Baron Ungern’s interrogation

A translation from the Russian by Elevenfortyseven

Notes on the text: Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, legendary Russian war-lord and mythical idol in Mongolia, was captured on August 20 1921 and interrogated a week later. Three weeks later he was found guilty by the Marxist agents that subverted and took root in historic Russia, and he was then executed. The document below is a collection of 49 notes taken during his interrogation. Unfortunately, no verbatim responses were documented (barring the few indicated below); however, this document still paints a very interesting picture of his final year of activity. Please keep in mind that this document was written and published by the communists that interrogated Ungern, and hence a certain level of distortion and slander can at times be felt in the tone of the writing.


1) Lieutenant-General Baron Ungern — x years old1, the son of a landowner in the Governorate of Estonia, participated as a volunteer in the Russo-Japanese War, was educated at the Naval Cadet Corps and at Pavel Military School, which he graduated from in 1908. He joined the Cossack forces; before the war, he served in the regiment commanded by Baron Wrangel, and was put on trial by the latter for drunkenness. In the Russian-German war he served in the 2nd [Army]; for participating in the campaign in East Prussia he received the Order of St. George, 4th Class, which he wears on his chest at present.

2) When asked whether he would be able to respond frankly, he said: “Since my troops have betrayed me, I can now respond perfectly frankly.”

3) He was taken prisoner completely by surprise; he suspects a conspiracy against himself by one of his regimental commanders, Colonel Khobotov, a conspiracy which resulted in an attempt on his life. On the evening of August 21 he was lying in his tent, and heard gunfire, thinking that it was a Red scout detachment. Having left the tent, he gave an order to send out a detachment, then rode up along the position of his troops. Passing by the machine-gun team, he heard gunshots again and realized that the gunfire was aimed at him, after which he went to his Mongol division commander. Having traveled with the latter for about 3 versts, he was suddenly captured by some Mongols and tied up. The Mongols led him, bound, back to the detachment along an old, visible trail. On the way Ungern noticed that they had taken the wrong course, and told the Mongols that they could run into the Reds. The Mongols did not believe this, and a detachment of 20 horsemen of the Red Army, which they soon met, rushed at them, with shouts of “hurrah” and a demand to drop their weapons. The weapons were dropped, and the entire detachment of Mongols, with the bound Ungern, was captured. Having recognized the Reds, the Mongols were bewildered. The detachment then led the prisoners forward with some kind of wagon. One of the Red Army men asked Ungern who he was and, hearing his answer, was bewildered with surprise. When he came to his senses, he rushed to the other convoy escorts, and all of them focused their attention on the captured Ungern.

4) He was captured alive because he did not manage to take his own life in time. He tried to hang himself with rope, but it was too thick. The poison that had always been with him had been thrown out a few days before by a soldier who was sewing buttons onto his coat. At the instant of his capture, he put his hand into his jacket, where the poison had been, but it was not there.

5) He did not at all expect the dissolution of his forces nor the conspiracy against himself and Rezukhin.2

6) He cannot precisely determine the strength of his division — he had no headquarters, all the management work was done by himself and he counted his troops only in hundreds. He had more than 20 working machine guns, 8 mountain guns, counting those captured by him in the battle at the Gusinoozyorsk Datsan. His entire detachment consisted of 4 regiments of the Asiatic Mounted and Mongolian Divisions.

7) The splitting into 2 brigades in the vicinity of the Egiin Gol River occurred by itself, for no external reason — for ease of management during the campaign.

8) Ungern’s last intention was to go west, but the majority of his detachment, consisting of easterners, expressed dissatisfaction with the upcoming campaign — they were drawn to the east. It is in this, in fact, that Ungern sees the main reason for the dissolution of his forces.

9) When asked whether he acted in Mongolia independently or in contact with someone and with whom exactly, Ungern replied that he acted entirely independently and had no connection, in the full sense of the word, neither with Semyonov3 nor with the Japanese. Although he had ample opportunity to establish contact with Semyonov, he did not want to do so, since Semyonov did not provide him with any active material assistance, limiting himself to advice only.

10) He did not consider himself subordinate to Semyonov, and recognized Semyonov officially only in order to exert a favorable influence on his troops.

11) Having a radio station in Urga4 under his command, Ungern received information by intercepting telegrams and agit-prop messages from Chita and Harbin.

12) Upon the capture of Urga he wrote to Semyonov, but received no reply from the above-mentioned.

