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Tambov Rebellion

Tambov Rebellion
Part of Russian Civil War
Date 1919-1921
Location Tambov Governorate, Soviet Russia
Result Decisive Red Army victory
peasant rebels Red army
50,000 100,000

The Tambov Rebellion of 1919–1921 was one of the largest and well organized peasant rebellions against the Bolshevik regime during the Russian Civil War[1][2]. The uprising took place in the territories of the modern Tambov Oblast and a part of Voronezh Oblast, less than 300 miles southeast of Moscow. One of rebellion leaders was a former official of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, Alexander Antonov, and therefore in Soviet history it was named the Antonovschina (Анто́новщина).



The rebellion was caused by the forceful confiscation of grain by the Bolshevik authorities (policy known as prodrazvyorstka). In 1920 the requisitions were increased from 18 million to 27 million poods in the region, whereas peasants reduced the grain production knowing that anything they did not consume themselves will be immediately confiscated. To fill the state quotas meant a death by starvation [2]. The revolt began on 19 August 1920 in a small town of Khitrovo. The peasant army was also known as the Antonovtsi or "Blue Army" (not to be confused with Polish Blue Army), as opposed to "White Army" (anti-communist army), "Red Army" (communist army), "Green Army" (Ukrainian nationalists) and "Black Army" (anarchists of Ukraine and Russia) - all taking part in the Civil War.

As a distinctive feature of this rebellion among the many of these times, it was led by a political organization, the Union of Working Peasants (Soyuz Trudovogo Krestyanstva). A congress of Tambov rebels abolished Soviet power and decided to create a Constituent Assembly under equal voting, and to return all land to the peasants.[1]

Tambov uprising was one of main reasons Bolsheviks abandoned the prodrazverstka (forced expropriation of grain) policy, changing it to prodnalog (essentially, a grain/food tax). On February 2, 1921, Bolshevik Party decided to tailor a special message targeting peasants of Tambov region, announcing the retirement of the old grain policy. This was done ahead of the X Party Congress, where the measure was officially adopted. The announcement started circulating in Tambov area on February 9, 1921.


Alexander Antonov, a radical member of the Left Socialist Revolutionary party, had sided with the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution in 1917, but he became disenchanted with them after the Bolshevik's new farming policies were implemented in 1918. Antonov started to make attacks against the Soviet authorities and became a popular hero to the people of the Tambov region of central Russia where he started his campaigns.

In October 1920 the peasant army numbered over 50,000 fighters, and was joined by numerous deserters from Red Army. The rebel militia was highly effective and infiltrated even the Tambov Cheka [2]. In January 1921 peasant revolts spread to Samara, Saratov, Tsaritsyn, Astrakhan, and Siberia.

The seriousness of the uprising called for the creation of the "Plenipotentiary Commission of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Bolshevik party for liquidation of banditry in the Tambov Gubernia". The rebellion was crushed by Red Army units headed by Mikhail Tukhachevsky. The political guidance of the anti-revolt operations was effected by Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko. The famous Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov received his first Soviet decoration while fighting rebels here[citation needed].

The uprising was so great that nearly 30,000 soldiers were sent in, including special Cheka detachments. The army used heavy artillery and armored trains to fight peasant rebels.

Tukhachevsky and Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko signed an order, dated June 12 1921, that stipulated: "The forests where the bandits are hiding are to be cleared by the use of poison gas. This must be carefully calculated, so that the layer of gas penetrates the forests and kills everyone hiding there." [2] Chemical weapons were used "from end of June 1921 until apparently the fall of 1921", by direct order from leadership of Red Army and Communist party [3] Publications in local Communist newspapers openly glorified liquidations of "bandits" with the poison gas [3].

Seven Concentration camps were set up. At least 50,000 people were interned, mostly women, children, and elderly, some of them were sent there as hostages. The mortality rate in the camps was 15-20 percent a month.[2]

In January 1921, Antonov resorted to conscription in order to increase his army. He managed to form 2 field armies. These field armies consisted of 21 'regiments', with a total strength of around 20,000-50,000 men. The army was well structured and well organised, with their own form of insignia and uniforms. The Soviets however, referred to these Antonovtsi as disorganised Kulak groups or bandits.

The uprising was gradually quelled in 1921. Antonov was killed in 1922 during an attempt to arrest him. Total losses among the population of Tambov region in 1920-1922 resulting from the war, executions, and imprisonment in concentration camps were estimated as at least 240,000 [3].


  1. ^ a b Robert Conquest, The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine Oxford University Press New York (1986) ISBN 0-195-04054-6
  2. ^ a b c d e Nicolas Werth, Karel Bartošek, Jean-Louis Panné, Jean-Louis Margolin, Andrzej Paczkowski, Stéphane Courtois, The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression, Harvard University Press, 1999, hardcover, 858 pages, ISBN 0-674-07608-7
  3. ^ a b c B.V.Sennikov. Tambov rebellion and liquidation of peasants in Russia, Publisher: Posev, 2004, ISBN 5-85824-152-2 Full text in Russian

See also

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Tambov_Rebellion". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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