The Baron's Cloak: A History of the Russian Empire in War and Revolution [NOOK Book]

Overview

Baron Roman Fedorovich von Ungern-Sternberg (1885–1921) was a Baltic German aristocrat and tsarist military officer who fought against the Bolsheviks in Eastern Siberia during the Russian Civil War. From there he established himself as the de facto warlord of Outer Mongolia, the base for a fantastical plan to restore the Russian and Chinese empires, which then ended with his capture and execution by the Red Army as the war drew to a close.

In The Baron’s Cloak, Willard ...

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The Baron's Cloak: A History of the Russian Empire in War and Revolution

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Overview

Baron Roman Fedorovich von Ungern-Sternberg (1885–1921) was a Baltic German aristocrat and tsarist military officer who fought against the Bolsheviks in Eastern Siberia during the Russian Civil War. From there he established himself as the de facto warlord of Outer Mongolia, the base for a fantastical plan to restore the Russian and Chinese empires, which then ended with his capture and execution by the Red Army as the war drew to a close.

In The Baron’s Cloak, Willard Sunderland tells the epic story of the Russian Empire’s final decades through the arc of the Baron’s life, which spanned the vast reaches of Eurasia. Tracking Ungern’s movements, he transits through the Empire’s multinational borderlands, where the country bumped up against three other doomed empires, the Habsburg, Ottoman, and Qing, and where the violence unleashed by war, revolution, and imperial collapse was particularly vicious. In compulsively readable prose that draws on wide-ranging research in multiple languages, Sunderland recreates Ungern’s far-flung life and uses it to tell a compelling and original tale of imperial success and failure in a momentous time.

Sunderland visited the many sites that shaped Ungern’s experience, from Austria and Estonia to Mongolia and China, and these travels help give the book its arresting geographical feel. In the early chapters, where direct evidence of Ungern’s activities is sparse, he evokes peoples and places as Ungern would have experienced them, carefully tracing the accumulation of influences that ultimately came together to propel the better documented, more notorious phase of his career

Recurring throughout Sunderland’s magisterial account is a specific artifact: the Baron’s cloak, an essential part of the cross-cultural uniform Ungern chose for himself by the time of his Mongolian campaign: an orangey-gold Mongolian kaftan embroidered in the Khalkha fashion yet outfitted with tsarist-style epaulettes on the shoulders. Like his cloak, Ungern was an imperial product. He lived across the Russian Empire, combined its contrasting cultures, fought its wars, and was molded by its greatest institutions and most volatile frontiers. By the time of his trial and execution mere months before the decree that created the USSR, he had become a profoundly contradictory figure, reflecting both the empire’s potential as a multinational society and its ultimately irresolvable limitations.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The Baron's Cloak succeeds in drawing our gaze away from the metropolitan centres in which we conventionally chart the upheavals of the 'Russian Revolution' to a periphery that turns out to have been far from peripheral. The revolution was an intrinsically imperial affair - a vast, multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state pulled apart by messy conflicts across fractured frontiers; a new one forged and contested by men and women with their own multilayered local, regional and imperial identities. Willard Sunderland's innovative analysis of the dynamics which both destroyed the Russian Empire and shaped its Soviet successor is a triumph of scholarship and imagination.––Daniel Beer, Times Literary Supplement (December 19, 2014)

"Rare is the book this creative, engaging, and written with such unpretentious grace. The baron of the title is Roman von Ungern-Sternberg. . . . After the Bolsheviks took power, Ungern-Sternberg attempted to establish an independent state in Mongolia -- a monarchy that he himself would rule. In 1921, that dream was crushed by the Red Army, which captured and executed the baron. Sunderland does a remarkable job of blending Ungern-Sternberg's life story with an exquisite portrait of the far-flung reaches of the Russian empire, producing an utterly absorbing tale of one man encountering historic change in almost incomprehensibly complex surroundings."—Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs (Nov./Dec. 2014)

"Many scholars have analyzed the peculiar dynamics that make up the vast, diverse world of the former Russian Empire and Soviet Union, but few have produced works as engaging and insightful as Willard Sunderland's book, The Baron’s Cloak. . . . Centered on one man, the Russian-German noble, Baron Roman Fedorovich von Ungern-Sternberg, Sunderland’s work is a brilliant portrait of the Russian Empire and its collapse in the face of revolution and civil war. With eloquence and wit, The Baron’s Cloak brings a complex historical epoch to life and provides a highly readable primer for anyone seeking to understand the Russian Empire and the legacies of imperial rule across Eurasia."—Mark Sokolsky, Origins (November 2014)

"The Baron's Cloak is the best book I've read in a very long time. It is brilliantly conceived and crafted. Willard Sunderland's research and erudition are unrivaled, and his writing is fast-paced, accessible, and often poetic. Sunderland does a terrific job of reimagining the Russian empire, territory, and power; this book will set the standard for a long time to come."—Robert Crews, Stanford University, author of For Prophet and Tsar: Islam and Empire in Russia and Central Asia

"Willard Sunderland's The Baron’s Cloak is a wonderful and an important book. Beautifully written, with an abundance of photographs and maps, it tells one man’s life story as a prism as way to explore the Russian empire at its twilight. Baron Roman Fedorovich Ungern-Sternberg was both a fascinating and appalling individual. (Imagine a character from a Dostoevsky novel transposed to the borderlands at the twilight of empire, in conditions war, revolution, ruin, and chaos.) Sunderland uses Ungern-Sternberg's life to illustrate the far-flung empire that made the life possible. His book unfolds almost cinematically across Eurasia: Graz, Austria; the Baltic Provinces; St. Petersburg; Manchuria; the Russian Far East; the killing fields of the First World War in Prussia, Galicia, Persia; climaxing with Ungern-Sternberg’s doomed campaigns in Mongolia and Siberia. Sunderland is the first to understand Ungern-Sternberg as a type, an imperial cosmopolitan. His book is compelling reading not only for Russian and Soviet historians but also for any reader who seeks to understand the full scope of the Great War’s imperial apocalypse."—Peter Holquist, University of Pennsylvania, author of Making War, Forging Revolution: Russia's Continuum of Crisis, 1914-1921

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801471063
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 5/9/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 360
  • Sales rank: 881,191
  • File size: 7 MB

Meet the Author

Willard Sunderland is Associate Professor of History at the University of Cincinnati. He is the author of The Baron's Cloak: A History of the Russian Empire in War and Revolution and Taming the Wild Field: Colonization and Empire on the Russian Steppe, both from Cornell, and coeditor of Russia's People of Empire: Life Stories from Eurasia, 1500 to the Present and Peopling the Russian Periphery: Borderland Colonization in Eurasian History.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Timeline
Introduction
1. Graz
2. Estland
3. St. Petersburg, Manchuria, St. Petersburg
4. Beyond the Baikal
5. The Black Dragon River
6. Kobdo
7. War Land
8. The Ataman's Domain
9. Urga
10. Kiakhta
11. Red Siberia
Conclusion

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