13) When asked what motivated him to fight against Soviet Russia and what goals he pursued in this struggle, Ungern answered that he fought for the restoration of the monarchy. The idea of monarchism is the main factor that drove him onto the path of struggle. He believes that the time is coming for a return of the monarchy. Hitherto it has been on the wane, but now it must go on the gain, and everywhere there will be monarchy, monarchy, monarchy. The source of this belief is the Holy Scriptures, in which, he believes, there are indications that this time is now approaching. The East is bound to clash with the West. The white culture that led the European peoples to revolution, accompanied by centuries of universal equalization, the decline of aristocracy, and so on, must be dissolved and replaced by the yellow, Eastern culture, which was formed 3,000 years ago and is still intact. The foundations of aristocratism, and in general the whole way of Oriental life, are extremely sympathetic to him in every detail, from religion to food. The notorious “yellow peril” does not exist for Ungern. On the contrary, he speaks of the “danger” of European culture and its companions: the revolutions. Ungern has never tried to put his ideas in essay form, but he considers himself capable of doing so.

14) Ungern states himself as a man who believes in God and the Gospel and who practices prayer. He considers the predictions of the Holy Scriptures, cited by Ungern in his Order No. 15, seized at Troitskosavsk, to be his beliefs.

5 The order was composed by Ivanovsky and Ossendowski.

15) The purpose of issuing Order No. 15 was to unite the separate small parties operating in the border regions of Mongolia. Moreover, the purpose of issuing this order was to reinforce discipline in his troops and to inspire the notion that his actions were organized and united with other opponents to Soviet power. He did not place any particular hope in this order.

16) Having initiated his activities at Dauria, Ungern withdrew from there under pressure from Lebedev’s partisan units.6

17) After withdrawing from Dauria, he intended to go through Aksha to the Khingan region, where he would lead the fight against the partisans. Having learned that Semyonov had left Chita, he decided not to act according to this plan, especially since the machine guns he had available in his formation could not pass through this area due to the mountainous terrain.7

18) By this time his detachment contained up to 800 Russian Cossacks from the 4th Division of the Transbaikal Cossack Army.

19) The campaign to Urga was undertaken with the aim of restoring the power of the Manchu Khan in Mongolia.

20) After the occupation of Urga Ungern wrote to Kaigorodov, Bakich, Annenkov, and had the intention to contact Semyonov, but nothing came out of all this. Kaigorodov protested against Ungern’s Order No. 15.

21) During his stay in Urga, Ungern had been to the Khutuktu’s residence three times: the first time on the occasion of the capture of Urga, the second time on the occasion of the forthcoming campaign to Choir, and the last time for no particular purpose. The Khutuktu likes to drink — he still has some old champagnes in his possession.8

22) Ungern, according to his own words, did not enjoy any political influence in Mongolia. Such influence was concentrated in the hands of the Khutuktu. However, possessing an army, Ungern obviously had a certain importance in the eyes of the Khutuktu.9

23) After a consultation with the Khutuktu, Ungern personally led the operation at Choir and Kalgan and crushed the Chinese, advancing as far as the Mongolian border. Ungern returned to Urga from this operation by car. The defeated Chinese yielded Ungern a lot of booty — up to 8000 rifles, many shells, ammunition and more.

24) Colonel Sipaylo’s activities in Urga, which took the form of executions, murders, and confiscations, were known to Ungern, as well as his drunkenness. Ungern does not know anything about his violence against women and considers these rumors nonsensical.

25) Ungern’s negative attitude towards the Russian merchants in Urga was based on the idea that they were not good people, for good people could live well in Russia too.

26) The outfit of the Mongol prince — a silk robe — was worn in order to be visible to his troops from a far distance. He did not aim to attract the sympathy of the Mongolian population with this outfit. The Khutuktu granted Ungern the title of Mongol prince. Ungern was married to a Chinese woman, from whom he had recently divorced.

27) When asked about his reasons for cruelty towards his subordinates, Ungern replied that he was only cruel to bad officers and soldiers, and that such treatment was caused by the dictates of discipline as he understood it. “I am an advocate of the rod of discipline, like Frederick the Great and Nicholas I.” Discipline was what kept his forces together. He has no doubt now that without him the remnants of his troops would all scatter.

28) Ungern undertook the transition to active operations against Soviet Russia and the Far Eastern Republic due to the fact that recently he and his army had become a burden to the population of Mongolia. Before the beginning of the operation he sent all his supplies to Van-Khure, planning to advance westward in case of failure.

