One day he did a thing which was most objectionable and
dangerous. He began to give the partisans money. . . .
STRUGGLE FOR THE CLASS LINE
There was anxiety in our underground dwelling. Men, like
phantoms in the dim light of the oil lamps, ran down the long
main tunnel to the staff room. The heavy air was stirred by the
swift movement of bodies; the oil lamps fastened to the walls
winked and flickered incessantly, filling the passage with vol-
umes of smoke through which their faint light showed dimly.
Men's silhouettes brandished caps and rifles. Shouts and oaths
echoed through the passages. The hubbub of voices waxed
"Sobachkin!" roared Denissov, without paying any attention
to the noise. He stood on a rock, his big stature towering above
the crowd. "Sobachkin! Take this and get your children grub!"
"Come on, Durnogai! Put out your hand!"
"Stop, stop!" cried Baidikov, the Communist, jumping up
and shouting above the noise with his powerful voice. "Stop
this shameless sharing. We won't stand for it."
The hubbub stopped.
"And who are 'we'?" demanded Denissov, with a threaten-
ing glance. "Who may you be?"
"We are conscious Red partisans."
"Am I a whiteguard, then?"
"You don't understand that you're leading the detachment
to its destruction ... to profiteering ... to banditry!"
"Silence!" roared the furious Denissov. "I'll not allow any
man to question my authority. I'm chief. If you don't like it, you
can leave. I'll not stand men who go against my orders. I
wouldn't hesitate to have my own father shot if necessary. D'you
The giant stormed as he advanced upon Baidikov, who stood
his ground and looked calm. "Understand? I'll not have it!"
"That's enough!" shouted Denissov's brother, Gregory, in a
voice of thunder, jumping up and pushing his brother in the
The whole detachment swayed back and waited breathlessly
for what might follow.
Gregory was the strongest and biggest man of us all. His
action was unexpected. He never spoke at. meetings, was chary
of speech, bull-like, unwieldy, but fearless, stern and just. The
whole detachment knew him as such. His main quality was that
he did not thirst for power, nor was he an individualist. In
this he was the opposite of his brother. Gregory was a work-
man, one of the first among the partisans to join the Party
group. Denissov himself admired him, was fond of him, yet
feared him. Altogether he felt Gregory's push rather acutely.
"Stop it, brother," said Gregory in a calm, stern bass, as he
pulled his brother aside from Baidikov. "Sharing is not to the
common interest. You must understand that you're harming the
detachment. If you can't understand it and go on threatening
honest men, we'll have to part before you expect, for I'll cut
your head off."
Denissov walked to the edge of the rock and, leaning on
his rifle, looked down with an angry gleam in his eyes. The
quarrel had to soften somehow.
"It isn't worth while cutting off heads, comrades," inter-
rupted the Communist, Khovrin, calmly, climbing to the top of
the rock. "The Whites do that sort of thing. If we start cutting
off each other's heads there won't be enough to go round. If
we want to blunt our swords, let's do it against the whiteguard
"That's what I've been called," snarled Denissov furiously.
"That's wrong, of course. We honour, admire and shall go
on admiring Comrade Denissov," said Khovrin, turning to the
partisans. "We all value his military experience. I think every-
body knows that."
"Not everybody, it seems," grumbled Denissov, in a more
"But," went en Khovrin, "we must decide, comrades, once
and for all, who we are. Against whom and for what are we
The question was plain. The simple words fell arrestingly
upon the assembly. They stood silent in a cloud of thick brown
smoke. After a few seconds, Khovrin went on :
"Yes, comrades! We must choose one of two things. Are
we to live or die? Let's decide. If we decide tor money, we'll
get rich. But that will corrupt the detachment and weaken the
organizations which are working for us in town. Once that hap-
pens our heads really will be .cut off. Otherwise we can make
the detachment strong to free our wives, our parents and our
children from the bandits' bloody whips; we shall take the land
from the landlords and the factories from the capitalists. . . .
We must choose. Shall we stay here under the ground, pitiful,
solitary, strangers to all, or keep with the workers and peasants
in the common effort and fight the White dogs to the bitter
The eyes of the partisans gleamed with angry fires.
