Stetzenko, Stepan Pavlovich (1899-1937)

A short biography of Ukrainian anarchist Otto Retovsky

Stepan Stetzenko ( also given as Stitzenko, in some English translations, e.g. Berkman, also as Stytsenko, Stytsko, and Stychenko) was born in the Ukraine in 1899.

He became active as an anarcho-syndicalist in Moscow from 1917 and was active among railway workers there. From 1920 he served on the secretariat of the Moscow Union of Anarchist Universalists. He was arrested for the first time when in November 1929, he and other members of the Universalist secretariat (Alexander Shapiro, and German Askarov) went to Cheka Headquarters to demand why their comrade Vladimir Barmash (see biography here at libcom) had been arrested. They in their turn were arrested and accused of aiding and abetting the Makhnovists and the “anarcho-bandits”, counterfeiting and being members of the Lev Tchorny underground group. It should be pointed out that the Universalists were seen as the least critical o the anarchist groups towards the Communist regime, and had favoured cooperation. This was to prove to be no defence against the repression that effected all anarchists.

On January 28th , 1922 he, Askarov and Mikhail Simchin went on hunger strike at Kisselnaya prison in Moscow. On the third day of the strike they were transferred to another prison, where they were physically assaulted. Already sentenced to be sent to 2 years concentration camp at Severo-Dvinsk, they were now sent to Arkhangelsk , with 17 other anarchists who had not participated in the hunger strike.. The three anarchists declared that they would continue the hunger strike.

The All-Russian Cheka had sentenced them to the Severo-Dvinsl camp, whilst the Moscow Cheka had sentenced them to Arkhangelsk, so there was a clash.

On the 9th day of the hunger strike the three anarchists were put in a sleigh and let out in the cold of 25degrees below for several hours. On the 16th day of the strike Simchin had convulsions, and the Chekists agreed to meet the hunger strikers terms. However this proved to be a lie and the hunger strike was resumed on March 3rd. On the third day of the new hunger strike, Stetzenko had a temperature of 40 degrees and went deaf. The following day askarov had convulsions and was at death’s door.

A telegram arrived from the All-Russian Cheka ordering the sentence to be set aside and for the return of the 3 anarchists to Moscow for a new trial. Following the threat of a new hunger strike they were finally returned to Kisselnaya prison where they had started their irst hunger strike 2 months before.

Stetzenko was to spent the rest of his life in prisons, camps and in exile. He was shot, together with Alexander Yascheritsyn(1), on December 28th 1937 at the Northeast Correctional Labour Camp (Khabarovsk Territory, now Magadan region) .

(1) Alexander Aleksandrovich Yascheritsyn (1899-1937) in 1917-1918 led the organization of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries in Zhizdinsky district of the Kaluga province, was arrested in the summer of 1918 on suspicion of involvement in the Left SR uprising in Moscow. After release he became an anarchist communist and undertook active agitation in Zhizd, Lyudinovo and other workers' centres in the Kaluga and Bryansk provinces. Arrested in 1935 he was in the prison camps until his execution.

Nick Heath
Sources:

https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/emma-goldman-alexander-berkman-bolsheviks-shooting-anarchists
https://www.scribd.com/document/102629849/Anarchists-Russianrevolution
https://criminocorpus.org/media/filer_public/86/dd/.../criminocorpus-pz-337.pdf
http://www.s-a-u.org/history/anarhy/1077-anarchist-chronograph-december-part-2.html