A short biography of Russian anarchist communist Grigory Dvigomirov
"Labouring people, trust only in yourselves and in your organised forces”. Black Banner, Vladivostok anarchist communist paper, 1918
Grigory Dvigomirov was a firebrand, a zealot, a stormy petrel, not afraid to walk hundreds of miles to spread the ideas of anarchist communism.
He was born in the late 19th century in Chernigov. Graduating from school at the town of Novyzubkov, he took part in the 1905 Revolution and left for America in 1907.
He arrived in San Francisco and from there went on foot to all the towns that had a local of the Union of Russian Workers, finally ending up in Pittsburgh. A man of simple tastes, his favourite food was a dish of kasha (buckwheat porridge) and he neither smoked nor drank.
In Pittsburgh he worked as a metal worker. He became associated with the anarchist communist grouping within the Union of Russian Workers. The URW had originally been anarchist-communist in orientation but there had been a drift towards an anarcho-syndicalist orientation. Dvigomirov, Piotr Rybin-Zonov and Robert Erdman (1897-1938, real name Yevgeny Dolinin) fought against this drift and founded the New Federation of Unions of Russian Workers and a paper, Vostochnaya Zarya (Eastern Dawn) which lasted for two issues, folding in September 1916. The debate within the exile Russian anarchist community must have been rancorous as Aron Baron still remembered it when writing a letter from Siberian exile in 1925, referring to “the libellous Ermando-Dvigomirovsky Zarya”, although he misremembers the names of the authors of the paper.
Both Erdman and Dvigomirov returned to Russia in 1917, arriving at Vladivostok via Japan. In Vladivostok Dvigomirov linked up with other anarchist communists, founding the Union of Revolutionary Anarchist Communists. He conducted a frenzied activity there, speaking at street meetings almost every day as well as mounting indoor evening lectures, and carrying out agitation among the soldiers. In 1918 the Union published Black Banner, with at least five issues appearing. Other active anarchists involved in this agitation were Ivan Gurko and A. Chernov-Chernobaev. Dvigomirov was even elected to the Vladivostok Soviet.
It appears Dvigomirov had some considerable success with his agitation, if one is to judge by the number of times he is mentioned, in a derogatory way, in Soviet literature. Thus we have the following in “Lazo”, the book by the old Bolshevik Yemelyan Yaroslavsky (real name Minei Izrailovich Gubelman), in his memoir of the Bolshevik partisan S.G. Lazo, published after the Second World War:
And when the controversy flared up especially hotly and passionately, the voice of a pretty drunk (Dvigomirov was teetotal, N.H.) anarchist Dvigomirov, exported from the United States, often known at that time in Vladivostok as a demagogue, was often heard:
- Do not, gentlemen, talk nonsense. All wealth belongs to world humanity. No Japanese and Americans! All people are brothers. Divide all the benefits between all equally and be happy.
This Dvigomirov, with his demagogic cries for a universal division of the benefits of the world, at first had some influence among the backward part of the workers. Almost every day on the most crowded streets of Vladivostok, in the port, near the workshops, his lanky figure appeared with a fat, shiny face and bulging eyes. He dressed "lumpen worker." He was usually wearing a black shirt and jacket. Some suspicious persons of both sexes constantly crowded around this “prophet of the coming life”.
The "prophet" comes up with a speech to the people - his henchmen instantly built an improvised podium out of boards and empty boxes. Having climbed it, Dvigomirov extended his long arms in the direction of the port and its warehouses and, like an ominous bird, began to shout loudly:
- People! Here you have great wealth. All this is created by your hands - you are the masters. And the Soviet will give you nothing. Listen to us, anarchists! ... We say: take everything, it's all yours. Divide all the benefits of the world and be happy. Long live anarchy - the mother of order!
Vladivostok workers soon …appreciated the true nature of this “prophet” and his “ideas”. Wherever he spoke, he was usually driven out of the stands in disgrace. At the same time, there were often scandals, fights organised by the anarchists themselves.
Dvigomirov with his gang brought immense harm to the Soviet authorities. The Japanese received an extra trump card to justify the intervention: The Soviets are not able to provide peace and tranquillity to “Japanese citizens living in Vladivostok and its environs”. The Menshevik newspaper “The Far Outskirts” published the speeches of Dvigomirov and immediately commented on them: here, they say, is another proof of the inconsistency of the Soviet power - anarchy is flourishing in the city.
