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Entries / Kronstadt Rebellion of 1921

Kronstadt Rebellion of 1921

Categories / Social Life

KRONSTADT REBELLION OF 1921 (in official Soviet historiography, Kronstadt Mutiny). An armed uprising by the Kronstadt garrison and a number of ships from the Baltic Fleet, lasting from 1-18 March 1921, aimed against Bolshevik rule. The Kronstadt Rebellion was mainly caused by peasant and worker discontent over policies of war, communism (the system of appropriating surpluses, establishment of barrier troops), and was a protest against the Bolshevik monopoly of political power, and the poor economic and food situation in Petrograd, which deteriorated sharply towards the end of the winter of 1920-21. In February 1921, strikes erupted at many enterprises in Petrograd, accompanied by disturbances and demonstrations. On 25 February, the Soviet authorities introduced martial law in Petrograd. The disturbances in Petrograd strongly influenced sailors and soldiers in Kronstadt. On 26 February, delegations from the Petropavlovsk and Sevastopol battleships were sent from Kronstadt to Petrograd to hold general meetings on 27 February with ship crews concerning unrest in the city. On the afternoon of 1 March, a meeting of around 16.000 people was held on Yakornaya Square in Kronstadt, who were addressed by N.N. Kuzmin, Commissar of the Baltic Navy, P.D. Vasilyev, Chairman of the Kronstadt Soviet, and M.I. Kalinin, Chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committеe. They tried to persuade the soldiers to withdraw their political claims. However, at the meeting a resolution was made, by an overwhelming majority, to demand a re-election for the Soviets, for free activity on behalf of socialist parties, and the abolition of commissars, political departments as institutions and barrier troops, and for absolute rights for peasants to manage their own land. On 2 March, the rebels formed a Military Revolutionary Committee, with five (later fifteen) members, which was headed by S.M. Petrichenko, a clerk from the Petropavlovsk Battleship. The rebellion was headquartered on the Petropavlovsk battleship. The Russian Communist Party (of Bolsheviks) in Kronstadt began to dissolve (while in January 1921 it numbered 2.680 members, the party was left with about 900 people by the time of the rebellion). On 2 March, the Kronstadt Provisional Bureau of the Russian Communist Party (of Bolsheviks) was organized, summonsing Kronstadt communists to cooperate with the Military Revolutionary Committee (Voenny Revolutsiony Komitet). The developments in Kronstadt aroused a strong response from the Soviet government. The government repressed any attempt by the rebels to explain their viewpoint or enter negotiations. On 2 March, the Soviet of Labour and Defence decreed a state of siege. On 4 March, the government published a report on the Kronstadt Rebellion, calling it a revolt prepared by the Whites and agents of the Entente (the allied powers), and declaring all the rebels outlaws. The Soviet authorities managed to stop unrest in Petrograd (which was partly due to official propaganda portraying the Kronstadt Rebellion as counter-revolutionary). In response to the actions taken by the Soviet authorities, the Military Revolutionary Committee formed a defence headquarters joined by such military specialists, including the artillery commander, former General A.R. Kozlovsky, Captain E.N. Solovyanov, Lieutenant Colonel B.A. Arkannikov, and others. The rebels seized the Baltic Fleet's main base (more than 26.000 sailors and soldiers, 2 battleships, up to 140 guns, and about 100 machine-guns). In Kronstadt, they started publishing the newspaper Izvestia VRK and issuing leaflets that urged Red Army soldiers and workers to support the fight for the third revolution against the Bolshevik dictatorship. The Soviet government, headed by Lenin, which had intended to end the policy of war-communism, decided to put down the rebellion by force of arms, since it viewed the Kronstadt Rebels' political claims as their main threat. On 5 March, under the command of M. N. Tukhachevsky, the 7th Army was re-established (northern force, more than 3,700 men; southern force, about 10,000 men; reserves, 4,000). The attack on 8 March failed due to poor training and low morale among Red Army soldiers, some of whom refused to fight against their "brothers", as they called the Kronstadt Rebels. The unreliable units were disbanded; many soldiers were shot for their refusal to carry out their military mission. By 16 March, the 7th Army numbered about 45,000 men. A new assault started on the night of 17 March. Soviet troops left the Oranienbaum and Sestroretsk area for Kronstadt, travelling across the frozen-over Gulf of Finland. On the morning of 17 March, assault troops stormed the fortress. By 12:00 on 18 March, the Kronstadt Rebellion was suppressed. Official statistics saw there were more than 1,000 rebels dead, more than 2,000 wounded and 2,500 taken prisoner. About 8,000 people, including members of the Military Revolutionary Committee, fled for Finland over the ice. The Soviet troops lost 527 men killed and had 3.825 wounded. On 21 March, the state of siege was lifted in the Petrograd and Petrogradskaya Province. Participants of the Kronstadt Rebellion were cruelly repressed; by summer 1921, 2.103 people had been sentenced to execution by shooting, 6.459 sentenced to different terms of imprisonment, and thousands of Kronstadt sailors were sent to concentration camps. In spring 1922, mass expulsion of Kronstadt residents began (2.514 people were exiled in all). Most participants of the Kronstadt Rebellion, who came back from Finland after amnesty was declared by the Soviet government (November 1921 and 1922), were also repressed. The All-Russian Emergency Commission held an investigation, and could not find any evidence that the Whites, Mensheviks or Socialist-Revolutionaries had been involved in the Kronstadt Rebellion. In 1994, all participants of the Kronstadt Rebellion were rehabilitated according to a decree issued by the President of the Russian Federation, B.N. Yeltsin, and a monument to the rebels was erected on Yakornaya Square in Kronstadt.

References: Кронштадт, 1921 / Сост. В. П. Наумов, А. А. Косаковский. М., 1997; Кронштадтская трагедия 1921 года: Документы: В 2 т. / Сост. М. А. Антифеева; Под ред. В. П. Козлова. М., 1999.

A. M. Kulegin.

Arkannikov B.A.
Kalinin Mikhail Ivanovich
Kozlovsky A.R.
Kuzmin Nikolay Nikolaevich
Lenin (real name Ulyanov) Vladimir Ilyich
Petrichenko S.M.
Solovyanov E.N.
Tukhachevsky Mikhail Nikolaevich
Vasilyev P.D.
Yeltsin Boris Nikolaevich

Yakornaya Square/Kronshtadt, city

Кронштадт, 1921 / Сост. В. П. Наумов, А. А. Косаковский. М., 1997
Кронштадтская трагедия 1921 года: Док.: В 2 т. / Сост. М. А. Антифеева; Под ред. В. П. Козлова. М., 1999

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