Baron Roman Nikolai Maximilian von Ungern-Sternberg is what you would get if you crossed Vlad the Impaler, Genghis Khan, Hitler, Stalin, Kali-Ma and goddamned Christopher Walken from Sleepy Hollow all up into one dude with access to automatic weapons, high explosives, a horde of psychotic Mongol warriors, then had him blessed by the fucking Dalai Lama to be the physical incarnation of the Tibetan Blood God of Vengeance. In the “Mad Baron”s six months humping sanity to death, massacring communists and fist fighting wolves (literally fist fighting wolves) in the steppes of Central Asia as the self-proclaimed heir to Genghis Khan, Maximilian von Ungern-Sternberg cleaved himself a blood-soaked reputation so horrific, brutal, and out-of-his-gourd fucking insane that it can only truly be classified as SPOOKY HALLOWEEN SHIT.
Let’s put it this way: When the Bloody Baron conquered and plundered the capital of Mongolia at the head of a force of Russian Tsarist infantry, blood-raging Mongol Warriors, wild Cossack cavalry and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome-style Chinese desert bandit raiders, the Baron allegedly cut the still-beating hearts out of his surviving enemies, cleaved their skulls into gold-plated serving dishes, and then offered their flayed, skinless bodies as sacrifices to a bunch of bizarre fringe Buddhist gods – particularly this guy, the flaming multi-armed death-bringing murder god that Ungern claimed to be claimed to be a physical incarnation of:
Freiheirr Robert Maximilian Friedrich von Ungern-Sternberg was born in Austria in 1886, the descendent of a line of Russian nobility that he claimed included crusaders, pirates, Attila the Hun, and no fewer than 72 ancestors who died glorious, bloody, horrific deaths in the service of the Tsars of Russia. Even though this guy was about as German as a beer-battered wiener schnitzel during Oktoberfest, the Germans made up a lot of the aristocracy and military dictatorship of the Russian Empire, and this guy grew up in a badass castle in Estonia back when Estonia was still part of Russia.
As a kid, Ungern-Sternberg had a big problem with beating the fuck out of assholes for no reason at all and then needing to be physically restrained from now mashing their unconscious bodies to a pulp with his fucking fists. He went to a military academy to find some direction for his boundless rage, but after receiving 25 disciplinary charges – usually for dueling his classmates with pistols or sabers, but also one time when he fucking strangled his roommates goddamned pet owl for some reason – Ungern resigned in a “you can’t expel me, I fucking quit!” type of situation. He enlisted in the army as a lower officer, hopped a train, and was sent out to East Asia to help defend the border in the wake of the 1905 Russo-Japanese War.
“Ungern looked at everyone with the eyes of a beast of prey”
From roughly 1906 to 1914, Ungern was an officer in the Cossack cavalry in the eastern front. Now, if you don’t know much about the Cossacks, here’s the short version – these guys are fucking insane madman horse warriors who are world-renowned for their face-shanking savagery and hardcore brutality. Commanding a unit he designated the “Order of Military Buddhists,” Ungern spent most of his time living with the badass Mongols and Cossacks in Mongolia, learned to speak fluent Mongolian, converted to Buddhism, and told his men they could party with unlimited vodka, booze, hash, opium, and women just as long as they kept their shit together and honed their fighting skills day and night. When one group of his own men pissed him off by being too undisciplined, he fucking stripped them down to their underwear, had them jump into a freezing-cold lake in the dead of the Mongolian sub-zero winter, then he pulled them out and fucking sicced goddamn wolves on the poor bastards, forcing them to fight off the assault with their bare hands. Only half of the men survived, but those guys were immediately part of his elite cadre of warriors.
When World War I went down, Ungern and the Cossacks were some of the first men to go charging out there on horseback head-on into entrenched lines of Austrian infantry with belt-fed machine guns. Ungern’s attacks were psychotic, suicidal, and completely reckless, but he led every attack personally, galloping ahead on a white horse, seemingly completely impervious to any form of conventional weaponry. He was shot, had horses killed out from under him, took a fucking sword wound to the skull, and was wounded another dozen or so times in hand-to-hand combat over the course of the war, but he fought with an insane disregard for anything a normal person would recognize as fear and just continually went right back into the teeth of the enemy. Most of his unit was massacred pretty much every time they tried to attack, and Ungern was reportedly passed over for promotion despite his bravery because this guy was so suicidally insane that he couldn’t really be trusted with a large group of soldiers.
Cossack cavalry during World War I.
Yes, they fought with lances, swords, and bolt-action rifles.
In the 20th century.
