Pavlo Dybenko, commander of the Zadniprovsk Rifle Division and Brigadier General Nestor Makhno, Katerynoslav, 1919
Pavlo Dybenko, commander of the Zadniprovsk Rifle Division and Brigadier General Nestor Makhno, Katerynoslav, 1919

Relations between military and civilian authorities


In the spring and summer of 1919, there was a force in the Crimea that was guided in its actions by its own considerations: the Red Army and its leader P. Dybenko. Due to his instructions, certain parishes suddenly separated from one county and joined another, even beyond the Crimean peninsula.

Pavlo Dybenko, commander of the Zadniprovsk Rifle Division and Brigadier General Nestor Makhno, Katerynoslav, 1919
Pavlo Dybenko, commander of the Zadniprovsk Rifle Division and Brigadier General Nestor Makhno, Katerynoslav, 1919

On June 6, H. Rakovsky sent a telegram to P. Dybenko, demanding: “ Your politician Zhigalkin interferes in matters that exceed his competence, allocating parishes from one county and joining them to another. After all, the borders of Crimea extend to the north only to the Perekop Isthmus . ”

The problems in the relations between H. Rakovsky, D. Ulyanov, and Y. Gaven with P. Dybenko were not limited to this. Friction between the military and Soviet authorities began immediately after the occupation of the peninsula by Red Army troops. Among the documents of the Crimean archives there are many facts that reflect these relations.

The first problems arose in late April. This can be seen from the resolution adopted at the meeting of the Simferopol Revolutionary Committee on April 28. Candidates for positions in the newly formed government of the Crimean Republic were discussed. The resolution stated: “Dybenko is joining the government with the appointment of his People’s Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs. Take a subscription from him on unquestioning obedience to the instructions of both the general military command and the instructions sent by the Central Committee. ”

From the newspaper "Bolshevik", May 14, 1919. Photo -
From the newspaper “Bolshevik”, May 14, 1919. Photo –

Then – more. On May 6, in a report to the Central Committee of the RCP (B) and the Central Committee of the CP (B) U, K. Voroshilov wrote about how Dybenkivka soldiers “mastered” the peninsula. He emphasized: “ Military property is being dismantled haphazardly. One Dybenko took and took away 27,000 Russian rifles left by volunteers, without any consent from the local government. The Levin army, appointed by Dybenko Kahn’s political committee, intervenes in the affairs of the Revolutionary Committee, requisitioning Turkish feluccas with silk and wine. The military authorities do not want to obey the local authorities, and the military communists do not register with local party organizations. There are constant frictions with the Cheka on issues of subordination . ”

H. Rakovsky tried to quell the discontent and on May 9 sent the following telegram to Dybenko: “ As a member of the government, you must be the first to be interested in raising the authority of the Soviet government. Voroshilov reports that Kahn intervened in the affairs of the Revolutionary Committee, requisitioned feluccas with silk and wine. Put an end to these ugliness in the end . ” However, nothing has changed.

On May 27, Yu. Gaven wrote to the Central Committee of the RCP (B) that “a strong influence of Grigoriev and Makhnovism” was felt among Dybenko’s army. However, he expressed confidence that the central government would take steps to ensure that “Dybenko’s insurgent army was eventually transformed into a regular one.”

Postcards, 1919
Postcards, 1919

In general, relations between military and party figures at that time were not easy. Each of these two forces considered itself the main one. Because of this, throughout the existence of the republic there were many conflicts. This is evidenced, for example, by the report of the NKVD inspector, who during May-June 1919 inspected the condition of party organizations. In a report on the situation in Karasubazar, he said: ” At eight o’clock the general meeting of the Communists opened, at which I made a report on the political moment. The comrades listened very carefully and showed great interest in the report. The meeting was attended by a military commander and a military leader, who did not like at all some of my statements about the arbitrariness of the military.They were particularly struck by the fact that the party was able to remove any communist, even though he was a military commander. These citizens thought the exact opposite . ”

On June 1, Chornousov, an instructor at the Central Committee of the RCP (B), sent a report to Moscow, in which he also described the state of affairs on the peninsula. He noted: “The Crimean organization has ties to Dybenko and other gangster groups. There are no party workers in the headquarters or in the military units stationed here. Crimea has not got rid of looting and pogroms at all. Thus, in the Sevastopol Revolutionary Committee, the workers announced the removal of all duties, because Comrade. Dybenko stated: “You don’t even dream of creating a soviet economy, because in Katerynoslav we had everything before its creation, and then – nothing.” Comrade Dybenko, despite numerous statements, does nothing. Irresponsible shootings are flourishing. There were cases when even political workers were shot. It is necessary to strengthen the supervision of comrade. Dibenkom. All NK under the pressure of Dybenko and Grigoriev’s speech were canceled altogether.An illegal defense headquarters has been set up to mobilize all party members.In the coming days, the army is preparing to clean up the organization in order to dissolve it».

In early June, J. Epstein (Yakovlev) went to the Crimea for an inspection. He telegraphed to Rakovsky that he should intervene in the events in Crimea: “We need to establish abnormal relations and reconcile Dybenko with Gaven and Ulyanov.”

