Iron haidamak. One of the ten armored personnel carriers of Petro Bolbochan's army, who took part in the liberation of Crimea from the Bolsheviks. Photo of 1918
Iron haidamak. One of the ten armored personnel carriers of Petro Bolbochan's army, who took part in the liberation of Crimea from the Bolsheviks. Photo of 1918

The situation in the Crimea on the eve of the occupation by German troops in 1918


At the end of March, the socio-political conditions in Crimea became tense due to the advance of Austro-German and Haydamat detachments in Ukraine. By March 20, they occupied Odessa, Mykolayiv, and Kherson almost without a fight.

The combat capability of the fleet at that time was very low. Mass demobilization, fuel shortages, disorganization, which was introduced into the ranks of personnel by political and national parties, the rampant anarchism weakened the navy as a combat unit. In an official statement to Kyiv, the German command stated: “The situation in the Black Sea Fleet indicates the chaos that prevails here .” The same words are confirmed by the Bolsheviks. Thus, Ensign V. Zhukov, who was the chief of the watch service on the battleship “George the Victorious”, admitted in his memoirs:It should be noted that in the described period judicial discipline was completely absent. Sailors recognized only one duty – to defend their hours on watch, and after that they considered themselves free citizens, as workers after the Sabbath, and could use their own time as they wished. They returned to the ship only for watch. The administration was not given any opportunity to forbid the sailor to go ashore with a rifle, without an outfit or other apparent reason. The officers were completely dependent on their teams and were satisfied that they were at least not affected and allowed to carry out judicial duties in any way . “

Bolsheviks in the Crimea, 1918
Bolsheviks in the Crimea, 1918

The same picture was observed in other cities of the Crimea, where the Bolsheviks were extremely indecisive in defending the peninsula. When the government finally began preparations for the defense of the isthmus, it was announced that the fighters would be immediately mobilized into the Red Army. But the detachments (for example, Evpatoria) completely withdrew from the subordination of the Soviets and refused to go to the front. Witness of these events V. Zhukov stated: “Several partisan detachments of Polupanov, Marusya Nikiforova, Ryazantsev, and others gathered here, who cared least about the front and combat operations against the Germans, but led a reckless lifestyle, engaging in looting, looting the local population, taxing the bourgeoisie, and the like. These detachments wanted to remain in the deep rear and refused to take part in the expedition of the Feodosiya detachment (which was sent to Perekop).… Some units spontaneously went from front to rear, making various demands on their commanders and staffs, threatening repression and executions. ” .

These thoughts are confirmed in the memoirs of Officer M. Kryshevsky, who wrote: ” Theodosia lived her life. There was Bolshevik power there, but it was not recognized at all by the soldiers of the Caucasian regiments, who returned tens of thousands from the Caucasus… and forced not only the Feodosian power but also the formidable Sevastopol to tremble. They flirted with them, flattered them and tried to send them as soon as possible (to the front, – bus), but they usually sat for two weeks until they sold all the state and looted things in Trabzon. The bazaar was full of soldiers, who sold everything from horses to machine guns and living Turks, who were their “wives” and fled from Trabzon, fearing revenge on the Turks. Turks cost from 200 to 2 thousand rubles .

In this connection, on March 28, the CEC of the Republic of Tavrida demanded that its Soviet People’s Commissar ” suppress with all its might the confidence and support of the workers who created the Soviet government any attempt to turn the socialist army into a weapon against the Soviet government .” The armed forces began to include units of the Black Guard of anarchists, who recognized the need to protect the republic. The mobilization of the bourgeoisie for the construction of the fortifications of the Perekop Isthmus was announced.

In connection with the approach of German troops to Sevastopol, a new confrontation began. The sailors supported the call of the Left Socialist Revolutionaries and the Bolsheviks to declare a general mobilization and defend the fleet and the city. The workers, who sympathized with the right wing of the socialist parties, did not want unnecessary bloodshed and agreed to surrender the city without a fight and take the fleet out. Meanwhile, there were reports that not German troops were approaching the city, but Ukrainian ones.

