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Arkhangelsk: Encyclopedia Arctica 10: Soviet North, Geography and General
Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, 1879-1962


Form for receipt of article "Arkhangelsk"
ARKHANGELSK (Archangel), 64°34′ N., 40°34′ E., with a population of
281,091 in 1939, representing an eight-fold growth in 25 years, is by
far the largest Arctic city [: ] on or near the Arctic Ocean in either
hemisphere. [] Enduring the most severe climate of any sizeable city in the
Far North, it provides irrefutable proof that [: ] the size and
diversity of an urban population is not limited in the Arctic by any
[: ] other considerations than those which obtain anywhere
else. It is hundreds of miles north of Leningrad or the large cities
of [: ] Scandinavia, and a thousand miles north of any city of compar–
able size in North America. (It lies at [: ] the same latitude as
Nome, Alaska.) Moreover, it is the center of a territory with a popu–
lation of some three million in the same latitudes [: ]
and climatic conditions as Alaska's 70,000, and the scattered few
thousand of the Canadian North. It serves to demonstrate that these sub–
Arctic lands could support tens of millions, given merely the same
population density as the Soviet European sub-Arctic and its present
attainments in agriculture, transport and industry, none of which ap–
proach the levels presently attainable with the full application of
the scientific knowledge and experience now at hand. As the largest
center of the lumber industry in the USSR, with 25 huge sawmills hand–
ling 30,000,000 cubic feet of timber a year, and as the country's
largest port for the export of forest wealth, it is standing proof
that the Far North need not only just hold its own [: ] with more
favored climes, but can excel in economic development where the neces–
sary resources are at hand. As the locale of five colleges, three
repertory theaters and several scientific institutions, it proclaims
that settlement of the North need not be merely an expedient for the
extraction of natural wealth, [: ] but a way of life as rich and
rounded as any. Further Finally , as the oldest Arctic port in continuous use
as a trade channel to the interior of a great power, its [: ]
360 years of history establish the value of sub-polar sea lanes beyond ARKHANGELSK (ARCHANGEL) [: ] , city and port on the right bank of the
Northern Dvina River (cf.), 27 miles south of its mouth on the White
Sea (cf.), lies at 64°34′ North Latitude and 40°34′East Longitude, [: ]
approximately the same latitude as Nome, Alaska.
is the terminus of the Northern Railroad (from Moscow [: ] via Vologda),
and the capital of Arkhangelsk Oblast (cf.), as well as the headquar–
ters city for the northern lumbering, fishing and trapping industries.
all argument, and constitute in a sense the preponderance of the
entire history of [: ] modern civilizations in the Arctic, if
that be measured in terms of the number of human beings involved.
[: ] Finally, as
the site of naval landings and attempted inland penetration of troops
after [: ] the Russian Revolution, it is an object lesson in
both the advantages and disadvantages of the Arctic as a route for
the attainment of military objectives of larger scope.
sentence too long & involved If, in the broadest sense, that which is most important about
Murmansk is its ice-free port and the unparalleled rapidity of growth
of the city, while that which has greatest significance on the Kola
Peninsula is the development of complex, inter-related, ultra-modern
hydro-electric powered manufacturing [: ] industries in the Far
North (as distinct from the extractive industries to which Arctic
developments in other lands had been limited), Arkhangelsk is signi–
ficant, above all else, for its history. This does not by any means
imply that it lives in the past: that can hardly be said of a city
which has doubled and re-doubled its population repeatedly in the
past generation, or [: ] one which played so [: ] indispensable a role
in Allied communications during the war, not to speak of the fact
that it is one of the termini of the new Northern Sea Route, with which
an entire new epoch was opened a short dozen years ago. But i I t is
true nonetheless that Arkhangelsk is the one example of a mainland
city on the Arctic consciously built and developed over a period of
centuries, to serve national policy in peace and war, and providing
a disproportionately large share of all human experience in the organ–
ized penetration of the Far North. Therefore we shall treat its hist–
ory at length.
The first inhabitants of this rigorous but wealthy coast, with
its icy seas, splendid forests, endless bogs and riches in furs, were tribes that had made their way eastward from Scandinavia and
were known to the historian-monk of early medieval Kiev as the
"strangers from beyond the Volga". (In its northern reaches, the Volga
flows from west to east, and therefore divides the higher latitudes
from the lower.) This people, he wrote, worshipped a stone idol,
hunted the mammals of the sea and netted its fish. They lived on
the Arctic (Barents Sea) coast. The shores of its great gulf, the
White Sea, were inhabited by Karelians and Lapps (Saami). [: ]
[: ]
[: ]
[: ]
[: ] Russians gradually settled along the rivers, while the intre–
pid merchants of Novgorod poled their flatboats [: ] along the Onega
and Dvina in search of new places to set up in trade.
