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There are a number of reports about the involvement of Chinese detachments in the Russian Revolution and Russian Civil War. Chinese served as bodyguards of Bolshevik functionaries,[1][2] served in the Cheka,[3] and even formed complete regiments of the Red Army.[4] Although it has been estimated that there were tens of thousands of Chinese troops in the Red Army,[5] they did not constitute a significant fraction of the Red Army."[6] By the summer of 1919, the Red Army comprised over a million men. By November 1920, it comprised over 1.8 million men.[7]

Other notable examples of foreigners serving in the Red Army include Koreans in the Russian Far East,[8][9] World War I Hungarian POWs under Béla Kun, Red Latvian Riflemen as well as a number of other national detachments.[10]

Background: Chinese speakers in Russia[edit | edit source]

Large numbers of Chinese lived and worked in Siberia in the late Russian Empire. Many of these migrant workers were transferred to the European part of Russia and to the Ural during World War I because of the acute shortage of workers there.[11] For example, by 1916 there were about 5,000 Chinese workers in Novgorod Governorate. In 1916-1917 about 2,000 Chinese workers were employed in the construction of Russian fortifications around the Gulf of Finland. A significant part of them were convicted robbers (honghuzi, "Red Beards", transliterated into Russian as "khunkhuzy", хунхузы) transferred from katorga labor camps in Harbin and other locations in the Far Eastern regions of the Russian Empire. After the Russian Revolution, some of them stayed in Finland and took part as volunteers in the Finnish Civil War on the allied communist side.[12] After 1917 many of these Chinese workers joined the Red Army.[13] The vast majority of these Chinese were apolitical and become soldiers solely in order to gain rights as workers in a foreign country.[11]

Dungans in the 1916 Revolt[edit | edit source]

Dungans fought alongside Kyrgyz rebels in attacking Przheval'sk during the 1916 Basmachi revolt.[14]

A Dungan Muslim and communist Commander Magaza Masanchi of the Dungan Cavalry Regiment fought for the Soviet Union against the Basmachis.[15] He also took part in other actions in central Asia.

Chinese detachments in service of Soviet state[edit | edit source]

Chinese in the Red Army[edit | edit source]

The Chinese with the Red Army were recruited from factory workers who had been attracted into Russia before the war and sided with the urban proletariat with whom they worked. Separate Chinese units fought for the Bolsheviks in the Ukraine, Trancaucasia and Siberia.[6]

1919 White Army propaganda poster. Chinese soldiers wearing braids and blue-gold uniforms are depicted executing a prisoner and shoveling bones.

One estimate suggests that there were hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops in the Red Army .[5] Nonetheless, Brian Murphy asserts that "the number of Chinese troops did not constitute a significant fraction of the Red Army."[6] By summer of 1919, the Red Army comprised over a million men. By November 1920, it comprised over 1.8 million men.[16]

Chinese units were involved in virtually every front of the Russian Civil War. Some sincerely sympathized with the Bolsheviks who treated them as "proletarian brothers". Others simply joined the Red Army in order to survive and others wanted to fight their way home to China.

The Chinese were one of several foreign contingents dubbed in Soviet historiography as "internationalist detachments" ("отряды интернационалистов").[17] Chinese internationalist troops wore the same uniform as the rest of the Red Army.[18]

The Bolsheviks found special value in the use of Chinese troops who were considered to be industrious and efficient. In addition, they were seldom able to understand Russian which kept them insulated from outside influences.[18] The use of Chinese troops by the Bolsheviks was commented on by both White Russian and non-Russian observers.[13] In fact, the Bolsheviks were often derided for their reliance on Chinese and Lettish volunteers.[19] Anti-Bolshevik propaganda suggested that the Bolsheviks did not have the support of the Russian people and thus had to resort to foreign mercenaries who ran roughshod over the Russian populace.[20] In 1918, Dmitri Gavronsky, a member of the Russian Constituent Assembly, asserted that the Bolsheviks based their power chiefly on foreign support. He asserted that, "in Moscow, they have at their disposal 16,000 well-armed Lettish soldiers, some detachments of Finnish Red Guards and a large battalion of Chinese troops." Gavronsky added that "The latter are always used for executions."[21]

In his book Between Red and White, Leon Trotsky makes sarcastic reference to the charge that the Soviets held Petrograd and Moscow "by the aid of 'Lettish, Chinese, German and Bashkir regiments'".[22]

The Red Army commander Iona Yakir headed a Chinese detachment guarding Lenin and Trotsky. Later he headed a regiment made up of volunteer Chinese workers, which achieved distinction in battle when the Red Army heavily defeated (temporarily) Romanian troops in February 1918 during the Romanian occupation of Bessarabia.[citation needed]