29) Rezukhin operated on the territory of Russia according to a pre-determined plan. The general task of both detachments was to occupy a bridgehead in the form of a triangle formed by the Chik River, the Selenga River and the territory adjacent to Sovrossia10. Rezukhin’s personal task was to operate on the territory of Sovrossia — to confine the troops of the 35th Division to a small area and destroy them. The task of Ungern’s detachment was to destroy the crossings on the Chik and Selenga rivers, on the above-mentioned bridgehead. The execution of this operation took, however, an unexpected turn. Having destroyed the crossings on the Chik River, Ungern and his detachment had the intention to continue the implementation of the plan and went from the village of Ust-Kiran to Ust-Kyakhta, but he had incorrect information about the location of the latter. They thought that Ust-Kyakhta was 8 versts away from Ust-Kiran. The 1st regiment, which was in front and ahead of the detachment, came across some units of the Far Eastern Republic and engaged them in a battle. The other units of the detachment did not take part in this battle, as they could not approach in time due to their horses’ fatigue. When the rest of the detachment’s forces were directed to the right place by Ungern, they came across units of the 103rd Brigade, with which they engaged in a battle, bearing in mind the execution of the original task. Ungern could have refused to accept this battle, but he did not do so as a matter of principle. Ungern participated directly in the battle, frequently finding himself in the front lines, and was wounded after Troitskosavsk. After their defeat at Troitskosavsk, Ungern’s units retreated in a very hasty and disorderly manner and were greatly disappointed. Rezukhin, operating on Soviet territory, did not go to Selenginsk, as the units of the 35th Division, situated along the Dzhida River, threatened his rear. Rezukhin made his retreat into Mongolia in good order and high spirits.

30) Having withdrawn to the region of Ahai-gun, Rezukhin sent Ungern a report and asked for instructions on further action. Ungern ordered him to stay where he was. Having withdrawn to the coastline of the Iro River, Ungern decided to set out to join Rezukhin. He was prompted to do so, first, by the fact that he assumed that the Reds would advance on Urga, in which case he would assume a flank position; secondly, in the area adjacent to the Urga road the fodder was poor, and, thirdly, the realization of the need for unified direct leadership over the entire detachment.

31) Not seeing a means of improving his influence on the Mongols in the Khutuktu, Ungern, leaving the Urga region, did not bring him along; and in general he had no need of the political strength of his position in Mongolia, relying solely on martial good fortune, which had always accompanied him and had only now changed. The remaining units on the Iro, in case of an attack on Urga by the Reds, were to also join Rezukhin.

32) Ungern learned of our offensive in the direction of Urga when his forces had been concentrated on the right bank of the Selenga River and when our units had already reached the Mukutuy tract. Ungern did not know the intentions of the Red troops advancing on Urga and assumed that the purpose of the offensive was to seize flour, which was available in large quantities on the Khara-Gol.

33) Ungern’s further actions consisted in operations on Russian territory. He learned about the political conditions and the mood of the local residents from the refugees, who assured him that if he appeared on Russian territory, uprisings against the Soviet regime would begin immediately. Ungern hoped that at his appearance even some units of the Red Army would defect to his forces.

34) Defectors, prisoners and locals also spoke of Japanese movements, their occupation of Chita and their march on Verkhneudinsk. Stationed on the Selenga River near the region of Akhai-gun, Ungern waited for confirmation of the intensified rumors of a Japanese offensive.

35) The attack by the units of the 105th Brigade on the position of Ungern’s troops from the frontside, alongside the information received from the prisoners about the movement of the 104th Brigade on his flank, gave him reason to expect the departure of Shchetinkin’s detachment in the rear; Ungern withdrew about 20 versts, to the mouth of the Shabar Gol River. When asked why he did not want to make a defense, Ungern replied: “I cannot defend, my nerves cannot withstand this.” He could not attack the 105th Brigade due to terrain conditions: the Selenga River on one side, and the crags occupied by Red troops on the other.

36) Ungern was always sure that we, with our infantry, could never catch him, and hence he was not afraid of any infantry. He had no rear or base to which he could be confined; all unnecessary wagons had been sent westward by him earlier. “I,” says Ungern, “was tied to nothing, and, with my entire mass of cavalry, could fight in any direction and at any time.” Our intention to surround him with infantry units struck him as strange.

