F.F. Raskolnikov

Tales of Sub-Lieutenant Ilyin

The Fate of the Black Sea Fleet


One day at the beginning of June 1918 Comrade Lenin telephoned me and told me to come and see him at once. I went out into the street. It was a warm, sunny day. The shadows of the trees lay like lace on the worn flagstones of the pavement. Passing under the vaulted archway of the white Kustafya Tower, [The Kustafya Tower is the barbican of the Troitsky Gate of the Kremlin.] I showed my cardboard permanent pass to the Red Army soldier, armed with a rifle, who stood on guard, and then, through the Troitsky Gate, on which at that time still hung a large icon, darkened by time, made my way up the steep approach to the Kremlin.

The broad courtyard, paved with large cobblestones, was deserted. Ancient guns with long barrels extending horizontally were lined up, like soldiers, in front of the high barrack buildings. The wide muzzle of the Tsar-Cannon [The Tsar-Cannon, cast in 1586, is one of the largest cannon ever made, and along with the Tsar-Bell, the largest bell in the world, is one of the ‘sights’ of the Kremlin.] showed black on its short carriage, before which rose a pyramid of heavy, round iron cannon balls. I entered by the corner door of the Council of People’s Commissars, went up the stairs and, along a corridor carpeted with new matting, made my way to the spacious reception-room, furnished with tables and cupboards, of Vladimir Ilyich’s office. Comrade Glyasser went in to report my arrival. A minute later she emerged from Lenin’s workroom and, adjusting her pincenez, said: ‘Vladimir Ilyich asks you to go in.’

I opened the door through which Comrade Glyasser had returned and, across a carpet which muffled my footsteps, traversed a conference-room in the midst of which stood a long table covered with thick green cloth. When I reached the opposite end of the room I knocked softly and cautiously on the white, two-leaved door.

‘Come in,’ said Vladimir Ilyich in his deep, pleasant voice. I opened the door and went into the brightly-lit work-room. Vladimir Ilyich was sitting at a desk, on a wooden chair with a round back. In front of him stood, symmetrically placed, two low leather armchairs for visitors. At the side was a small revolving bookcase filled with books. The brand-new bookcases ranged along the wall contained more books, tidily arranged. On the wall beside the entrance-door a map of Russia showed green.

When I appeared, Vladimir Ilyich looked up, gently squeezed my hand and asked me to sit down. I settled into one of the low leather armchairs.

‘I sent for you because things are going badly at Novorossiisk,’ said Vladimir Ilyich, anxiously stroking his head and fixing me with his deep, dark eyes. ‘Vakhrameyev[Vakhrameyev, 1.1., 1885-1965. He reached Novorossiisk on June 2.] and Glebov-Avilov have wired that the plan to scuttle the Black Sea Fleet is meeting with a lot of resistance from a section of the crews and from all the White-Guard-minded officers. There is a strong tendency in favour of going to Sebastopol. But taking the fleet to Sebastopol means handing it over to German imperialism. We can’t allow that to happen. It is necessary, at all costs, to scuttle the fleet: otherwise, it will fall into the hands of the Germans. Here is a coded message we have just received from Berlin ... Joffe wires that the German Government is categorically demanding that the Black Sea fleet be transferred from Novorossiisk to Sebastopoi.’

Vladimir Ilyich briskly extracted the deciphered copy of Joffe’s telegram from a heap of papers and, holding it in both hands, read it out to me.

The German Government was peremptorily insisting that, not later than June 18, the entire Black Sea fleet be transferred to Sebastopol, which was held by the Germans and where it would be interned until the end of the war. If the fleet remained in Soviet-held Novorossiisk after that day, the German imperialists threatened to seize the ships by armed force.

‘You must leave today for Novorossiisk,’ said Lenin, in a decisive tone that brooked no objection. ‘Ring Nevsky and ask him, in my name, to prepare a special train for you. Be certain to take with you a couple of carriages manned by sailors, with a machine-gun. Between Kozlov and Tsaritsyn there is a dangerous situation.’

Vladimir Ilyich got to his feet and, sticking both his thumbs under the armpits of his waistcoat, went up to the map on the wall. I followed him.

‘The Don Cossacks have cut the railway line. They’ve taken Aleksikovo. . .’And, quickly finding his bearings on the map, Vladimir Ilyich pointed out to me a station situated between Borisoglebsk and Serebryakovo station.

I was struck and deeply touched by the care that Vladimir Ilyich showed in not forgetting to warn me of the danger and in concerning himself with the protection I should have.

‘And on the Volga there’s a regular Vendée,’ said Vladimir Ilyich bitterly, as he returned to his desk. ‘I know the Volga countryside well. There are some tough kulaks there.’ And, shaking his head, he sat down at the desk, on which books, documents, papers and forms were tidily arranged.

After a moment’s pause, he said: ‘Now, I’ll write out a mandate for you. Today is Sunday and Bonch-Bruyevich isn’t here. But that doesn’t matter. You know where he lives? Go to his flat and get him to stamp this document.’ Vladimir Ilyich vigorously shifted his chair closer to the desk, took up a form with on its top left corner the inscription: ‘Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the RSFSR’, and, bending his head low, wrote quickly.

‘Well, there you are. I wish you success.’ Vladimir Ilyich handed me my mandate.

I hastily read the document. Quite short, it testified that I had been dispatched by the Council of People’s Commissars to perform an urgent and important task at Novorossiisk, and, consequently, the authorities, civil, military and on the railway, were ordered to render me all possible assistance.

I thanked Vladimir Ilyich, lovingly shook his strong hand, and left the room.

Vladimir Dmitriyevich Bonch-Bruyevich, who was then in charge of the business of the Council of People’s Commissars, was not to be found at his home. Returning to my flat, I telephoned the People’s Commissar for Communications, Comrade V.1. Nevsky, and asked him to get a special train ready for me. Vladimir Ivanovich replied that everything would be seen to, and at 10p.m. sharp a special train consisting. of a locomotive and one carriage would be waiting for me in Kazan Station.[The station from which trains going eastward leave Moscow.]

Accompanied by Altvater, I went by car to the Naval General Staff. Former Rear-Admiral Vasily Mikhailovich Altvater, with his big blue eyes and clipped beard like Nicholas II,[Admiral V. M. Altvater (1883-1919), an officer of the Imperial Tussian Navy, was at this time Assistant Chief of the Naval General Staffand a member of the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic.. Rumour had it that he was a natural son of Tsar Alexander III.] leapt up the steps and then mounted the wide staircase of the General Staff building, quickly and energetically, so that I, left behind and out of breath, could hardly keep up with him. When we got to his office Altvater asked for and handed over to me a thick, bound code-book and a long strip of paper on which were the encoding tables.[Probably a daily key, indicating where to enter into the code-book itself: a simple transcription code is greatly improved if the code changes every day.]


