Once a week.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
Ghost nations of Russia's civil war
You think the collapse of the Soviet Union was chaotic? You should have seen the start.
The collapse of the Soviet Union was chaotic? You should have seen the start. After the Bolshevik party took power, the former Russian Empire descended into anarchy. Proper anarchy, with bells on. Only part of the vast land mass stretching from Polish border to the shores of the Pacific was under the effective control of the fledgling Communist regime (coloured darker pink on this map).
What happened in the rest of the country is conveniently termed a civil war between ‘Reds’ and ‘Whites’, with the former eventually crushing the latter. The reality was a lot more complex, covering a panoply of secessions, rebellions, counter-revolutions and foreign invasions.
Those circumstances gave rise to dozens of ephemeral states, mostly at the former Empire’s fraying edges. Some lasted only weeks, other several years. All were eventually absorbed into the U.S.S.R.
This map lists only 28. As map creator /u/pisseguri82 says: “I specifically omitted (states) that are still around – various Red, White, monarchist and others, or incarnations of them anyway (1). This is about the nations most people haven’t heard of”.
And what a bunch of delightfully obscure ephemerals they are. The map, recently uploaded to Reddit, shows their (sometimes overlapping) geographies, flies their (equally short-lived) flags and provides a glimpse of their (often bizarre) backstories.
“Some would say these are not all actual states, and that is kind of the point”, the mapmaker goes on. “The Kuban republic was internationally recognised and had ambassadors and a large army, Basmachi was a very loose organisation of guerrilla fighters, Naissaar was simply a band of corrupt soldiers with a freaky flag and Green Ukraine was never even properly declared independent”.
“Many other local governments lie somewhere on the sliding scale between a regional council that printed money and passed laws, and an actual independent government on the international scene. In the end, it's a 'what could have been' map of Russia if the civil war had ended differently”.
Let’s turn first to the northwestern corner of the former Empire, where the Republics of Uhtua and North Ingria were proclaimed by ethnic Finns hoping to join Finland, itself newly independent from Russia. By October 1920, both movements – each donned with a flag sporting the distinctive Nordic Cross – had been crushed. All North Ingrians were later deported to Central Asia.
Finland itself, or parts of it at least, saw the short-lived Finnish Socialist Workers’ Republic – a.k.a. Red Finland (1918). The mapmaker put several other short-lived Soviet republics on the map, but “since they all have the same all-red flag and pretty much the same story (Bolsheviks rose up, got overturned again), I focused on (ephemeral countries) with more colourful stories”.
In December 1917, the fortress on the Estonian island of Naissaar was commandeered by a few dozen Russian sailors, who proclaimed a ‘Soviet Republic of Soldiers and Fortress-Builders’, surely the only time the latter nomenclature was used for a socialist republic (typically said to be composed of ‘soldiers, workers and farmers’). The sailors set up a government and started collecting taxes from the locals. After two months, German forces chased them away. Stepan Petrichenko, the leader of the sailors, fled to Kronstadt, where in 1921 he would play a role in the unsuccessful Rebellion against the Bolsheviks.
Using the power vacuum towards the end of World War I, Baltic Germans proclaimed the independence of a Baltic Duchy and a Duchy of Courland. It was their ambition that both would be governed in personal union with the Kingdom of Prussia, thus effectively becoming protectorates of the German Empire. Courland was soon subsumed by the Baltic Duchy, which thus coincided with present-day Estonia and Latvia combined. The Duchy did not prove a viable option. When both Baltic countries declared their independence in the closing months of 1918, its window of opportunity had closed.
Numbering less than 1,000 inhabitants, the Lithuanian town of Perloja nevertheless made history when it declared its independence in 1918. Perlojos respublikas had its own court, police, prison and currency, the litas, as well as an army 300 men strong. It lasted until 1923.
Originally part of Austria-Hungary, the Hutsul Republic declared independence with the intent of joining Ukraine. After WWI, it ended up in Czechoslovakia. It was independent for one day – March 15, 1939 – making it the shortest-lived state in European history. The Hungarians took over the next day. In 1946, it was annexed to (Soviet) Ukraine. Sometimes also referred to as Trans-Carpathian Ukraine or Carpatho-Ukraine, Hutsul is reputed to be the land that changed hands the most times during the 20th century (see also #57).