Whereas Siberia was [: ] opened to Russia by the warlike Cos–
sacks, northern Europe, like so many outlying lands in warmer climes,
was [: ] first [: ] taken by priests. In the 12th century
Archbishop Ioann founded the Monastery of the Archangel to spread
the gospel among the "heathen strangers", but the holy brothers proved
themselves to be better and perhaps more interested in commerce than
in missionary work. They built set up a thriving trade, built boats,
hunted and fished. In 1419 Norwegian vessels hove to under the timb–
ered walls of the monastery. They saw in this structure and [: ] its
inhabitants, hitherto unreported, a danger to their control over
northern seas they evidently considered their own. The building,
accordingly, they burnt, and the monks were put to the sword. How–
ever, the monastery was rebuilt soon afterward, and several more ap–
peared in the vicinity. At first the monks traded only with the natives,
but later they established ties with Kholmogory, Novgorod and Moscow,
which gained ascendancy here by subjecting "Lord High Novgorod" in 1478.
Contact with Moscow was by horse-cart or sleigh and a single trip was
months in duration. En route the monks they scattered seeds of ben e i ficence - making well-placed gifts
to local officials and to influential members of the court at Moscow.
It is very enlightening to study the expense ledger of the northern
Siisk Monastery for such a trip made during the 17th Century. In
Velikii Ustiug the monks gave to the "military governor, the scribe
and the clerk pies to a value of 20 altyn" and in Totma to the "mili–
tary governor, the clerk and the [: ] customs' officer loaves
worth 11 altyn" and in Moscow "to the Patriarch a pail of mushrooms
and pies [: ] reckoned at eight altyn". In Novgorod they bought the
Metropolitan (bishop) a beaver worth three rubles, but "that beaver
was not accepted by the Metropolitan because it was spoiled, so it
was taken on to Moscow and left there with elder Ilarii to be sold".
Fat, salt and furs were the chief [: ] objects of trade along the 100
White Sea coast in those days. This coast and its rivers was the trade
route to Siberia until Ivan the Terrible [: ] defeated the Volga Tatars in the
16th century. In August, 1553, [: ] an English vessel, seeking the
Northeast Passage to India, came into the mouth of the Northern Dvina.
The monks of Arkhangelsk welcomed them with honor. Their leader
was Richard Chancellor, and his vessel, the 140-ton Edward Bonaventura ,
was the sole survivor of three that had left the Thames [: ] three months
earlier under the command of Sir Hugh Willoughby. This was the
first large British expedition seeking a new trade route to the East
now that Portugal and Spain had gained control of the old ones.
Thus the Arctic was the means whereby England discovered Muscovy,
and Arkhangelsk (or, to be precise, Kholmogory, 33 miles up the
river at the head of the delta) the channel. It is true that there
had been contact close enough to result in royal marriages between
England and [: ] Kiev Rus 400 years earlier, but the Tartar conquest
had long since broken it off.
It was historically fortunate that Chancellor found Russia in
the reign of Ivan IV (the Terrible), for that Tsar was the first to
make unhindered commerce in his vast domains possible by ruthlessly suppressing the feudal lords (boyars) who sought to maintain the
country's dispersion into semi-independent principalities. However,
this having been accomplished, it was possible for Chancellor, who
had immediately broached the subject of trade with Moscow, to make
the 700-mile overland journey to that capital without difficulties
greater than those imposed by nature. Ivan gave them a great welcome,
for the merchants of Moscow had also long dreamed of establishing
maritime trade relations with the west. He gave Chancellor a letter
inviting British merchants to visit Russia, and sent an ambassador to E g
nepeia? England in the person of Osip Nileev, military governor of Novgorod.
The next year four English and one Dutch vessel cast anchor off
the Archangel monastery, and a trading settlement began to appear.
In 1555 Chancellor returned with four vessels laden with merchandise,
sent out by the newly-organized Muscovy Company. However, he died
in a storm the following year en route home.
The present city of Arkhangelsk dates from 1584, when the gover–
nor of the territory, Petr Nashchekin founded, on the right bank of
the Dvina, at Pur-Navolok [: ] (High Cape), the town of New
Kholmogore, later renamed Arkhangelsk by the inhabitants themselves in 1616 .
The tolling of the ancient monastery bells now found accompaniment
in the banging of hammers and the screeching of saws. The bearded
musketeers sent by Moscow to establish the new town erected crown
buildings and dwelling houses, a mansion for the governor and stalls
for tradesmen. The buildings were enclosed by a wooden wall, and it
by a ditch on the three land sides. Soon it was recorded that a sub–
urb of 130 families had grown up outside the government enclosure;
Russian and German trading settlements appeared; churches were erected.
