Maria Vasilyevna Pio-Ulskaia (née Makeeva)

Maria (aka Manya) was born in Sevastopol on March 16, 1880, and it could well have been that her father was a naval officer with the Black Sea Fleet, however this is just supposition.

She had a brother and a sister but I don’t know if she was the eldest, middle or youngest child.

I have no idea when or where she met Wladyslaw but they would have married sometime between 1901-1904, as Lyova was born in March 1905. My sister told me that it wasn’t a love match, more a marriage of convenience, but I don’t know how she knows that.

Lyov was born in Mogilev and I don’t know if she was there with Wladyslaw or just staying with his family until after the birth.

As I mentioned in the Odessa page, there was a lot of discontent amongst the sailors of the Black Sea Fleet and it would obviously have been a very worrying time for the officers and their families stationed in Sevastopol.

I would imagine that Manya was sent to Wladyslaw’s parents for safety’s sake, but she was born in Sevastopol so I’d have assumed she’d have family there.  However, if her father was a naval officer, he might have been transferred elsewhere and perhaps her siblings also moved away.

Another photo of Manya, taken in 1909 (Click to enlarge)

Valia was born a few years later but where, I don’t know 🙁

George was born in Odessa in October 1910 so perhaps Valia was born there too? There are a couple of photos of Maria taken in Odessa, in 1908/9, when she was 28/29.

Did Manya go to Odessa just to have her photos taken or were they living there until George’s birth and then moved to the Naval Officers’ Quarters in Vladivostok.

I wonder what Manya thought of her husband if he was such a scoundrel, as my nephew seemed to think. Did she approve of him gatecrashing parties in Vladivostok – they must have been married by then – and how did she feel when he was sent to the brig for dereliction of duty? One would have though that “noble” families would have taught their children how to behave, especially if they were in the Tsar’s service!




crimea1As mentioned in the page about Crimea, Sevastopol is situated near the ancient Greek colony of Chersonesus or Cherson, which was founded in 421BC and became one of the most important city-states until conquered by the Scythians.

In the 1st century the Crimea was part of the Roman Empire, then three centuries later the Byzantines swallowed it up and changed Cherson’s name to Korsun and it continued to be a large trading and political centre, playing an important role in the economic and cultural life of the Crimea, the Black Sea area and Russia.

In 1339 the Tartars destroyed the city and built their own village called Akhtiar nearby but when the Russians took the Crimea nearly 600 years later, Sevastopol was founded on that spot by Catherine the Great.

After being strongly fortified, Sevastopol was made the main base for Imperial Navy’s Black Sea Fleet in 1804.

Fifty years later, during the Crimean War, poor old Sevastopol was besieged by England, France, Sardinia and Turkey and held out for an incredible 349 days.  The Russians sank their ships to block the entrance to the port but in September 1855, the French stormed Malakov, a fortress on the south shore of the bay and Sevastopol had to be evacuated.

Leo Tolstoy wrote a book called « The Tales of Sevastopol» and in it he described not only the appalling suffering that they had to go through but also the incredible spirit of the inhabitants during the siege.

View of Sebastopol

View of Sevastopol

In 1871 the fortifications were rebuilt and the city became the Black Sea Fleet’s base again.

Then the Revolution came along and Sevastopol became the headquarters of General Wrangle where the White Russians made their last stand.



By Kirill Alexandrov
September 2006

Eighty five years ago the Russian Army left Russia

WrangellAt around 2:00 on November 14, 1920*, Lieut. Gen. Baron Petr Wrangel, commander of the Russian Army in Sevastopol, Crimea, strode out of the Kista Hotel to inspect the last remaining patrols and checkpoints manned by cadets of the St. Sergius Artillery School, who had been called off their stations from downtown to the quay to hear their general’s address. Ashen from fatigue and the burden of the responsibilities heaped upon him, the general thanked them all for their service and ended on a high note, “We are leaving our homeland into exile not as beggars with hands stretched out for a pittance, but with our heads raised high from a sense of duty fully done.” Then he took off his peaked cap, with the insignia of the elite Kornilov Strike Regiment, crossed himself, bowing low to the earth that was his native land, and turned around to board a motorboat that took him to the cruiser Kornilov. The cadets embarked on the transport ship Chersones. The last to leave the city, at around 3:00 in the afternoon, was Lieut. Gen. Nikolai Stogov, chief of the Sevastopol defenses. Before he stepped onto the motorboat, he stopped for a moment, crossed himself and burst into tears… There were none of the scenes of hysterics, pandemonium or panic onshore that we were treated to on movie screens for decades after. Throngs of city residents poured out into the streets to see the White Army off. Through all the years of turmoil, the second Time of Troubles in Russia’s history, they had not made their final choice, and were now just looking on. No hostility was shown toward the departing troops, not even by local workmen. Many were nagged from inside by the intuition that evacuation of the Russian Army into exile marked a break, leaving an unbridgeable rift in Russia’s destiny. For this reason, probably, many people in the crowds gathered on the shore made the sign of the cross, wept, and uttered words of sympathy to the soldiers and refugees setting off on the road into the unknown.


