Pyotr Voykov

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Pyotr Lazarevich Voykov
Пётр Ла́заревич Во́йков
Pyotr Lazarevich Voykov
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the Soviet Union to Poland
In office
8 November 1924 – 7 June 1927
Personal details
Born Pyotr Lazarevich Voykov
(1888-08-13)13 August 1888
Kerch, Russian Empire
Died 7 June 1927(1927-06-07) (aged 38)
Warsaw, Poland
Cause of death Assassination
Resting place Kremlin Wall Necropolis
Nationality Russian, Soviet
Political party Bolshevik, Communist Party
Spouse(s) Adelaide Abramovna Belenkina
Children Pavel Petrovich Voykov
Alma mater University of Geneva
Known for Participation in the Shooting of the Romanov Family
Organization of the attempted assassination of Ivan Dumbadze

Pyotr Lazarevich Voykov (Russian: Пётр Ла́заревич Во́йков; party aliases: Пётрусь and Интеллигент, or Piotrus and Intelligent) (August 13 [O.S. August 1] 1888 – June 7, 1927) was a Soviet revolutionary and diplomat known for his role in the Shooting of the Romanov Family. The exact role Voykov played in the killings, in regard with his status as a respected diplomat by some individuals in Russia has been a cause of frequent controversy.

Early life and career[edit]

He was born August 13 [O.S. August 1] 1888 into a Ukrainian[1][2][3] family. His father was a mining engineer[4] or, according to other sources, a seminar teacher[5]. Voykov became involved in revolutionary activity at a young age. Whilst still attending Gymnasium, Voykov often fantasized about killing the Tsar.

For his underground activities, he was expelled from the sixth grade of the Kerch Gymnasium. His parents had to change their place of residence and work. The family moved to Keukeneiz, where his father settled himself as a road master in the estate of the landowner Alchevsky. Thanks to the efforts of his mother, Pyotr was accepted into the eighth grade of the Yalta Alexandrovskaya Men's Gymnasium, but from there he was soon expelled.

The exact date of Voykov's accession to the RSDLP is not known, but a period between 1903-1905 is assumed. Voykov was one of the five organizers and participants in the terrorist attack on July 20, 1906 against the police chief, M. M. Gvozdevich. The terrorist attack was unsuccessful; an improvised explosive device exploded 50 steps from the police station, and Gvozdevich was not injured. Voykov fled first to Kekeneiz, to his father, and then to Sevastopol and St. Petersburg. Two other participants in the terrorist act, Dmitry Nashaburgsky and Pyotr Koren, did not mention Voykov's name. The fact of Voykov's participation was established only in 1907.

In the summer of 1906 he joined the militant wing of the RSDLP, and participated in the transport of bombs, and the attempt on the life of Yalta Mayor General I. A. Dumbadze. In the autumn of 1906, at the height of the riots amid the revolution of 1905-1907, a state of emergency was declared in Yalta, and General Dumbadze authoritatively ruled the city, for which he was widely hated by socialists and militant revolutionaries. The latter demanded that the Mayor immediately resign, threatening him with death.

On February 26, 1907, a bomb was thrown from the balcony of Novikov's dacha, located near Yalta, onto a passing carriage carrying Dumbadze. The Mayor was concussed and scratched, and the driver and horses were wounded, but no one was killed. The terrorist, who belonged to one of the combat units of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, immediately shot himself on the spot. As it turned out later, the organizer of the assassination attempt on Dumbadze was the 18-year-old Peter Voykov, who was expelled from Yalta a month and a half beforehand.

Shortly after, Voykov emigrated to Switzerland and moved to Geneva. He studied mathematics and chemistry at the University of Geneva. In Geneva he met Vladimir Lenin, and although he was not yet a Bolshevik, he remained a Menshevik-Internationalist during the First World War, actively spoke out against the "defencists", and was an active participant in the "1st Geneva Group of Assistance". In 1914 he married Adelaide Abramovna Belenkina, the daughter of a Jewish merchant from Warsaw; in the same year their son Pavel was born. Following the February Revolution of 1917, he left his wife and returned to Russia, though not in the same sealed carriage with Lenin, as it was often claimed, but in the subsequent transport in the same group as Martov and Lunacharsky.

