The Omsk Government Comes to Harbin

Throughout the summer and autumn of 1918, the revitalised White movement – supported by the Czechoslovak Legion and then the Allied intervention – re-established political control over much of Siberia and the Far East. An anti-Bolshevik government was established in Vladivostok in June under P.Ia. Derber; another, under Horvath, assembled in Grodekovo in July. Both declared extensive authority over territories they did not directly control and clashed over each other’s claims to power.

Farther west, however, a rather more significant regime was taking shape in Omsk. A Socialist-Revolutionary government was established there in early June, followed swiftly by a Western Siberian Army which soon counted 10,000 officers and 30,000 men. By the end of the month, more conservative forces had captured the Omsk leadership and a Provisional Siberian Goverment was announced under P.V. Vologodskii, a Siberian regionalist and erstwhile SR. As Omsk continued with its military buildup, the Czechoslovak Legion and Allied representatives urged it to unite with other White governments, including Komuch in Samara and the Derber-Horvath duo in the Far East. Therefore, as negotiations took place with Komuch in September, Vologodskii travelled to Vladivostok to bring Derber and Horvath in line and secure Allied support.

vologodskii
The Provisional Siberian Government under Vologodskii (front row, second from right), June 1918. Source.

Vologodskii’s entourage reached Harbin on 17 September, where he met with British High Commissioner to Siberia Charles Eliot and Japanese diplomat Matsudaira Tsuneo. Another interlocutor was Chinese Eastern Railway advisor Fu Jiang, who reported on his impressions to his superior, Guo Zongxi.

迭據傅參贊疆稟電,鄂木斯克之西比利亞政府情形,於遠東局勢,關系至為重要。在我究竟如何應付之處,相應抄件函請大部查核示復。

(一)參贊傅疆來電
十七日午后在鄂木斯克之西伯利亞政府國務總理窩羅郭特斯基 Vologosky [sic] 赴崴過哈,探有美武參贊某,日人鬆平(即大谷總司令部之政務部長)均由崴來迎,知其關系極重。陶、李未便往晤,疆以鐵路關系趨訪,先向慰勞,次言西伯利亞與我壤地相接,深望早日安寧,免滋邊患。次詢其政府地點,採用何種政體及地方近狀,激黨現勢,又對於崴埠及霍氏兩政府如何態度。彼云,關於貴國邊務將來辦事情形,已在伊爾庫茲克領事團會議,想貴國領事必經轉電政府。我國政體現取共和制,政府設於鄂木斯克城,該處現已恢復完全管轄權,其西部勢力已達撇耳木。各路軍隊布置完密,地方刻尚寧靜,激黨方面並無德人正式軍隊,僅利用俘虜助其聲勢。至崴埠及霍氏兩政府,現擬前往聯絡,並欲求協商國之協助,此來且為察看遠東情形,由崴回哈后,尚擬赴北京一行。談次復云,中國二次總統聞已選出,向疆道賀,疆致謝意,並以再圖良晤為約而別。其時胡君政之在哈,乃以新聞記者名義往謁,得其宣言書及對於記者答復書,現已飭譯,譯就抄呈。

竊聞窩氏本系社會黨人,其政府轄地既廣,勢力較優,赤赫軍已受其指揮,協商國亦特別看待,日美要人之來迎,大有聯絡之意。伊城領事團如何會議,想中央必得報告,其同來之外交次長,刻聞已往北京默察。前次蓋達與霍氏先后北去,今窩氏又赴崴埠,往來絡繹,必將團成一氣,東亞大勢從茲必又變更。我國於此似宜看風使舵,不可膠執。應否轉達中央,整定方針之處,乞鈞裁。

再昨駐崴俄軍過哈,計軍官百五十人,兵士百七十人,暫留哈埠一、二日,即須開向前敵,想與窩氏必須接洽,尚未得其究竟。俄兵過哈為革命以后第一次,俄人備極歡迎。疆與陶司令、李道尹、馬總辦亦同到站致歡迎詞,日人派軍官兩員出迓,各領未到,並聞。

Multiple telegrams were received from advisor Fu Jiang that the circumstances of the Siberian Government in Omsk will have an important impact on the far eastern situation. As for how we should address this issue, I am conveying the telegrams and request the Ministry’s instructions.