This was then, and is now, a city in a wilderness, surrounded
by peat bogs and dense pine forests inhabited by bears, foxes, bad–
gers and wolves. But along the shore of the river, graced by the
lush greenery of sunken meadows, the forests cease d , and farther
north, too, they give way to tundra, with its monotonous succession of bush-like
birch, thin brush and tough Iceland moss lichen . In the vicinity of the city
the endless battle between river and sea has established a multitude
of muddy flats and islands, separated by sleeves arms and channels, and
bearing little vegetation.
In the 16th and 17th centuries Arkhangelsk was Russia's only
port, and played an important role in the development of foreign trade.
Sleighs hauled freight to and from [: ] Moscow in sizeable quantities.
British, Norwegian, Dutch and German flags were a common sight in its
harbor. Russians merchants flocked here by river and road from all
directions. Inns by the hundred were opened to serve them. However, commerce was channeled through the hands of
great boyars and the monasteries, [: ] who established a monopoly.
Heavy taxes and levies were collected from the population. There date
from this period a large number of petitions from the common people
appealing to the authorities for help against the greed of the mer–
chants [: ] and monasteries , and for abatement of taxes. On the other hand ,
the native merchants were discontented over the right of duty-free
trade granted the foreigners by the Tsar to encourage them to come
here. This resulted in the placing of limitations upon the English and
the extension of special privileges to Russians. But these were the
pangs of progress. Toward the end of the 17th century FForeign architects were brought in to build stone
market buildings and the wooden houses of the inhabitants of the sub–
urbs multiplied in number. A stone fortress built in 1668 divided the town
into the Russian "yard", the fortress proper and the German [: ] "yard".
July 30, 1693 , was a red-letter day in the history of Arkhangelsk.
Peter the Great rode into town with a large entourage of boyar noble–
men, soldiers and boy cadets. The merchants welcomed him with enthusi–
asm, the local boyars with fear. With his typical breadth of interest,
Peter toured the town and sailed the harbor on board a small [: ]
sloop. He visited local and foreign merchants unannounced, talked
with them [: ] about problems of commerce, visited the lumber market,
and, dressed as a Dutchman, wandered along the docks incognito.
The possibilities of the city impressed him favorably. The next year he visited it again, voyaged from it by sea to the Solovetsk Islands
and Monastery and ordered the construction of the Novodvinsk Fortress,
[: ] which still stands, on the west side of
Linskii Priluk Island, nine miles north of the center of Arkhangelsk.
Quickly grasping the needs of the new port, and seeking to establish
a Russian sea-going tradition to free it from dependence upon foreign
merchants, he had, on his earlier visit, ordered the governor, Apraksin,
to build two ocean-going vessels and had personally dispatched one of
them to France with a load of pitch, fish paste and caviar. Further,
he granted the merchants Osip and Fedor Bazhenin a charter for the
construction of the first shipyard. In due time they came into being,
and with them subsidiary industries, weaving shops and sail factories.
Merchant and naval vessels slid down the ways. In 1693 Peter had also init–
iated the construction of the Admiralty building and port on Solombala Island.
By this time trade had reached highly respectable proportions.
150 to 200 foreign vessels were putting [: ] into Arkhangelsk each year. Peter fol–
lowed the development of Arkhangelsk with close interest after and
between his [: ] visits, maintaining correspondence with the mer- 200
chants and shipbuilders and sending them valuable gifts as tokens of
During the Northern War with Charles XII of Sweden, the construc–
tion of the Novodvinsk Fortress was pushed, and not in vain. In 1701
a [: ] Swedish naval flotilla approached the port under English and
Dutch merchant flags. Two frigates tied up at Mudiug Island about forty
miles northeast of Arkhangelsk on the seaway through Dvina Gulf to
the White Sea. The captain of the outpost there was taken prisoner
as he came aboard one of the "merchant" ships. But the device of the
Swedes was soon discovered, and they were driven off after a sharp
fight. Peter welcomed the news with enthusiasm, for although this
was a minor skirmish, it was a Russian victory in a war in which he
had suffered a devastating defeat at Narva on the Baltic just a year
In 1702 Peter came to Arkhangelsk again, personally supervised the
construction of the fortress, built as a quadrangle with four bastions
and one ravelin, then sailed to Solovetsk Monastery and then to Niukhcha
on the Gulf of Onega. From Niukhcha to Povenets on Lake Onega, he built
roads and bridges and portaged ships. Thus Arkhangelsk and its append–
ant territories served as the base from which he built the means and
assembled the men for his successful attack on the Swedes at the head
of the Gulf of Finland, resulting in the erection of St. Petersburg
(Leningrad), his "window on the West".
