Two Siberian Governments

As the Czechoslovak Legion rose in revolt in summer 1918, it was followed by a number of anti-bolshevik regimes taking advantage of the power vacuum. A moderate socialist government sprung up in Vladivostok under the Socialist Revolutionary P.Ia. Derber, while at Grodekovo a rather more authoritarian group claimed power under D.L. Horvath. Both were quick to issue declarations to an international audience, including China.

czechsinvlad
The legionnaires in Vladivostok. Source.

The first communique to arrive was from Derber’s Provisional Government of Autnomous Siberia:

為繼續本年七月八日西比利亞自治臨時政府向各友邦之聲明,並根據七月十五日政府之特別決定,茲西伯利亞自治臨時政府通知如下:

「西伯利亞自治臨時政府甚願証明中俄兩國原有之友誼,請轉達貴政府,當此公敵脅迫之時,中俄兩國之武力亟應趕早聯合。中俄兩國,當知日后奧、德兵力深入俄國中心及西比利亞之影響。且西比利亞及俄境,尚有多數俘虜自由行動,已足令人疑懼。西比利亞自治臨時政府,欲達聯合目的,並有不能迅速召集全俄兵力之難處,政府特囑轉請貴部將貴政府對於聯軍組織俄德新戰線之看法意見,加以研究見告。

查俄國土地之主權,政府自應保全,貴政府之實在意見如為實行公同問題,無礙俄國土地主權,則西比利亞自治臨時政府必表歡迎。現據余個人盼望,目前最要之事,中俄兩國政府從速開始談判,研究公共行動之條件,以實行此項公共問題,深盼將貴政府之答覆,速為見告為荷。班脫落夫(Petroff)代總長署名。」

Subsequent to the 8 July declaration of the Provisional Government of Autonomous Siberia [hereafter PGAS] to the Friendly Powers, and on the basis of a 15 July special resolution of the Government, the PGAS announces the following:

‘The PGAS sincerely wishes to confirm the friendship that exists between the two countries of China and Russia, and requests that You convey to Your Government, at this time of threat from our common enemy, the utmost desirability of a swift union between the military forces of China and Russia. China and Russia must know the consequences of the advance of the Austrian and German forces into the heart of Russia and Siberia. And in Siberia and Russia, a large number of POWs continues to act independently, which is sufficient to cause concern. The PGAS, in conveying the desirability of the union, also cites the difficulty of rapidly mobilising all forces in Russia. The Government thus requests Your Ministry to study and communicate the views and intentions of Your Government regarding the organisation of a new Russo-German front through a military alliance.

‘The territorial sovereignty of Russia must be safeguarded by this Government. Your Government’s real intentions for the resolution of our common problems – if they do not infringe on the territorial sovereignty of Russia – will be welcomed by the PGAS. My personal hope, with regards to the most pressing issue now, is for the Chinese and Russian governments to enter into immediate talks to study the conditions for joint action, in order to resolve these common problems. I sincerely hope that You will be so kind as to swiftly convey Your Government’s response. For the Minister, [Arkadii N.] Petroff.’

Telegram from the PGAS in Vladivostok, 16 July 1918. Zhong-E guanxi shiliao, Minguo jiunian zhi banian (1917-1919). E zhengbian yu yiban jiaoshe (1), p. 449.

The Chinese were not Derber’s sole intended recipients; in fact, this same telegram was also sent to the Americans and the references to “China and Russia” are absent in the French original. Nevertheless, Derber was no stranger to the Chinese. Already in February, his Extraordinary Siberian Regional Congress in Tomsk had reached out directly to the Beijing Foreign Ministry to request recognition as a provisional Russian government. Out of all the other anti-bolshevik groups, Derber’s were the only ones to make first-hand contact with Beijing.

horvathparade
Horvath at a military parade in Vladivostok, 1918. Source.

For his part, Horvath dispatched a lengthy missive via Ambassador Kudashev:

俄中將霍爾瓦特致駐京俄使電
按諸若干外國人發表之意見,聯盟國軍隊似欲於其所到地方一經佔領之后,決定建設一行政機關,此項機關或且屬於外國者一與德人所設者同列,對於俄國臨時政府一概不予承認,各級之人民對於如此之措置,似屬不表歡迎。聯盟各國行且因此喪失一切之情誼,此固明顯之事理而無俟指示者也。無論如何之民族,皆不能靜受外國人之勢力,因佔領之事實,聯盟國在此境土中或至造成無定之時勢,且於重組織俄軍,再整俄陣之主旨,亦似難達其目的。在俄國土中,只有唯一外國之戰線,此為聯盟國僅有之利益,因在東方戰線實有極力集中兵力之必要也。如聯盟國果副一般之期望,其來俄也,系為扶助維持致力重行作戰之俄國執政,以便從新抵御吾人之公敵,謀戰爭終局之勝利,恢復國內對於此旨必要正當之秩序,則完全別開之時局且將隨之而誕生矣。茲即此類之政權而論,欲令其創一主政之機關,開始即能應副各類人民之欲望,實覺戛乎其難。下級之人民皆已浸淫包洛士維及無政府主義,獨有迎合極下人民之天性,表示寬大之執行者,始能取悅於彼輩。但執行者如此無能,不能恢復正當秩序,則一般抱有公民原則之人民,對之自亦不能容忍也。集合而成之政權,即如前臨時政府,其無力之憑証,亦已揭示於天下。極端反對各黨之意見,實屬難以結合,因為無益之紛爭,渾沌猶疑之政策,欲使國人皆悅,反至費時失事,此即集合政府之結果,而使國家至於現在破裂之情形也。