Late that evening , as a persistent drizzle was falling, I arrived at Kazan Station. In the huge, dimly lit hall maintenance work was in progress. There was a stuffy, sour smell of wet clothes, makhorka [Makhorka is a cheap substitute for tobacco. ] and sweat, and on the floor, on their bundles of belongings, amid a blue cloud of tobacco-smoke, lay the passengers, in overcoats and soldiers’ greatcoats. I pushed on to the brightly-lit platform, where the fresh evening air could be breathed, and also the acrid smoke from the locomotives. On one of the nearest tracks, beside a platform dark with rain, stood a single blue carriage, with, in front of it, a locomotive with steam up, making hoarse sounds, and in this a sooty engine-driver in a black cap, leaning over the edge of the fire-box, was letting off some hissing white steam.

I boarded the carriage, and the middle-aged station-master, in his red cap, politely asked permission for the train to start. We rushed away at a furious speed, making a wild, crazy rumbling noise. My solitary carriage, its buffers and windows jingling, creaked, rattled and shook: the well-sprung seat bounced me, and my suitcases leapt about, as though possessed, in the string-netting rack.

In the morning, when I awoke, Ryazan was far behind us. Soon the train pulled up at Kozlov. A military man came up to me, in a tall black fur cap and a Caucasian jacket with silver bullet-pouches and a short dagger in his belt.

‘Tumarkin,’ he said, smartly introducing himself, and, handing me a whole packet of tattered documents which he pulled from his side pocket, asked if he might travel in my carriage. I agreed. Comrade Tumarkin turned out to be a cavalryman who was rejoining the front. He told me many interesting things about the struggle between our Red Army men and the Don Cossacks. From him I learnt that Aleksikovo station was still in the hands of the Cossacks, so that he advised me to proceed via Balashov to Kamyshin, from where I could carry on by steamer down the Volga to Tsaritsyn. But such a detour as this would take a lot of time. I decided to go by the direct route, in the hope that that stretch of the railway line would be clear of Krasnov’s Cossack patrols by the time I got there. While talking with Tumarkin I reached Gryazi station before I had realised it. Here they warned me that the train could be authorised to proceed no further than Borisoglebsk. Tumarkin gave a sprightly salute,jingled his silver spurs, and leapt out on to the platform. Less than a year later I met him in Kirov’s office at Astrakhan and was quite unable to recognise him. Instead of a strong, handsome young man there stood before me, leaning unsteadily on wooden crutches, a cripple who had become old and thin. When he saw me he smiled, cordially but with embarrassment. Brave Tumarkin had been riddled with bullets during a battle, but his heroic courage had not deserted him: he complained of the boredom of hospital life and with all his heart and soul yearned to be at the front again, in his own warlike element.

Before we got to Borisoglebsk the train halted at some little station. At the door of the single-storey station building hung, all by itself, a brass bell with a piece of rope, crudely knotted at the end, fastened to its clapper. I got out to stretch my legs on the platform. Not far from the station, beside a barn with a roof of rotten, blackened planks, I saw a crowd of people standing in a half-circle around some sort of lump. I quickened my steps till I reached this group. They parted slightly, making room for me. On a mound of wet, stinking mud lay a half-naked corpse. The deep-sunk, glassy eyes of the dead man were wide open, his thin, waxen nose was pointed, and a deathly pallor covered his face. His reddish hair had been clipped short, in the special way in which soldiers’ heads were shaved in the Tsarist Army. His thin, bony chest and sunken belly were bare. In the upper part of his belly, which was yellow like wax, there was a small, round hole, surrounded by black, congealed blood. His legs and the lower part of his belly were covered with government-issue soldiers’ trousers, but his feet were roughly wrapped in dirty, torn puttees: the dead man had no boots on. The decomposing corpse gave off a slight, barely perceptible sweetish smell of putrefaction.

‘He pinched three roubles from a comrade. So they settled his account. How can anybody steal from a comrade?’ said a young soldier in a service-cap and a blouse belted with a strap. And he explained that the murdered soldier, who had been demobilised, was returning home from the front, going back to his native village along with other soldiers: in the railway carriage he had stolen a green three-rouble note from one of his fellows, but had been caught in the act, and his comrades had stabbed him to death with their bayonets on the spot.

This was the last victim of the belated demobilisation of the disintegrated army of the dethroned Tsar. In the disciplined Red Army, which was being formed at that time, and was being tempered in the heat of battle like steel in fire, there were already no such lynchings any more, nor could there be.[The 1936 edition omits the words ‘nor could there be’ These are restored in the 1964 edition.]

The peasants in their overcoats and the peasant women in their dark shawls who had gathered round the half-naked corpse sighed sorrowfully, exchanged glances and shook their heads. To none of them did it seem strange that a man’s body should have lain for several days, like so much dung, in sunshine and rain, on a mess of liquid mud, and nobody, nobody at all, troubled to bury him.


I was not allowed to proceed beyond Borisoglebsk as a fierce battle was raging near Aleksikovo Station. Restless and anxious, I paced the boards of the platform, wet from recent rain. This unwanted delay greatly worried me. Every hour was terribly precious: I had to find the fleet at Novorossiisk, before it had upped anchor and gone off to Sebastopol. This forced halt at Borisoglebsk might ruin everything. Fortunately, I lost only a few hours. It was soon reported that the heroic Red Army men, led by Sievers and Petrov, had driven the Cossacks from Aleksikovo and cleared the railway. My train was the first to set off after the line had been reopened.

At Aleksikovo a traffic-jam had formed: all the tracks were blocked by green passenger carriages and dark-red heated goods-wagons, densely packed with people. Trains were being dispatched, in both directions, as their turn came. I went to see the man in charge of the station. In a dark little room, lit only by one dim window, the modest, good-looking station-master sat at his desk, wearing a threadbare double-breasted jacket. Facing him, sprawled on a chair, with his long legs, which were cased in high leather boots, stretched out in front of him, sat a young man who looked like a student, with a black, closelyclipped moustache and a bluish stubble on his pink young cheeks. I asked the station-master to let my train have first priority.

‘My train is going first,’ said the youngster, interrupting me in a free-and-easy way. ‘I’m taking urgent medical supplies to the front.’

‘I, too, have an urgent assignment, and can’t afford to lose any time,’ I said, and displayed the document Lenin had written out for me. Vladimir Ilyich’s signature evidently produced its effect on the medical commissar. Instinctively, he straightened his legs: a pleasant expression brightened up his face, and he amiably suggested that we make up one single special train between us.

