How the Russians defeated the Germans in Paraguay

How the Russians defeated the Germans in Paraguay
How the Russians defeated the Germans in Paraguay

The fact that in Spain the republican army with the participation of advisers from the USSR was defeated by the troops of General Franco, who was assisted by the Nazis, is well known to everyone. But about the same years in South America, the Paraguayan army, which was also led by Russian officers, utterly defeated the much outnumbered and better armed army of Bolivia under the command of the Kaiser's generals, is still known to few. These were former white officers who had to leave Russia after the end of the Civil War, and during the Soviet era it was forbidden to mention them, and then their exploits were simply forgotten …

This year marks 85 years since the beginning of this war - the bloodiest in South America - between Bolivia and Paraguay, which was called Chakskoy. Among the command of the Bolivian army were 120 German émigré officers, including the commander of the Bolivian army, the Kaiser General Hans Kundt, who fought on our front in the First World War. And in the Paraguayan army there were 80 former White Guard officers, including two former generals - Chief of the General Staff of the Paraguayan Army Ivan Belyaev and Nikolai Ern.

How the Russians defeated the Germans in Paraguay
How the Russians defeated the Germans in Paraguay

One of the first serious battles involving Russian and German officers was the battle for the Boqueron fortress, which was held by the Bolivians. In autumn 1932, after a long siege, the fortress fell.

Kundt threw his forces to storm the city of Nanava, but the Russian commanders Belyaev and Ern guessed his tactics and utterly defeated the advancing Bolivian forces, after which the German general was dismissed in disgrace.

In 1934, at the Battle of El Carmen, German advisers completely abandoned their subordinates to the mercy of fate, escaping from the battlefield.

… The future hero of South America Ivan Timofeevich Belyaev was born in St. Petersburg in 1875, in the family of a hereditary military man. After graduating from the St. Petersburg Cadet Corps, he entered the Mikhailovsky Artillery School. Having started his service in the army, he quickly grew in ranks, showing great talents for military science. In 1906, he experienced a personal drama - his beloved young wife died. In 1913, Belyaev drew up the Charter of mountain artillery, mountain batteries and mountain artillery groups, which became a serious contribution to the development of military affairs in Russia.

During the First World War he fought bravely and was awarded the Order of St. George. At the beginning of 1916 he was seriously wounded and was being treated in the infirmary of Her Majesty in Tsarskoe Selo. As the commander of the 13th separate field heavy artillery battalion, he participated in the Brusilov breakthrough. In 1916, he became a major general and commander of an artillery brigade on the Caucasian front. The revolution was not accepted. In March 1917, at the Pskov railway station, in response to the request of a non-commissioned officer with a platoon of soldiers to remove the shoulder straps, Belyaev replied: “My dear! I not only shoulder straps and stripes, I will take off my pants if you turn with me on the enemy. And I didn’t go against the “internal enemy”, and I will not go against my own, so you will dismiss me!”. He joined the ranks of the White Army, and then together with it was forced to leave Russia.

First he ended up in a camp in Gallipoli, and then in Bulgaria. But suddenly he left Europe and found himself in poverty then Paraguay. He did this for a reason.

As a child, Belyaev found in the attic of his great-grandfather's house a map of Asuncion, the capital of this country, and since then the muse of distant wanderings passionately attracted him overseas. In the cadet corps, he began to learn Spanish, the manners and customs of the population of this country, read the novels of Main Reed and Fenimore Cooper.

Belyaev decided to create a Russian colony in this country, but few responded to his call. He himself, once in Paraguay, immediately found use of his strength and knowledge. He was accepted into the military school, where he began to teach fortification and French. In 1924, the authorities sent him into the jungle, in the little-explored area of Chaco-Boreal, in order to find convenient places for troops to camp. On this trip, Belyaev behaved like a real scientist-ethnographer. He compiled a detailed description of the area, studied the life and culture of local Indians, compiled dictionaries of their languages and even translated their poem "The Great Flood" into Russian.

