Enemy at the Gates: A Chinese Intelligence Report

In previous posts, we saw how opposition to bolshevik rule soon coalesced around moderate socialist or liberal groups that then appealed for international and Chinese support. While the Foreign Ministry dealt with these diplomatic overtures in Beijing, however, governors on the Sino-Russian frontier had more pressing concerns in mind. These centred around a rather different breed of anti-bolshevik: Armed cossack bands whose opposition to soviet power was thoroughly violent. They had been gathering on the border since December 1917 and threatened to take Russia’s political upheavals right to China’s doorstep.

semenov1919
Ataman G.M. Semenov and members of the Mongol-Buriat Cavalry Brigade, 1919. Source.

Therefore, in January 1918, the Military Governor of Jilin province Meng Enyuan sent agent Guo Yongnian to report on the forces in the Maritime Province. Guo’s observations, extracted here, show the gathering storm before the outbreak of the Civil War. I could not identify all the place names.

於本年一月九號奉憲諭密令飭赴俄屬雙城子、海參崴、毛口崴、勃力等處調查事件等因。遵此,當即變裝秘密前往雙城子、海參崴、毛口崴、勃力等處。
該處俄軍並德、奧、土俘虜詳細情形,繕摺恭呈鑒核。

計開
關於雙城子俄國軍隊駐扎地點數目及俘虜黨派各情形:
一、俄國騎兵四千三百五十名(譯音烏蘇裡斯克嘎扎克隊,駐東寧、興開湖、四站,均屬國際分界一帶)。
一、俄國騎兵一千一百名,此兵系保護鐵路(譯音烏蘇裡斯克都魯任你隊)。
一、俄步兵一萬二千名,無軍官軍械(此軍系第四團、第六團、第二十四團,由前敵自回原防,內有多數黨,即廣義派居多數,暗定俄歷一月小[十?]五日平分糧台衣物等項雲雲)。
一、政治黨、兵工黨、守舊黨、新聞黨、各守黨規,均系進行國體致政社會人民進步為宗旨。
一、德、奧、土耳其俘虜官兵共五百二十七名(原有德、奧、土耳其俘虜四千余名,一千九百十七年秋季發回歐洲三千余名,自逃四百余名,現有奧兵三百二十名,軍官十五名,土耳其[兵?]一百三十名,軍官八名,德兵四十七名,三國共五百二十七名,亦無俄兵看管,自由街市,如此疏待,亦露和約之象)。

關於蟆螞塘俄國軍隊駐扎地點數目及俘虜與政治各情形:
一、俄國黃牌騎兵一百五十名(譯名嘎扎克隊)。
一、俄國步兵一千二百五十名,無軍官軍械(此系第十三團,由一千九百十四年調赴前敵,一千九百十七年冬月自回原防,系本地住戶,隨便回家)。
一、德、奧、土耳其三國共俘虜二百六十六名(原有二千五百余名,與一千九百十七年秋季與雙城子俘虜一同發回歐洲二千二百余名,現存德國十三名,奧一百七十八名,土耳其七十五名,共二百六十六名,均系工藝年老能自謀生理不欲回國者)。

pows
German and Austrian POWs in Russia, 1915. Source.

On 9 January this year, I received Your confidential orders to travel to Nikol’sk-Ussuriisk, Vladivostok, Pos’et, Khabarovsk etc in Russia to observe the situation. Complying with these, I departed for Nikol’sk-Ussuriisk, Vladivostok, Pos’et, Khabarovsk etc disguised and in secret.
A detailed account of Russian forces as well as German, Austrian and Turkish POWs is compiled here for Your reference.

Information as follows.
On the location and number of Russian troops in Nikol’sk-Ussuriisk and the situation regarding POWs and factions.
Russian cavalry: 4,350 (translit. Ussuriisk cossacks, stationed in Dongning, Lake Khanka and Pogrannichnaia, all in the international border zone).
Russian cavalry: 1,100, these troops are protecting the railway (translit. Ussuriisk dorogo-okhrannyi).
Russian infantry: 12,000, without officers or weapons (These were of the 4th, 6th and 24th Regiments, who had returned to base on their own from the front. Majoritarians, ie bolsheviks, form the majority; they plotted to evenly distribute the contents of the granaries, clothes etc on 15th January O.S.).
The pro-government, workers’ and soldiers’, conservative and Izvestiia parties all keep to party regulations and adhere to the principle of implementing the constitution for the betterment of society and the people.
German, Austrian and Turkish POWs: Officers and men, total 527 (There were originally more than 4,000 German, Austrian and Turkish POWs. In autumn 1917 more than 3,000 were sent back to Europe and more than 400 escaped. Now there are 320 Austrian soldiers, 15 Austrian officers, 130 Turkish soldiers, 8 Turkish officers, 47 German soldiers, total 527. They are not guarded by Russians and have the freedom of the city. Such lax treatment is a manifestation of the peace treaty.)