World War I ended with the collapse of the Russian Empire, and before long the situation in Mother Russia deteriorated to where the Communist Red Army was involved in a civil war with the Tsarist White Army. Being part of the aristocracy, Baron Ungern was obviously very pro-White, and he immediately rushed back out East to start kicking the shit out of Bolsheviks, Marxists, and basically just blindly running screaming towards anything red like he was a murderous bull from a cartoon about genocide. Raiding, plundering, looting, and destroying Red Army supporters anywhere he could find them, Ungern led a completely-unsanctioned renegade one-psychopath war against Russian Communism. He outfitted armored trains with cannons from gunships and rode them along the Trans-Siberian Railroad. He dragged prisoners behind his trucks. He skinned people alive. He did all sorts of fucked-up super-villain shit, and he did it all in the name of reinstating a Tsar who had already (unbeknownst to Ungern) already been capped in the head by the Bolsheviks.
Ungern rode around with a couple other White Army generals for a while, but in 1920 he went rogue and made the executive decision to go to Mongolia and recreate the Empire of Genghis Khan by restoring the Living Buddha to the throne of Mongolia and helping the country break away from the Chinese government. So, yeah, that’s totally what he went and did.
Baron von Ungern-Sternberg practiced a highly-bizarre, super-obscure ultraviolent sect of Buddhism that was like one part Mola Ram and one part Freddy Kruger. He constantly surrounded himself with soothsayers, fortune-tellers, shamans, and sorcerers, carried a deck of tarot cards into battle with him, and wore about ten pounds of holy symbols around his neck at all times, and his idea of reincarnation was that he was fucking doing you a favor by decapitating you with a machete because maybe next time you won’t be reincarnated as such a pussy. He also claimed he could see your soul and read your mind if he stared into your eyes long enough.
Riding at the head of his “Asiatic Mounted Division”, a bizarre, scary-as-hell mix of six thousand Russian, Mongol, Cossack and Chinese cavalry raiders, Ungern randomly decided he was going to attack the capital of Mongolia, seize it for himself, and then use it as the capital of an empire that would include Mongolia, Manchuria, and Tibet. He surrounded Ulan Bator in 1920, set tons of fires on the hills surrounding the city, then sent his army of fortune-tellers to run screaming into the city saying that those fires were sacrifices to the gods begging the divine beings for the destruction of everyone in the town. Then, when the population was pretty freaked out, the fortune-tellers told them that the White Baron was coming, that he was completely immune to bullets, and that he could appear and disappear at will.
Then the Baron attacked.
Against everything you might imagine, this one guy, commanding an army he recruited and trained himself, captured the capital of Mongolia, declared it was now independent from China, installed a man named Bogda Khan (a guy believed to be the reincarnation of the third-highest lama in Tibet) as the “heir to Genghis Khan,” and then made himself Ultimate Warlord of a revived Mongol Empire. Even more insane, the friggin’ Thirteenth Dalai Lama then officially blessed Ungern for his work and said that he was a physical incarnation of Mahakala, that “Wrathful God” who was on fire up at the top of the page here.
The required reading on this guy is “The Bloody White Baron”
by James Palmer
From here it was pretty much murder city, as Ungern went nuts finding horrible new and terrible ways to execute Bolsheviks, Jews, enemy prisoners, and whatever else he didn’t like, slaughtering people without regard for their age, gender, or whether or not they were civilians. He was a very bad man who did a lot of horrible things to people. This should not come as a surprise. But still, there’s nothing badass about massacring civilians, even if you find really new and inventive ways to do it.
Well, at some point the Buddhist wheel of Karma caught up with the Bloody Baron, and in August of 1921 he lost his shit and decided to invade Siberia with six thousand guys, overthrow Lenin, and put Tsar Nicholas II’s brother Mikhail Romanov on the throne of Russia. This would be an OK plan, except that he had six thousand guys, no tanks, no airplanes, only a couple trucks, most of his guys were on horseback, and Mikhail Romanov had been shot in the face by Bolsheviks three years earlier. Still, Ungern gave it a good honest try, charged a full division of Red Army troops on horseback, and had most of his Asiatic Mounted Division hosed down with belt-fed machine gun ammunition. Ungern regrouped, ordered his men to attack again, and they promptly mutinied, grabbed him, and handed him over to the Soviets. On September 17, 1921, he was executed by firing squad. Before they shot him, the Baron put his St. George’s Cross (a high-level medal for bravery from the Russian Empire) in his mouth and chewed it up so the Bolsheviks couldn’t get it.
When the firing squad pulled the trigger, one of the bullets struck a religious talisman the Baron wore under his jacket. A fragment of the round ricocheted back and wounded one of the firing squad soldiers in the fucking face. Take that!
The Mad Monarchist
New Dawn Magazine
The Bloody White Baron
A Meteoric Nutter