‘How big is your train?’ I asked.

‘Two goods wagons laden with medical supplies. I’m taking them to Tikhoretskaya,’ the student replied in a conciliatory tone.

Two additional carriages would not reduce the speed at which I travelled, and I agreed to combine our trains. The station-master, delighted with this solution of the problem, hurried off, brandishing his staff, to give the necessary orders. While the combined train was being made up I went into a siding packed with heavy carriages, to find Comrade Sievers’s command post. I had no business to discuss with him. I just wanted to see Sievers and learn from him about the situation at the front. After wandering around for some time among the slippery sleepers I at last had pointed out to me a certain carriage which differed in no way from the others. I looked around for a sentry but could see none. Grasping the iron handrail I leapt nimbly on to the step, which was placed high above ground level, and knocked on the glass door. Sievers’s aide-de-camp appeared on the platform clad in a neat military blouse gathered at the waist. He told me, politely, that Comrade Sievers was sleeping after some restless nights and exhausting military operations.

‘However, if it’s very necessary for you to speak to him, I’ll wake him up.’ I strongly objected to this proposal, asked that my greetings be conveyed to Comrade Sievers when he woke up, and, after shaking the hand of the slim, smart aide-de-camp, I jumped to the ground.

I had made the acquaintance of ex-Ensign Sievers, the editor of Okopnaya Pravda (Trench Truth), in the Kresty prison, after the July days,[See Kronstadt and Petrograd in 1917, pp.236-238. ] and had at once conceived a great liking for him. Frank, sanguine, militant, with a pink flush on his thin, hollow cheeks and inflamed eyes of bright blue, he, who came from the alien class of the Baltic-German landlords, had firmly linked his fate with the workers’ revolution, and eventually died at the front, from typhus. Knowing neither fatigue nor rest, he constantly organised and led into battle troop after troop of Red Guards and, later, of Red Army men. A talented commander of large Red Army formations and a fearless fighter, he, like Kikvidze and Azin, perished just as his vital forces were coming into flower, and had no opportunity to develop all the gifts with which nature had generously endowed him.

When I got back to my own carriage, another local commander called on me in my compartment—Comrade Petrov. He had a short beard and his sunburnt face was tied round with white cheesecloth, under a tall black fur cap: from head to foot he was swathed in machine-gun belts. A man of middling height and broad-shouldered, with a low, hoarse voice, he was distinguished by iron energy and indomitable will-power. Cautiously seating himself on the edge of the springy, velvet covered seat and holding a yellow leather whip in his hand, he told me that the Cossacks had withdrawn to Uryupinsk station, and that Comrade Kikvidze was tirelessly pursuing them with his guerrilla detachments. A few months later Petrov was arrested in Baku, sent off to India by the British, and shot, as one of the 26 Commissars, by the British Major Teague Jones.

The station-master asked if it was all right to despatch the train, and I said it was. Out of boredom the medical commissar moved into my compartment. A student at the Army Medical Academy, he had been sent from the front to obtain medical supplies, had procured some, not without difficulty, in Moscow, and now, guarding them like ingots of gold, was solicitously escorting them to his unit.

At Serebryakovo station I was met by the local military commissar, a robust and lively man in pince-nez and a black leather jacket. He told me that the station was on a war footing and ready to repulse immediately the expected raid by White Cossacks.

Suddenly, as happens in the South, the brief twilight gave place to sepulchral darkness.


Early next day the train reached Tsaritsyn. Among the endless parallel tracks near the station I sought out Comrade Stalin’s carriage. He received me at once. A map was spread out on his desk. In a black high-collared jacket and trousers tucked into the tops of his high leather boots, his long, upstanding black hair brushed back, and on his energetic face a thick, drooping moustache, losif Vissarionovich strode towards me and, taking his smoking pipe from his mouth with his left hand, stretched out his right hand.

Stalin was everything in Tsaritsyn: the Central Committee’s plenipotentiary, a member of the Revolutionary War Council, the director of all Party and Soviet activity. As ever, he settled all problems collectively, in close contact with the local institutions, which impressed them and enhanced still further his unquestionable authority.

Stalin proposed that we sit down at his desk, and I then told him about the task that had been entrusted to me. I was astonished when I found that Stalin already knew all about it: about the to-ings and fro-ings of the struggle at Novorossiisk between advocates and opponents of the scuttling of the fleet, about the resistance put up by the leaders of the Black Sea Kuban Republic,[2] and about the categorical orders issued by the central authority in Moscow.[3]

‘A day or two ago Shlyapnikov passed through here,’ said losif Vissarionovich, in a scornful tone. ‘He, too, is against scuttling the Black Sea fleet. He doesn’t understand.’ Stalin shrugged his shoulders, turned his pipe over, and, sticking his forefinger into the bowl, slowly emptied the ashes into the ashtray: then, pulling his tobacco pouch towards him, he slowly unfastened it and refilled the pipe with small pinches of tobacco.

‘Shlyapnikov is now at Torgovaya. You’ll catch up with him,’ Stalin added after a pause, having first lit a match, rekindled his pipe with profound concentration, and drawn deeply upon it. Lines gathered on his brow for a moment. losif Vissarionovich pointed out to me the mistake made by Vakhrameyev, who, having arrived at Novorossiisk with a definite directive from the Council of People’s Commissars, concealed this for a long time from the leading Party comrades in the Black Sea-Kuban Republic.

‘This ultra-conspiratorial behaviour never pays off,’ he said, glancing at me with his kindly dark eyes and, wrinkling up his nose, he laughed a pleasant, throaty laugh. He advised me when I passed through Yekaterinodar, to call without fail upon the local leading comrades, to acquaint them with the purpose of my journey and secure their co-operation.

The moral support of Comrade Stalin and his concrete instructions enormously helped me in the fulfilment of my task. After taking leave of him, I returned to my own carriage and, within a few minutes, gently rocked by the springs, I was being conveyed further toward the South.


After I had left Tsaritsyn I noticed that we were being caught up by a train on the same track. It surprised me greatly that two trains should have been sent to follow each other in this way like trams on a tram-line. Never before or since did I see such a strange breach of railway procedure.

Beyond Tsaritsyn the situation was uncertain. Cossack patrols were moving about in the vicinity of the track and the stations were tensely awaiting raids. On the platforms stood narrow-barrelled Colt machine-guns, pointing towards the steppe. On the horizon the silhouettes of single horsemen stood out sharply. Against the pink evening sky their rifles stuck up like long, thin needles.

