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10 thoughts on “The Bloody White Baron

  1. Steve Steve says:

    It's OK I guess Palmer's actually a pretty colorful writer but the problem with his subject Baron Ungern Sternberg is that there's not a whole lot of reliable documentation on him as a person There's little doubt that the Baron was a psychopath but the Devil is in the lack of concrete details The setting post WW 1 Mongolia is about as distant as it gets Add in to that the murky murderous stew of competing powers Red Russians White Russians Japanese Chinese Mongolians soldiers of fortune and it's pretty much impossible other than the general outlines of what actually occurred to figure out who was killing who at any given time Because there's so little on the Baron the book feels very padded with information that is sometimes of interest and sometimes so far afield that you the sense the author trying to reach some sort of page count The Baron in Palmer's hands comes across as a weird combination of Fu Manchu Kurtz and Vlad the Impaler but without the charm of any of them That may be accurate but it's not all that well sourced unless you feel comfortable with It was said umpteen number of times Given Palmer's obvious writing ability I kind of wished he would of considered mining this story and turning it into some sort of Pulp Horror novel

  2. Tim Pendry Tim Pendry says:

    The subject of this book is a vicious anti semitic Baltic aristocrat Baron Ungern Sternberg who briefly flared up as a murderous precursor of national socialist ethnic cleansing in Mongolia in the chaos of the post revolutionary struggle for control of the Russian EmpireAs with the tale of Colonel Despard recently reviewed by us another marginal figure in another empire at another time an individual outlier from the norm is an opportunity to weave a story about a particular time and place and permit us to make our own judgements about historyThe comparison with Despard is instructive – the tale of a fundamentally honourable and ‘good’ man out manouevred by the special interests of a coalescing and rising empire is a fitting contrast to a fundamentally ‘evil’ and cruel man trying to cope with the crumbling of a falling empireHere in two books we have the best of humanity and the worst of it We see contrasted in the Despard book the worst aspects of society when it is in the hands of the calculating few but what happens when society has no rudder in this oneThe often eually murderous but less gratuitously cruel Bolsheviks though that changes with time in a general deterioration of conduct at least occasionally appear disciplined and engaged in their struggle through something other than fear of the lashIn the never ending and futile debate about whether traditionalist anti semitic slaughtering was eual ‘better’ or worse than Bolshevik class killing and military ruthlessness this book tends to suggest that Bolshevism was the lesser evil at least in 19201921What Palmer does is put Ungern Sternberg into context as an extreme member of a brutal class of aristocrats and militarists whose treatment of its peasantry was explanation and justification enough for revolution if not for BolshevismIt was fashionable amongst Western liberals in the wake of the Thatcher Reagan revolution to produce accounts of Bolshevism that were intended to shift it into the camp of ‘pure evil’ with the implicit intent of making the Atlantic liberal response to it something close to ‘pure good’This was simplistic and never tenable It systematically covered up the ‘crimes’ of Western liberal imperialism and expansion and the destructive effects of capitalism and it offered wholly retrospective views of men and women operating with weak information and trapped by circumstancesBolshevism turned into something monstrous and brutal as did most of its successor movements before turning into something dull and sclerotic but it arose for a reason filled a power vacuum for a reason held the State for a reason and collapsed for a reasonTo moralise a historically about these stages especially the attempt to disconnect the second stage from the first and not recognise that the third was not uite so awful as the second though still pretty grim is to educate the student poorly It should not be a case of exclaiming ‘oh how awful’ but ‘why so awful’ and what this awfulness teaches us about the human race under conditions of both tyranny and anarchy The moralising strikes me as an attempt to deny horrible truths about our species by ‘bien pensant’ liberalsThis story is a case in point because the charge sheet is not only one of viciousness by Ungern Sternberg or indeed of the Bolsheviks but by his lieutenants and – which will surprise many a gentle Californian ‘bien pensant’ – the poverty stricken Buddhist cultures of the steppeUngern Sternberg’s ostensible boss in the region his friend Semenov was really just a louche pleasure loving gangster with no interest in ideology or cruelty for its own sake A night in Semenov's harem coach must have been fun and it is interesting that our cruel anti hero seems to have had no interest in sex at all Beware politicians and soldiers with no interest in sexual play Semenov was the type of the self seeking opportunistic gangster warlord that emerged as order collapsed thanks