Jewish national units among the troops of Ataman G.M. Semyonov in the Transbaikal, 1919-1920

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This article is based on a wide range of sources, including documents of the Russian State Military Archive. It tells about a little-known national white counterrevolution formation created by Ataman G.M. Semyonov in early 1919 and recruited from the Jewish population of Transbaikalia. The uniqueness of this separate Jewish company lies in the fact that it was the only regular armed formation consisting of Jews and participating in combat action on the side of the White movement. In this way, at the very beginning of 1919, a detachment that included a Jewish company fought against the Red partisans and internationalists in the Yakut taiga on the Magyar rift. In addition, the Jewish divisions carried out garrison service in different settlements of the “Semyonovskii kingdom.” During the summer of 1919, underground Bolshevik cells began to form, which in the spring of 1920 led to a revolt in the white Jewish units. An insurrection in the village of Aleksandrovka was suppressed by Semyononv’s forces. On 23 April 1920 a separate Jewish company in full strength successfully went over to the side of the Reds in the village of Nerchensky Zavod. In response, the Red command decided to create the 4th Rifle Partisan Regiment from among the Jewish partisans who had gone over to the Bolshevik side. Thereafter, this regiment was transformed into the 15th Infantry Regiment of the People's Revolutionary Army of the Far Eastern Republic. In the fall of 1920, it took part in heavy battles for Borzya and Dauria. All this is disclosed in more detail in this article. The Jewish national divisions were only one of the ethno-confessional units of the troops of ataman G.M. Semenov, next to Chinese, Serbian, Buryat, Mongolian, Caucasian and Tatar formations. Their activities in 1919 were mostly garrison work in nature, but they also had to fight against the partisans in extremely difficult conditions. The transition of these ethnic groups to the Reds was not surprising, at a time when the White movement in Transbaikalia was already in agony. The article also pays attention to the position of Jews in Transbaikalia during the Civil War and the attitude of Ataman G.M. Semenov to the Jewish matter.

About the authors

Denis R. Kasatochkin

Moscow children and youth center for ecology, local history and tourism

Author for correspondence.

Ph.D. in History, Methodist

12а, Odesskaya St., Moscow, 117303, Russia


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