Meanwhile Arkhangelsk continued to expand. The pioneering Bazhenin
shipways were supplemented by those of the Krylov, Parmin and Purgavin
firms. Now an inland waterway network appeared which rendered infinite–
ly easier the transportation of goods to and from both of Russia's
ports - St. Petersburg and Arkhangelsk. This was the Mary Marinski system of
canals, linking the waters of the Volga with those of the Dvina and
other northern rivers. It is almost superfluous to point out the tre–
mendous hardships connected with its construction, both because of
the climate in [: ] these latitudes, the primitiveness of means avail–
able and the cruelty of the social order then obtaining. In his need
for capital to complete the construction of the Lake Ladoga by-pass
barge canal (storms on this great body of water made it too dangerous
for canal-boats), Peter built saloons every verst along the way in
order to gain back the money paid out in wages to the builders.
Having built St. Petersburg, Peter cooled toward Arkhangelsk.
All his efforts were devoted to developing the new port on the Finnish
Gulf. He channeled downward the amount of trade permitted to go through
the White Sea [: ] port. But [: ] Catherine [: ] I cancelled
Peter's ukaz and thus, after a brief lapse, [: ] [: ] the harbor of
Arkhangelsk again came to life. At the beginning of the 19th century
annual import amounted to 502,505 rubles and export to 4,773,370 rubles, a sizeable sum for those days. Again there were 200 [: ] foreign ves–
sels visiting the port during the six-and-a-half months when it is ice- [: ]
free. These were, of course, ships of much larger capacity than those of
a century earlier. They found this lengthy and out-of-the-way trip worth
while, despite its considerable danger and marked discomfort, because of
the cheapness of the exports purchasable there. The list included hempen
rope and cordage, yellow wax, horsehair, butter, leather, blue and white
fox [: ] marten and squirrel skins, meat, eider-down, linen, horns and [: ]
antlers, pitch, candles, bristles, and Russia leather. But above all [: ]
else there was the product for which vessels [: ] still come to Arkhang–
elsk from the ends of the earth, lumber in all its forms: planks, fire–
wood, poles and boards.
Imports were largely luxuries. They included the wines of Champagne, Burgundy and Spain, rum,
spices, tobacco, vinegar, fruits, coffee, cotton, fabrics, flannel, [: ]
velvet and sugar. During the six to seven months when it was open to
navigation, the Dvina [: ] carried barks, barges, rafts and ordinary
row-boats, in spring carrying export ware downstream and in the fall carry –
ing imports up. The Russian merchants of Arkhangelsk and the White Sea
coast themselves now owned some 300 open-water vessels, although most of
them operated in the coasting trade.
The town was now 3 ½ miles long and a mile wide. It had 46 stone build–
ings, two thousand of wood and 219 places of business. But life slowed
down to a state of virtual hibernation during the long Arctic winters,
due to the fact that the river was blocked by ice from November to May.
The beginning of navigation depended, of course, upon the breaking of
the ice in the White Sea. But in Summer, with [: ] the wharves and streets
lit the clock round by the Arctic sun, it made up for lost time. How–
ever, frequent fogs more often than not [: ] make the daylight hours indis–
tinguishable from the white nights, [: ] enlivened during the naviga–
tion season by the annual Margaret Fair.
The Napoleonic wars offered a foretaste of the role of Arctic ports
as a means of avoiding blockade, for Arkhangelsk was the one port in Eur–
ope which British vessels were able to reach, running, however, under
other flags.
Russian businessmen did not appreciate the wealth of the North, or,
perhaps, were deterred from exploiting it by the vast costs of overland
transport. The fish of the White Sea was sold not to inland Russia, but
to Norway. [: ] Lumbering was engaged in, not by Russians, but by foreign
concessionaires. If native entrepr eneurs have so often despoiled forest
wealth in their own lands with no thought of the future, needless to say
the concessionaires at Arkhangelsk were even less concerned with conserva–
tion. Trees found to be fungus- ridden [: ] were left to rot after being
felled, and great stands of valuable timber were thus infected and de–
The first half of the 19th century saw a drastic fall in trade through
Arkhangelsk, for the chief channels of trade with Russia were now the
ports on the Baltic and those on the Black Sea, acquired not long before.
One reason was the increasing importance of grain as a Russian export, al–
though a certain amount of Siberian grain was shipped out via Arkhangelsk.
The town declined, and was described as being as quiet as a cemetery. The
stores were boarded up or gaped open to the elements, the wharves and
shipways were deserted, the factories empty. Foreign vessels dominated
the waters off-shore. The Arkhangelsk territory became a zone of political
exile. However, the second half of the 19th century reversed the trend.