Representatives of Ukraine communicate with German officers, 1918
Representatives of Ukraine communicate with German officers, 1918

In April, the ranks of opponents of the Bolshevik regime continued to grow. The fact that two councils coexist in the city at the same time is very significant: the new convocation (with the predominance of moderate socialist parties) and the old one (with the predominance of the Bolsheviks). Thus, the city has a dual power. This was the case in Simferopol, where the city council resumed its work, and in Sevastopol, when, according to a participant in those events, “the new council is followed by the majority of workers and the population, and the old council by the majority of the fleet.”

The Bolsheviks were no longer able to prevent the revival of the former authorities. On April 15, a joint session of the Evpatoria City Duma and the county zemstvo assembly repealed “all land decrees establishing communist and workers’ guilds,” revived and enacted land legislation that existed before the Bolshevik coup. By the same decision, the former authorities were restored in the county, and the enterprises, property and funds confiscated by the Bolsheviks were returned to the owners.

Gradually, the political confrontation escalated into an armed conflict. He was the first to be intervened by Red Guard units, which attempted to arrest members of the new council. The April conference ended with the dissolution of both the Bolshevik and moderate socialist councils, and power was transferred to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union for the period before the new elections to the council. On April 19, when German and Ukrainian troops had already captured the Perekop Isthmus and begun the occupation of Crimea, a council was formed in which non-partisans predominated. Left-wing radical parties remained in meager numbers.

When it became clear that, despite the existence of the Tauride Republic, Ukrainian and German troops were approaching the peninsula, members of its government began to hold meetings and assemblies, during which many current issues were considered, which can be safely combined into a single : “What should we do?”.

On March 5, at a joint meeting of delegates to the Second Black Sea Congress, the Centroflot, the Sevastopol Council, the Port’s Main Factory Committee, and political parties, it was decided to organize the defense of the socialist revolution in the south. ». However, the members of the Menshevik party present at the meeting quite rightly emphasized that “we (the people of Sevastopol) will not be able to defend ourselves, the Red Army is bandits, not an army.”

Ukrainian cavalryman and colonel Petro Bolbochan. Drawing by Bogdan Pirgach
Ukrainian cavalryman and colonel Petro Bolbochan. Drawing by Bogdan Pirgach

The most eloquent were the delegate meetings of representatives of the coastal and judicial units of the workshops of Sevastopol, which took place on April 17, 1918. During the debate, the audience expressed their assessments of what was happening on the peninsula. Thus, a member of the Central Fleet Yermolin said: ” Regarding the collapse that prevails in the Red Army. Now 85 Chinese are digging trenches in Perekop, because the Red Army does not recognize this work, and workers demand 15 rubles from their trades. for a day and to be ready for everything, and we have no money. The Red Army will be unstable in positional warfare . ”

The talk that the Red Army in the Crimea had completely disintegrated and was incapable of anything was true. J. Gaven, talking a little later about the state of affairs in the spring of 1918, mentioned the 1st Black Sea Detachment Shmakov, located in Simferopol. Engaged in “expropriations of the bourgeoisie” for 5-6 weeks, he completely decomposed and became a dangerous threat to the Tavriya CEC itself. “