Chinese in the Cheka and military guard units[edit | edit source]

Some Chinese volunteers, who had fanatical devotion to the revolution, were allowed to join the Cheka and various military guard detachments.[4] In 1919, there were some 700 Chinese troops in the Cheka.[3] The Cheka utilized them for the arrest and execution of anti-Soviet soldiers.[18]

Chinese participation in the Allied intervention[edit | edit source]

The Beiyang government in north China joined the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War. They sent forces numbering 2,300 in Siberia and North Russia beginning in 1918, after the Chinese community in the area requested aid. Many of these soldiers later defected to the Red Army.[23]

Notable persons[edit | edit source]

Ren Fuchen (任辅臣) (1884–1918) from Tieling was the first Bolshevik in North Liaoning and a commander of the Chinese regiment of the Soviet Red Army. He is commemorated as a revolutionary hero in the People's Republic of China.[24][25][26][27]

In literature[edit | edit source]

There is a 1923 short story Chinese Story by Mikhail Bulgakov about a Chinese mercenary in the Red Army.[28] The 1936 historical novel Names in Marble by the Estonian author Albert Kivikas describes the fate of some captured Chinese soldiers whose units were part of the invading Russian army in the hands of the Estonian patriots during the Estonian War of Independence.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Пын Мин. История китайско-советской дружбы. М., 1959. (Peng Ming, "History of the Chinese-Russian Friendship", translation from Chinese, Moscow, Sotsekgiz, 1959, original: "Zhong-su yu she", Pekin, 1957 (Russian)
  2. Россия и мир глазами друг друга: Из истории взаимовосприятия / Под ред. А.В. Голубева; РАН. Ин-т рос. истории. - М., 2000. Вып. 1. - 365 с. ISBN 5-8055-0043-4, Chapter IV, Section "The Perception of China by USSR Political Elite" (Russian)
    • "Chinese detachments, together with Latvians, Hungarians, and others guarded the Soviet government already in 1917-1918"
  3. 3.0 3.1 Donald Rayfield, Stalin and His Hangmen: The Tyrant and Those Who Killed for Him, Viking Press 2004: ISBN 0-670-91088-0 (hardcover)
    • "In 1919, 75 percent of the Cheka's central management was Latvian. When Russian soldiers refused to carry out executions, Latvian (and Chinese force of some 500 men) were brought in.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Lukin, Alexander (2002). The Bear Watches the Dragon: Russia's Perceptions of China and the Evolution of Russian Chinese Relations since the Eighteenth Century. China: M.E. Sharpe. pp. 98. ISBN 0-7656-1026-4. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Книга для учителя. История политических репрессий и сопротивления несвободе в СССР. - М.: Издательство обьединения "Мосгорархив", 2002. - 504 с.", p. 95 (quoted from the book: Попов Н.А. "Они с нами сражались за власть Советов". Л., 1959. p.p 42, 83, 94) (Russian)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Murphy, Brian (2005). Rostov in the Russian Civil War, 1917-1920: The Key to Victory. Routledge. pp. 154. ISBN 0-415-34977-X. 
  7. Krivosheev. Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century. pp. 11. ""Personnel Strength[s] of the Fighting Troops" and "Personnel Strength[s] of the Armed Forces of the Soviet Republic" (both figures including naval infantry, internal security, etc.)" 
  8. Ким М.Т. Корейские интернационалисты в борьбе за власть Советов на Дальнем Востоке ( 1918-1922 ). М., 1979 (Russian)
  9. German Kim (1999) "The History of Korean Immigration", Book 1, Second half of 19th Century — 1945", Almaty, Dayk-Press
  10. "National detachments of the Red Army and Cheka"
  11. 11.0 11.1 Larin, Alexander (2000). "REDS and WHITES: Red Army Soldiers from China". Archived from the original on 2013-01-27. https://archive.is/KBXo8. 
  12. Harry Halén, "Kiinalaiset linnoitustyöläiset vuosina 1916-1917". In: Lars Westerlund (ed.), Venäläissurmat Suomessa 1914–22: osa 2.1 (Russian War Victims in Finland, 1914 - 1922. Part 2.1) Helsinki : Valtioneuvoston kanslia (2004) ISBN 952-5354-43-1 (Finnish)
  13. 13.0 13.1 Arthur Ransome (1919) "Russia in 1919", New York, B.W.Huebsch. Chapter "Kamenev And The Moscow Soviet":
    • I talked to the Chinaman afterwards. He is president of the Chinese Soviet. He told me they had just about a thousand Chinese workmen in Moscow, and therefore had a right to representation in the government of the town. I asked about the Chinese in the Red Army, and he said there were two or three thousand, not more.
