“They preferred death to the shameful surrender of Germany”: how the Black Sea Fleet was drowned

On June 18, 1918, the main part of the combat-ready ships of the Black Sea Fleet, evacuated from Sevastopol in the Tsemess Bay near Novorossiysk, was flooded. Before this came a series of dramatic events and decisions, as once happened in 1854 after the Crimean War, when Russia almost completely lost its fleet in the Black Sea. In 1905, in Sevastopol – in connection with the events of fifty years ago – the famous Monument to Ruined Ships was erected – therefore, the new forced flooding of the fleet was perceived by the sailors and their commanders especially sharply. And another association, painful for Russian sailors, formed the basis of the unofficial name of this event – “Black Sea Tsushima”.

The fleet ultimately fell victim to the separate peace of Brest signed by the Bolsheviks with Kaiser Germany and the Central Powers fighting alongside it. Although the agreement signed on March 3, 1918, did not directly mention the Black Sea Fleet, it contained the phrase “Russia will either transfer warships to Russian ports and leave them there until a general peace is achieved, or disarm them immediately.” IT.” Meanwhile, German troops occupied Ukraine after the dissolution of the Central Rada and the establishment of the quasi-monarchist regime of Hetman Skoropadsky, and decided, in Lenin’s words, to wipe out the “in passing” of the powerful. Own territory of Soviet Russia The German offensive on the entire Black Sea coast met with little resistance, but one of the failed adventures of the landing of the Black Sea landing force, which Rostov unsuccessfully tried to recapture, led to a new German ultimatum: Russia in fear. From the resumption of hostilities in the main part of the Russian Federation it was necessary to return the fleet to the occupied Time Sevastopol.

At the same time, Germany intended to withdraw this fleet “for use during the war to the extent required by the military situation” and promised to send it back after the war (although no one really believed this).

Trying to buy time, the Bolshevik government was then ready to make any concessions: “We are resolutely taking all measures, on our part, both for the transfer of the courts to Sevastopol, and for the end of hostilities or their appearance on our part.” he said then. However, along with public orders for the return and surrender of the fleet to the German troops, encrypted telegrams from Trotsky and Lenin demanded that the fleet be flooded “on the advice of experts”, so that the “imperialists” and such a delicate inundation would be subject to obedience to the central government. Appropriate envoys were sent out, who had to arrange what would appear to be an unauthorized act of seafarers who refused to do so. The difficulty lies in the fact that the sailors at that time really did not obey anyone and acted at their own discretion, solving all important issues by voting.

When it comes to the temporary redeployment of the Black Sea Fleet from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk, it should be understood that it was carried out with incredible haste, again on the initiative of only a part of the city, which by that time was half-captured. your teams. Then not everyone managed to escape under fire, only half of the main fleet remained, if not numerous, but the newest and most combat-ready: two battleships – Volya and Free Russia – and 16 destroyers, 7 battleships and 12 destroyers remained in Sevastopol, three cruiser and all 15 submarines. In total, in Sevastopol the Germans immediately took 170 ships, but mostly small ones.

In Sevastopol, the squadron was commanded by Deputy Admiral Mikhail Sablin, who was for some time removed from command by the Bolsheviks, even detained, but later, when the Germans appeared near the city, the crew committees of the battleships “Volya” and “Free Russia” turned to him with a request to retake command. . Sablin agreed to the condition of obtaining additional powers, then for a while he tried to prevent the ships from being captured by the Germans by raising the flags of the “Ukrainian State”, but many destroyer crews quickly refused, and Sablin immediately suggested that they leave the bay and go to Novorossiysk. Later, when the delegation “on behalf of the Ukrainian fleet” did not find understanding among the Germans, and their troops had already appeared on the northern shore of the bay, Sablin sailed to Novorossiysk, in general, all ships in motion, two battleships. This happened on the evening of April 30. For various reasons, many ships remained in Sevastopol, for example, the destroyer “Angry” was either shot down or accidentally ran aground in the engine room. “Free Russia” was fired from coastal guns at the exit of the bay, but received only minor damage. The remaining ships in Sevastopol tried to render them unusable, but due to the ensuing chaos, the matter was limited only to the destroyer Zavetny and a few submarines.

However, the delay in the withdrawal of ships to Novorossiysk allowed the evacuation of thousands of retreating soldiers as well as civilians from Sevastopol.

Reaching Novorossiysk in early May, part of the fleet found itself in a very difficult situation, as this city was also threatened with capture by Germany, which until then had occupied Rostov and Kerch and had closed this part of the coast. in the clamps. There was a problem with fuel, without which it was impossible to go to sea again, meanwhile, in telegrams, the Germans demanded that the ships be returned to Sevastopol and handed over to new crews there, from Moscow they were officially ordered to obey. The Germans only demanded fulfillment of the previous order in encrypted telegrams: destroy the ships. Sablin, who this time received broader powers by a general vote of almost all sailors, including the crew of the rebel destroyers, decided to go to Moscow to prove his need to protect the fleet and bring back supplies, but on his arrival he was arrested and only then seen by the sailors sympathetic to him. With his help, he managed to escape to Great Britain, after which he joined the White movement and returned to the south of Russia.

