Near Messaksudy's tobacco factory, at the end of Karantin
Street, we joined another group of partisans and marched with
them along Stroganovsky Street.
Another fierce battle took place here which lasted over an
hour. The Whites did not advance; they posted their machine-
guns on the roofs and in windows and swept the streets with
shot which struck sparks out of the stones and ricochetted.
We kept near the walls, hiding behind gates and corners.
"Turn off to the left," shouted Denissov.
We went into the yards where the Whites were quartered,
arrested Cossacks and officers and, leading them out into the
streets, shot them. But on Jews' Street which we had to cross,
shots were again showered at us from the roofs. We could
move neither forward nor back, being fired upon from all sides.
The partisans kept saying: "Cut off! We're cut off! Where
shall we go?" But in spite of the heavy fire, we succeeded in
getting through and even taking some of the wounded with
us. Our machine-gun was smashed during the battle and we
Vassily Denissov was then wounded in the neck and hips.
He called me to his side and asked:
"Are you safe, Vanya? Not wounded?"
"No," I answered. "They didn't get me."
"All right then. I hand the command over to you; lead the
men to join Comrade Kossenko.*
* Denissov's further fate is not known. He was lost. The Whites
arrested his brother, Gregory, in Feodossya, to which town he had
escaped, and executed him there.
I took over the command and we marched on to Melek
The sun was rising. The revolt was gathering to a head. A
terrible uproar filled the town, machine-guns continually fired
from roofs and church steeples. Military men and civilians ran
across the streets under fire.
The effect of that unexpected revolt and fire was extra-
ordinary. From the foot of the hill we saw, frightened White
officers in their shirts and pants running out of the town,
their figures clearly outlined against the bright green of the
orchards. They ran helter-skelter without knowing whither.
We were approaching the centre of the revolt, each of us
carrying a number of rifles, bombs and hand grenades. The
heavy stamp of feet mingled with the clash of arms and the
loud, husky voices of partisans shouting:
"Comrades, workmen! The town is in revolt, the Reds are
here> join us! Rise up to the assistance of the Soviets, the
From time to time workmen and sailors ran o\it and took
rifles from us. They embraced us in an access of joy.
We joined Comrade Kossenko at last. Half the town was
already occupied by the partisans. The whole of Constantine
Street was overcrowded with workmen who had }oined them
(mostly stevedores and seamen). There were also adolescents,
old men and women, all fired with revolutionary enthusiasm.
The armoured train which we had not captured, moved
slowly up and down the railway line to Ajimushkai and back,
in case reinforcements should arrive from the village or more
partisans come out of Ajimushkai quarries.
"Comrades, comrades! They are coming!" partisans began
to shout in loud and joyful voices. "Here they are, a whole
army of them. Hurrah! We'll soon have reinforcements."
The peasants of Kateregyez village were coming. They were
armed at haphazard with guns, pitchforks, axes.
They marched on the town in a motley crowd, to the assist-
ance of the exhausted partisan's. Everybody's eyes were focussed
on that moving crowd of peasants. But we were burdened with
anxiety lest the Whites send an armoured train against them.
That premonition was right. The Pullman fired a volley from
its three-inch guns and immediately after, the Whites moved
their infantry against the peasants.
A machine-gun sprayed them from some unknown direction.
The peasants, fired on from all sides, took to sudden flight.
By eleven o'clock things had become most difficult for us.
The armoured train had not been taken, Tatarinov having been
badly defeated near the station. Some militant comrades gath-
ered in the house which served as headquarters for the revolt,
to discuss the situation. Two members of the secret town
organizations, Comrades Kreps and Kelner, also came in.
Comrade Kreps tried to make things clear to us, to save the
partisans unexpected shocks.