On the location and number of Russian troops in Mamatang [Razdol’noe?], and the POW and political situation.
Russian “yellow” cavalry: 150 (translit. cossacks)
Russian infantry: 1,250, without officers or weapons (These were of the 13th Regiment, sent to the front in 1914 and returned to base on their own in winter 1917. They are local residents and return home freely).
German, Austrian and Turkish POWs: Total for three countries 266 (There were originally more than 2,500 German, Austrian and Turkish POWs. In autumn 1917, 2,200 were sent back to Europe with the POWs from Nikol’sk-Ussuriisk. Now left with 13 Germans, 178 Austrians, 75 Turkish, total 266. All are craftsmen or older men who can make a living and do not wish to return home.)

Korejtsy-zashhitniki-Rossii-do-1917-04
Korean volunteers in the Krounovskii and Korsakovskii platoons, Maritime Province, 1900-1901. Source.

關於原杵河俄國軍隊駐扎地點數目:
一、俄國黃牌騎兵二百名(譯音嘎扎克隊),駐琿春與原杵河分界處一百名,駐原杵河本街一百名。
一、俄國步兵,無軍官軍械,均穿軍衣,散游街市,無從清查數目(此系第二十七、第二十八兩團,於一千九百十四年調赴前敵,一千九百十七年秋季自回原防,盡屬附近住戶韓國人)。
一、該地韓國人居多數,俄國人居少數,黨派未露,照常安靖。

關於葫蘆繫子、鮼鯭河俄國軍隊駐扎地點數目及俘虜與黨派情形:
一、俄國黃牌騎兵駐葫蘆繫子一百名,駐鮼鯭河一百名。
一、俄國步兵駐河二千五百名,無軍官軍械(此系第三團,一千九百十四年調赴前敵,一千九百十七年冬月自回原防,十排共二千五百名,韓國人十分有二)。
一、德、奧、土耳其三國俘虜共四百零三名(一千九百十五年由歐撥來三國俘虜五千余名,一千九百十七年發回歐洲四千三百余名,三年之間逃去三百余名,現有德國二十五名,奧國一百七十五名,內有軍官十一名,土耳其二百零三名,內有軍官二十五名,以上共四百零三名,均系自由)。

On the location and number of Russian troops in Yuanchuhe [Ianchikhinskaia]:
Russian “yellow” cavalry: 200 (translit. cossacks), 100 stationed on the border between Hunchun and Ianchikhinskaia, another 100 in Ianchikhinskaia town itself.
Russian infantry: No officers or weapons, all in uniform, wandering the streets. It is impossible to determine their number (These are of the 27th and 28th Regiments, sent to the front in 1914 and returned on their own in autumn 1917. They are all Koreans from the nearby households.)
The area has a Korean majority and Russian minority. Factions have not revealed themselves and it is still at peace.

On the location and number of Russian troops in Hulu jizi [Shkotovo] and Qinmeng he [Tsemukhinskaia],
Russian “yellow” cossacks: 100 in Razdol’noe, 100 in Tsemukhinskaia.
Russian infantry: 2,500 stationed in Tsemukhinskaia, without officers or weapons (These are of the 3rd Regiment, sent to the front in 1914, returned on their own in winter 1917. Ten platoons totalling 2,500, two out of ten are Korean.)
German, Austrian and Turkish POWs: Total for three countries 403 (In 1915 more than 5,000 were sent here from Europe, more than 4,300 returning to Europe in 1917. In these three years more than 300 escaped. Now left with 25 Germans, 175 Austrians including 11 officers, 203 Turkish including 25 officers, total 403. All at liberty.)

ussuricossack
Machine-gunners from the First Ussuri Cossack Regiment on the Southwestern Front, 1916. Source.

關於四八四克俄國軍隊駐扎地點及俘虜數目:
一、俄國騎兵三百名(譯音嘎扎克隊)。
一、俄國步兵一千二百五十名,無軍官軍械(原駐第三十團及三十一團四排飛艇軍,每排二百五十名,飛艇一百余架,一千九百十四年調赴前敵,一千九百十七年冬季步兵回原防五排,系零星集成,自由行動,其余步兵均在前敵傷亡)。
一、德、奧、土耳其俘虜共三百八十名(原四千余名,一千九百十七年與雙城子俘虜一同發回歐洲三千二百余名,現存三百八十名,奧土人居多數)。
一、俄國黃牌騎兵五百名(譯音嘎扎克隊),原駐洪溝,距勃力十二裡,一千名,均調前敵,一千九百十七年冬復回原防五百名,軍官器械全。
一、俄國步兵義勇軍一千五百名(譯音薩拉到斯克得魯伍尼),系保護阿木爾鐵路第五百七十八團內兵。
一、俄國第六師全師駐日本溝(該師內炮兵一團、工程一團、輜重一團、步兵一團、常駐勃力,保護地面)。
一、俄國第三十九炮團一團(原駐洪溝第三十七、第三十八、第三十九團,一千九百十四年調前敵,一千九百十七年因停戰獨三十九團回勃力,駐洪溝原防,兵官器械,均不足數)。
一、德、奧、土耳其俘虜共六百余名,原有七千余名,一千九百十七年冬間取道阿木爾西伯利亞鐵路送回歐洲六千三百余名,現存惟土耳其奧人居多數,無人看管,出入自由。
一、第三十九團內四十余名議定俄歷十一月二十號,攜帶槍械搶官銀庫,事機不密,被騎兵(譯名嘎扎克隊)查獲二十余名,盡數槍斃。其余二十余名逃歸本隊,無從查獲,地方安謐。
一、嗶京站駐黃牌騎兵一百名(譯音嘎扎克隊)。
一、驛馬河站駐俄騎兵四百名(系駐站二百名,駐江東二百名,共四百名)。

