Unique personal family archive of the Orlin family, hereditary noblemen from the Ryazan region (about 120 miles southeast of Moscow). Three pre-WW 1 file folders contain over three dozen different original documents chronicling the exceptional heroism on land and sea of a Russian father and his two sons. The era covered reaches from time of the Russo-Turkish War (1877-78) through World War One to the dark days of the Russian Civil War and its aftermath.
The collection tells the stories of three highly decorated Russian officers through their service records, battle reports, passports, award documents (Order of St. Stanislaus, 1812 Centenary Medal), etc., etc.
The condition of the documents ranges from very good to excellent. Each one is complete and completely legible. Since some were never intended to be used for more than a few days or weeks during the First World War or the Russian Civil War, their survival almost a hundred years later is truly remarkable!
The first grouping concerns the father, Aleksei Vasil'evich Orlin, (born 1850, died before 1899), who was a company commander in the 70th Ryazhskiy (Ryazhsk) Infantry Regiment during and after the Russo-Turkish War. He fought with such distinction in that war that he was awarded the Order of St. Anne 3rd cl., the Order of St. Stanislaus 2nd cl., the Order of St. Stanislaus 3rd cl. with swords and bow, and the Medal for the Russo-Turkish War in light bronze.
The second grouping concerns the youngest son, Colonel Vladimir Alekseevich Orlin, (born 1890), a First World War Artillery Officer. His combat bravery resulted in his being awarded the Orders of St. Anne 2nd cl. and 3rd cl. and St. Stanislaus 2nd and 3rd cl. (all four with swords and on bows, indicating combat valor awards). He was also awarded an Order of St. Anne 4th class honor sword in recognition of his bravery. Vladimir served as an artillery officer through World War One. He finally fought in the famous battle for Tsaritsyn - the Civil War battle that saw a large White Army under General Vrangel facing the Bolshevik forces under the personal leadership of Josef Stalin (christened "Red Verdun" by the Bolsheviks before it finally fell, Tsaritsyn would later be renamed Stalingrad).
The third and largest group of documents pertains to Aleksei's oldest son, Boris Alekseevich Orlin (born 1889, died 1946), who became a highly decorated submarine commander during WW 1. He was awarded a St. George Honor Weapon for Bravery, the Order of St. Vladimir 4th cl. with swords and bow, the Order of St. Anne 3rd cl. with swords and bow, the Order of St. Stanislaus 3rd cl. with swords and bow, and the badge of the Order of St. Anne 4th cl. "for bravery" ( which would have been an honor weapon with the St. Anne insignia attached).
The sheer range of Boris Orlin's original personal paperwork included here is incredible. It begins with his actual birth and baptismal certificate (hand-written on stationary of the Chaplain of 70th Infantry Regiment and hand-signed by the Orthodox priest who performed the baptism) and concludes with a passport he used as an exile after the Civil War!
Included is a complete account of the 1917 combat action against an enemy vessel that resulted in his being awarded a St. George Honor Weapon for bravery. His submarine rammed a Turkish vessel and became stuck in the process. Even though his sub came under intensive enemy small arms fire from the shore, he coolly went to the bow to examine the situation. Basically the ship he rammed was starting to sink but the prow of his Russian sub was struck in its hull! Orlin was soon wounded but stayed above deck as his crew members continued to work on finding a solution that would save their sub. Only under the direct orders of his commanding officer did he finally go below deck to receive medical aid. Fortunately, the crew members enlarged the hole in the side of the Turkish ship sufficiently to enable their submarine to break free.
Among the other interesting documents is a passport issued by the "Russian Consulate General in New York" on 26 May 1924. The document allowed Boris Orlin to travel from the United States to Belgium and to return. Since it would be another decade before the US government would recognize the USSR, this passport is fascinating proof that a sort of international Gentlemen's Agreement existed in the 1920's to allow "stateless" Russian émigrés to travel internationally even though their country had officially ceased to exist! What is truly remarkable is that Orlin's photograph is still attached! How many times have we seen interesting letters and certificates but never known what the original owner looked like? Here, even though separated from us by a gulf of eighty years, a genuine Russian naval hero can be seen looking back at us.
