conditions were represented as being horrible in Eastern Siberia, and that life was the cheapest thing there.

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.

* * *
It is hard to imagine a man like Kalmikoff existing in modern civilization, and there was hardly a day passed without some report of the terrible atrocities committed by him or his troops.

* * *
Kalmikoff remained in Habarovsk and carried on his regime of terror, extortion and bloodshed, which eventually caused his own troops to mutiny and seek the protection of the American troops. Under the pre-text of combatting bolshevism, he resorted to the unscrupulous arrest of people of some means, tortured them to secure their money and executed some on the ground of bolshevism. These arrests were so frequent that all classes of the population were terrorized and it was estimated that there were several hundred persons executed by Kalmikoff troops in the vicinity of Habarovsk.

* * *
It is amazing that the Czarist Russian Army Officers did not realize that some change had to be made in the Army practices used during the Czar's regime, and the atrocities being committed east of Lake Baikal were so overwhelming that no open-minded person could doubt the truth of many of the reported excesses.
* * *
As an indication of a Czarist Russian's ideas of ethical methods in securing funds, Colonel Korff, Russian liason officer with American Headquarters, told Colonel Eichelberger, the American Intelligence officer, that General Ivanoff-Rinoff and General Romanoffsky had the power to stop all criticism of me and of all Americans, as well as of American policies, and if I would get the United States to give the Russian Army twenty thousand dollars a month the propaganda against Americans would cease.
* * *
In March a young woman who had been a village school teacher, came to American Headquarters and asked for a guard for herself and her brother so they might return to their village of Gordyevka, and bury their father who had been killed by Ivanoff-Rinoff troops. The young woman said the Russian troops had come to Gordyevka looking for young men to force them into the Army, but the young men had escaped, so the troops took ten men of the village, who were beyond military age, tortured and killed them, and were guarding the bodies to prevent their families from burying them. This seemed so brutal and unnatural that I ordered an officer with some troops to go to Gordyevka and investigate the report, and I notified the young woman of my intentions.

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.
* * *
To those of our people who were impressed with the necessity of fighting bolshevism regardless of American policy, I was never able to determine who was a Bolshevik or why he was a Bolshevik. According to Japanese representatives and her paid puppets in Siberia, all Russians were Bolsheviks if they were not willing to take up arms and fight for the Semeonoffs, the Kalmikoffs, the Rozanoffs, and the Ivanoff-Rinoffs, and the annals of crime in the United States will not show worse characters than these. According to the British and French representatives, all Russians who were not willing to take up arms and fight for Kolchak were Bolsheviks.

* * *
Most of the uniforms for the mobilized Russians were supplied by the British. General Knox stated that one hundred thousand uniforms had been supplied by the British for Kolchak forces. This was partially substantiated by the number of men in the Red Army wearing British uniforms. General Knox was disgusted at the Reds wearing British uniforms and later is re-ported to have said that the British would supply nothing more to Kolchak because everything they supplied reached the Bolsheviks. The men found in the Red Army wearing the British uniforms were the same men, generally speaking, to whom these uniforms were issued when they were with the Kolchak forces. The great mass of these men had no heart for fighting for Kolchak.

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.
* * *
The harsh measures used by the Czarist regime to keep these prisoners from escaping, had not entirely disappeared when I passed through Irkutsk. I saw about twenty prisoners with good sized chains fastened to their ankles and on the end of the chain a large ball was fastened, which it was necessary for the prisoner to carry over his arm, in order that he might walk.

* * *
At Krasnoyarsk I learned something of General Rozanoff with whom I was to try to work in Vladivostok. He was the man who, on March 27, 1919, issued instructions to his troops:
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."
"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."
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…

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.

* * *
In order to determine whether the Kolchak troops were able to make a stand in August, 1919, I will try to analyse the official reports made to me. One report read:
"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, in command of American troops in the Trans-Baikal sector, reported a most cruel, heartless, and almost unbelievable murder of an entire village by Semeonoff. When his troops reached the village, the inhabitants apparently tried to escape by flight from their homes, but the Semeonoff soldiers shot them down, men, women, and children, as if they were hunting rabbits, and left their bodies where they were killed. They shot, not one, but everyone in the village.

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.
* * *
General Knox had served in Russia as Military Attache during the Czarist regime. He could speak the Russian language, and undoubtedly thought he under-stood the Russian people. He probably did understand the character and the peculiarities of the Russian People with whom he associated in Petrograd, but I can not believe he understood the aspirations of the great mass of the Russian people. If he had understood these people, he could not have thought, as he apparently did, that the Russian peasants and workmen would take up arms and fight to put in power the Kolchak supporters, who were committing such atrocities against the people to whom they looked for military support. General Knox expressed to me the thought that "the poor Russians were only swine."

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment