Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky (1911): General view of the Church of St. John Chrysostom in Korovniki (from the mill) from the west.
It is a curious thing that one of the most important stories of the Russian Civil War doesn’t even have an English language entry in Wikipedia. Google results either lead to fleeting mentions in obscure history books, or to general interest articles about the history or tourist attractions of Yaroslavl, a 600,000-population city some 250 km northeast of Moscow, in the heart of the “Golden Ring” cluster of medieval Russian towns.
Which is all pretty strange, because this story has pretty much all the key components of a Hollywood blockbuster: A diverse cast of occasionally bickering but broadly sympathetic characters, who are united in their struggle against a dystopian regime; a people’s uprising against said regime that achieves success against all the odds, thanks in part to a femme fatale who distracts the baddies at the perfect moment; subsequent feelings of elevation soon turning into consternation, as storm clouds gather on the horizon; hope turning to grim despair, as the doomed heroes mount a last stand against the mustering forces of xenos darkness; and the final great betrayal, in which the moral heroism of the defeated transcends into spiritual victory, while the ostensible victors are condemned to pay their mite to cosmic justice.
This is the story of how, one century ago this month, the first of the great Russian uprisings against Bolshevik tyranny was crushed under a barrage of shells and waves of Latvian Riflemen. This is the story of Yaroslavl’s 16 Days of Freedom.
Part I: Revolt Amongst the Ruins
It was July 1918, and the once mighty Russian Empire lay in ruins. The economy had cratered, as the Bolsheviks criminalized private trade and confiscated everything from banks and factories to ordinary people’s windmills, workshops, apartments, and private savings. The first food brigades were being marshalled and sent out to requisition grain from a recalcitrant peasantry at gunpoint. Less than a year ago, there were Russian troops in Austria-Hungarian and Turkish territory, which had come within a hair’s breadth of knocking out two of Russia’s principal enemies out of the Great War; since then, the Bolshevik coup and unilateral demobilization of the Imperial Russian Army had collapsed the Russian front, and resulted in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, signed between the Bolsheviks and their German sponsors, which deprived Russia of 44% of its population and more than half of its industrial potential. The Japanese had occupied Vladivostok, and even the Chinese had sent more than a thousand troops into Siberia. Sean McMeekin in The Russian Revolution points out that even as Russia’s urban population began to collapse from hunger and cholera, Lenin’s government sat safe in the Moscow Kremlin, guarded by 35,000 Latvian Riflemen, whose salaries were directly paid by the German Embassy.
Unsurprisingly, discontent with the Bolsheviks, who had won less than 25% in the Constituent Assembly elections – the last free elections in Russia for more than 70 years – was at a fever pitch. Trotsky’s request to the Congress of Soviets to have opponents of German occupiers who resisted arrest “shot on the spot” was one of the last straws. On July 6, the Left SR’s mounted a revolt against the Bolsheviks in Moscow, yelling “Down with the Mirbach dictatorship!” and killing the hapless German ambassador. They were quickly put down by General Vatsétis’ Latvian Riflemen, the only Imperial Army unit that the Bolsheviks had not ordered demobilized.
That same day also saw the outbreak of rebellion in the simmering Volga basin north-east of Moscow. Soviet historiography has traditionally labeled it the Yaroslavl Mutiny (мятеж). In reality, as Russian publicist Egor Kholmogorov points out, it was nothing of the sort. A “mutiny”, especially in the Russian language, presupposes that the act of rebellion occurs in relation to a legitimate authority. However, this was a regime which had emerged as the result of the overthrow of the Tsar, an armed coup against the Provisional Government, the rejection of free election results in which they gotten less than a quarter of the vote, the forcible dispersal of the Constituent Assembly, and a treasonous treaty with an enemy Power. Such a regime could not be considered legitimate in any world. Consequently, it can only be known as the Yaroslavl Rebellion (восстание), and this was indeed how it was known during the 1920s, by both Whites and Reds. It was only during the 1930s, when the USSR transitioned into its totalitarian phase and the Communists established an absolute equivalence between themselves and the state, that the Rebellion was downgraded to a “mutiny.”
