The New York Times
The Bloody White Baron: The Extraordinary Story of the Russian Nobleman Who Became the Last Khan of Mongoliaby James Palmer
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… See more details below
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.
The New York Times
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. (Feb.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“James Palmer’s account of [Baron Ungern-Sternberg’s] brutal and ill-starred life is elegant, waspish and evocative.
“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.”
“Palmer effectively evokes both the enormous scope and the small absurdities of war.”
Simon Sebag-Montefiore, Sunday Telegraph
“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.”
New York Times
“What makes ‘The Bloody White Baron’ so exceptional is Palmer’s lucid scholarship, his ability to make perfect sense of the maelstrom of a forgotten war. This is a brilliant book, and I’m already looking forward to his next.”
Michigan War Studies Review
“[C]olorfully written.... Palmer’s absorbing biography of Ungern brings to life a sinister but important man who helped shape events in a remote part of the world in the early twentieth century.&rdquo
- Basic Books
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- 18 Years
Meet the Author
James Palmer has traveled extensively in East and Central Asia. In 2003 he won The Spectator’s 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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