The dashing Cossack commander Filipp Mironov who was the conscience of the Russian revolution
“The career of ex-Colonel Mironov has come to a shameful and miserable end. He considered himself, and many others considered him, a great ‘revolutionary’. Mironov fought against Krasnov and attached himself, with his first guerrilla units, to the Red Soviet forces. What was the reason for Mironov’s temporary adhesion to the revolution? This is now perfectly clear: personal ambition, careerism, an endeavour to climb on the backs of the working masses.” Trotsky, Colonel Mironov
"Philip Kuzmich Mironov was a direct honest man and loyal soldier of the revolution ... His appearance in the 2nd Cavalry was a lucky historic event for the future of the Soviet Republic and for his personal life a fatal outcome. He was certainly a strong personality, capable and talented ..." Former staff officer, 2nd Cavalry A I Boyarchikov, in 1960-1970s
“My whole life’s suffering and eighteen years of revolutionary struggle speaks for a tireless thirst for justice, a deep love for the workers, for my honesty and unselfishness in those methods of struggle to which I resorted to see equality and brotherhood between people ...". Mironov’s last letter, addressed to Kalinin.
Filipp Kuzmich Mironov was born on October 14th (26th old calendar) 1872 into a poor Cossack family in the stanitsa (Cossack village) of Ust-Medveditskaia, in the Voiska Donsky oblast on the Don. He finished studies at the parish school and continued in high school. He joined the military in 1895. He graduated from the Novocherkassk Cossack Officers School in 1898 and served in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05 as an officer in the 26th Don Regiment. Here he first gained attention as a dashing and brave commander, often attacking the enemy from the rear and winning four medals. However by now he had become interested in progressive politics. He had already spoken out against outrages committed by the Army to his commander. When the Cossack regiments returned home after the war with Japan, Mironov’s regiment was held up at Ufa where the railway workers were on strike. Mironov made a speech which rallied the Cossacks to their cause. On June 18th 1906 in his home village, he addressed a meeting, saying that Cossacks should refuse to do police duty. Mironov and two of his associates were later arrested but the Cossacks in his region demanded their release, mobilisation into the police was cancelled, and the trio were freed.
However these actions were not forgotten and Mironov was dismissed from the Army in 1905 for “actions discrediting the rank of an officer” and involvement in a “revolutionary movement”. After that Mironov returned to farming and to carting water.
He volunteered for service in the First World War in the 30th Don regiment, becoming commander of an intelligence division. He again received medals, one being the highest decoration for valour, the George Medal, became a lieutenant colonel and assistant commander of the 32nd Don regiment in March 1916. His son died in the fighting on the front.
Mironov took the side of the February Revolution of 1917. He vigorously campaigned for the setting up of Red Cossack detachments on the Don, despite the suspicion and antipathy of local Bolshevik officials. He was elected commander of the 32nd Don Cossack Regiment. In January 1918 he led the regiment to the Don and he served as regional commissar on the Upper Don. From 1918 to early 1919, Mironov commanded a regiment, a brigade, the 23rd Rifle Division, and a group of forces of the Ninth Army in fighting against General Krasnov’s White Cossack troops.
He was awarded the Order of the Red Banner in September 1918, being one of the first to receive this medal. He was named commander of an expeditionary corps on the Southern Front in June 1919. He opposed the policy of de-Cossackisation (raskazachivaniya) thus falling foul of Trotsky and his coterie. He sent Trotsky a telegram protesting against the treatment meted out to the Don Cossack population, protesting that they had no intention of harming the revolution. Interestingly just a few days before Trotsky had himself sent a telegram to Mironov in which he said: “I welcome the courageous fighters …Soldiers, commanders of the 23rd division! All of Russia looks at you with expectation”. Shortly after this, In January 1919, Mironov led the fighting on the Southern Front receiving further awards for the "brilliant execution” of the campaign of the 23rd Division.
Now however, Mironov’s fortunes were changing. As a result of Mironov’s stance on deCossackisation, Trotsky withdrew Mironov from the Southern Front in an order of February 18th, sending him instead to the Western Front. This was at a time when a secret circular was released by the Communist Party Executive Committee. It stated: “The latest developments on various fronts in the Cossack areas - our progress into the interior of the Cossack settlements and the expansion of the Cossack troops - forced us to give guidance on the nature of party workers work in rebuilding and strengthening Soviet power in these areas. It is necessary, given the experience of the Civil War with the Cossacks, to recognize the most relentless struggle against all the Cossacks on horseback, by their indiscriminate destruction. No compromises, no half-way measures are allowed. Therefore, you must: 1.Conduct a mass terror against the rich Cossacks, destroying them without exception, merciless mass terror against all Cossacks who had any direct or indirect participation in the struggle against Soviet power. Take all measures against the middle Cossacks to provide a guarantee against any attempt on their part for new demonstrations against Soviet power”.