Part II: The People’s Front
Why Yaroslavl? One factor must have been just random luck. The Moscow and Kazan branches of the conspiracy had been uncovered and purged in May 1918. The persistent failure of White conspiracies was unsurprising in light of the fact that the officers who formed the core of the clandestine cells set up to oppose Bolshevik rule came from a society that had, at least until recently, been based on rule of law, not the rule of secret policemen. They were unaccustomed to the ruthless discipline and dissimulation needed to bring conspiracies to fruition.
However, the socioeconomic and cultural particularities of Yaroslavl may have also played a certain role. Yaroslavl gubernia traditionally had the highest literacy rate of any ethnic Russian region apart from Moscow and Saint-Petersburg: 36% vs. 23% for European Russia in the 1897 Census, and 61% vs. 44% for the European part of the RSFSR and BSSR in the 1926 Census. Even today, intellectual ability tests show Yaroslavl oblast to have average IQ scores equal to the two capitals, and higher than any other Russian region. This early development of human capital also made it a decidedly bourgeois region by the time of the Revolution: As of 1913, fully two thirds of peasant families in Yaroslavl gubernia had a passbook (needed to open savings accounts), relative to 10.3% in the Russian Empire as a whole. Finally, in the Constituent Assembly elections of 1917, Yaroslavl voted 38% for the Bolsheviks (versus 43% for the Social Revolutionaries). This was higher than the all-Russian average of 24%, but was still one of the lowest figures in Central Russia – the most pro-Bolshevik region after the Baltics.
This perhaps explains why it wasn’t only the officers, students, and intelligentsia who went over to the rebellion in Yaroslavl, but also “blue collar” classes such as policemen, local peasants, and even the railway workers, 140 of whom joined the Rebellion as soldiers, and fitted out an armored train for the cause. Consequently, the Yaroslavl Rebellion was a true “popular front”, in which the entire city, from merchants and Black Hundreds, to Mensheviks and workers, came together as one against the Bolshevik regime.
This ideological diversity was reflected in the Rebellion’s leadership, which was headed by the Social Revolutionary and former terrorist Boris Savinkov, the head of the Union for the Defense of the Motherland and Freedom (UDMF). After the Civil War, Savinkov would claim the USSR to be a continuation of the Tsarist monarchy in his 1923 book The Black Horseman of the Apocalypse:
I do not care who rules the country – the Lubyanka or the Okhrana, for he who sows the wind reaps the whirlwind… what, exactly, has changed? Only the words… They betrayed Russia on the front, with cigars in their teeth. They defile it now. They defile life, they defile the language, they defile the very name of Russia.
They boast that they remember not their ancestors. For them, the Motherland – is a prejudice. In the name of their own miserable welfare, they sell our inheritance to foreigners – not theirs, but ours. And these bastards rule from Moscow…
These are hardly the words of a hardcore reactionary (though you don’t exactly have to be one to question the equivalence between the Okhrana, which had less than 10,000 agents in the entire Russian Empire in 1900, and the Cheka, which employed 280,000 black leather jacket-clad thugs by the end of 1920). That said, it cannot be denied that Savinkov – like the Social Revolutionaries who refused Fritz Platten’s suggestion to accompany Lenin in his “sealed train” to Russia – was a genuine Russian patriot and lover of liberty.
Boris Savinkov’s political vision was augmented by the military talent of Colonel Alexander Perkhurov, a monarchist, who headed what would become the Yaroslavl Detachment of the Northern Volunteer Army.
He was supported in his role by the following locals in the Rebellion HQ:
- Ivan Savinov, a Menshevik railway employee, answered for the civic functioning of the city;
- The Mayor was V. Lopatin, a Cadet engineer;
- The city board included the merchant Kayukov, the Cadets Sobolev and Gorelov, and the Menshevik Meshkovsky;
- The Social Revolutionary Mamyrin visited outlying villages to drum up peasant support for the Rebellion;
- The former governor of the region under the Provisional Government, V. Dyushen, also supported the Rebellion.
