Like Russia did with the prisoners of the First world war

History 23/02/20 in Russia did with the prisoners of the First world war

the First world war of 1914-1918 was unprecedented in the history of the number of not only human casualties, but prisoners of war, including deaths in captivity. Due to the fact that the war had on the revolution, civil war, famine, devastation and a collapse of control systems in Russia, is still unknown number who did not return from Russian captivity, and rough estimates sometimes reach prohibitive values.

Sort by nationality

In the First world war, the Russian army captured about 2.4 million enemy soldiers and officers, of whom the overwhelming majority – about 2.1 million – made soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Subjects Germany was 170 thousand Turks about one hundred thousand, and several thousand Bulgarians.

the Russian Empire from the very outset tried to give the war an ideological nature, exposing it as the liberation of the Slavic peoples from the yoke of Germans and Hungarians. Propaganda gave noticeable results, especially in 1914. Representatives of the Slavic peoples of Austria-Hungary often and the masses voluntarily surrendered. Russian authorities immediately began to sort the prisoners by nationality, even though such action was contrary to the agreements about the treatment of prisoners of war, signed in 1899 and 1907. all the leading European States.

Prisoners of war, German and Hungarian nationalities were sent, usually to the camps in Siberia, Turkestan and the far East. The Slavs were located mainly in camps West of the Urals. To implement this separation fully was difficult. Never had camps with a purely Slavic or German-Hungarian-Turkish contingent. However, the Slavs were used in agricultural work, whereas representatives of “hostile Nations” are much more often sent to the mines, in the mines for excavation and etc.

the Volunteer troops of captive Slavs

Slavs accounted for almost half of the total number of prisoners of war from the Austro-Hungarian army in Russia. Among them were about 400 thousand Czechs and Slovaks, 250 thousand Croats, Slovenes and Serbs, 200 thousand poles, and almost the same number of Ukrainians (Ruthenians). Of the representatives of Slavic nationalities of Austria-Hungary in 1914, it was intended to establish a national-liberation formations in the Russian army. Previously, only began to form part of the Czechoslovak, Polish and Yugoslav then. Already in 1916 the first of the Yugoslav part of the spoke at the front in 1917, Czechoslovak. The performance of the same Polish troops did not take place due to the Bolshevik revolution and the end of the war.

Prisoners of war of Slavic origin was located, as a rule, in camps, in areas with more favorable climate, with favorable terms of content and use at work. There have been cases of harassment of prisoners of war, Slavs, Germans and Hungarians contained with them in the same camps. Joining the volunteer was liberation from pow status. However, it should be noted that this opportunity was used by a minority of POWs Slavs: not more than 80 thousand Czechs and Slovaks, at least 70 thousand poles, and even less of the South Slavs.

the Humane policy of tsarist Russia

As recognized by the German historian Reinhard Nachtigall of the University of Freiburg, the legal framework for the treatment of prisoners of war in the Russian Empire were much better developed than in France and England. In October 1914, Russia enacted the “regulations on prisoners of war”, the rules of which were more humane than before the war, signed the international Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war. In practice, however, the provisions of this law were often in the Russian context the good wishes. However, the Russian side before the revolution of 1917 is much more than the Western Entente countries made concessions to Germany and Austria-Hungary in improve the situation of prisoners of war and control by international organizations.

Greater activity in the care of prisoners of war showed the Empress-mother Maria Fyodorovna. On its initiative, under the mediation of the International red cross in August 1915 was the first exchange of prisoners with disabilities. Several thousand maimed soldiers on both sides were released from captivity and returned home. Such exchanges happened a few more times before the end of the war. In September 1915, the first sisters of mercy from Russia and Germany went into a hostile country to help prisoners of war in their countries. Then began regular visits to Russian pow camps missions of the red cross. In 1916, in the Russian camp were sent from Germany, a large consignment of medicines and vaccines.

the collapse of the state and the fate of the remaining prisoners

the Situation has changed in connection with the Bolshevik revolution. At first, it made the confusion even before the conclusion of the peace of Brest in March 1918, freed from captivity and returned to their countries about half a million prisoners of war of the Central powers. The official return of the prisoners of war began in the spring of 1918, but it was complicated by the outbreak of the Russian civil war. The Soviet authorities in January 1918 was granted citizenship of the RSFSR to everyone that a prisoner of war and generally did everything possible to attract these experienced soldiers to serve in the Red army. Similarly, there were anti-Bolshevik and government. So, Kolchak in Siberia, kept in the service itself, and prevented the evacuation of the Czechoslovak volunteer corps until the fall of 1919.

Until November 1918 surrender of the Central powers to the West – in Russia there was still more than 1.1 million prisoners of war, that is about half their original number. Most of them remained in servitude or polylobate position as only a small part joined the volunteer armed groups. Already called the greatest hislenyev Slavic parts, almost without exception caught up in the anti-Bolshevik camp. The Red army entered about 90 thousand Hungarians – less than one-fifth of the total number of prisoners of this nationality in Russia. Surviving prisoners of war left Russia until 1922.

the Total number who did not return from Russian captivity is unknown, as in Austria-Hungary also collapsed the old structure of the state. In the years of civil war among the prisoners of war as the civilian population, dramatically increased the mortality from epidemic diseases. In the foreign literature it is considered to be the minimum that Russia went missing 15% of the “axis”. It will be more than 300 thousand people. This number is greater than the number of deaths in captivity of Russian soldiers – 190 thousand, or 8% of the total number of Russian prisoners of war in Germany and Austria-Hungary.

Yaroslav Butakov

© Russian Seven

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