100 years ago, on September 5, 1919, the division commander Vasily Ivanovich Chapaev died. Legend and hero of the Civil War, people's commander, self-taught, who was promoted to high command posts thanks to his natural talent.
Youth. Before the war
Vasily Ivanovich was born on January 28 (February 9), 1887 in the village of Budaika, Cheboksary volost, Kazan province, into a peasant family. The family was large - nine children (four died early). The father was a carpenter. In 1897, in search of a better life, the Chapaevs (Chepaevs) family moved from Cheboksary to more prosperous places in the lower Volga region, to the village of Balakovo, Samara province.
Because of the need to work, Vasily finished only two classes of the parish school. He helped his father, was in the service of a merchant, learned to sell, but the merchant did not leave him. As a result, he mastered carpentry, worked with his father. In search of work, they roamed all over the Volga. As Chapaev himself later said, he became an exemplary carpenter.
In autumn 1908 he was drafted into the army, sent to Kiev. But in the spring of 1909 he was transferred to the reserve. Obviously due to illness. He married the priest's daughter Pelageya. Before the start of the war, he had three children - Alexander, Claudia and Arkady. They all became worthy people. Alexander became an artilleryman, went through the Great Patriotic War, ended it as the commander of an artillery brigade. After the war, he continued his military service and completed it as deputy commander of the artillery of the Moscow district. Arkady became a pilot, died in 1939 as a result of a fighter accident. Claudia was a collector of materials about her father, she collected a huge archive.
War and revolution
With the outbreak of World War II, Vasily Ivanovich was drafted into service and sent to a reserve regiment. He got to the front at the beginning of 1915, since he was considered an experienced soldier, he was enrolled in the regimental training team, which trained non-commissioned officers. Chapaev fought in the 326th Belgoraisky Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Infantry Division of the 9th Army of the Southwestern Front in Volyn and Galicia. He took part in the battle for Przemysl, in positional battles in Galicia, in 1916 - in the Brusilov breakthrough. He served up to the sergeant major, was wounded and contused several times, showed himself to be a skillful and brave soldier, was awarded three St. George's crosses and the St. George medal.
After another injury, in the spring of 1917, Vasily Chapaev was sent to the 90th reserve infantry regiment in Saratov. There he became a member of the shock detachment, they were created by the Provisional Government in conditions of the complete decomposition of the army. In the summer of 1917, Chapaev was transferred to the 138th reserve regiment in the city of Nikolaevsk (now Pugachev in the Saratov region). Politically, Vasily first joined the Saratov anarchists, but then went over to the Bolsheviks. In September, he joined the RSDLP (b). In his regiment, Chapaev continued to maintain discipline, did not allow the regimental property to be plundered, had influence on the soldiers and showed himself to be a good organizer.
After the October Revolution, Vasily Ivanovich, with the support of soldiers, became the commander of the 138th regiment. As a result, he became the main military support of the Bolsheviks of the Nikolaev district of the Samara province. In December 1917, Chapaev was elected district commissar of internal affairs, in January 1918 - military commissar. Commissar Chapaev fought against the actions of peasants and Cossacks, which were most often organized by the Social Revolutionaries. He also took part in the organization of the district Red Guard, and on the basis of the 138th regiment, the 1st Nikolaevsky regiment was formed. Then the formation of the 2nd Nikolaev regiment began.
The beginning of the Civil War
In March 1918, the Ural Cossacks revolted. The Soviets were dissolved, the Bolsheviks were arrested. The Saratov Soviet demanded that the Cossack military government restore the Soviets and expel all the "cadets" from Uralsk. The Cossacks refused. The Army of the Saratov Council was moved to Uralsk along the railroad - it was based on the 1st and 2nd Nikolaev regiments (detachments) under the command of Demidkin and Chapaev. From the beginning, the offensive was successful - the Reds overturned the Cossack screens and were 70 miles from Uralsk. But then the Cossacks, using their good knowledge of the terrain and the superiority of the cavalry, blocked the Red Guards in the area of the Shipovo station, cutting them off from Saratov. After stubborn battles, the Reds were able to break through the encirclement and retreat to the border of the area. Then the front stabilized.
In May 1918, the Czechoslovak Corps began to protest, it was supported by detachments of officers, "cadets" - liberals, democrats-Februaryists, dissatisfied that they were ousted from power. Fighting resumed between the Saratov Reds and the Ural White Cossacks. In June, the Eastern Front was formed, headed by Muravyov, and the detachments of the Saratov Soviet were also included in it. 1st and 2nd Nikolaevskys were united in a brigade (about 3 thousand fighters) headed by Vasily Chapaev. The Nikolaev brigade again launched an offensive along the Saratov-Uralsk railway. In stubborn battles, the Chapaevites advanced to the Shipovo station, but then they were again thrown back to their original positions. The SR revolt and the betrayal of the commander Muravyov complicated the situation.