P. Dybenko - People's Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs of the Crimean Soviet Republic
P. Dybenko – People’s Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs of the Crimean Soviet Republic

The events of that time were most eloquently covered in a report sent to the Central Committee of the CP (B) U by the secretary of the Crimean regional committee, Shuster, on June 12: From the moment the army entered the Crimea, a dual power was immediately created: 1) the Revolutionary Committee, composed, according to the headquarters, of “saboteurs” – members of the regional committee and the city committee, and 2) Dybenko’s headquarters. Immediately a secret struggle began between them: the Revolutionary Committee was outraged by the actions of the headquarters, in which the main role was played by the anarchist Petrovsky, the left SR Sergeyev, who was at Sablin’s headquarters in Moscow during the Left SR uprising. The headquarters appoints commanders who report only to Dybenko in all cities of the Crimea.Becoming the highest authority in the city, they dissolve and convene the Revolutionary Committees (as was the case in Yalta), arbitrarily and brawl, as Sandomierz and Dubnytsky, who broke into the bank demanding to open their “left a year ago” safe. Orders are issued by the military committee, commandant, revolutionary committee, and the population does not know who to obey. It is forbidden, for example, to leave cities. Passages for departure are issued by the commander of the city, NK, the Revolutionary Committee, but all of them are canceled by the commander of the station. Dybenko gives the order to throw out of cars all who go both to the Crimea, and from the Crimea. Duty is that there are enough people on the streets, not knowing whether they are workers or not. Frequent cases of bullying during work.Goods and factories are confiscated from shops and factories under the slogan “Everything is for the Red Army.”

When the Revolutionary Committee rejects certain demands (for example, to provide 25 dinner sets), Dybenko personally threatens to arrest him. Kraiprodkom is deprived of means of transportation, the sellers who go to prepare products, do not issue the pass, the carts on which peasants bring products are requisitioned, etc. Goods arrived from the smuggled Turks, they were arrested so as not to be able to warn others, and as a result of 10 million ships of all kinds of goods most of them rotted on the pier, disappeared, stolen, and only 2 million ” Dibenko falcons “were taken to Simferopol. In short, there are so many similar actions of the headquarters that it is difficult to list them. When the meeting of the regional committee noted the inmissibility of such phenomena, Dybenko replied that if he did not like his actions,he could lead his troops closer to the front, that Crimea is not interesting to him and he is a random person in it. Dybenko told the Supreme Military Inspectorate, which arrived in Crimea, that “it can fail, it is useless to control it, because it is a people’s war.” In short, in the actions of Dybenko’s staff, in his attitude to the Revolutionary Committee of the party, in the harassment of the NK, looting and executions at night without trial of the Red Army, and in the persecution of political workers can be seen the beginning of an adventure like Grigoriev. This is the situation in Crimea. It is necessary for the Central Committee to take the following measures: 1) to recall Dybenko immediately; 2) send a comrade to establish the work of the party and the Soviet;3) order the regional committee to clean up Soviet institutions and take measures to raise discipline in the party.

P. Dybenko at the headquarters of the Crimean Red Army
P. Dybenko at the headquarters of the Crimean Red Army

The activities of both military and civilian bodies were equally undermined by drunkenness. On April 12, an order was issued by the assistant chief of security of Simferopol, Commandant Brodsky: “I immediately ordered to seal all wine and drinking warehouses and shops. To inform about performance to my knowledge ». After the capture of Simferopol, an order (signed by the chairman of the Revolutionary Committee E. Bagaturyants (Laura)) was sent to all wine shops in the city, stating: drinks, and it is forbidden to release it to military units “. Such orders were sent to all warehouses of the peninsula, where Crimean wines were stored.

Pavlo Dibenko
Pavlo Dibenko

At the same time, the Crimean Bolsheviks began to send all collectible and vintage wine from the Crimean reserves to Moscow. To systematize this process, the Revolutionary Committee sent an order to the Simferopol police chief on April 24, according to which he was to “make an expert examination of all the wine in the warehouses to determine the amount of wine suitable for departure to the north . ”

However, the Bolsheviks could not stop drinking. As a year ago, local leaders continued to abuse alcohol. This is evidenced, in particular, by the reports of the NKVD instructors of the Crimea, who during May-June 1919 made a detour and inspection of cities. Instructor Shipov spoke quite eloquently about this: “ In general, it should be noted that the organization in Karasubazar is healthy, but Ilya Muromets is asleep. We need to wake them up, which is hindered by a few dishonest commissioners and wine, which is consumed in large quantities . “Another instructor’s report, sent to the Central Committee of the RCP (B) on May 27, stated:”In Simferopol, drunkenness is extremely widespread in Soviet institutions . ”

Throughout the existence of the Crimean Republic, party workers sent reports to Moscow stating that drunkenness was highly developed in all Soviet institutions and that it was not possible to stop it at all.

The civilian power of the Bolsheviks was little inferior to the military…

Photos from open sources

If you have found a spelling error, please, notify us by selecting that text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

The project was implemented with the support of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation

Tetiana Bikova

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

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: