Military Review

Russian Jeanne d'Arc Maria Bochkareva and her female “death battalion”

From the family of illiterate peasants, Maria Bochkareva was clearly an extraordinary person. Her name thundered throughout the Russian Empire. Still: a female officer, George Knight, organizer and commander of the first female death battalion. She met Kerensky and Brusilov, Lenin and Trotsky, Kornilov and Kolchak, Winston Churchill, English King George V and US President Woodrow Wilson. They all noted the extraordinary strength of the spirit of this woman.

The heavy share of Russian women

Maria Bochkareva (Frolkova) was a native of the Novgorod peasants. In the hope of a better share, the Frolkov family moved to Siberia, where the land was distributed to peasants for free. But the Frolkovs failed to raise virgin land, settled in the Tomsk province, lived in extreme poverty. In 15 years Marusia was married and she became Bochkareva. Together with her husband, she unloaded barges, worked in the asphalt laying team. Here Bochkareva's extraordinary organizational skills first manifested themselves, very soon she became an assistant foreman, 25 people worked under her leadership. And her husband remained a laborer. He drank and beat his wife in mortal combat. Maria fled from him to Irkutsk, where she met Yakov Bouk. The new civic husband of Maria was a player, moreover, with criminal inclinations. As part of the Hunkhuz gang, Jacob participated in robberies. In the end, he was arrested and exiled to the Yakut province. Maria went after her beloved to distant Amga. Jacob did not appreciate the feat of self-sacrifice of a woman who loved him and soon began to drink and beat Maria. It seemed that there was no way out of this vicious circle. But the First World War broke out.

Private Bochkareva

On foot through the taiga, Maria went to Tomsk, where she came to the recruiting station and asked her to sign it as an ordinary fighter. The officer reasonably suggested that she sign up as a sister of mercy for the Red Cross or some kind of support service. But Maria certainly wanted to go to the front. Having occupied 8 rubles, she sent a telegram to the Highest Name: why was she denied the right to fight and die for her Motherland? The answer came surprisingly quickly, and, by High Resolution, an exception was made for Maria. So in the battalion lists appeared "Private Bochkarev." They cut her under a typewriter and gave her a rifle, two pouches, a tunic, pants, a greatcoat, a hat and everything else that a soldier should be.

On the very first night, there were those who wanted to check “by touch”, but is this unsmiling soldier really a woman? Maria had not only a hard character, but also a heavy hand: without looking, she swung brave beats with everything that came to hand — with boots, a bowler hat, a pouch. And the cam of the former asphalt paver was not at all ladies'. In the morning, Maria didn’t say a word about the “night fight”, and in the class was among the first. Soon the whole company was proud of its unusual soldier (where else is there such?) And was ready to kill anyone who encroached on the honor of their Yashka (Maria got this nickname from fellow soldiers). In February 1915, the 24-th Reserve Battalion was sent to the front. Maria refused the offer of officers to go to the headquarters car under Molodechno arrived along with everyone in a warm house.


On the third day after arriving at the front, the company in which Bochkarev served, went on the attack. From 250 people, 70 reached the line of wire obstacles. Unable to overcome the barricades, the soldiers turned back. Less than 50 reached their trenches. As soon as it got dark, Maria crawled into the neutral lane and dragged the wounded into the trench all night. Almost 50 man saved her that night, for which she was presented to the award and received the St. George Cross 4-th degree. Bochkareva went to the attacks, night raids, captured prisoners, not one German "took on a bayonet." There were legends about her fearlessness. By February, 1917 had injured 4 and 4 St. George awards (2 cross and 2 medals), on the shoulders of a senior noncommissioned officer.

Year 1917

In the army at this time - complete chaos: the rank and file equated with the officers, orders are not executed, desertion has reached unprecedented proportions, decisions about the attack are made not at headquarters, but at rallies. The soldiers are tired and no longer want to fight. Bochkareva does not accept all this: how is it that 3 of the war year, so many victims, and all for nothing ?! But agitating on the soldiers' rallies for the "war to the bitter end" just beat. In May, 1917, the chairman of the Provisional Committee of the State Duma, M. Rodzianko, arrived at the front. He met with Bochkareva and immediately invited her to Petrograd. According to his plan, Maria should become a member of a series of propaganda actions for the continuation of the war. But Bochkareva went further than his plans: on May 21, at one of the rallies, she put forward the idea of ​​creating the "Striking Women's Death Battalion."

