Kolchak and the Allies: the Empire’s End in Siberia
Presented by Dr. Anatol Shmelev
The Eastern front of the Russian Civil War (1917 – 1922) was no less complex and lasted longer than its European counterpart, involving active foreign intervention from Great Britain, France, the USA and Japan, not to mention “legionnaires” from Czechoslovakia, Poland, and even Latvia. Admiral Kolchak (the self-appointed but generally accepted Supreme Ruler of Russia from 1918 until his execution by the Bolsheviks in 1920) was the central figure but only one of the remarkable (and some odious) players in this historical drama that continued for another two years, focused to an extent on the steel lifeline of the Trans-Siberian Railroad.
The resulting emigration into China was substantial in numbers but not nearly as well known: it first spilled into the already largely Russian railroad town of Harbin that came to hold the largest Russian population outside of Russia, spreading to Shanghai in the 1920’s, but never achieved coherence or real integration despite many individual successes in the 1930’s. It all came to an end with the Communist takeover in China in the late 1940’s and the émigrés’ painful forced repeat dispersal into the rest of the “Russian Abroad”. Their interwar history is now known primarily through memoirs, surviving documents and old photographs, as the Chinese Cultural Revolution eradicated most traces of that period.
Our friend Anatol Shmelev, the Robert Conquest Curator for Russia and Eurasia and Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, will return to lead us through this period that he has specialized in ever since his dissertation research, as part of the presentation of his just-published book In the Wake of Empire: Anti-Bolshevik Russia in International Affairs, 1917–1920 (Hoover Institution Press). Our co-presenters will introduce us to the China emigration’s two branches: Laurie Manchester will discuss the northern one in the almost Russian city of Harbin (it once had 70 Russian Orthodox parishes), and Katya Knyazeva will immerse us in the sad and intense life of the southern branch in the very international city of Shanghai where they ultimately left their mark but which they were forced to abandon at the end of the 1940’s.
ANATOL SHMELEV is the Robert Conquest Curator for Russia and Eurasia and Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and project archivist for the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty collection. Anatol Shmelev studied history at UCLA and UC Berkeley (M.A., 1989) and received his Ph.D. from the Institute of Russian History of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1996, with a dissertation on the foreign policy of the Siberian government during the Russian Civil War.
His bibliography of Russian émigré military literature was published in 2007 by Norman Ross, following an edited collection of essays on archiving the lives of Russian and East European emigrants entitled Tracking a Diaspora, published by The Haworth Press in 2006. Vneshniaia politika pravitelstva admirala Kolchaka, 1918–1919 (The Foreign Policy of Admiral Kolchak’s Government, 1918–1919) was published by the European University Press in St. Petersburg in 2017.
A native of New England, LAURIE MANCHESTER received her Ph.D. in history from Columbia University in 1995. She is associate professor of History at Arizona State University, and the author of Holy Fathers, Secular Sons: Clergy, Intelligentsia, and the Modern Self in Revolutionary Russia, which won the 2009 Vucinich prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. The book she is presently writing, From China to the Soviet Union: The Return of the “True” Russians, is based on work in twenty archives and nearly a hundred oral interviews with repatriates and emigres from China. Professor Manchester was the recipient of research fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Fulbright, the Woodrow Wilson Center, the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research, Harvard University, and the Social Science Research Center.
KATYA KNYAZEVA, from Novosibirsk, Russia, is a historian and a journalist with a focus on urban form, heritage preservation and the Russian diaspora in Shanghai. She is the author of the two-volume history and photographic atlas Shanghai Old Town. Topography of a Phantom City (Suzhou Creek Press, 2015 and 2018). Her articles on history and architecture appear in international media and her blog http://avezink.livejournal.com. Her scholarly writing can be found in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society China, Global History and Built Heritage. Knyazeva received her second master’s degree from Bologna University and is presently a research fellow at the University of Eastern Piedmont, Italy.
SOPHIA KISHKOVSKY is a well-known reporter based in Moscow since 1991, writing on political and cultural issues for The New York Times and The Art Newspaper.
NICHOLAS SLUCHEVSKY is President of the Stolypin Center and publisher of emigre memoirs under the name “TransRossica”.
Image: Kolchak (seated), Anna Timiryova and General Alfred Knox (behind Kolchak) observing a military exercise in 1919.