The Russian Protective Corps is a unique military formation of the Second World War with its own interesting history, and especially, the uniforms and the insignias. To learn more the reasons for the creation of this formation, you need to study the history of the First World War, the revolution, the White movement, the Red Terror and the Russian emigration.
First World War Allies of the Entente . The Russian army in the First World War was an ally of France, England and the United States. The revolution made by Lenin with the money of the German General Staff divided Russia into two camps and two armies. The White Army was the former army of Imperial Russia and remained an ally of the Entente during the Russian Civil War. The Red Army fought against the White Army and the Entente countries and dreamed of making a revolution in Europe, in England and even in the USA. The communist system was based on terror, the destruction of the “bourgeois” and the punitive detachments of the Cheka (special services), combined with the propaganda of the ideas of communism.
Under the auspices of France in exile. At the end of the civil war in Russia, the Russian (White) army left the Crimea in 1920, stayed in 1921 at the military bases of the “allies” in Turkey, Greece and Tunisia, then moved to Bulgaria and Serbia. In Bulgaria, the Russian army crushed the communist uprising. In Serbia, the Russians entered the service of the Border Guard. The army switched to a military labor position and worked collectively (in brigades by regiments) on the construction of roads and other engineering structures. Young people with technical education were invited by the Czech government to continue their education and later to work in Czech companies. The older officers left for France, where they worked as drivers for the Russian Taxi. After the evacuation, Russian military schools and cadet corps continued to exist in Serbia to train a young shift of soldiers, fighters against communism and liberate the Motherland from the Bolsheviks. The great writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote in detail about the Red Terror in Russia and the Gulag. The Soviet government not only periodically killed priests, Cossacks, engineers and intellectuals in Russia, but also conducted an active political and armed struggle in Europe with the help of secret operations. Propaganda of the Soviet system and the glorification of Soviet Russia, military and industrial espionage, murders and kidnappings of the leaders of the White movement and the opposition (Trotsky, Ukrainian nationalists, etc.). From the third torture in 1928, the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Army, General Wrangel, was killed (poisoned) in Belgium. His deputy, the commander of the 1st Army Corps, General Kutepov, was kidnapped and killed in 1930 in Paris. The next head of the Russian military organizations (ROVS), General Miller, was also kidnapped in Paris in 1937 and killed in 1939 in Moscow on the Lubyanka. With the help of the “Comintern”, combat cells of the hybrid “Army of Moscow” were created around the world from illegal intelligence fighters and legal propagandists.
The officers of the Russian army, living in the Balkans, every year dreamed of a “Spring March on Moscow” in order to liberate their homeland from the power of the Kremlin executioners. This went on for many years. The Second World War instilled some hope for a change in the situation.
Hitler’s alliance with Stalin brought disappointment to Russian emigrants, but the war of Germany against the USSR, which began on June 22, 1941, brought hope. Hopes were fueled by the calls of the Russian Orthodox Church, the head of the Romanov Imperial House, the Russian Guard to stand together with the rest of the peoples of Europe in the struggle against the world evil of communism and liberate the Motherland. Hitler concealed his real intentions. The generals of the Wehrmacht and the leadership of the Nazi elite had completely different goals and objectives. Resistance to the Nazi regime grew among the German army and became widely known during the assassination attempt and the failed coup.
After June 22, 1941, communist partisans, led by instructors from the Comintern and the NKVD, began to kill Russian officers of the former Wrangel army and their families, sparing neither old men nor women. To protect themselves, Russian officers under the leadership of General Skorodumov decided to take up arms again and defend themselves from the communist partisans. General Skorodumov created the Russian Protective Corps, but at the same time made unauthorized statements that were unacceptable to the Gestapo. The Gestapo arrested him. Released later, but in protest he refused to lead the Russian Corps. The Russian security corps was headed by General Shteifon, the third official after Generals Wrangel and Kutepov, the former commandant of the 1st Russian Corps in Gallipoli. General Steifon, when communicating with representatives of the German command, immediately set the conditions for creating a corps. The first condition was that the unit was Russian and subordinate only to Russian commanders. The German command will issue orders only through the corps commander. In fact, an army without a homeland, as was the case with the Serbian army in exile. The second condition is that the Russian corps will fight only against its old enemies – the Red Army and Tito’s communist partisans, and never against its former allies – France, England and the USA. The German command agreed with these demands. The corps command sought to send troops to the Eastern Front on a par with the armies of Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria, but given the knowledge of the Serbian language and locality, the German command decided to use them to protect strategic facilities (mines, bridges, roads) and fight against Tito’s communist partisans. Hitler was afraid to send the Russian Corps to the Eastern Front, as it could become a national army. Almost the entire war, the Russian Corps was engaged in the protection of important facilities and communications in Serbia, and only at the end of the war fought against the Red Army, which was already in Yugoslavia. When the KONR (Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia) was formed in Prague, the Russian corps submitted to General Vlasov.