Along the high iron footboard, clutching the slippery handrail, I scrambled into the hot oily locomotive. The enginedriver, wearing a greasy leather apron, his face so blackened that his eyes looked big, like a Negro’s, and his eyelids laden with soot, nodded amiably in reply to my request to ride on the locomotive. After wiping his hands on a greasy rag, he chucked it briskly into a far corner. The fireman noisily opened the door of the firebox and I was enveloped in unbearable heat. The engine-driver turned the regulator and a sharp, penetrating whistle followed. Laughing, I covered my ears, and went to stand on the buffer-beam, in front of the wide chimney. The medical commissar came and stood beside me. Puffing, the train moved slowly and smoothly out of the station. Gradually gathering speed, the wheels rattled faster and faster along the rails, the rhythm of their metallic clatter constantly quickening. Our little train was travelling at 60 kilometres an hour. A Powerful, warm breeze blew against my face. The steppes -level, grey, boundless, smelling of flowers and grass -stretched away into the far distance. How pleasant it was to breathe the air of the steppes and enjoy the scenery which, though monotonous, was nevertheless fascinating, from the front of a fiery, rushing locomotive. At the stations bareheaded women and children with naked, mouse-coloured feet offered us red boiled crabs.

Next morning we reached Tikhoretskaya, where there was some sort of headquarters. I entered their carriage and was received by the commander, an elderly man with close-cropped hair and a neatly trimmed black beard streaked with silver. From his upright and dignified figure one could guess with confidence that he was a former officer. ‘Probably a colonel in the old army,’ I thought. The commander told me that our forces were ten kilometres from Bataisk. They were opposed by Germans and also by units made up of Russian officers and Cossacks. In his opinion he could have taken Bataisk, and then Rostov, if only he had had sufficient artillery. But the material supplies of the Red Army on his sector of the front were at that time far from adequate. He changed the subject of our conversation to the struggle to scuttle the Black Sea Fleet. I told him nothing about the purpose of myjourney, but he guessed it.

‘Look here,’ he said, ‘if you scuttle the Black Sea Fleet I won’t let you return.’ He spoke these words in a grave tone, without the ghost of smile on his firmly-compressed lips: but his eyes gleamed with irrepressible goodwill.

I composed a telegram to Moscow, put it into code and handed it in at the railway telegraph office.


I arrived at Yekaterinodar that same day. I went into the stationmaster’s office and asked him to provide me with a locomotive.

‘I don’t know whether I can send you on any further,’ answered the elderly railwayman in the cap with a bright crimson top, in an ungracious tone. I gave my name.

‘People’s Commissars are travelling around a lot too much,’ he muttered, unwillingly. ‘Mekhonoshin’s just been through. Shlyapnikov is here, in a siding; and now you.’

I resorted to the ultimate measure, the document written by Vladimir Ilyich. Lenin’s signature had a magical effect, and the stationmaster, sighing over the need to provide transport for both Shlyapnikov and me, promised to have a locomotive ready by the evening.

At the Executive Committee of the Black-Sea- Kuban Republic I met the local leaders, Ostrovskaya and Rubin.

The former, a short, sharp-faced brunette, had previously worked in Sebastopol and had enjoyed, along with Gaven and other Bolsheviks, very great influence in the Black Sea Fleet. She and Rubin were interested to know the views of the centre as to what was to be done with the fleet.

In accordance with Comrade Stalin’s advice I explained our position to them with complete frankness, and also the purpose of my journey to Novorossiisk. They favoured armed resistance by the Black Sea Fleet to any German attack. I pointed out that the fleet could not operate without a base, and this base, Novorossiisk, was directly threatened by German land forces.

There had just been a German landing on the Taman Peninsula. A detachment of cyclists might at any moment appear on the railway line and cut Novorossiisk off from Yekaterinodar. Eventually, Ostrovskaya and Rubin reluctantly agreed that we had no alternative but to scuttle the Black Sea Fleet.

At the Executive Committee’s premises I met Shlyapnikov, and we had a meal together. The rays of the sun flooded with their brilliant light a street that was fringed with green gardens. The leaves of the trees quivered under the light breath of a breeze. We went into a two-storeyed restaurant surrounded by a big garden, mounted the wooden staircase to the upper floor and sat down on an open veranda under the thick boughs of tall lime-trees with big dark boles. The air was heavy with the scent of fresh, sun-warmed leaves. Shlyapnikov, stout and thickset, with a small, closely-trimmed moustache, removed his soft felt hat with a sweeping gesture and placed it on the edge of the table. He was in a good mood. Speaking in his Vladimir accent,[Vladimir is to the east of Moscow, near the River Oka: the local people’s pronunciation of the unstressed ‘o’ sounds comical to other Russians.] he said, half-jokingly: ‘Well, now, suppose they throw you overboard?’ He was not in favour of scuttling the fleet. I remembered Comrade Stalin’s warning. After a vegetarian meal we went to the station.

My train was soon ready. Ostrovskaya and Rubin saw me off. This was my first and last meeting with Rubin. Soon afterward, this robust and likable worker was shot by the adventurer Sorokin.

The southern darkness soon descended. Late in the evening, at Tonnelnaya station, I came upon Vakhrameyev’s special train. On entering the carriage I found Vakhrameyev, Glebov-Avilov, Danilov and one other responsible executive from Novorossiisk.

‘Where do you think you’re going?’ the red-whiskered Vakhrameyev asked me, with a worried look. ‘They’ll be waiting for you at the station, and they’ll shoot you, that’s for sure. They hunted us all through the town, and we barely managed to get out.’

‘You’d much better go back with us to Yekaterinodar,’ Glebov-Avilov advised me gloomily, wiping his spectacles with a handkerchief. ‘There’s a direct wire from there and we’ll telegraph the order to scuttle the fleet.’

I replied, ironically, that in that case there would have been no need to leave Moscow, since there was a direct wire from Moscow to Novorossiisk, by which the order could just as well have been sent. Vakhrameyev shrugged. Glebov-Avilov stopped cleaning his glasses and stared at me from under his brows. ‘We’ve got a crazy fellow here’ was what I read in his astonished gaze.

Stepan Stepanovich Danilov, pale, thin and wearing pincenez, with the hollow cheeks of a sick man and a pointed Don Quixote beard, sat morosely in the corner by the window and, except for coughing, observed the silence of the grave.


