Roman Ungern Von Sternberg

From Kaiserreich


Baron Khan Roman Friederich Nickolaus von Ungern-Sternberg (Russian: Роман Фёдорович Унгерн фон Штернберг), is the autocratic ruler, or Khagan, of Mongolia. A Baltic German, he served as an anti-Bolshevik general during the Russian Civil War, and was able to secure a personal kingdom for himself in Mongolia, Tuva, and southern Siberia. He is also known as the Bloody Baron, due to atrocities committed during the civil war, and his bloody rule as Khagan in Mongolia. Although born with the name von Ungern-Sternberg, he later changed his name to Ungern von Sternberg.



Ungern von Sternberg (January 22, 1886, new style) was born in Graz, Austria, to a Baltic German family, and raised in Reval, United Baltic Duchy (then part of the Russian Empire) by his stepfather Oskar von Hoyningen-Huene. After graduating from Pavlovsk Military School in Saint Petersburg, he served in Siberia where he was enthralled with the life-style of nomadic peoples such as the Mongols and Buryats.


During the Weltkrieg, Ungern von Sternberg fought in Galicia. By his peers, he was considered a very brave, but a somewhat reckless and mentally unstable officer. General Wrangel mentioned in his memoirs that he was afraid to promote Ungern-Sternberg. After the February Revolution in 1917 he was sent by the Provisional Government to the Russian Far East under command of Grigori Semenov to establish a loyal military presence there.

Bolshevik Revolution, 1917

After the Bolshevik-led October Revolution of 1917, Semenov and his right-hand man, Ungern von Sternberg raised their banners against them. In the following months, Sternberg distinguished himself by extreme cruelty to the local population and to his own subordinates, where he first earned the nickname "Bloody Baron". Sternberg was also known as the "Mad Baron" because of his exceedingly eccentric behaviour. Semenov and Ungern von Sternberg, though anti-Bolshevik, were not part of the White movement, and declined to recognize the authority of Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak, the nominal leader of the Whites. Instead, they were supported by the Japanese with arms and money. The Japanese intention was to found a puppet state in the Russian Far East headed by Semenov. For the White leaders, who believed in "Russia strong and indivisible", this was high treason.

Sternberg’s army comprised a mixture of Russian troops, the Transbaikal Cossack Host, and Buryat tribesmen. Several writers, such as Robert de Goulaine and Hugo Pratt, refer to Sternberg's unit as "The Savage Division", although it is unclear whether this name was ever used at the time by either Sternberg or any of his contemporaries. The unit title "Asian Division of Cavalry" has also been used in reference to Sternberg's unit. Sternberg's unit plundered the Whites' supply trains as often as those of the Reds. Since Admiral Kolchak had his base of operations in central Siberia, and Semenov and Ungern von Sternberg operated to the east of Kolchak in Transbaikal area, their attacks on supply trains traveling west from Vladivostok on the Trans-Siberian Railroad did much to hinder Kolchak's operations in the Urals.

Split from Semenov, 1920

In 1920, Ungern von Sternberg split from Semenov and became an independent warlord. Believing that monarchy was the only social system which could save civilization from corruption and self-destruction, he began to pursue an idea of restoring the Qing Dynasty to the Chinese throne, then uniting Far-Eastern nations under it.

Since 1919, Mongolia had been occupied by Chinese republican forces. In late 1920-early 1921 Sternberg's troops entered Mongolia at the invitation of the displaced Bogd Khan, Mongolia's civil and religious ruler. In January 1921, Sternberg's army assaulted the capital town, Urga several times, but were repelled with heavy losses. Sternberg ordered his troops to burn a large number of camp fires in the hills around Urga, making an appearance that the town was surrounded by an overwhelming force. In February 1921, without fighting a battle, he drove the Chinese out of town.

Mongol Khagan, end of the Civil War

On March 13, 1921, Mongolia was proclaimed an independent monarchy, under Ungern von Sternberg as a dictator, and officially as the new Khagan two months later. Once securing his position in Mongolia, Sternberg once again turned his forces northwards to the Trans-Siberian Railroad, occupying the stretch north of Mongolia and the provinces surrounding it. At the time, desperate Red forces had been running amok in the area, and the Whites were too distracted to make a final blow. Kolchak decided to made a deal with Sternberg: so long as he helped defeat the Reds in southern Siberia, the Russians would leave Sternberg's warlordship alone. The result was an uneasy peace between Russia and Mongolia.

1920's - 1936, Matters at Home and Abroad

Not long after the Civil War's end, Germany began to expand its power in the Far East, which involved limiting Sternberg's prime benefactor, Japan. Germany also took upon itself to reestablish the Qing Dynasty, which Sternberg responded promptly by denouncing the reborn nation as being "fraudulent... and whoring itself to the Germans". In a shift in his idealized foreign policy, Sternberg decided that the Qing Empire was no longer necessary, and it was up to him to unify Asia.

Things would not be completely well for Sternberg, though. In May of 1926, a civil uprising known as the"Blue Revolution" took place in Mongolia, pushing more for regional autonomy, democratization, and placing Mongolia into more of a federation instead of a centralized state. Sternberg's retribution proved swift, breaking up and arresting most of the dissenters fairly quickly. A group of Tuvans, Mongols, and Russians in Kyzyl proved to be the only point of resistance. Many ethnic Kazakhs of the Bayan-Ölgii Province, many of whom were supporters of the Blue Revolution, fled into Alash Orda at the face of the oncoming armies.

Sternberg would also face setbacks in foreign policy. Hoping to tempt a war with the weak Xebei San Ma warlordship in the south, Sternberg began sending troops to fight skirmishes with the Ma's border patrols. Seeing the potential for Mongolia to invade and grow considerably, Kerensky's Russia stepped in, threatening Mongolia with war. Despite knowing the weak situation Russia was in, Sternberg sensed a defeat if he fought against the two nations, and withdrew.

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