in great part to Western incursions in China and Russia from Siberia through Manchuria and into China proper in the early 1920sThis was what threatened Russia briefly in the early 1990s when the Soviet system collapsed and this should be remembered by Western liberal critics of Putin There is a history to his re assertion of order Ordinary people are never are served by any sudden collapse in state authorityBut around Ungern Sternberg were men of such sadistic cruelty that they would be fair warning of the type who would emerge again within the SS and the Bolshevik Secret Police in the security services of the Post War World and who once existed in the penal and slavery systems of the WestThe excesses of these people recounted by Palmer who allows for exaggerations by their captors and those who write history are supposed conventionally to shock us I won’t reveal their cruelties here but they should not This is us – humanity – under certain conditions of powerThis less charitable view of the human condition under conditions of warlord anarchy and war can be matched by a similar view under conditions of poverty The excesses of Whites and Reds and there were good men on both sides come down to a desperate struggle in chaos and poverty for survivalThe book is extremely good on the political reality of Buddhism – feudal corrupt murderous filled with obscurantism deeply exploitative of the population opportunistic over the acuisition and maintenance of power Buddhism is certainly not uniue in this and there were many good and ‘holy’ monks but this practical reality of the role of organised religion under conditions of feudal poverty explains the reasonable claims of Communists to be progressive in their invasions of such countriesThis is not to say that Communist slaughter of the monks and despoliation of their treasures were not extreme acts eual to those of the Taliban at Bamiyan but that there was a long history to these acts that Western liberals would do well to consider as explanation though not justificationAbove all the ‘fluffy’ approach to Buddhism that extends a serious religious practice that is extremely demanding and has great truths to offer into silly sexual play romantic idealism around the cuddly Dalai Lama and a cod eco internationalism could do with some lessons in historyThis book is worth reading alone for opening our eyes to what organised religion often really is all about in very poor societies – maintaining order through a pact with nobles to exploit the population and using surplus capital for ostentatious display to assert their ‘spiritual’ authorityMongolia during the extremely short and brutal period of Ungern Sternberg’s attempt to create the base for a new Mongolian Empire was a cesspit of cruelty exploitation and obscurantism and the Mongolians like all peoples deserved betterPalmer also shows how Ungern Sternberg foreshadowed the Nazis in their thinking and this should not be a surprise in the context of the day The neurotic ideology of the Baltic Russo Germans were part of a general Slavic intellectual irrationalism that resulted in the useful and poisonous ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ but the intellectual climate was not in Russia so much one of nationalism as monarchic traditionalismThis is a complex issue that is not the core subject of the book and should not be essayed here but understanding it involves understanding how modernisation disrupted exploitative agrarian economies in Eastern Europe and Russia and the role that Jews as traders and intellectuals played in thatAny analysis must take into account the self identity of an aristocratic class that genuinely considered itself innately rather than contingently superior much as Western imperialists came to think of themselves as innately superior to people with different coloured skins and culturesPalmer is right to present Ungern Sternberg in Mongolia as in effect a testing ground for reaction to modernisationNational socialist Germany under Hitler rather than other national socialists created a perfect opportunity to express the revolt against modernisation in modernising terms as a technologically based attempt to seize empire in the Western manner and crush the modernisersThe Baltic German elite once their world had been crushed and defeated by Communism became vectors of resentment and revenge against both Bolshevism and Jewry with an ideology of restored aristocracy but for race and Fuhrer rather than failed TsarLike so many dangerous forces within state and empires they came from the margins and having failed in one project merely transferred to another and refined their cruelties into what would later become a system of organised extermination This is the world of Alfred RosenbergA recommended book not for its ostensible subject – a rather interesting unhinged but nasty and dim witted minor aristocrat let loose under anarchic conditions – but for what the adventures of such a man tell us about humanity and society as old worlds crumble and new world are bornWe are in the midst of such a period now An old world is crumbling and a new world is being born and we have to watch out for ourselves as the solutions being offered to us swing between tyranny and anarchy giving opportunities to men like Ungern Sternberg to express themselves in blood