Activities in the Urals[edit]

On returning to Russia, he joined the Bolsheviks and was appointed People's Commissar for Government Supply for the Ural Region in 1918, where he was known by his party code name of "The Intellectual". He subsequently became an important member of the Ural Soviet and was put in charge of prodrazvyorstkas – the Bolshevik practice of grain confiscation. In this post he supervised the requisition of food from the peasants and was involved in repressions against the entrepreneurs of the Urals. Voykov established such prices for food and fuel that private trade in the Urals became impossible. The activity of Voykov led to a commodity shortage and a significant decrease in the living standards of the local population.

Shooting of the Romanovs[edit]

Voykov knew Nicholas Ipatiev, and had visited the Ipatiev House before it was selected as the final residence of Nicholas II of Russia and his family. It seems to have been on the basis of information supplied by Voykov that Ipatiev was summoned to the office of the Soviet at the end of April 1918 and ordered to vacate what was soon to be called 'The House of Special Purpose.' During the Imperial Family's imprisonment in late June, Voykov, along with Alexander Beloborodov, dictated the smuggling of letters written in French to the Ipatiev House claiming to be a monarchist officer seeking to rescue them, composed at the behest of the Cheka.[6] These fabricated letters, along with the Romanov responses to them, written either on blank spaces or on the envelope, were ultimately used by the Ural Soviet, and likely the Central Executive Committee in Moscow, to justify murdering the Imperial Family amidst the rapid gains made by the White Army in the region.[7] A party to the decision by the Ural Soviet to execute the Romanovs, Voykov was given the specific task of arranging for the disposal of their remains, obtaining 570 liters (150 US gallons) of gasoline and 180 kilograms (400 lbs) of sulphuric acid, the latter from the Yekaterinburg pharmacy.

According to Yakov Yurovsky, Voykov bore witness to the killings, while Voykov himself later claimed to have directly participated in the shootings and the subsequent coup de grâce. According to the memoirs of Grigory Besedovsky, a Soviet Diplomat and a former member of the Ural Soviet who defected to France, Voykov and his accomplices used bayonets and pierced the breasts of the still living daughters of Nicholas II, as bullets ricocheted off from their corsets. After the killings, Voykov allegedly removed a ring from a corpse with a large ruby. Voykov himself claimed that the ring was taken from the hand of one of the Grand Duchesses and liked to show it off, though such a ring is not mentioned in any official documents or testimony given by the other executioners.

Besedovsky also claimed that Voykov was one of the primary orchestrators of the killing of the Imperial Family, and insisted particularly to the Ural Soviet that the entire family, including all five of the Tsar's children, must be killed. From Besedovsky's memoirs:

"The question of the shooting of the Romanovs was raised at the insistent request of the Ural Regional Council, in which I worked as a regional food commissioner ... The central Moscow authorities did not want to shoot the Tsar first, meaning to use him and his family for bargaining with Germany ... But the Ural Regional Council and the regional committee of the Communist Party continued to demand resolutely the execution ... I was one of the most ardent supporters of this measure. The revolution must be cruel to overthrown monarchs ... The Ural regional committee of the Communist Party put the issue of the shooting to the discussion and decided it finally in a positive spirit from the beginning of July 1918. None of the members of the regional party committee voted against the motion.

The execution of the resolution was entrusted to Yurovsky as the commandant of the Ipatiev House. At the performance was to be present, as a delegate of the regional party committee, Voykov. He, as a natural scientist and chemist, was instructed to develop a plan for the complete destruction of corpses. Voykov was also instructed to read to the family a resolution on the shooting, with a motivation consisting of several lines, and he really learned this decree by heart, in order to read it as more solemnly, believing that thereby he would go down in history as one of the main characters of this tragedy. Yurovsky, however, who also wanted to "go down in history", beat Voykov and, after saying a few words, began to shoot ... Almost simultaneously all the others started shooting, and the shooting fell one by one, except for the maid and daughters of the Tsar. The daughters continued to stand, filling the room with horrible screams of dying despair, with bullets bouncing off from them.

Yurovsky, Voykov and some of the Letts ran up to them closer and began to shoot point-blank, into the head. As it turned out later, bullets rebounded from the daughters of the Tsar for the reason that in their corsets, they had been sewn with diamonds that deflected the bullets. When everything was quiet, Yurovsky, Voykov and two Letts inspected the executed ones, firing several bullets in some of them or piercing them with bayonets ... Voykov told me that it was a terrible picture. The corpses lay on the floor in nightmarish poses, with faces disfigured with horror and blood. The floor had become completely slippery like a slaughterhouse ...