All of the Orlin family papers are here in three large 9" X 14 3/8" file folders. Boris Orlin himself wrote brief notations in pencil on the folder covers: "My Father", "My Personal Papers', and "Papers Concerning Me".
Before reading our descriptions of the documents, we want to point out a fact that may not be immediately obvious because of the sheer volume of information: while he served on destroyers, cruisers, yachts, and minelayers, Boris Orlin was unique in that he served on or commanded six different submarines of the Imperial Russian Navy: "Karp", "Sudak", "Kit", "Narval", "Pelikan", and "Skat". The submarines ranged from the very earliest (c1904) "Kasatka" class to the later and improved "Narval" class (c. 1911). It is worth noting that while the record is not absolutely clear, it is reasonable to believe that there were probably never more than forty to fifty functioning submarines in the Imperial Russian fleet at any one time during WW 1.
1. Service record of deceased Captain Aleksey Vasil'evich Orlin, formerly a company commander of the 70th Ryazhskiy (Ryazhsk) Infantry Regiment. An official duplicate copy compiled on 31 March 1899 which shows that Capt. Orlin served in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 and took part in numerous actions in Romania and Bulgaria. He was awarded with the Order of St. Anne 3rd cl., the Order of St. Stanislaus 2nd cl., the Order of St. Stanislaus 3rd cl. with swords and bow, and the Medal for Russo-Turkish War in light bronze.
2. Complete service record of Captain Aleksey Vasil'evich Orlin, which includes detailed description of combat actions against the Turks in which he took part with his regiment. Compiled on 10 March 1893, hand-signed by commander of the 70th Ryazhskiy Infantry Regiment, and bound by cord secured with intact wax seal of the regiment.
3. Service record of Colonel Vladimir Alekseevich Orlin. During WW1 he was awarded with the Orders of St. Anne 2nd cl. and 3rd cl. and St. Stanislaus 2nd and 3rd cl. (all four with swords and bows indicating combat awards), the Order of St. Anne 4th cl. for bravery (which was an honor sword). He was commissioned an officer in 1906 after graduating from the Suvorov Cadet School in Warsaw. He served in horse-drawn artillery prior to WW1 and in 1913 completed full study course at the Mikhailovskaya Artillery Academy in Petrograd. In June 1914, he was given a two month sick leave but in July was recalled to duty with the 12th Horse Artillery Battery, 6th Horse Artillery Squadron due to the general mobilization. Orlin distinguished himself in action on 13 August 1914 as junior officer of an artillery battery and was awarded with a St. Anne 4th cl. honor weapon. He was promoted to Captain on 5 February 1917 (just before the October Revolution). He served with his battery until the unit was dissolved on 31 January 1918. In September, 1918, he volunteered for duty in the White Army as a private with the Reserve Cavalry Regiment. On 5 January 1918, he was appointed to command a heavy artillery battery of an armored train with the Don Cossack Army. In June, 1919, he was promoted to Colonel for distinction in battle against the Bolsheviks on 1 April 1919 near Stanitsa (town) of Likhaya. On 14 May 1919, he was wounded in the chest by bullet "due to careless handling of a weapon". By a decree of the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Orlin's battery was attached to the Armed Forces of the South of Russia. With it he took part in numerous actions against the Bolsheviks throughout 1919 including the epic battle for Tsaritsyn (later known as Stalingrad). The exact dates and locations of the battles he participated in are listed in meticulous detail.
4. Birth and baptismal certificate of Boris Orlin, son of Aleksey and Sofiya, born on 18 February 1889 and baptized on 28 March 1889. Hand-written on stationary of the Chaplain of the 70th Infantry Regiment, shows 2 ink stamps, 3 revenue stamps (that paid for clerical expenses) and hand-signed by the Orthodox priest who performed the baptism and also by the unit clerk.
5. Inoculation certificate showing that Boris Orlin has received a shot of measles vaccine, with Warsaw wax seal. Interestingly, the date on this document is in both old and new style, 14 September and 26 September respectively, probably in recognition of the local, predominantly Catholic, Polish calendar tradition.
6. Mobilization note issued on 25 May 1905 by a Warsaw police department directing Boris Orlin to report for active duty.
