"Brest theme" in the discussions of the Crimean Bolsheviks
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“Brest theme” in the discussions of the Crimean Bolsheviks

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On February 9 (January 27), 1918, a peace treaty was signed between the Ukrainian People’s Republic and the countries of the Quaternary Union (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey). After that, the Central Rada appealed to Germany and Austria-Hungary to expel Russian troops from the territory of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, which were occupying Ukraine at the time.

"Brest theme" in the discussions of the Crimean BolsheviksIt is necessary to outline another important aspect that has emerged in the new environment. If in 1917 the Crimean problem was solved by political forces that appeared and acted in the former empire, the Provisional Government, the Ukrainian Central Rada (since November – the Ukrainian People’s Republic), various socio-political forces in the Crimea, the national movement of the Crimean Tatars, Bolshevik Soviet People’s Commissar), then in 1918 it became interstate. States such as Russia, Ukraine, the Ottoman Empire, and Germany began to argue in the international arena over the strategic affiliation of the peninsula. When the influence of the last two states on the events in Crimea from the end of 1918 (after their defeat in the First World War) virtually disappeared, a new important factor appeared – the Entente states, which helped the White Guard forces.Each side had its own understanding of what the future of Crimea should be. It is clear that the Crimean Tatars, whose revolutionary movement grew rapidly during 1917, becoming a remarkable force, were also assessed differently by each of the interested parties. The Bolsheviks were the first to face the problem of the Crimean Tatars, and they seized power at the end of January 1918.

During the struggle for power, the Bolsheviks formed two emergency authorities in the Crimea – Sevastopol and Simferopol Revolutionary Committees, on whose initiative on February 10-12, 1918 in Sevastopol held a conference of military-revolutionary committees, which seized power with the help of sailors. Already in the course of its work, the conference proclaimed itself an extraordinary congress of the councils of workers ‘, soldiers’ deputies, and military-revolutionary committees of the Tavriya province.

"Brest theme" in the discussions of the Crimean BolsheviksThe participants of this congress decided to dissolve the Council of People’s Representatives and the Tatar Kurultai as “not expressing the will of the Crimean people” and to abolish all city dumas and zemstvos, creating appropriate Soviet authorities instead. The resolution of the congress emphasized: “The Provincial Executive Committee must work in contact with the Council of People’s Commissars and the Central Executive Committee of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic .” It was decided to convene a congress of councils of the Tavriya province.

On March 3, 1918, Soviet Russia signed the Brest Peace Treaty with the countries of the Quaternary Union. According to the agreement, the Crimean peninsula was recognized as an integral part of the RSFSR. He was to remain out of hostilities. Meanwhile, German troops, in the vanguard of which were moving units of the Army of the UPR, in March began to move towards the Crimea. In this situation, the People’s Commissar considered it appropriate to separate Crimea from the RSFSR and declare it an independent republic.

Russia’s signing of the terms of the Brest Treaty provoked a mixed reaction in Crimea. A sharp debate on this issue unfolded among the Crimean Bolsheviks: the “left communists” together with the left SRs strongly disagreed with the signing of a “shameful peace with the Germans.” Dissatisfaction was manifested during the Third Provincial Conference of the RSDLP (B), which took place on March 2-5, 1918 in Simferopol. The Evpatoria delegation spoke extremely strongly against the agreement.

"Brest theme" in the discussions of the Crimean BolsheviksThe fiercest disputes over the Brest Peace took place during the founding congress of the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, Peasants’, Workers’ and Settlers’ Deputies, and the Land and Military Revolutionary Committees of the Tavriya Province, which took place on March 7-10, 1918 in Simferopol. The congress was attended by about 700 delegates, including 183 Bolsheviks, 90 Left Socialist Revolutionaries, 120 delegates each from Tatars and peasants, and 29 non-partisans. M. Pakhomov (Bolshevik) was elected chairman, D. Skrypnyk (Bolshevik) and D. Marinov (left SR) were elected secretaries. The issue of signing the Brest Peace Treaty was one of the main ones. I. Firdevs later mentioned: “At the time of convening this congress of councils, this issue was before us in all its concrete form, and it appeared to us not as a diplomatic document – recognition or non-recognition, but as a moment of saving Crimea as a Soviet territory… We faced the question – how to preserve Crimea as a territory beyond Moscow at the time when we were separated from Ukraine… »

The discussion of the “Brest topic” continued throughout the work of the congress. How diametrically opposed the views of the delegates were can be seen, in particular, from the speeches of the representative of the Bolshevik faction J. Miller and the faction of the Left Socialist Revolutionaries – V. Gogoloshvili.