I arrived at Novorossiisk early next morning and at once made my way to the harbour. The cloudless blue sky seemed infinitely high. The sun had not yet risen. A thin strip of summer dawn showed pink on the pale horizon. Frenzied, feverish activity was in progress in the unusually busy harbour. The quick, hasty movements of the railwaymen, dockers and sailors betrayed, however obscurely, the vague anxiety they felt. On the ships that lay by the landing-stage windlasses and winches rattled with a sound of exasperation, chain-cables clanked fitfully, and the regulators of steam-engines banged abruptly and loudly. Railway flatcars were being hurriedly loaded with small steam-launches with bright, coppery-yellow funnels, motor-destroyers with slightly raised bows, and grey guns taken from the ships, standing on their clumsy conical carriages, on the lower edges of which gaped the holes where the screws had been that fastened them to the deck. Sailors went by, straining under the weight of big bundles and with rifles slung across their backs. In the roadstead lay the grey sea-giant Svobodnaya Rossya. Some pale smoke streamed almost imperceptibly from her wide, mighty funnels. Near the stone sea-wall lay some destroyers. Over a swaying gangplank I boarded the nearest of these, Kerch. Barefoot and sunburnt sailors, their working shirts hanging out and their trousers rolled up to the knees, were scrubbing the deck. A powerful stream of cold water was noisily spurting from long canvas hoses.

In a few hours’ time the destroyer was to be plunged to the bottom of the sea, but, meanwhile, she lived her normal, everyday life, and the crew’s work, as laid down in the ship’s schedule, was being carried on with the precision of a well regulated clock. I gave my name and asked the officer of the watch to provide me with a vessel to take me to Svobodnaya Rossya. A small motor-launch, rocking rhythmically on the water, snuggled close to the steel side of the destroyer. The officer of the watch put it at my disposal.

Hardly, however had I left Kerch than a loud voice rang out from her deck: ‘Comrade Raskolnikov, the commander wishes to see you.’ I ordered that the launch be turned back, and climbed the ladder into the destroyer.

A rather thin man with a narrow, prominent nose on his tense face came up to me, wearing a white jacket and white, work-stained trousers. ‘I am Kukel, the commander of this destroyer,’ he said, politely introducing himself and raising his hand in salute to his badly-crumpled officer’s cap. Wiping some big drops of sweat from his high, bulging forehead, Vladimir Andreyevich told me, speaking quickly and excitedly, about the events of the night that had just ended. It emerged that a few ships, led by the warship Voija, in which Tikhmenev flew his flag, had weighed anchor during the night and sailed away to surrender to the Germans.[5] When this squadron formed up in the outer roadstead, Kerch flew from her foremast a signal which read: ‘To the ships going to Sebastopol. Shame on you traitors to Russia!’

‘Isn’t it possible to catch up with them and force them to return?’ I asked. He pondered for a moment. ‘It’s too late now, alas,’ he replied, after making a quick mental calculation. ‘Tikhmenev will have reached Sebastopol before we could overtake him. Besides, none of our crews are up to strength.’

Vladimir Andreyevich added that a desperate struggle was under way on all the ships, between advocates and opponents of the exodus to Sebastopol. Svobodnaya Rossya had got up steam and prepared to weigh anchor. She would have left already but for shortage of men. The crew of Kerch had decided that in any case they would not surrender her and were ready to send the destroyer to the bottom. I warmly encouraged him in his commendable intention and promised him every support.

By chance I encountered on Kerch a cheerful, fresh-cheeked fellow named Deppish, who had been a class-mate of mine in the cadet training school: he was serving in the destroyer Pronite1ny. He came up and greeted me with a smile, revealing beneath his short, black, upward-twisted moustaches an even row of firm, white young teeth.

‘I’ve just placed some good six-pound charges under the engine-cylinders,’ he boasted smilingly, with a proud sense of moral satisfaction in the big and responsible task he had performed. Deppish was a fervent supporter of the plan to scuttle the fleet.

After once more voicing my approval and encouragement to Kukel, I got back into the launch and sailed across to Svobodnaya Rossya. Hastily adjusting my blue naval jacket with its bright buttons, I hurried up the long ladder on to the warship’s deck. To my surprise there was nobody on guard. The spacious deck was thronged with animated groups of sailors who were gesticulating with excitement and heatedly debating what to do.

Some sailors, wearing caps with the ribbons of St George and short black pea-jackets, were lugging huge bundles with both hands, straining at the weight, and then, with relief, stacking them near the ladder. They were preparing to abandon ship and go ashore. I asked someone to call the commander. Up came a clean-shaven seaman with light-red hair and a weatherbeaten, sunburnt face: he was wearing an off-white jacket, off-white trousers and off-white canvas shoes. After greeting me, Terentyev, as the commander was called, invited me into his cabin. Attracting the attention of the sailors, who stepped aside and made way for us, we walked across the wooden planking of the deck, which was as level and smooth as a tennis court. The anti-Soviet-minded engineer, Berg, growled after me some swear-word which I could not quite catch.

Terentyev and I descended a long ladder and found ourselves in the splendid, oak-pannelled and comfortably-furnished drawing-room of the Admiral’s quarters. We sat down in big round chairs beside an elegant piano made of ebony, with bronze candlesticks at the corners. The commander listened attentively to what I had to tell him. He did not object to scuttling, but complained of the shortage of men and, in particular, of engine-room staff. I asked him to assemble all the sailors so that I could explain the task before us. Terentyev pressed a bell-push and told the orderly who came in reply to sound assembly.

On the top deck, under the long barrels of the 12-inch guns which looked like gigantic cigarettes, the sailors gathered, in their white duck-blouses with blue-and-white turn-down collars. Some, who came straight from work, were wearing striped vests, which made them look like zebras.

I made a fiery speech to the assembled men, describing the international situation of our Soviet country, and explained the absolute hopelessness of the position of the Black Sea Fleet.

‘In order that the fleet may not fall into the hands of German imperialism and may not become a weapon of counterrevolution, we must scuttle it today.’

‘But why can’t we put up a fight, seeing that we have such splendid ships and such long-range guns?’ a young sailor with feverishly burning eyes interrupted me to demand.

While agreeing that the ships were indeed splendid, I explained that the fleet could not operate without a base, and its only base, Novorossiisk, was threatened from the landward side. I pointed out that one ought not to see things from a parochial point of view. I reminded them that the forces of German imperialism had taken Narva and Pskov, and from these points would be able, if the war were resumed, to strike at Petrograd and even capture it. If the Black Sea Fleet began warlike operations, it would mean resuming the war with Germany, and for that we were not at the moment ready. Consequently, since we were unable to fight and did not want to go to Sebastopol and make a present of our ships to German imperialism, there was no honourable course open to us but to scuttle the fleet.

