Jan 27, 2021
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Historians are still debating when this directive came out. Either when the Organizing Bureau of the Central Committee of the RCP (b) took place (January 24), or when was Sverdlov’s cover letter written (January 29)? ..

And the authorship of the directive itself causes different interpretations of researchers: Sverdlov (R.A. Medvedev), Stalin (G. Magner) or Syrtsov (L.I.Futoryansky) wrote the text? There is also an opinion that the directive itself was adopted at the insistence of Leon Trotsky (T.V. Grachev).

Interestingly, the text of Yakov Sverdlov’s cover letter has not yet been published (as far as I know).

Whatever it was in reality, it is clear that the directive began to be implemented by the Bolsheviks in practice. And while much still remains hidden in the archives, we will assume that Yakov Sverdlov, at least, agreed with the directive, since he wrote a cover letter to it.

“Leather” against the Cossacks

In the first years after the October Revolution, the Communists were called “leather” because many of them wore leather uniforms taken from tsarist warehouses (these “Swedish” jackets were worn mainly by tsarist aviators, engineers, motorists).

Sverdlov, according to Trotsky’s recollections, “walked in leather from head to toe, that is, from boots to a leather cap” (“Around October”) and was not only in dress, but in all his inner makeup as a radical Bolshevik.

The policy of decossackization was practiced within the framework of the mass red terror carried out by the Bolshevik state in relation to all dissidents, dissidents and dissidents, former loyal subjects of the Russian Empire.

As Felix Dzerzhinsky formulated the main signs of the Red Terror:

This is intimidation, arrest and destruction of the enemies of the revolution on the basis of their class affiliation or their role in the past pre-revolutionary periods (see his interview with an employee of “Ukrorost”: Izvestia VUTSIK, 1920, May 9).

For the Bolsheviks, the Cossacks were not only a class alien element, but, more importantly, they were a military class that played a counter-revolutionary role “in the past pre-revolutionary periods” and participated in the suppression of most revolutionary uprisings.

According to the plan of the Bolshevik Marxists, the Russian Cossacks, as a separate and privileged military class, had to be purposefully and systematically destroyed. Such was the large-scale revenge of the revolutionaries on their pre-revolutionary “persecutors”.

The frankness of the Bolshevik documents

The directive issued in 1919 by the Organizing Bureau of the Central Committee of the RCP (b) “To all responsible comrades working in the Cossack regions” said: “The latest events on various fronts in the Cossack regions – our advances into the workers about the nature of their work in the restoration and strengthening of Soviet power in the indicated areas. It is necessary, taking into account the experience of the year of the civil war with the Cossacks, to recognize as the only right the most merciless struggle against all the top of the Cossacks by their universal extermination. No compromises, no half-way paths are inadmissible. :

  • Carry out a mass terror against the rich Cossacks, exterminating them without exception; to carry out a merciless mass terror against all Cossacks in general who took any direct or indirect part in the struggle against Soviet power. It is necessary to apply to the average Cossacks all those measures that provide a guarantee against any attempts on their part to new actions against Soviet power.

  • To confiscate bread and force all surplus to be poured into the indicated points, this applies both to bread and to all other agricultural products.

  • Take all measures to assist the resettled immigrant poor, organizing resettlement where possible.

  • Equalize the newcomers “nonresident” with the Cossacks in land and in all other respects.

  • Conduct complete disarmament, shooting everyone who has a weapon after the deadline.

  • Give out weapons only to reliable elements from outside the city.

  • Leave the armed detachments in the Cossack villages until complete order is established.

  • All commissars appointed to various Cossack settlements are encouraged to show maximum firmness and unswervingly carry out these instructions. “

In the Bolshevik organizations that were directly operating in the Cossack areas, the directive was “creatively” developed and supplemented.

The “Project for the administrative-territorial division of the Ural region” dated March 4, 1919 stated:

To put on the order of the day a policy of repression in relation to the Cossacks, a policy of economic and similar to it the Red Terror … The Cossacks as a separate group of the population must be done away with.

Leon Trotsky, who issued order No. 171 of the RVS of the Southern Front “On decossackization”, did not stand aside:

“In these forms, the revolutionary committees and temporary regimental field tribunals established by order of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Southern Front, through interrogation of the so-called nonresident tribunals, as well as by means of mass searches in the occupied villages and farms and in general any villages on the Don, should be discovered and immediately shot:

  • a) all, without exception, Cossacks who held official positions by election or by appointment: district and village atamans, their assistants, police officers, judges, etc.;

  • b) all officers of the Krasnov army without exception;

  • c) in general, all active members of the Krasnov counter-revolution;

  • d) all, without exception, agents of the autocracy who have taken refuge on the Don, from ministers to policemen;

  • e) active representatives of the Russian counter-revolution who gathered on the Don;

  • f) all rich Cossacks without exception;

  • g) all who, after the announced deadline for the surrender of weapons, such will be found;

  • h) the property of the executed is confiscated and transferred to the disposal of the revolutionary committees to meet the needs of workers and the poor population from other cities;

  • i) individuals and whole groups of the Cossacks who did not take an active part in the struggle against Soviet power, but who inspire great fear, are subject to increased supervision and, if necessary, arrest and escort into the interior of the country on special instructions of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Southern Front. The property of such persons is not confiscated, but transferred to the temporary disposal and use of the Revolutionary Committee … “and so on.

Directly responsible for decossackization, the “subdivision” of the Donburo party of the CPSU (b), represented by its secretary A. Frenkel, suggested that the center should massively resettle the Cossacks “inside Russia”, and in their place should not be resettled the Cossack population. Moreover, the appeal to the center is interesting: “These measures are only within the power of the center, where a special commission should be formed to develop this issue. And this must be started urgently … you cannot destroy all the Cossacks, and under such conditions the uprisings will continue” …

Many similar misanthropic documents can be cited, and surely many more such unpublished documents are kept in our archives. But the size of the article does not allow this.

It is important to state the very fact of what was happening then: the Bolshevik state, pursuing a policy of war communism and red terror against the Cossacks, committed massive crimes in the name of retaining power in its hands.

The final figures of the killed and repressed Cossacks have yet to be calculated in the future. But we have at our disposal a census of 1926, which says that only 50.4% of the Cossacks (759,402) remained on the Don compared to 1917 (1,507,178). In the Urals – even less (44%): out of 166 365 (1916), 73 300 (1925) remained. And in the Orenburg Territory, out of 672,000 after 1920, only 420,000 (65%) lived.

The repressions of the first post-revolutionary years after a relative break in the NEP broke out with renewed vigor in 1930-1931, when at least 300,000 Cossacks were repressed and deported. And then there were also 1937-1938 years and so on …

The Cossacks were rehabilitated only after the fall of the communist regime – by the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation “On measures to implement the Law of the Russian Federation” On the rehabilitation of repressed peoples “in relation to the Cossacks” (1992), which decided “to condemn the ongoing party-state policy of repression, arbitrariness and lawlessness in relation to the Cossacks and their individual representatives “.

Mikhail Smolin

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