The destruction of the corpses began the next day and was conducted by Yurovsky under the guidance of Voykov and the observation of Goloshchekin and Beloborodov ... Voykov recalled this picture with an involuntary trembling. He said that when this work was completed, a huge bloody mass of human stumps, arms, legs, trunks and heads lay near the mine. This bloody mass was poured with gasoline and sulfuric acid and immediately burned for two days in a row ... It was a terrible picture, Voykov concluded: "We all, the participants in the burning of corpses, were directly suppressed by this nightmare. Even Yurovsky could not endure in the end and said that even those few days, he would have gone mad."

I sat, crushed by Voykov's story. Once, I read out the exploits of the Narodnaya Volya, their sacrificial, heroic struggle against Tsarism. I read books about the French Revolution, the majestic scenes of the trial of Louis XVI. But what did all this have in common with the picture Voykov had just told me? There, the tragedy of the revolution, but here a gloomy picture of secret reprisal, reproducing the worst examples of criminal murders and cowardly violence. Massacre with young children and with innocent people who were not at fault, but in the same house as the former Tsar ..."

The exact reliability of Besedovsky's memoirs still raises controversy, not least because of Besedovsky's eccentric behavior. After the killings, Voykov would go on to declare that "The world will never know what we did with them." His role in the regicide was fully investigated by the commission set up after Admiral Kolchak's White Army captured Yekaterinburg from the Bolsheviks. Back in Moscow in 1920, Voykov presided over the sales of the Imperial treasures from the Kremlin Armoury and the Diamond Fund including Fabergé Eggs which found their way abroad.

Soviet Diplomat[edit]

In October 1921, Voykov led the delegation of the Russian SFSR and the Ukrainian SSR, which was to coordinate with Poland the implementation of the Peace of Riga. According to the fifth paragraph of Article X of the latter, Soviet Russia was to return "archives, libraries, art objects, military historical trophies, antiquities, etc., items of cultural heritage that were exported from Poland to Russia." According to Kurlyandsky and Lobanov, it was Voykov who transferred the Russian art objects, archives, libraries and other material values to the Polish authorities.

In August 1922, he was appointed diplomatic representative of the Russian SFSR in Canada, but was not permitted into the country due to his involvement in the execution of the Imperial family and prior terrorist activities, and because of his reputation as a professional revolutionary. The Foreign Office acknowledged Voykov, along with similar personalities, as persona non grata. A similar problem arose when Voykov was appointed as the Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Poland, but nevertheless he received this post in October 1924, and assumed office on November 8, 1924.

The English ambassador in Warsaw reported to London in January 1925 that:

"He naturally has no imagination about either diplomatic or public etiquette and feels very oppressed when he notices the natural desire of both his diplomatic colleagues and Polish officials to limit conversations with him exclusively to the limits required by diplomatic courtesy."

Grigory Besedovsky, who worked with Voykov in the Warsaw Permanent Mission, characterized Voykov with the following:

"High-stature, with an emphatically straightened figure, like a retired corporal, with unpleasant, eternally cloudy eyes (as it turned out later, from drunkenness and drugs), with a cynical tone, and most importantly, restless lascivious glances that he threw at all the women he met, he gave the impression of a provincial lion. The stamp of theatricality lay on his whole figure. He always spoke with an artificial baritone, with long pauses, with magnificent spectacular phrases, always looking around, as if to check whether he had produced the desired effect on listeners. The verb "shoot" was his favorite word. He used it for any reason. He always remembered the period of military communism with a deep sigh, referring to it as an epoch that "gave space to energy, determination, initiative."

Assassination[edit]

Voykov was shot and killed on 7 June 1927 in Warsaw, at the Warsaw Central Train Station by Boris Kowerda, the 18-year-old son of a White Russian monarchist, and a student of the Russian Gymnasium from Wilna. Voykov had arrived at the Station to meet Arkady Rosengolts, who had just been relieved of his position as the Ambassador of the Soviet Union to the United Kingdom, on his way back to Moscow, when Kowerda approached the two Diplomats and struck up a conversation with Voykov, which lasted several minutes. At a certain point, they said their goodbyes, and the two Diplomats resumed their walk towards the waiting wagon, when Kowerda took out a revolver and shot four times at Voykov from close range, crying "Die for Russia!". Voykov was shot near the heart, and attempted to pull a gun from his inside pocket, but lost his balance and fell unconscious onto the platform. Voykov was immediately transported to the Infant Jesus Hospital in Warsaw where he was pronounced dead. Kowerda remained in place, and calmly turned himself in the police. Voykov's body was later transported to Moscow to be buried in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis.[8]

