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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 murder 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.
Pyotr Lazarevich Voykov
Пётр Ла́заревич Во́йков
|Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the Soviet Union to Poland|
8 November 1924 – 7 June 1927
Pyotr Lazarevich Voykov
13 August 1888
Kerch, Russian Empire
|Died||7 June 1927 (aged 38)|
|Cause of death||Assassination|
|Resting place||Kremlin Wall Necropolis|
|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
He was born August 13 [O.S. August 1] 1888 into a Ukrainian family in Kerch. His father was expelled from St. Petersburg Mining Institute, graduated from teacher's seminary in Tiflis and worked as a mathematics teacher. Later he was forced to leave this post; he worked as a shop foreman at the metallurgical plant, built the road, worked as an engineer at various enterprises. This led to some contradictions on the origin of Pyotr Voykov. His mother received a good education - she graduated from the Kerch Institute for Noble Maidens. Rumors about the Jewish origin of Voykov are popular among the far right, but they have no grounds and, apparently, are the result of a mistake.[a]
The beginning of revolutionary activityEdit
Voykov became involved in revolutionary activity at a young age. He studied at the same Gymnasium, that Andrei Zhelyabov (one of the chief organizers of the assassination of Alexander II of Russia) graduated with a silver medal, and Voykov was interested in his fate. For his underground activities, he was expelled from the sixth grade of the Kerch Gymnasium, but he managed to pass examinations externally for grade seven. 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 too.
The exact date of Voykov's accession to the RSDLP is not known, but a period between 1903-1905 is assumed. Great Soviet Encyclopedia points out that he was a "menshevik" since 1903. In 1905 Voykov was already a member of the Kerch Committee of RSDLP and fought in the ranks of the self-defense squad. After moving to Yalta Voykov also was a member of the fighting squad of local social-democrats.
The explosion on July 20, 1906Edit
Voykov was one of the five organizers and participants in the terrorist attack on July 20, 1906 against the local police chief, M. M. Gvozdevich. According to the official Soviet biography of Voykov, the initial purpose of the operation was not a terrorist act, but the transportation of bombs, prepared for self-defense, from a cache to a place outside the city, where they were planned to be discharged. According to this version, the decision to attack the police chief was taken impulsively by the two other participants of the operation. The terrorist act was completely failed, the direct executors were heavily wounded and soon died, and M. M. Gvozdevich was not injured. It is known that Mensheviks were least extremists of Russian Social-Democrats and they rejected terrorism as a method of a political struggle. But they prepared bombs for an armed uprising and the central leadership could not fully control the proliferation of weapons and the behavior of radical young people. 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.
Assassination attempt on Dumbadze on February 26, 1907Edit
From the autumn of 1906, the duties of the mayor in Yalta were performed by General Dumbadze. On February 26, 1907, a bomb was thrown from the balcony of Novikov's dacha to Dumbadze, who was passing by in the carriage. Dumbadze was easily bruised and scratched, the driver and adjutant were injured. The unfortunate terrorist shot himself, frenzied Dumbadze ordered to burn down the dacha, and the soldiers additionally looted the adjacent house. Voykov (the militia fighter of the RSDLP) had no relation to the action on February 26, 1907, because it was organized by the one of the "flying combat units" of the Socialist Revolutionary Party. In addition, he left Yalta shortly after the unsuccessful explosion on July 20, 1906 and from the autumn of 1906 studied in St. Petersburg University. However, a loud assassination attempt on Dumbadze revived the investigation into the case on July 20. As a result, Voykov was forced to leave Petersburg; in summer 1907 he was hiding in Kharkov for several months, and then emigrated.
In 1907 Voykov left Russia on the passport of his classmate. In March 1908 he arrived in Geneva, Switzerland. In September 1909 he entered the Physics and Mathematics Department of 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 the spring of 1914 he married Adelaide Abramovna Belenkina, who studied medicine in Geneva. On April 24, 1915 their son Pavel[b] was born. Following the February Revolution of 1917, he returned to Russia with his wife and son, though not in the same sealed carriage with Lenin, as it was often claimed, but together with Martov and Lunacharsky in the next group, which arrived in Russia on May 9, 1917.
Activities in the UralsEdit
On returning to Russia, Voykov became a commissar of the Ministry of Labor of the Provisional Government; he was responsible for resolving conflicts between workers and employers. After the July Days, when the Menshevik faction supported the repression against the rioters and Bolsheviks, Voikov left St. Petersburg for the Urals. There he soon joined the Bolshevik faction and was a member of Yekaterinburg Soviet (the branch of power, parallel to the Provisional Government) and was engaged in trade-union activities. After the October Revolution, he joined the Yekaterinburg Military Revolutionary Committee (these committees were directing bodies of revolt, installing and securing the Soviet power). 2 December [O.S. 16 November] 2017 he was elected chairman of the Yekaterinburg City Duma.
