September 5 in Russian history

1919: Vasily Ivanovich Chapayev, the best known commander of the Red Army, was killed during the night raid of the White Army near town Lbischensk (now Chapayev) on river Ural in Kazakhstan. He was born in a poor family and his early years are not documented, so his biography is hopelessly incomplete, in spite of (and, in part, due to) the efforts of the Soviet historians. He was born in 1887 in village Budayka (now a part of the city Cheboksary), in the family of a carpenter, who never had enough money and moonlighted as a cabman. In 1897 they moved to Balakovo in Samara province (now in Saratov oblast). In 1908 Vasily returned to Budayka and married 16-year old Pelageia Metlina. They had three children. In 1915-16 he fought in the Western Ukraine and Romania, was wounded three times, became a sergeant-major, was awarded with St.George crosses and the St.George medal 4th class. In the end of the war, when soldiers were allowed to elect their commanders, he was elected the commander of the 138th regiment, which was located near Saratov. In 1917, Chapayev visited his wife, took his children and brought them into the house of his parents. When his friend Pyotr Kamishkertsev was killed, Chapayev took two his children into his own family. When in spring 1918 the Civil war began on Volga and Ural, the regiment joined the Red Army and fought against cossacks.

Chapayev was a gifted, charismatic and lucky commander. His friends recalled that he often read books about famous military leaders of the past: Hannibal, Suvorov, Napoleon. In September 1918, a division under his commandment defeated the Czech Legion and the troops of the Committee of Members of the Constituent Assembly. Then the division moved towards Uralsk and participated in the battle for this city. In November 1918, Chapayev was sent to the training courses of the General Staff of the Red Army. In January 1919 he left to Samara. Mikhail Frunze, a bolshevik military leader, highly estimated Chapayev's talents and appointed him the commander of the 25th division. This division defeated consequently 5 White divisions and captured Ufa. After this, the division was sent to the south, where they took Uralsk. On September 5, cossacks suddenly attacked the division headquarters locate near Lbischensk at night. According to the investigation held soon after his death, Chapayev drowned trying to cross river Ural being wounded. Some of his comrades said that he was lethally wounded, taken across the river by the soldiers and buried there. Since the area is now flooded, it's impossible to check this version.

In 1923, Dmitri Furmanov, ex-commisar in Chapayev's division, wrote a book Chapayev, which was made into a movie in 1934. The Soviets turned Chapayev into an icon of the Civil war and grew from a rather modest commander to a half-mythical figure. As a reaction to this hype, the people turned him and his friends, commissionaire Pyotr Isayev (Petka) and machine-gunner Maria Potapova (Anka) into characters of innumerable jokes, like this one: Petka asks Chapayev, "Why didn't you enter the military academy?", "You see, Petka, they asked me who is Caesar and I replied that this is a stallion from the second squadron." "Hey, of course, they couldn't take you! We transferred him to the fourth squadron while you were away!". Or another one: the Whites encircled the Reds. Chapayev hid in a barrel and Petka was caught. When the Whites were taking Petka to the execution, he kicked the barrel and said: "Get out, Vasily Ivanovich, we're betrayed!"

Since the body of Chapayev was never found, a lot of rumors appeared after his death. Most of them said that he had escaped, but was so ashamed of the blunder he made when set no guards around the headquarters, that he drank for a week or two and then came to Frunze. Frunze said: "You fight better as a legend than as a commander," or "We need you dead more than we needed you alive," or anything like that. Then Chapayev was either executed or sent to exile. Just legends.

Probably, more things were named after Chapayev than after any other person: villages and cities (a city near Samara was named Trotsk in 1927, but was renamed to Chapayevsk in 1929 when Trotsky turned out to be an enemy), ships and kolhozes, board games and computer games, cartoons and novels... The board game Chapayevtsy is similar to some games of the peoples of the world: you take a chess board and 16 checkers (8 for each player) and flick your checkers trying to push the enemy checkers away from the board. However, the Russian version has two immense advantage over other versions: first, it's played on a chess board (don't ask me why), and second, you can start playing checkers and, whenever you feel you're loosing, switch to Chapayevtsy.

1944: Government of the USSR proclaims the state of war with Bulgaria. In 1934, a pro-fascist dictatorship was established in Bulgaria by tsar Boris. In 1939, Bulgaria proclaimed neutrality in the World War, but continued to develop close ties with Germany and Italy. In 1940, Hitler forced Romania to sign the treaty of Craiova and to return the region of Southern Dobrudja, which was transferred from Bulgaria to Romania in 1913. This treaty was supported by USSR and Great Britain. USSR proposed an alliance to Bulgaria, offering to support the territorial claims to Greece and Turkey, but tsar Boris was consistent in his relationships with Germany and rejected the proposal. On March 1 1941, Bulgaria officially joined the Axis and the German troops entered Bulgaria to prepare to invade Greece. During 1941-1944, Bulgarian army occupied parts of Greece and Yugoslavia. Tsar Boris proclaimed war on USA and Britain, but refused to follow the example of Romania and to send Bulgarian soldiers to the Eastern front, in spite of the aerial attacks of USSR, USA and Great Britain. In 1943, various political forces of Bulgaria create the Fatherland Front, an anti-fascist resistance organization. In spring and summer of 1944, USSR some times offers the Bulgarian government to quit the alliance with Germany, but tsar Boris refuses to. Despite the persecutions, the Fatherland Front grew and by September 1944, included more than 30,000 people. On August 23, Romania officially quit the Axis block and allowed the Soviet troops to come to the borders of Bulgaria. Since August 26, the Fatherland Front begins armed rebellion in many parts of the country. Boris appoints a new prime-minister and proclaims neutrality, but continues support to the German army and then prohibits the Fatherland Front. For this reason, the Soviet Union proclaims war to Bulgaria. On September 9, the FF begins uprisal in Sofia, arrests members of the government and the royal family, establishes new government and takes power in various cities of Bulgaria. The army joins the insurgents. The Soviet army entered Bulgaria on September 8. Before the army crossed the borders, political commissars told the soldiers about the political situation in Bulgaria and about the historical ties and friendship between Bulgaria and Russia. The army marched across the country almost without a single shot, welcomed by the people. After this revolution, more than 300,000 Bulgarians fought against German and Italian fascists in Yugoslavia, Hungary and Austria. 32,000 of them were killed or missing in action. In 1946, the Bulgarian Communist Party took control over the Fatherland Front. The FF continued to exist till 1989 as a purely communist organization.

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