This was caused by the development of the wood-working industry and the
building of the Arkhangelsk and Kotlas railroads north from Moscow, in
the last decade before the turn of the century.
On the eve of World War I Arkhangelsk had a population of 40,468.
Its buildings now extended down the [: ] Northern Dvina to the bank of
the Kuznechikha, one of the delta channels. Beyond it, on Solombala Is- land, where Peter had initiated construction two centuries earlier,
a ship repair yard and [: ] the workshops of the port were located. A
solid succession of lumberyards had been built along the Maimaksa, the
chief deep-water channel. The delta islands were dotted with villages
and fishing settlements. Factories in the city and on the islands manu- 300
factured pitch, turpentine, rope, nets, rigging, reduced fat, smoked
fish and meat, made plaster and similar construction materials, and
repaired machinery. The port was livelier than ever before. In 1908
it handled 2,220 Russian and foreign ships, and 3,313 rafts and small
craft. British vessels carried away great quantities of lumber for
construction [: ] and shipbuilding purposes, particularly larch of specially
high quality, used in naval shipbuilding. [: ] Siberian wheat was ex–
ported from Arkhangelsk, having come over the new Trans-Siberian Rail–
road. Furs, petroleum and fish were the other main exports. Exports
in 1908 totalled 12,202,000 rubles, and imports 2,693,000. Neverthe–
less, this represented only one per cent (in 1913, to be precise)
of Russia's total foreign trade.
In addition to overseas shipping, regular coastal trips were made
to Kandalaksha (cf.), Mezen (cf.), Murmansk (cf.), the Pechora River
(cf.) and [: ] Novaia Zemlia (cf.), serving the fishermen and
trappers along these shores. The central street, Troitskii Prospekt
(now Vinogradov Street) was graced by the mansions of the merchant and
industrial princes, as well as the best stores, the buildings of gov–
ernment and the fashionable churches. The city market-place was crowded
with piles of live cod weighing up to sixty pounds each, pickerel,
salmon, navaga and flounder. Here too the far-famed Kholmogory cattle
(one of the best breeds in Russia) chewed their cud while awaiting sale.
But while every large street-crossing had its church and police–
man, there were only nine schools, two libraries and a single museum.
Budgetary appropriations for the police were three times as large as for education and ten times as large as for the health department. The
waterfront streets and outskirts of town were an endless succession of
[: ] saloons, gambling joints and houses of prostitution. Still farther
out, on [: ] the boggy lowland of Solombala Island and along
the Maimaksa, stood the barracks in which regular workers [: ]
dwelt and the flop-houses maintained for seasonal personnel. [: ] Bad as
were social conditions in Tsarist Russia in general, its outlying areas
were even worse, and Arkhangelsk was, unfortunately, no exception. The
working day was of 11 and 12 hours duration right up to the Revolution.
Conditions were compared by eye-witnesses to those of prisoners at
hard labor. The machine-shop of the Stuart Company was deep in snow in
wintertime and a morass in the summer. Ditch-diggers at the Hanneman
Sawmill worked knee-deep in water. The miserly wages went in part to
pay fines levied upon the workers for infractions of the rules, and, for
the rest, to company stores selling shoddy fabrics and salt herring and
cod, rotten as often as not. Cleanliness in the workshops and [: ] provision
for medical care was regarded as superfluous luxury. A broken rule or a
complaint on the part of a workman meant being laid off, for organiza–
tion of labor was prohibited.
Such conditions could only give rise to secret organization, which
from the outset was Marxist in nature. The political exiles banished to
Arkhangelsk, many of whom worked in its factories, spread the very
ideas of which the government thought it had rid itself by sending them
here. Despite frequent arrests, strengthened probationary reports to
the police, and, sometimes, beatings, the revolutionaries managed to
distribute their handbills and pamphlets and organize strikes for the
improvement of the conditions of the workers. These became particularly
widespread in 1905, a revolutionary year in Russia as a whole. Oct. 18
and 19th, that year, witnessed the first outright [: ] clashes with
the police. The events of these days began with mass meetings of stu–
dents, exiles and politically- advanced minded workmen. The picture of the Tsar was torn down [: ]
by a crowd which entered the city hall. In Gagarinsk Square (now
Liberty Park) police in plain clothes rushed an unarmed demonstration,
pushed its members onto a pier and off into the [: ] icy water.
Black Hundred gangs (the Russian equivalent of Hitler's later Storm
Troops) attacked workingmen with staves and stones in the vicinity of
the city hospital.
Labor replied with further strikes, which reached the proportions of a [] general strike [: ]
in May, 1906, when 27 enterprises were shut down. The May Day parade
had some 3,000 participants, about a tenth of the population. The
next year there were economic strikes in the Ôlsen, Rusanov, Nord and
Fonteins lumber mills. However, as in Russia as a whole, reaction
triumphed at this time, and there was quiet for some years after 1907.
