Savinkov, Boris Viktorovich

Savinkov, Boris Viktorovich


(pen name V Rop shin). Born Jan. 19(31), 1879, in Kharkov; died May 7, 1925, in Moscow. Russian political figure and writer. One of the leaders of the Socialist Revolutionary (SR) Party.

Savinkov joined the SR Party in 1903 and was a leader of the party’s “fighting organization” until 1906. He took part in the assassination of the minister of internal affairs V. K. Plehve and the Moscow governor-general Grand Prince Sergei Aleksan-drovich. In 1906, Savinkov was arrested and sentenced to be executed, but he managed to escape. In 1907 he left the SR Party over differences with the leadership. His novella The Pale Horse, which expressed his disenchantment with the terrorist struggle, was published in 1909. He emigrated in 1911. His novel What Never Happened, which was devoted to the events of the Revolution of 1905–07 and the disintegration of the SR Party, was published in 1914. During World War I, Savinkov volunteered for the French Army.

After the bourgeois-democratic revolution that took place in February 1917, Savinkov returned to Russia. He was commissar of the Provisional Government attached to General Staff Headquarters and then commissar of the Southwestern Front and deputy minister of war. He maintained contact with L. G. Kornilov and M. V. Alekseev and was a member of the reactionary Soviet of the Union of Cossack Hosts. After the October Revolution of 1917, Savinkov participated in the Keren-sky-Krasnov Rebellion of 1917 and joined the anti-Soviet Citizens’ Council formed in the Don region by General Alekseev. He also took part in the creation of the Volunteer Army. In February and March 1918 he established in Moscow the underground counterrevolutionary Union for the Defense of the Motherland and Freedom. Abroad in 1919, Savinkov carried on negotiations with the Entente governments concerning aid to the White forces. During the Soviet-Polish War of 1920 he was chairman of the Russian Political Committee in Warsaw and trained anti-Soviet military detachments, including those led by S. N. Bulak-Balakhovich. From 1921 to 1923, Savinkov directed a campaign of espionage and sabotage against the USSR. In 1923 his novella The Black Horse, which dealt with the hopelessness of the White movement, was published in Paris.

Savinkov was arrested on Aug. 16, 1924, after crossing the Soviet border illegally. At his trial he repented his crimes and acknowledged the failure of efforts to overthrow the Soviet regime. On Aug. 29, 1924, he was sentenced to be shot, but the sentence was commuted to a term of imprisonment for ten years. In prison, Savinkov was able to continue his literary work. He wrote letters to various leaders of the White emigration calling for a cessation of the struggle against the Soviet state. He later committed suicide.

V. I. Ardamatskii’s novel Retribution (1972) and the film Failure (1969) deal with Savinkov’s anti-Soviet activity.


V tiur’me. [Preface by A. V. Lunacharskii.] Moscow, 1925.
Vospominaniia terrorista, 3rd ed. [Preface by F. Kon. Kharkov, 1928.]
Posmertnye stat’i i pis’ma. Moscow, 1926.


Boris Savinkov pered Voennoi kollegiei Verkhovnogo suda SSSR. Moscow, 1924.
Shomaro, A. “Boloto ropshinskikh perezhivanii.” Nauka i religiia, 1966, no. 4.
Korovin, V. V., and E. P. Rusanov. “Delo Borisa Savinkova.” Istoriia SSSR, 1967, no. 6.
Anashkin, G. Z. “Boris Savinkov pered Verkhovnym sudom Sovets-kogo gosudarstva.” Sovetskoe gosudarstvo i pravo, 1973, no. 6.
Golinkov, D. L. Krushenie antisovetskogo podpol’ia ν SSSR (1917–25), Moscow, 1975. Pages 664–74.