During the retreat from Yugoslavia to Austria, to the British zone of occupation, the corps surrendered to the British command and was located sequentially in different POW DP camps. Under the terms of the agreement in Yalta, the rank of the corps were not citizens of the USSR for 1939 and were not subject to extradition. Most of the officers had Serbian or Bulgarian passports.
Interesting fact. After the disarmament of the corps in Austria, the British command issued a certain amount of weapons to maintain order and discipline, as well as repel attacks by red partisans or even NKVD-SMERSH groups. If two Cossack corps and the ROA, consisting of former Soviet citizens, were issued to the Soviets, but the Russian corps from old emigrants was not issued. Later, the corps was transferred to the American zone of occupation in the DP camps, and its ranks emigrated to Latin America and the USA. In Europe and then in the USA, the ranks of the corps underwent a thorough check for possible crimes, but both checks at different times showed the “purity” of the service without corpus delicti. In Argentina, the USA and other countries, a legal veteran organization “Union of Alexander Nevsky” was created from the former ranks of the corps, which included partly the ranks of the ROA.
Interesting Facts. When the corps was formed and within two years, the uniform and weapons were from a combination of 5 countries: Serbia (modified uniform and overcoat), Russia (epaulettes, caps, awards), the Czech Republic (helmets and weapons), the USSR (insignia on buttonholes) and Germany (miscellaneous equipment). After 1943, the uniform became uniform, as in the German army, but with the use of partially Italian uniforms. There were 5 regiments in total, including the 1st Cossack. The number of about 5 thousand people, in total for all the time there were about 15,000.
Interesting fact 2. During the Cold War in 1953, veterans of the Russian Corps living in the United States proposed using the Corps as the basis for the future national liberation army in the war against the USSR. This was the last attempt to create armed units of their emigrants outside the USSR. Children of veterans have already served in the US Army and participated in local wars in Korea and Vietnam.
Later activities of veterans included holding meetings, Orthodox and military celebrations, the requiems, the funerals of members, as well as holding “Days of Remembrance for the Victims of the Fight against Communism” (November 7). In 1999, the organization of veterans of the Corps was officially closed. In this section of the encyclopedia, we will post the above documents and photographs solely to assist historians of the Second World War, including museum workers, filmmakers, collectors, and members of reconstruction groups. Any use of materials for other purposes, including political ones (propaganda of Nazism or Сommunism), may be the subject of legal proceedings and entail administrative and criminal liability. The use of materials in historical research is permitted with written notification of the owners of the archive, the editors of the site and a link to the source of the publication.
Guide book, the quick easy links:
Orders for the Russian Corps 1941-1945.
2. Various documents. Maps, certificates, examples of insignia
3. Photo archive 1941-1941
4. POW and DP documents 1945-1947. Camps Kellerberg and Schleissheim.
5. Photo archive. Retreat, disarmament and DP camps.
6. Chronicle of the corps and each regiment (memo)
7. Memories of the service. Books. Magazine “Our news”.
8. Archive of the veteran organization in the USA and other countries. Photo. Video recordings. Letters, documents
As a basis for describing the history and plots of the photo gallery, we use an official collection of documents, supplemented by memories not included in the book and our comments.
Russian Protective Corps in the Balkans 1941-1945
Collection of memoirs. Vertepov D. New York, 1963)
Introduction and the background. In the Name of the Motherland.
After the First World War 1914-1918. a revolution took place in Russia, and then in October 1917 power was seized by the Bolsheviks, the national circles of Russia, the Russian officers and the Cossacks began to fight against them. This struggle, under the name of the White Movement, was first led by general Kornilov, then gen. Denikin and, finally, with the general Wrangel, in the south of Russia lasted three years. Unable to withstand the onslaught of the superior forces of the Reds, the Russian army, not supported by the allies, left the borders of Russia on November 1, 1920 and went into exile, because. she was threatened with immediate brutal reprisal by the Bolsheviks. An armada of 166 vessels with 135,000 military officers and civilians set sail for Constantinople.
In his last order, general Wrangel said that the struggle did not end with the army leaving its native land, it only took on new forms. This struggle continues and will continue until the power hated by the Russian people falls. Adopted under the protection of France, the army, two weeks later, was unloaded in Gallipoli, on Lemnos and in Chataldzha (near KConstantinople), after which the fleet left for Bizerte (Tunisia). After much trouble, general Wrangel’s army in 1921 was taken to live in the Slavic countries. Cavalry and Kuban divisions were sent to Yugoslavia, and infantry and Don Cossacks were sent to Bulgaria. Some units entered the service of the border guards, others began to work; cadet corps and military schools resumed interrupted classes. Many young people were sent to receive higher education in Belgium, Austria, Germany and Czechoslovakia, which was especially taken care of by the Commander-in-Chief himself. Around the army, the consolidation of Russian national forces began and a great national work developed.