One of the factors leading to the rapid development of the Far North
by the Bolsheviks has been the [: ] involuntary acquaintance
they developed with it as exiles. Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, today a
member of the [: ] Political Bureau of the Communist Party, was in–
carcerated in the Arkhangelsk jail in February, 1911. There he organized
a general hunger strike, whereupon he was placed in solitary confine–
ment for six months and then banished to the isolated village of Dolgo–
shchele on the very shore of the White Sea.
[: ] Thus, despite its distance from the centers of public life, Arkh–
angelsk reflected accurately, if in miniature, all the political devel–
opments shaking the Empire. This continued to be true after the Revolu–
tion. Early in 1918 a province-wide Executive Committee of the Soviets
of Workers', Peasants' and Soldiers' Deputies was established in the
city. This body, too, contained the various elements to be found else–
where in revolutionary Russia. Many anti-Communist elements, opposed
to the measures taken by Lenin's government, were among those elected
to it at the outset. Driven out of government, they continued to pro- pagate their ideas, and hope for assistance from outside. There was
good reason to expect that it would be forthcoming. According to
Lloyd George in his War Memoirs , Vol. VI, p. 83, on March 16, 1918,
the Allied prime ministers and foreign ministers, meeting in London,
[: ]
[: ] considered a proposal by Gen. Knox, the former British
representative at the Russian Imperial General Staff, to [: ] land five
thousand troops in Arkhangelsk. Appended to this proposal was a
statement by Capt. Proctor, British military representative at
Arkhangelsk (through which Russia had received large quantities of
supplies during the war), urging that the number be 15,000, and
that it consist of mixed Allied forces. The Allied chiefs in London
submitted these proposals for consideration to the Allied naval
council and the permanent council of military representatives at
Versailles. However, when these bodies met on the 23rd, the Germans
had launched their last great offensive on the Western Front. This
[: ] delayed for some [: ] months the execution of the planned inter–
vention against Soviet Russia. However, on June 3, 1918, the Allied
Supreme Council decided to send to north Russia a mixed force of 400
American, British, French and Italian soldiers. The first landing
was at Murmansk on June 20-23. Meanwhile the British, French, Itali–
an, Japanese and American Ambassadors had moved from the capital,
whose Bolshevik government they had refused to recognize, to Vologda
[: ] in north Russia, junction of the railroads from Arkhangelsk,
Petrograd and Moscow.
On July 25, the Allied diplomats left Vologda for Arkhangelsk,
and on August 2, two thousand Allied troops under Britain's Gen. Poole [: ] were landed thers. They were greeted by an
anti-Soviet government under Nikolai Chaikovskii which had over–
thrown the Soviet "at Allied instigation", according to Prof. Fred–
arick Schuman ( Soviet Politics , p. 150). The interventionist force
was strengthened by the landing of 4,500 American troops on Sept.
4. The next day Chaikovskii and his fellow-members of the "Supreme Administration of the North" were ousted, seized and transported to
the Solovetsk Islands by a group of Tsarist officers under a Capt.
Chaplin, who stood politically to the Right of Chaikovskii. This occurred while the American Ambassador, Francis, who
was in Arkhangelsk to participate in the direction of the interven–
tion, was reviewing the American force. In his book, Russia From the
American Embassy , pp. 269-270, Ambassador Francis writes:
"I had just finished reviewing a battalion when General Poole,
who was with me on the Government steps, turned to me and said: 'There
was a revolution here last night.' I said: 'The hell you say! Who
pulled it off?' He replied: 'Chaplin.' . . . I motioned for him to come
over. . . I said: 'Chaplin, who pulled off this revolution last night?'
He said: 'I did.' Chaplin had done very good work against the Bolshe–
viks, getting them deposed and out of Archangel. He went on to say:. . .
'I see no use for any government here anyway.' I replied: 'I think
this is the most flagrant usurpation of power I ever knew. . .'"
The people rose in protest and a general strike was called, while
Francis, desiring the presence of an administration which would not
cause as much resentment in the United States, if protected by Ameri–
can troops, as the monarchist Chaplin's, insisted that the ousted
"government" be restored to power. The matter was settled in October
when a Socialist-bourgeois coalition called the "Provisional Govern–
ment of the North" was set up. The British sent in Gen. Ironsides to
take the place of Gen. Poole. Francis departed for home in November,
sorry only that the Allied force was not larger than the 15,000 now
in Arkhangelsk, for it had been unable to take Vologda (or get any–
where near it) and move on to overthrow the Bolsheviks. Writes Schuman:
"The Arkhangel 'Government' was a shadow. Many officers of the
local White troops were monarchists and had the blessing of Allied
commanders. Intervention thus meant a rapid transition from non-Bol–
shevik Soviets to an anti-Soviet Socialist regime to a Socialist–
Liberal coalition to the final assumption of power by the most be- nighted forces of counter-revolution and Tsarist restoration."