  3. Adam Adam says:

    I have always been interested in Mongolia because of its remoteness from Europe its inaccessibility and its obscurity Until recently it was a country as impenetrable as say North Korea but now that is no longer the caseI never dreamt that I would ever treat Mongolian patients or would work with Mongolian dental assistants many of them are dentists trained in Mongolia but now I doSo when someone on Goodreads having read my brief review of The Russian Fascists Tragedy and Farce in Exile 1925 1945 recommended The Bloody White Baron I ordered it immediatelyThe Baron Ungern Sternberg the villainous hero of the book was born in Graz Austria and brought up in the now popular Estonian tourist destination Tallinn formerly 'Reval' His family were Baltic Germans with a heritage extending back to the German warlords who expanded the German lands eastwards in mediaeval times He is also supposed to have had some connection with the Imperial Russian royal family He regarded himself first and foremost as a Russian and this accounts for his intense disappointment with the fall of the Tsar and the eventual rise of the BolsheviksThe Baron became a fanatic member of the White Armies opposed to the Bolsheviks and was active militarily in the Russian Far EastImbued with a fascination with mysticism and also Buddhism and also realising that the White armies were losing ground to the Bolshevik Red Army he entered Mongolia hoping to rouse the Mongolians and other eastern Asians such as the Buriats into reviving the conuering hordes of Genghis Khan His plan briefly summarised was to overrun Russia and the West and to re establish ther rule of the TsarThe plot thickens as Ungern Sternberg has to deal with the Chinese occupiers of Mongolia and a wide variety of other opponents And as the plot thickens so does the Baron's cruel behaviour Eventually the Baron becomes the de facto military ruler of Mongolia but not for longAll of this and much that I have not mentioned one could imagine should make for exciting reading However although James Palmer was able to interest me he was unable to excite me in his The Bloody White BaronOn the back of the book Colin Thubron is uoted as having said A wonderfully lucid resurrection of a forgotten history and its terrible protagonist James Palmer here establishes himself both as scholar and writer This may be apt but I found the book's style to be dry and I would uestion that the book really does establish the author as a 'writer' at least not one whose writing attracts me He is not an Alistair Horne or a Thomas Pakenham who are both writers of history whose scholarly works read like good novelsThe book lacks illustrations apart from those on the dust jacket This is a pity considering that the author did visit Mongolia and also must have had access to old photographs in the material that he researched To summarise this book is about fascinating subject but sadly it is written uninterestingly

