Baron Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel (Russian: Пётр Николаевич Врангель, pronounced [ˈvranɡʲɪlʲ]; German: Peter von Wrangel; August 27 [O.S. August 15] 1878 – 25 April 1928), also known by his nickname the Black Baron, was a Russian officer of Baltic German origin in the Imperial Russian Army. During the final phase of the Russian Civil War, he was commanding general of the anti-Bolshevik White Army in Southern Russia.

Pyotr Wrangel
Пётр Врангель
Pyotr Wrangel, The Black Baron
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of South Russia
In office
4 April 1920 – 21 November 1920
Preceded byAnton Denikin
Succeeded byOffice disestablished
Personal details
BornAugust 27 [O.S. August 15] 1878
Novalexandrovsk, Zarasai County, Kovno Governorate, Russian Empire
Died25 April 1928(1928-04-25) (aged 49)
Brussels, Belgium
AwardsSee below
Military service
Allegiance Russian Empire (1902–1917)
South Russia (1919–1920) White Movement (1917–1920)
Branch/service Imperial Russian Army
White Army
Years of service1902–1920
Rank Lieutenant General
CommandsCaucasus Army of South Russia
Battles/warsRusso-Japanese War
World War I
Russian Civil War

A member of the prominent Wrangel noble family, Pyotr Wrangel was educated as a mining engineer and volunteered in the Russian Imperial Guard. He served with distinction during World War I as a cavalry commander, reaching the rank of major general. After the February Revolution and Russia's exit from the war, Wrangel retired to the Crimea. He was arrested by the Bolsheviks following the October Revolution, but later escaped and joined the anti-Bolshevik Volunteer Army of the White movement. In 1918, he became Anton Denikin's chief of staff in the Armed Forces of South Russia.

Wrangel succeeded Denikin as commander-in-chief of the White forces in the Crimea in April 1920. As head of the South Russia military government, he attempted to carry out sweeping land reforms, reorganised the White armies into a Russian Army (more commonly known the Army of Wrangel), and established relations with anti-Bolshevik independence movements. Severely outnumbered by the Red Army and facing certain defeat, Wrangel organised a mass evacuation from the Crimea in 1920. Early in his exile he lived in Constantinople and Serbia, and came to be known as one of the most prominent White émigrés.[1] He relocated to Brussels in 1927 and died a year later.

Family edit

Wrangel was born in Novalexandrovsk, Kovno Governorate in the Russian Empire (now Zarasai, Lithuania) as the son of Baron Nikolai Egorovich Wrangel [ru] (1847–1923) and Maria Dimitrievna Demetieva-Maikova (1856–1944). The Baltic German noble Wrangel family was part of the Uradel (old nobility), the family was of German origin, appearing in the old "Livonia" with Teutonic Order. It has a common origin with the noble family von Löwenwolde [ru] and von Engdes [de]. Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel was only distantly related to the famed Arctic explorer Ferdinand von Wrangel and the Prussian Generalfeldmarschall Friedrich von Wrangel.

His cousin, Baron Nikolai Von Wrangell (1869 - 1927), also belonging to the Estonian Knighthood, reached high military rank. He was adjutant to the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovitch (1878-1918), rose to the rank of Colonel as Commander of the 16th Irkutsk Hussar Regiment, and finally to Major General on Grand Duke Michael's staff. He married Baroness Elizabeth Hoyningen-Huene[2]

Early life edit

After graduating from the Rostov Technical High School in 1896 and the Institute of Mining in St. Petersburg in 1901, Wrangel volunteered for the prestigious Life Guards cavalry. He was commissioned a reserve officer in 1902 after graduating from the Nicholas Cavalry College [ru]. He soon resigned his commission and traveled to Irkutsk, where he was assigned to special missions by the Governor-General.

Military career edit

Wrangel and Prince Sidamon-Eristavi at a captured German cannon in 1914

At the start of the Russo-Japanese War in February 1904, he re-enlisted and was assigned to the 2nd Regiment of the Transbaikal Cossack Corps. In December 1904, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant.