In January - December 1918 he was Commissar for Supply in the Ural Region Soviet. In this post, he directed evacuation of precious metals from Yekaterinburg, successfully sought the supply of foodstuffs from the state reserves to the Urals and personally provided for its delivery. The Great War, two revolutions and the policy of nationalization of industrial plants led to the disintegration of normal economic ties. In order to supply the cities with food, the Soviets resorted to the brutal policy of prodrazvyorstka when armed prodotryads (food detachments) were sent to the villages. As a Commissar of Supply, Voykov also dealt with this. Soviet biographers also note that he managed to organize the exchange of Urals iron for Siberian grain, and he dealt with the construction of a railroad between Yekaterinburg and Krasnoufimsk.
Murder of the RomanovsEdit
Informing about the forthcoming arrival of Nicholas II in Yekaterinburg, Sverdlov wrote to the local Bolsheviks: "Decide for yourself whether to arrange him in prison or to accommodate any mansion. They chose a variant with a mansion turned into a prison, the commandant of the city Zhilinsky was engaged in searches"
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, they received letters written in French. Their author was allegedly a monarchist officer, planning to rescue the tsar and his family. In fact, this letters were composed at the behest of the Cheka. 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. The letters were not written by Voykov himself (they were written by one of the Chekists), but in the late memoirs and interviews of the 1960s, two Chekists claimed that Voykov, who for a long time lived in emigration and graduated from Geneva University, translated this letters into French. The researchers note, that the letters contained obvious oddities, including an incorrect appeal to the monarch for vous ("you") instead of Votre Majesté ("Your Majesty"). According to R. Pipes, the letters were written by a man with a "poor knowledge of French".
As a Commissar of Supply, Voykov signed orders for the distribution of sulfuric acid from the Yekaterinburg pharmacy. These orders with the signature of Voykov preserved. Yakov Yurovsky, chief organizer of the murder, was going to use sulfuric acid for the destruction of bodies. According to Yurovsky memoirs of 1934, in addition to acid, he "extracted" from Voykov gasoline (or kerosene) and shovels. In an earlier testimony Yurovsky does not mention Voykov at all. None of the numerous eyewitnesses mentions Voykov as a direct participant in the murder and the concealment of bodies.
According to the memoirs of Grigory Besedovsky, a Soviet Diplomat 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.
The reliability of Besedovsky testimony is now seriously questioned. The official investigation, conducted in Russia after the discovery of the remains of the Imperial Family, showed that the picture painted by Besedovski was not reliable. Later, Besedovsky became known for his wild fantasy and for the publication of pure fakes (for example, "Notebooks" of Stalin's non-existent nephew), as even his friends recognized.
The role of Voykov in the regicide was fully investigated by the commission set up after Admiral Kolchak's White Army captured Yekaterinburg from the Bolsheviks. In the materials of the investigator Sokolov Voykov was mentioned only as a person related to the distribution of sulfuric acid.
Activities in MoscowEdit
After the fall of Yekaterinburg on July 25, 1918 the Ural Regional Soviet evacuated to Perm and Voykov continued his work there. Five months later, on December 25, the troops of admiral Kolchak captured Perm and drove the Soviet out from there, too. Voykov was summoned to Moscow and worked in the distribution department of People's Commissariat for Food Supplies until July 1919, when he was sent to work in Central Union of Consumer Cooperatives (Tsentrosoyuz).
October 26, 1920 Voykov was appointed a member of the board of the People's Commissariat of Foreign Trade. Together with Maxim Gorky, he drafted a work plan for the Export Commission. This commission was engaged in buying up and valuation of anitquarium and works of arts, and decided whether they could be sold abroad. Later he participated in the work of this commission. Contrary to the frequent statements, Voykov had nothing to do with sales from the Diamond Fund, the Kremlin Armoury and the Hermitage — the task of the commission was, on the contrary, to send selected values to museums, and, besides that, massive Stalin's sales from museums take place in 1929-1934, long ago after Voykov left this post and died. Mass sale of 14 Fabergé Eggs occurred in 1930-1933.
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.
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.
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.
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 a menacing demonstration in front of the Polish Embassy in Moscow, and in Kiev incited a riot that demolished almost all Polish-owned stores.
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.
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.
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.
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