Despite this class and ideological heterogeneity amongst the key protagonists of the Rebellion, they shared the fundamental goals of the UDMF, which boiled down to the following major three points:
- The overthrow of Soviet power;
- Restoration of lost freedoms, including rule of law and property rights, cancelation of restrictions on movement and trade, and reinstatement of private capital;
- Denunciation of Brest-Litovsk, and continuation of the war with the German occupiers.
All of these goals were fulfilled, however briefly, in what Russian writer Kirill Kaminets calls Yaroslavl’s “sixteen days of freedom.”
As we shall soon see, even the fact that the Rebellion formally considered itself to be at war with Germany would end up playing an ironic and tragic role.
It would go amiss not to mention the symbols under which the soldiers of the Rebellion fought. Here is what Perkhurov formally prescribed for military units:
Distinctive signs for military units answering to the Union for the Defense of the Motherland and Freedom: Stripes on the left sleeve in the form of a corner from a narrow St. George’s ribbon (chevron).
The same color scheme to be used for flags and banners. They can be adorned with saints specific to the unit in question.
Yes, that’s the very same St. George’s Ribbon that was “rehabilitated” during the Great Patriotic War, and would later come to be synonymous with Victory.
More recently, it also came to be associated with the revolts against the Ukrainian authorities during the “Russian Spring” in 2014, and with Novorossiya supporters in the subsequent War in the Donbass.
Incidentally, Latvia tried to ban St. George’s Ribbon in 2015 – a most supreme irony, considering who crushed Yaroslavl’s dreams and secured Bolshevik power in the precarious early months of its power.
Part III: 16 Days of Freedom
In early July, almost 300 officers were concentrated in Yaroslavl – 200 locals, and 100 guests from Moscow, Kaluga, and Kostroma. On the night of July 6, Perkhurov gathered 105 officers in the Leontiev Cemetery; armed with just twelve revolvers, they proceeded to storm the main weapons dump in the city, which was half a kilometer away. A 30 man police detachment sent to investigate the disturbances defected to the Rebellion, and they were soon followed by the city police (this included its head, Falaleev, who would command a squad in the ensuing battles and die on the front).
The Leontiev Cemetery
Soon after, the insurgents – now numbering in the many hundreds – seized the telegraph, postal office, radio station, and treasury, as well as the local Bolshevik HQ. Although the latter was guarded by 200 Red Guards, most of them were locals who crossed over to the Rebellion. One reason for this smooth takeover was that the local Bolshevik bigwigs were distracted, having been invited to a party in the city center organized by the actress Valentina Barkovskaya, a local celebrity who sympathized with the rebels. Another reason was that ordinary citizens welcomed the rebellion, and the Bolsheviks – who had already managed to make themselves widely hated – were too demoralized to offer up more than token resistance.
Former Yaroslavl governor’s residence, where the Bolsheviks had made their HQ.
The military commissar of the Yaroslavl region, Semyon Nakhimson, and the chairman of the local ispolkom, David Zakheim – were summarily lynched, in the two confirmed cases of execution without trial or jury on the part of the Rebellion. However, it should be pointed out that this lynching, though standard practice for the Reds, was unequivocally condemned by Perkhurov: “We must remember that we are fighting these rapists for the principles of rule of law, for freedom, and for the inviolability of the person.”
The city was under the Rebellion’s control by midday. They published a public proclamation, which began with the following words:
CITIZENS! Bolshevik power in Yaroslavl gubernia has been overthrown. Those who several months ago seized power by means of deceit, and kept control of the genuine will of the people through unheard of violence and mockeries, those who brought the people to starvation and unemployment, who set brother against brother, who divided the contents of the people’s treasury amongst their own pockets – they now sit in prison, and await their retribution.