Under the banner of Paraguay

The beginning of the war between Bolivia and Paraguay is often associated with "philatelic" reasons. In the early 30s. The Paraguayan government issued a postage stamp with a map of the country and the "contiguous territories" in which the disputed region of Chaco was marked as a Paraguayan territory. After a series of diplomatic demarches, Bolivia began hostilities. The issue of such a postage stamp is a historical fact. However, the real cause of the war, of course, is different: the oil that was found in this region. Military action between the two countries - the bloodiest war in South America in the 20th century - lasted from 1932 to 1935. The Bolivian army, as already mentioned, was trained by the Germans - former Kaiser officers who emigrated to Bolivia when the First World War was lost by Germany. At one time, the main Hitlerite attack aircraft, Ernst Rem, also visited there as an adviser. The soldiers of the Bolivian army wore Kaiser uniforms and were trained in accordance with Prussian military standards. The army was equipped with the most modern weapons, including armored vehicles, tanks, and in terms of numbers it was far superior to the army of Paraguay. After the declaration of war, Kundt boastfully promised to "swallow the Russians at lightning speed" - the Germans knew whom they would have to fight against.

Almost no one doubted the rapid defeat of the poorly armed and even worse trained Paraguayan army. The Paraguayan government could only rely on the help of Russian émigré officers.

Belyaev became inspector general of artillery, and soon he was appointed chief of the General Staff of the army. He appealed to Russian officers who found themselves far from their homeland with an appeal to come to Paraguay, and this appeal found a response. These were mostly former White Guards. Colonels Nikolai and Sergei Ern built fortifications, so much so that the first of them very soon became a Paraguayan general. Major Nikolai Korsakov, teaching his cavalry regiment in military affairs, translated songs of Russian cavalrymen into Spanish for him. Captain Yuri Butlerov (descendant of the outstanding chemist, academician A. M. Butlerov), Majors Nikolai Chirkov and Nikolai Zimovsky, Captain 1st Rank Vsevolod Kanonnikov, Captains Sergei Salazkin, Georgy Shirkin, Baron Konstantin Ungern von Sternberg, Nikolai Goldshmit and Leonid Lesh, Lieutenants Vasily Malyutin, Boris Ern, the Orangeryev brothers and many others became heroes of the war in Chaco.

Russian officers created, literally from scratch, a powerful regular army in the full sense of the word. It included artillery specialists, cartographers, veterinarians, and instructors in all types of weapons.

In addition, unlike German and Czech military advisers, as well as Chilean mercenaries in the Bolivian army, the Russians fought not for money, but for the independence of the country they wanted to see and saw as their second homeland.

The excellent training of Russian officers, plus the combat experience of the First World War and the Civil War, gave excellent results.

The battles took place in the Northern Chaco - a desert scorched by the sun. After heavy winter rains, it turned into an impenetrable swamp, where malaria and tropical fever reigned, poisonous spiders and snakes swarmed. Commander Belyaev skillfully led the troops, and Russian officers and Russian volunteers who arrived from other countries, who formed the backbone of the Paraguayan army, fought bravely. The Bolivians, led by the Germans, suffered colossal losses in frontal attacks (in the first week of fighting alone, they lost 2 thousand people, and the Paraguayan army - 249). Russian front-line soldiers, the Orangeryev brothers, trained Paraguayan soldiers to successfully burn enemy tanks from shelters. In December 1933, at the Battle of Campo Via, the Paraguayans surrounded two Bolivian divisions, capturing or killing 10,000 people. The following year, the Battle of El Carmen ended just as successfully. It was a complete rout.

Barefoot Paraguayan soldiers swiftly moved westward, singing Russian soldiers' songs, translated by Belyaev into Spanish and Guarani. The Paraguayan offensive ended only in 1935. Coming close to the Bolivian highlands, the army was forced to stop due to the stretching of communications. Bolivia, exhausted to the limit, could no longer continue the war. On June 12, 1935, a ceasefire agreement was signed between Bolivia and Paraguay, which ended the Chaco War, almost the entire Bolivian army - 300,000 people - was captured.

In Paraguay, enthusiastic crowds carried the winners in their arms, and the American military historian D. Zuk called the Russian general Ivan Belyaev the most outstanding military leader of Latin America of the 20th century.