A roar of agreement burst from them. "No sharing. Fight
the Whites for the revolution!"
Then a number of practical resolutions were adopted.
1) The detachment to be reinforced and stern revolution-
ary discipline introduced.
2) To abandon our former tactics and begin real guerilla
3) All means to be used to draw new groups of peasants,
who sympathized with our ideas, into the detachment.
4) All the funds to be the property of the detachment, to
be used only in exceptional cases, for reinforcing it.
Gregory Denissov was elected to control all economic ques-
tions. His election was unanimous.
March had come. Spring was in the air and young grass had
begun to sprout under the warm sun.
One morning early, orders were given to take the red banner
and prepare for a demonstration.
"We'll make a rally," said our commander, "to show the
enemy and the population how strong we are."
So the whole detachment came out on the hill-top, formed
a chain, and started to manoeuvre among the burial mounds
situated near the quarry. A long pole with the red banner wav-
ing from its top was erected on the highest mound.
This demonstration, which was our first, caused a disturbance
among the whiteguards and the town population. Thousands
of people climbed Mitridat mountain to have a look at the
That day the partisans of Stary-Karantin quarry declared
open war against the Whites. Our small but enthusiastic group
of revolutionary workers and peasants in our damp caves were
pitted against the numerous army led by generals who made
torture their profession, against an army with machine-guns,
artillery, bombs, explosives, gas, and other equipment of
It was interesting to see how the population reacted to these
events. Workers and peasants, fired by our example, contin-
ued to arrive at the quarry from all sides so that, after the
demonstration, the detachment grew to a hundred and forty
men, twice what it was. On the other hand, the bourgeoisie
were panic stricken, their fears sharpened by rumours of our
We did our best to spread such rumours. On the day of the
demonstration, our scouts took engineer Glasunov prisoner in
the neighbourhood of the quarry. He was treated well. A straw
bed was made for him, he was fed on eggs, milk, butter. We
impressed him with the fact that the cave-dwellers were not
bandits, as the White press said, but conscious revolutionaries
who sacrificed their lives in the struggle against oppression.
As we knew that, on his return to Kerch, Glasunov would
be questioned by the Whites as to our numbers, we decided to
give him the impression that the quarry was occupied by thous-
ands instead of scores of men. This is how we did it.
Borrowing a few horses and trolleys from the Stary-Karan-
tin stonecutters, all the partisans gathered around the cell where
Glasunov was confined. The horses were to represent cavalry
and the trolleys artillery.
When all was ready, Denissov shouted orders;
"First and second battalion goes down passage so and so,
third and fourth battalion down passage so and so."
Orders were also given to machine-gunners and cavalry. The
partisans passed a number of times before Glasunov's cell with
much noise and stamping. He thought a whole army was
marching past, especially as he had already heard rumours in
town as to our numbers.
Perplexed, he showered questions on us.
"How can you keep such an enormous detachment in these
damp hills and yet avoid sickness? Where do you take the funds
for maintaining your detachment?"
Vassily Baidikov furnished the answers:
"Hundreds of armed workers and peasants come to join us
daily and we have stocks of arms. We find no difficulty in
fighting sickness since we have plenty of medicaments. As for
doctors, we bring them from town and we also have our own.
We do not suffer from a shortage of funds as the population
supports us. Besides, we requisition foodstuffs from the local
"Comrades!" said Glasunov. "I see the rumours spread about
you are false. I have heard no rough words here. You are really
conscious workers and peasants gathered to defend your rights.
I shall not forget the friendly way you have treated me."
Glasunov was set free. There were rumours that, on his
return, he sent an article to the local daily in which he praised
the partisans and the way we had acted towards him. It was
rumoured that the officers intended to kill him for that article,
but he escaped in time. In any case, he disappeared from Kerch.
BATTLE AND SIEGE
Soon after our' demonstration we got news of a proposed
attack by the Denikin forces on all the partisans. Everybody
was roused to prepare for battle. The inhabitants of the neigh-
bouring village of Stary-Karantin and the permanent inhabi-
tants of the quarries, were immediately informed. They prom-
ised to support us and provide us with everything they could.
The first attack was made against the Stary-Karantin quarry.