The Soviets, relying on the advanced masses of the workers, had to pursue a particularly clear and firm policy in order to create armed Red Guard units surrounded by numerous dark forces, strengthen the police and maintain revolutionary order in the city.”
Yaroslavsky also refers to Dvigomirov in his memoir of the Bolshevik Alexander Fadeev:” After the May Day demonstration of 1917 in Vladivostok, a group of young people came to the committee of the then social-democratic organization. Among them, I drew attention to a young man ….it was Sasha Fadeev……I remember that among those who came were Andrei Tsapurin, Domanevsky, Golombik, Dolnikov, Nerezov, Borodkin and others. The conversation began with an unexpected reproach that the Social Democrats do not pay attention to the fact that the youth are not yet organized, that they need to be helped to understand the events taking place. I objected.
- No, comrade Vladimir, - said Fadeev, - this is not the case. The fact is that we ourselves cannot correctly sort things out and find a way for young people to go. And the anarchists, the Social Revolutionaries, are pulling us towards them, and they, as I understand it, are deceiving us.
- What and how do they cheat you? - I asked, and then I saw that Fadeev was very excited.
“And how,” he immediately picked up, “to name the calls of the anarchist Dvigomirov, who preaches the purest heresy: “Anarchy is the mother of order,” he sings, and exposes the position that no power is needed, that the Soviet is a deception. What next? Dvigomirov offers to share all the wealth. So among us there are people who think that Dvigomirov is right, and I believe that his sermons are harmful and must be fought. We must help create an organization of youth. That's what we came for.””
Dvigomirov is also mentioned in the novel by Vera Petrovna Solntseva, “Dawn On The Ussuri” where he is described as a rogue and a scoundrel and receives a hostile reception from the crowd.
In actual fact Dvigomirov seems to have had a strong influence on the youth mentioned above. Witness the leaflet advertising his meeting, “We invite you to the Dvigomirov lecture on “Tasks and Goals of Youth” in the Siberian naval crew club on August 20th”. At first Tsapurin leaned towards the anarchist communists before opting for the Bolsheviks, whereas Vladimir Domanevsky became an enthusiastic anarchist (1)
When the anarchist communists organised a conference, members of the Military Commission of the Soviet turned up and warned them that Red Guard units would be used against them. Shortly after Soviet power was temporarily overthrown with the White offensive led by Admiral Kolchak.
Dvigomirov then travelled through Russia and much of the Ukraine spreading anarchist communist ideas, travelling hundreds of miles by foot. He was arrested several times by the Soviet authorities, on one occasion spending several months in prison in the Urals.
He returned to the Chernigov province at the end of 1920 and with other anarchists carried out agitation among the peasants, with the development of peasant cooperatives (artels), establishing groups at Chernigov, Sosnitsy, Novgorod-Siversky, Konotopi, Kozeltsi and Nizhyn. The Cheka regarded the construction of these artels as linked to Makhnovism, and put out a warrant for the arrest of Dvigomirov, but peasants refused to turn him in. In 1921 after returning from a non-party conference of peasants in Novyzubkov, he was caught in a field by a Chekist punitive squad and immediately shot.
(1) Obituary of Domanevsky in Black Banner March 27t, 1920: “Vladimir Domanevsky was from a working-class family. He studied at the Murvyov-Amursky school, having graduated from five departments, began to work honestly as a turner. At the beginning of the revolution, together with other comrades, he began to organise the Union of Youth, which released its organ “Tribune of Youth”, where there are articles by V. Domanevsky. He organized a group of propagandists of stateless socialism, and the newspaper Young Rebel was published. After the overthrow of the Soviet power, he, like other revolutionaries, was persecuted by the government, from 1918 he began to live illegally and even more actively devoted to the cause of liberation under the black banner of anarchy. Guerrilla warfare breaks out, and here, in the very first days, he begins to work on the supply of weapons for partisan detachments and he himself goes to the partisans. From Novorossiya the partisans send him back to the city to get weapons and escort to the partisans a squad of city workers. When partisan detachments were dispersed from Olginsky district, V. Domanevsky began to establish an illegal printing press, where his appeal to the workers and soldiers was issued. Soon, Volodya was arrested by a cop at home, but due to chance he managed to escape.” Later he was ambushed by the police and killed in October 1919.
A. Gromyko, “Vostochnaya Zarya” [Eastern Dawn], Delo Truda № 102 (June – August, 1938), pp. 23-25 in .https://archive.org/stream/DieloTruda/Dielo_Trouda__102_1938_djvu.txt
Tribune of the formation of youth organisations 1917-1920: