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Today in Alternate History
Day in Alternate History Blog
by David bar Elias
Kulinda, March 1922
The pale gray clouds of the early morning hung over Kulinda. As the day
advanced, flecks of red-gold became visible between the breaks in the cloud.
The somber beauty of the late winter sky was lost on Yossi Nussboym. The son of
one of the best craftsmen in the city of Chita, this latest battle would see
Cossacks and Jews thrown together against the Reds. They had suffered their fair
share of reversals in the past few years. The Reds were stubborn fighters.
But at last, the tide was turning. The Chinese were finally deploying their
troops in assistance of the local Whites. After years of harsh fighting in the
Siberian wilderness, Lenin's boys were finally being put in their place.
For Yossi, this whole situation had been deliciously ironic. The men of the
Transbaikal Cossack Host were no less anti-semitic than any other regiment of
their brethren. And yet, it was their commander, Ataman Semyonov, who had
allowed for the creation of the Jewish Regiment in the first place.
Yossi's umpteenth reflection on this ironic predicament was shattered by the
bullet which cracked inches past his head. He threw himself down into the wet
snow, and tried to configure where the shot had come from.
Beside him, his childhood friend, David bar-Natayam shivered. David didn't have
Yossi's physical stamina, but he had plenty of stubbornness. Yossi, for his
part, was thoroughly surprised that David had made it through the entire
campaign in one piece.
"Looks like we finally got those bastards on the run," he snarled, as
though daring the Reds to shoot again in their direction. Overhead, a Chinese
biplane (Yossi couldn't tell just what type) zoomed low over their heads,
strafing the Bolshevik stronghold that overlooked the northern end of Lake
Yossi Nusboym merely shrugged. "I think they're done running. Looks like
this is going to be their last stand."
These 15,000 Chinese troops from the semiautonomous Beiyang Army had been
advancing through Siberia since the end of the Great War. The Whites had joined
up with them back in 1919. The Chinese mostly used them as a screening force.
Yossi couldn't have cared if they had been led by Baron von Sternberg
himself....as long as they kept their guns trained on the Bolsheviks and the not
the Jews. In fact, the Chinese had been friendly enough to the men of the Jewish
Regiment; many of their Enfields had gone to the Jews. The Cossacks, by
contrast, were the ones organized as the main screening group, and consequently,
were the ones who took the harshest casualties.
The skirmishes that had been waged throughout this corner of Siberia had been
brutal. Many of the men that Yossi had served with since '19 had fallen in the
line of duty. Yossi had recited the Kaddish more times in the last week
than he had done in his entire life prior to the campaign.
But flesh and munitions could only sustain so much. The Reds were now confined
to several armored compounds that sat in the town of Kulinda. The bell was
rapidly tolling for their cause.
At least, in this part of the former Russian Empire. Yossi had heard rumors
regarding the reversals suffered by the Whites further west. But that was their
battle. This was his.
Yossi and David crawled as rapidly as they could to the welcoming protection of
the pine grove. It would be a long day. That much was certain.......
The last of the Bolsheviks surrendered two days later. They had been a sorry
bunch to comprehend. The Chinese had then taken them away. Yossi had no idea
where the Reds would end up, and frankly didnít care. He just wanted to go
The remaining horsemen of the Transbaikal Host had been allowed their personal
weapons, as long as they swore an oath of loyalty to the new Kingdom of Yakutia.
"Yakutia?" asked David bar-Natayam. "What do we do
"We go home to Chita," said Yossi Nussboym. "I donít think the
Chinese are giving us much of a choice. If swearing an oath to some monarch to
the east will let me return to father and the shop, then so be it."
"Say, Yossi," said David. "Remember what I suggested a week ago?
Back before the skirmish at Yerema?
"Yeah," said Yossi. "But Iím needed at home. Iím sorry."
"Oh come on Yossi," pleaded David. "Thereís a fortune to
be made! Multiple-"
"Shh! Looks like it's our turn to take the oath," hissed Yossi. An
officer from the New Nationalist Army, flanked by two lieutenants, was striding
towards the two men of the Jewish Regiment. He was a tough looking, imperious
man with a thin mustache and flinty eyes. Both Yossi and David straightened up.
"Stand down," said the officer, who turned out to be a captain. His
Russian was very rough, but Yossi could understand him clearly enough.
"Where are you two from?"
"We're from Chita," said Yossi Nussboym, as politely as his fatigue
could allow him. "We just want to home."
"You two are from the Jewish Regiment...is that correct?"
"Excellent," said the Captain, in a genuinely friendly tone. This
contrasted sharply with the cold tone the two Jews had heard him take with the
Cossacks. "Yakutia will need men like yourselves in the future. Please
raise your right arms."
The two Chita born-and-raised Jews did just that.
