Ussuri Host in the Russian Civil War
The Ussuri Host was the most easternmost of all the Cossacks. Their
settlements were between Vladivostok and Khabarovsk, in
the Primorye province, along the Ussuri River, the Sungari River,
and around the Khanka Lake. It was a small host, only 30 years old.
Ataman of the Ussuri Host in Tsarist times was also military governor
of the region, which gave the title rather more importance in the Civil
War than most Atamans.
The Ussuri Host had been formed from a unit of the Amur Host, and
its colours were also yellow and green, though arranged
Ussuri Host in the Civil War
The Ussuri Host held several grand krugs
in 1917 to discuss what to do about the revolution, but no firm
were made as the host was divided in its approach. As a result no
attempt was made to stop the Bolshevik takeover of the towns in the
The general attitude was reversed in January 1918 at another krug
, even though
by now many frontoviki
had returned home. The reactionary Ivan Kalmykov was elected
as Ataman, representing the bulk of villagers and elders, refusing
to accept the Soviet takeover and demanding the retention of Cossack
privileges. But a sizable rump, dominated by soldiers, opposed
Kalmykov and supported the Bolsheviks.
While not supporting
Soviet power in their own villages, few Ussuri Cossacks were prepared
to fight them elsewhere. Instead Kalmykov turned to the Allies,
especially Japan, and
received large quantities of both money and weapons. He formed the
Special Cossack Detachment, or OKO with a couple of hundred men. . In
July he moved to take over the Ussuri region from the Red Guards and
their "Internationalist" allies. He had no chance of defeating
the much more numerous Reds by himself, and in fact he struggled to
even clear the Cossack villages of Soviet sympathisers. But
luckily for him it was at this time that the Czechs were just clearing
the Trans-Siberian, and the Japanese were establishing themselves in
the Maritime province. Thanks almost entirely to them them the Reds
were forced to retreat north.
Reds formed a line at Kraevski. A confrontation between Allied forces -
British, French, Czech and Cossack - and the Reds ended in stalemate.
It was only after the Japanese started to actively engage that the Reds
were driven off. Thanks to them in September Kalmykov was able to enter
Khabarovsk. All Red forces were liquidated or forced to hide in the taiga
Kalmykov now commenced a counter-revolutionary repression, supported by
Japanese money and 1,600 soldiers, only a small portion of whom were
actually Cossack. The pre-war Cossack officers had either stayed on
with Semenov when they passed through the Trans-Baikal, or moved to
Vladivostok, so he lacked solid leadership as well as troops. What few
Cossacks were drafted were unreliable in battle, and increasingly prone
to mutiny and desertion.
Although formally subordinating
himself to Ataman SemŽnov in Chita, in practice Kalmykov ruled the Maritime province as
a personal fiefdom. He also tried to extend his rule towards
Blagoveshchensk, but was unable to penetrate Vladivostok, which had a
much more moderate White regime.
As Kalmykov and his men plundered, killed and raped with incredible
rapacity, the support for the Red partisans in the taiga
multiplied. Attempts to suppress the them were so random and brutal
that they were counter-productive. It was clear that only Japanese
money and bayonets allowed the regime to survive.
May 1919 the 36th Siberian Rifle Regiment was stationed in Khabarovsk
and available for service, but in general the Ussuri forces were
politically and militarily separate throughout the war. Indeed Kalmykov
actively prevented material from reaching Kolchak in order to enrich
By the end of 1919 the Primorye partisans had heard
of Kolchak's fall and were greatly emboldened, and started to attack
the main towns. Their advance was barely opposed as the White troops
mutinied or deserted. By February 1920 all of Primorye was in Red
hands. Kalmykov fled to China and was captured. Vladivostok itself fell
to the Provisional Zemstvo Government, which was relatively moderate,
if more Bolshevik than White in orientation. Elsewhere though Red
Terror quickly replaced the White variety.
the end of December 1918 the Ussuri Cossack Host forces were, at least
on paper: an HQ detachment; a Plastoon Battalion (3 sotnias, officer
platoon, training unit); the 1st Ussuri Cossack Regiment (4 sotnias, a
training unit); the 2nd Ussuri Cossack Regiment (4 sotnias, MG
team from February); a Horse-mountain Divizion
of 2 batteries; a Cadet Battery, a Separate Heavy Battery;
Artillery Scouts; the armoured train "Kalmykovets; an Engineer Company;
an MG command and the Escort to the Ataman.
By October the
forces were the Detached Ussuri Cossack Ataman Kalmykov Brigade,
composed of: an HQ; the Ussuri Cossack Regiment; some separate
Ussuri Mounted Sotnias; some Volunteer Cavalry Sotnias, some Native
Horse Sotnias, a Horse Artillery Divizion
two armoured trains; and an Engineer Divizion
Three infantry battalions were being raised, mostly from former Red
Army prisoners sent from the main Siberian front. The 36th Siberian
Rifle Regiment was also available.
The forces did not change
significantly until the final collapse in winter 1920. The Cossack
Cavalry became the Ataman Cossack Regiment, and the separate sotnias
were regrouped a bit, becoming a Horse Divizion
called a general mobilisation late in
1919 as the partisans became more threatening, but apart from a few
local self-defence units, turnout was minimal.
The Ussuri Host never mobilised as a whole, and many of
the men serving in these units were not Cossacks. In fact many Cossacks
everything they could to avoid service in Kalmykov's army, which was
notorious for its indiscipline and atrocities. The result was that as
a military force the Ussuri Brigade was pretty much useless. Without
the Japanese to do the real work, they would quickly have collapsed.
They never did fight the regular Red Army.
when the White regrouped in Primorye in late 1921 there were some
Ussuri Cossacks, but once again they were very reluctant to serve in
the White forces. An infantry divizion
and a cavalry sotnia seem to be all they could muster.
Jamie Bisher, "White
Terror: Cossack Warlords of the Trans-Siberian
> Ussuri Host