Edetkin, David Chaimovich aka Skitalets (The Wanderer) (1893- 1937)

Memorial stone at Sandarmokh

A short biography of David Edetkin, active in the Russian anarchist underground

David Edetkin apparently was politicised very young. From a Russian Jewish back ground he joined the Socialist Revolutionary Party at the age of eleven. He carried out revolutionary propaganda in the Caucasus in Tbilisi, Baku and Batumi between 1904 and 1909.

In 1909 he was arrested at Baku and sentenced the following year. He was exiled to Irkutsk from where he escaped to Odessa in August 1911. From here he crossed over to Istanbul. There he organised the Union of Black Sea Sailors (Soyuz Chernomorskikh Moryakov) with an underground publication called Sailor. He was one of its most active members and organised the transportation of illegal literature into the Russian Empire. SRS worked alongside anarchists and Mensheviks within this grouping.

He carried on illegal work in the Caucasus. In 1912 he was arrested with others at a regional meeting of the SRs in Batumi. In 1914 he was put on trial and sentenced to ten and a half years hard labour. Mikhail Prokorovich Adamovich, who was also one of the defendants at this trial, describes Edetkin’s red curls and how he had walked six hundred miles across the taiga from Irkutsk to Odessa to escape back in 1911.

In 1917 he joined the anarchist communist movement (though his secret police file seems to imply that he held anarchist communist views whilst still with the SRs in 1909).

In 1929 he was a member of the Union of Anarchist Workers (Soyuz Rabochikh Anarkhistov), a secret anarchist group that had been set up in Moscow by Olga Andreeva, Vladimir Vasilievich Kozhukov, and Alexander Pastukhov. That summer he visited the port towns of Ukraine in order to establish links with revolutionary groups there, using his old contacts from before the Revolution. He was described as an “ardent ‘Arshinovite’ and experienced illegal worker” by his comrades.

Thanks to the links that Skitalets and others had established communication was opened up between the Union of Anarchist Workers and the exiled anarchist movement. The paper Dielo Trouda produced by Makhno, Arshinov and others was now regularly smuggled into the USSR.

However the network was discovered by the NKVD later that year and Edetkin-Skitalets was arrested. He was sent to Alma Ata in Kazakhstan. On July 11, 1930 he signed a statement that he wished to have nothing to do with the political exiles there. This appears to have been a ruse, as the following year he escaped from exile and amazingly was able to live underground for almost three years with his companion Evgeniya, who was from a Moscow professor’s family. THey continued to attempt to spread anarchist propaganda in Moscow and other cities.

However the secret police caught up with them. David and Evgeniya were sent to the slave labour camps on the White Sea Canal and ended up at Solovki prison nearby. In his memoirs of his time at Solovki J. L. Yurkevich mentions them, describing David as a “fiery redhead with a long beard”. He persisted in spreading anarchist propaganda among the White Sea Canal and Solovki prisoners.

On the 3rd November 1937 David was shot with several hundred other prisoners including anarchists and Maximalists at the gorge in the Sandarmokh forest near Medvezhyegorsk in the Karelian republic. This killing place was the scene of the murder of several thousand prisoners during 1937-1938. Either Evgeniya perished at the same time or later.

Nick Heath


Dubovik, A.V. After Makhno:the anarchist underground in the Ukraine in the 1920s and 1930s
Yurkevich memoirs: http://www.sakharov-center.ru/asfcd/auth/?t=page&num=3440

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Sep 14 2013 23:20


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Jan 4 2019 17:31

Added information on date and circumstances of death of Editkin-Skitalets