  4. Jerome Jerome says:

    You’ve probably never heard of the Baron Ungern Sternberg I came across a passing reference of him while reading The World on Fire 1919 and the Battle with Bolshevism last year something about him claiming to be a reincarnation of Genghis Khan declaring that he would kill every Jew in Russia making human torches out of his victims and vowing to make an avenue of gallows from Siberia to Europe My interest thus piued I looked for a biography of this guy and came across this Palmer give us a good portrait of a delusional psychopath and aristocratic misfit that failed at everything he tried until he found his true calling warfare and genocide on the most colossal and bizarre scale possible Sternberg also kept wolves in his house Once he paused in the middle of a hostile city during a reconnaissance mission to berate an enemy sentry for falling asleep on dutyPerhaps fittingly many of Sternberg’s ancestors had backgrounds as unsavory as him Otto von Ungern Sternberg 1744 1811 was a “wrecker”; he used false lights to lure ships onto the harsh rocks of Hiiumaa island then killed the surviving crew and plundered the cargo It seems that the Baron was a worthy successorWhen the Russian Civil War broke out it was characterized by a depraved frenzy of daily atrocities by the Reds and the eually fanatical Whites This environment suited Sternberg perfectly and gave him a chance to distinguish himself as he sought to outdo everybody at how extensive and brutal atrocities could get He went to Mongolia hoping to lead an army of east Asians against Moscow His ultimate objective was to re establish the rule of the tsar in Russia impose a monarchy on China and re create a Mongolian empire As contradictory and muddled as those goals were Sternberg was apparently less concerned about his military objectives than he was with his penchant for genocidal warfare He eventually did conuer Mongolia in a bloody campaign against the Chinese Following his victory the Baron turned the place into a giant execution groundOf course Sternberg and the rest of the Whites with whom he was at least vaguely affiliated never had a realistic chance of destroying the Bolsheviks After his rather insane ploy to march on Moscow the Red Army eventually ousted Sternberg “liberated” Mongolia and then proceeded to commit atrocities on a colossal scale as if trying to outdo Sternberg at his own work Sternberg was captured The Bolsheviks put him on trial for war crimes hypocritically enough When asked whether he often beat people he replied “not enough” Sternberg was executed immediately after the trial Sternberg had once consulted a soothsayer who told him he had 130 days to live Coincidentally Sternberg was captured and executed exactly 130 days after he was told this The Red Army occupied Mongolia which became the first Soviet satellite state In some cases incredibly enough Sternberg was still worshipped as a god in that area as late as the 1970sSternberg claimed to be a Buddhist; he was also fanatically anti Semitic Somehow he managed to turn this into a philosophy that made some people think he was a god His ideology was a curious vaguely defined mix of racial supremacy occult mysticism and absolute megalomania In Mongolia Sternberg wrote “I tried to form the Order of Military Buddhists for an uncompromising fight against the depravity of revolution” The order permitted unlimited vodka and drugs but total renunciation of women a restriction that was ignored One error did puzzle me Palmer mentions the White warlord Kolchak as having formed a government in 1917; it was actually 1918 He also writes that Wrangel evacuated the Crimea in November 1919; it was actually 1920 Palmer also writes on page 80 that “The Winter Palace symbolic heart of government was seized by a tiny band of revolutionaries led by Lenin freshly returned from German exile” This is inaccurate Lenin had been in Zurich Switzerland at first and then had to cross German lines to get to Russia The Germans then let Lenin’s band travel via Frankfurt Berlin and Stockholm to PetrogradThe book itself is a bit dry even though the story is an unbelievable tale of epic proportions and a revealing look into a seemingly totally deranged time period Sternberg is the kind of man that makes communism look good