He noted that the Paraguayan command was able to use the lessons of the First World War and anticipate the experience of the Second, using the tactics of a massive concentration of artillery fire and the extensive use of maneuver. Emphasizing the courage and endurance of the Paraguayan soldiers, the American specialist, nevertheless, concluded that it was the command of the troops led by the Russian officers that decided the outcome of the war.

Russian heroes of Paraguay

In the Chak war, six Russian officers-White emigrants were killed. In Asuncion, the streets are named after each of them - captain Orefiev-Serebryakov, captain Boris Kasyanov, captain Nikolai Goldschmidt, hussar Viktor Kornilovich, captain Sergei Salazkin and Cossack cornet Vasily Malyutin. Stepan Leontyevich Vysokolyan became the hero of Paraguay. During the hostilities in Chaco, he showed himself so brightly that by the end of the war he was already chief of staff of one of the Paraguayan divisions, and then led the entire Paraguayan artillery, eventually becoming the first foreigner in the history of the country who was awarded the rank of army general.

Stepan Leontyevich was born into a simple peasant family in the village of Nalivaiko near Kamenets-Podolsk. He graduated from the crash course of the Vilnius military school and at the age of nineteen volunteered for the fronts of the First World War. He was wounded five times, and in 1916 he was promoted to officer. During the Civil War, he fought in the ranks of the White Army. In November 1920, together with the remnants of General Wrangel's army, he arrived in Gallipoli. In 1921 he came from Gallipoli to Riga on foot, having covered almost three thousand kilometers. Then he moved to Prague, where in 1928 he graduated from the Physics and Mathematics Faculty of the local university with the title of Doctor of Science in Higher Mathematics and Experimental Physics. In 1933 he graduated from the Czech Military Academy. In December 1933 he arrived in Paraguay, and was accepted into the Paraguayan army with the rank of captain.

Having distinguished himself in the military field, Vysokolyan throughout his life in Paraguay held the department of physical, mathematical and economic sciences at the local university. In addition, he was a professor at the Higher Military Academy, the Higher Naval Academy and the Cadet Corps. In 1936 he was awarded the title of "Honorary Citizen" of the Paraguayan Republic and awarded the Gold Medal of the Military Academy.

And besides, Vysokolyan became world famous in connection with his solution of Fermat's theorem, over which many luminaries of the mathematical world fought unsuccessfully for more than three centuries. The Russian hero died in Asuncion in 1986 at the age of 91, and was buried with military honors at the Southern Russian Cemetery.

On this occasion, national mourning was declared in the country.

Another Russian general who fought in the army of Paraguay, Nikolai Frantsevich Ern, graduated from the prestigious Nikolaev Academy of the General Staff in St. Petersburg. During the First World War, he was Chief of Staff of the 66th Infantry Division, and then - Chief of Staff of the 1st Caucasian Cossack Division. In October 1915, an expeditionary force was formed to be sent to Persia. His chief of staff was Colonel Ern. Then he became a participant in the Civil War on the side of the whites. He remained in Russia until the last moment, and left it with the last steamer, where the headquarters of General Wrangel was located.

After long ordeals, Nikolai Frantsevich ended up in Brazil, where he was invited by a group of white officers who worked on the ground, planting corn. To their misfortune, locusts swooped down and ate all the crops. But Ern was lucky, he received an invitation from Paraguay to teach tactics and fortification at a military school. Since 1924 Ern has lived in Paraguay, serving as a professor at the Military Academy. And when the war between Paraguay and Bolivia began, he went to the front. He went through the whole war, built military fortifications. After the war, he remained in military service and worked in the General Staff until the end of his life, receiving a general's salary. Through his efforts, a Russian church was built, a Russian library was founded, and a Russian society "Union Rusa" was formed.

