This is the gripping story of a forgotten Russia in turmoil, when the line between government and organized crime blurred into a chaotic continuum of kleptocracy, vengeance and sadism.
It tells the tale of how, in the last days of 1917, a fugitive Cossack captain brashly led seven cohorts into a mutinous garrison at Manchuli, a squalid bordertown on Russia's frontier with Manchuria. The garrison had gone Red, revolted against its officers, and become a dangerous, ill-disciplined mob.
Nevertheless, Cossack Captain Grigori Semionov cleverly harangued the garrison into laying down its arms and boarding a train that carried it back into the Bolsheviks' tenuous territory. Through such bold action, Semionov and a handful of young Cossack brethren established themselves as the warlords of Eastern Siberia and Russia's Pacific maritime provinces during the next bloody year. Like inland pirates, they menaced the Trans-Siberian Railroad with fleets of armoured trains, Cossack cavalry, mercenaries and pressgang cannon fodder. They undermined Admiral Kolchak's White armies, ruthlessly liquidated all Reds, terrorized the population, sold out to the Japanese, and antagonized the American Expeditionary Force and Czech Legion in a frenzied orchestration of the Russian Empire's gotterdammerung. Historians have long recognized that Ataman Semionov and Company were a nasty lot. This book details precisely how nasty they were.