  5. Charles J Charles J says:

    “The Bloody White Baron” is one of those fascinating short books about a nasty little corner of the world during a nasty time The nasty little corner of the world is Mongolia; the nasty time is the Russian Civil War The eponymous Baron is Roman Nikolai Maximilian von Ungern Sternberg of EstonianGerman extraction who was called the last khan of Mongolia and waged a brutal doomed minor campaign against the Chinese and the Bolsheviks in the early 1920s Naturally he came to a bad endThe backdrop to all this is the Russian Civil War in eastern Siberia Figures such as Alexander Kolchak and Grigory Semenov pop up as background players to Ungern’s little campaign Interestingly the tenuous relationships of such men with Ungern highlight one of the White Russians’ biggest failures—the inability to unite among themselves Palmer is an excellent writer and he makes all these characters come aliveThe book covers mostly 1920 and 1921 Ungern wanted to put Michael the brother of the last Tsar Nicholas II on the throne which would have been difficult considering the Bolsheviks had murdered him three years before But as far as Ungern was concerned “Monarchy was the only right way to order the people and they ought to long for it If they didn’t they had been corrupted and would have to be punished” So Ungern went back and forth over Mongolia raising and losing a small polyglot army and using it in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to drive out both the Chinese and the Bolsheviks who both saw Mongolia as a place to extend their powerOne of the most interesting takeaways from the book is the author’s clear eyed treatment of Buddhism Palmer talks a lot about Mongolian Buddhism which is essentially the same as Tibetan Buddhism He talks about it in general and but also about how it affected Ungern’s thinking and about how it played into and in many ways drove the actions of many of those interacting with Ungern Palmer who has traveled extensively in Mongolia and speaks the language doesn’t sugarcoat the religion Most religions don’t get the sugarcoating treatment nowadays but usually Buddhism does Vacuous Hollywood stars purport to be Buddhist and tell us that Buddhism is a wonderful way of spirituality lacking in silly things like doctrines gods and reuired behaviors This is reinforced by various dubious writings For example the pseudo scholarly book by Stephen Prothero “God Is Not One” discussing the world’s religions gives much the same treatment to Buddhism as movie stars do when it’s not busy blaming all the world’s problems on Christianity and offering cut rate Muslim apologetics Palmer merely in the service of providing color and background to his story gives a much accurate portrayal of BuddhismSo Palmer notes that “Many writers ignorant of Asian history—particularly for some reason anti religious science writers—also claim that Buddhism lacked the history of atrocities and intolerance that marked Western religion despite for instance the many Buddhist inspired messianic revolts in China or the deep complicity of Zen Buddhism in Japanese militarism during the Second World War” And “Buddhists are often portrayed in the West as not believing in a God or gods and most Western Buddhists don’t The vast majority of Buddhists worldwide however are enthusiastic believers in all manners of gods and spirits”The reality is that much Buddhism is a spirit soaked religion full of belief in magic and demons freuently extremely violent and intolerant with nothing of the Golden Rule or any other Christian inspired belief that is central to the West’s shared morality Palmer notes though that Chinese Buddhism is focused on “mercy and release from the wheel of suffering” than Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhism thus conforming somewhat to Western stereotype Buddhist temples contain “lurid images of the gods severed heads and flayed skins desecrated corpses blossoming into gardens of blood ” And many important Buddhist figures including incarnations of various Dalai Lamas and other leading lamas such as the Bogd Khan aka the Jebtsundamba Khutuktu the third most important lama in Tibetan Buddhism and a major player in Ungern’s activities were drunken sexual perverts desperate for power and material goodsPalmer doesn’t note these real Buddhist characteristics just to add flavor though His point is that a culture soaked in this type of violence with a belief in prophecies demons and spirits was not only willing but ecstatic to take as a “White God” the “God of War” a failed Russian army officer who promised to restore the Mongolian nation to the glory of Genghis Khan and also to accept his horrendous brutality without comment or complaint Ungern was like a Buddhist real life Hieronymus Bosch “Ungern’s ideas of punishment come straight from the Buddhist hells of which there are a great variety with numerous punishments for each sin All of Ungern’s favorite tortures were prominent in the hell scrolls of the Mongolian monasteries exposure on the ice burning alive rending by wild beasts” Palmer also has funny statements in this context like “Looking for a specific ‘god of war’ in the eclectic Mongolian pantheon is like looking for a virgin martyr among Catholic saints”Ungern himself was a complex religious figure Theoretically he was Lutheran But he had strong Russian Orthodox leanings too doubtless because of the link between Russian monarchism and Orthodoxy He liked theosophy perhaps he would have gotten along well with noted Democratic icon and crypto Communist Henry Wallace who was forced out in favor of Harry Truman as Vice President for FDR’s last term not because he was basically a Communist but because he was humiliatingly taken in by a theosophist con man And what Ungern really wanted from religion was to confirm his messianic view of himself Really Ungern was a mostly tolerant syncretist—he didn’t care what religion you followed as long as you shared his messianic views and of course he being Russian Jews were not allowed He wasn’t racist either —he thought Asians superior to whites—though of course he thought any noble person superior to peasantsMy only complaint about the book is that there are literally no pictures This must be for moneycopyright reasons Palmer freuently describes pictures in details presumably to make up for the lack—so the pictures exist But that just calls attention to the lack of pictures and to coin a phrase a picture is worth a thousand words This really reduces the impact of the book—just a few pictures would have been invaluable Nonetheless Palmer’s writing mostly makes up for the lack and the book is well worth reading

  6. DoctorM DoctorM says:

    I first read about Ungern Sternberg in Peter Hopkirk's account of the Russian Civil War in Central Asia Setting the East Ablaze and I couldn't imagine why the Baron's story hadn't been filmed It has everything armoured trains ragtag armies moving across the steppe like something out of Road Warrior Mongol horsemen Japanese mercenaries eerie shamanic rituals and a central figure whose madness and cruelty arewell breathtaking Ungern Sternberg's story is a kind of dark dark comedy in the Grand Guignol mode a surreal sideshow to the already brutal and horrific Russian Civil War in the East I'll fault James Palmer for a few things continually using Nikolas II for the last tsar instead of the standard Nicholas or the Russian Nikolai and for long rambling disuisitions on why he dislikes Buddhism But the story itself is a horror comedy that needs a major film and The Bloody White Baron is very much worth readingif you have a taste for surrealist nightmare