  14. Islam in the Russian Federation and the Post Soviet Republics: a Historical perspective by Spyros Plakoudas, p 10
  15. Joseph L. Wieczynski (1994). The Modern encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet history, Volume 21. Academic International Press. p. 125. ISBN 0-87569-064-5. http://books.google.com/?id=0LtoAAAAMAAJ&q=In+1921+he+attended+the+Third+Congress+of+the+Comintern,+then+fought+against+the+Basmachi.+When+the+Civil+War+ended,+Masanchin+supposedly+held+highly+responsible+positions+for+the+Soviet+secret+police&dq=In+1921+he+attended+the+Third+Congress+of+the+Comintern,+then+fought+against+the+Basmachi.+When+the+Civil+War+ended,+Masanchin+supposedly+held+highly+responsible+positions+for+the+Soviet+secret+police. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  16. Krivosheev. Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century. pp. 11. ""Personnel Strength[s] of the Fighting Troops" and "Personnel Strength[s] of the Armed Forces of the Soviet Republic" (both figures including naval infantry, internal security, etc.): June/July 1918 - 225,000 and 374,551 June/July 1919 - 1,307,376 and 2,320,542 1st June 1920 - 1,539,667 and 4,424,317 On p. 15, Krivosheev shows the strength of the fighting troops at 1,866,313, on 15th November 1920 - shortly before demobilization began." 
  17. "Reference about the cooperation of St.Petersburg with the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation". Official portal of St. Petersburg Administration. St. Petersburg Administration. http://www.gov.spb.ru/press/visit/2002/060602_1. Retrieved 2007-10-15. ""In 1917 there were several thousand of Chinese, mostly industrial workers. In December 1917 the Union of Chinese Workers in Russia. In 1918 the Chinese internationalist Шэн Ченхо formed a Chinese internationalist detachment."" 
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Khvostov, Mikhail (1996). The Russian Civil War: The Red Army. Osprey Publishing. pp. 41. ISBN 0-415-34977-X. 
  19. Mereto, Joseph J. (1920). The Red Conspiracy. http://infomotions.com/etexts/gutenberg/dirs/1/9/1/5/19150/19150.htm. "The Bolsheviki came into power by violence and have sustained themselves in power by violence and terrorism. Their main support, the so-called Red Army, in which the Chinese and Letts have played a prominent part, is an army of mercenaries..." 
  20. The British Library, Slavonic and East European Collections, Russian and Soviet Posters, 1914-1921, "Anti-Bolshevik posters issued by the Counter-Revolutionary Forces during the Civil War":
    • Poster "Petr and Vasilii", or the Village in "Sovdepiya": The text reads: "Thus the punitive Bolshevik detachments of Latvians and Chinese take bread by force, destroy villages and shoot peasants."
    • Poster "Even the Sailors...": The text reads, in part, "...then the commissars called in the Chinese, and they, calmly, without trembling, shot priests."
  21. "Bolshevist Power Waning" (PDF). New York Times. 1918-07-12. http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=1&res=9507E6D6173EE433A25750C1A9619C946996D6CF&oref=slogin. 
  22. Trotsky, Leon (1922). "Introduction". Between Red and White. http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1922/red-white/intro.htm. 
  23. Joana Breidenbach (2005). Pál Nyíri, Joana Breidenbach. ed. China inside out: contemporary Chinese nationalism and transnationalism (illustrated ed.). Central European University Press. p. 90. ISBN 963-7326-14-6. http://books.google.com/books?id=icZJJN0wYPcC&pg=PA90&lpg=PA90&dq=khunkhuzy+russians&source=bl&ots=J2AAdCI7x2&sig=ofOgSNZNH8Y_kN1fjvroyM5xLX0&hl=en&ei=KKQ8Tvu9KKOw0AGR7p3mAw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBUQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=khunkhuzy%20russians&f=false. Retrieved 18 March 2012. "Then there occurred another story which has become traumatic, this one for the Russian nationalist psyche. At the end of the year 1918, after the Russian Revolution, the Chinese merchants in the Russian Far East demanded the Chinese government to send troops for their protection, and Chinese troops were sent to Vladivostok to protect the Chinese community: about 1600 soldiers and 700 support personnel." 
  24. Tieling
  25. History
  26. 铁岭市资源条件 (Tieling City resources) (Chinese)
  27. 任辅臣,中国第一位布尔什维克 Ren Fuchen, China's first Bolshevik
  28. "Chinese Story", in "Bulgakov's Encyclopedia" (Russian)

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