Grigory Kotovsky

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Grigory Ivanovich Kotovsky
Grigory Kotovsky
Born (1881-06-24)June 24, 1881
Hînceşti, Russian Empire
Died August 6, 1925(1925-08-06) (aged 44)
Chebanka Village, near Odessa, Soviet Union
Allegiance  Soviet Union (1918–1925)
Years of service 1918–1925
Rank General
Commands held Red Army
Battles/wars Russian Civil War
Awards Order of the Red Banner (3)

Grigory Ivanovich Kotovsky (Russian: Григо́рий Ива́нович Кото́вский, Romanian: Grigore Kotovski;June 24 [O.S. June 12] 1881 – August 6, 1925) was an adventurist, Soviet military and political figure, participant of the Russian Civil War. He made a career from a Russian gangster and bank robber, to eventually becoming a Red Army general and member of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union.

Early life[edit]

Kotovsky was born in the Bessarabia Governorate, the son of a mechanical engineer. (Officially, Kotovsky claimed to be born in 1887.) He also had five siblings. His father was a Russian citizen of Polish decent and his mother an ethnic Russian. By ancestry, Kotovsky hailed from an aristocratic Polish family from Kamyanets-Podilsky. His grandfather, because of connections with members of the Polish uprising was dismissed from Russian service and eventually went bankrupt. His father was forced to move to Bessarabia and become a Russian burgess. Kotovksy suffered from a marked stuttering and was a left-handed. At two years of age, he lost his mother and, at 16, his father. Kotovsky was raised by his godmother Sophia Challe, the daughter of a Belgian engineer and friend of Kotovsky's father and a godfather, the landowner Manuk-bey. Manuk-bey aided and supported Kotovsky's enrollment and stay at the Cucuruzeni Agricultural College. He intended eventually to send his godson to Germany for advanced agricultural courses, but his dreams were cut short by his death in 1902.

While studying at the agricultural college, Kotovsky became involved with the local political club of Socialist Revolutionaries. After graduation in 1900 he began work as an assistant to an estate manager but not for long. Kotovsky was fired for various acts of theft, fraternization, and various other things. With the start of the Russo-Japanese War, he failed to report to his military entrance processing station. In 1905, he was arrested for evasion of military service and sent to the 19th Kostroma Infantry Regiment headquartered in Zhytomyr.

He soon deserted military service and organized his own criminal gang conducting raids, setting estates on fire, robbing and terrorizing the local population. On January 18, 1906 Kotovsky was finally arrested but managed to escape after six months in the Chisinau prison. On September 24, 1906, he was again arrested again and sentenced to 12 years of katorga. Kotovsky began serving his sentence at Nerchinsk katorga until 1911. He later spent more time in various prisons across the Russian Empire: (Yelizavetgrad Prison, Smolensk Prison, and Oryol Prison). At katorga, Kotovsky cooperated with prison authorities and was put in charge of a 10-man team of construction workers building a railroad. In 1913 he became a candidate for amnesty commemorating the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. However, it was decided not to release bandits on amnesty but on February 27, 1913, Kotovsky managed to escaped from katorga and returned home to Bessarabia.

At first he lived in secrecy, working as a loader and heavy worker but he eventually became the leader of a local criminal gang of raiders. One of his most notorious feats was the successful theft of the State Treasury in Bender, Moldova. On June 25, 1916 Kotovsky was unable to escape from police after another raid. He was surrounded by a squad of secret police and after being wounded in a chest, he was arrested. The Odessa Military District court sentenced him to capital punishment and death by hanging. On death row, Kotovsky wrote letters of repentance begged to be sent to the front lines. Upon the abdication of Nicholas II, a riot took place at Odessa prison after which the prison became self-governed by inmates; the Russian Provisional Government announced a wide political amnesty for all prisoners to be released.

Revolutionary days[edit]

During the last part of World War I, Kotovsky was sent to the Romanian front. In 1918, he sided with the Communists in Tiraspol, taking command of a revolutionary battalion and helping the Bolsheviks gain control of Ukraine. He joined the Bolshevik party in 1920. In 1924, he took an active part in the foundation of the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in Transnistria, as part of the Ukrainian SSR.

Kotovsky Mausoleum in Kotovsk in 2008; the monument was dismantled in June 2017 to comply with decommunization laws.[1]

He was killed near Odessa by his deputy and friend for having an affair with the latter's wife in 1925. He was then buried in a mausoleum in Birzula, which was renamed Kotovsk in 1935; in which time it was included in the newly created Odessa Oblast. The mausoleum was later destroyed by Romanian soldiers during World War II - Transnistria (World War II). In May 2016 Kotovsk was renamed to Podilsk and Kotovsk Raion to Podilsk Raion to comply with the 2015 laws prohibiting names of Communist origin.[2]

Two other towns in the Soviet Union were also named Kotovsk. One of them was his native Hînceşti, which regained its former name in 1990. The other one is situated in Tambov Oblast, Russia.


  • Kotovsky appears as an important character in the novel "Chapayev and Void" by modern Russian writer Viktor Pelevin. In this novel, Kotovsky is shown as a man who prefers talking about philosophical questions and is addicted to cocaine.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

This article is partially translated from Russian Wikipedia