Beginning of 1922. The Russian Civil War is almost over. Soviet government established on the major part of territory which is soon become known as USSR. The last piece of “old Russia” is Far East with a center in Vladivostok. But its time is running out as well.
Red Army defeated its rival White Army. Ex-officers, ex-soldiers and everybody else who are not welcomed in Soviet Russia are evacuating to all possible directions. Very soon Istanbul, Paris, Berlin and Harbin will become centers of Russian immigration. One of them is my grand-grand-father. He will settle in Manchuria and, like many other his combatants, will train Chinese troops to confront Japanese invasion that will happen in 15 years.
This non-fiction book is about one of many ex-generals Pepelyaev who fought and lost in Civil war. He immigrated to China. After hearing news about anti-communist uprising in Yakutia, he decides to organize last “crusade” against Soviets. He and almost 1000 volunteers will sail to Okhotsk and spend 1 year in deep Yakutian forests. They will fight for their Russia.
On the other side of barricades is commanding officer Strod. He is also fighting for Russia. Just his comrades ideas about world order could not co-exist with ideas of Pepelyaev’s volunteers brigade.
Both sides will suffer from hunger and extreme Yakutia weather conditions. Both sides will kill each other against the background of extraterrestrial Siberia winter nature. People will walk 30 km per day without roads and with -50 degrees outside. People will be on the edge of human body capabilities.
The book is not selecting sides. Instead it is trying to answer what made these people to be so committed to their ideas? What motivated 1000 people to take this suicide journey? How these two antipodes, Pepelyaev and Strod, will communicate with each other?
The book is based on diaries of participants and court records against Pepelyaev and others. It is very well written, I would say one of the best non-fiction books that I ever read. If you speak Russian and like history, I highly recommend it.
Overall score – 5 out of 5.
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