Nikolai Glebov-Avilov, appointed as the commissar of the fleet, was supposed to ensure that the ships were flooded, but he did not have the appropriate authority among the sailors, and a new commissar came to help him – ensign Fedor Raskolnikov – one of the best adventurous and fiery figures of the times of the Revolution and civil wars, He finally managed to turn the situation around.

After the squadron commander Sablin, First Rank Captain Alexander Tikhmenev, who also commanded the battleship Volya, on 14 June ordered the crews to vote: go to Sevastopol or sink the ships, but most of the sailors voted for other options. not offered: wait for further development or fight. The second most popular option was still the Sevastopol option, to which Tikhmenev was inclined, it was also supported by most of the officers.

As a result, on the night of June 17, part of the ships led by the battleship Tikhmenev Volya and several destroyers returned to Sevastopol, and the rest began to prepare for the flood. When Tikhmenev’s fleet lined up by the outer road, a flagged signal appeared on Kerch’s mast: “To the ships going to Sevastopol: woe to the traitors of Russia!”

The flood supporters, scheduled for June 18, were led by the commander of the destroyer Kerch, Senior Lieutenant Vladimir Kukel. The crew of the battleship Free Russia, succumbing to agitation, also refused to go to sea, and attempts to replace the engine crew with officers and civilian masters were unsuccessful. However, another crew had to strangle him.

When flooding, it was decided to use Lieutenant Shestakov as a tugboat, and Kukel’s Kerch was supposed to pierce the ships with torpedoes to avoid repeating the story with the famous Varyag, after the heroic flood by her crew. Raised by the Japanese literally the next day. Kukel has now decided definitively to sink the fleet.

The captain of the first rank Terentiev, who commanded Free Russia, refused to lead the sinking of his ship and abandoned it. Then Raskolnikov managed to assemble a crew for the steamer, which took the battleship in tow.

At four o’clock in the afternoon, in front of a large number of spectators in the port, all the ships scheduled to flood were brought to the outer road and shouted, “I’m dying, but I’m not giving up!” removed the signal. “Kerch” sank the “Fidonisi” with a torpedo, then in a little over half an hour all the other ships sank due to the opening of the king stones and undermining the main mechanisms. One after another, the destroyers Gadzhi-Bey, Kaliakria, Piercing, Lieutenant Shestakov, Captain-Lieutenant Baranov, destroyers Smetlivy and Swift – a total of 12 ships went to the bottom. According to Free Russia, Kerch had to launch several torpedoes at once, because without this the ship refused to go to the bottom. The destroyer “Kerch” Kukel preferred not to sink in front of the public, in order not to go ashore in this place, he ordered to go to Tuapse, and in the morning of April 19 at the Kadosh lighthouse, he already flooded his ship there. , then his crew loaded onto the train .

Just before his death, a radiogram was sent from Kerch: “Everybody, everybody, everybody. He died, destroying part of the ships of the Black Sea Fleet, preferring death to the shameful surrender of Germany. Destroyer “Kerch”.

Meanwhile, the ships bound for Sevastopol were transferred to the control of German commands, but most remained in place until the defeat of Germany in the First World War, after which they fell into the hands of the Allies, then served. As the fleet of the White Army, and Sablin disposed of them, and after that death from cancer – Tikhmenev. After returning to Sevastopol, the crew of the ship was captured for a while, but survived. With the evacuation of the Wrangel army from the Crimea in 1920, this tiny remaining fleet left Russia forever.

Kukel, Raskolnikov, and Glebov-Avilov, who led the flood, soon became prominent figures of the Soviet state, but all were suppressed and died in the late 1930s. Glebov-Avilov and Kukel were shot in 1937 and 1938, Raskolnikov became a defector and died under mysterious circumstances in a psychiatric clinic in Nice in 1939 – either from acute pneumonia or by throwing himself out the window, or – according to unconfirmed reports – at the hands of NKVD agents . In the 1950s and 1960s they were all rehabilitated.

104 years ago the Black Sea Fleet was flooded, evacuated from Sevastopol, captured by the Germans, to Novorossiysk. The history of this flood contains many dramatic moments, not to mention the fact that not all ships of the Black Sea Fleet were flooded. Some never left Sevastopol, some returned at the request of the German command, then fell into the hands of the Entente allies, and then left Russia forever with Wrangel’s army. However, the newest and most combat-ready part of the fleet was flooded by its crews in the Novorossiysk and Tuapse region.

Source: Gazeta


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