The circular called for the complete disarming of all Cossacks, to be punished by shooting if this was resisted, the seizure of bread and all other agricultural products, the moving of outside settlers into Cossack areas, the “mass settling of the poor” there, all of which was to be carried out without compromises.
Valentin and Yevgeny Trifonov were two brothers from the Novocherkassk Cossack villages. They had joined the Bolsheviks in 1904, and had organised Red Guard detachments in Petrograd in 1917. Both brothers were important figures in the Bolshevik administration on the Don. In letters to important Bolshevik committees they argued that the policy towards the Cossacks was wrong and that the charges against the Cossacks as a whole being counter-revolutionary were baseless. They criticised Trotsky as being an incompetent organiser and that the outrages and crimes committed on the Southern Front were alienating the local populations. However their words of warning were ignored.
In the summer of 1919 Mironov accidentally came across the programme of the Maximalists and was deeply impressed. He naively asked the local Bolshevik political committee how he could contact them. The Bolsheviks were not amused, believing that he was taunting them.
He then drafted a programme for the “Worker-peasant-Cossack Party” with politics close to that expressed in Maximalist tracts This party was never to progress beyond Mironov’s notebooks due to the course of events. It included the following points: 1. Complete destruction of the power of capital 2. Abolition of all agencies and institutions of bourgeois society. It continued in the same vein, calling for the abolition of the bureaucracy, the death penalty, emergency and revolutionary committees, for free soviets, for freedom of speech and expression for all the revolutionary socialist groupings, the socialisation of land and factories, against the extermination of the Cossacks and for unity of all revolutionaries.
Whilst stationed at Saransk Mironov learned from friends on August 18th that the political department of the Corps officially requested the dissolution of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Southern Front for allegedly preparing a rebellion in support of him. At the same time, he learnt that the White general Mamontov had broken through the front and was preparing to march on Moscow. He decided to take action as he felt that the Revolution was in great danger. He planned on marching to the Front, whilst avoiding armed clashes with Red units, and then to rally them to a united front against Mamontov and Denikin. At the same time he had the idea of peaceful rebellion against autocracy and the commissars to save the Revolution and restore Soviet power.
He delivered a speech on August 23rd urging workers and peasants to take the land and factories into their own hands, for free Soviets, against the autocracy and the commissars and for an offensive against Denikin.
His forces then marched against Denikin on the Southern Front, disobeying orders. He was arrested after a few days by the Red Army commander Maslakov on the orders of Trotsky and sentenced to be shot by a military tribunal in October- ironically Maslakov himself was to initiate an uprising against the Bolsheviks as documented here at libcom. Mironov was immediately pardoned by the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and rehabilitated by the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party on October 23rd. The trial was presided over by the leading Bolshevik Smilga, who later went on record to slander Mironov’s revolutionary reputation. Interestingly, Smilga admitted at the trial that atrocities had been carried out against the Cossacks: “but it is also evident that the main culprits of the terror have already been shot. We must not forget that all these deeds were made in an atmosphere of civil war, when passions become heated to the limit. Remember the French Revolution and the struggle with the Vendee…You will see that the Convention troops committed terrible things, terrible in terms of individual rights. The actions of the troops of the Convention can be understood only in the light of class analysis. They justified the history, because they made a new progressive class… It's the same now.” He sermonised Mironov that: “You also should have known that.” Budyonny had wanted Mironov shot immediately, seeing him as a competitor to his leadership of the Red Cossacks but perhaps surprisingly Trotsky vetoed this. He had neither sympathy nor antipathy to Mironov on a personal level, but felt that Mironov would be more useful alive than dead. This despite the lying and slanderous missive he had dictated from his armoured train. It is extremely ironic that Trotsky uses the gross slanders of careerism and personal ambition against Mironov, when it was exactly these slurs that Stalin and his followers were later to use against him!!
Mironov was returned to his post as an Army commander. He was a member of the Don Executive Committee and chief of the land department from late October. He joined the Communist Party in January 1920. Questioned under interrogation in 1922, Mironov’s wife Nadezhda said that this was because Mironov now believed that any useful political work could only be done inside the Party, and not outside of it. After the collapse of Denikin’s offensive the Whites re-organised under Wrangel. Operating against them was the 1st Cavalry Corps. Its commander, Boris Mokeevich Dummenko, was falsely accused of murdering a commissar and organising an uprising and was executed in May 1920. Trotsky now called for the creation of a new cavalry body, to be headed by Gorodovikov. He proved to be a useless commander, and Trotsky now recalled Mironov and placed him in command. Mironov successfully commanded the Second Cavalry Army in combat against Wrangel’s troops from Sept. 2nd -Dec. 6th, 1920 at Nikopol. He defeated the forces of the White generals Babiev and Barbovich and took part in the defeat of the Whites at Perekop, at times fighting alongside Makhnovist units.
