1917. British Lithuanian deportees-Omsk Peoples Militia-Vytautas the Great Battalion

8 posts / 0 new
Last post
T La Palli
Joined: 9-02-09
Feb 13 2012 14:08
1917. British Lithuanian deportees-Omsk Peoples Militia-Vytautas the Great Battalion

Help needed.

In 1917, over 1,000 Lithuanians were removed from Britain. 300 of the Lithuanians were members of the Lithuanian Socialist Federation (L.S.F.) in Britain. There were Lithuanian communities in London, Liverpool, and Manchester, and Glasgow. But the largest population was in Lanarkshire.
Most were peasants from Suvalkija and the Kovno guberniya, who had fled hardship; some who had fled persecution. Scotland had become a choice destination for Lithuanian migrants who could not afford the passage to America. The main industry they worked was mining.

To cut a long story short, as part of a deal done between Russian and Britain, the Lithuanians had to choose whether to join the British army or be deported back to Russia. The deportees were taken by ship to Arkhangelsk, then by rail to Vologda and on to Omsk. By the time the Lithuanian returnees arrived at Omsk, the Provisional Government had fallen and the Bolsheviks were in power. 140 of the group enrolled themselves on the local people's militia. Then, when Germany invaded Russia, 200 formed 2 companies of the the Second International Omsk Partisan detachment. They were first sent through Novonikolaevsk to Chita to fight against the forces of Ataman Semenov, forcing them back to the Manchurian frontier. From here, they went west to Irkutsk, to fight against the Czechoslovak Legion. Here, they were forced to retreat to Blagoveshchensk on the River Amur, where many Lithuanians fell into Japanese hands.

Some of those who were not caught joined Lithuianian companies and joined a Lithuanian Battalion, known as the ‘Vytautas the Great Battalion’, which was formed in Omsk as part of Kolchak’s anti-Bolshevik forces. In November 1919, they were sent to Cherepanov station, which was where the Red partisan group of Ivan Gromov operated. Some of the Lithuanians sent from Britain organised a mutiny, arrested the officers and took charge of the battalion, which they then put at the disposal of Gromov’s partisans. Along with the battalion, Steponaitis and his friends delivered into the hands of the Reds a large quantity of arms, ammunition and supplies, which were then utilised in campaigns against Kolchak. For the rest of the civil war the Lithuanian battalion fought as one of the three regiments comprising the First Soviet Chumysh Division'.

Ok. So the research that I am doing is on Scotland. I have little knowledge about Russia 1917. I hope my summary makes sense to somebody who knows this period of history. Could somebody suggest any general reading. Even better, if anybody can point me to some writing that deals specifically with these battalions, battles, mutiny, that would be incredibly helpful.

Also, I could add some more information about the politics of some of the Lithuanians in Scotland. Perhaps if there is somebody that knows something about Lithuanian history, they could perhaps help me understand the nationalist and socialist movements there and therefore understand the Scottish community better.

Kate Sharpley's picture
Kate Sharpley
Joined: 2-04-06
Feb 14 2012 18:46

I asked a friend:
"best bet is to make some contact with the Lithuanian community in Britain, and try to find someone who can point them in the right direction."

Otherwise, this book might be of interest:
"The Latvian and Lithuanian Press" by Edgar Anderson and M.G. Slavenas in The ethnic press in the United States : a historical analysis and handbook / edited by Sally M. Miller.

Hope that's a helpful pointer...

T La Palli
Joined: 9-02-09
Feb 24 2012 12:31

Thanks. There is some pretty detailed research done on this community*. What I was looking for was a history of the Russian revolution which will help me understand the role that these battalions played in it. And if the specific detail is there, to find out of anything comes up about the Scottish-Lithuanians in terms of the fighting they took part in.

*White, J.D. : 'Scottish Lithuanians and the Russian Revolution' in Journal of Baltic Studies, 6:1, 1-8 (1975)

White, J.D. : 'Vincas Kapsukas and the Scottish Lithuanians' in Revolutuionary Russia : 17:2, 67-89 (2004)

Joined: 22-07-12
Jul 22 2012 23:36

Did you come any further in your research? I am looking for the list of names of those who were deported from Great Britain. Amongst those were my father's family who emigrated from Lithuania in 1901.

Other articles include

Immigrants & Minorities
Volume 1, Issue 1, 1982
The Anglo‐Russian military convention and the Lithuanian immigrant community in lanarkshire, Scotland, 1914–20
Murdoch Rodgers

pages 60-88

Immigrants & Minorities
Volume 2, Issue 3, 1983
Special Issue: From the Other Shore: Russian Political Emigrants in Britain, 1880-1917
Political developments in the Lithuanian community in Scotland, c. 1890–1923

Murdoch Rodgers
pages 140-156

T La Palli
Joined: 9-02-09
Jul 23 2012 12:08

I'm afraid not paullucas01. I was more interested in the roles people played in Russia. I'm sure the names exist in the National Archives of Scotland. If you've never used the archives, feel free to PM me if you have any questions about accessing the files.

Joined: 29-09-06
Jul 23 2012 13:16

Hi. I am not quite sure what resources you are looking for. Particularly about the Vytatus the Great Battalion?

There is stuff about it in Polish. There were Poles, Bialorussians and Lithuanians over there, often from the same region. Don't know exactly what info you are lacking. Do you just want to know in general about the deportees in Omsk or something else?

Joined: 6-08-12
Aug 6 2012 15:48

Would anybody have some opinions on what was the motive for
the Brits to 'remove' these people from Britain. Was it merely
paranoia of leftists, (but only 300 were?) or maybe something they
got from the Russians?

And I also would be interested in finding a list of the 1000.
Has anybody had any luck there; I'm not familiar with the archives
or proceedures...

Joined: 1-03-13
Mar 1 2013 10:44

cybermojo, Rodgers (1982) explains a little bit about why the British government targeted the Scottish-Lithuanian community for removal. He explains that the Anglo-Russian Military Convention was initially intended to address the fact that the Lithuanian Jewish community in London was exempt from service in WWI. After the Convention was signed, though, it was used primarily to target the workers' movement in Scotland. It was a convenient way for the Scottish authorities to remove a radical element from their midst. My great-grandfather was among them.

Still no luck finding a list of the 1100 Lithuanian men deported from Scotland in 1917. There's a community of people in search of this list over at this forum: http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=168247&st=0. Although the conversation has recently digressed to other Scottish-Lithuanian family history related topics.

Murdoch, Rodgers. (1982) "The Anglo-Russian military convention and the Lithuanian immigrant community in Lanarkshire, Scotland 1914-1920". Immigrants & Minorities. Volume 1, Issue 1.