俄國每當困難時代,例如今日之情形,必須將惟一確定之政權付諸獨一之人物,因其經歷及就濡染民意之政黨中所得之物望,而斡商時局,始得良好之結果,征諸史乘往事,實多先例。故吾一本斯旨,建設政府,以各種不同之分子組成之,無分黨派皆一致於實力發展之方策,且隨其前進之程途,以為新立國者完成有益之比例,至於召集國會,交付政權而后已。至若改變之危險,因內閣援引各種不同之分子,無論如何皆可無慮。聯盟各國盡可派員視察此項政權之實力,並將各該本國政府對於日行問題之意見,轉告一切。即請貴公使將以上各節轉達各駐在國政府,並再請其協助吾人所建之政府,此項政府實系欲與聯盟各國同為一致之行動,並受有各處多數承認之宣告者也。因不能與華盛頓、倫敦、巴黎、羅馬各處直接通信,即希將此電轉致駐在各該處本國代表為荷。

Telegram from General Horvath to the Russian Ambassador in Beijing (23 July 1918, sent 10 July)
According to the opinion expressed by several foreigners, it seems that the Allied forces, upon occupying the areas they have entered, have resolved to establish an administrative organ. Were such an organ to belong to foreigners, it would be the same as those established by the Germans. It would give absolutely no recognition to the Russian Provisional Government and the various classes would not welcome such an arrangement. The Allies will, because of this, forfeit all goodwill – this much is evident and goes without saying. No people will quietly endure a foreign power. Because of the realities of their occupation, the Allies may create an unstable situation in these territories. And as for the intention to reorganise Russian forces and restore the Russian front, it will make it harder to achieve these aims. In Russian territory there is only one foreign battlefront; this is the sole interest of the Allies, since there is a pressing need to concentrate all military forces on the Eastern Front. If the Allies are indeed adhering to the wishes of all, their presence in Russia would be to support and maintain a Russian administration that is working towards resuming the war effort, in order to once again resist our common enemy, carry the war to final victory, and restore the domestic order necessary and appropriate for this purpose. Entirely new situations will constantly emerge out of this.

oursoldierssiberia
American poster for war stamps, 1918. Source.

Speaking of such an authority, for it to establish a ruling body which could abide by the wishes of all people from the beginning would be extremely difficult. The lower classes have already been steeped in bolshevism and anarchism. Only a leader who panders to the natural tendencies of the lowest class of people and expresses magnanimity can win the approval of such types. But such a leader would be ineffectual, unable to restore the proper order, and ordinary people who hold to the principles of citizenship will naturally not tolerate it. The ineptitude of a political authority formed out of an assembly, such as was evident with the former Provisional Government, is already clear to all. With the diametrically opposing views of all the parties, it will be hard to unite them. Thus fruitless disputes and chaotic and ambivalent policies, intended to benefit the citizenry, instead waste time and fail. Such is the outcome of a government by assembly, which has brought the country to its current fractured state.

In all times of trouble, such as today, Russia has had to vest sole and firm authority in one person, since by his experience he may guide the common will as expressed by a governing party that reflects the people’s wishes. Thus he may turn things around and obtain a positive outcome. Going by the histories and past events, there are indeed many precedents for this. Hence my guiding principle is to establish a government made up of varying elements, without party divisions, all working together diligently to develop its strategy. As it advances and achieves a scale suitable for state-building, it will convene a national assembly, hand over power and cease its activities. As for the dangers of such a change, since the Cabinet draws upon diverse elements, there need not be any misgivings. The Allies may send representatives to observe the strength of this authority and communicate all opinions on everyday questions among the various governments. Thus, I ask Your Excellencies to convey the above to the governments of the countries where you are stationed, and to request again that they support the government I have established. This government truly wishes to act in concert with the Allies and has received statements of recognition from many areas. Since I am unable to communicate with Washington, London, Paris and Rome directly, I request that this be conveyed to our country’s representatives there.

Letter from Ambassador Kudashev, 27 July 1918 (sent 26 July). Ibid., pp. 459-460.

Horvath had already issued a declaration on 9 July on the formation of a new provisional government, which also set out some immediate policies. By contrast, this later statement laid out more general governing principles and wasted no time in taking a swipe at the Allies, who were more inclined to aid the Czechoslovaks than throw their weight behind yet another Russian regime of dubious longevity.

China’s approach to the two declarations was deeply informed by the Allied attitude, especially those of the Americans and the Czechoslovaks. In mid-July, two missions were sent to sound out the Horvath regime. They concluded that he had the support of neither the Americans nor the Legion, partly because of his authoritarian views; the more democratic Derber group, on the other hand, did. But without any control over actual “military forces” – and with Allied intervention gaining momentum – the Derber group soon proved a dead letter, their message not warrenting even a brief consultation with Ambassador Kudashev. Beijing’s focus now turned to its role in the interventionary effort and the resumption of the civil war on a new scale.

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