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Prisoners of war of World War I in Western Siberia

UDK 9 (C18)


I.A. Eryomin

Barnaul state pedagogical university E-mail:

Various aspects of placement in the territory of the West Siberian region of many thousands of prisoners of war of the Austro-German block in the years of World War I are shown.

According to the General Staff of the Russian army for September 1, 1917 in the territory of Russia there were more than 1.8 million prisoners of war [1. Page 41]. In spite of the fact that Western Siberia was one of the most remote from the battlefield the region, it was quickly reached by an echo of fights. The first months of war were marked by defeat by the Russian troops of the Southwest front of four Austro-Hungarian armies, successful pushing off of Germans from coast of Vistula and successful Lodz operation. Capture of several hundred thousands of prisoners of war of the hostile states [2 became result. Page 301]. In the summer of 1915 in the territory of the West Siberian regions (The Tobolsk and Tomsk provinces, the Akmola and Semipalatinsk regions) in the military and administrative relation being a part of the Omsk military District of (OmVo), more than 155 thousand people of prisoners of war were placed already [3. Page 11].

In the "regulations on prisoners of war" approved in October, 1914 by Nicholas II, the Russian government actually undertook obligations to adhere to the principles of the Hague Convention of 1907 on humane treatment of prisoners. First of all, prisoners of war were characterized as "lawful defenders of the fatherland" whom it was supposed "to treat philanthropically". For this purpose, commanders of military units "at which consist" prisoners of war, should not have burdened them with "wearisome" work and also watch that to them "it was not caused offenses and oppressions" and all "the allowance put by it reached them completely and in an appropriate look" [4. Page 3811, 3813, 3817].

The decision of the government to send to Western Siberia the considerable number of prisoners of war forced local authorities to solve many problems quickly. The Defense Ministry on which responsibility on accommodation of prisoners of war lay did not think in advance of construction for them special rooms. His officials simply obliged the city authorities to find in any ways housing for the arrived prisoners of war. All issues were resolved in extreme haste. On November 16, 1914 the top military commander OmVo the general E.O. Schmitt made the order to town councils of Western Siberia within a week to provide the information on the rooms valid for quartering of prisoners of war. The cities had to provide heating and illumination of these pomeshche-

niya, the Defense Ministry undertook the obligation to pay more than modest "room salary" - 10 rub 50 kopeks on one prisoner of war a year [5. Page 156].

At the beginning for accommodation of prisoners of war barracks of the divisions leaving on the front, as a rule, were allocated. In barracks the prisoners were in the same conditions, as the Russian military personnel making their protection. The lack of necessary material resources forced local authorities to make non-standard decisions for removal of a problem of accommodation of prisoners of war. At a lack of barracks rooms, the cities took away for prisoners of war of the building of educational institutions, people's houses, etc. So, in Tomsk in September, 1914 1200 prisoners of war accommodated in the House of science. For this purpose the authorities had to refuse to occupy here free of charge rooms to local cultural and educational institutions [6]. The member of the Russian Select committee of the help to prisoners of war E.G. Shinkevich, during the business trip in OmVo in the summer of 1915 for studying "degree of need of prisoners of war of Austro-Hungarian army", saw in Novonikolayevsk and Petropavlovsk the prisoners placed "in the former brothels closed for this purpose" [3. Page 15].

The main emphasis of the power of Western Siberia in a solution of the problem of accommodation of prisoners of war was placed on construction of concentration camps. In the region for these purposes the city authorities took away, as a rule, on the outskirts, grounds of 12-14 dessiatins (1 tithe "1.09 hectares). Concentration camps usually were under construction on 10 thousand prisoners everyone. In them wooden barracks were built to 500 prisoners of war. The camp were under construction according to the general plan approved by engineering department. Costs of construction of one such concentration camp made about 250 thousand rubles [3. Page 14]. In particular, in Tomsk for this sum of a concentration camp on 10 thousand prisoners of war according to the decision of City Council were under construction in quarters No. 222 and 223 [7]. The construction course in the fall of 1915 was controlled in the region by the chairman of the commission on acceptance of buildings of concentration camps for prisoners of war the major general Mar owls-Timashevsky [8]. In total in Russia by 1917 there were more than 400 concentration camps for prisoners of war, including in OmVo them was 28 [9. Page 36].