An American participant, Ralph Albertson, wrote ( Fighting without
a War , Harcourt, Brace & Howe, 1920, pp. 71-3): "When night after
night the firing squad took out its batches of victims. . . there were
thousands of listening ears to hear the rat-tat-tat of machine guns. . .
Every victim had friends. These friends and their friends rapidly
were made enemies of the Military Intervention. And this enmity natu–
rally spelled Bolshevism, as far as the Military Intervention was con–
[: ]
[: ]
Schuman [: ] comments: "Most of the Red commanders were dedi–
cated men." The main street of Arkhangelsk is today named in honor of
a Bolshevik, Pavlin Vinogradov, who was the first commander of the
Soviet's North Dvina Flotilla, and fell in this unequal struggle.
Interventionist patrols, accompanied by supporters of the local regime
to identify those they sought, ranged through the workers' quarters
and hunted down the Communists. Among those caught and executed whose
names have become part of the history of [: ] Arkhangelsk, pre–
served on plaques and otherwise honored, were men named Larionov,
Riazanov, Tesnanov and Zakemovskii. Of Larionov it is recorded that
when he was told that his eyes were to be bound before execution,
he refused and told the officer in command: "If you are ashamed of
what you are doing, cover your own eyes."
The prison camps [: ] set up on Mudiug Island (from which the Bolsheviks had
originally tried to shell the lead cruiser at the onset of the inter–
vention, only to have their battery and munition dump bombed out
from the air) and on Iokanga Peninsula on the Murmansk coast won par–
ticular notoriety. On Mudiug prisoners died by the dozen from hunger
and torture. [: ] Of 1,200 sent to Iokanga, only 127 returned
[: ]
Arkhangelsk was under foreign rule for 19 months. At the outset
the forces of intervention were opposed only by small partisan groups.
Later the Soviet government was able to send to their aid soldiers
and [: ] sailors from Moscow and Leningrad. They infiltrated into
the rear of the enemy, dynamited armored trains, [: ] swooped down upon
[: ] sentries and outlying fortifications, and succeeded in
halting the advance southward in this roadless wilderness, where the
forest gave impenetrable cover to the guerrillas. The native Komi (cf.),
[: ] embittered by their treatment under the old regime and op–
posed to any trying to restore it, gave the Soviet forces invaluable
aid in reconaissance and communications, moving swiftly and almost
invisibly on skis, and dressed in the white garments that have since
become the earmark of ski troops everywhere.
Writes Schuman: "When Red forces opened a counter-attack on Janu–
ary 25, 1919, American and Canadian detachments fled Shenkursk in a
temperature of 30° below zero. By March the invaders were in full re–
treat. The demoralized Allied soldiers, having no idea why they were
fighting, were assured by their officers that Bolshevism meant anarchy
and that all Bolsheviks were Jews who tortured their prisoners to
death. One French company killed all its wounded before a sudden re–
tirement. The few Americans taken prisoner were pampered and propa–
gandized in Moscow and soon liberated."
Soviet leaflets, asking the foreign troops why they had been sent
to freeze and die in an undeclared war against their former Allies
who had overthrown the Tsar, were posted on trees and wherever the
[: ] forces of the intervention might pass. They had their effect.
On March 30, 1919, [: ] Company I of the 339th U.S. Infantry mutinied,
demanding to be sent home. General March, Chief of Staff, promised
the withdrawal of all American troops by June, and [: ] the
last [: ] detachments were evacuated on June 30th. 22 244 had been killed, 305 wounded, and the effort had cost $3,000,000. 500
As for the British, their relatively small numbers (6,832 on Jan.