The Lemkos have been identified as Ukrainians, Ruthenians, Slovakians, or as an ethnic group of their own. An East Lemko Republic was founded in November 1918 by those wishing to join an independent Ukraine. A month later, a Lemko Republic was founded by those favouring inclusion within Russia. Both territories were eventually annexed by Poland.
The Crimean People’s Republic was established by the local Tatar population at the end of 1917. The Crimea was subsequently overrun by Bolsheviks, Ukrainians and Germans, the Red Army, their White opponents, and finally, in 1921, the Red Army again.
The Don Cossacks raised an army of 50,000 against the Reds, which became a major part of the White resistance in the south of Russia. The Kuban Cossacks established a military government that gained recognition from both Germany and Turkey. Neither Red nor White, the Kuban Republic was overrun by the Red Army in 1919. The Free Territory was an anarchist collection of local councils, under the protection of Nestor Makhno’s rogue army. After a period of tolerance for the state, the Reds turned against Makhno, who escaped to Paris, where he ended his days as a stagehand and Renault factory worker.
In the Caucasus, the situation was – as always – extremely complex. In November 1917, a local oil baron united Chechen, Ingush and Ossetian peoples in a Mountain Republic, allied with Germany. The Republic had the distinction of being defeated by both sides in the Russian civil war – first by the Reds, in March 1918, then by the Whites, in May 1919.
The Transcaucasian Federation was formed in April 1918 to counter Turkey’s claims in the region. As Turkey advanced, the Federation fell apart within a month. Following a British proposal to cede the area to Armenia, a local Azeri officer in December 1918 proclaimed the Aras Republic, aligned with Turkey. The Armenians overran it in June 1919.
Ruled by an emir aligned with the Ottomans, but dependent on the Reds for military support, the North Caucasian Emirate turned into a Soviet republic upon the emir’s death. The Kars Republic was an Ottoman puppet state, invaded by the British in 1919. Their ceding control to the Armenians contributed to the start of the Turkish-Armenian War.
The military dictatorship of Mughan was led by a White general and supported by an expeditionary force composed of British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand troops; while the Soviet republic of Gilan saw the revolutionary fervour catch fire in northern Iran, only for the Soviets to withdraw their support, leading to the state's swift collapse.
The Republic of Idel-Ural was founded as the homeland for some of the diverse non-Russian nationalities in the area, including Tatars, Bashkirs and Volga Germans. Despite the enormous territory claimed by the Republic, it in fact only ever controlled parts of Kazan, its prospective capital.
The massive territory claimed by the Kazakh-led Alash Autonomy was mostly held by Red and White forces. The Basmachi movement, initially a revolt against conscription, claimed sovereignty for Central Asia’s Muslims. Going one step further, the Kokand movement sought to restore the eponymous Khanate – but was defeated by the Red Army after merely three months.
The Confederated Republic of Altai saw itself as the first step towards the re-establishment of Genghis Khan’s empire. It lasted little more than two years.
‘Green Ukraine’ was nowhere near actual Ukraine. Nevertheless, the Siberian Ukrainians who founded the state foresaw a union with independent Ukraine. Green Ukraine never really took off, and then was taken over by the Red Army in 1922.
Encompassing the entire Pacific seaboard of the former Empire, the Far East Republic was set up by the Soviets themselves to serve as a buffer against Japanese expansionism in Siberia. The Japanese withdrawal, and the Red Army’s subsequent capture of Vladivostok in November 1922, marked the end of the civil war.
Not mentioned on this map are, among quite a few others, the provisional All-Russian Government set up by Admiral Alexander Kolchak; 'Mad Baron' Roman von Ungern-Sternberg's short rule over Mongolia as an independent warlord; or the Moldavian Democratic Republic, just to the east of present-day Moldova.
As becomes apparent in the comments section at Reddit, the map of these ephemeral states, even though incomplete, is a big hit with both Russophiles and cartophiles (not to mention flag nerds or alt-history fans):
- “This is fascinating! As a student of Russian history, I’ve never heard of any of these states!”