7. Award certificate for the Montenegro Gold Medal for Zeal to Boris Orlin, Gardemarin (Naval Cadet) of the armored cruiser Bogatyr. Dated 15 August 1910 and hand-signed by the Montenegrin Minister of Foreign Affairs. The award may have been in recognition of the assistance given by the sailors of the Russian naval squadron (which included the Bogatyr) to victims of the earthquake that devastated Messina in December, 1908. A further historical note: the Bogatyr took part in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905-06. It distinguished itself in WW1 in action against the German light cruiser Magdeburg which had ran aground near the entrance to the Gulf of Finland. The Bogatyr, with the assistance of another Russian cruiser, chased away the approaching German vessels attempting a rescue and captured all the survivors the Magdeburg's crew. The Russian sailors then boarded the stricken enemy ship and retrieved two of the Magdeburg's codebooks and the cipher key which later proved invaluable to the Allies in breaking the German naval code.
8. Certificate for Medal for 100th Anniversary of the Patriotic War of 1812, issued on 4 August 1913 to Michman (Chief Warrant Officer) Boris Orlin. Hand-signed by Commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Admiral Andrei Ebergard and by his chief of staff Rear Admiral Nianson. (A historical note: in 1916, Admiral Ebergard was replaced as commander of Black Sea Fleet by the tragically famous Admiral Kolchak, later briefly the Supreme Leader of Russia during the Civil War.)
9. Letter to Orlin from the Sr. Lieut. of the yacht Almaz asking him to send his photograph with name and dates of his service aboard the yacht. Dated 3 January 1914. The reason for the request was that Queen of Greece Olga Konstantinovna (Grand Duchess, granddaughter of Nicholas I who had married the King of Greece Georg I and in late 1920 was briefly the regent of Greece) wished to present the crew of the yacht with large silver photo album containing a photo of each officer who had ever served on it. Printed document with hand-written entries. Historical note: the Almaz, although having the official title of a "cruiser yacht", was a cruiser in name only, having light armament of 3" guns. Nevertheless, it took part in the Russo-Japanese War and in WWI (in the latter conflict it attacked Turkish commercial shipping in the Black Sea).
10. Award certificate for Order of St. Anne 3rd cl. issued on 17 April 1915 to Lieutenant Boris Orlin. Signed by the executive secretary of the Chancellery of Russian Orders.
11. Third version of Orlin's service record as of 1 May 1916 with additional entries covering the period through 1 May 1918.
12. Note of Treatment for Wound ("Bandage Certificate"), official archival copy. Issued on 7 December 1916 by the Submarine Brigade, Black Sea Fleet. Shows that Lieut. Boris Orlin was wounded in action near the Anatolian coast. He was hit in the upper shoulder by an enemy explosive bullet fired from the shore which left 7 holes. Hand-signed by commander of the Submarine Kit (Russian for "Whale") and shows the stamp of the submarine.
13. Original typed report of the combat voyage of the submarine 2nd class Kit from 27 November to 7 December 1916, compiled by its commander, with hand-written corrections and notes apparently by the commander himself. Incredible minute by minute account of combat patrol near Bosporus including weather conditions, depth of dives, urgent repairs, etc. Contains details of the November 30 surface attack on a Turkish steamer near the town of Kefken. At noon, the sub spotted the steamer towing five large sailboats very close to the shore and immediately rushed to intercept. In 15 minutes, the steamer increased speed and the sub opened fire from its 76 mm deck gun. The steamer moved closer to the shoreline and dropped anchor while the sub came under rifle and small caliber cannon fire from a nearby Turkish observation post. Lt. Orlin continued to fire on the steamer with the forward gun while Michman Markov manning the stern gun returned fire at the observation post. Hit with 3 shells fired by Orlin, the steamer nevertheless failed to ignite; at which point the forward gun jammed. In the meantime, the situation grew dangerous as Turkish rifle fire from shore had become very precise and intensive. Finally, Michman Markov managed to suppress the observation post with several direct hits. Using the temporary lull, the skipper made the decision to ram the steamer and hit it on the starboard side. The resulting hole had the desired effect and the Turkish vessel started to sink. Unfortunately, the upper edge of the hole caught the submarine's bow; despite all efforts, the sub failed to disengage. The Turkish soldiers on the shore had grown in numbers and their rifle fire made many holes in the conning tower. Not willing to risk the lives of the crew, the skipper sent all men below deck while the boatswain with two sailors was sent to the bow with tools to attempt widening the whole on the Turkish vessel so that the sub could escape. The three men worked under fire for 15 minutes but the work was taking too long because of the rising water level and the thick sides of the steamer. At that point the captain gave order to Lt. Orlin to take all necessary measures for releasing the bow. Orlin only ran a few steps before being hit with a bullet in the right arm. The captain ordered him to go below to be bandaged while another officer was ordered to flood the bow ballast tanks while blowing the stern tanks. That finally allowed the sub to escape. The steamer sank in less than an hour taking with it two of the sailboats tied to it (in the meantime, the third kept burning after being hit by one of the sub's shells). The sub's crew quickly repaired the damage and continued the patrol in which it later sank several large fishing boats.