2, 1919), the unreliability of the anti-Soviet troops they counted
on for support, the hostility of the local population, the unfriend–
ly climatic and terrain conditions, as well as Labor opposition to
the intervention in Parliament, brought a decision in March, 1919,
to withdraw (British Blue Book. Cmd. 818. Army. The Evacuation of
North Russia . 1919). But this was used as a cover for the bringing
in of more troops to protect the withdrawal, and the force was in–
creased in strength to 18,400. In June, 1919, months after the deci–
sion to withdraw, General Ironsides opened an offensive south from Arkhangelsk in the direc–
tion of Kotlas in order to establish contact with Kolchak in the
Urals. Writes Louis Fischer, in The Soviets in World Affairs , Vol. I,
p. 204:
"The British military justified the offensive as a [: ] protec–
tion for their contemplated evacuation. They feared a Red Army attack
that would hinder it. But the Bolsheviks had repeatedly offered to
sign an armistice in order to facilitate evacuation. (N.B. In Janu–
ary, 1919, Litvinov, then in London, met the American attache,
W.K. Buckler, and pledged his government to an armistice at any
time on the Arkhangelsk front without prejudice to Russians who had
cooperated with the Allies.- W.M .) Moreover, the guns of the British
cruisers lying in the White Sea could easily have afforded suffici–
ent cover for the embarkation of several thousand soldiers and of
[: ] several thousand Russian civilians. With respect to the
salvaging of supplies, the force that had been sent with the avowed
purpose of preventing munitions from falling into the hands of the
Germans left sufficient materials behind to supply Red Army brigades
during the entire length of the Russo-Polish War."
France also had 2,300 soldiers in Arkhangelsk.
[: ] This last British offensive was as unsuccessful as those that had gone before. On July 27, 1919, a group of conscripted Rus–
sians murdered their English and Russian officers and joined the Red
Army. Desertions and mutinies became common. Said General Ironsides:
"The Russian soldiers are Bolsheviki who raise rebellions. . . The situ–
ation is hopeless. . . These mutinies in the regiments, and especially
the sentiment of the population of Archangel and of the villages,
have convinced me that the majority of the population is in sympathy
with the Bolsheviki." (Boris Sokolov, "The Fall of the Northern
Territory," in Arkhiv Russkoi Revolutsii, IX ). By mid-October the
last of the British troops had sailed away, and the government of
Gen. Miller and Chaikovskii in Arkhangelsk was left to its own re–
sources. In February, 1920, the Red Army took the offensive in the
North, the opposing forces deserted to its side in large numbers,
the Miller-Chaikovskii government and the wealthy of Arkhangelsk
decamped to England, and on Feb. 19 the city fell to the Soviets.
As indicated at the beginning of this article, the quarter–
century that has elapsed since then has brought greater progress,
expressed in an eight-fold growth in population, than the preceding
three-and-a-half centuries. In 1934, 546 vessels put into its port,
2 ½ times as many as before the Revolution, and representing a vastly
larger tonnage. In 1935 it ranked as the 9th port in the USSR, and
handled 2,282,000 tons of freight, chiefly foreign, for only 436,000
was coastal. Exports that year included 8 1/3 billion board feet
of timber. The sawmills now included the largest in the USSR, the
Molotov Works, with 24 frames, also claimed to be the largest in the
world. There are plywood-manufacturing enterprises, wood-chemical,
pulp and paper industries, flour and linen mills, tanneries and fur
dressing plants, and a 150,000-kilowatt power plant using sawdust
waste from the mills as fuel. Fish-salting and canning are important
On the eve of World War II there were 33 berths in the harbor, a floating crane of 150-ton capacity, six of capacities ranging bet–
ween 30 and 50 tons, and five of 10 tons. There was also a floating
grain elevator capable of taking on 100 tons of grain per hour. The
shipping season had been extended by the use of ice-breakers of up to
11,000 tons displacement. [: ] There were
four dry-docks. Early in World War II Arkhangelsk was the easternmost
Soviet city placed under martial law, in order to make possible its
most rapid conversion into a military port for the receipt of Allied
supplies. Admiral Ivan Papanin, hero of the 1937 floating North Pole
[: ] Drifting station, was placed in charge of the expansion of the port. Six
new wharves were built at Ekonomiya outer port, at the northern
extremity of Povrakulski Island, capable of berthing vessels of
10,000 tons each, with a draft of 24 feet.
Lit: Large, Small and Brief (1943, one volume) Soviet Encyclopediae ;
Great Soviet World Atlas; White Sea Pilot , 1st Ed., 1946, Admiralty,
London; Land of the Soviets , Nicholas Mikhailov, N.Y., 1939; The Basis
of Soviet Strength , Geo. Cressey, N.Y., 1945; The USSR, A Geographical
Survey , James Cressey and D.W. Shave, N.Y., 1944; Soviet Land , G. D. B.
Gray, London, 1947; A Guide to the Soviet Union , [: ] William Mandel,
N.Y., 1946; The Soviets in World Affairs , Louis Fischer, N.Y., 1930;
Soviet Politics , Fred. Schuman, N.Y., 1946; Istoriia Diplomatii , Vol. 2;
Istoriia SSSR , [: ] ed. by A.M. Pankratova, Moscow, 1945; Nasha Strana ,
#8, 1938; New York Times , Dec. 3, 1941; Christian Science Monitor ,
Nov. 19, 1941.
William Mandel
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