Youth. Before the war
Vasily Ivanovich was born on January 28 (February 9) of 1887 of the year in the village of Budaika in the Cheboksary volost of the Kazan province in a peasant family. The family was large - nine children (four died early). Father was a carpenter. In 1897, in search of a better share, the Chapaevs (Chepayevs) family moved from Cheboksary to more prosperous places in the lower Volga region, in the village of Balakovo in the Samara province.
Because of the need to work, Vasily graduated from only two classes of the parish school. He helped his father, was in the service of a merchant, learned to sell, but the merchant did not leave him. As a result, he mastered the carpentry, worked with his father. In search of work, they wandered throughout the Volga. As Chapaev himself later said, he became an exemplary carpenter.
In autumn, 1908 was drafted into the army, sent to Kiev. But already in the spring of 1909, he was laid off. Obviously due to illness. He married the daughter of the priest Pelage. Before the war, he had three children - Alexander, Claudius and Arkady. All of them have become worthy people. Alexander became an artilleryman, went through the Great Patriotic War, and completed it as commander of an artillery brigade. After the war, he continued his military service and completed it as deputy commander of artillery in the Moscow District. Arkady became a pilot, died in 1939 as a result of a fighter accident. Claudia was a collector of materials about her father, collected a huge archive.
Feldfebel V.I. Chapaev with his wife. 1916
War and revolution
With the outbreak of World War II, Vasily Ivanovich was called up for service and sent to a reserve regiment. He came to the front at the beginning of 1915, since he was considered an experienced soldier, he was enrolled in the regimental training team, which trained non-commissioned officers. Chapaev fought in the 326-th Belgorai Infantry Regiment of the 82-th Infantry Division of the 9-th Army of the South-Western Front in Volyn and in Galicia. He took part in the battle for Przemysl, in positional battles in Galicia, in 1916, in the Brusilovsky breakthrough. He reached the rank of sergeant major, was wounded and shell-shocked several times, showed himself to be a skilled and brave soldier, was marked by three St. George crosses and the St. George medal.
After another wound, in the spring of 1917, Vasily Chapaev was sent to the 90-th reserve infantry regiment in Saratov. There he became part of the shock detachment, they were created by the Provisional Government in the conditions of the complete decomposition of the army. In the summer of 1917, Chapaev was transferred to the 138-th reserve regiment in the city of Nikolaevsk (now Pugachev in the Saratov region). Politically, Vasily first joined the Saratov anarchists, but then moved on to the Bolsheviks. In September, he joined the RSDLP (b). In his regiment, Chapaev continued to maintain discipline, did not allow to plunder regimental property, had influence on the soldiers and proved to be a good organizer.
After the October Revolution, Vasily Ivanovich, with the support of soldiers, became commander of the 138 Regiment. As a result, he became the main military support of the Bolsheviks of the Nikolaev district of the Samara province. In December 1917, Chapaev was elected the county commissioner of internal affairs, and in January 1918, he was elected military commissar. Commissar Chapaev struggled with the actions of peasants and Cossacks, which were most often organized by the Social Revolutionaries. He also took part in the organization of the county Red Guard, and on the basis of the 138-th regiment the 1-th Nikolaev regiment was formed. Then the formation of the 2-th Nikolaev regiment began.
V. I. Chapaev in the group of the Red Guard command staff
The beginning of the Civil War
In March 1918, the Ural Cossacks revolted. The Soviets were dissolved, the Bolsheviks were arrested. The Saratov Council demanded that the Cossack army government restore the Soviets and expel all "Cadets" from Uralsk. The Cossacks refused. The Army of the Saratov Council was moved along Uralsk along the railway - it was based on the 1 and 2 th Nikolaev regiments (detachments) under the command of Demidkin and Chapaev. From the beginning, the offensive was successful - the Reds overturned the Cossacks and were in 70 versts from Uralsk. But then the Cossacks, using good knowledge of the area and the superiority of the cavalry, blocked the Red Guards in the vicinity of Shipovo station, cutting them off from Saratov. After stubborn battles, the Reds were able to break through the encirclement and retreat to the border of the region. Then the front stabilized.
In May 1918, the Czechoslovak Corps began their speech, it was supported by detachments of officers, "cadets" - liberals, February democrats, who were unhappy that they had been ousted from power. The fighting between the Saratov Red and Ural White Cossacks resumed. In June, the Eastern Front was formed, headed by Muravyov, and it included units of the Saratov Council. The 1-th and 2-th Mykolayiv were combined into a brigade (about 3 thousand fighters) led by Vasily Chapaev. The Nikolaev brigade again launched an offensive along the Saratov-Uralsk railway. In stubborn battles, the Chapaevites advanced to Shipovo station, but then they were again thrown back to their original positions. The Socialist-Revolutionary rebellion and the betrayal of Commander Muravyov complicated the situation.
