Baroness Wrangel Signed Letter 1933 Laments the Death of Baron Wrangel Russian White Army Leader


Rare and interesting letter Baroness Maria Dmitrievna Wrangel nee Dementyevo-Maykova (1858-1944), written on the 5th anniversary of the death of her son Baron Peter Nikolaevich Wrangel (1878-1928), and the saddness she felt in the lack of interest in commemorating his memory, written from her home in Brussels, dated 10th May 1933.

"10 May 33. Vanderkindere 366, Yeck, Brussels.

Dear Yulia Sergeevna,

You are so kind, you loved my son, you were witness to his life in Serbia, and I received heaps of letters with expressions of compassion and kind words about my son, on the occasion of my article dedicated to the 5th anniversary of my son's death, I hoped to find among them two words from you. Maybe you didn't iike something. What is sincere nowadays? Although these letters were from ordinary people, mostly unknown to me, they somehow warmed me amidst the indifference with which the press of Paris and Brussels treated the memory of my son on such a sorrowful day.

One of my  correspondents, whom I have never seen, writes to me: "I am not a hysterical woman but a person burdened with experience of life, and I am not embarrassed to admit that on reading your sorrowful lines I had spasms in my throat and tears were running down my cheeks. What a human we have lost. Your article is even more tragic as it was completely alone." Not a single newspaper devoted any line on such a sorrowful day. In Paris, there wasn't even a requiem in the Rue Daru, and in a small Gallipoli church. And here, in Brussels the place of his death struggle, where his orphaned family still lives? In those days, it felt like the whole of Brussels was disturbed, in the Russian colony there were howls of despair and moaning. 5 years have passed. How was he commemorated? The church is divided here. Some went to one church, others to another, but overall the impression is that nobody commemorated him. That was all that was given to him!

Fortunately, I was comforted by the fact that in Bulgaria and Serbia people stayed faithful to his memory. They conducted a grand requiem with full lighting, a wonderful choir. Not only Russian but many famous Bulgarians attended it. In the evening, there was a gathering in a hall decorated with his portraits, the ceremonial choir of the Gallipoli citizens. The same in Serbia, which means that he is not dead in some hearts! I hug you.

Cordially yours M. Wrangel"

Peter Wrangel was an officer in the Imperial Russian Army and later commanding general of the anti-Bolshevik White Army in Southern Russia in the later stages of the Russian Civil War. After his side lost the civil war in 1920, he left Russia and became one of the most prominent exiled White émigrés.

Wrangel was born in Mukuliai, Kovno Governorate in the Russian Empire (in present-day Zarasai District Municipality, Lithuania). The Wrangel family was of the local Baltic German nobility.

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

At the start of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, he reenlisted 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, he was reassigned to the 55th Finland Dragoon Regiment, which participated in the punitive expedition under General A. N. Orlov in the Baltic region. In 1907, he returned to the Life Guards Cavalry Regiment. In 1908 he married Olga Mikhailovna Ivanenko in St. Petersburg, and the marriage produced two sons and two daughters. 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 October 13, 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.

This 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 of the same year. He was further decorated with the George Cross (4th degree) for his defense of the Zbruch River in the summer of 1917.

Following 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 through 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 was raised to that of a corps.

As an aggressive commander, he won a number of victories in the north Caucasus. From January 1919, his military force was renamed the Caucasus Volunteer Army. Wrangel soon clashed politically with Armed Forces of South Russia leader Anton Denikin, who demanded a quick march on Moscow. Wrangel insisted instead that his forces should take Tsaritsyn first, to join up with the army of Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak, which his troops accomplished on June 30, 1919 after three previous attempts by Pyotr Krasnov had failed in 1918.

Wrangel gained a reputation as a skilled and just administrator, who, in contrast to some other White Army generals, did not tolerate lawlessness or looting by his troops. 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 the capital in November 1919. Continuing disagreement with Denikin led to his removal from command, and Wrangel departed for exile to Constantinople on February 8, 1920.

Yet Denikin was forced to resign on March 20, 1920 and a military committee led by General Abram Dragomirov in Sevastopol asked that Wrangel return as Commander-in-Chief of the White forces in Crimea. He assumed the post on April 4, 1920 and put forth a coalition government which attempted to institute sweeping reforms (including land reforms). He also recognized and established relations with the new (and short lived) anti-Bolshevik independent republics of Ukraine and Georgia, among others. However, by this 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 became immensely popular in the early Soviet Union during the 1920s.

After defeats in which he lost half his standing army, and facing defeat in Northern Tavria and the Crimea, Wrangel organized a mass evacuation on the shores of the Black Sea. Wrangel gave every officer, soldier, and civilian the choice to evacuate and go with him into the unknown, or remain in Russia and face the wrath of the Red Army. Wrangel evacuated the White forces from the Crimea in 1920 in remnants of the Russian Imperial Navy that became known as Wrangel's fleet. The last military and civilian personnel left Russia with Wrangel on board the General Kornilov on November 14,1920. Initially, Wrangel lived on his yacht Lucullus at Constantinople, which was rammed and sunk by the Italian steamer Adria, which had sailed from Soviet-held Batum. Wrangel, who was on shore at the time, escaped with his life in what was widely regarded as an assassination attempt.

Wrangel then journeyed with his staff via Turkey and Tunisia to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes as the head of all Russian refugees, and arguably became the most prominent of all exiled White emigres. In 1924, he established the Russian All-Military Union, an organization established to fight for the preservation and unity of all White forces living abroad. He settled in Brussels, Belgium from September 1927 and worked as a mining engineer. Wrangel's memoirs were published in the magazine White Cause (Белое дело) in Berlin in 1928.

Wrangel, Metropolitan Anthony, Metropolitan Anastasius and other Russian émigrés in Yugoslavia, 1927
Wrangel died suddenly on April 25, 1928, and Wrangel's family believed that he had been poisoned by his butler's brother, who lived in the Wrangel household in Brussels briefly and was allegedly a Soviet agent. Wrangel's funeral and burial took place in Brussels, but he was reinterred on October 6, 1929 in the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church in Belgrade, Serbia, according to his wishes.

The town of Sremski Karlovci, which served as his headquarters and was at the time of his death the location of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Russian Ministry of Culture, erected a monument in his honour.

Size: 27 x 21 cm approx

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