On March 1, 1921, a rally took place on Anchor Square in Kronstadt, which grew into a mass demonstration of the Baltic Fleet sailors against the Bolsheviks and their policy of "war communism".
Reasons for the uprising
During the First World War, serious food problems arose in Russia.
After the February Revolution, the situation worsened even more.
The Bolsheviks who came to power as a result of the October Revolution in 1918 began to implement the policy of "war communism".
It assumed, in particular, the food dictatorship of the state, the prohibition of free trade in grain, forcing the peasants to surrender their "grain surpluses" at fixed prices and the centralization of the food administration system.
At the beginning of 1919, surplus appropriation was introduced - a system of centralized distribution between individual territories of the country of mandatory norms for the supply of food to the state.
At the same time, banknotes issued for food quickly depreciated, and the rates of delivery were determined, starting from the needs of the army and the urban population, without taking into account the capabilities of the peasantry.
Armed food detachments and committees of the poor (volost and rural, in some localities also uyezd and provincial bodies of Soviet power) forcibly confiscated the products needed by the villagers themselves.
“During the Civil War, the peasants were faced with a choice: either the Bolsheviks, who abolished free trade and took away grain, or the whites, who were going to take away the land.
The plans of the whites were absolutely unacceptable for the peasants, so many of them chose the Bolsheviks as the lesser evil and went to the Red Army.
At the same time, they counted on the abolition of the policy of "war communism" after the end of the Civil War.
But the Bolsheviks, even after the defeat of the White movement in the south of Russia, did not want to change anything, because they needed money to restore the industry, "- said in an interview with RT, an associate professor of the history faculty of Moscow State University.
Lomonosov Yuri Shchetinov.
According to the associate professor of the Russian State Humanitarian University Alexander Krushelnitsky, at the end of 1920, the military threat from the white and foreign invaders disappeared in the eyes of the population, but the socio-economic policy of the Bolsheviks did not change, and the withdrawal of food began to lead to active resistance attempts.
“Considering that the Red Army was predominantly peasant, there was an exchange of information between the army and the countryside.
Letters from home were aroused by the armed forces, including the navy, ”the expert emphasized in a conversation with RT.
In addition, as noted by Krushelnitsky, many accused the Bolsheviks of usurping power and opposed the establishment of a one-party dictatorship.
Peasants hand over grain for surplus at the dumping point of the Makugino railway station.
© Vladimir Minkevich
“Calls for free elections and the slogan“ Soviets without communists ”began to sound in the country,” the historian noted.
At the beginning of 1921, unrest broke out in Petrograd among workers dissatisfied with their economic situation.
The Bolsheviks quickly took control of the situation, but what happened influenced the mood of the sailors of the Baltic Fleet in Kronstadt.
On February 27, the Kronstadt delegates, who had visited Petrograd during the unrest, reported to their colleagues about the workers' dissatisfaction with the current situation.
The next day, the teams of the battleships Petropavlovsk and Sevastopol adopted a resolution criticizing the one-party dictatorship and calling for the observance of the rights and freedoms proclaimed in 1917.
On March 1, a rally was held on Anchor Square in Kronstadt, with which historians usually associate the beginning of mass demonstrations.
About 16 thousand of its participants called for re-elections to the Soviets, and also put forward demands related to the liberalization of economic policy, the freedom of activity of all left-wing parties and the abolition of political departments.
According to historians, the chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, Mikhail Kalinin, arrived unprotected for negotiations with the participants of the rally, but he could not calm the disaffected.
On March 2, in Kronstadt, the creation of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee was announced, headed by the senior clerk of the battleship "Petropavlovsk" Stepan Petrichenko.
About 150 commissars, employees of the Special Departments and the Revolutionary Tribunal left Kronstadt before the conflict turned into an armed phase.
At the same time, about 900 communists joined the participants in the uprising.
The total forces of the rebels, according to various sources, numbered from 18 to 26 thousand people.
On March 3, a "defense headquarters" was created in Kronstadt, headed by the head of the internal defense of the fortress, Yevgeny Solovyanov, a former captain of the tsarist army and chief of artillery, Alexander Kozlovsky, a former tsarist general.
They had over 200 guns and over 100 machine guns at their disposal.