Comrades from neighbouring villages constantly arrived, bring-
ing us cartridges and remaining with the detachment. Our scouts
informed us of the enemy's movements. All the reports showed
that he outnumbered us and made our own detachment seem
But, in spite of that, we entrenched ourselves, to fight him
in the open.
The commanders, with Comrades Khovrin and Baidikov from
the Party group, gathered on one of the big burial mounds
near the highroad where our main trenches were.
They discussed our small force.
"We must take the offensive and keep it at all 'costs," they
said. "If we succeed in that, we'll rouse the whole local popu-
lation. They will get additional proof of our fighting capacity
and will support us. The enemy will then be obliged to with-
draw regiments from the Crimea which will weaken his front
there against the Red Army."
It was the afternoon of March 15. The soft spring was at
its height; young grass made the world green; the sun was
warm, the weather clear; little clouds drifted over the sky.
The enemy's line approached steadily. He was well equipped.
A cavalry detachment was sighted in the distance, coming
along the highroad from the west, evidently from Feodossya.
Our hearts were oppressed by the sense of approaching
battle, a feeling which seizes both cowards and men of courage.
One can, by much training, harden oneself to the influence of
many events. But to remain calm in battle and before it, is
The order to fire was given. Our first volley 'forced the enemy
to lie down and the firing became general on both sides.
Machine-guns rattled. Trra-ta-ta-ta ! Trra-ta-ta-ta ! We answered
them with sharp volleys from our rifles.
Meanwhile, the cavalry advanced upon us from the rear.
Denissov ordered a company of fifty men, under Commander
Yushko, who had had a great deal of experience with machine-
guns in the old army, to occupy the road to Churbashino along
which the Whites' cavalry were advancing. As they approached,
Yushko's group opened fire; some enemy riders fell at the first
shots. A few more furious volleys drove them to retreat.
It was difficult to break the enemy's ranks. But, thanks to
the natural embrasures in the limestone rock, we succeeded in
repulsing him throughout the day.
; He would not make a frontal attack but encircled us and,
by evening, concentrated a heavy fire upon our position. We
could not stand against his artillery. The first shells wounded
several of our men. Then under cover of his guns, he stormed
our position and, by night, was at the very entrances to the
Hammered by his heavy artillery fire we retreated into our
caves. Then began a long siege of our underground fortress.
There were eleven of us who, being hard pressed, did not
succeed in reaching the central passages connected with head-
quarters. We jumped into the nearest passage, from which we
could see the Whites coming up and hear their shouting.
The whiteguard soldiers looked into the passages but hesi-
' tared to enter.
"Come out, sons of bitches," they cried. "You'll die in any
We stood in the middle of the passage, a few yards from
the opening. They could not see us in the dark, but we could
see everything that went on outside very clearly, even the birds
which flew about near the opening. The Whites dared not
brave that pitch darkness. Two young officers rushed into the
mouth of the passage, shouting:
"Come out you bandits! You're dead men, anyway."
We stood silently behind projecting parts of the wall and
watched them. They stared into the impenetrable blackness.
"There's nobody here!" they shouted to the rest.
Three more officers came in and one, the youngster who
had jumped in at first, spoke in an almost childish voice:
"Isn't it strange, captain, that after a whole day's firing and
While we have so many killed, they have none. That's extra-
ordinary! They must be charmed men."
"Don't you know, ensign, that they carried their wounded
away into the quarry. These people will not leave even a dead
body lying about."
"The beasts!" remarked the ensign.
"No matter. We shall keep them here. A few days in this
darkness and stench will fetch 'em out. They'll stifle unless
they come out; they can't stand it for long."
"You are right, captain. We have only been here a few
minutes and my head already begins to ache. It will be a good
deal worse down there where they've gone. . . ."
"Fetch a torch or a lamp," said the captain to a Cossack who
was standing by, "and bring that old man from among the
prisoners. We shall get lost without a guide."
So saying, he fired several times into the darkness.
We waited with bated breath for them to come inside. Once
we let them in, none should go out alive. We retreated a little
The Cossack soon came back with some lanterns. The officers
lighted them and held their rifles ready. The captain made
two of the stonecutters they had taken prisoners walk in front
to guide them.
"After me, gentlemen!" he shouted.
