A short biography of Makhnovist Grigori Vasilevsky
Grigori Vasilevsky was born to a wealthy peasant family on the outskirts of Gulyai-Polye. His date of birth has been given as 1889, but a marriage certificate from April 24th, 1911 reveals that he was 18 years old at the time, thus putting his birth in 1892 or 1893. His father was a successful pig dealer. The family got the extra surname of Tchaikovsky for a number of given reasons. The first of these is that as they lived on the outskirts, they were idiomatically lapwings (Tchaikovsky means lapwing). The second explanation was that his father had some musical ability when young and distinguished himself in a performance of one of Tchaikovsky’s works, thus earning him the soubriquet of the great composer’s name. Why this was passed on to his son (and not to any of his siblings) is not explained. The third explanation is that the Vasilevsky family had close connections with another family, the Tchaikovskys.
Grigori appears to have been a friend of Nestor Makhno from childhood onwards.
In 1910 Grigori became an anarchist communist, going underground and carrying on a campaign of terror against the local bourgeoisie and kulaks. In 1911, as mentioned above, he married Evdokia Plaksina, and they were to have at least five children. Alexander Lepetchenko, a witness at the marriage, later to be a prominent Makhnovist himself, was married to Grigori’s older sister Melania. In March 1917 he joined the Gulyai-Polye Anarchist Communist Group, and is described by Viktor Belash as a “selfless soldier of the Black Guard”. He took part in one of the four agricultural communes set up in the region of Gulyai Polye.
In April 1918 he retreated with other Gulyai-Polye anarchists to Tsaritsyn. Makhno mentions in his memoirs meeting up with him there. He returned to Gulyai-Polye and was involved in the organisation of insurgent groups.
In June 1918 he illegally returned to his homeland, was a member of the terrorist and insurgent groups. He was a member of the Makhnovist movement from the first day of its foundation and served as an adjutant to Makhno from 1918 to 1920. In spring 1919, he served in the Makhnovist counterintelligence, and then from June of that year was adjutant at Makhnovist headquarters.
In autumn 1919 he was again working in the Makhnovist counterintelligence. As such, he was involved in exposing the plot by the Bolshevik Mikhail Polonsky to assassinate Makhno.
His father Semyon was shot by the Reds in a ravine outside Gulyai-Polye, probably alongside Makhno’s eldest brother Savva in February 1920. Grigori became a member of the Commission for Anti-Makhnovist Affairs in July 1920 and as such was distinguished by his harshness towards Soviet officials, commissars and food requisitioning detachments.
Vasilevsky served as a member of the Council of Revolutionary Insurgents of the RPAU (Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the Ukraine) at its last convocation in November 1920.
In January 1921 he was killed in a battle with the 8th Division of Red Cossacks in the Kiev region.
His younger brother Semyon (born 10th September 1900) volunteered to join the Makhnovists, apparently towards the end of 1918 or early 1919, and with two other young men of the same age, was put in charge of a Makhnovist tachanka ( the horse-drawn carts fitted with machine guns that the Makhnovists were famous for). They were attacked by White Cossacks near Uspenovka and surrounded. Semyon shot the other two young men and then himself, rather than face capture by the Cossacks. One boy survived, feigning death, and managed to make it home. Semyon was later buried in Gulyai-Polye.