A lot of work was carried out by the authorities of the region on medical care of prisoners of war. This

the problem was extremely difficult in view of weak material resources of the medical institutions which are available in the region. Nevertheless, documents of that time demonstrate that the authorities of all levels tried to solve complex problems of delivery of health care to prisoners of war according to the lights. First of all, the authorities of Western Siberia had to take urgent measures for localization of epidemic of a typhus among prisoners, flashed at the end of 1914 in New Nikolaevsk. Rooms where there were patients were for this purpose under repair and disinfected. For prevention to the region of new parties of the sick prisoners arriving from the European Russia in Chelyabinsk according to the recommendation of military and sanitary inspection, "the insulating camp" was organized. Here all prisoners with suspicion of a disease accommodated. Besides, such "camp" were created at the main stations of the Omsk railroad - in Kurgan, Petropavlovsk, Omsk. At last, in destinations the secondary survey of prisoners was made and all with the increased temperature were isolated "before clarification of the state of health". All patients with typhus in Novonikolayevsk were transferred to special infirmary in the military camp, and rooms where there were cases of typhus, separated from others fences. The listed measures helped to cope with epidemic of a typhus and to regain control over situation. In the city tell the following figures about epidemic scales. From 19903 prisoners of war who were in Novoni-kolayevsk from September, 1914 to July, 1915 a typhus ached the 5328th persons. From them 2036 people died, and 3012 people recovered [3. Page 33-34]. In total mortality among prisoners of war of the Fourfold union in Russia for years of war was about 4% of their total number [10. Page 190].

Besides distribution of epidemics, placement in the region of many thousands of prisoners of war led to the fact that locals could not as earlier to exercise the rights to receive medical care. Sick prisoners of war went to city hospitals and took the places intended for treatment of citizens. Local authorities saw an exit from the created situation in urgent construction of medical institutions for prisoners of war with offices for infectious patients who at that time were called "infectious hospitals". By 1916 the infirmaries at concentration camps operated on the territory of Western Siberia in Barnaul, Biysk, Novoniko-layevsk, Omsk, Petropavlovsk, Tobolsk, Tomsk and Tyumen. As well as through the whole country, contents in medical institutions of prisoners of war at cost was equated to similar expenses on sick soldiers of the Russian army [11].

The normal health of prisoners of war in huge degree depended on how their food was organized. According to the head U-oh "regulations on prisoners of war" of October 7, 1914, ordinary

prisoners received "fodder money and food in nature" on the identical basis with soldiers of the Russian army [12. Page 3818]. On food of the Russian soldier before war in day 3 pounds (1 pound "409.5 g) bread, 32 valve cores (1 valve core "4.3 g) grain and "privarochny money" in such quantity were released that on them it was possible to buy 3/4 pounds of meat. Besides, tea - 48 valve cores with 6 pounds 24 valve cores of sugar relied on 100 people a day [13. Page 8]. The figures given above say that food supply of prisoners of war was quite satisfactory. Throughout war these norms of an allowance were several times adjusted by the central departments towards reduction in connection with the accruing food problems in the country.

The military and civil authorities of edge gave huge attention to a problem of use of work of prisoners of war in the industry and agriculture. Here it should be noted that prisoners of war of officers in obligatory work were not involved. Their status was incomparable with position of prisoners soldiers. Officers were placed in the region separately from soldiers or on private apartments, or in free barracks rooms groups from 20 to 400 persons. They slept on beds, had fresh linen. They received "a fodder allowance" which depending on a rank made from 50 to 125 rubles a month during an initial stage of war from the Russian government. It were quite decent sums if to consider that good food on average cost a month to the officer 19-25 rubles. Not to wean from the ethnic cuisine, officers employed to themselves cooks from among compatriots. Duties of servants for them were fulfilled by strikers from soldiers - prisoners. Prisoners of war officers devoted free time to reading books, a learning of foreign languages, sports. Some of the officers placed in private houses with gardens suited flower beds and kitchen gardens there [3. Page 15, 20, 26, 30].

The order of organization of labor of prisoners of war of soldiers was regulated by the normative documents approved by Council of ministers. At the very beginning of war the government recognized that work of prisoners of war should not have been paid. Prisoners of war, working without payment for the work, gave low labor productivity. Such picture was observed also in the region [14]. On March 8, 1915 the tsar approved position of Council of ministers by which Article 13th of the law of October 7, 1914 was supplemented with the right for departments and institutions, "to maintaining which prisoners of war came" to release them "monetary deliveries". In situation it was emphasized that a main goal of a proposed measure is encouragement of prisoners "to more diligent work" [15. Page 1123].