"The situation," he said, "is difficult. Part of the workmen
have been misled by the Mensheviks and have not joined in
the revolt There is a revolutiqnary movement in progress on
the French warships. The Party organization attached great im-
portance to propaganda among the French sailors. The result,
as you know, is that not a single shot was fired within the last
few days from the French ships, for the sailors refused to shoot
at the partisans. There were five sailors on board through
whom we did our work. They opposed the ships' officers and
were the leaders of the sailors. But yesterday these five stead-
fast comrades disappeared, no one knows where. We believe they
have been abducted. The despotism of the interventionists has
grown and we must expect that they will force the remaining
sailors, who have lost their direct revolutionary leaders, to
shoot at us."
"So it's a lost cause?" groaned some- of the men.
Comrade Kreps, usually so cool and collected, grew angrily
red. His dark eyes filled with hatred.
"That's a lie!" he shouted, striking his fist on the table.
And at that moment the first French shell exploded in the
middle of the street. The house shook and the windows broke
with a crash.
"That's a lie, comrades! This is the last bloody spot of the
White pack. The revolution moves stubbornly and unavoidably
forward, as the day against the night. We must hold out until
the evening, try to take the fortress during the night and we
shall get the power into our hands. We must, if necessary,
die on the barricades, to the last man, but not give in!"
"Forward! Hurrah!" roared the partisans again.
"If we don't hold out today," went on Comrade Kreps,
"those who remain alive must not give up their arms, nor lose
touch with each other. We shall definitely undermine the rotten
morale of these hangmen with the aid of our secret organi-
zations. Onwards, comrades!"
"Long live the Revolution!"
"Death to the hangmen!"
Shouting, we all rushed into the battle again under showers
of bullets. -
At noon the sun was blazing fiercely. A cavalry detachment
galloped in the direction of the town.
We watched them expectantly, hoping this was Red cavalry
coming to the assistance of the insurgents and that the White
front was broken.
But, approaching the Whites, the cavalry stopped and the
"That's not the Reds, comrades. They have retreated from
the Crimea to the north," said a badly wounded man in our
line. "We've just heard it from a reliable source."
Nobody would believe it. Everyone tried to keep up hope;
but it was clear to us that the iron ring had closed round us.
"Death! Annihilation!" were the words we read in each
The workers' detachments began rapidly to move their small
forces, building barricades for the coming battle.
The Whites began a general attack against the town.
"It's the real thing coming now, the last decisive battle,"
said a ragged partisan from the quarries whose head and arm
The men moved hurriedly about, getting ready for the battle,
cleaning their rifles, posting their machine-guns in the shadow
The first big gun spoke.
Someone shouted: "That's the signal, comrades!"
The shell fell into a large house on Verkhnemitridat Street
and set it on fire. We heard the tinkle of broken window glass.
Women, children and old people ran to and fro, screaming.
"They're quite close, at the foot of the mountain," said a
partisan lying next to me.
The Whites advanced with loud and jubilant shouts.
Machine-guns rattled without interruption. The bullets raised
little clouds of dust on the roofs and pavements.
The shells fell one after the other, destroying the little cot-
tages of the workers' quarter.
The Whites were already occupying Vorontsov Street and
corning up to the Winter Theatre and our main positions in
Constantine and Verkhnemitridat Streets and the lower part of
the town. White soldiers, cadets and officers made a fierce
onslaught, pouring shot all over the streets.
Our orderlies, and the women who helped to carry off the
wounded and dress their injuries, worked where the battle was
raging. Even regular nurses with red crosses on their uniforms
had appeared from somewhere and carried the wounded off
to Constantine Street. Some were taken into the houses, some
laid on the pavement. The dead were placed side by side out
in the street.
We retreated with the workers who had joined us, hiding
in gateways and behind corners, entrenching ourselves on Mit-
The air in the town was stifling, promising thunder; the sky
overclouded. The sea gleamed evilly below. The warships
poured forth smoke as they got ready to put out to sea.