The first, defending the position of the RSFSR government, categorically insisted: “The majority of RNAs are Bolsheviks who are geniuses whom the world has never seen before, especially V. Lenin and L. Trotsky. They know that the agreement is just a piece of paper that doesn’t matter to them, but signing it will give us the opportunity to survive in this moment, to organize the necessary forces, which do not exist now . ” V. Gogoloshvili categorically denied: “ Now we know that a shameful peace has been signed, we are told that it is a fictitious signature, but in such a world issue there should be no fictitious signatures, democracy should not say so. We, the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, are protesting against our signature… “.

On March 7, the delegates passed a resolution that effectively condemned the signing of the Brest Peace Treaty by Bolshevik leaders. “The Congress of Soviets of Workers’, Peasants’ and Soldiers’ Deputies believes that the disgraceful peace was imposed by German predators and imperialists on the young Soviet republic, which was forced to sign it under the pressure of a bayonet.”

Bolshevik Ismail Firdevs (Kerimjanov)
Bolshevik Ismail Firdevs (Kerimjanov)

On March 10, the chairman of the congress, M. Pakhomov, proposed to make two amendments to the text of the resolution, which radically changed the content of the document. I. Firdevs also spoke, announcing the decision of the Tatars to vote together with the Bolshevik faction. As a result of the new vote, a new version of the resolution was adopted, which approved the Brest Peace, which the Bolsheviks needed.On March 8, 9, and 10, the Bolshevik part of the congress delegates returned again and again to discuss the question of the Brest peace, seeking a revision of the resolution already adopted. In the end, the Bolsheviks decided to further discuss the painful issue with the factions. The ground was prepared for a change in the resolution. A special role in this was played by I. Firdevs, a Bolshevik, a Tatar by ethnic origin, who managed to persuade the Tatar part of the delegates to vote on March 10 in the right channel for the “right” communists. «Our forces with the Left Socialist Revolutionaries were about half and half, he later recalled, or perhaps 40%. I must say that in the number of these deputies there were 120 Tatars out of 700 people. We managed to snatch these 120 Tatars from the hands of the left SRs. It was a big jackpot that gave an advantage in our direction. We have the ratio of forces at this congress as follows: 550 to 150. ”

Sultan Galiev and Ismail Firdevs
Sultan Galiev and Ismail Firdevs

Despite invaluable assistance in obtaining a “correct” vote, none of the deputies of the Constituent Congress of Soviets from the Tatars was elected to the CEC (I. Firdevs, although a Tatar, spoke at the congress as a representative of the Bolshevik Party and was elected on the list of this party ). This clearly showed the attitude of the Bolsheviks to the Tatar national movement and in general to the prospects of resolving the national question in the Crimea. Despite the presence of dozens of Crimean Tatars at the congress, the national issue was not included in the agenda at all. During one of the meetings, a representative of the Crimean Tatars made a request to give them, ie the Tatars, one or two seats in the CEC (recall that the Tatars were at the congress of 120 people – ie almost a quarter of all delegates). This requirement was motivated by the fact that the Tatars make up a large percentage of the population and if they are not given a place,then they will be offended, because “how can we support a government where there is no representative of ours? We can sympathize with her only when we are there ourselves . ” To this demand, Chairman M. Pakhomov replied: ” If you accept the idea, then go to the party and then you will be elected, if you do not want to go there, we will not give you a place. There can be no place for the national question. Everyone is equal here . ” Two Tatars, who were included in the government – I. Firdevs and S. Idrisov, also entered there as members of the Bolshevik Party, and not as members of a national minority. That is, these actions finally pushed the Tatars away from the Bolsheviks and their government.The Congress decided to increase the number of CEC members from 9 to 20, giving 12 seats to the Bolsheviks and 8 to the Left SRs. Then M. Pakhomov, J. Miller, Finogenov, Bilotserkovets, Katz, D. Skrypnyk, S. Novoselsky, J. Tarvatsky, Y. Gaven, I. Firdevs, and O. Kolyadenko were elected to the CEC of the Soviets of the Tavriya Province from the Bolshevik faction. Констанцев; from the faction of the Left Socialist Revolutionaries – Bykov, Marinov, I. Semenov, Korobtsov, Korsun, S. Akimochkin, Burlaka, V. Gogoloshvili.