The prison in question was what Soviet historiography would later term a “death barge”. For a long time, the Soviets claimed that the rebels imprisoned 200 Communists on a barge in the middle of the Volga. Half of them starved to death, while 109 managed to escape when a stray shell cut the barge’s anchor line. However, documents uncovered after the Soviet collapse tell a rather different story. First, only 82 surnames are mentioned. Second, it was Red artillery from the opposite shore that made resupplying the famine-stricken barge an unfeasible endeavour. Perkhurov even ordered a volunteer officer to deliver food to the barge, but his boat was hit by a shell and capsized, and the officer himself was severely wounded. The only accurate part of this Soviet story was that an artillery shell did eventually sever the anchor line, freeing the barge to drift downstream to the Red forces.
In the first heady days of the Rebellion, the town was festooned with an enormous banner, which proclaimed, “Long live free Russia! Down with the Bolsheviks! Long live the Constituent Assembly!” People were called upon to save “our Motherland and our people from shame, slavery, and hunger” in leaflets distributed by the Yaroslavl authorities. On July 8, local self-government was returned, and the laws of the Provisional Government were restored. July 13 saw the formal annulment of all Soviet institutions and Bolshevik decrees.
Source: SelfSimilar/Sputnik & Pogrom. Map of the Yaroslavl Rebellion.
Perkhurov immediately declared a mobilization, though one that was only mandatory for the officers. Despite the lack of mandatory conscription, some 6,000 men would join the Rebellion’s military forces in Yaroslavl, a city of 135,000 people. Around 1,000-2,000 of these troops would be at the front at any one time. They included a battalion of five Garford-Putilov cars, which were armed with 76.2 mm cannons and a couple of 7.62 mm machine guns.
But the celebrations had hardly died down before storm clouds started appearing on the horizon.
The UDMF had planned a series of uprisings throughout Central Russia in early July. These were to form a concentric circle around Moscow, with Yaroslavl serving as a central lynchpin, its railway hub connecting the Urals and Siberia with the Russian North. With many of the Bolsheviks’ crack Latvian Rifle troops having been diverted south to put down the rebellion in the Kuban, the plan was to sap Bolshevik energies and hold out until reinforcements arrived. The French had promised Savinkov and Perkhurov that they would send down an expeditionary force from Arkhangelsk, while the Whites forces then consolidating control over Siberia and the Urals would advance from the east.
But one by one, the planned uprisings flickered out. The cells in Moscow and Kazan had been uncovered and liquidated back in May. The cells in Kostroma, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov, and Ivanovo-Voznesensk failed to ignite. The most successful uprisings outside Yaroslavl, the ones in Rybinsk (July 8) and Murom (July 8-10), were suppressed within a couple of days, though the defenders of Yaroslavl were late to learn about it because the Bolsheviks managed to intercept the messengers. Meanwhile, it became increasingly clear that aid was not to be forthcoming. The Allies would only disembark in Arkhangelsk in August, while the People’s Army in the east would only capture Kazan in August – far too late to synchronize with the Rebellion in both cases.
Jānis Lencmanis vs. Alexander Perkhurov.
In the meantime, the Reds – having awoken to the seriousness of the crisis – were mustering their forces with a panicked urgency. An Extraordinary HQ for the Liquidation of the Mutiny, headed by Jānis Lencmanis, was formed on July 9. The military operation was to be directed by Anatoly Gekker and Yury Guzarsky. The 7,000 troops that were gathered up to storm the defiant city every bit as “diverse” as their commanders: The 3rd Hungarian International Regiment, the 8th Latvian Rifle Regiment, the 1st Warsaw Revolutionary Regiment (which included a Chinese-Korean brigade), the 2nd Riga Latvian Rifle Brigade, and units of the 1st Riga Latvian Rifle Regiment.
Moreover, the failure of the Murom Rebellion left its massive artillery stockpiles, which the UDMF had counted on capturing, in the hands of the Reds. Controlling the heights above Yaroslavl, no less than ten artillery batteries and three armored trains unleashed their fury on the Rebellion’s lines. Around 80% of Yaroslavl’s buildings were destroyed and untold damage done to the cultural and architectural legacy of this thousand year old Russian city. Even so, the civil authorities continued functioning throughout the revolt, allocating shelter for people whose homes were destroyed and disposing of bodies in the local church cemeteries.
