Monday, August 14, 2017

The Bloody White Baron by James Palmer

The Bloody White Baron
Written by James Palmer
Published by Basic Books
$15.99 ($10.98 from Amazon)

The Bloody White Baron is a book I saw one of my fellow G+ users reading along with a pile of other books relating to Russia, Mongolia, and China. It looked more than interesting enough with a subtitle of "The Extraordinary Story of the Russian Nobleman Who Became the Last Khan of Mongolia."

I enjoyed James Palmer's writing style. I use transparent note stickies to hit passages I want to return to. The book is covered in them. Its flow is a little rough though because James provides a lot of backgrounds so we move chronologically back and forward. It's not Event X happened at year A in the start and event Z happened at year C at the end. There are numerous bits to try and catch the reader up to the larger picture around the Bloody White Baron.

Due to when the events happened, it's interesting to look back at how people saw the Bloody White Baron, also just called The Baron. Descriptions of him include having the power to cloud men's minds. That he was the child of crusaders and privateers. That he fit certain Mongolian legends of a White Savior.

His actual historical deeds? Monstrous is a quick way to describe them.  Not quite a proto-Nazi, Ungren was firmly anti-Semitic. In some instances, the mass murder of Jews was 'simply' for the acquisition of their property, wealth, and other mundane bits.

In others? I'd hate to say 'typical' anti-Semitic nonsense but a look at America in 2017 and chants of blood and soil and Jews will not replace us should give you a small peek into the mind of someone who has an earnest fear of Jews and that killing them was the only way to be safe, the only way to follow the 'true path'.

Ungren was not kind to his own men either. He was a torturer and a sadist in using typical Buddha hells in order to come up with new and horrific manners in which to punish his own men. Note I said his own men, the Soviets. Those who followed him from the start, those who joined up with him later ignoring the warning signs. He did this because he could not indulge his sickness against his Mongolian allies.

Part of this was practical. He relied on the Mongolians for shelter, political alliance, and other understandable bits. Part of it was religious based. He was a man who sought out Oracles. A man who believes in Mystics. A man who despite not being very good with his own religion, was one who tolerated all religions as seeing them under the same cosmic umbrella.

He was a man who came from a country where the threat of the 'Yellow Peril' was widely spread. A man who came to see his own country as being weak, as being corrupted. A man who sought to behind the scenes to help a new Asian emerge, to bring forth a new realm of divine kings.

Ungren was also unusual in that he was not cut from the civilized cloth. He thought of horses and their role in combat and mobility as being unstoppable. He hated paperwork. He fought on the front lines often and was rarely injured there.

He disagreed so much with those in the civilized courts that he was often banished from their halls. His removal from numerous schools growing up was only allowed to advance as far as it did due to his family's background and nobility.

It's fascinating in many ways because James Palmer doesn't let us forget the poor bastards on all sides who get caught up in this madness. Russia at the time undergoing horrific civil wars. China undergoing a loss of monarchy and the rise of communism. Mongolia? Stuck in the middle with both sides claiming ownership of it or at least ownership over parts of it at different times.

One is not sure who to feel worse for. Those poor souls condemned to various monstrous torture under Ungren that were his own soldiers, the Chinese soldiers who are nomad like in their wandering from war to war seeking to merely survive day to day or the Mongolians whose fate under Russian 'leadership' left millions and millions dead even as their own culture was stripped from them.

If you don't know a lot about the time and reigion, a very specific time and reigion, The Bloody White Baron is a good place to start and a solid read.