Kobets, Grigori (or Ryhor) 1900-1990

Grigori Kobets

A short biography of celebrated Belarussian playwright Grigor Kobets, who fought with the Makhnovists.

The Makhnovist playwright

"I participated in the anarchist movement of the Nabat federation and served for some time in Makhno's army. We fought for Soviet power without the Communists." Kobets
In the Belarussian Soviet Encyclopaedia it is stated that Grigori Kobets was born on the 12th (24th Gregorian calendar) July 1898 in Elizavetgrad (now Kirovohrad) in the Ukraine within the Russian Empire. But in fact he was born on July 7th, 1900 and in fact his real name was Mikhail Drach., or according to other sources Mikhail Moisevich Sandyga, indicating Jewish origin. He was born in Elisavetgrad (now Kirovogrod) in central Ukraine and therefore was not Bielorussian but Ukrainian. He borrowed the name Kobets from a headmaster Yakov Petrovick Kobets, at his school, He then passed himself off as the son of the headmaster. (Later in life he told his daughter Elena that he was the son of a well-to-do nobleman from Bessarabia).

He added the two years to serve in the First World War.He fought in the Russian Army on the Galician front between 1914-1916, where he was wounded in the hand . This cured him of his taste for war.. There was an attempt to study at a gymnasium (High school) which ended with an unsuccessful suicide attempt. Between 1916-1918 he worked in a railway works. He participated in both the February and October Revolutions, In 1918 he wrote a poem Lavochka for the local paper under the name of Mikhail Sandyga, which poked fun at the Hetman Skoropadsky, the Ukrainian puppet of the Austro-Germans, As a result he was imprisoned. However, during a transfer from one prison to another, he was liberated by anarchists, who suggested he join the Nabat anarchist confederation and for a time he fought with Makhnovist armed detachments and was with them when they fought alongside the Red Army and then were incorporated into the Red Army. He participated in the defence of a Jewish town in the Kirovohrad region either from the Petliurists or the forces of Grigoriev during a pogrom of the Jews.

With the ending of the pact and the attacks on the Makhnovists by the Bolsheviks he had to hide from the Cheka after other members of the Elisavetgrad anarchist group of which he was a member, were arrested in 1919. He .fled to Minsk where he worked as a stoker. Here he married. His activity as an anarchist and a Makhnovist was never forgiven and he never received a State pension.

In 1928 he graduated from Minsk evening school and between 1929-1930 worked on a newspaper. He worked at the Minsk Teachers Institute in 1934.He was awarded the title of Honoured Artist of the Bielorussian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1935. He was author of the play Guta, written in the late 20s, which won the first prize at the First-All-Union competition of Theatrical Arts in Moscow.

He worked through the thirties in Birobidzhan writing for the Paper Pacific Star. In 1938 he was arrested by the Stalinist secret police and held for nine months and tortured, accused of spying for Japan, Poland and England but was acquitted the following year. In 1939-1941 he worked as an editor for the newsreel studio Transbaikalia in Khabarovsk. He wrote film scripts for the 1940 musical comedy Happy Beach. His films were very popular throughout the Soviet Union until he fell under suspicion and they were all withdrawn from circulation.

In 1941 he was arrested again for “anti-Soviet agitation” and sentenced to be executed by firing squad, which was commuted to ten years in the prison camps. He worked in Taishent on the railways with a squad of criminals who he succeeded in winning over. He had been placed with them with the expectation by the authorities that he would be murdered. He was released at the end of this period. He stayed in Kirghizia and joined the sovkhoz (State farm) Chaldovar.

In 1958 he returned to Minsk. In October 1960 he was rehabilitated. He died on the 9th September 1990.
Nick Heath


Posted By

Jul 9 2009 09:16


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Jul 21 2018 16:10

I've updated the biography of Kobets with some fascinating new information

Jul 21 2018 23:15
Battlescarred wrote:
I've updated the biography of Kobets with some fascinating new information

excellent stuff, super interesting!