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The Bloody White Baron

3.55  ·  Rating Details ·  577 Ratings  ·  101 Reviews
The Bloody White Baron Roman Ungern von Sternberg was a Baltic aristocrat, a violent, headstrong youth posted to the wilds of Siberia and Mongolia before the First World War. After the Bolshevik Revolution, the Baron conquered Mongolia, the last time in history a country was seized by an army mounted on horses. Full description
Kindle Edition, 290 pages
Published (first published 2008)
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Hadrian


My name is surrounded by such hate and fear that no one can judge what is the truth and what is false, what is history and what is myth.
-Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg

This is a rollicking history about a forgotten section of a war in a distant corner of the earth, with entertaining digressions into Mongolian society, Buddhist mythology (Mongolian Buddhism is a far cry from Tibetan), and a biography of one of the strangest historical figures of the Russian Civil War.

Baron Roman von Ungern-Ster
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Adam
May 27, 2012 Adam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have always been interested in Mongolia, because of its remoteness from Europe, its inaccessibility, and its obscurity. Until recently, it was a country as impenetrable as, say, North Korea, but now that is no longer the case.

I never dreamt that I would ever treat Mongolian patients or would work with Mongolian dental assistants (many of them are dentists trained in Mongolia), but now I do!

So, when someone on Goodreads, having read my brief review of The Russian Fascists: Tragedy and Farce in
...more
Steve
Oct 18, 2011 Steve rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
It's OK, I guess. Palmer's actually a pretty colorful writer, but the problem with his subject, Baron Ungern-Sternberg, is that there's not a whole lot of reliable documentation on him as a person. There's little doubt that the Baron was a psychopath, but the Devil is in the lack of concrete details. The setting, post WW 1 Mongolia, is about as distant as it gets. Add in to that the murky murderous stew of competing powers (Red Russians, White Russians, Japanese, Chinese, Mongolians, soldiers of ...more
Tim Pendry
The subject of this book is a vicious anti-semitic Baltic aristocrat, Baron Ungern-Sternberg, who briefly flared up as a murderous precursor of national socialist ethnic cleansing in Mongolia in the chaos of the post-revolutionary struggle for control of the Russian Empire.

As with the tale of Colonel Despard recently reviewed by us (another marginal figure in another empire at another time), an individual outlier from the norm is an opportunity to weave a story about a particular time and place
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Jerome
Dec 26, 2012 Jerome rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You’ve probably never heard of the Baron Ungern-Sternberg. I came across a passing reference of him while reading The World on Fire: 1919 and the Battle with Bolshevism last year: something about him claiming to be a reincarnation of Genghis Khan, declaring that he would kill every Jew in Russia, making human torches out of his victims and vowing to make an avenue of gallows from Siberia to Europe.

My interest thus piqued, I looked for a biography of this guy and came across this. Palmer give us
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Kevin
Dec 09, 2011 Kevin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Not quite what I expected. I thought this would be a biography of the Russian aristocrat (Baron Ungern-Sternberg) who would be the savior of Mongolia, the spiritual and military reincarnation of Genghis Khan. Maybe combined with a history of Mongolia in the post-Russian revolution period. It was a little of both of these, but much more of a military history of the White (anti-communist) Russians and Baron Ungern’s various battles, which just isn’t that interesting. The Baron seems to have been q ...more
DoctorM
I first read about Ungern-Sternberg in Peter Hopkirk's account of the Russian Civil War in Central Asia ("Setting the East Ablaze"), and I couldn't imagine why the Baron's story hadn't been filmed. It has everything--- armoured trains, ragtag armies moving across the steppe like something out of "Road Warrior", Mongol horsemen, Japanese mercenaries, eerie shamanic rituals, and a central figure whose madness and cruelty are...well, breathtaking. Ungern-Sternberg's story is a kind of dark, dark co ...more
Fishface
A remarkable read about one of history's most bizarre characters -- a Russian nobleman from Estonia with a Jewish name who was apparently a Buddhist religious fanatic, seen as a reincarnation of Genghis Khan and, most startlingly, bulletproof. The author, who apparently hangs out pretty close to where this story unfolded, pulls together a tremendous number of sources written in different languages and with different levels of attention to accuracy, and puts it all in one place for you. Curiously ...more
Tamara
A good yarn, about an excellently demented, and extremely brutal corner of 20th century history. The Baron is a weird enough character and Palmer makes a seemingly honest attempt to get to the bottom of his personality and ideology, but this strikes me as the less interesting aspect of the book (as well as being a hopeless cause.) The history of the events themselves is more striking. From the dramatically named baroque killer train of the Russian civil war, which roamed Siberia, complete with b ...more
Christopher
Aug 04, 2013 Christopher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, nonfiction
I read this before, but its such a real life 'Heart of Darkness/Apocaypse Now' in the Russian Civil War that I had to read it again. Still amazing. A meditation on all that far right/occultist merger stuff that today exists largely in center-left homeopathic whole foods shopper form. The Baron was a genuine madman with power, and thus its s true case study in when the insane may do as they please.
Brett Richardson
Apr 25, 2013 Brett Richardson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The nexus of Mongolia lies at the heart of three revolutions and the subsequent civil wars, all happening in a small window of time from 1911 to 1949, which reshaped the modern world. The 1911 overthrow of the Qing Dynasty by Chinese revolutionaries (eventually culminating in the establishment of the Mao Zedong led People's Republic of China in 1949), the subsequent 1911 Mongolian revolt against their weakened Qing rulers, and the 1917 Bolshevik revolution against Nicholas II's Czarist autocracy ...more
Jay C
Jan 27, 2017 Jay C rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well written bio of a disturbingly psychopathic Russian nobleman who briefly "conquered" Mongolia in the years of and following the Russian Revolution and Civil War. I've always been fascinated by Mongolia and Genghis Khan, so when I heard of this one I thought I'd give it a try, since I knew very little of this corner of 20th century history.