Terentyev spoke after me. Taking off his cap and mechanically stroking his smoothly parted reddish hair, he backed my proposal. There were no objections. A forest of hands was raised in support. The crew took their decision unanimously. Sailors both young and old wept and with tears in their eyes exclaimed: ‘We’re going to scuttle our Svobodnaya Rossya!’


The Communist Party had carried on serious and important work in the Black Sea Fleet. The Party cells, which drew to themselves the best of the advanced sections of the active revolutionary sailors, functioned extensively on all the ships and wielded great influence. At Novorossiisk, however, the feeling among the sailors was complex and varied. The Communists there fully shared Moscow’s view and were solidly in favour of scuttling. These were the basic cadres on whom the comrades carrying out the directive of the Council of People’s Commissars could rely. But a considerable section of the Black Sea sailors held to the ultra-left theory of ‘revolutionary war’ and could not understand why it should be necessary to scuttle fine well-armed and battle-worthy ships. Their hearts yearned romantically for a beautiful death. Rather than scuttle the fleet they preferred to perish heroically. Unable to find their bearings in the complex international situation, they viewed it, so to speak, from the truck of their own ship. It seemed to them that the Black Sea Fleet ought to put to sea, bombard Sebastopol, which was occupied by the Germans, join battle with the German warships Goeben and Breslau and, after fighting to the last shell, go down honourably in open naval combat. They were not troubled by what the consequences might be. They did not give any thought to the consideration that launching warlike operations in the Black Sea would mean violating the Brest Treaty and providing General Hoffmann and other champions of German imperialism with the excuse they wanted, to exploit their superiority of armed force and occupy Petrograd and Moscow. These harmful ultra-left inclinations of theirs brought the sailors theoretically close to the positions of the Left Communists and Left SRs, even though most of them had only the vaguest notions of Bukharin and Kamkov.

Among the crews, recruited as they were from workers and peasants, counter-revolutionaries were few and far between. But some backward elements did follow the lead of the reactionary officers and, by advocating departure to Sebastopol, objectively played a counter-revolutionary role. Some of the sailors had wives. Others, deceived by Tikhmenev, thought that by going to Sebastopol they would be loyally fulfilling the behest of the Council of People’s Commissars. Finally, the cowards, quickly gathering up their belongings into big bundles, sacks and kitbags, hurried ashore, callously abandoning their ships to the mercy of fate. Counterrevolutionaries, provocateurs and German agents moved around the ships and the town, tempting and corrupting the sailors with propaganda, bribes and drink.

Among the former naval officers—titled aristrocrats and noblemen whose families were registered in the sixth velvet book[6]—the disgusting, loathsome counter-revolutionary opinion prevailed that ‘the Germans are a lesser evil compared with Bolshevism’.

This worst section of the officers, who had lost all moral principles in the revolution, strove frenziedly to get to Sebastopol, which was occupied by German troops, so as to escape from ‘Soviet hell’. Many officers wanted to go back to Sebastopol because their families, whom they had not managed to evacuate, were still there. In the depths of their hearts they realised that by surrendering their ships to German imperialism, and thereby strengthening its armed might, they were doing something base, vile and ignoble, which could not be described otherwise than as treason, but they put their personal and family interests before those of the proletarian state.

Another section of the officers considered it shameful to hand the fleet over to Germany, and declared for scuttling because of a feeling, inculcated from childhood and intensified by the long-drawn-out imperialist war, of traditional patriotism, with a marked nuance of anti-German chauvinism. Only a small group of energetic men among the junior officers stood consciously and wholeheartedly, along with the Communist vanguard of the Red Navy crews, for scuttling the fleet so that it should not fall into the hands of any imperialist country.

Fierce class struggle was fought on every ship. Advocates and opponents of scuttling argued day after day, foaming at the mouth, in the bunks and locker-rooms of every crew’s quarters, and at the table of every wardroom. Meetings, delegate conferences, sessions of ships’ committees assumed a permanent character. But the time for words had passed and the time for action had come.


The motor-launch moved lightly away from the dreadnought and conveyed Terentyev and me to the shore. With a hard, metallic knocking of its piston, carried resoundingly across the water, the engine, puffing heavily and giving convulsive outbursts, worked loudly and fast, like a sluggish, dilated heart suffering from some incurable disease.

When we got to the quay we hailed a cab, and, seated in this narrow vehicle, made our way to the maritime transport office. As it rumbled along, the springless droshky raised great clouds of dust in its wake. The morning sunshine scorched our backs mercilessly. Terentyev took off his white-covered cap and used it to fan his sweaty, weatherbeaten face which was sunburnt, furrowed with wrinkles and covered with reddish freckles. The round-shouldered driver, wearing a torn cap, morosely called his thin, underfed nag to a halt in front of the entrance to a two-storeyed wooden house. We mounted a narrow, steep staircase. In a modest room furnished with desks and decorated with portraits of our leaders, we found the man in charge, and asked him to provide us with tugs.

‘The fact is, comrades,’ he said sadly, spreading his hands in a helpless gesture, ‘we have tugs but not the men to operate them. Nearly all the crews have run away.’ And he advised us to go to another institution of the merchant navy, where they also had some tugboats.

Terentyev excused himself for having to leave me. ‘I must get the ship ready for scuttling and at the same time collect my things—I haven’t packed them up yet,’ he said cheerfully, and waving his cap, he went off with a confident and consequential air, towards the quay, taking wide strides with his strong, muscular legs in their roomy white trousers. I went on my own and on foot to the office indicated. The document written by Vladimir Ilyich exerted once again its magical effect. A tug was supplied for taking Svobodnaya Rossya out of harbour.

Pleased with my success, I walked down the street. The initial tension had passed, and suddenly I felt an acute attack of extreme hunger. I turned into the first eating-house I came to—empty, dirty, with dusty windows that had not been cleaned for ages—and ordered lunch. I was given watery, muddy soup and, for the second course, tough, overdone meat. The stout elderly proprietress, with a protruding stomach and wearing a greasy cotton dress, offhandedly placed before me a pile of black bread. In Novorossiisk they had plenty of this. When I had eaten, I went down to the harbour again. Kerch had already left the pier and was lying in the inner roadstead. I took a launch and went out to her. Kukel, his face pale, dirty with coal-dust, and all wet with sweat and fatigue, told me how the work was going. Powerful explosive charges had been placed in all the destroyers: they would be set off by lighting a Bickford fuse. The sea-cocks and scuttles had been opened and the covers torn off the portholes so that the water could rush in. I expressed my approval of the energetic measures Kukel had taken.