14. Navigational chart overlays of the combat voyage above. When new, these sheets of a glassine-like paper would have been virtually transperant and Orlin (or his commanding officer - Orlin was apparently the executive officer on this mission) would have placed them over an official Russian Imperial Navy chart of the area and traced out the Kit's entire voyage upon it. (Kefken, the town closest to Orlin's naval action, is located on coast the Black Sea almost due east of Istanbul.)
15. Note certifying the identity and position of Lt. Boris Orlin, typed on the stationary of Submarine Narval. Dated 11 June 1917; hand-signed by the skipper of the Narval, Sr. Lieut. D. Kochetov, and shows stamp of the submarine.
16. Complete service record of Lt. Boris Orlin compiled on 1 May 1918. Born in 1889, Orlin studied at the Warsaw Suvorov Cadet School and Naval Cadet School. He has been awarded with St. George Honor Weapon, Order of St. Vladimir 4th cl. with swords and bow; Order of St. Anne 3rd cl. with swords and bow; Order of St. Stanislaus 3rd cl. with swords and bow and badge of the Order of St. Anne "for bravery" (an honor weapon). In 1904 he joined the Cadet Corps and on 6 November 1906, took military oath. In December 1909 commissioned Naval Junker; in April 1910 promoted to Gardemarin and appointed to Baltic Flotskiy Ekipazh (naval contingent on shore). In September 1910 awarded with Montenegrin Gold Medal for Zeal and Bronze jubilee medal.
In December 1910, passed exams and was promoted to Mitchman (Warrant Officer, the lowest navy officer rank), in the same month transferred to Black Sea Fleet and appointed to destroyer Smetlivyi. In January 1912 transferred to the yacht Almaz, in March 1912 reassigned back to the Smetlivyi. In August 1912, he was temporarily transferred to the crew of a floating dock (Blokshiv #5) and in January 1913, to the minelayer Dunai.. In April 1913 transferred to transport ship Berezan'. In June 1913 reassigned to the submarine Karp, Black Sea Submarine Squadron. During June 1913 - July 1914 received training with the officer classes at the Submarine Training Detachment. In July 1914 appointed to minelayer Tsesarevich Georgiy, then temporarily transferred to the minelayer Velikiy Knyaz Aleksey for the period of the latter's combat sortie. For "excellent work during the execution of a dangerous mission" awarded with St. Stanislaus 3rd cl. on 18 November 1914 (the ship took part in installing minefields near the Turkish shores and came under fire from the German battle cruiser Goeben near Sevastopol). In December 1914 promoted to Lieutenant and appointed commander of the Velikiy Knyaz Aleksey. Later that month transferred to submarine Sudak and on 31 December 1914 awarded with Order of St. Anne 3rd cl. with swords and bow. In February 1915 awarded with Medal for 200th Anniversary of the Victory at Gangut in light bronze. In April 1915 transferred to the submarine Kit as senior officer. In December 1915 appointed temporary commander of the submarine. On 2 July 1916 awarded with Order of St. Anne 4th cl. weapon with inscription "for bravery" for "outstanding valor, self-confidence and efficiency shown in combat operations". On 23 September 1916, awarded with Order of St. Vladimir 4th cl. with swords and bow for showing the same qualities in action near Bosporus. In December 1916 convalescent upon returning from combat patrol after being wounded by an enemy explosive bullet. On 20 March 1917 awarded with a St. George Honor Weapon for action against an enemy steamer. His submarine rammed the enemy vessel and got stuck in the process. As the sub came under intensive enemy fire from the shore, Orlin coolly went to the bow to examine the situation. He was wounded but stayed above deck and continued to work on finding the solution; only under direct order of the commander did he leave the deck to receive medical aid. In March 1917 given the right to wear a wound badge for the War of 1914-1918.