- “It feels like such an imaginary map, but the weird thing is all of this stuff happened”
- “Somewhere in this time period, there was the Gurian Republic which was formed when the peasants of the Georgian region Guria formed a collectivized breakaway state and defended it for several years. It’s a pretty wild story”.
- “Uhtua had the exact same shape as Bolivia – mind: blown”.
Strange Maps #896
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.
(1) For example, the kingdoms of Poland (1917-18), Lithuania and Finland (both 1918), or the Socialist Soviet Republics of Lithuania (1918-19), Byelorussia (1919) and Lithuania-Byelorussia, a.k.a. Lit-Bel (1919). Also not on this map: the Belarussian People’s Republic (1918-19), which survives to this day as the world’s oldest government in exile. Its current president of Ivonka Survilla, who lives in Canada.
Evolution doesn't clean up after itself very well.
- An evolutionary biologist got people swapping ideas about our lingering vestigia.
- Basically, this is the stuff that served some evolutionary purpose at some point, but now is kind of, well, extra.
- Here are the six traits that inaugurated the fun.
The plica semilunaris<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA5NjgwMS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3NDg5NTg1NX0.kdBYMvaEzvCiJjcLEPgnjII_KVtT9RMEwJFuXB68D8Q/img.png?width=980" id="59914" width="429" height="350" data-rm-shortcode-id="b11e4be64c5e1f58bf4417d8548bedc7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The human eye in alarming detail. Image source: Henry Gray / Wikimedia commons<p>At the inner corner of our eyes, closest to the nasal ridge, is that little pink thing, which is probably what most of us call it, called the caruncula. Next to it is the plica semilunairs, and it's what's left of a third eyelid that used to — ready for this? — blink horizontally. It's supposed to have offered protection for our eyes, and some birds, reptiles, and fish have such a thing.</p>
Palmaris longus<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA5NjgwNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzQ1NjUwMn0.dVor41tO_NeLkGY9Tx46SwqhSVaA8HZQmQAp532xLxA/img.jpg?width=980" id="879be" width="1920" height="2560" data-rm-shortcode-id="4089a32ea9fbb1a0281db14332583ccd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Palmaris longus muscle. Image source: Wikimedia commons<p> We don't have much need these days, at least most of us, to navigate from tree branch to tree branch. Still, about 86 percent of us still have the wrist muscle that used to help us do it. To see if you have it, place the back of you hand on a flat surface and touch your thumb to your pinkie. If you have a muscle that becomes visible in your wrist, that's the palmaris longus. If you don't, consider yourself more evolved (just joking).</p>
Darwin's tubercle<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA5NjgxMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0ODUyNjA1MX0.8RuU-OSRf92wQpaPPJtvFreOVvicEwn39_jnbegiUOk/img.jpg?width=980" id="687a0" width="819" height="1072" data-rm-shortcode-id="ff5edf0a698e0681d11efde1d7872958" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Darwin's tubercle. Image source: Wikimedia commons<p> Yes, maybe the shell of you ear does feel like a dried apricot. Maybe not. But there's a ridge in that swirly structure that's a muscle which allowed us, at one point, to move our ears in the direction of interesting sounds. These days, we just turn our heads, but there it is.</p>
Goosebumps<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA5NzMxNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNzEyNTc2Nn0.aVMa5fsKgiabW5vkr7BOvm2pmNKbLJF_50bwvd4aRo4/img.jpg?width=980" id="d8420" width="1440" height="960" data-rm-shortcode-id="8827e55511c8c3aed8c36d21b6541dbd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Goosebumps. Photo credit: Tyler Olson via Shutterstock<p>It's not entirely clear what purpose made goosebumps worth retaining evolutionarily, but there are two circumstances in which they appear: fear and cold. For fear, they may have been a way of making body hair stand up so we'd appear larger to predators, much the way a cat's tail puffs up — numerous creatures exaggerate their size when threatened. In the cold, they may have trapped additional heat for warmth.</p>
Tailbone<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA5NzMxNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3MzQwMjc3N30.nBGAfc_O9sgyK_lOUo_MHzP1vK-9kJpohLlj9ax1P8s/img.jpg?width=980" id="9a2f6" width="1440" height="1440" data-rm-shortcode-id="4fe28368d2ed6a91a4c928d4254cc02a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Decade3d-anatomy online via Shutterstock<p>Way back, we had tails that probably helped us balance upright, and was useful moving through trees. We still have the stump of one when we're embryos, from 4–6 weeks, and then the body mostly dissolves it during Weeks 6–8. What's left is the coccyx.</p>
