Samizdat | October 2018
The 8000 expeditionary force, support of the White movement, and the most serious intentions, on August 15th, 1918, the US State Department officially declared the severance of diplomatic relations with Russia, after which the Americans disembarked in Vladivostok. This marked the beginning of the full-scale intervention of the Entente countries in a country that was already submerged in civil war. The material of RIA covers what memory the overseas military personnel in the Far East left behind.
“The nation doesn’t exist”
Immediately after the October revolution Soviet Russia concluded a truce with Germany on the Eastern front and actually withdrew from the war. The Entente countries perceived it literally with hostility. Under the pretext of the inadmissibility of power in the former empire being captured by the “pro-German party”, the western powers were preparing themselves to intervene in a Russia that was already gripped by civil war.
In December of 1917 the US, Great Britain, France, and their allies held a conference, during which a decision was made concerning the differentiation of zones of interests on the territory of the former Russian Empire and the establishment of contacts with national and democratic governments. In other words, “western partners” planned to divide up the largest state on the planet among themselves, and it is the representatives of the White movement that were supposed to help them with this. Interventionists came into contacts with them even before the intervention.
Ukraine, Bessarabia, and Crimea were in the French sphere of influence. England reserved the right for “Cossack and Caucasian regions”, Armenia, Georgia, and Kurdistan. The US, which kept neutrality during the first years of Soviet power, as a result agreed to help Great Britain and France “explore” the Russian Primorye. The Americans wanted to kill two rabbits with one stone — to get access to the rich resources of the Far East and to prevent Japan – which also had its sights on “dividing the skin of the not yet killed bear” – from entrenching itself there.
The possible resistance of Russians wasn’t taken into account. The Republican senator from the State of Washington Miles Poindexter, calling for intervention, directly said: “Russia became simply a geographical concept, and it will never be anything else. Its force of unity, organisation, and restoration left forever. The nation doesn’t exist …” The ambassador of the US in Russia David Francis also called for intervention: “I insist on the need to take Vladivostok under control, and give Murmansk and Arkhangelsk to Great Britain and France”.
Already on August 3rd, 1918 the US Department of Defense gives the order to General William Graves about sending the 27th and 31st infantry regiments to Vladivostok, and also volunteers from the 13th and 62nd regiments. In total in the middle of the month the Americans disembarked about 8,000 military personnel in the Far East. Canadians, Italians, and Brits were also included in the expeditionary force. Formally the contingent had to provide safe passage for the Czechoslovak corps from the depths of Russia. In reality more mercantile aspirations prevailed.
“Interventionists on the territory of Russia defended the interests of their capital [finance],” said the military historian Boris Yulin. “Gold mines, wood, and coal — they had plans for all of this. I am sure that civil war in the country was so long and bloody only because of the intervention of foreign powers.
If it wasn’t for the Czechoslovak Legion and interventionists, it would’ve ended without big blood already in 1918. The leaders of the White movement provided the American, English, French, Japanese with concessions, and promised to pay imperial debts. In fact, they provided foreigners with control over Russian territory”.
The American interventionists used the “invitation” in full. They took away wood, furs, and gold from the Far East. American firms received permission from Kolchak’s government to carry out trade operations in exchange for “City Bank” and “Guaranty Trust” credits. One company alone sent from Vladivostok to the US 15,700 poods of wool, 20,500 sheep skins, and 10,200 large dry skins. Everything that represented at least some value was taken away.
They did not stand on ceremony with the local population who supported the Red partisans. In the Russian state historical archive of the Far East “Acts concerning the tortured and shot peasants were preserved in the Olginsky district in 1918-1920”. Here is an excerpt from this document:
“Having captured the peasants I. Gonevchuk, S. Gorshkov, P. Oparin, and Z. Murashko, the Americans buried them alive for having ties to local partisans.
And they finished off the wife of the partisan E. Boychuk as follows: they pricked her body with bayonets and drowned her body in a rubbish pit. They mutilated the peasant Bochkarev with bayonets and knives to the point where he became unrecognisable: his nose, lips, and ears had been cut off, his jaw had been unhinged, his face and eyes had been pricked by bayonets, his entire body had been cut up. Near Sviyagino station the partisan N. Myasnikov was tortured in the same brutal way – according to the testimony of an eyewitness, at first they chopped off his ears, then his nose, hands, legs, and then chopped him into pieces alive”.
The historian Fedor Nesterov in the book “Link of times” wrote: “The adherents of the Soviet power were pricked, cut up, shot in groups, hung, sank in the Amur, taken away in torturous ‘death trains’, and starved in concentration camps everywhere where where the bayonet of the overseas ‘liberators of Russia’ could reach”. According to him, many peasants who in the beginning didn’t support the Soviet power eventually rose up against the “guests” and came over to the side of the partisans.
Resistance to the occupiers spread. The battle at the village of Romanovka near Vladivostok in 1919 on June 25th history made history: Bolshevist units under Yakov Tryapitsyn’s command attacked the positions of the US army and destroyed more than 20 soldiers of the enemy.