J. Miller also wrote about Shmakov’s detachment later in his memoirs: “The chaos began when Shmakov’s detachment arrived. He was in such a state that he did not actually obey anyone. This detachment settled in the European Hotel on its own and was engaged in drunkenness, and we did not have the strength to restore order there, because it was stronger than us, and we were forced to appeal to Sevastopol. This detachment made a mess: spontaneous searches, spontaneous shootings . ” The same description of the behavior of Shmakov and his detachment of sailors was later confirmed by another witness to these events – V. Zhukov: “Sent by the military commissar and chairman of the Revolutionary Committee Comrade. Gaven Black Sea Detachment under the command of Comrade. Shmakov (Bolshevik) was to serve as a guard of the CEC and carry out garrison service in Simferopol. A detachment of 200 sailors took the best apartment in the city – “European Hotel”. In conditions of almost complete inactivity and under the influence of a luxurious atmosphere, the detachment quickly disintegrated. Unopposed by local Soviet authorities, the detachment began to conduct spontaneous searches under the pretext of collecting contributions from the bourgeoisie, which often ended in uncontrolled looting, debauchery, gambling, and card games. When the behavior of Shmakov’s detachment became dangerous, the naval commissar, Comrade Gaven ordered the detachment to leave Simferopol and go to the Romanian front, where the help of the Black Sea was needed.The detachment twice refused to carry out the order and decided to settle down in Simferopol. To this end, he decided to seize power in Simferopol and began to demand, under threat of violence against members of the council, the candidacy of the head of the detachment Shmakov for chairman of the Simferopol council instead of Comrade. Miller. Only under the threat of Sevastopol and a number of resolutions of the fleet, which demanded to send a punitive detachment to Simferopol, Shmakov was forced to move from Simferopol to Sevastopol, from where he was transported to Odessa. Due to his inability to lead Shmakov, his detachment was later almost completely destroyed by the Austro-Germans and the Haydamaks in March near Odessa, and only about 15 members of this detachment returned to Sevastopol. Shmakov himself was imprisoned by Comrade. Gaven to Sevastopol prison, where he later escaped during the German occupation of the cityfrom where he then fled during the German occupation of the city».

Iron haidamak. One of the ten armored personnel carriers of Petro Bolbochan's army, who took part in the liberation of Crimea from the Bolsheviks. Photo of 1918
Iron haidamak. One of the ten armored personnel carriers of Petro Bolbochan’s army, who took part in the liberation of Crimea from the Bolsheviks. Photo of 1918

Not better was the 2nd Black Sea Detachment, led by another “outstanding commander” – O. Mokrousov, who because of his cruelty and arbitrariness, love for the mass bloody executions of the “bourgeoisie” even his contemporaries, who were on the same political side with him, called nothing more than “an entity with gangster tendencies,” which “could not serve as a support for the Soviet government.”

The Zaporozhian corps under the command of P. Bolbochan, which together with the 15th German division attacked the Crimea, was firmly united and showed full devotion to its commander. This was witnessed in my own memoirs by almost everyone who took a direct part in Bolbochan’s successful Crimean operation. Compilers of the History of the Ukrainian Army (I. Krypyakevych, B. Hnatevych, Z. Stefaniv, O. Dumin, S. Shramchenko) noted that the regiment “preserved the best traditions of the Russian army” and at the same time “was a national regiment because it had a patriot.” -commander ».

The same opinion was held by an active participant in the events of that time, Captain of the Army of the Ukrainian People’s Republic Borys Monkevich. In memoirs written much later, he noted: “The Bolshevik army, without a real command staff, was a band of robbers who, of course, could not oppose either the disciplined and compact masses of German troops or the young, patriotic Ukrainian army .” These words are confirmed in the memoirs of other participants in those events: General V. Petrov, N. Avramenko, S. Shemet, J. Stendera.

The fact that the Crimean Tatars helped them in every possible way also made things much easier for the Ukrainian troops. Thus, Captain B. Monkevych recalled: “The Tatar population was sympathetic and friendly to the Ukrainian army and willingly and quite voluntarily gave instructions about the movements and location of the Bolsheviks. From the Tatars, for example, received information that from Simferopol re-emerged armored trains. In fact, three enemy armored trains appeared on the railway, from which a crowd of 500 people got out and began to disintegrate into lava. But the Cossack divisions immediately opened fire on them, and began to enter on the flanks (flanks, – bus). The Bolsheviks noticed this maneuver and retreated with the trains, tearing the tires behind them (track, – author) .

Meanwhile, German troops occupied the Crimea. On April 19, they captured Dzhankoi, on April 22 – Evpatoria and Simferopol. By the end of April, the combined German-Ukrainian troops had completely taken control of the peninsula.

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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

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