Kronstadt Anti-Soviet Rebellion of 1921
Kronstadt Anti-Soviet Rebellion of 1921
a counterrevolutionary action by the garrison of Kronstadt and the crews of certain ships of the Baltic Fleet in March 1921, organized by the SR’s (Socialist Revolutionaries), Mensheviks, anarchists, and White Guards with the support of foreign imperialists. The Kronstadt Anti-Soviet Rebellion was one of the counterrevolution’s attempts to apply the new tactic of “exploding Soviet power from within.”
The revolt reflected the petit bourgeois masses’ political vacillations, which intensified in late 1920 and early 1921 as a result of the economic dislocation, famine, and other hardships caused by the Civil War of 1918–20. Dissatisfaction with the policies of War Communism seized the peasantry and some of the workers, and this situation was exploited by the petit bourgeois parties, who organized conspiracies and insurrections (for example, in the Tambov region, the Volga Region, the Ukraine, and Siberia).
The Kronstadt Anti-Soviet Rebellion was made possible by a substantial renewal during the Civil War of Baltic Fleet personnel with peasant reinforcements and even declassé elements who had fallen under the influence of petit bourgeois and anarchist conspirators. In addition, the weakness of the Bolshevik party organization and a slackening in the work of political education opened the way for a rebellion. The conspirators unleashed a campaign of demagogic agitation. At general meetings of the crews of battleships on February 28 and a city-wide meeting on lakornyi Square on March 1, resolutions were adopted demanding freedom of activity for “leftist socialist parties,” the elimination of commissars, freedom of trade, and new elections to the soviets. The leaders of the rebellion advanced the slogan “Soviets without Communists,” anticipating a shift of power to the petit bourgeois parties, or, in effect, the overthrow of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the establishment of conditions for open activity by the White Guard and for the restoration of capitalism.
On March 2 the “Provisional Revolutionary Committee” was established under the leadership of S. M. Petrichenko and with a membership consisting of anarchists and SR-Menshevik “non-party” elements who had been influenced by propaganda. Communists and workers in the soviets were arrested. “Revkom” (the Revolutionary Committee) was a cover for the true leaders of the rebellion, who on March 3 established a “defense staff’ made up of former captain E. N. Solov’ianov, former general A. R. Kozlovskii, the commander of artillery of the fortress, and former lieutenant-colonel B. A. Arkannikov.
The Kronstadt Anti-Soviet Rebellion posed a great threat to Soviet powers, inasmuch as the main base of the Baltic Fleet and the key point of Petrograd was in enemy hands. About 27,000 sailors and soldiers took part in the rebellion. Two battleships and other fighting vessels, as many as 140 coastal defense guns, and more than 100 machine-guns were at their disposal.
Under the leadership of V. I. Lenin, the Central Committee of the RCP (Bolshevik) and the Soviet government took urgent measures to suppress the rebellion. A state of seige was declared in Petrograd in accordance with the March 2 resolution of the Soviet of Labor and Defense, and the Seventh Army (about 18,000 men) under the command of M. N. Tukhachevskii was reinstated on March 5. However, the first offensive on Kronstadt, which was undetaken on March 8, ended in failure because of poor preparations and insufficient forces (about 3,000 men).
The Tenth Party Congress, which was meeting in Moscow at this time, sent about 300 delegates to the Seventh Army, including K. E. Voroshilov, A. S. Bubnov, P. I. Baranov, V. P. Zatonskii, I. S. Konev, and A. A. Fadeev. The provincial committees mobilized hundreds of officials. Political education was expanded among the troops, and talented military leaders were given command of units (for example, A. J. Sediakin, E. S. Kazanskii, P. E. Dybenko, V. K. Putna, I. F. Fed’ko, la. F. Fabritsius, and I. V. Tiulenev). By March 16, the strength of the Seventh Army had been increased to 45,000 men. At night on March 17, Soviet troops crossed the ice and launched an attack on Kronstadt. In the morning they burst into the city. After fierce fighting the rebels were routed on the morning of March 18, losing more than 1,000 killed, more than 2,000 wounded, and 2,500 captured with their weapons. About 8,000 men fled to Finland. Soviet forces lost 527 killed and 3,285 wounded.
REFERENCESLenin, V. I. “Otchet o politicheskoi deiatel’nosti TsK RKP(b)” [Tenth Party Congress]. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 43.
Pukhov, A. S. Kronshtadtskii miatezh v 1921. [Moscow] 1931.
Voroshilov, K. E. “Iz istorii podavleniia Kronshtadtskogo miatezha.” Voenno-istoricheskii zhurnal, 1961, no. 3.
I. IA. TRIFONOV