I actually "read" it via the audible.com edition, which was very well produced. The litany of Baron Ungern's atrocities and excesses did become tireso
...more
Robert
Jan 26, 2013 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When it's done well, I love this type of lay history, well-sourced but written in a readable, non-academic way, and this book is an excellent example. It's a fascinating story about a truly bizarre historical character, a Russian aristocrat who became one of the last leaders of Mongolia prior to its being engulfed by the Russian revolution and becoming a Soviet satellite. Though a complete moral reprobate, Ungern-Sternberg is apparently still somewhat revered in Mongolia for having liberated the ...more
Bisser Dyankov
While the story itself is interesting, be sure to read all the notes and comments - they bring more insights of contemporary Mongolia than anything else on this book. Otherwise, it is, in a way, a strange tale of a collision of one people (Mongolians) with modern times and the change those times bring.

Oh, and some bizarre and interesting facts about Imperial Russia.
Mahmoud Awad
Jul 07, 2016 Mahmoud Awad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fringe
Brilliant concept, dry and occasionally erroneous writing. Despite Palmer's uncertain grip, Ungern's story pulses well enough underneath. Recommended for the same themes that draw readers to to Mishima, Mirbeau's Torture Garden and Hiroaki Samura's Spring Breeze Snegurochka.
Charles
Feb 11, 2016 Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The Bloody White Baron” is one of those fascinating short books about a nasty little corner of the world during a nasty time. The nasty little corner of the world is Mongolia; the nasty time is the Russian Civil War. The eponymous Baron is Roman Nikolai Maximilian von Ungern-Sternberg, of Estonian/German extraction, who was called the last khan of Mongolia and waged a brutal, doomed minor campaign against the Chinese and the Bolsheviks in the early 1920s. Naturally, he came to a bad end.

The bac
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Edward Smith
Aug 03, 2011 Edward Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Baron Ungern-Sternberg is one of those men in history that would be balked at as an absurdly poor written tale of fiction had they not actually been real. The son of a privileged Baltic German Lutheran noble family who was obsessed with the autocratic monarchy of the Russian Empire and Orthodox Church, with a strange penchant for Eastern mysticism and the occult. A virulent anti-Semite and a depraved individual who reveled in cruelty, yet was an undisciplined dropout of several institutions whos ...more
Seth
Jun 09, 2009 Seth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

James Palmer's a good historian with an intuitive grasp of what makes a popular history book fascinating and interesting, and he ups that by interspersing history with reports of his modern travels to the places mentioned in his story.

This is the story of Baron Roman Nickolai Maximilian von Ungern-Sternberg - a German nobleman living in Estonia, then part of the Russian Empire, whose travels to the edges of the Russian Empire made him familiar first with the Cossacks and then the Mongols. He fig
...more
Justin Offermann
Having once researched Mongolian history rather extensively for a college paper, I was familiar with the basic, bare-bones outline of Baron Ungern-Sternberg's exploits there, and when I saw this book several years later I had to pick it up. The Baron is at once preposterous and chilling; a deeply committed Russian monarchist who dreams of turning Mongolia into the core of a new Asiatic empire, an adherent of a strange mix of Buddhist mythology and prophecy mixed with a heavy dose of apocalyptic ...more
Steven
Feb 24, 2009 Steven rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history, maps
I read this review in the New York Times, and I thought I'd give this book a shot. I've always been interested in Mongolia, but didn't know much about its history. And history is always more interesting when linked to a strong personality. Brother, what a personality.