After the war ended, in January 1906, he was reassigned to the 55th Finland Dragoon Regiment, which, under General A. N. Orlov, took part in pacifying rebels in Siberia. In 1907, he returned to the Life Guards Cavalry Regiment. In 1908, he married Olga Mikhaylovna Ivanenko in St. Petersburg, and they had two sons and two daughters.[3] Wrangel graduated from the Nicholas Imperial General Staff Academy in 1910 and the Cavalry Officers' School in 1911.

With the start of World War I, Wrangel was promoted to captain and assigned command of a cavalry squadron. On 13 October 1914, he became one of the first Russian officers to be awarded the Order of St. George (4th degree) in the war, the highest military decoration of the Russian Empire. In December 1914, he was promoted to the rank of colonel. In October 1915, Wrangel was transferred to the Southwestern Front and was appointed commander of the 1st Regiment of the Transbaikal Cossacks.

Poster depicting Wrangel, c. 1919

The unit was very active in Galicia against the Austrians, and Wrangel distinguished himself especially during the Brusilov Offensive. He was promoted to the rank of major general in January 1917 and took command of the 2nd Brigade of the Ussuri Cavalry Division, which was merged with other cavalry units to become the Consolidated Cavalry Corps in July that year. He was further decorated with the George Cross (4th degree) for his defense of the Zbruch River in the summer of 1917.

Russian Civil War edit

After the end of Russia's participation in the war, Wrangel resigned his commission and went to live at his dacha at Yalta, in the Crimea. Arrested by the Bolsheviks at the end of 1917, he was released and escaped to Kiev, where he joined Pavlo Skoropadskyi's Ukrainian State. However, it was soon apparent to him that the new government existed only because of the waning support of Germany, and in August 1918, he joined the anti-Bolshevik Volunteer Army based at Yekaterinodar, where he was given command of the 1st Cavalry Division and the rank of major general in the White movement. After the Second Kuban Campaign in late 1918, he was promoted to lieutenant general, and his division's strength was raised to that of a corps.

In August 1918, Wrangel joined Denikin's anti-Bolshevik army. In December 1918, Wrangel became Anton Denikin's Chief of Staff in the Armed Forces of South Russia, and in January 1919, commander of the Caucasian Volunteer Army within those forces.[4][5]

The Government of South Russia established in Sevastopol, Crimea in April 1920

According to Peter Kenez, "Wrangel fought well, but even during his first weeks with the army, he distinguished himself by his arrogant behavior." After defeating the Bolsheviks in the Northern Caucasus, Denikin wanted to move against Tsaritsyn, but the Bolshevik threat to the west of the Don district forced Denikin to send troops to that Don front. According to Kenez, "General Wrangel bitterly criticized Denikin's decision. He was willing to accept not only the loss of the Donets basin, but of the entire Don Voisko because he believed strongly that no goal could be more important than meeting Kolchak's advance somewhere along the Volga river."[5]

Wrangel gained a reputation as a skilled and just administrator, who, unlike some other White Army generals, did not tolerate lawlessness or looting by his troops.[6] However, after he was unable to join forces with Admiral Kolchak and at the insistence of Denikin, he led his forces north towards Moscow on a failed attempt by the Whites to take it in autumn 1919. Continuing disagreement with Denikin led to his removal from command, and Wrangel departed for exile to Constantinople on 8 February 1920.

Wrangel, Metropolitan Anthony, Metropolitan Anastasius and other Russian émigrés in Yugoslavia, 1927
Statue of Wrangel in Sremski Karlovci

However, Denikin was forced to resign on 20 March 1920, and a military committee, led by General Abram Dragomirov in Sevastopol, asked for Wrangel's return as Commander-in-Chief of the White forces in Crimea. He assumed that post on 4 April 1920, at the head of the Russian Army, and he put forth a coalition government that attempted to institute sweeping reforms (including land reforms).[7] He also recognized and established relations with the new anti-Bolshevik independent states, the Ukrainian People's Republic and the Democratic Republic of Georgia, among others, although they were ultimately conquered by the Russian Red Army.[8] However, by that stage in the Russian Civil War, such measures were too late, and the White movement was rapidly losing support, both domestically and overseas.

Wrangel is immortalized by the nickname of "Black Baron" in the marching song The Red Army is the Strongest, composed as a rallying call for a final effort on the part of the Bolsheviks to end the war. The song was immensely popular in the early Soviet Union in the 1920s.[citation needed]

From June to October 1920, General Wrangel kept a building in Melitopol as his headquarters. The site later became the Melitopol Museum of Local History.[9]

At a prayer vigil upon accepting command.

