The Intervention, One Month On

Allied boots first hit Siberian ground under the Intervention in August 1918, with the arrival of first British, then French, Japanese, American, Chinese and Canadian forces in Vladivostok. They threw their weight behind the Czechoslovak advance up the Ussuri; Khabarovsk was the first to fall. Meanwhile, the Japanese deployed more troops along the Chinese Eastern Railway. They joined Semenov and the Czechoslovaks in the drive towards Chita via Manzhouli.

The Chinese interventionary headquarters in Vladivostok included civilian emissary Liu Jingren, Ambassador to Russia when the revolution broke out, and Commodore Lin Jianzhang, captain of the warship Hai Rong which had arrived in the city in April. As the Intervention got under way, Lin requested additional staff fluent in English, French and Japanese. The Foreign Ministry thus dispatched three representatives to the headquarters: Wang Tingzhang, Lü Liehuang and Zhang Shoumo. Wang had graduated from the University of Liège in Belgium and held a succession of diplomatic and foreign-language positions. Lü was one of the first youths sent to study in Japan following the Sino-Japanese War; while at the Tokyo Higher Normal School, he joined a student patriotic organisation. Less is known about Zhang’s background, but he subsequently served as a diplomat in Cuba, South Africa and Mexico. The following report was sent by Lü and Zhang in September:

linjianzhangvlad
Portrait of Commodore Lin Jianzhang taken in Vladivostok, 1920. Source.

八日奉上一電,諒蒙鈞鑒。茲綜合近日各方面所有戰訊,匯成報告一份,另紙奉呈,伏乞詧閱。聞各國軍隊司令部,有不久自崴移至伊爾庫茨克之說,烈煌特於昨日,隨林代將往見日本大谷司令,詢及此事,據云,將來大約當移往該地,惟目前尚未到時機耳。又日軍在西伯利亞發行軍用手票,此間俄人方面,議決提出抗議。西伯利亞政府,以日軍軍用票,破壞俄之經濟,亦以議及防止其傳播之方法。聞日軍軍用票,並擬在哈爾濱、滿洲里一帶流用,似亦應預籌對付之法。又聯合軍擬於過激派已告肅清之地域內,著手整頓經濟狀況,日本政府且已發布西伯利亞經濟委員會官制,竊已為此事與吾國僑民,及工商業所關當甚巨也。肅此,敬叩鈞安。

日本出騎兵先鋒隊,已於九月五日攻下勃利。六日佔領該地之兵器制造廠,得炮百二十門。又於七日包圍敵軍海軍根據地,捕獲河用炮艦十七隻,汽船三隻。

該地西北方黑龍江之大鐵橋,未為敵人破壞,故向西之火車,仍照常開行。

自黑河傳來信息云,目下由東、西兩方面逃入海蘭泡之過激派,已達三、四千人,該地陷於無政府狀況。彼等之一半,見大勢日非,頗傾向非戰論。而其他一半,則主張抵抗到底,並稱仍有不得已情形時,即將其根據地移至結雅河方面云。

又據他方面消息,德、奧俘虜軍之主力,及過激派之首領等,擬以阿萊克些夫斯克為根據地,以圖后策。此后究竟如何動作,目下尚不明瞭。

九月六日,大谷總司令官,為表明聯合國此次出兵來俄之目的,在海參崴及烏蘇裡戰線一帶地方,由飛機散布布告,曉諭俄人文曰:

告爾忠於祖國之俄國民:此次聯軍在俄領作戰之目的,在將我友軍乞開斯拉夫軍,由德、奧俘虜軍之手救出,並救濟苦於秕政涂炭為我友邦之俄國。故為我聯合軍之敵者,德、奧武裝俘虜也,我聯合軍未敢有與俄國之民交戰之意。

今也我聯合軍已集有雄厚兵力,方陸續追逐敵人,向前進行,想全滅德、奧俘虜軍,將俄國由敵之爪牙救出之期,當不遠矣。然德、奧俘虜軍於其敗退之際,將交通機關悉行破壞,就中因鐵道之破壞,使將來物資補給陷於困難,致令聯合軍之救濟俄國民更為延遲。忠於祖國之俄國國民,爾等其了解我聯合軍之目的,使我軍之戰爭行為容易進行,以圖迅速復興爾祖國。

自勃利陷落后,日本第十二師團,擬繼續急遽進行,為日后行動之准備,方在籌劃一切。在尼古拉愛衣斯克附近之海軍陸戰隊,為協助該軍,已遂次溯黑龍江而上。

滿洲里方面,乞開軍一部隊之第六聯隊,佔領尼羅秦斯克、及塞萊秦斯克后,擬繼續東進,以策應由勃利前進之日本軍。

在海蘭泡之過激派軍,及德、奧俘虜,共四千人。阿萊克些夫斯克有德、奧俘虜軍二千,及過激派四千。將來聯合軍之作戰目標,不外海蘭泡及阿萊克些夫斯克二地。

 

ustraining
Soldiers of the US 27th Infantry training in the snow, c.1918. Source.