The peasants, feeling their way along the wall, came close
to us. We silently seized them and pushed them into a corner.
They cried out in fear. At the same moment the partisans shot
at the officers who fell with groans and shouts. One of them
continued to fire at random from where he lay. The petrol in
the lamps caught fire and helped us to finish them.
After that the Whites never again risked entering the
quarries, contenting themselves with shouting insults at us from
We managed to join the rest of the detachment and found
that the quarries were surrounded. Denissov gave orders that
not a single shot be fired from within, to mislead the Whites
and not waste cartridges.
The siege lasted three days. The Whites must have thought
the whole detachment had perished, been stifled, died of
starvation or scattered. As there seemed to be no movement in
the quarries, they raised the siege.
AFTER THE SIEGE
The bourgeoisie of Kerch celebrated their "victory." The Men-
shevik paper, The Wave, and the Constitutional-Democrats'
Voice of Life, gloated with big headlines. They told theii
readers the Red movement was crushed and the bandits wiped
out. But the joy of the Denikin officers and their friends was
When night came, we sent news to No. 1 nucleus and to
neighbouring villages that we were alive and ready to fight
again. Our resurrection had a great effect both on our foes, who
couldn't believe it, and on our friends.
The partisans ran out into the sunshine, out of the cold,
dank dungeon to fill tiheir lungs with the warm clean air.
They took off their clothes and searched for lice, some'cut
their hair and washed, while the sentries studied the horizon
through their field glasses.
The Whites had 'looted the village and done much wanton
"May you die a dog's death, you savages!" yelled the women
with faces of hatred turned towards the town.
The men swore angrily.
"What is going to happen?" everybody asked.
Each had his complaint.
"They've taken all my clothes."
"They've killed my cow."
"And my pig!"
"They've stolen my fowls."
"We've lost everything. They've taken our tools. How are
we to work?"
They swore, cried out and sobbed aloud.
"It's starting again. There'll be no peace for anybody. They've
come here, damn them! There's no peace for us any more."
One of the partisans, a man of middle height in a sheep-
skin cap, with fair hair and a moustache which was almost white
and got continually into his mouth, ran through the crowd of
weeping women and shouting men and jumped on a low wall.
He had a rifle swung across his back and a band of cartridges
across his chest. He cast a glance round and asked:
"Comrades! Do you know me?"
"We do. What of that?"
"Listen, then! I had a cottage. It's been destroyed. I've got
nothing now; no cottage, no fowls, no pigs. What am I to do?
Die or beg? That won't help us. Those who have anything left
had better bring it into the quarry and we'll do without these
things for a time, until our own people come; then we'll have
"Stop it!" yelled a hoarse, unnatural woman's voice. " Damn
you! It makes me sick to hear you. I had a dowry; furniture,
a feather bed that was collected feather by feather. Where are
they now? The officers will sleep on it and all through your
fault, you rascals! You've come here and started this fuss, so
now there's no peace for anybody. Why don't you go to Oliv-
ensk quarry and fight there? And you, Belyakov, throw your
rifle away or you'll lose your life as you've lost your cottage.
It's none of your business, I tell you ! Let these devils go back
to their holes. We'll go on cutting the stone. If we don't no-
body'll be buying stone any more and the work will stop."
The inhabitants who still had some property left began to
carry it to the caves, the remains of their poor household goods ;
chairs, pillows, buckets and tables.
When the woman who had shouted at Belyakov saw this,
she hastened to save her own goods and chattels, crying, "Oh
God! Our people have decided to go underground. It must be
the officers coming again!"
The Whites, having learned by bitter experience that armed
struggle against us would cost them tremendous effort and
many lives, came to parley.
On March 19, a squadron of cavalry approached the quarry.
They sent a note by a village boy which said that, as a de-
tachment, we were doomed to perish. "Let us give up un-
necessary bloodshed. Renounce your odious enterprise. Why
should you suffer? Let those who will, join us and the rest go
home. Everything will be forgiven and forgotten. If you do
not agree, you shall die. We are getting reinforcements. An
engineering party is coming to blow up these quarries and
Our answer was prompt and definite:
"We don't care a damn for your engineering party. We in-
vite you, Mr. Colonel, to come and pay us a visit. We'll show
you how we forgive and forget."
