A short biography of Russian anarchist Petr Zhebenev, active in the Urals
Petr Zhebenev was born into a workers' family at the Nevyansky factory in Yekaterinburg in 1879, and joined the Social Democrats in 1898 but soon went over to the anarchists. He managed to get a juridicial education and became a lawyer.
He served in a reserve regiment during World War One and was a “well-known” anarchist in Yekaterinburg in 1917-18. After the February revolution he helped found the Urals Anarchist Association and became district military commissar organising Red Guard detachments, formed of factory workers and peasants.
He reacted negatively to the Brest-Litovsk treaty. On February 24th 1918 he was at the head of an armed group of anarchists that carried out a major expropriation, with the large amount of money taken designated for anarchist propaganda. However the Bolshevik authorities intervened with force and confiscated the money. He organised a squad of 37 anarchists with five machine guns that went to the front.
He was elected as commander of a large Red Army detachment, the Partisan Division and showed great organisational skills and personal courage, though disapproved of by the Communist high command because of his anarchist ways. In one account he is described as “wearing a leather jacket, bareheaded, with long hair, and hung with grenades and machine-gun belts” in another as being about 35 years old, bareheaded and with thick black hair almost to his shoulders, barefoot with his trousers rolled to his knees, and wearing a duffel bag on his shoulders filled with expropriated cash, which he gave away to other military detachments which had received no pay (Civil War memoirs of Stepan Gerasimovich Pichugov).
He was stationed at Yekaterinburg when Tsar Nicholas and his family were imprisoned there and apparently warned the Bolsheviks that if they did not exterminate Nicholas the bloody, then the anarchists would. However, the Bolsheviks under Medvedev (Kudrin)and Rodinsky disarmed Zhebenev's detachment headquartered in the mansion of the engineer Zheleznov and subsequently murdered Nicholas and his family themselves.
He took part in the fighting against the Whites and the Czech Legion. He was wounded in fighting near Yekaterinburg and after treatment in autumn 1918 he held command positions in the Third Red Army on the Eastern Front. After the fighting he returned to Yekaterinburg to continue anarchist activity, helping found the Yekaterinburg Anarchist-Universalists and he may have been one of anarchists from there arrested by the Cheka in autumn 1920. The security files of Cheka described him as an “active” and “prominent” anarchist organiser.
He was appointed People's Commissar of Agriculture in 1921 and returning to working as a lawyer. In 1932 he joined the Communist Party and moved to Moscow. He was later expelled from the Party, and suffered repression. In 1938 he was arrested and executed.