"Death Battalion" Maria Bochkareva

The idea was approved and supported by the Commander-in-Chief of Brusilov and Kerensky, who then held the post of Minister of War and Maritime. Over the course of several days, more than 2000 women volunteers enrolled in the battalion with the example of Maria’s call for women in Russia. Among them were bourgeois and peasant women, domestic servants and university graduates. There were also representatives of noble surnames of Russia. Bochkareva established a tough discipline in the battalion and supported her with her iron hand (in the full sense of the word, she beat the muzzle like a real old-time vakhmistr). A number of women who did not accept the Bochkarev battalion control measures broke off and organized their shock battalion (it was he, not the Bochcharevskiy, who defended the Winter Palace in October 1917 of the year). The Bochkareva initiative was picked up throughout Russia: in Moscow, Kiev, Minsk, Poltava, Simbirsk, Kharkov, Smolensk, Vyatka, Baku, Irkutsk, Mariupol, Odessa, infantry and cavalry women's units and even women's naval teams (Oranienbaum) were created. (True, the formation of many has not been completed)

21 June 1917, Petrograd saw off female soldiers to the front. With a huge crowd of people the battalion was handed a banner, Kornilov handed Bochkareva a nominal weaponand Kerensky - epaulettes ensign. June 27 battalion arrived at the front, and July 8 entered the battle.

Vain victims of the women's battalion

The fate of the battalion can be called tragic. The women who had risen to the attack really carried the neighboring companies along. The first line of defense was taken, then the second, third ... - and that was all. Other parts did not rise. The reinforcement did not fit. Udarnitsa reflected several German counterattacks. There was a threat of encirclement. Bochkareva ordered to retreat. Taken from a battle position had to be left. The battalion victims (30 killed and 70 injured) were in vain. Bochkareva herself in that battle was seriously contused and sent to the hospital. After 1,5 of the month, she (already with the rank of second lieutenant) returned to the front and found the situation even worse. Udarnitsy served on a par with men, called in intelligence, rushed to the counterattack, but the example of women did not inspire anyone. The 200 survivors of the female victims could not save the army from decomposition. Clashes between them and the soldiers who were striving to “bayonet to the ground - and home” as soon as possible threatened to develop into a civil war in a single regiment. Considering the situation hopeless, Bochkareva disbanded the battalion, while she left for Petrograd.

In the ranks of the White movement

She was too prominent a figure to quietly dissolve in Petrograd. She was arrested and taken to Smolny. Lenin and Trotsky talked with the famous Maria Bochkareva. The leaders of the revolution tried to attract such a bright personality to cooperation, but Maria, citing injuries, refused. Members of the White movement also sought meetings with her. She also stated that she would not fight against her own people, General Anosov, to the representative of the underground officers' organization, but she agreed to go to Don to General Kornilov as a liaison organization. So Bochkareva became a member of the Civil War. Disguised as a sister of mercy, Mary went south. In Novocherkassk, she handed over to Kornilov letters and documents and went, as the personal representative of General Kornilov, to ask for help from the Western powers.

Diplomatic mission of Maria Bochkareva

Following through all of Russia, she reached Vladivostok, where she boarded a US ship. 3 April 1918, Maria Bochkareva went ashore in the port of San Francisco. Newspapers wrote about her, she spoke at meetings, met with prominent public and political figures. The envoy of the White movement was received by the US Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State Lansing and US President Woodrow Wilson. Then Maria went to England, where she met with Secretary of War Winston Churchill and King George V. Maria begged them all, persuaded, urged them to help the White Army, with money, weapons, food, and all this help was promised to her. Inspired, Maria goes back to Russia.

In the twist of the fronts of the Civil War

In August, Bochkarev 1918 arrived in Arkhangelsk, where she again took the initiative of organizing a women's battalion. The government of the Northern region reacted coolly to this initiative. General Marushevsky frankly stated that the inclusion of women in the military service is a disgrace. In June, 1919, a caravan of ships departed from Arkhangelsk heading east. In the holds of ships - weapons, ammunition and ammunition for the troops of the Eastern Front. On one of the ships - Maria Bochkareva. Her goal is Omsk, her last hope is Admiral Kolchak.

She reached Omsk and met with Kolchak. The admiral made a strong impression on her and ordered the organization of the sanitary detachment. During the 2 of the day, Maria formed a group of 200 people, but the front was already cracking and heading east. In less than a month, the “third capital” will be left, Kolchak himself remains to live for less than six months.