White Father

But the main Russian national hero of Paraguay was General Belyaev, who distinguished himself not only on the battlefields. After the war, he made another attempt to create a successful Russian colony in Paraguay. "Autocracy, Orthodoxy, nationality" - this is how General Belyaev understood the essence of the "Russian spirit", which he wished to preserve in the ark he was building in the jungles of South America. However, not everyone agreed with this. Political and commercial intrigues began around his project, with which, in turn, Belyaev could not agree. In addition, Paraguay, exhausted by the war, was unable to fulfill its promises of financial and economic support for the Russian emigration and the creation of a colony.

From the materials of Wikipedia, it follows that, having left military service, the native of St. Petersburg devoted the rest of his life to the Paraguayan Indians. Belyaev headed the National Patronage for Indian Affairs, organized the first Indian theater troupe.

The retired general lived with the Indians in a simple hut, ate with them at the same table, and even taught them Russian prayers. The natives paid him with warm love and gratitude and treated him like a "white father."

As a linguist, he compiled dictionaries Spanish-Maca and Spanish-Chamacoco, and also prepared a report on the language of the Maca tribe, where Belyaev singles out the Sanskrit roots of both Indian languages and traces their ascent to a common Indo-European basis. He owns the theory about the Asian ancestral home of the indigenous people of the American continent, which is supported by the records of the folklore of the Poppy and Chamacoco Indians, collected by the researcher during his travels to Chaco.

Belyaev devoted a number of works to the religion of the Indians of the Chaco region. In them, he discusses the similarity of the beliefs of the Indians with the Old Testament stories, the depth of their religious feelings and the universal nature of the foundations of Christian morality. Belyaev developed an innovative approach to the question of introducing Indians to modern civilization, defending the principle of mutual enrichment of the cultures of the Old and New Worlds - long before this concept was widely accepted in Latin America.

In April 1938, at the National Theater of Asuncion, a sold-out premiere of the first Indian theater in American history about the participation of Indians in the Chaco War was held. After a while, a troupe of 40 people under the leadership of Belyaev went on tour to Buenos Aires, where she was expected to be a resounding success. In October 1943, Belyaev finally received the go-ahead to create the first Indian colony. And its creator in 1941 was awarded the title of General Administrator of the Indian colonies. Belyaev's views were outlined by him in the "Declaration of the Rights of the Indians." Having studied the life of the indigenous inhabitants of the Chaco, Belyaev considered it necessary to legally secure the land of their ancestors for them. In his opinion, the Indians are by nature "free as the wind", do not do anything under duress and should themselves be the engine of their own progress. To this end, he proposed to provide the Indians with full autonomy and, simultaneously with the elimination of illiteracy, gradually introduce into the consciousness of their inhabitants the foundations of cultural life, democratic values, etc. At the same time, the Russian general warned against the temptation to destroy the Indians' way of life - their culture, way of life, language, religion - that had been taking shape for centuries, since this, given the conservatism and respect for the memory of their ancestors inherent in the Indians, would only alienate them from the "culture of the white man."

During World War II, Belyaev, as a Russian patriot, supported the USSR in the fight against fascism. He actively opposed those emigrants who saw in Germany "the savior of Russia from Bolshevism." In his memoirs, the retired general called them "idiots and deceivers."

Belyaev died on January 19, 1957 in Asuncion. Details of the funeral are given, in particular, in the book by S. Yu. Nechaeva "Russians in Latin America". In Paraguay, mourning was declared for three days. The body of the deceased was buried in the Column Hall of the General Staff with military honors as a national hero. At the coffin, replacing each other, the first persons of the state were on duty. During the funeral procession, crowds of Indians followed the hearse, literally damming the streets of Asuncion. President A. Stroessner himself stood guard at the coffin, the Paraguayan orchestra played Farewell to the Slav, and the Indians sang Our Father in chorus in the translation of the deceased … The capital of Paraguay had never seen such a sad event either before or after this sad event. And when the coffin with the body of Belyaev on a warship was taken to an island in the middle of the Paraguay River, chosen by him in his will as the final resting place, the Indians removed the whites. In the hut where their leader taught the children, they sang their funeral songs over him for a long time. After the funeral, they wove a hut over the grave, planted rose bushes around. A simple inscription was laid out on a simple quadrangle of the earth: "Belyaev lies here."

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