In Imperial Russia, there used to be four social classes. As in the West, the main three were the working class – peasants and labourers; the middle class or bourgeoisie – administrative personnel, merchants, clerks, professionals and clergy; and the aristocracy, including the nobility (both ‘personal’ and ‘hereditary’) and the titular (title-holders), such as princes and counts.
The fourth class, the Cossacks, was rather unique. The Cossacks were allotted land, a certain degree of autonomy and self-government.For this semi-autonomy, each man was required to give twenty yearsof military service to the Tsar, commencing at the age of eighteen.Their services were mainly used for protection against border incursionsand during times of war. At birth, the class of an individual was recorded on the birth certificate and in a special ‘Book of Births’ so there could be no future doubt as to his or her status. To some degree,the Cossack Clans could be said to resemble the Scottish Clans; the Macgregors, MacDonalds, Campbells and so on.
This is a story which covers a period of about 200 years. It isnear enough to a biography about my family, or rather a number offamilies whose roots intertwine all class barriers and stretch across half the globe as they journeyed to new lands to better their lives and sometimes to save them.
The story also covers briefly a period of Russian history from the beginning – the summoning of the Viking warriors to the fall of the Romanov Empire and the resulting Russian Diaspora. It does it in a way to introduce the reader, unfamiliar with the Russian beginnings, to what Russia used to be. The historical information is sourced from Old Russian chronicles, eminent historians, encyclopedias, and word of mouth, from those who lived through some of the more recent horrors of the Russian tragedy. The historic outline covers the development and richness of Russian thought and culture, its never-ending turmoils and some of its contributions to our world. My family’s life is deeply intertwined in Russian history and the resulting Diaspora and typifies to the reader what millions of Russians went through during the turbulent times of the 20th Century.
Although I was unable to acquire all of my family’s history, I filled in the gaps the way it may have happened to the best of my ability through deductive reasoning of events – similar family behavioural patterns of blood relatives, family chitchat and factoring in of surrounding events of the time. As such I take full responsibility for any errors in the story for which I hope my ancestors will forgive me.
My grandparents and parents fled from Russia to China during the Russian Civil War immediately after World War I. Most of my family survived two generations of the worst bloodshed, political and economic upheaval experienced during the 20 century (WorldWar I, the Russian Civil War, Japanese occupation, World War II, Stalin’s GULAGS and Political Oppression).
Although my father and two of my uncles survived Stalin’s postwar GULAGS, four of my granduncles were killed in the Russian Civil War and one distinguished himself and lived to tell the tale.
Both of my grandfathers died during the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, one as a result of torture, and the other from stress and related physical ailments.
My wife, who brought much love and joy to my development, experienced with her parents and grandparents similar dislocation and turmoil in fleeing from Russia at about the same time as my family, but fleeing in the opposite direction of France and Germany. They experienced life under Hitler, the destruction of Berlin and the postwar Displaced Persons camps prior to coming here to Australia. This Story is true and this is our biography.