Swift Success...

Whether the Boxers had a goal to liberate the country from the ruling dynasty is not clear: there were contradictory appeals to support the Manchu and to get rid of them. The government was not too consistent either: although Boxers had many sympathizers at the Imperial Court, hoping they stop the "slicing of the melon", up until Spring of 1900 the official policy was to protect the foreign missions and subdue the rising rebellion.

By June, however, the rebellion engulfed the countryside and spilled over into Beijing: Legation Quarter, filled with foreign refugees and their families, came under siege. A joint detachment, sent from Tiantsin to rescue them, was pushed back by Boxer fighters. The Empress heard this news as a call to action: she ordered her troops to support the Boxers, arrested and killed the highest officials suspected of having links with the aliens, and declared war on Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Italy, Austro-Hungary, Untied States, and Japan. Provincial authorities, which until that moment had been wavering and even tried to resist the Boxers, now took their side and in some places began the extermination of Christians.

Some say that the Boxers owe their swift success to the draught: allegedly, superstitious Chinese peasants, unable to start toiling their land and, facing sure famine, vented their outrage at the "foreign devils" whom they held responsible for the absence of rain. But this doesn't explain much: firstly, draught in China is not unheard of (and normally the government would have the situation under control by bringing in food supplies from other provinces), and, secondly, the draught of 1900 did not last long: by June the soil already had enough water, and many of the terrible atrocities of the Boxer Rebellion evolved under pouring rain[19].

The war spread northeast, where the construction of the East-Chinese Railroad by the Russians was under way. Forces of the Trans-Amur District came under assault from the Chinese troops and Boxer bands; city of Harbin was besieged and attacked. Casualties, both military and civilian, were very substantial.

"Tragic was the fate of the detachment of road builders which withdrew from Mukden under the command of lieutenant Valevsky and engineer Verhovsky: most of them were killed in battle. Verhovsky was taken prisoner and beheaded.

"...There is a small monument at the Piatnitskoe cemetery in Moscow. The caption says: Boris Alexeevich Verhovsky, 1873 - 1900. And another caption on the side: The head of Railroad Engineer B. A. Verhovsky, killed by Chinese Boxers in Lao-Yan, Manchuria, in July, 1900, was brought in Russia in 1901 and is resting under this stone."[20]

If this tombstone survived the Bolshevist years, it is probably the only monument of that war on the Russian soil.

[19] Brandt, p. 209
[20] G.V. Melihov. Manchuria Dalekaja i Blizkaja. Moskva, Nauka, 1991, p. 108-109, 122