In July 1918, the situation in the Volga region was critical. Czechoslovakians and Komuch’s troops captured Syzran, Ufa, Bugulma and Simbirsk. The Nikolaev district became a key knot of resistance. The Nikolaev brigade and detachments of the Red Guard prevented the combined forces of Komuch with the Ural Cossacks and the movement down the Volga. The Nikolaev brigade will be reorganized into a division of five infantry and horse regiments. In early August, the task was completed. The division was headed by the commissar of the Balakovo district S.P. Zakharov. Chapaev commanded the 1th brigade. The Nikolaev division, which was part of the 4 Army, fought with the Khvalynsky Comuch group under the command of Colonel Makhin. The fights were with varying success. 20 August Czechs were able to take Nikolaevsk. Chapaev counterattacked and was able to cut off Czech legionnaires from Komuch’s troops. Czechoslovakians retreated; on 23 of August, the Chapaevites liberated the city. At a meeting in honor of the liberation of the city, Chapaev proposed renaming Nikolaevsk to Pugachev. This idea was supported. Heavy fights with Czechs and whites continued.
In early September, Chapaev began to act as commander of the Nikolaev division, instead of the retired Zakharov. At this time, the Ural Cossacks, who raided the rear of the 4 Red Army, intensified their actions. The Czechs and the People’s Army of Comuch were advancing on Volsk and Balakovo. An uprising began in Volsk. As a result, the Volsk red division was between two fires and was defeated, its command was lost. In this critical situation, Chapaev carried out an additional mobilization in Nikolaev-Pugachev, knocked out reserves from the command of the 4 Army and went on a counterattack. On 8 of September, the Nikolaev division defeated the whites, went behind the forces of Komuch. After fierce battles, Komuch’s troops were defeated. Volsk and Khvalynsk were recaptured. Chapaevts captured large trophies.
During the Syzran-Samara operation, which began on 14 of September 1918, the Nikolaev division advanced on Samara. She was again led by Zakharov. On September 20, the train of the head of the Trotsky Revolutionary Military Council arrived at the location of the division. It was decided to form the 2-th Nikolaev division headed by Chapaev. She had to act in the Ural direction, protecting the flank of the Eastern Front. The new division included Chapaev’s relatives of the 1 and 2 regiments, who learned the names of Razin and Pugachev.
In October 1918, the Chapaevites fought hard battles with the Ural Cossacks, who received reinforcements from the Orenburg Cossacks. Belokazaki could not directly resist the onslaught of the infantry regiments of the Reds, however, they compensated for this by the maneuverable actions of first-class cavalry. They constantly maneuvered, attacked either in the forehead, or from the flanks and rear, intercepted communications, and disrupted supply. Chapaev constantly asked for reinforcements, weapon, equipment and ammunition. He proposed to move to Nikolaev, to replenish the division, to regroup. And the command posed impossible offensive tasks. In late October, Chapaev arbitrarily took the troops back. He announced that his regiments had successfully left the encirclement. A scandal erupted. The commander of the 4 Army Khvesin proposed to remove Chapaev from command and bring him to trial. The high command was against it.
In battles with Cossacks, white and Czech legionnaires, Vasily Ivanovich proved himself to be a skilled and brave commander, whom the soldiers respect and love, an excellent tactician who correctly assessed the situation and made the right decisions. He was still courageous, personally led the troops in the attack. He was independent, took the initiative, even violated the orders of the higher command, if he considered them erroneous. It was a voivode from nature.
The commander of the 1th Nikolaev division S.P. Zakharov and the commander of the 2th Nikolaev division V.I. Chapaev, 1918
In November 1918, Vasily Ivanovich was sent to the newly created Academy of the General Staff of the Red Army in Moscow. By this time, Chapaev had only primary education and did not even finish the course of the parish school. Therefore, it was very difficult for him to study complex and special military disciplines. At the same time, the division commander had to undergo a program of infantry command courses. In addition, the teaching staff was significantly updated, and some new teachers did not want and could not enter the position of a part of poorly educated students. Chapaev did not work out at the academy and he recalled this experience with irritation: “We are not learned at the academies ... It’s also peasant with us ... We didn’t wear uniforms, and without them, thank God, not everyone such a strategy will be. ” However, he acknowledged that the academy is a "great cause." Some teachers recalled that Vasily Chapaev had good inclinations. As a result, the red division commander arbitrarily returned to the front to "beat the White Guards."
After visiting his native places, Chapaev met with Frunze. They liked each other. Chapaev treated Red Napoleon with great respect. At the suggestion of Frunze in February 1919, he began to command the Alexander-Gaisky group, which opposed the Ural Cossacks. Furunze from Ivanovo-Voznesensk Dmitry Furmanov (future biographer of the hero of the Civil War) was appointed the commissioner of the formation. They sometimes quarreled because of the ardor of the division commander, but in the end became friends.
According to Frunze’s plan, the Chapaev’s group was supposed to advance in the area of Kazachya Talovka and the village of Slomikhinskaya with further access to Lbischensk, and the Kutyakov’s group continued to attack Lbischensk from Uralsk. The March operation was successful: the White Cossacks were defeated and retreated to the Urals, many surrendered, recognized the Soviet regime and were sent home. At this time, Chapaev had to make more efforts to maintain order and discipline in the troops in which the decomposition began (robbery, drunkenness, etc.). I had to arrest even part of the command staff.
