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Grigory Mikhaylovich Semyonov
Ataman Semyonov
Born (1890-09-25)September 25, 1890
Died August 30, 1946(1946-08-30) (aged 55)
Place of birth Karanzha Village, Zabaikal Governorate, Russian Empire
Place of death Moscow
Allegiance  Russian Empire
Service/branch Imperial Russian Army
White Movement
Years of service 1911-21
Rank Lieutenant General
Battles/wars World War I
Russian Civil War
Awards Order of St. George (twice)

Grigory Mikhaylovich Semyonov, or Semenov (Russian: Григо́рий Миха́йлович Семёнов) (September 13(25), 1890–August 30, 1946), was a Japanese-supported leader of the White movement in Transbaikal and beyond from December 1917 to November 1920, Lieutenant General and Ataman of Baikal Cossacks (1919).


Semyonov was born in the Transbaikal region of eastern Siberia. His father, Mikhail Petrovich Semyonov, was of partial Buryat descent. Semyonov was a fluent Mongolian and Buryat language speaker. He joined the Imperial Russian Army in 1908, and graduated from Orenburg Military School in 1911. He took part in World War I and became a yesaul .

According to Pyotr Wrangel:[1]

Semenov was a Transbaikalian Cossack - dark and thickset, and of the rather alert Mongolian type. His intelligence was of a specifically Cossack calibre, and he was an exemplary soldier, especially courageous when under the eye of his superior. He knew how to make himself popular with Cossacks and officers alike, but he had his weaknesses in a love of intrigue and indifference to the means by which he achieved his ends. Though capable and ingenious, he had received no education, and his outlook was narrow. I have never been able to understand how he came to play a leading role.

He was somewhat of an outsider among the his fellow officers because of his ethnicity. While serving in the Caucasus in World War I he met another officer shunned by his peers, Baron Ungern-Sternberg, whose eccentric nature and disregard of the rules of etiquette and decorum repelled others. He and Sternberg tried to organize a regiment of Assyrian Christians to aid in the fight against the Turks. In July 1917, Semyonov left the Caucasus and was appointed Commissar of the Provisional Government in the Baikal region, responsible for recruiting counterrevolutionary volunteer military units.

The Russian Civil War in Transbaikal

After the October Revolution, Semyonov stirred up an anti-Soviet rebellion, but sustained a defeat and fled to Manchuria. In August 1918, he managed to consolidate his positions in the Transbaikal region with the help of the Czechoslovak Legions, and imposed his ruthless regime. In his rule over this region, he has been described as a "plain bandit [who] drew his income from holding up trains and forcing payments, no matter what the nature of the load nor for whose benefit it was being shipped."[2] The so-called Siberian Provisional Government appointed Semyonov commander of a detached unit with the headquarters in Chita. Initially, Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak refused to recognize Semyonov's authority, but he had no choice but to accept Semyonov as de facto leader and confirm Semyonov as Commander-in-Chief of the Chita military district. In early 1919, Semyonov declared himself Ataman of the Transbaikal Cossack Host with support from the Imperial Japanese Army, elements of which had been deployed to Siberia. The region under his control extended from Verkhne-Udinsk near Lake Baikal to the Shilka River and town of Stretensk, to Manchuli, where the Chinese Eastern Railway met the Chita Railway, and northeast some distance along the Amur Railway.

Semyonov handed out copies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to the Japanese troops he became associated with.[3] In February 1919, it is said that he allowed a Jewish unit to form in his Cossack-dominated army. His most illustrious mistress and partner was a Jewish cabaret singer named Mashka Sharaban.

After the defeat of the White movement, Admiral Kolchak transferred power to Semyonov in the Far East. However Semyonov was unable to keep his forces in Siberia under control: they stole, burned, murdered, and raped civilians, and developed a reputation for being little better than thugs.[4] In July 1920 the Japanese Expeditionary Corps started their withdrawal in accordance with the Gongota Agreement signed with the Far Eastern Republic, leaving Semyonov without support. Transbaikal partisans, internationalists and the 5th Soviet Army under Genrich Eiche launched an operation to re-take Chita. In October 1920, units of the Red Army and guerrillas forced Semyonov's tiny army out of the Baikal region. After having retreated to Primorye, Semyonov tried to continue fighting the Soviets, but was finally forced to abandon all Russian territory by September 1921.

In exile

Semyonov first escaped to Manchuria, then to Nagasaki, and later he settled in the United States where, after a short period of time, he was accused of committing acts of violence against the American soldiers of the Expeditionary Corps. Semyonov was eventually acquitted, and returned to China where he was given a monthly 1000-yen pension by the Japanese government. He settled mostly in Northern China and Manchuria, where he had ties with the Japanese intelligence community and where he continued to wield some influence over the exiled Russian and Cossack communities. He was also employed by Puyi, the former Manchu Emperor of China.[5]

Semyonov was captured in Dalian by Soviet paratroopers in September 1945 during the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, when the Soviet Army conquered Manchukuo. He was charged with counterrevolutionary activities and sentenced to death by hanging by the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR. He was executed on August 29, 1946.


  1. Always With Honour. By General baron Peter N Wrangel. Robert Speller & Sons. New York. 1957.
  2. Norton, Henry Kittredge (1923). "The Far Eastern Republic of Siberia." London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd. p69.
  3. Tokayer, Marvin (1979). The Fugu Plan. New York: Paddington Press Ltd. p47.
  4. Richard Pipes, Russia under the Bolshevik Regime, New York 1994, p.46
  5. Arnold C. Brackman, The Last Emperor. Hew York: Scribner's, 1975, p. 151.

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