In July 1918, the situation in the Volga region was critical. The Czechoslovakians and the troops of Komuch captured Syzran, Ufa, Bugulma and Simbirsk. Nikolayevsky district became a key node of resistance. The Nikolaev brigade and detachments of the Red Guard prevented the combination of Komuch's forces with the Ural Cossacks and the movement down the Volga. The Nikolaev brigade will be reorganized into a division of five infantry and horse regiments. In early August, the task was completed. The division was headed by the military commissar of the Balakovo district, S. P. Zakharov. Chapaev commanded the 1st brigade. The Nikolaev division, which was part of the 4th Army, fought with the Khvalyn group of Komuch under the command of Colonel Makhin. The battles went on with varying success. On August 20, the Czechs were able to take Nikolaevsk. Chapaev counterattacked and was able to cut off the Czech legionnaires from Komuch's troops. The Czechoslovakians retreated, on August 23 the Chapayevites liberated the city. At a rally in honor of the liberation of the city, Chapaev proposed to rename Nikolaevsk to Pugachev. This idea was supported. Heavy fighting with Czechs and whites continued.
In early September, Chapaev began to act as commander of the Nikolaev division, instead of the retired Zakharov. At this time, the Ural Cossacks intensified their actions, making raids on the rear of the 4th Red Army. The Czechs and the Komuch People's Army advanced on Volsk and Balakovo. An uprising began in Volsk. As a result, the Volskaya division of the Reds found itself between two fires and was defeated, its command was killed. In this critical situation, Chapaev carried out additional mobilization in Nikolaev-Pugachev, knocked out reserves from the command of the 4th Army and launched a counteroffensive. On September 8, the Nikolaev division defeated the whites, went to the rear of Komuch's troops. After fierce battles, Komuch's troops were defeated. Volsk and Khvalynsk were repulsed. The Chapaevites captured large trophies.
During the Syzran-Samara operation, which began on September 14, 1918, the Nikolaev division advanced on Samara. It was again headed by Zakharov. On September 20, the train of the head of the RVS Trotsky arrived at the division's location. It was decided to form the 2nd Nikolaev division, headed by Chapaev. She was supposed to act in the Urals direction, protecting the flank of the Eastern Front. The structure of the new division included the relatives of Chapaev of the 1st and 2nd regiments, who learned the names of Razin and Pugachev.
In October 1918, the Chapaevites fought heavy battles with the Ural Cossacks, who received reinforcements from the Orenburg Cossacks. The White Cossacks could not directly withstand the onslaught of the Red infantry regiments, however, they compensated for this with the maneuverable actions of first-class cavalry. They constantly maneuvered, attacked either head-on or from the flanks and rear, intercepted communications, disrupted supplies. Chapaev constantly asked for reinforcements, weapons, equipment and ammunition. He offered to retreat to Nikolaev, to replenish the division, to regroup. And the command set up impracticable offensive tasks. At the end of October, Chapaev arbitrarily pulled the troops back. He announced that his regiments had successfully escaped the encirclement. A scandal broke out. The commander of the 4th Army, Khvesin, proposed to remove Chapaev from command and bring him to trial. The high command was against it.
In battles with Cossacks, White and Czech legionaries, Vasily Ivanovich showed himself to be a skillful and brave commander who is respected and loved by soldiers, an excellent tactician who correctly assessed the situation and made the right decisions. He was still brave, personally led the troops in the attack. He was independent, showed initiative, even violated the orders of the higher command, if he considered them erroneous. It was a natural governor.
In November 1918 Vasily Ivanovich was sent to the newly created Academy of the General Staff of the Red Army in Moscow. Chapaev by this time had only primary education and did not even finish the course of the parish school. Therefore, it was very difficult for him to study complex and special military disciplines. At the same time, the division commander had to go through the infantry command courses program. In addition, the teaching staff was significantly updated, and some of the new teachers did not want and could not enter the position of a part of the poorly educated students. With his studies at the academy, Chapaev did not work out and he recalled this experience with irritation: “At the academies we are not educated … We do not study like a peasant … We did not wear generals' shoulder straps, and without them, thank God, not everyone there will be such a strategy”. However, he admitted that the academy is a "great thing." Some teachers recalled that Vasily Chapaev had good inclinations. As a result, the Red Divisional Commander voluntarily returned to the front to "beat the White Guards."
After visiting his native places, Chapaev met with Frunze. They liked each other. Chapaev treated the "Red Napoleon" with great respect. At the suggestion of Frunze in February 1919, he began to command the Aleksandrovo-Gai group, which opposed the Ural Cossacks. Frunze's fellow countryman from Ivanovo-Voznesensk Dmitry Furmanov (future biographer of the Civil War hero) was appointed commissar of the formation. They sometimes quarreled over the fervor of the division commander, but eventually became friends.