In 1924, in accordance with the demands of life, general Wrangel transformed the Russian army into the Russian All-Military Union (ROVS), with him at the head, and ordered his subordination to Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich.
By this time, the army had already completely reorganized. Military organizations became strong, various courses were opened and worked to raise general and special military education: Higher Military Scientific Courses of Gen. Golovin in Paris and Belgrade, military schools, non-commissioned officers, artillery, technical in various industries, etc. But the activities of Generals Wrangel and Kutepov were not limited to emigrant circles – a lot of work was also carried out in Russia. Here, Russian officers and youth showed courage and sacrifice, capturing their deeds with their deaths (saboteurs were thrown into the USSR, many died.)
Years passed, foreign states, in search of benefits, hurried to recognize Soviet power one after another. Crowned heads shook hands with the murderers of their relatives, while liberal, democratic, socialist, and millionaire presidents flattened themselves before the terrorist dictators, vying to offer them their help and unlimited credits.
The Soviet government grew stronger and with their help forged chains for the Russian people and weapons for future reprisals against their benefactors. The only active enemy of the Soviet power was the Russian diaspora, and the USSR turned against it with all its might. So, not to mention the other victims – in Bulgaria, a general Pokrovsky was killed. April 25, 1928, in the prime of his life, the general Wrangel dies and still not refuted the suspicion that he was poisoned. The leadership of the army passes into the hands of General Kutepov – the fight continues. But on January 26, 1930, in Paris, in broad daylight, the gene was kidnapped Kutepov. At the head of the ROVS was General Miller.
On October 9, 1934, this time on the international horizon, the first thunderclap broke out – in Marseilles, the Yugoslav King Alexander I fell at the hands of the killer. Behind the killer stood the intertwined interests of international dark forces, among which the Bolsheviks occupied not the last place.
On September 22, 1937, General Miller was kidnapped in Paris. General Arkhangelsky took the position of Chairman of the ROVS. After the death of King Alexander in the Balkans, communist influence began to noticeably increase and reached its zenith when the Soviet embassy appeared in Belgrade.
In 1939, the Second World War began and further, until 1941, the Russian military emigration remained indifferent. Mostly monarchist, they never saw in National Socialism a model that could be transferred to the construction of a national Russia, just as she did not see any signs in the outbreak of war that she could contribute to the liberation of Russia. When Germany attacked Yugoslavia in April 1941, the Russian emigration fully fulfilled its duty towards the host country.
Russian emigrants who accepted Yugoslav citizenship and some who did not were called up, and many voluntarily entered the army. Some of them died, others were wounded or captured and were taken to Germany, which partly explains the fact that when the Russian Corps was later formed in Serbia, it felt the lack of people of military age. The head of the IV department of the Russian All-Military Union, General Barbovich, the head of the Kuban Cossack division, General Zborovsky, the commander of the Guards Cossack division, Colonel Rogozhin, placed themselves and the units they led at the disposal of the Yugoslav military command. However, due to the lightning-fast end of the war, these proposals did not come to practical use.
Soon after Germany started the war against the USSR, communist uprisings broke out in various parts of the former Yugoslavia and especially in Serbia, directed not so much against the German invader, but against the Serbian government and local authorities, against all their potential enemies, to capture and hold authorities.
The situation of the Russian emigration in Serbia became literally tragic: settled in small groups and alone, unprotected by anyone, the emigrants became the first objects of attacks and physical extermination for the communists. Until September 1, 1941 alone, the Representation of the Russian emigration in Belgrade registered more than 250 murders by the communists of both individual emigrants and the complete destruction of entire families with women and young children. In connection with the growing economic crisis and unemployment, the life of Russians in the Serbian province became not only dangerous for them, but simply impossible; therefore, many of them, leaving their homes and all their property, began to strive for large cities and, mainly, for Belgrade, where their life was in relative safety. General Skorodumov, who was at the head of the Russian emigration in Serbia at that time, did everything possible to resolve this problem. He repeatedly appealed to the Serbian authorities, but the Serbian administrative apparatus was destroyed by the German occupation and the Serbs could only recommend General Skorodumov to contact the German command. General Skorodumov turned to the headquarters of the German commander-in-chief in the South-East, but the Germans recommended that he give an order for the entry of Russian emigrants, at their place of residence, first into the German military units, and then into the Serbian gendarmerie. Both were completely unacceptable to the Russians, but nevertheless these negotiations gave rise to further actions towards the realization of the long-standing dream of obtaining weapons and the beginning of the formation of the Russian national part and the continuation of the interrupted struggle for the liberation of the Motherland.