Baron Ungern was an unstable person who became a very influential character in a very unstable part of world during a very unstable time -- the central Asia of the 1910-20s. Part mystic, part aristocrat, and whole lot of Hitler, thi
...more
Alex Sarll
Even by the standards of that playground of monsters that was the twentieth century, Baron Ungern-Sternberg stands out as a deranged horror. A mere thug in the dying days of Tsarist Russia, he was transfigured by war, revolution and civil war into something much worse. And yet in all his atrocities, and even his achievements (conquering a country with cavalry, less than a century ago), he still seems an almost cosy foretaste of what was to come. A mystical fantasist who loved the swastika emblem ...more
Bubba
Interesting account of a Lutheran, ethnic-German Estonian aristocrat who became an important figure on the white side during the Russian civil war. He combined his love of monarchy, obsession with the mystical strains of Russian Orthodoxy and Tibetan Buddhism, hatred of Jews and Bolshevism, fascination with Mongolia, and sadism into an apocalyptic dream of reviving the empire of Chinggiz Khan. He was a very contradictory figure, sometimes lenient to Mongols, but brutal to his own European follow ...more
Meaghan
This is the biography of Baron Ungern-Sternberg, an obscure but fascinating and extraordinary man from the annals of early 20th-century history. He has striking similarities to Adolf Hitler: a sadistic and stunningly anti-Semetic madman with delusions of grandeur who was convinced he had been chosen to save the world, who was popular with the people at first and had many military victories, but whose excesses eventually cost him his cause, his country and his life. Ungern, a monarchist who saw J ...more
Dergrossest
Dec 15, 2009 Dergrossest rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another dark journey into Mongolia with another unlovable protagonist. While not achieving the empire or infamy of Genghis Kahn, you certainly have to give this book's Baron Ungern-Sternberg an A+ for effort as he deals death and destruction with feverish religious flourish through the eastern regions of post-Tsarist Russia. While Ungern seems little different than various other historical raving lunatics grasping for their 15-minutes of fame, the author is a fantastic writer who uses Ungern as ...more
Nick Sweeney
May 13, 2015 Nick Sweeney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Baron Roman Ungern von Sternberg was of Baltic German origin. It can be supposed that there had to be something in his upbringing that made him the man he became - boarding and military school - immune to laws other than the ones he made for himself. These varied: he was religious, but in a vague way, revered Russian Orthodoxy at a distance, revered Mongolian Buddhism with more interest, and yet admitted that he could only scratch the surface of it. His main causes were more anti- than pro-, so ...more
Scott Lyall
Jul 26, 2011 Scott Lyall rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A biography of the insane Baron Ungen-Sternberg, who, escaping from the defeat of the White Armies in the Russian revolution, lead the remnants of his regiment into Mongolia. There, he persuaded the locals to join him in fighting the Chinese, cutting a bloody swathe across the country, slaughtering anyone who they suspected was a Bolshevik, Jewish or anyone else they didn't like, riding under the swastika (Ungern was a proto-nazi) before leading his cavalary force against the modern Red Army bac ...more
Jesse Field
Sep 15, 2016 Jesse Field rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: learn, story
Baron Ungern battled against the Bolsheviks during the Russian revolution, siding with the White Russians, Cassocks, Tibetans, Buryats, Mongols and anyone else devoted to the causes of preserving monarchy and aristocracy and attacking Jews or others who wish to overturn what Ungern and his ilk considered the natural and pure order of the world. Ungern had heritage in Estonia, where German noblemen mingled with those from Russia, and very occasionally signed up to odd spiritual pursuits like theo ...more
M2
Apr 10, 2009 M2 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

Call him Baron von Crazy Pants. Baron Nikolai Maximilian von Ungern-Sternberg (1885–1921) was a Czarist leader in Siberia and Mongolia during the Bolshevik revolution. A fascinating but cruel character, he cut a path of violence, pillage, torture and mayhem across this forgotten region's history.

He was an Estonian nobleman of German descent and servant of the Russian Empire, and a descendant of Baltic pirates (one of his ancestors lit false beacons on the family island north of Estonia to lure

...more
Allan
Oct 03, 2008 Allan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ira Therebel
I have never heard of Baron Ungern before. I saw the book at the sales area of the University bookstore and knew that I have to read it.

I do feel like the cover of the book was a bit more sensational than the story itself. I really disagree with the claim on the cover that he foreshadowed the Nazis. This could be said about many historical figures. Such incredible violence is really not that rare in history. To me it seems that he was closer in his actions to his historical roots than the Nazis.
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