The captain cleared his throat. He's probably an officer due to his
communications skills reflected Yossi sardonically.
"You will pledge complete loyalty to the Kingdom of Yakutia, and defend it
against all aggressors?"
"Yes," said the two veterans of the Jewish Regiment.
"Good," said the captain. "10,000 Years for the Emperor!"
And with that, he turned and marched to administer the oath to the next batch of
"Let's go home," said Yossi Nussboym. "Maybe this is indeed the
start of a wonderful time." And with that, the two Yakutian Jews began
their journey back to Chita.....
Chita, April 1922
Chita had changed since Yossi Nussboym had last seen it. The damage from the
fighting that had swept through the place back in 1918 and 1919 had largely been
repaired, except for the odd bullet hole in a wall or a crater or two in the
fields outside the city.
However, Yossi spied two huge differences right away as he journeyed through
Chitaís mud-drenched streets.
Firstly, the red flag of the new Kingdom of Yakutia, emblazoned with Yakut
symbols, was the flag flying in the wind. Yossi simply appreciated the fact that
the Imperial Russian St. Andrews Cross no longer shadowed the 8,000 -odd Jews of
Secondly, Yossi spied the old Czarist garrison outside of the city. It was being
How on Earth did our new Kingdom raise a national army so quickly?
thought the craftsmenís son. But then, Yossi saw the answer.
The Chinese flag was fluttering over it.
"What the fuck?" snarled David bar-Natayam. "I thought we were Yakutians
"As long as we arenít Bolsheviks, thatís fine with me," deadpanned
Yossi, trying his best to sound reasonable. "We arenít extremely far from
the new border. We canít expect our new nation to depend on itself for
defence, as yet."
David was about to reply when he noticed a figure out of the corner of his eye.
It was running towards them as fast as it could. "Say, Yossi, isnít that
"Why so it is," said Yossi, squinting to see her. "I wonder where
the Golem is."
A few minutes later, Rebbeca Nussboym had reached her older brother. "Shalom,
brother," she said, giving her best impression of a bear hug to Yossi. She
had tears in her eyes.
"Itís alright, Rebecca, Iím here and everythingís-whatís
"Itís father," she gasped. "You need to hurry home. Heís
"Shit," exclaimed David.
And with that, the three Chitan Jews rushed home to read the will of Abraham
Excerpted from Two Jews from Yakutia by Jia Lin Nussboym. Published by
Imperial Publishing, Guangzhou, 2001. All rights reserved.
"With the establishment of Yakutia, the Jewish population flourished. The
Yakutian and Chinese governments valued the Jewish communities for their
valuable skills. The Jews of Yakutia, centered mostly in Chita, prospered
greatly. Among the most prominent of the Yakutian Jews was Yossi Nussboym and
David bar-Natayam of Chita. As veterans of the anti-communist Jewish Regiment,
the two eventually went into business for themselves. Investing in the growing
industrial centers in Manchuria, Dongwang, and Yakutia itself, the two
businessmen became very wealthy. Yossi had only agreed to ventures suggested by
David when it became clear it was the best chance to support his family.
Unfortunately, the Japanese incursions into Manchuria and Dongwang ruined a
large part of their business. Yossi Nussboym died of a heart attack in 1935 when
the Japanese confiscated his factories. His partner was shot by the Japanese
while trying to evacuate the workers of their Harbin plant.
However, his son, Moshe, would continue his father's business by helping the
Imperial Government set up the factories of western China, which would play such
a crucial role in defeating the Japanese invaders. He also raised bonds for the
government, earning him praise for his patriotism from both the monarchs of
Yakutia and China.
It was during this time that Moshe Nussboym fell in love with Lin Chuntao, the
daughter of a minor Chinese industrialist. They would marry in 1939."
Excerpted from Jews of the Sinosphere by Paul Myers. Published by Random
House, 2001. All rights reserved.
"It should be mentioned that during the 1930s, around 20,000 German-Jewish
expatriates fled to Yakutia to escape from Nazi persecution. Most settled in
Chita. After the Second Sino-Japanese War, most would immigrate to Israel,
although a good smattering set down roots in Yakutia.
Before Lithuania was swallowed up by the Soviet Union in the spring of 1940, the
Chinese and Yakutian consulates, under the direction of Ambassador Zhang Chen,
managed to hand out 45,000 visas to desperate Lithuanian Jews. Today, Ambassador
Chen honored as one of the 'Righteous Among the Nations' at the Holocaust
Memorial at Yad Vaschem.
The key role of individuals such as industrialist Moshe Nussboym (see Chapter
5), and the righteousness of men such as Ambassador Chen in the war effort would
play a great role in inspiring China's UN ambassador to vote in favor of
establishing the state of Israel after the wider World War II."