Friday, May 24, 2013
Did Japan Read the Baron's Playbook?
Roman von Ungern-Sternberg (our blog mascot here) may have been a bit on the “unusual” side but he had a grand vision and was nothing if not ambitious. We have talked in the past about his aspirations and his, albeit short-lived, efforts to bring his vision to reality. It says something that, despite being only very briefly on the scene in Outer Mongolia, the “Mad Baron” became something of a legendary figure. For years later he was viewed with a sort of awe, a mixture of both fear and admiration. He was a bogey man to the Bolsheviks and he still pops up from time to time in works of fiction, from novels to comic books to video games and movies. Many legends grew up around him including, as is nothing new or uncommon, the legend that he was not really killed by the Soviets and would return someday to resume his holy war against the revolutionary enemies of tradition and monarchy. A legend though, is of course a fanciful tale, not reality. However, one could be forgiven for thinking that there may have been something to the basic premise considering the extent to which the “cause” of the bizarre baron was taken up by the forces of the Empire of Japan during and prior to the Second World War. How was that? Let us see by first having a little refresher on what the plan of the baron was.
Bogd Khan (roughly “Holy King” or emperor, aka Bogd Gegeen or “Holy Shining One”. He wanted to see the Eurasian empire of Genghis Khan brought back to life in some form or another, at least as the vehicle for his goal of a pan-monarchist crusade against the forces of the revolution that had decimated his beloved Russian Empire. So, step one was to drive the republicans out of Mongolia, restore the Holy Khan to his throne and consolidate the area as a bastion of traditional authority. In that first step he was entirely successful, driving out the forces of the Republic of China, liberating the Holy Khan and then beginning at least to build his multi-national counter-revolutionary army of White Russians, Mongols, Tibetans, Manchus, Japanese and other peoples of the region.
Xuantong Emperor (Henry Pu-Yi to most westerners) though it is unclear if he ever actually did or not. His old partner, General Semyonov certainly did though and was actually employed by the last Emperor for a time. Had that worked out, the next step would have been to arrange an alliance with the Empire of Japan, and he sent agents to try to make contact with the Japanese for that purpose but, again, it is unknown if any ever even reached anyone in authority. We do know that the Baron had among his army a number of Japanese troops, many or most of whom were detailed to handle the artillery as Japan was one of the few countries in the region that had developed sufficiently to master things like modern artillery, automatic weapons and so on. When all that was done, which it unfortunately was not, the Baron then planned to launch a massive offensive against the Soviet Union drawing on peoples from Japan, Korea, Manchuria, China, Tibet, Mongolia and the Russian Far East. He hoped to sweep away the Bolshevik revolutionaries, restore the Romanov monarchy and then build a coalition across the area of the former Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan into a Eurasian “empire” that would be a bulwark of traditionalism as well as a base from which to strike out and eradicate the forces of revolution everywhere.
Prince Demchukdongrub, a cousin of the Manchu emperor, longtime Qing loyalist and a pan-Mongol nationalist that the Japanese Kwantung Army was quick to reach out to. With backing from Japan the Prince and his family established the autonomous monarchy of Mengjiang with the hope of eventually reunited Inner and Outer Mongolia into a revived country with Prince Demchukdongrub and his relatives as the new Royal Family of Mongolia. In their support of the Prince the Japanese issued a proclamation which would have sounded very familiar to any follower of Ungern-Sternberg saying that the Prince would, “inherit the great spirit of Genghis Khan and retake the territories that belong to Mongolia, completing the grand task of reviving the prosperity of the nation”. The Baron could have said the same thing in his own day.