When asked why he killed Voykov, Kowerda replied: "I avenged Russia, for millions of people." The killing was later justified as vengeance for Voykov's role in the killing of the Tsar and his family, and many people in Poland regarded Kowerda as a hero; public opinion was full of understanding, and even sympathy for the assassin. A Polish court initially sentenced Kowerda to life imprisonment due to external pressure, but was successful in petitioning President of the Republic Ignacy Mościcki to commute his sentence to 15 years. Kowerda was later amnestied and released after ten years on June 15, 1937.[9]

The incident further damaged Soviet-Polish relations, already soured by the Polish-Soviet War of 1921. The Soviets broke off negotiations about a non-aggression pact, accusing the Poles of supporting the anti-Soviet White resistance. They would be resumed in 1931. The Soviets likewise "responded" to the assassination in their own way, arbitrarily arresting and executing twenty former aristocrats, landowners, and monarchists without trial or a formal sentencing on June 9. On June 14 in Odessa, 111 people were sentenced to death for supposedly spying for Romania. Four Poles were shot in Minsk and Kharkiv, and 480 alleged monarchists were arrested in Ukraine. At the same time, the Soviet authorities organized menacing demonstration out in front of the Polish Embassy in Moscow, and in Kiev incited a riot that demolished almost all Polish-owned stores.

Legacy[edit]

The Soviet authorities cherished his memory, giving his name to the Moscow Metro station Voikovskaya, several streets and plants, and a coal mine in Ukraine. After the canonization of the Imperial Family, the Russian Orthodox Church urged the authorities to erase the name of the "regicide and infanticide" from public objects. On July 17, 2007, the remembrance day of the Russian Royal Family, several Orthodox groups publicly prayed that the metro station in Moscow might be renamed.[10]

In 2015, the investigator of the Prosecutor General's Office of Russia, Vladimir Solovyov, in an interview with the newspaper "Top Secret" stated:

"As for Peter Voykov, he did participate in the vote for the execution of the royal family. The council also asked him to write out the paper for sulfuric acid. There was no other participation of Voykov himself in these events. All the rest of the fiction about how he was shooting a ring with a gun in his hands, he was cutting corpses - this is complete nonsense. <...> Thus, from the legal point of view, Voykov did not take part in the murder of the Tsar. All the charges against him are based on the apocrypha, which was spread by the traitor Besedovsky. Particularly, touching the details in some sources that Voykov allegedly ax cut the corpses of the royal daughters. Delirium of some kind: during the study of the remains of the members of the royal family, no traces of cutting on the bodies were found. And this is another proof that the whole story was invented by Besedovsky."

However, it has also been noted that in his statement that Voykov was not present at the killings, Solovyov neglects to mention the fact that Yurovsky claimed in his report that Voykov "bore witness", as well as Voykov's own accounts. Some members of the Russian Orthodox Church criticized Solovyov for "whitewashing" Voykov's role in the murders.

Name[edit]

Some sources claim Voykov's birth name as "Pinhus Lazarevich Wainer", alternatively sometimes translated as "Weiner", though this information is unreliable, and is most likely the result of erroneous reading of documents. Nevertheless, the name, perhaps due to the connected implication of Jewish heritage on the part of Voykov, saw frequent use by early investigators of the killings. The 1922 book by White Army General Mikhail Diterikhs, The Murder of the Tsar's Family and members of the House of Romanov in the Urals, sought to portray the murder of the family as a Jewish plot against Russia, and referred to Voykov as "Pinhus Wainer". It also referred to Sverdlov by his Jewish nickname "Yankel" and to Goloshchekin as "Isaac". This book in turn was based on an account by one Nikolai Sokolov, special investigator for the Omsk regional court, whom Diterikhs assigned with the task of investigating the disappearance of the Romanovs while serving as regional Governor under White rule during the Russian Civil War.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Керчь — это мой город
  2. ^ Международный институт генеалогических исследований
  3. ^ Г. Н. Губенко «Пётр Лазаревич Войков». Краткий биографический очерк. Симферополь: Крымиздат, 1959
  4. ^ Войков, Пётр Лазаревич//Большая Советская энциклопедия
  5. ^ Владимир Ростиславович Мединский - Справка о деятельности П.Л. Войкова Archived 2012-05-27 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Helen Rappaport, p. 125
  7. ^ Helen Rappaport, p. 120
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ [2]
  10. ^ Moscow disputes over metro station named after Royal Family murderer :: Russia-InfoCentre at www.russia-ic.com