And immediately the roar of cannon rolled over Kerch. The
crows flew up with loud frightened cawing. Shell after shell
struck against Mitridat mountain and the outskirts of the town.-
Heavy shells, fired from the ships, exploded in our neigh-
It was difficult for us to hold out against that terrific fire.
Under cover of it the Whites assailed us from all sides. Some
fell under our shots, some were killed by their own shrapnel.
The bullets dug and scooped the ground, raising small clouds
of dust; they continually hissed over our heads.
We abandoned our positions under the fierce onslaught and
retreated to the outskirts of the town, entrenching ourselves
in a big old cemetery; after a time, all the partisans from
Constantine Street, which was the centre of the revolt, joined us.
We felt that the end had come. Heavy machine-gun and rifle
fire poured continuously upon us; shrapnel whistled mono-
tonously; the whine of the falling shells ended in abrupt
crashes as they landed, crashes as of big locomotives hitting
a wall, followed by a tornado of explosion and fury; they
smashed the crosses and burst open the burial vaults. The
French and English allies of the White generals certainly played
havoc with the dead in that cemetery.
Roofs fell in and walls collapsed in the workers' quarters,
burying whole families under the ruins.
By evening we were entirely beaten and the few score of
us who remained alive scattered in all directions. The battle
was ended. Those who were able ran away, abandoning the
dead and wounded. Our only thought was to save our lives,
since it was impossible for us to hold out any longer. Cossacks,
Chechentsy and officers attacked us everywhere. The Whites,
exultant and savage, rushed into the cottages, along the roofs,
through orchards and sheds, seeking partisans and people who
had taken part in the revolt. They broke into lodgings. The
wild Chcchentsy hacked whole families to death on suspicion.
They cut down children, old women, old men, even babies.
The whole town ran with blood, corpses lay about in heaps.
Nobody was allowed to take the bodies away. The inhabit-
ants were forbidden to come out in the streets.
The clergy of Kerch, the generals and officers offered up
prayers and thanksgivings for their victory. They walked in
procession through the streets, carrying ikons and banners and
singing the national anthem as they strode over the dead bodies
of workers and peasants. From time to time the procession
stopped and the clergyman, who had shot at us with his own
godly hand from his church steeple, preached sermons on the
devilry of bolshevik evil.
Dead bodies hung from the trees which lined the streets,
while pools of blood dried on the pavement. The White of-
ficers and the wild Chechentsy mocked the bodies, hacking at
them with their swords and digging their bayonets into the
White terrorism reached its peak. Over fifteen hundred people
were killed in the course of two days. The town was saturated
with blood. People were shot everywhere. Squads of Whites
searched the plains, looking for escaped partisans in the wheat
and rye and grass.
The dead bodies of partisans, workers and peasants were so
numerous that they filled four common graves in Ajimushkai,
in Stary-Karantin, near Petrovsk barracks and in the cemetery.
The fate of our comrades who remained in Ajimushkai quar-
ries was as follows:
After we had gone they remained for a few more days in the
quarries. The Whites walled them in entirely. Utter despair
reigned in the galleries and caves. The villagers demanded that
the staff surrender, but the latter did not agree.
Seeing that the position was hopeless the partisans, both sick
and wounded, cut a hole in the wall of one of the galleries.
They dug with knives, bayonets and with their bare hands. The
members of the staff ordered the villagers to wait until the par-
tisans had left and then to tie a white rag on the end of a
bayonet and signal the Whites that they wished to surrender.
The partisans then crawled out into the plain through the hole
they had made and scattered in various directions in the
catacombs of the town, in the steppes, along the shores and
among the cliffs of the Azov and Black Seas. ,
The Red Partisans are a shining glory of the workers' revolu-
tion. They grievously afflicted tire Whites, harried and ham-
pered them, gave vital help to the Red Army. Many died. Many
times they seemed doomed, and went out to die. Fighting con-
sciously for the workers' triumph, they endured their agonies
knowing that the revolution would not die . . . that the world
must be set free. .
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