A short biography of Russian anarchist sailor Petr Skurikhin
Born in Russia in 1895, Petr Skurikhin served as a sailor in the Baltic Fleet attaining the rank of seaman Second Class at the Second Depot. A convinced anarchist communist, he was a member of an underground group of anarchist communist sailors within the Baltic Fleet, and took an active part in the unrest in the fleet during the Russian Revolution, in particular in the July Days and then in the October revolution.
He was the author of "The message of the sailors of the Baltic Fleet to the oppressed of all nations" where he called on a general uprising against all oppressors (”Let all the executioners of the people die …”)
He became a member of the Tsentrobalt, and recruited fellow anarchist sailors Anatoli Zhelezniakov, Eizens Berg and Alexei Mokrousov to it, all of whose biographies can be read here at libcom. (Tsentrobalt- Central Committee of the Baltic Fleet- was a coordinating committee for the of sailors' committees of the Baltic Fleet. It was established on 11–13 May 1917. Its first chairman was the Bolshevik Pavel Dybenko. In December the office of the Baltic Fleet Commander-in-Chief and his staff were abolished, and Tsentrobalt assumed full control over the Fleet. In January 1918, the 5th assembly of Tsentrobalt was under anarchist domination. Because of this it was replaced with the Baltic Fleet Council of Commissars by the Bolsheviks on February 13th 1918).
Skurikhin addressed the Tsentrobalt the following day, saying “From yesterday’s teletype message I understand that we are now to consider ourselves dissolved and (that) commissars have already been assigned in our place. We have nothing against personalities, but we oppose the principles of assignment…For my part, I consider that there must be no assignment and that the central organ of the Baltic Sea must exist as before. I consider that no one can dissolve this organ, since the masses created it and the masses can dissolve it, “. Four days later he fulminated against the Bolshevik Kamashko who defended the assignment of commissars stating: “What was the people’s blood shed for if not for elected commanders?”
Skurikhin must also have earned the personal ire of Trotsky himself. When the popular admiral of the Fleet Alexei Shchastny was arrested on May 27th 1918 on the personal order of Trotsky for “counterrevolutionary actions” sailors and workers of Kronstadt assembled in a plenary session to discuss his arrest. The arrest was justified by the Bolshevik sailor from the battleship Respublika Nikolai Khovrin. However he was contradicted by Skurikhin who said that Shchastny should be tried before a revolutionary court made up of Kronstadt sailors.
This was not to be. Shchastny was tried by the Bolshevik revolutionary tribunal and sentenced to be shot immediately. There was no evidence except that offered by Trotsky. This was despite the fact that the death sentence had been abolished. The Bolshevik top judge Nikolai Krylenko famously got round this by saying that the admiral had not been condemned to death, but had been condemned to be shot! This took place despite the protests of Kronstadt sailors and Petrograd workers and with little evidence whatsoever. In retaliation for daring to protest about this the Obukhovsky plant was closed down and all its workers sacked. The judicial murder of Shchastny was the first blood on Trotsky’s hands, and he was to continue to be implicated in the serial murder of Red Army commanders.
Like the Zhelezniakov brothers, Berg and Mokrousov, Skurikhin was one of the anarchist sailors leading detachments in fighting against the Whites. He was wounded several times in combat. He returned to Kronstadt and served on the battleship Petropavlovsk, where he began to be persecuted by the Bolsheviks in 1919. The crew of the Petropavlovsk refused to give him up for arrest to the Bolsheviks, who desisted because they feared an insurrection. He was then forced to go underground.
He was arrested in September 1921 and sentenced the following year to two years of prison camp. In June 1923 he was exiled to Arkhangelsk province for three years.
When he and fellow anarchists Lea Gutman and Elena Ganshina informed their comrades in Moscow and Petrograd about the hunger strike carried out by anarchists in the Pertominsky camp, they were sent to Moscow. There the G. P. U. sentenced Gutman and Skurikhin to two years exile in Beresov, in Tobolsk Province. It required a hunger strike of seven days to change the sentence to exile in Narimsky Kray, considered a better location.
In 1932 a letter appeared in the Bulletin of the Joint Committee for the Defense of Revolutionists Imprisoned in Russia, an anarchist defence and aid bulletin published in Berlin signed by P.S (Petr Skurikhin) talking about the critical state of the anarchist Alexander Naumov and the dreadful conditions that anarchist exiles had to contend with in Tomsk. He wrote that “for two months I have been denied employment”, that he had lost a lot of weight, and that he was afraid that “this new term of three years exile will be the death of me”. We now that Naumov died soon after. The fate of Skurikhin remains obscure, either he succumbed to the same fate as Naumov or he perished later in the mass shootings of 1937-38.
Maximoff, G. the Guillotine At Work.
Mawdsley, Ewan. The Russian Revolution and the Baltic Fleet: War and Politics, February 1917-April 1918