“Clear the Woods the Thugs are Hiding in With Poisonous, Asphyxiating, Gases …”: Myths and Facts about the Tambov Uprising
Authors: Aleksandr V. Glushko, Natal'ya I. Shilo
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This article examines the events related to the suppression of an Anti-Soviet peasant rebellion in Tambov Governorate (“Antonovshchina”) in the summer of 1921 in the context of a use of chemical weapons against the rebels. Based on new archive documents and little-known works by Soviet and foreign military chemists, the article examines the process of making decisions on the use of chemical weapons, preparations for a chemic attack, issues related to tactics, and the composition of toxic substances in ammunition. The article concludes that in the course of preparations and the use of chemical weapons all conditions providing for the success of such operations were violated. More specifically, the use of gas cylinders amidst the increased complexity of objectives set proved impossible using the resources on hand due to the unpreparedness of the military personnel and an admittedly insufficient quantity of ammunition. Besides, shelling using chemical shells proved ineffective due to a lack of training with the artillery personnel and insufficient expenditure of ammunition. And finally, shells shipped over to Tambov Governorate were intended for putting the opponent out of action – not for physically destroying the opponent, since their combat effect was intended to be triggered through a lachrymatory effect toxic substance. In the end, the author draws a conclusion about the impossibility of an effective use of chemical weapons and, all the more so, impossibility of having human victims. Its use was of a one-off nature and was not the decisive factor for the elimination of the rebellion.