The White Russian Army in Exile, 1920-1941

The White Russian Army in Exile, 1920-1941

The White Russian Army in Exile, 1920-1941

The White Russian Army in Exile, 1920-1941

Synopsis

Paul Robinson traces the fate of the tens of thousands of soldiers of the anti-Bolshevik White Armies who fled Russia at the end of the Russian civil war. Even as the troops dispersed throughout the world, they continued to think of themselves as soldiers, kept their organization intact and in some cases even continued their military training. This book provides the first detailed history of this remarkable phenomenon. It outlines the activities of the White Army in exile, including its underground struggles against the Soviet Union, the humanitarian aid it supplied to its members, the ideological debates in which it participated, and its efforts to collaborate with Germany in the Second World War. The story of the afterlife of one of the largest combat forces ever dispersed in this way is a fascinating one, and Robinson's account gives due attention to several of the remarkable individuals who were involved. He sheds new light on the history of the White Movement in general, as well as on the personal histories of those Russians caught up in the mass emigration of the interwar years.

Excerpt

In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution and Civil War, hundreds of thousands of Russians fled their country and went into exile, where they formed their own society, commonly known as ‘Russia Abroad’. Scholarly interest in Russia Abroad has expanded rapidly in recent years, and scholars have published numerous works outlining the cultural achievements of Russian émigrés in the period between the two world wars. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, many historians have also shifted the focus of their studies away from the victors of the Revolution and Civil War— the Bolsheviks—and onto those who opposed them, especially the White armies who fought the Red Army in a bloody civil war from 1917 to 1920.

To date, studies of the inter-war Russian emigration have focused on the social, intellectual, and cultural élites of Russia Abroad. There are good reasons for this. The achievements of émigré artists, composers, and writers, such as Chagall, Rachmaninov, and Nabokov were remarkable. On the other hand, the emphasis placed on the lives and works of these famous few masks the fact that the great majority of Russian émigrés were neither artists nor intellectuals. Most of them were soldiers. More than anything else, Russia Abroad was a society of military men, and the largest organizations within it were military ones. The history of these soldiers and their associations is by and large unwritten, and indeed when I began my research on the White armies I had no idea that segments of these armies continued to exist in exile for years after the end of the Civil War. The more that I then learned about the armies in exile, the more fascinated I became by the untold story of White soldiers waiting all around the world for the day when they could strike back against the Soviets. That day never came, but along the way White military organizations played a central role in the life of the Russian emigration, furnished substantial humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of displaced Russian soldiers, and provided invaluable support to Russian culture abroad.

This book aims to provide a better understanding of the White movement and to fill a gap in the history of the Russian emigration from the end of the Civil War to the beginning of the Second World War. I hope that it will interest not only those wanting to know more about the inner workings of Russia Abroad, but also a wider audience interested in the dramatic events of the Russian Revolution and Civil War, and the remarkable . . .

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