"Rules" of February 28, 1915 provided a parcel of prisoners of war for agricultural works as parties on 100 people and more than for not

less than for three months at the disposal of zemstvoes [16]. In Western Siberia where zemstvoes were not, mainly, local authorities were engaged in distribution of prisoners of war to agricultural works, creating for this purpose special district committees [17]. Requests for a parcel of prisoners were satisfied far not completely. According to inquiries from places, work in agriculture of the Tobolsk province required at least 58 thousand people, actually 20 thousand prisoners were sent to harvest works in 1915 [18]. In the summer of 1915 countrywide over 300 thousand prisoners were engaged at agricultural works [19]. The same situation arose in 1916 in the main granary of Siberia - the Tomsk province which authorities placed the order for use at agricultural works of 150 thousand prisoners of war, and 20 thousand prisoners really received [20]. After the February revolution the prisoners of war placed in rural areas of the region began to demand from the authorities of high-quality improvement of their situation, refused work [21]. Nevertheless, the acute shortage of labor in the village forced the government and after falling of autocracy to do a considerable rate on use of work of prisoners of war in agriculture. According to V.N. Bolshakov, in agriculture of Western Siberia for July 1, 1917 about 40 thousand prisoners worked [22. Page 159].

Were devoted to involvement of prisoners of war for works in the industry approved by Council of ministers on March 17, 1915. "Rules about a holiday of prisoners of war for works in the private industrial enterprises". According to these "Rules", prisoners of war were released by parties not less than 25 people for each plant or factory their number did not exceed 15% of the total number of workers of this enterprise. The 9th paragraph of "Rules" was devoted to questions of compensation of prisoners of war. In it it was talked that prisoners were made available to business owners for work for a payment which amount was established by the enterprises "according to the existing local prices for each category of works". At the same time it was explained that not less than 1/3 of the salary of prisoners it was deducted in special fund, "into especially opened accounts of the subject ministries, in their deposits on treasuries". For stimulation of honest work such measure of material encouragement as "a monetary holiday on improvement of an allowance" for those prisoners of war who "found diligence in work", but not over 20 kopeks for each working day on the person [23 was provided. Page 1573-1575].

The considerable number of prisoners of war all years of war worked at the enterprises of Western Siberia. According to the estimates of D.M. Zolnikov, prisoners made 19.8% among workers of manufacturing industry of the Tobolsk province, 10% - the industries of the Tomsk province and more than 5% -

all Siberia [24. Page 34]. In absolute figures, according to V.N. Bolshakov, "in the sphere of industrial classes" in the Siberian region in 1916 - the first half of 1917 from 25 to 30 thousand prisoners worked [22. Page 161]. After the February revolution of the rule of use of work of prisoners of war in the private industrial enterprises underwent changes. The councils which arose in the region, wishing to win round workers, sought for restriction of use of work of prisoners of war who were competitors for local workers [25]. On the other hand, spring of 1917. Council of working and soldier's deputies of Sudzhensk supported requirements of miners of local coal mines to the owner of mines L.A. Michelson about equal compensation of the Russian workers and prisoners of war. The conference of miners of the Kuznetsk basin which took place in the middle of June, 1917 made the decision to balance compensation of prisoners of war with the Russian workers [9. Page 67].

The effect of use of prisoners of war as labor in the national economy of region and country in general was insignificant. The participant of world war, the large military expert general N.N. Golovin calls a huge number of prisoners of war in the territory of Russia in the years of war by "very serious additional labor". That with benefit for national economy to use this reserve, "the thought-over system of use of this additional force" was required. However, according to him, fully it was not made that "considerably lowered that sum of advantage which could be taken" [2. Page 109].

Since 1915 the mutual visit of prisoner-of-war camps by delegations of the Red Cross of the warring and neutral countries began. The international inspectors repeatedly visited locations of prisoners of war in Western Siberia. In general, they considered that prisoners of war in the region were in satisfactory domestic conditions. First of all, good catering services, high quality and abundance of bread were noted. Approval of observers was caused by the "shops" opened in concentration camps for prisoners of war. Their daily proceeds from sales, first of all, of food, reached in 1915 in Tomsk 120 rub, and in Novonikolayevsk - 250 rub. The situation with satisfaction of "religious needs" of prisoners of war who in Sunday and holidays could visit churches of "the religion" was recognized as favorable. Besides, in the certain cities the local Protestant pastors and Catholic priests were allowed to visit prisoners of war for carrying out religious services. With satisfaction inspectors noted in the reports that "the resolutions of the Hague Convention prohibiting to burden prisoners with excessive work certainly are observed in Russia". The largest shortcoming of the organization of life of prisoners of war, mezhdunarod-

ny observers most often designated long delivery periods of correspondence for prisoners of war [26].