In turn, the Bolsheviks transferred Petrograd to a state of siege and declared what was happening in Kronstadt a rebellion, backed by foreign special services.
On March 5, the participants in the Kronstadt events were presented with an ultimatum demanding unconditional surrender.
In parallel, the Bolsheviks restored the previously disbanded 7th Army of the Petrograd Military District, headed by Mikhail Tukhachevsky, and began to inflict air strikes on Kronstadt.
Two days later, an exchange of artillery strikes took place between the rebels and the pro-government forces in the Kronstadt region.
Resolution of the meeting of command ships in Kronstadt
© Wikimedia Commons
On March 8, the forces of the 7th Army, with a total strength of 14 to 18 thousand people, tried to start the assault on Kronstadt, but were defeated due to lack of forces, haste and unwillingness of some of the military to fight with those who until recently were considered brothers in arms.
Simultaneously with the first assault on Kronstadt, the 10th Congress of the RCP (b) opened in Moscow.
Its participants discussed the issues of transition to a peaceful life and decided to replace "war communism" with a new economic policy.
In particular, at the congress it was decided to abolish the surplus appropriation and introduce a tax in kind, which is less burdensome for peasants.
At the same time, the congress participants condemned the Kronstadt rebellion, and at the end of the people's forum, about 300 delegates were sent to the troops.
By March 16, the Bolsheviks had concentrated an approximately 45,000-strong military group in the Kronstadt area.
After the artillery preparation, a new assault on the base began.
The pro-government forces were able to regain full control over the city and the fortress on March 18, 1921.
About 8 thousand participants in the uprising, including most of its leaders, fled from Kronstadt and fled across the ice to Finland.
In addition, the rebels lost about 1,000 people killed and 2,000 wounded.
Those who were captured alive by government forces were sent to trial.
About 2.1 thousand of them were sentenced to death, and 6.4 thousand - to various terms of imprisonment, but a year later, in honor of the 5th anniversary of the October Revolution, many of them were amnestied.
In 1994, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, by his decree, rehabilitated all the participants in the Kronstadt uprising.
Experts note that many blank spots remain in the history of the Kronstadt events.
They cannot come to a consensus even on the question of how to call what happened: a rebellion, as was customary in Soviet historiography, or an uprising.
Suppression of the Krondstatt rebellion.
The Red Army attacks Kronstadt across the ice of the Gulf of Finland after March 6, 1921, before March 18, 1921
© Wikimedia Commons
According to professor at Moscow State Pedagogical University Vasily Tsvetkov, although the rally in Kronstadt was well organized, foreign special services and emigre circles had nothing to do with it, and its reasons should be sought in people's objective dissatisfaction with the actions of the authorities.
At the same time, Yuri Shchetinin claims that the archival materials of the White movement indicate the possible involvement of persons associated with the anti-Bolshevik organization "National Center" in provoking protests in Kronstadt in 1921.
Moreover, the events at the naval base could be part of a larger plan.
“There was a plan, with the full support of Western intelligence services, to organize an uprising in Petrograd.
If Kronstadt had remained in the hands of the rebels at the moment when the ice broke, it would have been possible to organize support for the uprising by sea, and the Bolsheviks would have had a very bad time.
This could be a new round of the Civil War, ”said the expert.
V.I. Lenin, K.E. Voroshilov, L.D. Trotsky and others among the delegates of the 10th Party Congress of the RCP (b) who returned after the suppression of the Kronstadt uprising
© Wikimedia Commons
However, the full picture of these events, according to him, is problematic to restore, since many documents related to the Kronstadt demonstrations were destroyed for reasons of conspiracy.
“There was a threat of intervention, but, of course, not for the British to help the Russian peasants, but for London to realize its dream and destroy the remnants of the Baltic Fleet.
The mutiny, on the one hand, was an explosion of real discontent, and on the other, a terrible threat to the country, which could lead to the collapse of statehood.
The Kronstadt mutiny became one of the most important turning points in the era of the revolution, a symptom of the maximum development of the crisis.
The country had to either fall apart, losing power, or take into account the mistakes and take action.
The second option was chosen, and Russia survived, ”summed up Alexander Krushelnitsky.