1. Telegram from advisor Fu Jiang
On the afternoon of the 17th, premier Vologodskii of the Siberian Government in Omsk came to Harbin en route to Vladivostok. It was discovered that an American military attache [sic] and the Japanese Matsudaira (head of administrative affairs in Otani’s headquarters) came from Vladivostok to welcome him; evidently he is of great importance. Tao [Xianggui] and Li [Jiaao] were not able to meet him. I met with him on the basis of my connection with the railway, giving first my regards, then saying that Siberia was our neighbour and we sincerely hoped that it would soon be at peace and border troubles could be avoided. Then I asked about the location of his government, its form, the recent situation in the area, and the current strength of the Reds, as well as its attitude to both the Vladivostok and Horvath governments. He said that regarding China’s future approach to border affairs, the matter had been discussed with the consular corps in Irkutsk, the Chinese consul there must have conveyed it to the government. His country’s form of government was that of a republic, with the seat established in Omsk. Full jurisdiction had now been restored in the area, with its authority in the west extending to Perm. Troops had been effectively deployed along the various railways and the area was presently still calm. On the Red side there were no proper German detachments; only POWs were used to boost their strength. As for the Vladivostok and Horvath governments, he now planned to go and parlay with them and seek Allied support. His journey was also to observe the situation in the far east; after returning to Harbin from Vladivostok, he also wished to go to Beijing. At this point, he said he had heard that China’s second president [Xu Shichang] had been elected and delivered his congratulations to me. I thanked him and departed after expressing my wishes for a future meeting. At the time, Hu Zhengzhi was in Harbin and, in his capacity as a journalist, went to meet him [Vologodskii], obtaining an announcement and his written answers to journalists. I have instructed that they be translated; once complete, they will be sent.

daoyinoffice
Headquarters of the Binjiang circuit intendant, Harbin liaison officer and Jilin railway liaison bureau. Source.

I have heard that Vologodskii is a socialist. The area controlled by his government is large and it is relatively strong. The Czechoslovak troops are already under its command and the Allies are also paying it special heed; the reception by an important American and Japanese shows that they have serious intentions to make contact. As for the meeting of the Irkutsk consular corps, Beijing must have received a report. I have now heard that his deputy foreign minister, who travelled with him, has gone to Beijing to observe matters. Previously, Gajda and Horvath both went north in turn, and now Vologodskii is going to Vladivostok. They are going back and forth continually and will certainly unite. From then on, the situation in East Asia will again change. Our country should then steer with the current and cannot be inflexible. As for whether this should be conveyed to Beijing to determine a course of action, I defer to your judgement.

Moreover, yesterday the Russian troops in Vladivostok arrived in Harbin, with a total of 150 officers and 170 men. They will stop over in Harbin for one or two days before setting off for the front. I think that they must have discussed matters with Vologodskii, but the outcome is still unknown. This is the first time Russian troops have arrived in Harbin after the revolution, the Russians welcomed them extremely warmly. Commander Tao, circuit intendant Li and manager Ma also went to the station to greet them. The Japanese sent two officers; the consuls did not go.

Letter from CER president Guo Zongxi, 12 October 1918 (sent 7 October). Zhong-E guanxi shiliao Minguo jiunian zhi banian (1917-1919). E zhengbian yu yiban jiaoshe (1), pp. 542-543.
czechomsk
Arrival of the Czechoslovak Legion in Omsk, summer 1918. Source.

Guo’s letter included translations of two telegrams – both dated 24 September – showing that Vologodskii had met some of his objectives. The first was from Vladivostok: As Fu predicted, it stated that Horvath had reached an agreement with Omsk, his cabinet would merge with Vologodskii’s, and he would be recognised as Omsk’s viceroy in the far east. Although not mentioned in the telegram, Derber’s leadership was also brought to heel. The second was from Ufa, announcing the union of the Komuch and Omsk regimes into the Provisional All-Russian Government. And while Fu’s conversation with Vologodskii seemed rather anodyne, the latter’s meetings with Eliot and Matsudaira yielded expressions of British and Japanese goodwill. Vologodskii’s far eastern journey thus gave a much-needed boost to Omsk’s legitimacy and brought it one step closer to the tantalising prize of official Allied recognition.

This was not the first time the Chinese had heard from Omsk. Already in July, Vologodskii had sent a message via Ambassador Kudashev informing Beijing of his new government and affirming his friendship with China. In early September, consul Wei Bo in Irkutsk also passed on Omsk’s requests for Allied advisors and its desire to unite the anti-Bolshevik movement. Finally, in October, Kudashev conveyed Vologodskii’s hopes that China would recognise his government. As with the other White regimes, however, the Chinese authorities remained circumspect and deferred to the attitude of the other Allies. One wonders why Harbin garrison commander Tao Xianggui and circuit intendant Li Jiaao, for example, were unable to meet with Vologodskii. It was only after the Kolchak coup of November 1918, when Allied opinion came out more strongly in favour of Omsk, that Beijing began to deal more consistently with the regime.

2 thoughts on “The Omsk Government Comes to Harbin

  1. Pingback: Violence in White Transbaikalia – Shots Across the Amur 黑龍江對岸的槍聲

  2. Pingback: Semenov vs. Kolchak – Shots Across the Amur 黑龍江對岸的槍聲

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