Other whiteguard delegations came up that day. Their main
object, evidently, was to discover our numbers and how the
siege had affected us. We prepared to demonstrate it by putting
groups of armed partisans in about twenty places, behind a
stone wall two-thirds of a mile long, which had openings in it
that led to the underground passages in the quarries. We par-
leyed with them from the nearest passages.
The enemy was persistent. The officers, on instructions from
their chiefs, tried to convince us by arguments similar to those
the colonel of the cavalry squadron had used.
It was useless to waste our time in talk.
One parley cost us the precious life of a good fighter. As
we left the passages to speak with them, the first to come out
was a tall partisan, wearing a black sheepskin cap and coat with
cartridge bands across his chest. The Whites evidently took him
to be our leader. There was a volley and the partisan Miron
Brodyagin fell, wounded to death in the stomach. The Whites
laughed and gallloped off to their squadron, which was sta-
tioned a little way off.
It was painful to watch the dying man's torture. A crowd
of men, women and children collected round him, carrying
lamps. The harsh-voiced woman who had railed at us for in-
terfering in matters which she thought were not our concern,
was also there.
"That's what will happen to all of you," she cried. "Look
what you've done. What's to become of his orphan child? It's
still unborn, but when it comes to life it will ask: 'Where's
my father?' Dead for no reason at all!"
The women wept.
The dying man's agonized groans were soon over.
His pregnant wife, sitting on the ground beside him, cried
"Dead! What is to become of me!"
At noon we dug a grave, made a coffin and buried the hero
Soviet fashion, with the honours of war. Some of the women
wept and threw earth into the grave, saying:
"What kind of a burial is that? Holy Virgin, keep him and
I went into the quarry to the headquarters cave. It was full
of partisans. Smoke and soot hung in thick clouds over the
heads of the men who sat or reclined on the damp straw. There
was a great hubbub of voices, and all looked at the corner
where a red banner with white lettering was attached to a pole
fixed to a piece of rock. On the rock sat a delegate, a short,
thickset man with intelligent eyes. That was Peter Ursatyev, a
black-haired, calm-mannered sailor. He was a member of the
revolutionary military staff of the partisan movement in Kerch,
which had its headquarters in the Ajimushkai quarries. These
quarries were situated on the other side of the town, about one
and a half miles from it and about four miles from us, near
the Bryansk plant. Ursatyev was sent by the revolutionary
military staff to discover exactly how things stood with us, the
quality of our detachment and our numbers, organizations,
communications and so on.
We gave the desired information.
But Denissov showed a certain mistrust of the newcomer. As
a rule it was difficult to talk to Denissov. He was very chary of
speech and unwilling to answer questions. He did not like de-
cisions taken in common. He was a stern man and resented in-
terference in what he thought was his business. When he saw
that the comrades in general were giving Ursatyev information,
he refused to take part in the talk, but walked aside and lay
down resentfully on the straw. Ursatyev tried to draw him
into the conversation.
"You're the chief, Denissov," he said, "so why do you lie
in that corner? We must settle things, you and I."
"It's all right," said Denissov, in a discontented tone, waving
his hand towards a group. "Those who know so much will tell
you everything. They're all wise. My business is to shoot the
White dogs. I'll let you politicians attend to your politics."
Ursatyev tried to soothe him.
"We all know you're a good fighter. They talk about you in
the staff, you know."
"Much I care for your staff."
"Not 'y urs> but 'ours'," Ursatyev interrupted him. "It's the
staff of all the partisan detachments of Kerch region and at
the head of all the detachments in Petrovsk, Stary-Karantin
"I know without asking the staff what must be done here, in
my own detachment. You attend to your own business in Aji-
mushkai. You don't seem to be doing much fighting. We've
had our battles. What about you?"
"That's just what I am saying," Ursatyev answered. "We
must know about each other's business. Why are you making
a fuss? Let's have a good talk. You'll find out all about us."
Denissov went nearer to him and sat down on the straw.
"As I've told you, comrades," Ursatyev began, "we have a
large detachment, some hundreds of men, and we're working
like the devil to get recruits. We give special attention to r.ural