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Report of the Director of the Odessa Regional Military about the combined revolt of the Germans and Russians in June 1920.
July, 1920. Report about the rebellion in the area of the city of Ovidipol-Majaki in June 1920.
As I familiarized myself locally with the documents on hand about the rebellion which had occurred, it appeared to me that it had no clear local character, and occurred not because of the grain-delivery obligation or because of the controlled mobilization, but had a substantially deeper character. The delivery obligation and the mobilization played a role similar to that of an umbrella, behind which the ambitions of the leaders were hidden. That was what really determined the local conditions. One of the important proofs is the fact that the leaders of the rebellion were all from the ranks of the voluntary officers. They also, in the last year of the rebellion, organized under the slogan, “Down with Soviet power, long live the Constituent Assembly.” Several of these, Bardt and Häberle and other, names of whom have not yet been determined, were also leaders this year of this movement, but they changed the slogan somewhat, so that it now declared – “Long live Soviet power – down with the communes” […]
It must still be mentioned that the agitators from Odessa and those from Dalnik [Ukrainian town NW of Odessa] came to the insurgents, so that it all feels like a close connection to the White Army of Crimea.
Some local colleagues here also state the fact that it did not happen without assistance from Romania, and offer as the first proof the fact that the insurgents had completely new Russian rifles with sufficient quantities of cartridges and hand grenades. These could only be obtained from there, because there is no possibility that they could have stored these kinds of weapons. Secondly, since the rebellion, Romania has moved its army to Ackerman and consolidated it along the nearby riverbank, ie. at those places opposite which the rebellion took place. Thirdly, after the Red Army had broken through, a considerable number of insurgents ran into the reeds along the Romanian shore, and they were not prevented from doing so, something they never permitted our fishermen to do. The rebellion began almost at the same time in the area around Majaki and in the German colonies to the northwest of Bolschaja Ackarsha (Grossliebental colony), on June 27 of this year. The centre of the resistance was in the town of Majaki, where up until then everything had been peaceful and was noticed only because the conscripted young men did not appear for mobilization. During the night of the 27th the peaceful life of the town came to an end. Assaults occurred against all Soviet authorities as well as dwellings of the communists. The Tenth District of Odessa Soviet-area workers- and farmer militia was totally demolished, windows and doors were broken, glass smashed out, all filing cabinets and property stolen. A group of militia made up of local communists, about ten in number, withdrew in the direction of Beljaewka, where they joined the troops of Comrade Shukowskij; one group was caught by surprise and had to hide in the gardens and the reed bank. In this way the insurgents captured the town completely be surprise, and without any resistance. For something so un-expected to happen (incidentally the revolt surprised all the authorities of the city in the theatre), I hold the director of the Tenth District, Comrade Okun, responsible – it is incomprehensible to me that the militia who lived with the residents and interacted with them, could know nothing. As observers say, about 200 people organized the rebellion, but many joined in the process.
As soon as it was light, the [Church]bells rang and a meeting was organized, at which the topic of the revolution was discussed. Agitators who had arrived from Odessa and Dalnik as well as local insurgents spoke. Some were wary of risking such a measure, but the majority, urged on by the most-negative and appalling provocative agitation, decided to revolt.
Incidentally, unbelievable things were said about the Soviet authority and the communists: it is apparent that soon there will be a mobilization of the women, who will be sent on joint maneuvers, even as far away as China, and other nonsense. This agitation fell on fertile ground – the majority of the residents are very wealthy, and Orthodox as well. At the meeting the well-known criminal Leschtschinski (from Majaki) was chosen as the leader of the insurgent Majaki troops in the entire area. And what is very telling and especially noteworthy – a local resident prosecution magistrate was chosen as commander of the defense of the city of Majaki, and as Commandant a civil judge (I cannot remember the names; they will be mentioned in additional documents).
From the beginning of the rebellion, insurgents began to walk along the streets and force people to join. Then one group of insurgents left for Beljaewka, where a meeting had been organized, and people were encouraged to join, but the people of Beljaewka resisted and only about 15 persons went along.
At the same time the revolt was also inflamed under the guidance of Häberle and Bardt in the German villages of Peterstal and Josefstal. The total numbers of the insurgents in these colonies could not be determined, but on average there were equal numbers of Russians and Germans. Delegates of the insurgents from these villages were also in Grossliebental and Kleinliebental, Selz, Baden, and Kandel, but German colonists, remembering well the lessons of the past year, refused to participate, especially opposed to the revolt was Grossliebental. The insurgent Germans went to Majaki and Kalagleja, where they joined the Russian insurgents, and started the attack on Ovidipol. They left the main staff and a considerable reserve in Kalagleja. About 300 cartloads with 4 machine guns (“Maxims”) and an unknown quantity of light machine guns left for Ovidipol. On each cart rode 4-5 people.
They were met by the militia and companies stationed there. After a three-hour battle, our forces, under attack from all sides, withdrew. Incidentally, some of the insurgents arrived by boat (about boats), and mobilized just like landing troops, thus quickly capturing the premises of the district militia. Just like in Majaki, here the Soviet offices were demolished; communists were sought out and their quarters destroyed. A wagon on which a machine gun was mounted was demobilized when one horse was shot and the other was injured. The Machine gun could not be rescued and fell into the hands of the insurgents. Nearly all of the insurgents were drunk and probably as a result fought better. Few of the residents of Ovidipol joined in, and of those who did, most were from the suburb Lewaja Skurta. The militia, according to statements from the Military office and members of the Revolutionary Committee, behaved excellently, fought well, and there was not one who disappeared or fled. In the night of 30 June, about 2:00 a.m., a troop sent from Odessa arrived in the city. After about a five-hour fight the insurgents left the city and withdrew to Kalagleja, and in doing so, fired 12 missiles at the city [Ovidipol]. During the retreat of the insurgents, the machine gun belonging to the militia was again recovered. At the same time that Ovidipol was under siege, Majaki was also being attacked. Thereby two fronts were pushed in the direction of Franzeld (Karagol). A further attack by our troops on Majaki resulted in yet another two-hour battle with the insurgents at Franzfeld, but they were defeated and fled in all directions. The insurgents from Majaki fled with two machine guns into the Romanian reed bank, and the Germans to their own colonies.
The 121st Brigade of the Interior Military Command, which had fought the rebellion, quickly organized a commission to liquidate the rebellion, identify the guilty ones, and confiscate their property. From the outset there were no strict repressive measures against the rebels, and I fear that so humane a treatment will do more harm than good, since such a poor lesson will allow them to revolt again. The District Militia Office is again functional; however it is in terrible condition because everything is destroyed. It will have to start over from the beginning, and there is lots of work to do.
A more detailed report I cannot supply because of a lack of time – I will finish it in the near future.
Chairman of the Area Militia – Sawizkij
From documents at the State Archives of Odessa District, Ukraine
Source: Odessa Regional State Archive, Odessa, Ukraine.
Fund R-2106, Inventory 3, Files 242.
Found by Valery Mock – 2004.
Translated by Merv Weiss – 2008.
©2008 Merv Weiss