The further advance of the troops of Chapaev and Kutyakov to the south was prevented by the onset of thaw and the floods of the steppe rivers. Frunze, commander of the Southern Group of the Eastern Front, recalled Chapaev to Samara. At the end of March, Chapaev headed the 25 rifle division - the former 1 I Nikolaev division, reinforced by the Ivanovo-Voznesensky and International regiments, artillery and an air squad (later, an armored squad was also included in the division). At this time, the Russian army of Kolchak began the "Flight to the Volga" - the spring offensive. On the southern flank, the Ural Cossacks became more active and blocked Uralsk. However, it got stuck in a siege of its "capital". Orenburg Cossacks besieged Orenburg.
In the Ufa direction the 5-I Red Army was defeated. The Red Eastern Front was broken, the Western army of Khanzhin was torn to the Volga. Hyde's Siberian army advanced in the Vyatka direction. A new wave of peasant uprisings began in the rear of the Reds. Therefore, the powerful 25 I division of Chapaev (9 regiments) became one of the main strike forces of Frunze and acted against the main forces of the Kolchak army. The Chapaevites participated in the Buguruslan, Belebey and Ufa operations, which culminated in the failure of the Kolchak offensive. Chapaevtsy successfully made rounds, intercepted messages of the White Guards, smashed their rear. Successful maneuvering tactics became a feature of the 25 division. Even opponents singled out Chapaev and noted his commanding abilities. Chapaev’s division became one of the best on the Eastern Front, Frunze’s punch fist. Chapaev loved his fighters, they paid him the same. In many ways, he was a national ataman, but at the same time possessing military talent, huge passionarity, with which he infected others.
A major success of the Chapaev’s division was to force the Belaya River in the Krasnoyarsk region in early June 1919, which came as a surprise to the White Command. The Whites sent reinforcements here, but during the fierce battle, the Reds defeated the enemy. It was here that the White Guards launched the famous “psychic attack”. During this battle, Frunze was shell-shocked, and Chapaev was wounded in the head, but continued to lead his units. On the evening of July 9, the Chapaevites broke into Ufa and liberated the city. Having started Chapaev and brigade commander Kutyakov, Frunze was presented for awarding with the Orders of the Red Banner, and the regiments of the division with honorary Revolutionary Red Banners.
Head of the 25th Infantry Division V. I. Chapaev and Commissioner of the Division D. A. Furmanov among the commanders and political workers of the division. June 1919
Again in the Ural direction. Death
As a result of the defeat of the main forces of Kolchakites in the Ufa direction, the Red High Command decided to transfer part of the forces of the Eastern Front to defend Petrograd and the Southern Front. And the 25-I division was again directed to the southern flank in order to turn the tide in the fight against the Ural Army. Chapaev led a special group, which included the 25 Division and the Special Brigade (two infantry and one cavalry regiment, two artillery divisions). In total, under the leadership of Chapaev there were now 11 rifle and two cavalry regiments, 6 artillery divisions (the whole corps).
On July 4, the offensive began with the goal of releasing Uralsk, where the red garrison continued to defend. The Belokazaki had no chance of stopping Chapaev’s powerful strike group, although they tried to resist. In the battles of 5 - 11 of July, the Ural army was defeated and began to withdraw to Lbischensk. 11 July Chapaev broke through to Uralsk liberated the city from a long blockade. The further advance of the Chapaev group, due to the stretched communications, the lack of a stable rear, heat and the destruction by the Cossacks of wells and enemy raids, slowed down. On August 9, Chapaev’s division was occupied by Lbischensk. The Belokazaki retreated further down the Urals.
Chapaev’s troops, having torn off from the rear, had great supply problems, were located in the Lbischensk area. The headquarters of the 25 division, like other division agencies, was located in Lbischensk. The main forces of the division were located in 40-70 km from the city. The command of the White Cossack Ural Army decided to undertake a raid on the enemy rear, to attack Lbischensk. A combined detachment from the 2th Division of Colonel Sladkov and the 6th Division of General Borodin, who led this group, was sent on a campaign. Only about 1200-2000 people. Cossacks, knowing the terrain perfectly, were able to quietly go out to the city and on September 5 of 1919 attacked it. The rear guards and peasant monitors could not provide strong resistance. Hundreds of people were killed and captured. Chapaev’s headquarters destroyed. The red commander himself gathered a small detachment and tried to organize resistance. He was wounded and died. According to one version - during a shootout, according to another - crossing the Urals.
Vasily Ivanovich Chapaev lived a short (32 of the year), but a bright life. Thanks to Furmanov’s book (published in 1923) and Vasiliev’s famous film “Chapaev” (1934), he forever became one of the most famous heroes of the Civil War and even became a part of folklore.
Monument V.I. Chapaev in Cheboksary. Architect V.I. Morozov, sculptor P.A. Balandin. Opened in 1960. Sources of photos: https://ru.wikipedia.org; https://encyclopedia.mil.ru