37) Based on the idea of the transition of a part of the expeditionary corps to active operations in Mongolia and the ongoing alleged Japanese offensive, Ungern decided to move into our territory, aiming to join the Japanese in the area of Verkhneudinsk. In doing so, he counted on the support of the populations of the Dzhida and Selenga valleys. During Ungern’s stay in the Borgoy village, an airplane that arrived was regarded by him as definitely Japanese. The residents of Selenginsk claimed that at a recent assembly the Reds had said that Ungern was marching in concert with the Japanese and that his troops were their “sidearm” detachment. All this combined to give fuel to Ungern’s confidence in the advance of the Japanese. Having made sure, on his entering into the region of Zagustay-Nizhny Ubukun, that there were no Japanese and that in the area of Verkhneudinsk a fightback was waiting, Ungern turned back to Mongolia, intending to travel there through Zhelturinskaya (roughly). The units of the 105th Brigade that met Ungern on the way would not have prevented him from making it to Mongolia, if it had not been for an armored detachment, which suddenly descended from a mountain during his attack, when Ungern’s forces began to outnumber the enemy, and, having come close to his unit, opened machine-gun fire at Ungern’s cavalry. The Mongols, in panic, rushed to flee in the direction of the Iro River; there was no way to stop them. He had to involuntarily retreat along the Iro valley.

38) Having turned back to Mongolia, Ungern intended to go south, across and through Mongolia, explaining this decision by the fact that he was convinced of the need to let the “Redness live out its days [and die out]” here and to prevent the “Redness” in the south, where it was just beginning. He sees incipient “Redness” in the south as the revolution that took place in South China and its struggle with North China.

39) Ungern explains the presence of some Japanese in his detachment by the fact that they joined voluntarily. In total, he had up to 70 men, most of whom fled. The remainder, up to 30 men, remained in the detachment until recently.

40) When asked about the arrangements for his food, he explained that he used “his own livestock”, which he considered to be that livestock which he took from the Centrosoyuz11. He did not seize cattle from local residents; besides, he had 150,000 rubles in gold.

41) When asked about the reasons for his hatred of the Jews, he replied that he considered them the main culprits of the Russian Revolution.

42) Ungern had no agents working in our location.

43) He commanded his troops single-handedly and directly, by giving orders personally through his orderlies.

44) The execution of two families, 9 people with children, in Novo-Dmitrievka was carried out with his knowledge and on his personal orders. Also on his personal orders a family in Kapcheranskaya was killed, about which our headquarters had no information. About the motivations for the execution of the children Ungern answered verbatim: “Leave no loose ends.”

45) The officers of the 232nd regiment and the political workers captured in the Gusinoozyorsk Datsan were also executed on his personal orders. Comrade Kannabikh, assistant headquarters commander of the 104th brigade, captured by Ungern near Shabartuy, was also executed on his personal orders.

46) In the Gusinoozyorsk Datsan, Ungern flogged all those who participated in the robbing of a wagon.

47) Colonel Arkhipov was hanged in the region of Karnakovka for embezzlement. He ordered Sukharev to shoot Colonel Kazagrandi for allegedly serving both him and the Reds. He did not know about the ensuing execution of this order.

48) Ungern considers our march on Northern China in alliance with the revolutionary Southern China to be inevitable sooner or later and, saying that he does not care now that his work is done, advises us to go through the Gobi not in the summer, but in the winter, observing the following conditions: the horses should be shod, the advance should be made in small units with long distances — in order that the horses could get enough fodder for themselves; [he told us] that there is fodder there in winter, that water is consistently replaced by melting snow, while during the summer the Gobi is impassable due to a complete absence of water.

49) He answered all questions, without exception, in a calm manner.

Elevenfortyseven’s substack

1 Unspecified in the document. Ungern was 35 years old at the time.

2 Boris Rezukhin; one of Ungern’s most trusted associates, formerly serving under Semyonov (see footnote below).

3 Grigory Mikhaylovich Semyonov: Japanese-supported leader of the White movement in Transbaikal and ataman of the Baikal Cossacks.

4 Ulaanbaatar today.

5 An order given by Ungern in May 1921, calling his countrymen to restore the monarchy. I will translate this document soon.

6 This event, and the events described onwards, occurred in the fall of 1920.

7 This was what Ungern claimed during the interrogation; the reality was that he did indeed make it through the terrain with his weaponry, but withdrew right before approaching his destination due to Semyonov changing his course.

8 The Jebtsundamba Khutuktu is the title given to the spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia.

9 Ungern purposefully downplays his importance during the interrogation, but the reason for doing so is unknown.

10 Shorthand for “Soviet Russia”.

11 “Central Union”; local Soviet administrative organisations.