The palmar grasp reflex<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA5NzMyMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjY0MDY5NX0.OSwReKLmNZkbAS12-AvRaxgCM7zyukjQUaG4vmhxTtM/img.jpg?width=980" id="8804c" width="1440" height="960" data-rm-shortcode-id="67542ee1c5a85807b0a7e63399e44575" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Palmar reflex activated! Photo credit: Raul Luna on Flickr<p> You've probably seen how non-human primate babies grab onto their parents' hands to be carried around. We used to do this, too. So still, if you touch your finger to a baby's palm, or if you touch the sole of their foot, the palmar grasp reflex will cause the hand or foot to try and close around your finger.</p>
Other people's suggestions<p>Amir's followers dove right in, offering both cool and questionable additions to her list. </p>
Fangs?<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Lower mouth plate behind your teeth. Some have protruding bone under the skin which is a throw back to large fangs. Almost like an upsidedown Sabre Tooth.</p>— neil crud (@neilcrud66) <a href="https://twitter.com/neilcrud66/status/1085606005000601600?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 16, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Hiccups<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Sure: <a href="https://t.co/DjMZB1XidG">https://t.co/DjMZB1XidG</a></p>— Stephen Roughley (@SteBobRoughley) <a href="https://twitter.com/SteBobRoughley/status/1085529239556968448?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 16, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Hypnic jerk as you fall asleep<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">What about when you “jump” just as you’re drifting off to sleep, I heard that was a reflex to prevent falling from heights.</p>— Bann face (@thebanns) <a href="https://twitter.com/thebanns/status/1085554171879788545?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 16, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <p> This thing, often called the "alpha jerk" as you drop into alpha sleep, is properly called the hypnic jerk,. It may actually be a carryover from our arboreal days. The <a href="https://www.livescience.com/39225-why-people-twitch-falling-asleep.html" target="_blank" data-vivaldi-spatnav-clickable="1">hypothesis</a> is that you suddenly jerk awake to avoid falling out of your tree.</p>
Nails screeching on a blackboard response?<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Everyone hate the sound of fingernails on a blackboard. It's _speculated_ that this is a vestigial wiring in our head, because the sound is similar to the shrill warning call of a chimp. <a href="https://t.co/ReyZBy6XNN">https://t.co/ReyZBy6XNN</a></p>— Pet Rock (@eclogiter) <a href="https://twitter.com/eclogiter/status/1085587006258888706?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 16, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Ear hair<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Ok what is Hair in the ears for? I think cuz as we get older it filters out the BS.</p>— Sarah21 (@mimix3) <a href="https://twitter.com/mimix3/status/1085684393593561088?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 16, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Nervous laughter<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">You may be onto something. Tooth-bearing with the jaw clenched is generally recognized as a signal of submission or non-threatening in primates. Involuntary smiling or laughing in tense situations might have signaled that you weren’t a threat.</p>— Jager Tusk (@JagerTusk) <a href="https://twitter.com/JagerTusk/status/1085316201104912384?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 15, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Um, yipes.<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Sometimes it feels like my big toe should be on the side of my foot, was that ever a thing?</p>— B033? K@($ (@whimbrel17) <a href="https://twitter.com/whimbrel17/status/1085559016011563009?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 16, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Context is everything.
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a number of new behaviours into daily routines, like physical distancing, mask-wearing and hand sanitizing. Meanwhile, many old behaviours such as attending events, eating out and seeing friends have been put on hold.
A new study looks at how images of coffee's origins affect the perception of its premiumness and quality.
- Images can affect how people perceive the quality of a product.
- In a new study, researchers show using virtual reality that images of farms positively influence the subjects' experience of coffee.
- The results provide insights on the psychology and power of marketing.