  7. Christopher Christopher says:

    I read this before but its such a real life 'Heart of DarknessApocaypse Now' in the Russian Civil War that I had to read it again Still amazing A meditation on all that far rightoccultist merger stuff that today exists largely in center left homeopathic whole foods shopper form The Baron was a genuine madman with power and thus its s true case study in when the insane may do as they please

  8. Kevin Kevin says:

    Not uite what I expected I thought this would be a biography of the Russian aristocrat Baron Ungern Sternberg who would be the savior of Mongolia the spiritual and military reincarnation of Genghis Khan Maybe combined with a history of Mongolia in the post Russian revolution period It was a little of both of these but much of a military history of the White anti communist Russians and Baron Ungern’s various battles which just isn’t that interesting The Baron seems to have been uite disturbed delusions of becoming the next Khan saving Mongolia and defeating the Communists He was also terrifically anti Semitic and a bloody sadist It seems there could be a great story here but the writer isn’t up to telling a coherent story The battles are confusingly told and the Baron doesn’t really become a full blooded character for some reason Lots of editorializing on the author's part which isn't bad in general but in a history I expect objectivity otherwise the whole book is thrown into doubt I couldn’t recommend this but the story would make a good movie And this publisher commits a cardinal sign The book is full of misspelled words typos and format errors I really think this is inexcusable and automatically loses one star regardless of how good a book might otherwise be

  9. Fishface Fishface says:

    A remarkable read about one of history's most bizarre characters a Russian nobleman from Estonia with a Jewish name who was apparently a Buddhist religious fanatic seen as a reincarnation of Genghis Khan and most startlingly bulletproof The author who apparently hangs out pretty close to where this story unfolded pulls together a tremendous number of sources written in different languages and with different levels of attention to accuracy and puts it all in one place for you Curiously he didn't give that much attention to the main character's cruelties or the other odd features of his personality; he focuses of the legends that spun off from the reality Written in a light ironic tone that continues to the last page of endnotes which are worth reading not uite as funny as Will Cuppy's but close Large bibliography in the back makes me want to read everything listed in it

  10. Tamara Tamara says:

    A good yarn about an excellently demented and extremely brutal corner of 20th century history The Baron is a weird enough character and Palmer makes a seemingly honest attempt to get to the bottom of his personality and ideology but this strikes me as the less interesting aspect of the book as well as being a hopeless cause The history of the events themselves is striking From the dramatically named baroue killer train of the Russian civil war which roamed Siberia complete with banueting halls torture chambers and ransacked naval artillery The Tibetan brigade that wandered around Mongolia trying to find the Mongolian army The political wrangling between the Chinese and Russians in Mongoliait's all just a nice reminder that history is a lot odder less sensible less linearly reasonable than it seems from a distance

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The Bloody White Baron ❮EPUB❯ ❀ The Bloody White Baron ✻ Author James Palmer – The Bloody White Baron Roman Ungern von Sternberg was a Baltic aristocrat a violent headstrong youth posted to the wilds of Siberia and Mongolia before the First World War After the Bolshevik Revoluti The Bloody White Baron Roman Ungern von Sternberg was a Baltic aristocrat a violent headstrong youth posted to the wilds of Siberia and Mongolia before the First World War After the Bolshevik Revolution the Baron conuered Mongolia the last time in history a country was seized by an army mounted on horses Full The Bloody PDF/EPUB or description.

  • Kindle Edition
  • 290 pages
  • The Bloody White Baron
  • James Palmer
  • English
  • 21 June 2016

About the Author: James Palmer

James Palmer has traveled extensively in East and Central Asia and has worked with Taoist and Buddhist groups in China and Mongolia on environmental issues In he won the Spectator's Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for travel writing He lives in Beijingsource.