Hoover Institution Acquires Records of Society of Russian Veterans of the First World War

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Medals belonging to naval officer Dimitry Ossossoff, who from the 1920s to the 1950s worked on various hydrographic projects in the Belgian Congo. After service as chief hydrographer of that region, Ossossoff retired to California where, upon his death in 1983, he willed his medals and awards to the Society of Russian Veterans of WWI in Los Angeles

The Society of Russian Veterans of World War I in Los Angeles (cataloged under its Russian name as Obshchestvo russkikh veteranov Velikoĭ voĭny v gorode Los Anzhelose) was founded in 1925 to unify the veteran officers and soldiers of the Russian Imperial and White armies who had moved to Southern California at the end of the Russian civil war. The collection is rich in photographs and memorabilia, including the St. George’s Cross and the shoulder boards of one of the society’s early presidents, General Pavel Veselovskii. The records include the organization’s bulletins, correspondence, and flyers, all important resources for its history, as well as members’ papers detailing their lives and achievements. Of particular note are the documents of naval officer Dimitry Ossossoff, whose émigré career illustrates the unusual paths that brought Russians to California; at the end of the civil war he was in the Baltic aboard the trawler Kitoboi; with its crew he set a course for the Crimea to continue the struggle against the Bolsheviks under General Wrangel; the ship, however, detained by repairs, arrived after Wrangel’s army had been evacuated. In the 1920s into the 1950s Ossossoff worked in the Belgian Congo on various hydrographic projects, ultimately becoming chief hydrographer of the Belgian Congo. After moving to Los Angeles he became a member of the Russian naval society Kaiut-kompaniia, later folded into the Society of Veterans. Ossossoff died in California in 1983, leaving the society his materials on the Belgian Congo, medals, and awards.

Dmitrii Krassovsky was another naval officer active in the Los Angeles Kaiut-kompaniia. Some of his writings are in this collection, which is gratifying because Krassovsky was a Hoover librarian in the 1930s and 1940s, later moving to Los Angeles to take control of Slavic collections at the University of California at Los Angeles.

The collection contains papers relating to other émigré organizations in Los Angeles as well as card files on members and their applications, which are valuable for historians and genealogists as well as film scholars, in that many in the Russian community in Hollywood worked in the film industry.

General Nicholas Bogomoletz commanded armored trains in the Far East during the Russian civil war; in the 1930s he worked as a cobbler in Hollywood

Among the figures whose photographs are in the collection is General Nicholas Bogomoletz, who commanded armored trains in the Far East during the civil war. In the fog of war in 1920, one of the trains under his command opened fire on an American unit, killing several US infantrymen. This incident came back to haunt Bogomoletz in 1937, when he was working as a cobbler in Hollywood. Apparently, some of the American veterans of the US intervention in Siberia learned of his presence in California and attempted to have him deported. The proceedings made the pages of the Los Angeles Times and Newsweek, with the ultimate decision in the general’s favor, in part because it was clear that he would be executed if sent to the USSR.

This collection is unusual in that it contains items not usually within Hoover’s collecting scope but nevertheless valuable and worthy of preservation. Among these is a document dating from the reign of Catherine II (1795) and artwork by well-known émigré artists, including Konstantin Kuznetsov, usually known as a book illustrator, who painted a scene of a wounded officer lying next to his horse, and A. Scheloumoff,  a painter of battle pieces, who is represented by two works, one depicting Cossacks on parade and the other a First World War Russian cavalry attack against German infantry.