Source: Yaroslavl After a Century. Photos of the city after the Rebellion, compared to today.
Yaroslavl gained the “honor” of becoming the world’s first ever city to be subjected to a sustained bombardment from airplanes, which dropped 250 kg worth of explosives on the city (superseding Guernica by almost twenty years).
On July 16, the Red commander Yury Guzarsky telegraphed Moscow with an ominous request:
We urgently need 10,000 shells… as well as 500 incendiary shells and 500 chemical shells. I suppose that we will have to raze the city to its foundations.
In the event, only the strong winds and heavy rains that marked the last days of the Rebellion saved Yaroslavl from acquiring another dubious mark of global primacy: The first major city to be subjected to a chemical weapons bombardment.
A. I. Malygin (1930-35): Battle in the Center of Yaroslavl, 1918.
A. I. Malygin (1930-35): Battle in the Outskirts of Yaroslavl, 1918.
Facing an increasingly hopeless situation, the Rebellion decided to split forces. A detachment of 50 men commanded by Perkhurov would attempt to break out, which they accomplished by ferry on the night of July 15-16. Meanwhile, the locals elected to fight on under General Pyotr Karpov, hoping against hope that the revolts in the other cities had succeeded, and that the French would come after all.
But by July 20, the surviving fighters realized that there would be no dawn. Their ammunition was running out, and the end was only days away, at best.
On July 21, the defenders of Yaroslavl surrendered to their enemies: The Germans.
Part IV: Genesis of the Russian Genocide
It just so happened that Yaroslavl was hosting the so-called “German Commission of POWs #4” under Lieutenant Balk. They had been interned at the Theater of Fyodor Volkov for the duration of the Rebellion. This was a reasonable precautionary measure, since the Germans were functionally allied with the Bolsheviks. Consequently, the surviving Whites offered to surrender to the Germans, subsequent to Balk’s promise not to hand them over to the Reds – who were no longer at war with Germany after Brest-Litovsk, and thus had no authority to demand they surrender their prisoners.
Theater of Fyodor Volkov, Yaroslavl.
Balk did not keep his promise. After getting repeatedly harangued by the pugilistic Guzarsky, he gave in after a day and handed over his Russian POWs to the tender mercies of the Bolsheviks.
As the Chairman of the All-Russian Bureau of Military Commissars Konstantin Yurenev had promised a few days earlier:
The White Guard rebellion in Yaroslavl must be ruthlessly suppressed. Shoot the prisoners; nothing can stop or slow down the terrible punishment of the people against the enslavers. Terror against the local bourgeoisie and its lackeys, who yearn for the coming of the French imperialists, must be merciless.
At least in this case, the Bolsheviks were true to their word. The following days saw the first large-scale massacres of the Russian Civil War.
600 White soldiers had died to give Yaroslavl its 16 days of freedom. Soon afterwards, a further 428 were summarily shot, without trial or jury. The victims consisted of local officers, students, and Cadets, as well as the entire 57 person membership of the Rebellion HQ. In total, at least 5,004 people were recorded executed in Yaroslavl gubernia by the Bolsheviks from March-November. This does not include the hundreds of people killed “off the books” in the hours following the city’s capture, nor the hundreds of peasants shot during and after the Rebellion for provisioning aid to the rebels. The population of Yaroslavl fell from 135,000 in 1917 to just 75,000 by autumn 1918. It would take a decade to recover those numbers.
Defensive lines of rebel-held Yaroslavl.
In the larger picture, the Yaroslavl Rebellion failed to achieve its strategic goals: To cement the logistical lynchpin north-east of Moscow that would allow the Entente from the north and the People’s Army from the east to link up. However, by focusing Bolshevik attention closer to home, they did manage to smooth the way for the Whites to capture Ekaterinburg, Simbirsk, and Kazan (the defenders of the latter city, the 5th Zemgale Latvian Rifle Regiment, became the first ever Red unit to be awarded with the Honorable Order of the Red Banner).