At this time the commander of the destroyer Lieutenant Sizestakov, Anninsky, came across in a launch and boarded Kerch. The previous night he had got up steam and towed into the middle of the harbour the destroyer Senior Lieutenant Baranov, which almost all her crew had begun to abandon. About fifty men of a composite crew remained on Shestakov. Anninsky, short and cleanshaven, with the look of a sea-wolf, walked vigorously up to Kukel, who was bustling about the quarterdeck, from forecastle to poop, issuing curt orders and everywhere bringing bracing animation. After consulting with Kukel and receiving precise instructions from him, Anninsky hastened back in the launch to his own destroyer.

Kerch and Lieutenant Shestakov weree the only vessels whose crews were up to strength and capable of towing other ships. On each of the remaining destroyers there were only five or six men left. Not even one man was left on the Fidonisi. That ship’s commander, Mitskevich, had fled, under cover of darkness, the night before; he had rushed off in a launch to Kerch, and from there to Sebastopol.

I asked Kukel what his further intentions were. He replied that, after Kerch had completed her work at Novorossiisk, she would go to Tuapse, to be scuttled there. He explained that the reason for this move was that the crew of Kerch had from the very beginning openly stood for scuttling the fleet, and so had brought on themselves the particular displeasure of the Kuban people, and they were therefore afraid to pass through Yekaterinodar. I considered this apprehension unfounded, but made no objection to the plan to scuttle Kerch at Tuapse.

Svobodnaya Rosszya was now approached by a small merchant steamer which looked, beside the dreadnought, like a child’s toy. The steamer took the steel giant in tow and, furiously puffing smoke and straining hard, slowly dragged her into the outer roadstead.

Anninsky, sharply issuing orders from the high bridge of Shestakov, drew the destroyers out of the harbour. When one had been taken to the roadstead he returned at once for another.

The composite crew of the Shestakov, who shared with Kerc the principal role in preparing the scuttling operation, showed outstanding heroism. The overworked stokers, panting from the heat, stuffiness and effort, kept tirelessly at their task. The entire crew was brought to the point of exhaustion.

Soon after this an auxiliary-powered schooner, low in the water, moved away from the side of Svobodnaya Rossya, fully laden with sailors taken from the warship. At the edge of the deck, his legs set wide in a graceful attitude, stood Terentyev, in an elegant snow-white suit.

When the schooner passed Kerch, as she lay in the roadstead, Terentyev shouted, loudly and gaily: ‘Commander Kukel! There’s an empty box for you, do what you like with it!’ And he waved his freckled hand, covered with red hairs, in a contemptuous gesture towards Svobodnaya Rossya. x

When I reached the shore, the mole, the landing stage and the dusty quay were black with a dense crowd. The whole population of Novorossiisk had poured out on to the seashore. Men, women and children were huddled together,jostling each other. Near the cement works some workers stood by the shore, gazing sadly at the destruction of the ships. Many had climbed on to the white heaps of lime or on to the high embankment in order to have a better view of this unusual spectacle.

On the landing-stage, beside which lay Fidonisi, abandoned by her crew, an improvised meeting was in progress. A fervent speaker, who had clambered up a lamp-post and was firmly clinging to it with both legs and one hand, was despairingly waving his other hand in the air. In a quavering, hysterical voice he called on the crowd not to let the ships be scuttled. The speaker’s appeal met with success. When the schooner which had come in from the roadstead started to take Fidonisi in tow, the crowd, which had been stirred up, tried to hold the destroyer back. Kerch put on speed and, briskly swinging round, approached the landing-stage. ‘Action stations’ was sounded on board the ship. Her terrible guns, aimed at the landingstage, were got ready for action. Kukel, lean and intense, raised to his lips a megaphone like a funnel-shaped trumpet that gleamed in the sunshine, and shouted in a strained voice: ‘If I am prevented from towing this destroyer away, I shall at once open fire.’ The threat took effect. The crowd on the landingstage immediately fell back, and Fidonisi was towed out into the roadstead.

At about four in the afternoon Kerch fired a Whitehead torpedo at the destroyer Fidonisi. There was a deafening explosion, the destroyer shook and everything was shrouded in a cloud of smoke. When the smoke-curtain had dispersed the destroyer was seen to be mutilated beyond recognition. The forward bridge had partly collapsed, the wheel house had been severely crumpled and damaged. Both masts, with their upper parts broken off, looked like trees whose tops had been lopped. Gradually the bow of the ship began to rise, and all at once the destroyer, having filled with water, went like a stone to the bottom. After that, the sea-cocks were opened in the others, and one by one the rest of the destroyers perished. The slanting rays of the setting sun lit up the dark shapes of the ships as they drowned beneath their red flags, with this signal hoisted: ‘I perish, but I do not surrender.’

The workers who were watching this spectacle from the shore sighed and furtively wiped away the tears that welled up. From time to time the low, restrained sobbing of women could be heard. In the harbour, instead of the lively activity of a moment before, some thin masts projected dolefully out of the water. At half past four two torpedoes were fired from Kerch at Svobodnaya Rossya. They splashed into the water and, cutting across the surface, leaving behind them a long, straight, transparent wake, rushed quickly towards the warship. One passed under the keel of Svobodnqya Rossya, but the other exploded under the gun-turret at her bow. A column of black smoke rose from the water, hiding the ship’s grey hull up to the level of the round conning-tower. Yet Svobodnaya Rossya remained calmly afloat. Kerch fired a third torpedo. Even after this had exploded, however, the warship stayed where it was, as though nothing had happened. A fourth torpedo exploded under the turret at the stern, but even this produced no result. After three hits by powerful torpedoes, which had caused an immense conflagration, the ship was neither listing nor sinking. The floating armoured giant of 23,000 tons displacement seemed invulnerable, like a legendary dragon. The commander and crew of Kerch were in despair. Their stock of Whitehead torpedoes was running out. A fifth torpedo was fired. Before it reached Svobodnaja Rossya, however, this one suddenly made a U-turn and came back. The destroyer began to manoeuvre so as to get out of the way of her own crazy torpedo, which, glistening like silver, was racing at lizard-like speed, directly at Kerch. Something had gone wrong in the aiming-mechanism of the torpedo. It was being drawn like a magnet to the steel hull of the destroyer, and changed course three times. Finally, after turning back towards Svobodnaa Rossya, it suddenly leapt like a dolphin out of the water, broke in half, and sank at once. Another torpedo was fired, and this one, after falling flat on to the surface of the water, rushed towards Svobodnaya Rossya and struck her right amidships. Dense white smoke rose up, completely enveloping the dreadnought. When the smoke dispersed, the vessel was unrecognisable: the thick armour covering her sides had been torn off in several places, and huge holes, with twisted leaves of iron and steel, gaped like lacerated wounds. Rocking from the explosion, the ship slowly heeled over to starboard. Then she began to turn upside down, with a deafening clang and roar. The steam-launches and lifeboats fell, smashed, rolled across the deck and, like so many nutshells dropped off the high ship’s side into the water. The heavy round turrets, with their three 12-inch guns, broke from the deck and slid, making a frightful din, across the smooth wooden planking, sweeping away everything in their path and at last, with a deafening splash, fell into the sea, throwing up a gigantic column of water, like a waterspout. In a few moments the ship had turned right over. Lifting in the air her ugly keel, all covered with green slime, seaweed and mussels, she still floated for another half-hour on the grey-green water, like a dead whale. The red-clawed seagulls circled for a long time, scarcely moving their wings, over the shell of the upturned ship, like aeroplanes over the fresh grave of an airman who has crashed. Tall fountains spurted from the open sea-cocks and scuttles of the drowned vessel. Slowly and gradually the oblong, misshapen floating object shrank in size and at last, with a gurgling and a bubbling, was hidden beneath the waves, dragging with it into the deep great clouds of foam, and forming a deep, engulfing crater amid a violently seething whirlpool.