Arrest - sentence - death

In the tenth of November, Kolchak left Omsk. Maria did not leave with the retreating troops. Charter of war, she decided to reconcile with the Bolsheviks, returned to Tomsk. But her fame was too odious, the load of sins of Bochkareva before the Soviet power was too heavy. People who took a much less active part in the White movement paid for it with their lives. What can we say about Bochkareva, whose name has repeatedly flashed on the pages of white newspapers. 7 January 1920, Maria Bochkareva was arrested, and 16 May was shot as the “irreconcilable and worst enemy of the Workers 'and Peasants' Republic”. Rehabilitated in 1992 year.

The name will return

Maria Bochkareva was not the only woman who fought in the First World War. Thousands of women went to the front as sisters of mercy, many made their way to the front, posing as men. Unlike them, Maria didn’t conceal her belonging to the female sex for a single day, which, however, doesn’t diminish the feat of other “Russian Amazons” at all. Maria Bochkareva would have to occupy a worthy place in the pages of the textbook stories Russia. But, for well-known reasons, in the Soviet era, the slightest mention of her was carefully removed. Only a few contemptuous lines of Mayakovsky in his poem “Good!” Remained.

Currently, a film about Bochkareva and her drummers "Death Battalion" is being shot in St. Petersburg, the release is planned for August 2014 of the year. We hope that this tape will return the name of Maria Bochkareva to the citizens of Russia, and her extinguished star would flash again.

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  1. xetai9977
    xetai9977 16 September 2013 08: 41
    Interesting article! For a long time I knew about the "drummer", but did not know who they were. Thank you!
  2. Starshina wmf
    Starshina wmf 16 September 2013 08: 42
    This is not a woman, this is a man.
    1. Apollo
      Apollo 16 September 2013 08: 55
      quote- “Death Battalion” by Maria Bochkareva

      informative film about Maria Bochkareva and the death squad. I advise you to watch an informative film.
    2. tomket
      tomket 17 September 2013 16: 02
      I wonder how Mila Jovovich would look in the trenches of the First World War?
  3. yan
    yan 16 September 2013 10: 16
    Thank God these are isolated cases. A woman must still maintain the focus. War Men's Business
    1. Uhe
      Uhe 16 September 2013 13: 34
      In general, in the old days when Russia was not Russia and Christianity was never heard of, except as a foreign faith, Russian women participated in battles along with men, if that was what they wanted. Arabs and Saxons have mentioned this in our epics. Another thing is that this is not a mass phenomenon. And not only among the Slavs, but also among other neighboring peoples.

      But here, of course, the clinic;) But now it is known who took a direct part in the invocation of the invaders to our land. It was because of the Entente that the civil war lasted for many years. As Churchill said, the whites thought that they were fighting for the Russians, but in fact they were fighting against the Russians for the cause of England. This woman is a fool. Who is proud of here? Shame on you.
      1. Walking
        Walking 16 September 2013 15: 29
        Shame when men do not want to defend their country.
        1. rjadovoj
          rjadovoj 28 February 2015 15: 27
          Shame when women do not give birth and do not raise children. A woman should sit at home, feed her husband, do housework. Then the man will defend his country.
  4. AK-47
    AK-47 16 September 2013 10: 21
    Over the course of several days, over 2000 women volunteers signed up for Maria’s call to women of Russia with their own example of shaming men.

    About two thousand volunteers enrolled in the women's battalion in a week. True, after a month of training, his ranks were greatly thinned - 1500 women were expelled for "easy behavior". Several volunteers found themselves in an interesting position. Of course, they too were driven out in disgrace.
    1. xetai9977
      xetai9977 16 September 2013 14: 10
      I, too, have the opinion that war is not a woman’s business. Of course, there were, are and will be patriots who want to benefit their homeland. But there are other areas where they will be in demand. And rush to attack, crawl in the mud or grapple hand-to-hand, is clearly not a thing for a woman!
  5. AK-47
    AK-47 16 September 2013 10: 24
    On January 7, 1920, Maria Bochkareva was arrested; in May 1920, the sentence was carried out.