These advances alarmed the Bolsheviks, who felt that the tide was going against them in July 1918. It is quite possible that the Yaroslavl Rebellion, occurring as it did in the Russian heartlands, is the critical event that spurred them on to order the murder of the Romanov family on July 16, 1918. In retrospect, this removed one of the last lingering psychological bulwarks against Red Terror. If the Bolsheviks could extrajudicially kill the Tsar, even a former one – now demoted to “simple citizen” Nikolay Romanov – then they could, in principle, kill any citizen. And they increasingly did just that.
In the event, the People’s Army’s gains turned to be fleeting. Kazan was recaptured as early as September 1918, and the Whites in the east would never again advance as far. The Bolsheviks occupied Russia’s demographic core, controlled its industrial center and central communications nodes, and had captured the great bulk of the collapsed empire’s gold, weapons, and ammunition reserves. In the future, there would be further, much larger-scale revolts, such as the Tambov Rebellion, which would be crushed by the Bolsheviks with even greater ruthlessness. But the Bolsheviks would be dealing with them from a position of strength. With Central Russia subsequently secure, and facing no more than symbolic opposition from the Entente – not enough to materially help the Whites, but just enough to smear them as Anglo-French imperialist lackeys – the Bolsheviks’ final victory must have become highly probable even before the final fall of Yaroslavl.
Alexander Perkhurov at his trial in 1922.
The Rebellion’s leaders paid the ultimate price along with their followers. Pyotr Karpov was shot on September 13. Lopatin was shot on September 26. Savinov was shot sometime in 1918. Perkhurov and his fifty good men broke through to the People’s Army in the east, where he fought for the Whites until he was captured by Soviet forces in the frozen taiga of Siberia in 1920. Confined to a concentration camp, he was freed in January 1921 and forced to work as a Red military specialist. It took them five more months to figure out his real identity as the leader of the Yaroslavl Rebellion, after which he was promptly re-imprisoned. After a show trial at the Cheka HQ of Yaroslavl, Perkhurov was shot in July 19, 1922. His remains may well be buried where it all began, at the Leontiev Cemetery.
Boris Savinkov left for Poland in 1920. In October 1921, the Poles expelled him, wishing to restore relations with Moscow after the end of the Polish-Soviet War. He settled in Great Britain, where he wrote his closing thoughts on the Yaroslavl Rebellion in his book The Struggle against the Bolsheviks:
[The Yaroslavl Rebellion] cannot be said to have been successful, but nor was it useless. For the first time ever, not on the Don nor in the Kuban, but in the Russian heartlands, not far from Moscow, the Russian people – without any help from anyone – rose up against the Bolsheviks, and proved that they there were neither prepared to tolerate the disgrace of Brest-Litovsk, nor acquiesce quietly to Bolshevik terror. Our honor was saved.
In the end, Savinkov did not manage to save his own honor. He was lured back to the USSR in August 1924 in a Soviet secret police operation, where he was sentenced to death. But this was later commuted to 10 years in jail, where he enjoyed hotel-level service. During this time, he wrote letters to the leaders of the White emigration, urging them to cease their struggle against the Soviet Union. It is not unreasonable to speculate that there may have been a causal relationship between these two developments. Savinkov committed suicide on May 7, 1925 after jumping out of his hotel window. Although there are suspicions that he was murdered by the secret police, it is perhaps likelier that he was filled with despair at serving a regime that he surely continued to secretly loathe.
The leaders of the Coalition of the Fringes that had broken Yaroslavl and sealed Russia’s 20th century fate also eventually paid their mite to karmic justice. Yury Guzarsky was shot on Trotsky’s orders in 1919 for disobedience. Anatoly Gekker was shot in 1937. Konstantin Yurenev was shot in 1938. Jānis Lencmanis was arrested in 1937 as a member of a “Latvian fascist-terrorist spy organization”, and shot in 1939. The Baltics were occupied by the USSR in 1940.