In May 1917 appointed senior officer to the submarine Narval. In June 1917 appointed senior officer of the submarine Pelikan where he assumed duties of the commander. In October 1917 appointed commander of the submarine Skat.
17. Another version of Orlin's service record as of 1 May 1918, certified by signatures of two officers and the stamp of the HQ of the Black Sea Fleet Commander.
18. Complete and detailed description of all of Orlin's naval voyages and combat assignments.
19. Note certifying that Boris Orlin had pneumonia in February 1919 and was currently unfit for duty and was in need of rest. Issued on 8 April 1919 by physician Dr. M.M. Kostrov in Sevastopol. Has attached personal wax seal of Dr. Kostrov.
20. Note showing that Orlin was owed his salary as commander of the guard of the Submarine Kit for February and March 1919. Issued in the Port of Novorossiysk on 18 May 1919.
21. Letter from the Chief of Staff of the Black Sea Fleet addressed to commander of the minesweeper Aspaziya, dated 31 October 1919. The letter instructs the skipper to turn over control of the ship to Lt. Orlin to execute "urgent assignment by the Commander of the Navy". Shows stamp of the HQ of the Black Sea Fleet and hands-signed by the Chief of Staff of the Black Sea Fleet Kontr-Admiral (Rear Admiral) Bubnov.
22. Certificate confirming Orlin's identity, rank and position, filled-out on 15 November 1919 on the stationary of the Chief of Staff of the Navy of the Armed Forces of the South of Russia. Shows stamp of the HQ. Shows that Orlin served as Liaison with the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Hand-signed by 2 staff officers.
23. Order by the commandant of the port of Feodosiya instructing Orlin to assume position of the commandant of the schooner Mari-Antoinette. Dated 11 March 1920. Hand-signed by Vice-Admiral Skalovskiy. On the reverse of this note is permission stamp to leave the city of Batumi.
24. Official typed copy of the telegram of the Commandant of Feodosiya concerning the appointment of Orlin to the Mari-Antoinette and detailed instructions to him on his voyage to Batumi, coordination with the British and Orlin's immediate return to Sevastopol after his mission. The copy is certified by stamp and signature of a Naval HQ liaison officer to the Representative of the Supreme Commander in Batumi.
25. Official copy of a mandate (or a telegram) by the Chernushevich, Commandant of the port of Feodosiya, stating that all steamers, motorboats and sailboats [in the Crimea] are under his direct control. It also instructs the commandant of the Port of Sevastopol to give necessary support to Sr. Lieut. Orlin in commandeering the schooner Mari-Antoinette in Sevastopol. Shows stamp of the office of the Commandant of the port of Feodosiya and hand-signed by an office clerk.
26. Official copy of an instruction by Vice-Admiral Skalovskiy to the Captain of the schooner Mari-Antoinette advising him that Sr. Lieut. Orlin, who had been appointed as commandant of the schooner since 5 March 1920, will have full control of the vessel during the unloading of the British cargo in the port of Batumi. Typed on stationary of the Commandant of the Port of Feodosiya, dated 12 March 1920. The copy has hand-written certification by the senior officer of the port of Feodosiya and shows the stamp of the office of the Port Commandant.
27. Official report by the Commander of the Armored Trains of the Special Purpose Group of Troops requesting that Boris Orlin be transferred to serve under his command. Hand-signed by the commander (name is illegible) and dated July 1920. Historical note: the Special Purpose Group was created on 5 July 1920 by the decree of General Wrangel who at the late stage of the Civil War commanded the White Army holdouts in Crimea. The objectives of the operation included landing on the eastern shore of the Sea of Azov, triggering the uprising by the Kuban Cossacks and capturing of the Kuban and North Caucasus regions. The unsuccessful operation is often referred to as Ulagaevskiy Desant (landing operation) after the name of the task force commander Lt. Gen. Ulagay.