On the deck of Kerch the sailors, tense-faced and silent, as though at a funeral, bared their heads. Broken sighs and suppressed sobs could be heard.

‘Slow speed ahead!’ ordered Kukel briskly, from the bridge. Kerch swung round and then, at full speed, soon disappeared round a headland.

At dawn next day she was scuttled off Tuapse. Before being consigned to the depths of the sea the ship’s wireless sent out this message: ‘To all, to all, to all. I perish, after destroying those ships of the Black Sea Fleet that preferred death to shameful surrender to Germany. Destroyer Kerch.’

At seven that evening, when we gathered at the railway station to await the departure of our train, a German airplane circled over the town. We could make out the sinister black crosses on its yellow wings. After describing several wide circles over the empty harbour, the aeroplane, like a great bird of prey, spreading its long wings, flew back to Sebastopol to report to its masters the heroic fate of the Red fleet.[7]


[1] As might be expected, there are interesting differences between the three editions where this section is concerned. In the 1936 edition Stalin does not stride towards’ Raskolnikov to greet him, nor does he tell him he can catch up with Shlyapnikov at Torgovaya. In the 1964 edition everything between ‘A map was spread out on his desk’ and ‘the categorical orders issued by the central authority in Moscow’ is omitted, and also everything between ‘Stalin shrugged his shoulders’ and ‘enormously helped me in the fulfilment of my task’. The editor of the 1964 version (which was published by the press of the USSR Ministry of Defence) appends a note stating that the Council of People’s Commissars had ordered Stalin to see to the scuttling of the Black Sea Fleet, but he had replied, on June 15 1918, that he did not consider it appropriate for him to go in person to Novorossiisk, and he had sent Shlyapnikov instead. ‘Thus, Stalin, evading fulfilment of a difficult and dangerous order, had sent, instead of himsell’, a man who, as he himself admitted, was “against scuttling the Black Sea Fleet”.’

[2] In the early months of the Bolshevik Revolution several separate Soviet republics were set up in different parts of Russia. In North Caucasia there were four: Terek, Kuban, Stavropol and ‘Black Sea’. The last-named, which covered the narrow coastal strip which includes Novorossiisk and Tuapse, merged with Kuban in May 1918. All these republics were united in July 1918 as the North-Caucasian Soviet Republic.

[3] For the ‘disinformation’ of the Germans, the Council of People’s Commissars, after initially ordering that the fleet be scuttled, had sent, in clear, an order to return the ships to Sebastopol—accompanied by a message in cipher confirming the earlier order to scuttle. According to V.A. Kukel’s account of this affair, Glebov-Avilov, the commissar of the Black Sea Fleet, at first tried to conceal the cipher telegram, but without success. He also says that Rubin, representing the Black-Sea- Kuban Republic, came to Novorossiisk on June 14 and made a speech threatening reprisals if the fleet were scuttled. Rubin claimed that his army was holding the Germans back, so that there was no immediate danger from them. Soon afterward, however, the Germans made a landing on the Taman Peninsula, which greatly worsened the military situation.

[4] In this section, as in section IV, there are some interesting changes between editions. In the 1936 edition all mentions of Shlyapnikov are omitted, and also the mentions of Ostrovskaya, Gaven and Danilov. These are restored in the 1964 edition. The phrase ‘In accordance with Comrade Stalin’s advice’ is omitted in the 1964 edition.

[5] Captain A. I Tikhmenyev took over as acting commander-in-chief of the Black Sea Fleet after Admiral Sablin left for Moscow. On June 16 he carried out a referendum among the ships’ companies. According to the White-Guard Captain N. Monasterev, 900 men voted to return to Sebastopol, 450 favoured scuttling, and 1,000 abstained. Kukel says that some of the last group advocated putting up a fight against the Germans, as a third option. He also claims that only 500 voted for returning to Sebastopol. Tikhmenyev took away one dreadnought, six destroyers and one auxiliary cruiser. These ships were eventually seized by the French interventionist forces and taken to the naval base at Bizerta, in Tunisia. The editor of the 1964 edition quotes S. M. Lepetenko, who took part in the scuttling, as saying that if Raskolnikov, with his authority among the sailors and his distinctive combination of vigour and tact, had arrived even one day earlier, the departure of some of the ships could have been prevented and the entire fleet scuttled.

[6] Here Raskolnikov confuses two distinct genealogical reference works. The ‘velvet book’ was compiled in the 17th century, as a list of Russia’s noble families. It was incomplete and, in any case, out-of-date by the 18th century, when a fresh classification was produced, dividing the nobility into six categories, with a separate book for each: the sixth book was devoted to the noble families of at least 100 years’ standing, and included all the really old ones, such as the Sheremetevs, the Buturlins and the Golovins

[7] According to Monasterev one dreadnought and eleven destroyers were scuttled. Speaking at the Fourth Conference of Moscow’s trade unions and factory committees on June 28 1918, Lenin said: ‘I will reply to the question about the Black Sea Fleet, which seems to have been put for the purpose of exposing us. Let me tell you that the man who was operating there was Comrade Raskolnikov, whom the Moscow and Petrograd workers know very well because of the agitation and Party work he has carried on. Comrade Raskolnikov himselfwill he here and he will tell how he agitated in favour of destroying the fleet rather than allow the German troops to use it for the purpose of attacking Novorossusk. That was the situation in regard to the Black Sea Fleet: and the People’s Commissars Stalin, Shlyapnikov and Raskolnikov will arrive in Moscow soon and tell us all about it. (Collected Works, Vol.27, pp.485-486).