October 7 in Russian history. Eugene Onegin. Komuch in Samara.


(25 September Old Style)

(the image on the right is a character from a computer game Eugene Onegin, made in the genre of anime.)

In Boldino, now a village in Nizhny Novgorod oblast, Alexander Pushkin wrote the final lines of Eugene Onegin:

And my companion, so mysterious,
goodbye to you, my true ideal,
my task, so vivid and so serious
and yet so light. All that is real
and enviable for a poet,
in your pursuit I've come to know it:
oblivion of life's stormy ways,
sweet talk with friends. How many days
since, through the mist that dreams arise on,
young Tanya first appeared to me,
Onegin too -- and there to see,
a free romance's far horizon,
still dim, through crystal's magic glass,
before my gaze began to pass.

Of those who heard my opening pages
in friendly gatherings where I read,
as Sadi sang in earlier ages,
``some are far distant, some are dead''.
They've missed Eugene's completed etching.
But she who modelled for the sketching
of Tanya's image... Ah, how great
the toll of those borne off by fate!
Blest he who's left the hurly-burly
of life's repast betimes, nor sought
to drain its beaker down, nor thought
of finishing its book, but early
has wished it an abrupt goodbye --
and, with my Eugene, so have I.


90 years ago, the Red Army occupied Samara, my home town. For some months of 1918 Samara was governed by the members of the Constituent Assembly, the last democratic organ of Russia, dissolved by the bolsheviks in January 1918. The foto on the right was made on that day, after the Red Army entered the city (foto taken from here).

In June 1918, five delegates of the Assembly, members of the socialist-revolutionary party (SRs), came to Samara and organized the Committee of Members of the Constituent Assembly, or Komuch. Their names were Vladimir Volsky, Ivan Brushvit, Prokopy Klimushkin, Boris Fortunatov and Ivan Nesterov. They attempted to restore the democracy and to defend the revolution from the bolshevik coup. Wikipedia writes:

Komuch's executive body was the Council of Department Heads under the lead of Yevgeny Rogovsky. Having seized power with the help of the Czech Legion, Komuch announced "reinstatement" of democratic freedoms: they formally established an 8-hour working day, permitted worker's conferences and congresses of peasants, kept plant and factory committees (fabzavkomy, or fabrichno-zavodskiye komitety) and trade unions. Komuch abrogated the Soviet decrees, returned all the plants, factories and banks to their former owners, declared freedom of private enterprise and reinstated zemstva, city dumas and other establishments. Paying lip service to socialization of land, Komuch, in fact, provided landowners with an opportunity to take away their confiscated lands from the peasants and, also, harvest the winter crops of 1917. Komuch sent punitive expeditions to the rural areas of Russia in order to protect the property of landowners and kulaks, recruit and later mobilize people for the so-called People's Army.

Owing to the military support from interventionists and kulaks and Red Army's weakness, Komuch's power spread into the provinces of Samara, Simbirsk, Kazan, Ufa and Saratov in June-August of 1918.

The Committee attempted to balance between the two strongest powers in Russia: the bolsheviks and the mostly monarchist White Guard. The SR party, which dominated the Constituent Assembly, was the party of peasants, but Komuch failed to convince the peasants in their ability to provide security and prosperity. Bolsheviks had already issued their Decree on Land, abolishing the private property on land and giving the private lands to the peasants. The Decree also said that "the question of compensation shall be examined by the Constituent Assembly", but the Assembly had no chances to discuss this question. So, the peasants had more reasons to trust the bolsheviks than the SRs. Wikipedia concludes:

However, by the early November, the peasants became convinced of Komuch's counterrevolutionary nature and grew wary of it, organizing occasional resistance. In September, Komuch's People's Army sustained a number of defeats from the Red Army and left a major part of Komuch's territories. On September 23, Komuch yielded its power to the Directory of Ufa after a State Conference between the Komuch itself and the Provisional Siberian Government, which would prove to be powerless and short-lived. Both regimes were made to become the new Provisional All-Russian Government (PA-RG).

After Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak's coup, the Directory and other establishments were dissolved by General Vladimir Kappel in November 1918.

Very soon the peasants learned that the real intentions of the bolsheviks had very little to do with their proclamations and decrees. In March 1919 they revolted. Some time ago I wrote:

1919: A peasants revolt, known as the chapan war, begins in the village Novodevichye in the Samara province (chapan is a peasants upper dress). The main reasons were the prodrazvyorstka (the governmental program of food expropriation, when all peasants were obliged to sell what the government considered a surplus to the government for a fixed, very low price), control over the Soviets established by bolsheviks, the red terror and the persecution of religion. In just a few days, the peasants managed to create a new political, social and military structures. A peasants' army was formed, the Soviets were re-elected and a newspaper was organized. The newspaper wrote that the rebellion is not directed against the Soviets, but against "the power of tyrants, murderers and robbers -- communists, anarchists and others, who kill people, take the last grain and kettle, destroy icons", etc. The revolt was led by the Union of Toiling Peasants, a mix of a trade union and a politicized co-operative, created during the revolution of 1905 and not controlled by any political party. There were about 150,000 people participating in the revolt and it was the largest peasants revolt in Russian history. Unfortunately, the rebels had only some hundred rifles and some machine guns. Others were armed with axes and pikes. And yet, they managed to establish control over Stavropol (modern Togliatti, the city where I was born). The province was located on the borderline between the Red and White armies and the rebellion was very dangerous for the bolsheviks. The revolt was suppressed in March 1919 and thousands were killed.

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