    The Russian Joan of Arc was thirty-one years old.
  6. revnagan
    revnagan 16 September 2013 10: 39
    VS Pikul has an interesting work - "Out of the Dead End." Bochkareva is mentioned there. What is feminine in her? Nature was simply mistaken. And I wonder what kind of sins Bochkareva had before Soviet power? The author has not disclosed the topic ...
  7. Drosselmeyer
    Drosselmeyer 16 September 2013 10: 54
    As always, politicians, to carry out their abominations, are ready to throw anyone for slaughter. In what kind of inflamed brain could the idea arise of throwing women at machine guns with a thorn?
  8. Vadim2013
    Vadim2013 16 September 2013 12: 33
    I read the article with interest. Previously, he knew nothing about Maria Bochkareva and the women's death battalions during the First World War.
  9. aszzz888
    aszzz888 16 September 2013 13: 04
    I read earlier about this madame.
    Fiercely worse than another man.
    For what she fought, she ran into something.
    You can’t say bad things about the dead, but if there’s more than a dozen deaths in your soul ...
  10. Black
    Black 16 September 2013 14: 34
    The last photo, even for an avatar in Odnoklassniki ...
  11. Walking
    Walking 16 September 2013 15: 27
    When men become like women, women have to take on non-characteristic functions + patriotism of course.
    1. rjadovoj
      rjadovoj 28 February 2015 15: 25
      Men become like women precisely because women assume functions that are not inherent to them: they refuse to give birth, raise children. Now you cannot find real women, such as the Decembrists. Such as in this article, these are not women or even women. Where to get to a peasant if he is not provided with a reliable rear, or if, even worse, he is not at all?
  12. OPTR
    OPTR 16 September 2013 17: 43
    She was too visible a figure to quietly disappear in Petrograd. She was arrested and taken to Smolny.

    And then "suddenly" she found herself "in a white movement."
    Missed some interval.
    1. Klim podkova
      Klim podkova 16 September 2013 22: 40
      General Anosov, who addressed her on behalf of the group of officers, was personally acquainted with her and related to the organization of the women's battalion. He was able to persuade Maria to provide a service - to take a letter. And then everything went on thumb. The main thing - to move from the place, and downhill it already goes.
  13. optimist
    optimist 16 September 2013 18: 12
    That's what poor women are underestimated .. B leads .... sad
  14. sak1969
    sak1969 16 September 2013 21: 10
    Quote: yan
    Thank God these are isolated cases. A woman must still maintain the focus. War Men's Business

    Most of these women are bad wives and mothers. They want to prove to the peasants that they are no worse.
    And in general, they are really no worse ...
    By the way, a woman politician, or a minister, is also a man (plugs in a belt), and the hearth keeper is not what. love
  15. sak1969
    sak1969 16 September 2013 21: 13
    Quote: Drosselmeyer
    As always, politicians, to carry out their abominations, are ready to throw anyone for slaughter. In what kind of inflamed brain could the idea arise of throwing women at machine guns with a thorn?

    They were soldiers ...
  16. Klim podkova
    Klim podkova 16 September 2013 22: 33
    Quote: revnagan
    And I wonder what - such sins before the Soviet government were Bochkareva? The topic was not disclosed by the author ...

    Bochkarev as a personal representative of General Kornilov traveled to the United States and England, where she agitated against the Soviet government and asked for moral and material support from the White movement for the largest public and political figures (US President Wilson, Churchill, King of England George V). Her voyage was covered in many European newspapers. Upon arrival in Arkhangelsk, she gave the local newspaper a lengthy interview with a story about her mission. Isn't that enough?
  17. Admiral 013
    Admiral 013 17 September 2013 06: 16
    Thanks so much for the article! I knew something and something not.
  18. major071
    major071 18 September 2013 12: 11
    Currently, a film about Bochkareva and her drummers "Death Battalion" is being shot in St. Petersburg, the release is planned for August 2014 of the year. We hope that this tape will return the name of Maria Bochkareva to the citizens of Russia, and her extinguished star would flash again.
    In the role of Maria Bochkareva, St. Petersburg actress Maria Aronova. To shoot the film, she and Maria Kozhevnikova (Univer) were shaved baldly. The producer of the film is Igor Ugolnikov. The screening is planned in the summer of 2014. We will see...
  19. Ger977
    Ger977 10 February 2014 01: 32
    What does Jeanne d'Arc have to do with it? Bochkareva headed the army and turned the tide of the war? Of course, the fate of this woman is unusual and she is a real Amazon, but the analogy with Joan of Arc is inappropriate.