A telegram was sent on the 8th which we hope the Ministry has read. Now we are summarising the news on the war recently obtained from various sources, compiling them into a report; it is sent separately for Your perusal. It is said that the headquarters of the various national armies will soon move from Vladivostok to Irkutsk, hence Liehuang specially went with Commodore Lin yesterday to meet Japanese commander Otani to enquire about this. He said that in future they are likely to move there, but now the time has not yet come. Also, the Japanese are issuing military yen in Siberia; on this matter the Russians have resolved to lodge a protest. The Siberian Government, on the basis that the military yen damages the Russian economy, has also discussed a means to prevent its dissemination. We have heard that there are also plans to circulate the military yen in Harbin and Manzhouli, it seems that we should also draw up a plan to deal with this. Further, the Allied troops plan to begin putting the economic situation in order in areas that have been cleared of the bolsheviks. The Japanese government has even announced the staff of an economic committee. This matter will have a great impact on our migrants, industry and trade. With deepest regards to the Ministry.

Japan has dispatched frontline cavalry which took Irkutsk on 5 September. On the 6th they occupied the weapons factories there, obtaining 120 cannon. Also, on the 7th, they surrounded the enemy’s naval base, capturing 17 river gunboats and three steamers.

jkhabfleet
“The Japanese army occupied Habalofsk. Amur Fleet surrendered.” Japanese print from the series Illustration of the Siberian War, 1919. Source.

The large iron bridge across the Amur northwest of that area has not yet been destroyed by the enemy, hence westward trains are still running as normal.

News has arrived from Heihe that, currently, the number of bolsheviks fleeing to Blagoveshchensk from both the east and west has reached 3,000-4,000; the area has fallen into a state of anarchy. Half of them, seeing that the tide is turning further against them by the day, are much inclined to stop fighting. The other half instead proposes to resist to the end and have said that, if forced to, they will move their base to the Zeya River area.

Also, according to news from the locality, the main body of German and Austrian POWs, as well as the bolshevik leadership, plans to establish a base at Alekseevsk [the junction of the Trans-Siberian and the Blagoveshchensk line], as a backup plan. As for what their movements will be thereafter, this is not currently known.

On 6 September, commander-in-chief Otani, in order to convey the objectives of the Allied deployment in Russia, distributed an announcement via airplane in Vladivostok and the Ussuri front area. It informed the Russians of the following:

‘To patriotic Russian citizens: The objectives of the current Allied deployment in Russian territory are to rescue friendly forces – the Czechoslovaks – from the hands of German and Austrian POWs, and to aid our ally, Russia, suffering under misgovernment and devastation. Hence the enemy of the Allied troops is the armed German and Austrian POWs. The Allied troops in no way wish to do battle with the citizens of Russia.

‘Now the Allied troops have assembled a great military force to successively pursue the enemy and advance, with the intention to wipe out the German and Austrian POW soldiers. The moment when Russia is delivered from the jaws of the enemy is not far off. But as the German and Austrian POW soldiers are defeated and withdraw, they damage transport infrastructure completely. Due to the destruction of the railways, they will cause future difficulties in the supply of goods, further delaying Allied relief to the Russian people. Patriotic Russian citizens, you who understand the Allied objectives,  facilitate the Allied troops’ conduct of the war in order to swiftly restore your fatherland.’

middlesexward
Colonel John Ward of the 25th Middlesex with Czechoslovak commander Stephan on the Ussuri front, 1918. Source.

Since the fall of Khabarovsk, the Japanese 12th Division plans to advance urgently in preparation for future action; plans are being drawn up. The naval infantry near Nikolaevsk, in support of these troops, has successively gone upriver along the Amur.

News from Manzhouli is that after the 6th Regiment of the Czechoslovak Legion occupied Nerchinsk, they plan to proceed eastwards in order to join forces with the Japanese troops advancing from Khabarovsk.

The bolshevik troops in Blagoveshchensk, together with the German and Austrian POWs, number 4,000. There are 2,000 German and Austrian POWs in Alekseevsk, as well as 4,000 bolsheviks. Going forward, the Allied troops’ military objective will be none other than Blagoveshchensk and Alekseevsk.

Letter from Lü Liehuang and Zhang Shoumo, 17 September 1918. Zhong-E guanxi shiliao, Minguo jiunian zhi banian (1917-1919): chubing Xiboliya, pp. 337-339.
yen1918
Japanese military yen issued in Siberia, 1918. Source.

Much headway had been made in a month. Progress on the Ussuri front was matched by a rapid advance into Transbaikalia. By mid-September, Semenov had succeeded in linking up with the Czechoslovaks in Chita. Alekseevsk fell on the day Lü and Zhang’s report was recived, and Blagoveshchenk would follow two days later. Throughout these territories, Otani’s announcement reassured its audience that the Allies harboured no harmful intentions towards Russia. Instead, economic relief would soon follow.

Yet Lü and Zhang noted the introduction of the military yen in areas occupied by the Japanese, including not only the Russian Far East but the CER zone as well. Their concerns were matched by the Russians’: The arrival of the yen threatened to draw these territories into the Japanese imperial orbit and challenged an important marker of sovereignty, namely the issuing and control of one’s own national currency. Such fears were even more acute in the Manchurian context, in which the northern part of the province had become dominated by the ruble and the southern by the yen, following Japan’s South Manchurian Railway. With Allied assistance, Russia’s anti-bolshevik regimes would largely be able to resist the spread of the yen. The Chinese lacked such coordinated support and proved less capable of doing so; as we shall see, however, they would be more successful in ejecting the ruble from the Railway concession zone.

2 thoughts on “The Intervention, One Month On

  1. Pingback: A Diaspora Association’s Regulations – Shots Across the Amur 黑龍江對岸的槍聲

  2. Pingback: Partisans on the Amur – Shots Across the Amur 黑龍江對岸的槍聲

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s