During the First World War over a thousand Russian-born servicemen enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). They were the largest national group in the AIF after British, New Zealand and Canadian born servicemen. Besides ethnic Russians, these Anzacs included members of a score of different ethnic groups born within the borders of the Russian Empire. Their story is told in my book:
Elena Govor, Russian Anzacs in Australian History, Sydney, UNSW Press in association with NAA, 2005, 310 p., 44 ills
This site provides additional information about each of the Russian Anzacs, as well as statistical and other data. There is a page for each of these servicemen, containing biographical and service details, as well as links to further materials such as archival documents, newspaper articles, photographs, and quotes from books. In many cases these sources have been digitised and are available to view online.
This site was updated in 2014, and from early 2015 all old versions of the site will redirect to this main page. We apologise for any broken links, and advise to update old links to the new address (http://russiananzacs.net).
New! We are developing a map which shows the locations associated with the lives of the Russian Anzacs. The map is under construction, and currently shows birthplaces and residence before enlistment, with the addition of residence after the war underway.
Centenary of the First World War
To mark the Centenary of the First World War, this site will, in a weekly blog post, celebrate the Russian Anzacs who enlisted in the AIF that week. Their pages on this new site will be updated with the latest available sources and materials.
November 29, 2015
Edward Emanuel Alenius
- Edward Emanuel Alenius came to Australia from Finland and worked as a timber worker in Bridgetown in Western Australia.
- He enlisted in the AIF and came to the Western Front in June 1916 with the 51st Battalion. In September he was killed at Mouquet Farm.
- His brother and sister were found after the war in Finland and received his medals.
- Effim Rogashoff, a Russian carpenter from Baevka in Simbirsk Province, served in the Russian Cavalry on the Afghan border and came to Western Australia in 1911 via India.
- He enlisted in the AIF in Kalgoorlie, but was discharged several months later being convicted for manslaughter, after an incident during a drunken brawl in a Sydney pub, where his mining corps was training.
- Having served his time, he stayed in the Sydney area, changing his name to Robert King. In 1925 he married an Australian woman, Clara Apps, and raised a large family in Sydney, working as a boot maker. During WWII he enlisted in the AIF and served in the garrison battalion.
- George Gurasoff from the township Paluzh in Belarus also served in the Russian Cavalry, in Manchuria, and came to Australia in 1913. He worked in Queensland as a labourer and miner.
- Enlisting in the AIF he served on the Western Front as a gunner and a driver in artillery units.
- After the war he lived in Brisbane and left Australia in 1921, probably returning to Belarus.
- Alexander Petroff from St Petersburg served in the Russian Red Cross at Port Arthur during the Russo-Japanese war. He was involved in some radical political activities in Russia and had to flee to Japan; from there he moved to Colombo and finally, with other political refugees, made his way to Western Australia where he worked as a timber worker and contractor.
- He served on the Western Front with the 3rd Tunneling company as a sapper and was returned to Australia in 1918 as medically unfit.
- He was for a while suspected of harbouring pro-Bolshevik views, but by 1921, when he became a farmer, the police believed that that he had changed his ways and he was naturalised. In 1923 he married a teacher, Jessie Cameron. They had three daughters, but in 1926 Alexander left the family. He settled at Mount Isa in Queensland where he worked at smelters. His daughters only recently learnt the story of their father.
November 24, 2015
- Paul Tapken was born in Baku (now Azerbaijan), but grew up in St Petersburg where his family lived. His father was probably a Russianised German merchant. Paul came to Western Australia in April 1914 as a Russian subject, a clerk by profession. In Australia he worked as a labourer.
- In August 1914, a few days after the outbreak of war, Paul registered for enlistment with his cousin Waldemar Kroeber among other volunteers from Bunbury, but Paul was accepted for service only in November 1915. He came to the Western front with the 28th Battalion in July 1916 and was killed the next day at the battle for Pozieres.
- His mother in St Petersburg was found after the war and received an Australian pension.
- George Platonoff was born in Novoukrainka township in Ukraine. In 1911 he came to Queensland via the Russian Far East with his parents and elder brother Thomas. After working on railway construction, his family bought a sugarcane farm in Booyal.
- Enlisting in the AIF, George served with the 25th Battalion on the Western Front. In October 1917 he was gassed at Passchendaele and stayed for a while in the English hospitals but recovered and finished the war at the front.
- After the war he worked as cane cutter and sawmill worker in the Childers and Innisfail areas. During WWII he enlisted again in the AIF and served in the garrison battalions.
Franse Frederick Swanson
- Franse Frederick Swanson was born in Finland as Saarinen, but when he came to Australia in 1899 as a seaman he preferred to Anglicise his name. He settled in South Australia, working as a ship’s carpenter, and married Australian woman Ruby Dorothy Bright.
- He enlisted in the AIF in spite of the fact that he had two young children and fought with the 50th Battalion on the Western Front. In April 1917 he was taken prisoner of war during the battle for Noreuil, was kept in Dulmen and Limburg internment camps, and was repatriated to Australia after the war.
- After the war he lived with his family in Adelaide. All three of his sons served in the AIF during WWII.
- Larry Peterson, from Wasa in Finland, worked as a boiler maker. He came to Australia in 1913 as a seaman and worked as labourer in Western Australia.
- Enlisting in the AIF he soon asked to be discharged ‘on account of my nationality, as I cannot live on good terms with the other men’. He was discharged in June 1916 as medically unfit.
- It was impossible to trace his life after the war. Most likely he left Australia.
- Joseph Rudovsky jumped ship in South Australia in 1909, when he was just 15, and enlisted in the AIF as a native of Russia born in Odessa. It was only in the 1930s that he revealed that he was a Croat from Yugoslavia born in Susek. Upon his arrival he worked in different places, but finally settled in Sydney working as a barman.