After being severely outnumbered and facing defeat in Northern Tavria and in Crimea, Wrangel organised a mass evacuation on the shores of the Black Sea.[10] Wrangel gave every officer, soldier, and civilian the choice to evacuate and go with him into the unknown, or to remain in Russia. Those who chose to stay in Crimea were subject to brutal repression by the Bolsheviks as part of the Red Terror, along with many civilians, with up to 150,000 murdered.[11][1] Wrangel evacuated the White forces from the Crimea in 1920; the remnants of the Russian Imperial Navy became known as Wrangel's fleet. The last military and civilian personnel left Russia with Wrangel on board the General Kornilov on 14 November 1920.[citation needed]

A commemorative plaque dedicated to Wrangel in the village of Ulyanovo in Kaliningrad Oblast. Notably, the plaque utilizes pre-revolutionary Russian, even though it was created in 2014.

Initially, Wrangel lived on his yacht, Lucullus, at Constantinople. It was rammed and sunk by the Italian steamer Adria, which had sailed from Soviet-held Batum. Wrangel, then on shore, escaped with his life in what was widely regarded as an assassination attempt.

Emigration edit

In 1922, he moved to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes as the head of all White Russian refugees.

In 1924, in the Serbian town of Sremski Karlovci, he established the Russian All-Military Union, a civilian organisation that was designed to embrace all Russian military émigrés all over the world.[12] He tried to preserve a Russian military organisation for another fight against Bolshevism.[13]

In September 1927, Wrangel and his family emigrated, settling in Brussels, Belgium, where he worked as a mining engineer.

Wrangel published his memoirs in the magazine White Cause (Белое дело)[14] in Berlin in 1928.

Death and burial edit

Wrangel died suddenly on 25 April 1928, possibly after contracting typhus. His family, however, believed that he had been poisoned by his butler's brother, who briefly lived in the household in Brussels and was allegedly a Soviet agent.[15]

He was buried in Brussels. More than a year later, his remains were transported to Belgrade. On 6 October 1929, in a formal public ceremony, his body was reinterred in the Church of the Holy Trinity, Belgrade, the Russian church, according to his wishes.[16][17]

Family edit

Wrangel's wife and children in 1920. From left to right: Helena, Olga, Nathalie, and Peter.

He was married to Russian noblewoman Olga Mikhailovna Ivanienko (1883–1968). They had two sons and two daughters:

  • Baroness Helena Petrovna Wrangel (1909–1999); married Baron Fedor von Meyendorff: married secondly to Phillip Hills; had issue
  • Baron Peter Petrovich Wrangel (1911–1999); no issue
  • Baroness Nathalie Petrovna Wrangel (1913–2013); married to Russian nobleman Alexis George Basilevski; had issue
  • Baron Alexis Petrovich Wrangel (1922–2005); married to Ekaterina Nikolaevna von Lambsdorff; no issue[18]

His nephew, Baron George Wrangell, became known by the David Oglivy-created 1951 ad campaign for the Hathaway shirt company in which he was depicted in photos as "a white-shirted, debonair-looking fellow" with a black patch over his right eye, although both his eyes were "perfectly good."[19]

Legacy edit

The Serbian town of Sremski Karlovci, which had served as his headquarters after he emigrated from Russia, erected a monument in his honour in 2007. At the time of his death, it was the location of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR, which is now based in New York) and the Russian Ministry of Culture.[20]

During the Russian Civil War, the combat song of the Red Army, White Army, Black Baron, was named for Wrangel, and its first verse identifies Wrangel as both the leader of the Whites and a serious threat to the success of Soviet Russia.

Many Russian officers regarded Wrangel so highly that he had almost a semi-sacred status. After Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, some prominent military émigrés referred to the position that they believed Wrangel would have taken. For example, Major General Mikhail Mikhailovich Zinkevich said in mid-August 1941, "If General Wrangel were alive today, he would go unhesitatingly with the Germans".[21]

In 2015, the government of the Russian Federation began to repatriate the remains of White Emigres that were buried abroad, but the descendants of Wrangel refused to have his remains returned to Russia as the current Russian government had not "condemned the evil [of Bolshevism],"[22] referring to Vladimir Putin's unwillingness to denounce the Soviet crimes and implement a proper decommunization.[23]

He was portrayed by Russian actor Aleksandr Galibin in the first season of the Serbian television series Balkan Shadows, which features Wrangel's Cossack emigres as major characters.

