Makaryants, Vladimir Abramovitch (1909-1938)

Tobolsk Prison

A short biography of the anarchist Vladimir Makaryants , murdered by the Soviet regime.

Vladimir Makaryants was an Armenian born in Moscow in 1909. He came from a family of intelligentsia, his father being a lawyer. At the age of fifteen he began to read anarchist literature and became an anarchist communist.

Whilst still at school he distributed anarchist propaganda. In 1929 he was arrested for participating in the anarchist underground- the group around Pastukhov, Andreevna etc , numbering up to a dozen- and in helping produce an underground paper. He was sentenced to three years, and was sent to the Urals. In Sverdlovsk, he became a member of the exile anarchist community. He was described by another anarchist there, I.Y. Salmanovich, as “very well read, theoretically prepared as an anarchist” and as acutely anti-Bolshevik.

In 1932 he was moved from Sverdlovsk to Tobolsk. Probably with the help of other anarchists there, he got a job as a factory economist.

On 8th February 1934 he was arrested again on suspicion of anarchist activity. He immediately began a hunger strike (including refusing to drink water) after being put among common law prisoners. In his first police interview he had refused to name people who had written letters to him “for reasons of common decency”.

The security police were forced to release him after eight days hunger strike “taking into account the painful condition of his health”. He had barely recovered when he went on hunger strike again, this time not to defend himself but in solidarity with fellow anarchist communist Samuel Ruvinsky,(1) arrested in April 1934 in Voronezh. A failure to find any evidence of underground activity against Ruvinsky led the State police to prefer a charge of sabotage. This was a precedent in the persecution of the anarchists, sabotage being seen as a criminal act and so moving towards outright criminalisation.

However at a special meeting of the NKVD he was sentenced to five years of “corrective labour camp” for counter-revolutionary activities,serving this in the appalling Solovski prison camp on the Solovetsky islands in the White Sea.

There he took part in a collective hunger strike in May 1937, with the demand that political prisoners be transferred to the political prisoner regimen (politrezhim), which had greater privileges than those of common law prisoners. However the prison governor informed him that the politrezhim had been abolished, and that Social Revolutionaries, Mensheviks and Anarchists were considered as having committed criminal offences, with all the consequences.

On February 14th, 1938 he was sentenced to death by a special NKVD troika (three person commission) for carrying out counter-revolutionary propaganda among prisoners. He was shot on February 17th and buried at Solovki.

(1) Samuel Aaronovitch Ruvinsky ( sometimes given as Puvinsky with a 'P'). Born 1904, Jewish. His father was a clerk. Native of Kiev province. Educated up to technical level. Became anarchist communist. Arrested in December 1924 as member of Sebastopol Anarchist Group. Sentenced 15th January 1925 to 3 years at Solovki, then exiled to Minusinsk. Married to Rosa Kemper, with two children. In Kursk, because of his engineering ability, he became head of design department. The secret police were to accuse him of using this possession for reasons of sabotage.

Nick Heath


Posted By

Sep 14 2013 19:29


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Sep 16 2013 15:28

before 1929, was he active in Moscow or in Armenia?

Sep 16 2013 15:32

I don't know. I have no information for that period. Any further information would be much appreciated.

Sep 17 2013 09:30

I've added a bit more to bio. He was in the Pastukhov -Andrreevna group in Moscow, which Skitalets worked with. Also info on solidarity hunger strike with Ruvinsky, and biographical data on Ruvinsky.

Red Marriott
Sep 17 2013 22:33

I found this;

During Soviet time the Tobolsk prison was one of "capitals" of archipelago GULAG. In the beginning of 90-s' years the prison has been closed and now it is one of sights of Tobolsk. Interactive excursions are popular: the guides dressed as supervisors show the prison castle to the tourists dressed in the uniform of GULAG prisoners

Jun 14 2020 13:17

He is mentioned in the book And It Was All So (1991) by Yuri Ivanovich Chirkov, about life at the Solovki camp:
One morning I saw a strange figure in a wilting flower garden. Someone in a coat with a raised fur collar, in a hat and yellow shoes stood, holding his hand by the nose, in deep thought. An hour later he appeared in the library and turned out to be an anarchist-communist, a student of Kropotkin - Vladimir Abramovich Makaryants, thirty years old, the son of a Moscow lawyer, quite famous before the revolution.
It goes on to say that he became an anarchist communist in 1917 at the age of 14 , which doesn't tally with the date of birth and information given above.