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Book Recommendation: Beasts, Men and Gods


“Beasts, Men and Gods” (1923) is an account of an epic journey, filled with perils and narrow escapes, in the mold of “The Lord of the Rings.”

The difference is: it’s all true.

Ferdinand Ossendowski was a Pole who found himself in Siberia and on the losing side during the Bolshevik Revolution. To escape being rounded up and shot, he set out with a friend to reach the Pacific, there to take ship back to Europe. During his journey he fell in with dozens of other military men who shared the same objective... but nearly every one of them perished on the way.

It’s up to you to decide whether Ossendowski was threatened most by the beasts, by the men, or by the gods, or indeed, by the severe and uncompromising landscapes of Siberia, Mongolia, and China. That he survived at all seems improbable. The mystical mysteries and magics of Buddhism, “The Yellow Faith,” were woven about and through his sojourn and had no little part in his survival. Time after time he was put in the delicate position of being the bargainer between warring groups, and ultimately, only incredible luck and his friendship with the Hutuktu of Narabanchi Monastery saw him through.

When published in the United States, this book caused a sensation and became a best-seller. (Summary by Mark F. Smith)


This is the tale told by a Polish Colonel in the Russian Army (Tsarist White Army) who is escaping from Vladivostok and making his way through Siberia and into Mongolia. It is a monumental journey both in the amount of time he will have to spend, and avoiding the Bolshevik forces along the way. Anyone who thinks that the Bolsheviks had the support of all the Russians should read this. It dispels any notions about bloodshed and slaughter among their armies. Ossendowski recounts that each day, you awoke with the understanding that you never knew how many hours you had left to live. The characters he encounters, how his knowledge of military strategy, his background in diplomacy and languages and the luck of being at the right places at the right time allow him to make it to Urga (now Ulan Bator) where he meets up with Baron von Untgen. The bloodiness of the White Russian generals, the Chinese Nationalist army, the Mongolian forces led by their cavalry and lamas and the Bolsheviks makes this a fascinating journal. Many parts were taken from actual facts and turned into a fictional tale, but it is based on actual events.


Beasts, Men and Gods, reprinted by Kessinger Publishing, is Ferdinand Ossendowski's fascinating account of his adventures and travels in northern Asia; Siberia, Mongolia, Tibet, and China, in an effort to flee the Red army of the Russian revolution. Dr. Ossendowski was a scientist and writer who lived for a time in Siberia when the Russian revolution broke out. It came about that he became suspected of being a counter-revolutionary and thus had to flee his home one day into the forests. There he began his adventures as related in this book, where he met up first with a murderer and later with various peasants along the way. Eventually, Ossendowski joined the White forces in Mongolia who opposed the revolution and the Bolsheviki

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