According to Frunze's plan, Chapaev's group was to advance in the area of Kazachya Talovka and the village of Slomikhinskaya with a further exit to Lbischensk, and Kutyakov's group continued to advance on Lbischensk from Uralsk. The March operation was successful: the White Cossacks were defeated and retreated to the Urals, many surrendered, recognized Soviet power and were released to their homes. At this time, Chapaev had to make more efforts to maintain order and discipline in the troops, in which decay began (robbery, drunkenness, etc.). Even part of the command staff had to be arrested.
The further offensive of the troops of Chapaev and Kutyakov to the south was prevented by the onset of thaw and flooding of the steppe rivers. The commander of the Southern Group of the Eastern Front, Frunze, recalled Chapaev to Samara. At the end of March, Chapaev led the 25th rifle division - the former 1st Nikolaev division, reinforced by the Ivanovo-Voznesensky and International regiments, artillery and an air squadron (later an armored squadron was included in the division). At this time, the Russian army of Kolchak began the "Flight to the Volga" - the spring offensive. On the southern flank, the Ural Cossacks became active again and blocked Uralsk. However, it got stuck in the siege of its "capital". Orenburg Cossacks laid siege to Orenburg.
In the Ufa direction, the 5th Red Army was defeated. The Red Eastern Front was broken through, the Western army of Khanzhin was pushing towards the Volga. The Siberian army of Gaida advanced in the Vyatka direction. A new wave of peasant uprisings began in the rear of the Reds. Therefore, the powerful 25th division of Chapaev (9 regiments) became one of the main strike forces of Frunze and acted against the main forces of Kolchak's army. The Chapaevites took part in the Buguruslan, Belebey and Ufa operations, which ended in the failure of the Kolchak offensive. The Chapaevites successfully made rounds, intercepted messages from the White Guards, and smashed their rear. Successful agile tactics became a feature of the 25th Division. Even opponents singled out Chapaev and noted his commanding abilities. Chapaev's division became one of the best on the Eastern Front, Frunze's shock fist. Chapaev loved his fighters, they paid him the same. In many ways, he was a people's chieftain, but at the same time he possessed a military talent, a huge passionarity, which he infected those around him.
A major success for the Chapayev division was the crossing of the Belaya River near Krasny Yar in early June 1919, which came as a surprise to the White command. White transferred reinforcements here, but in the course of a fierce battle, the Reds defeated the enemy. It was here that the White Guards launched the famous "psychic attack." During this battle, Frunze was wounded, and Chapaev was wounded in the head, but continued to lead his units. On the evening of July 9, the Chapaevites broke into Ufa and liberated the city. The chief commander Chapaev and the brigade commander Kutyakov were presented to Frunze for awarding the Orders of the Red Banner, and the regiments of the division were presented with the honorary Revolutionary Red Banners.
Again in the Ural direction. Doom
As a result of the defeat of the main forces of Kolchak in the Ufa direction, the red high command decided to transfer part of the forces of the Eastern Front to defend Petrograd and to the Southern Front. And the 25th division was again sent to the southern flank to turn the tide in the fight against the Ural army. Chapaev led a special group, which included the 25th division and the Special brigade (two rifle and one cavalry regiments, two artillery battalions). In total, under the command of Chapaev, there were now 11 rifle and two cavalry regiments, 6 artillery divisions (a whole corps).
On July 4, an offensive began with the aim of unblocking Uralsk, where the red garrison continued to defend itself. The White Cossacks had no chance of stopping Chapaev's powerful strike group, although they tried to resist. In the battles of July 5-11, the Ural army was defeated and began to retreat to Lbischensk. On July 11, the Chapaevites broke through to Uralsk and liberated the city from a long blockade. The further offensive of the Chapaev group, due to the stretching of communications, the lack of a stable rear, heat and the destruction of wells by the Cossacks, enemy raids, slowed down. On August 9, Chapaev's division occupied Lbischensk. The White Cossacks retreated further down the Urals.
Chapaev's troops, breaking away from the rear, having great supply problems, settled in the Lbischensk region. The headquarters of the 25th division, like other divisional institutions, was located in Lbischensk. The main forces of the division were located 40-70 km from the city. The command of the White Cossack Ural Army decided to undertake a raid on the rear of the enemy, to attack Lbischensk. A combined detachment from the 2nd Division of Colonel Sladkov and the 6th Division of General Borodin, who led this group, was sent on the campaign. There are about 1200-2000 people in total. The Cossacks, knowing the area perfectly, were able to quietly reach the city and on September 5, 1919, they attacked it. The rear servicemen and peasants-trainers were unable to offer strong resistance. Hundreds of people were killed and captured. Chapaev's headquarters was destroyed. The red division commander himself gathered a small detachment and tried to organize resistance. He was wounded and killed. According to one version - during a shootout, according to another - swimming across the Urals.
Vasily Ivanovich Chapaev lived a short (32 years old) but bright life. Thanks to Furmanov's book (published in 1923) and Vasiliev's famous film Chapaev (1934), he forever became one of the most famous heroes of the Civil War and even entered folklore.