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The Bloody White Baron: The Extraordinary Story of the Russian Nobleman Who Became the Last Khan of Mongoliaby James Palmer
"This story, like most of the other personal stories in Palmer's extraordinary book, is not here by accident: he uses it to give the reader some hint of what originally intrigued him, horrified him, and drew him to write about one of the bloodiest chapters in the history of Mongolia." Anne Applebaum, New York Review of Books (read the entire New York Review of Books review)
Synopses & Reviews
In the history of the modern world, there have been few characters more sadistic, sinister, and deeply demented as Baron Ungern-Sternberg. An anti-Semitic fanatic with a penchant for Eastern mysticism and a hatred of communists, Baron Ungern-Sternberg took over Mongolia in 1920 with a ragtag force of White Russians, Siberians, Japanese, and native Mongolians. While tormenting friend and foe alike, he dreamed of assembling a horse-borne army with which he would retake communist controlled Moscow.
In this epic saga that ranges from Austria to the Mongolian Steppe, historian and travel writer James Palmer has brought to light the gripping life story of a madman whose actions fore shadowed the most grotesque excesses of the twentieth century.
"Ancient and modern savageries unite in the colorful antihero of this scintillating historical study. Baron Ungern-Sternberg (1886 — 1921) was a czarist officer who became a leader of anti-Bolshevik forces in Siberia during the Russian civil war. He was a staunch monarchist and anti-Semite, whose sadism heightened the brutality of an already vicious conflict. He was pushed by the Red Army into Mongolia, where his reactionary impulses, accentuated by an attraction to esoteric Eastern religions, grew downright medieval. Hailed as a reincarnated god by locals who perhaps mistook him for a prophesied Buddhist messiah, Ungern-Sternberg dreamed of leading an Asian empire against the decadent West and instituted a fleeting dictatorship under which resisters were flogged to death, torn apart or burned alive. Journalist Palmer pens a vivid and slightly wry profile of this larger-than-life figure who rode into battle bare-chested and necklaced with bones, and lucidly dissects Ungern-Sternberg's protofascist worldview, with its motifs of racism, feudal hierarchy, regenerative bloodshed and mystic communion with primitive virility. The result is a fascinating portrait of an appalling man — and of the zeitgeist that shaped him. Maps." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The rise and fall of Baron Ungern-Sternberg is one of the most demented, savage and grotesque stories of modern times. Palmer, with his special knowledge of Mongolia and enthusiasm for Ungern's blend of lunacy, politics and war, delivers an enjoyable, exciting biography that recounts the crimes and conquests of this monster compellingly, colourfully and with cinematic relish." Sunday Telegraph
"James Palmer's account of [Baron Ungern-Sternberg's] brutal and ill-starred life is elegant, waspish and evocative." Economist
"This is an epic biography (ranging from WWI battles, to the Civil War, to Manchuria) told in an easy style that infects the reader with curiosity, peeling back myths to reveal the strange and twisted man that was Ungern-Sternberg." Russian Life
"Palmer effectively evokes both the enormous scope and the small absurdities of war." Simon Sebag-Montefiore, Bookforum
Book News Annotation:
Palmer introduces readers to a little known, and very bizarre, episode of post-Revolutionary Russia and to its main actor, the anti-Semitic and genocidal Baron Ungern-Sternberg. One of the leaders of the anti-Bolshevik forces in Siberia, Ungern-Sternberg and his army were pushed by the Bolsheviks into Mongolia, which had recently broken free from China. Conquering the country with cavalry--the last person in history to do such a thing--Ungern-Sternberg established a medieval-style dictatorship, murdering Jews and political opponents in a pogrom that foretold later atrocities by the Nazis. Writing in a popular style, Palmer vividly conveys the details of Ungern-Sternberg's rise to power and his eventual dispatch at the hands of victorious Soviet forces. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
In the history of the modern world, there have been few characters more sinister, sadistic, and deeply demented than Baron Ungern-Sternberg. An anti-Semitic fanatic whose penchant for Eastern mysticism and hatred of communists foreshadowed the Nazi scourge that would soon overtake Europe, Ungern- Sternberg conquered Mongolia in 1919 with a ragtag force of White Russians, Siberians, Japanese, and native Mongolians. In The Bloody White Baron, historian and travel writer James Palmer vividly re-creates Ungern-Sternberg's spiral into ever-darker obsessions, while also providing a rare look at the religion and culture of the unfortunate Mongolians he briefly ruled.
About the Author
James Palmer has traveled extensively in East and Central Asia. In 2003 he won The Spectators Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for travel writing. He has worked with Daoist and Buddhist groups in China and Mongolia on environment issues. He lives in Beijing.
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