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First march of veterans

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Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
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On this day Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel was born

Baron Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel or Vrangel was an officer in the Imperial Russian Army and later commanding general of the anti-Bolshevik White Army in Southern Russia in the later stages of the Russian Civil War. After his side lost the civil war in 1920, he left Russia and became one of the most prominent exiled White émigrés.

Wrangel was born in Mukuliai, Kovno Governorate in the Russian Empire (in present-day Zarasai District Municipality, Lithuania). The Wrangel family was of the local Baltic German nobility, but Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel was only distantly related to the famed Arctic explorer Ferdinand von Wrangel.

After graduating from the Rostov Technical High School in 1896 and the Institute of Mining Engineering in St. Petersburg in 1901, Wrangel volunteered for the prestigious Life Guards cavalry and was commissioned a reserve officer in 1902 after graduating from the Nikolaev Cavalry School. With the start of World War I, Wrangel was promoted to captain and assigned command of a cavalry squadron. On October 13, 1914 he became one of the first Russian officers to be awarded the Order of St. George (4th degree) in the war, the highest military decoration of the Russian Empire. In December 1914, he was promoted to the rank of colonel. In October 1915 Wrangel was transferred to the Southwestern Front and was appointed commander of the 1st Regiment of the Transbaikal Cossacks.

Following the end of Russia’s participation in the war, Wrangel resigned his commission and went to live at his dacha at Yalta in the Crimea. Arrested by the Bolsheviks at the end of 1917, he was released and escaped to Kiev, where he joined Pavlo Skoropadskyi’s Ukrainian State. However, it was soon apparent to him that the new government existed only through the waning support of Germany, and in August 1918, he joined the anti-Bolshevik Volunteer Army based at Yekaterinodar, where he was given command of the 1st Cavalry Division and the rank of major general in the White movement. After the Second Kuban Campaign in late 1918, he was promoted to lieutenant general, and his Division was raised to that of a corps.

An aggressive commander, he won a number of victories in the north Caucasus. From January 1919, his military force was renamed the Caucasus Volunteer Army. Wrangel soon clashed politically with Armed Forces of South Russia leader Anton Denikin, who demanded a quick march on Moscow. Wrangel insisted instead that his forces should take Tsaritsyn first, to join up with the army of Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak, which his troops accomplished on June 30, 1919 after three previous attempts by Pyotr Krasnov had failed in 1918.

Wrangel gained a reputation as a skilled and just administrator, who, in contrast to some other White Army generals, did not tolerate lawlessness or looting by his troops. However, after he was unable to join forces with Admiral Kolchak and at the insistence of Denikin, he led his forces north towards Moscow on a failed attempt by the Whites to take the capital in November 1919. Continuing disagreement with Denikin led to his removal from command, and Wrangel departed for exile to Constantinople on February 8, 1920.

After defeats in which he lost half his standing army, and facing defeat in Northern Tavria and the Crimea, Wrangel organized a mass evacuation on the shores of the Black Sea. Wrangel gave every officer, soldier, and civilian a free choice: evacuate and go with him into the unknown, or remain in Russia and face the wrath of the Red Army.

Wrangel died suddenly in 1928. Wrangel’s funeral and burial took place in Brussels, but he was reinterred on October 6, 1929 in the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church in Belgrade, Serbia, according to his wishes.

vrangel

General Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel (left)