Having appeared in Siberia, prisoners were afraid that here they "will be just cut" [27]. In practice both the authorities, and the population of the region treated prisoners of war quite loyally. This loyalty even caused irritation of the military authorities of edge. For the first time about it with all definiteness it was told in the order of the top military commander OmVo of the general E.O. Schmitt of December 21, 1914. In it some officers were condemned and "the ranks which are in military public service" which accepted prisoners of war at home treated them at restaurants "in sight all public", entered "into a friendly intimate correspondence", sent "for kind memory pictures with inscriptions, warm wishes and memories of happily spent days" [28].

From the very beginning of war the official policy of the Russian authorities for prisoners of war of different nationalities was differentiated. To Germans and Hungarians who were considered the chief performers of aggressive policy of the governments the relation was alerted. To representatives of the Slavic people inhabiting Austria-Hungary more benevolent feelings were shown, the obvious aspiration to secure with their political sympathy was looked through. The Government of the Russian Federation in every possible way encouraged creation of public organizations which conducted ideological and political work in the direction, necessary for the authorities, among prisoners of war - Slavs. Within this course, the Minister of Internal Affairs N.A. Maklakov claimed on October 30, 1914. "Charter of the All-Russian guardianship about captured Slavs". The main goal of this organization was in that "we throw subdued Slavs to win... spiritually" to turn them "into the convinced supporters and preachers of all-Slavic unity" [29. Page 1].

In 1915 in Russia the formation of military units from captured Czechs and Slovaks for conducting military operations against Germany began. The Czechoslovak emigre organizations which were in Russia were initiators of creation of such divisions. In February, 1915 they held in Moscow the congress at which it was officially announced the decision to create in Russia Czechoslovak military units from emigrants and prisoners of war. In the political declaration adopted at this congress was declared about desirability of creation of the independent Czechoslovak state headed by the Slavic king which would pursue the policy in full unity with all Slavic world, first of all with Russia. In February, 1916 by means of the Russian government the Czechoslovak shooting regiment was created, and in April of the same year the chief of staff of a rate of the Russian army general M.V. Alekseev granted permission for formation of Czechoslovak crew. By December, 1917 it was possible

to create the Czechoslovak case which totaled 38500 legionaries [9. Page 57, 59].

The beginning of formation of Czechoslovak military units, cardinally changed position of prisoners of war - Slavs towards liberalization of the mode of their contents. At the same time governors of Western Siberia had to put purposefully on places into practice this policy. In circulars, to the directed local authorities, they asked them to provide to prisoners of war - the Slavs who were at works, "some privileges in comparison with captured Magyars and Germans". The prisoner of war - to Slavs was supposed to allow walks on Sundays, meetings with compatriots [30]. In the summer of 1916, being guided by the circular of the chief of the General Staff, the top military commander OmVo ordered freely "to allow to the address among captured Slavs the weekly Czech newspaper Chekhoslovyanin [31].

detention regime of prisoners of war was considerably softened with

After the February revolution. They acquired the right everywhere to happen and walk without convoy the streets. Exclusive privileges were provided to some prisoners of war. It was authorized to Bolshevik from Austria-Hungary B. Kong leaving captivity in the Tomsk concentration camp to lodge on the private apartment. Prisoners of war participated in the May Day demonstrations which were taking place in the cities of Siberia [32. Page 518]. Among prisoners, first of all Germans and Hungarians, so-called "internationalists", active supporters of local Bolsheviks appeared. The battalions helping Bolsheviks to seize power in the region were formed of them. They were resisted by Czechs and Slovaks who loyally treated Provisional government and as a part of almost 40-thousand case being going to battle against the German troops.

After arrival of Bolsheviks to the power and signings of the separate Brest peace, prisoners of war had an opportunity to return home. However not all prisoners of war could use it. The large-scale civil war in Russia which began in the spring of 1918 involved tens of thousands of former prisoners of war who appeared in hostile military-political camps in the bloody circulation. Having overthrown summer of 1918. The Soviet power in Siberia, Czechoslovaks ruthlessly dealt shortly with prisoners of war - "internationalists" Germans and Hungarians. They shot each German or the Hungarian only on suspicion of sympathy for Bolsheviks. Soon after overthrow of the government of A.V. Kolchak in Siberia, the bulk of the former prisoners of war returned home [32. Page 520].

Thus, the authorities of Western Siberia in the years of war could place and equip according to the international humanitarian agreements tens of thousands of prisoners of war. At the same time

huge attention was paid to the organization of medical care of prisoners. Use of prisoners of war as labor, to some extent helped to soften a situation with the shortage of human resources in the region. The most loyally Russian authorities belonged at this time to


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prisoner of war of Slavic origin. Inhabitants of the region kindly perceived prisoners of all nationalities. Revolutionary events of 1917 led to the fact that a part of prisoners of war began to take rather active part in the Russian political process.

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Arrived 26.09.2005

Darrell Bowman
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