After the victory over Wrangel the 2nd Cavalry Army was renamed the 2nd Cavalry Corps and sent to fight against yesterday's allies, the Makhnovists. Mironov did this with apparent reluctance, according to the Bolshevik soldier Frunze. At the same time the Maslakov uprising flared up.
There were many enemies of Mironov both within the Red Army and the Communist Party, with on one side Trotsky and his group and on the other Budyonny and Voroshilov. As a result of a provocation by the Bolshevik informer Skobinenko ( expelled from the Communist Party the year before and later sent to jail for fraud in 1934), Mironov, along with his second wife Nadezhda Suetonovka and others, was arrested on false charges in February 1921. The Cheka were already keeping a more attentive eye on Mironov following the uprising led by a Communist Party member and Cossack commander Vakulin on December 18th 1920 at Mikhailovka. Mironov was to go on record to say that he sympathised with Vakulin over his demand for Soviets without the Communists but thought that the uprising would only lead to more unnecessary bloodshed.
On April 2nd 1921 Mironov was killed whilst exercising in the Butirky prison yard. A guard suddenly raised his rifle and shot him.
During a rehabilitation process in 1959-1960 at the Soviet Supreme Court documents came to light revealing that Mironov had been murdered on the orders of the Cheka. But even after his murder the Cheka continued the vendetta against his family. Nadezhda remained in custody after the death of her husband, of which she was not informed. On May 18th, 1921 she wrote a statement to a Cheka commissar, saying that she was seven months pregnant and had already been imprisoned 3 months which with her mental anguish over the fate of her husband and under-nourishment in the prison, was having a serious effect on her health. She professed her complete innocence of any counter-revolutionary activity and threatened a hunger strike, saying that despite her pregnancy she would rather die than face another day in prison. As a result of this she received better nourishment but in July was still writing to the Cheka asking about the fate of her husband. She was then transferred to the Cheka prison for pregnant women – the House of the Mother and Child- in the Solyanka forest on 28th August. There she gave birth to a son, Vadim. She was released in December, but not allowed to take a job. She took the measure of visiting the Bolshevik leader Kalinin and appealing to him. Kalinin signed an order getting her a job. However the Cheka continued their persecution, calling for her to be exiled to Arkhangelsk province, because of the possibility of “pernicious propaganda”. She disappeared from view in the 1930s. Her son was sickly, and contracted asthma at the age of three. He died two years later.
After this any mention of Mironov referred to him as a traitor. For example in the Red Army Museum a picture of Mironov was accompanied by a caption portraying him as a “bandit” and traitor to the Revolution. Mironov may have been exonerated in 1960 but no further attempts to clear his reputation were made until the 1970s when two books attempting to rehabilitate Mironov were written, a biography by Sergei Starikov (who had been arrested at same time as Mironov in 1921 and released 2 months later without charge or reason given) and Roy Medvedev and a novel by Yuri Trifonov, the son of Valentin.
In the late 1980s, the Russian nationalists attempted to use him as a symbol, but quickly dropped him when they realised what his political viewpoints were, transferring their adulation to the White generals. Finally, in 1997 there was the publication of a collection of documents "Philip Mironov. Quiet Flows the Don in 1917 - 1921." which were a major source of information about Mironov. They included the touching correspondence between Filipp and Nadezhda .
Who ordered the killing of Mironov? Was it Trotsky, Dzherzhinsky, or Lenin himself? The actual document ordering his shooting has so far not been found. Whoever was responsible, it was apparent that Mironov had not enamoured himself to the regime and that whilst some elements might be prone to continue to use him for military reasons, others obviously felt that he had to be physically removed. Mironov was an idealist, and perhaps many would say a naïve one, who did not realise how ruthless the Bolshevik bureaucracy could be and somehow felt that it could be reasoned with. Nevertheless he became a symbol of its purest ideals and aims, and indeed its conscience.
Starikov, S, Medvedev, R. (1978) Philipp Mironov and The Russian Civil War
Trotsky on Mironov at : www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1919/military/ch101.htm
Insarov, M. Philipp Kuzmich Mironov: http://zhurnal.lib.ru/i/insarow_m/mironov.shtml
Gamayunov, I. Love and Death- Commander Mironov: http://magazines.russ.ru/neva/2005/11/go12.html
Mironov’s brother. Mironov is alleged in various sources to have had a brother who was a Makhnovist commander! Is this the Mironov mentioned by Makhno as being active in the workshop committees in Gulyai-Polye and who was elected as delegate to the provincial congress of Soviets alongside him?
Footnote 2. Mironov features in Sholokhov’s novel Quiet Flows The Don. His name was removed by censors in the 1953 edition, although Sholokhov asked for it to be restored in the 1980 edition, which it was. As I said in my short biography of Fomin, who had served under Mironov, Sholokhov’s description of Mironov should be understood in the light of the strictures of Russian society of the time.