In September 2021, following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, Wrangel's grandson Peter A. Basilevsky compared the "bureaucratic incompetence" of the U.S. government in Afghanistan to the successful November 1920 evacuation of 150,000 anti-Bolshevik soldiers and civilians under Wrangel which became possible with far inferior resources of the White Army and in the face of the advancing Red Army.[24]

Honours edit

Works edit

  • Wrangel, Pyotr N. (1963) [1958]. Always with Honour [memoirs of General Wrangel]. New York: R. Speller. OCLC 600910469. Republished by Ls Press in 2022: ISBN 978-7-250-36444-1

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b Egorov, O. (27 December 2019). "Meet Russian Imperial officers who almost stopped the Bolsheviks". Russia Beyond the Headlines. Retrieved 29 January 2020.
  2. ^ Rene Levoll, The Last Motor Race of The Empire 2014 ISBN 9789949380602 accessed 15 Oct 2023.
  3. ^ New York Times obituary of his last surviving child
  4. ^ Kenez, Peter (2004). Red Attack, White Resistance; Civil War in South Russia 1918. Washington, DC: New Academia Publishing. pp. 204, 267–270. ISBN 9780974493442.
  5. ^ a b Kenez, Peter (2004). Red Advance, White Defeat: Civil War in South Russia 1919-1920. Washington, DC: New Academia Publishing. pp. 25, 31–33. ISBN 9780974493459.
  6. ^ Lincoln 1989, p. 430.
  7. ^ Luckett 1971, pp. 359-360.
  8. ^ Iakov Moiseyevich Shafir (1922). Secrets of Menshevik Georgia. London: Communist Party of Great Britain.
  9. ^ "Страница не найдена (404-я ошибка) / Мелитопольский краеведческий музей / Музейний простір. Музеї України та світу". Retrieved 10 March 2022.
  10. ^ Luckett 1971, pp. 381-383.
  11. ^ "Красный террор в Крыму 1920-1922".
  12. ^ Wrangel, Petr Nikolaevich, Baron
  13. ^ ″Главни војни циљ барона Врангела″. // Politika, 7 December 2017, p. 21.
  14. ^ An alternative name for the White movement.
  15. ^ Volodarsky, Boris. The KGB's Poison Factory, from Lenin to Litvinenko. Frontline Books: 2009, p. 58.
  16. ^ ″Смрт и сахрана генерала Врангела у Београду: Чувени бели генерал је, по сопственој жељи, сахрањен у руској Цркви Свете Тројице на Ташмајдану.″ // Politika, 18 January 2018, p. 20.
  17. ^ Татоли, Татьяна (Tatoli, Tatiana) (22 January 2020). "Русская военная эмиграция в Сербии (20-30 гг. ХХ в.)" [Russian military emigration in Serbia (20-30 years of the twentieth century.)]. Западная Русь (Western Russians) website (in Russian). Retrieved 16 April 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  18. ^ "Pyotr Nicolaevich Baron von Wrangell". 27 August 1878.
  19. ^ "One-Eyed Flattery". Time. 23 June 1952. Retrieved 19 July 2023.
  20. ^ Споменик белом барону Politika, 13 September 2007.
  21. ^ O. Beyda, ‘“Re-Fighting the Civil War”: Second Lieutenant Mikhail Aleksandrovich Gubanov’. Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas, Vol. 66, No. 2, 2018, p. 253.
  22. ^ Gessen, Masha. "The Dearly Departed Return to Russia". The New Yorker.
  23. ^ Karl W. Ryavec. Russian Bureaucracy: Power and Pathology, 2003, Rowman & Littlefield, ISBN 0-8476-9503-4, page 13
  24. ^ "Opinion | Incompetence in Action: Afghanistan Edition". Wall Street Journal. 8 September 2021. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 15 September 2021.

Sources edit

Further reading edit

External links edit

  Media related to Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel at Wikimedia Commons