On the location of Russian troops in Spassk and the number of POWs
Russian cavalry: 300 (translit. cossacks)
Russian infantry: 1,250, without officers or weapons (These were originally of the 30th Regiment and four airship platoons from the 31st Regiment. Each platoon had 250 men. More than 100 airships total. Sent to the front in 1914. In winter 1917 five platoons returned on their own, the disparate units regrouping. They move freely. The remainder of the infantry soldiers were all wounded or killed on the front.)
German, Austrian and Turkish POWs: Total 380 (There were originally more than 4,000, more than 3,200 of whom were sent back to Europe in 1917 with the Nikol’sk-Ussuriisk POWs. Now 380 are left, mostly Austrian and Turkish.)

[In Khabarovsk; Honggou and Ribengou probably refer to the two channels of the Amur and Ussuri that meet here.]
Russian “yellow” cavalry: 500 (translit. cossacks). There were originally 1,000, stationed at Honggou, 12 miles from Khabarovsk. All were sent to the front; in winter 1917 500 returned to base, complete with officers and weapons.
Russian volunteer infantry: 1,500 (translit. Saratovsk[?]-dobrovol’nyi), all soldiers from the 578th Regiment protecting the Amur railway.
Russian 6th Division: The entire division is stationed in Ribengou (including one artillery, one engineering, one logistics and one infantry regiment, normally stationed in Khabarovsk to protect the area).
Russian 39th Artillery Regiment: One regiment (Originally the 37th, 38th and 39th Regiments stationed at Honggou, sent to the front in 1914. After the ceasefire in 1917 only the 39th Regiment returned to Khabarovsk, stationed in Honggou. Officers and weapons insufficient).
German, Austrian and Turkish POWs: Total more than 600. Originally more than 7,000, in winter 1917 more than 6,300 were sent to Europe on the Trans-Siberian. Of those left, the majority are Turkish and Austrian. No supervision. They come and go freely.
Some 40 soldiers of the 39th Regiment decided to carry out an armed robbery on the treasury on 20 November O.S.. There was a leak and more than 20 were arrested by cavalry troops (translit. cossacks). All were shot. The remaining 20 escaped to their unit and could not be apprehended. The area is at peace.
Bikin station: 100 “yellow” cavalry (translit. cossacks)
Iman station: 400 Russian cavalry (200 in the station, 200 east of the river, total 400).

Letter from the State Council copying a message from Jilin Military Governor Meng Enyuan, 5 February 1918. Deng Ruyan, Guo Tingyi and Hu Qiuyuan (eds.) Zhong-E guanxi shiliao: Dongbei bianfang (1), Minguo liunian zhi banian. (Taipei: Zhongyang yanjiuyuan jindaishi yanjiusuo, 1960), pp. 63-67.
koreanpartisans
Korean Red partisans under Han Chan Ger, 1922. Source.

Guo’s report shed light on two phenomena: The presence of POWs from the Central Powers and the involvement of ethnic Koreans in Russia’s conflicts. Over the course of the war Russia had captured 2-2.3 million POWs, the vast majority of whom were from Austria-Hungary. As Petrograd moved closer to a separate peace, the Allies increasingly feared that these POWs would be armed and bolshevised. The number of internationalist “shock troops” in Siberia was placed as high as 11,000. Nevertheless, Guo’s calculations showed that most POWs had already been sent westwards by 1917 to supplement the labour force in European Russia. The few who remained largely resisted the allure of bolshevik ideology, as the Czech revolt of summer 1918 would soon demonstrate.

Less well-known is the presence of Koreans in the tsarist army. Here, Guo showed how many of them joined in the general flight from the front; their families had taken up Russian citizenship and they had been drafted or volunteered for military service. Korean settlements were concentrated in the Pos’et area, which then became recruiting grounds for both Reds and Whites during the Civil War. It was Koreans, not Austro-Hungarian POWs, who flocked in large numbers to the Red Army, and whose exploits as partisans would become part of the Civil War’s internationalist mythos.

One thought on “Enemy at the Gates: A Chinese Intelligence Report

  1. Pingback: A Manchurian Warlord Addresses the Red Threat – Shots Across the Amur 黑龍江對岸的槍聲

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