"Brest theme" in the discussions of the Crimean BolsheviksIn general, during the first period of Bolshevik rule on the peninsula, the new government did almost nothing to attract the Tatar population. All official texts – orders, directives, etc. the Bolsheviks published in a Russian language incomprehensible to most Crimean Tatars. ” Soviet power in the Crimea from the moment of its emergence until the moment of its death under German pressure ,” Bolshevik V. Yelagin, one of the participants in the revolutionary events in the Crimea, later admitted, ” remained Russian, speaking a language foreign to the Tatars.” The Crimean Bolsheviks in 1918 failed to resolve the national question . ”

I. Firdevs also wrote about this in his memoirs: “ Work among national minorities was almost completely absent. There were very few Bolsheviks from national minorities: in almost the whole of Crimea there was only one Tatar in the whole organization, who wrote these lines . ” ” In 1918, apart from the Bolsheviks, the only real force that was organized and politically able to group around itself was the national Tatar movement. “All our attempts during 1918 to seize this national movement and direct it to the riverbed of Soviet power failed .”

"Brest theme" in the discussions of the Crimean BolsheviksAnother witness to the events, the Bolshevik T. Boyadzhiev, openly admitted: ” During the 3-month existence of the first Soviet government in the Crimea, we did not have a single Tatar in the organization of socialist youth .” These words were repeated by the representative of the center A. Kanaki. After touring some cities Tauride province memorandum he stated: ” The people can see the discontent friends (Bolsheviks – Ed.) Abuse of power, do not follow the decrees make unauthorized searches. This intensifies the action of criminal elements, which often operate under the guise of the Bolsheviks . ” Kanaki stressed that “a surge of separatist sentiments can be traced among Crimean Tatars, as they expect support from Turkey.”

We can safely say that for the Bolsheviks, Crimea and its inhabitants were perceived only as a map that could be used during the march to the ultimate goal – the world revolution. The Bolsheviks remained alien to the Crimean Tatar population. They knew neither their language nor their psychology and worldview, way of life, religion, interests, customs. The reasons that led to the formation and growth of national dignity among the Tatar population and self-determination as the driving force of the revolutionary process remained equally mysterious to the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks, who almost all came to the Crimea on the eve of the October coup, perceived the Crimean Tatars only as a local flavor, not a force that could play a huge role in the events that were to take place. No one, except Yu. Gaven, even tried to study, to understand who are the Crimean Tatars,to understand the driving forces that prompted them to action, to make a decision.

Therefore, it was not surprising that the Crimean Tatars ignored all the Bolshevik authorities. Even after the death of the Soviet Republic of Tavrida, the Tatar officer M. Hayretdinov stated: “The Bolsheviks were also well aware that their decrees were of no particular importance to the Tatars and were not implemented. In addition, despite the stubborn demands of the military commissars, no Tatar enlisted in the Red Army, and during the mobilization of specialists no Tatar went to serve. All these circumstances gave the Bolsheviks the opportunity to feel that the Tatars were not only not sympathetic, but even hostile .

"Brest theme" in the discussions of the Crimean BolsheviksThe Crimean peasant Yakub Vaap Fetiev said the same: “ In 1918, the Crimean population in Crimea had no idea about the liberation movement, which was called the Bolshevik movement, and especially among the Tatars. “The word ‘Bolshevik’ was foreign to many, even literate peasants .” Another Tatar, Osman Zeki, wrote: “The Soviets did not accept representatives of the All-Russian Muslim Congress into the union of workers’ deputies. These councils did not digest the rise of national feelings. Bolshevik anarchy is the result of their deception of the masses . 

Later, the researcher M. Bunegin openly admitted that in the eyes of even a sufficiently educated part of the Tatars, what was happening in the Crimea at that time looked like “the return of Russians to power, violence perpetrated by Russian troops against the national (Tatar) movement. who woke up .

It seemed that the Bolsheviks were purposefully and steadily delving deeper and deeper into the chasm between the Soviet government and the Tatars. The Tatars of the villages, who for many centuries wanted to get land for their own economy, did not receive anything from the new government. By declaring the entire land of the peninsula a “national property,” the Bolsheviks did nothing to actually endow those who needed it most with the same “property.” Everything remained at the level of declarations. This was not surprising. After all, the new government has been solving more “important and large-scale tasks” throughout its existence. Moreover, almost all Crimean Bolsheviks (as, of course, the Bolsheviks in the center of the country) treated the local peasantry with hostility, assessing them as “unconscious,” “bourgeois class.”

According to M. Bunegin, “ peasants who dreamed of land for centuries did not receive anything from the Bolsheviks, the principles of nationalization were incomprehensible to the peasants, especially at a time when the Bolsheviks did not allow the distribution of land, using rather strict means to harvest bread in the countryside. ». The Bolsheviks began to demand that Tatars living in the villages join agricultural cooperatives organized by the new government, but the Tatars flatly refused to do so. The peasants protested against the “nationalization” of their property, cattle, and stock, actively opposed the forcible mobilization of the Red Guards, and fled en masse to the mountains, where they hid from Bolshevik repression.

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Tetiana Bikova

Candidate of Historical Sciences, Scientist of the Institute of History of Ukraine of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

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