Austrian nobleman, tsarist official, reincarnation of Mahakala, theocrat. The history of Roman von Sternberg and his reign of terror
“I was in Kiev, I saw Warsaw and Budapest (…) Once before, in the past, the knife of your Mongolian horses have walked the streets of those cities. The West is dying, infected by the revolutionary plague. No more principles, no more armies. It’s time to rebuild the empire of the great khan “.
The fall of the Tsar, the Russian Civil War, the tragic end of the Romanovs, the Bolshevik government were perhaps only details in the head of Roman von Sternberg, Austrian nobleman known to history as the Bloody Baron. A name, his, evoking worlds and distant events, but even so: in Russia a little less than a century ago, an Austrian artistocratico, Catholic and Buddhist, he dreamed of rebuilding the Mongol empire.
Roman Nicolaus von Ungern-Sternberg was born in Graz in 1886 from an ancient family of junkers (Prussian military aristocracy) Baltic. Grew up in Tallinn, he enlisted in the Army in the early years of the twentieth century Tsarist. A choice, its common to other noble Germanic: German Levin Bennigsen August, for example, had been one of the best known Russian army commanders during the campaigns against Napoleon.
But in the minds of Roman smoldering something else: much bigger dreams of driving the regiments of Nicholas II, who began to surface in Siberia where, in 1908, was seconded his department and where the young officer came into contact with the Asian culture, in particular with the Mongolian.
After the interlude of the First World War, its leader parable, as bold as ruthless, begins between the lands of Siberia where, to the Gregorij Semenov orders, sided against the revolutionaries of Lenin (who had taken power in October 1917) , however, not failing to fight even against the “whites” of Admiral Alexander Kolchak …
Separated by Semenov in 1920, the head of the Mongolian and Tibetan departments ago en route to Mongolia, after the end of the Qing monarchy (1911), he had been occupied by the Republic of China.
Conquered and liberated Urga Bogdo Khan, the living Buddha, Roman rose to political and religious leader, by imposing on the lands conquered a theocratic regime. Soldier, aristocratic and even gods, for this “fault” of the Dalai Lama who declared emanation of Mahakala, the Great Black of Buddhist culture from six arms and the crown with five skulls.
A reign of madness, of glory and terror raids von Stenberg entered immediately in the collective imagination of the time. Under the banner of the “U”, the Asian riders, modern hordes of the steppe, assaulted villages, the Red Army units and the white one, leaving behind blood and death.
Less than a century before the borders between Iraq and Syria black flags Isis accompany the birth of the Caliphate, another “Black” was building his empire, very religious and ephemeral, in which the Western culture of the Austrian nobility embraced the myth of knights of Genghis Khan.
Ephemeral, because the world had changed and the new state, the Soviet Union, there was no more space to ancient legends, ancestral cults and newly Mahakala.
Betrayed by a klan leader, Baron is delivered into the hands of the Bolsheviks in August 1921. Sentenced to death, before the discharge of the firing squad (he was shot in Novonikolajevsk September 21, 1921, author’s note) swallows of St. George Medal, last act of defiance of the tradition of chivalry junker against the new Republic.
His legacy is lost in time and space, obscured by the long shadows of the Soviet dictatorship and the problems that plague the winners and losers of the Great War.
Forgotten, then, but not quite all. Corto Maltese, who already at Ancona had met Stalin in an unusual role, also crosses the Baron, the adventure Court Sconta called Arcana (there’s also a film adaptation, written by the director Pascal Morelli, author’s note).
So instead, I recalled another character from the novel, Count Pio Filippani Ronconi, academic, Orientalist, Corriere della Sera, a former officer of the SS:
“(The Baron) in his short period of government to Urga (from 2 February to 11 July 1921) tried to transform this moment into a” no time “that would allow the Hutuktus (spiritual leader of the Tibetan Lamaism, author’s note) to perform his spiritual work, freeing it from the external pressure of the two powers that loomed: China of “Masters of War” from the South, and the Bolshevik unstoppable avalanche that moved from the north, from Siberia … “(Article” At one time, a destiny “1987).
Words for many of us incomprehensible, but that well describe the absolute uniqueness of a man so convinced of the feasibility of his dreams to be built follies by well firm foundation in the reality … of the early twentieth century.