28. Official copy of a 20 May / 2 June 1920 decree of the Commander of the V.S.Yu.R. (Armed Forces of the South of Russia) discharging Sr. Lieut. Boris Orlin from military duty due to illness. Hand-written and signed by Col. Prikhiod'ko, Representative of the Supreme Command for the Transcaucasian Region, city of Batumi. Shows ink stamp of the office of the Representative of the Supreme Command.
29. Urgent note addressed to Sr. Lt. Orlin temporarily putting him in command of the Minesweeper 411 with instruction to keep the boat at anchor without unloading the unspecified cargo "until the arrival of the investigating committee" and specific order of the Commander of the Navy. Dated 9 June 1920, signed by the Chief of Staff Captain 1st cl. (name is illegible) and shows stamp of the Commander of Naval HQ.
30. Permit allowing Orlin to order a seal with lettering "Naval Agency Schooner Mari-Antoinette" and the coat of arms of the agency. Hand-signed by Vice-Admiral Skalovskiy.
31. Two Turkish documents, apparently from the time of the exile following the White Army's defeat in the Civil War and the evacuation of Crimea. Both have hand-written notes on the back, among them "tobacco", "canteen 'Barzha'" and "watch" or "clock" with what appears to be a price tag - perhaps the amount received from a pawn shop or paid to a repairman?)
32. A document from the Representative for Military Matters of the Russian Military High Command located in Paris, France, dated 17 August 1921, testifying to the fact that Naval Lieutenant Boris Orlin was known to them and traveled with the approval of the Russian Consul General in France.
33. Three 1921 safe conduct documents issued to "capitaine de Corvette Orlin" by the head Russian military representative in Tunis (who also had apparent responsibility for Russian refugees). Each written in French complete with official rubber stamp. Interestingly, one document indicates that Orlin was traveling with his family, "Madame ORLINE et deux enfants", i.e. Mrs. Orlin and two children!
34. Passport issued by the Russian Consulate General in New York City on 26 May 1924 to Boris Orlin to enable him to travel to Belgium and return to the United States. Four page document printed in Russian, French and English, stamped and signed by the Consul General (a Mr. P. Routsky) and bearing a sharp and clear photograph of Boris Orlin, still securely fastened to it by four large staples!
35. Graduation diploma / transcript of a private ladies school in St. Petersburg issued on 12 May 1912 to Tat'yana Offenberg. Shows that she had graduated with honors and received silver medal and that she took an additional pedagogical course which allows her to be certified as home teacher.
36. Transcript / diploma certifying that Tatyana Offenberg graduated the Shaffe School (private high school in Petrograd) with good or excellent grades and received silver medal for academic achievements. Interestingly, the document specifically mentioned that Tatyana was a daughter of a Major General.
Captain Orlin and his family eventually settled in New York City. His wife Tatiana became a milliner and he started a shop that produced handmade wooden toys. To this day, his granddaughter Nina recalls him as a distinguished gentleman wearing a fedora and smoking a cigarette in a holder. He died in 1946. His wife, two daughters and a son have also passed on.
Tatiana Orlin's maiden name was von Offenberg and it is interesting to note that her sister, Leda, married Baron Charles von Vrangel, a nephew of one of the most famous White Russian leaders during the Civil War, General Petr Vrangel. Tatiana's and Leda's father was General Vladimir von Offenberg, who was regarded as a personal favorite of the last Tsar, Nicholas II. (Included are new photocopies of three Orlin family photographs: the bearded officer in the portrait photograph is probably General von Offenberg, the family group photograph includes Boris and Tatiana with their children Nina and Cyril (the man standing behind the bench is Serge Offenberg, Tatiana's brother), and an early 1940s snapshot of Captain Orlin and his granddaughter, Marina, in NYC. Please note that the originals of these three photographs are remaining with Captain Orlin's descendants; these three images are the only copies in this entire grouping.)
Without a doubt, one of the most outstanding groupings of original documents belonging to an Imperial Russian Officer (and his heroic brother and father) that we have ever seen. There is enough documentation here that one could easily write an entire book - or at least a very exciting novel - about Boris Orlin and his family! A wonderful foundation for further research. A determined author could happily spend many hours tracking down and verifying the very few details that are missing.