Part V: The Soviet Story vs. The Western Story
Source: Yury Uryukov. Monument to the Victims of the White Guard mutiny (1958).
For the next 70 years the Soviets only told their “politically correct” side of the story, replete with imperialist lackeys, death barges, and a “White reign of terror” that was only brought to an end by “workers’ detachments.” After the Soviet Union collapsed, this “Soviet Story” lost its ideological monopoly and institutional backing. Consequently, as in many other areas, more and more articles on the Yaroslavl Rebellion have been appearing from a non-Soviet perspective – that is, one where foreign mass murderers are not considered to be morally superior to ordinary Russians doing their best to organize a normal, humane society amidst a maelstrom of chaos and horror. One notable example is The Yaroslavl Rebellion: 16 Days of Freedom by Kirill Kaminets for Sputnik & Pogrom, whose title I borrowed with his permission. There has been a particularly good uptick in publications to mark its centenary this month. A list of some good Russian language articles about the Yaroslavl Rebellion, many of which I drew upon here, is appended at the end.
Nonetheless, much remains to be done. There is still no epic patriotic film about the Yaroslavl Rebellion, even though it has all the elements needed for a blockbuster. In the future Russian National State, many exhibits will be devoted to it in the yet to be built Museum of the Russian Genocide. Still, the path to reconciliation begins with small steps. While Yaroslavl hosts streets named after Chekist “martyrs” such as Nakhimson and Zakheim, it has no streets named in honor of Perkhurov or Falaleev; there has been a monument to the “victims of the White Guard mutiny” since 1958, but almost three decades after the collapse of the USSR, there is still no corresponding monument to the victims of the Red Terror in Yaroslavl, of whom there were three orders of magnitude more.
This “Soviet Story” has its mirror image in the “Western Story,” whose take on the Yaroslavl Rebellion is one of studied silence. As already mentioned, there isn’t even an English language article on Wikipedia, and Google results mainly lead to brief mentions in obscure history books or general interest articles about the city. But this isn’t too surprising, since the Western narrative is grounded on the conception that the USSR was but a continuation of the Russian Empire, based on Great Russian supremacism/chauvinism over the “prison of nations”/”Captive Nations” (plus ça change…). The spectacle of “European” commissars brutally crushing an ethnic Russian uprising of merchants, workers, and nobles in support of freedom and capitalism would automatically lead to all sorts of other, highly inconvenient questions. So of course there are almost zero trends in that direction, and considering the poisonous state of relations between Russia and the West, there is no good reason to expect that to change anytime soon.
In the meantime, we get to observe the incredible spectacle of the people who overwhelmingly voted for the Bolsheviks in the 1917 elections (72% in Latvia vs. 24% in the Russian Empire as a whole), and who then did more than anyone else to secure Communist tyranny in Russia during the first precarious months of its existence, now whining for three decades and counting about getting “occupied” by their own creatures and demanding reparations.
There can be no resolution to this idiot’s limbo until both the Soviet Story and the West Story, both equally fake and pathologically hostile to Russia and Russians, are replaced with the Russian Story – the story of Yaroslavl’s 16 Days of Freedom.
Sputnik & Pogrom: 16 Days of Freedom by Kirill Kaminets (2014).
Since there are almost no good English language sources on the Yaroslavl Rebellion, this essay is essentially a condensed summary of some the following Russian language articles:
- Kirill Kaminets (Sputnik & Pogrom, 2014): Ярославское восстание: шестнадцать дней свободы
- Yury Uryukov (2018): Как уничтожили Ярославль, или Цена двухнедельной свободы
- Dmitry Sokolov (Tsargrad, 2016): Ярославское восстание 1918 года: Cвобода под дулами пушек
- Alexey Alexeev (Kommersant, 2018): Бомбить Ярославль! Как было подавлено самое известное антибольшевистское восстание
- Evgeny Ermolin (2007): Комиссия Балка
- Yaroslavl Center (2018): Бомбежки, руины и горы трупов: архивные фото и видео в день столетия с начала ярославского мятежа