- At the outbreak of war he made the first attempt to enlist, but was rejected because of eyesight. Later he was accepted and sailed to the Western Front with the Mining Company; later he served in the 1st Tunneling Company. In March 1918 he was gassed with other tunnelers; he survived the ordeal but was disabled for life.
- After the war he lived in Sydney, where he married and educated himself. In 1937 he was appointed honorary consul for Yugoslavia under his true name Joseph Mikulicic-Rodd.
November 17, 2015
- John Lumberg from Feborak (?) in Finland came to Western Australia in 1890, probably as a seaman. He worked as a labourer and sleeper cutter in the south-western areas of the state.
- Enlisting in the AIF, he served in the artillery batteries on the Western Front. In October 1918 he was wounded in the thigh, being one of the last casualties among Russian born Anzacs during the war.
- After the war he continued working as sleeper hewer in the Manjimup area in Western Australia.
- Edward Sendon was a Latvian from Riga; his family believed that he had some Scottish ancestry. He came to Australia as a seaman in 1903 and by 1915 worked as a miner in Mount Morgan.
- Enlisting in the AIF he served with the 15th battalion on the Western Front.
- After the war he married an Australian girl, Annie Ruby Lacey, and lived in Rockhampton working as a miner and painter. His sons Leonard and Erle served in the AIF in WWII fighting in New Britain.
- Boris Selverstoff, a Russian from Archangel, came to Australia as a seaman in 1914.
- He enlisted in the AIF in Adelaide, but was discharged a few months later as medically unfit.
- After the war he lived in the NSW outback, working as a labourer.
- Paul Koraysh from Orenburg came to Australia in 1908 from Japan and worked in Newcastle and Sydney as a labourer.
- He served with the 47th Battalion on the Western Front until he got sick with hernia and was returned to Australia as medically unfit in 1917.
- After the war he moved to North Queensland, working as a cane cutter and later as a waterside worker in Brisbane.
- William Koslovsky from Kovno (Kaunas) Province in Lithuania came to Australia in 1912 via the Russian Far East. He worked in Queensland on railway construction and as a copper labourer.
- He enlisted in the AIF in Rockhampton, but was discharged nine months later as medically unfit.
- He disappears from Australian records after the war.
November 14, 2015
- Frederick Skudrin, a seaman from Riga, came to Australia in October 1915 and enlisted a few weeks later.
- Enlisting in the AIF he served in the artillery and machine gun units on the Western Front. During the March 1917 advance he was wounded in the hand, but recovering, continued his service on the Western Front.
- While in England he married an English girl, Amy Daisy White, who joined him in Australia; later on they separated. Frederick lived in Port Stephens working as a labourer. During WWII he enlisted in the AIF and served in garrison battalions.
- George Makaroff, a Russian ship’s stoker from Libava (Liepaja) in Latvia, came to Australia in 1913. For several months he worked as a bridge carpenter in Queensland and then enlisted in the AIF.
- He served with the 42nd Battalion on the Western Front until he was returned to Australia in April 1918 as medically unfit.
- After the war he worked as a railway employee and fettler in the Roma district and Rockhempton.
- William Zavodtchikoff came from a Jewish family that moved to Tomsk in Siberia. He arrived in Darwin in the Northern Territory in 1914 and worked there at a meatworks. When he got sick with malaria he moved to Queensland, where he enlisted in the AIF in Townsville.
- After six moths service he was discharged for being under age. He moved to Sydney where he was detained as a prisoner of war, but the interdiction of the Russian consul helped him to get released. After that he made one more attempt to enlist in Sydney, but was discharged as medically unfit.
- After the war he lived in Melbourne and in Sydney, working as a general dealer.
Axel Hjalmar Holmstrom
- Axel Hjalmar Holmstrom, a Finnish seaman from Somero, came to Newcatle in 1913. He worked on railway construction and then enlisted in the AIF.
- He arrived at the Western Front with the 19th Battalion and was wounded in August 1916 in the hand at the battle for Mouquet Farm. Recovering, he returned to the trenches and was transferred to the artillery detachment, but in May 1917 he was wounded for the second time at Bullecourt; this time he was wounded in the leg and back, but he recovered and served to the very end of the war.
- After the war he continued working as a seaman and probably left Australia.
- Charles Petersen, a Finn from Abo (Turku), most likely came to Australia as a seaman. By the time of enlistment he lived in Bankstown, working as a labourer.
- He served with the 19th Battalion on the Western Front, being wounded in September 1916, a few weeks after arrival. Recovering in England, he returned to the front and was killed in January 1918 at Le Touquet whilst on outpost duty during an attempted raid by the enemy on the Australian front line.
- His family in Finland has never been found.
Adolf Ignatieff Mishkinis
- Adolf Ignatieff Mishkinis from Novoaleksandrovsk (Zarasai) in Lithuania came to Melbourne in September 1915 as a seaman and enlisted a few weeks afterwards.
- He arrived with the 46th Battalion on the Western Front and in August 1916, soon after arrival, was wounded in the back and thorax at the battle for Mouquet Farm. Returning to the trenches, he was wounded for the second time in October 1917 in Passchendaele. The damage was severe, with a broken skull, shrapnel wounds to his left foot, arm and back. He survived many operations in England and was repatriated to Australia.
- After the war he married an Australian girl, May Curtayne, and had two sons. After separation with his wife he raised the boys in Ballarat, working as an engineer. His sons served in the AIF during WWII, and Adolf lived long enough to tell them about his childhood in Lithuania.
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