The Exodus

At 16:45 hours on November 14, a British destroyer radioed that the Bolsheviks’ advance units had entered Sevastopol. On November 15, embarkation was completed in Yalta, where cavalry troops boarded the Krim, Tsesarevich Georgy, and Russ. No horses were allowed onboard. There were harrowing scenes as men were separated from their loyal friends. Evacuation from Kerch was completed on the sunny day of November 16. Between November 14 and 16, 1920, 126 merchant vessels and warships sailed from the Crimea to Turkey. General Wrangel and Vice Admiral Mikhail Kedrov, the Black Sea Fleet commander who directed the evacuation, managed to take 145,693 people, aside from the ship crews, out of the Crimea. Around 70,000 were army personnel, who lugged along their rifles and machine guns, and the remaining refugees were their families and civilians. The ships departing from the Crimea put out to sea crammed with people well above their carrying capacity. According to eyewitness accounts, “all holds, decks, passages, bridges, and gratings by the funnels were jam-packed with people sitting and lying.” It took hours to reach the lavatory, and a tin cup of drinking water was a rare blessing. Then followed five long days of physical suffering and mental torment on that sorrowful voyage to Constantinople.

The evacuation from the Crimea in 1920 went down as a bitter symbol of the Russian Exodus of the 20th century and an unparalleled expulsion of Russia’s worthiest citizenry by the people that had lost their senses. The memory of that tragedy has survived, even if beyond Russia’s present borders, in a modest plaque affixed to the quay in Sevastopol, which was wrested from Russia and given, along with the rest of the Crimea, by this country’s unpredictable and willful master Nikita Khrushchev as a gift to no one in the 1950s. The plaque is inscribed with the unpretentious dedication “In memory of the compatriots forced to flee their Homeland in November 1920.” What meaning does it hold for this generation of Russians, wretched and dreadful in their historical unconsciousness, inextricably entangled in the web of Bolshevik myths and the pseudo-festivals and pseudo-symbols invented by the Kremlin’s undying bureaucracy?

The Civil War: no losers, no winners?

The Reds came out on top in the beastly Civil War in Russia.

There were many manmade, insignificant reasons for the Whites’ defeat in the Russian Civil War, and only a single natural cause that made all the difference. It was, first, to the boundless disappointment of the believers in populist myths, that the larger and more marginalized part of the Russian nation embraced – because of their hopeless social backwardness – Bolshevism as a political epitome of their own centuries-long aspirations. The new Bolshevik rule looked innately their own to them. The populist catchphrase “Take all and divide,” multiplied by the Marxist heresy of building paradise on earth, charmed the sick consciousness that had been prepared by the previous centuries into being seduced by the anti-Christian utopia. All the latter-day admirers of the ill-fated coup in the fall of 1917, from communist party bosses to admirers of the “great” Soviet Union in the presidential staff, are right when they say that Bolsheviks relied on common people, forgetting to add that it was the worst, the most uninhibited, degenerate, and dissolute part of the people. Maj. Gen. Isaak Bykadorov, a hero of the Great War and a brave Cossack many times wounded in battle, wrote bitterly in the late 1920s: “Struggle against the Bolshevik rule, an armed struggle, begins where Great Russia’s boundaries end or where the ethnographic boundaries of other nations begin.”

Second, a much larger part of the Russian people withdrew into their self-imposed isolation, during the Civil War again because of their ancient social backwardness, choosing to watch how their country’s destiny was decided by others. Of course, the White movement rallied to its cause all Cossacks, Old Believers and workmen from the Urals, farmers in Arkhangelsk and fishermen in the Northwest. Still, Ivan Ilyin was not far off the mark when he said that the White movement was “an armed body of volunteers from among Russian intellectuals.” The Whites fought to uphold historical tradition and the Church, private ownership and personal business initiative, local government and the great culture, and, last but not least, the right to have a state built, after the latest Time of Trouble in Russia was over, on the best practices of parliamentary monarchy the country had between 1906 and 1917 against the bleak background of the majority’s complete indifference, if not direct opposition. The victories the Whites were winning in fierce battle were to give direct and immediate benefits to the population, where exhortations to patriotic feelings and religiosity failed to produce the desired effect.

Soon after the White armies were out of the country, the population discovered that the Bolsheviks were much worse. At the peak of the Civil War in 1919, the White armies had a total of 600,000 fighters, at best, while 1.8 million people were involved, according to secret police reports, in anti-government uprisings in the Soviet Union at the height of the collectivization in 1930. This popular war against the Bolsheviks came much too late though. From 1918 to 1920, the farmer must have thought that the Whites and Reds would come and go, and things would sort themselves out. Somehow they did not, we know, and have not to this day. They have in Finland. The winners in the civil war made all the difference for the destinies of Russia and Finland over the past 85 years – so much unlike and difficult to compare.poster1919

Another Russia

The overwhelming majority of White leaders saw their task as raising an “army of law and order,” defeating the Red Army on the battlefield, capturing Moscow and Petrograd, and handing over power, immediately or after a transition period, to a representative body that would deal with the urgent social and political issues. With the majority of the country’s population undecided in their preferences, this strategy was doomed from the outset, because the populist slogans offered by Lenin and Trotsky were far more attractive than the fiery appeals of Denikin and Kolchak to sacrifice their lives for the abstract cause of saving Russia. Intellectuals, or rather their children and young people in general, responded to those appeals, but the peasants gave them a big yawn. The difference in attitudes was first captured by Gen. Petr Krasnov, who was elected chieftain, or ataman, by the Don Cossacks. Krasnov pleaded with Gen. Denikin, who succeeded Gen. Kornilov as leader of the Volunteer Army after the latter’s death during the Ice Campaign, that a few thousand volunteers would not clear the Bolsheviks out of all of Russia and that it was wrong to rely on armed force alone.

The way to overpower Bolshevism, Krasnov thought, was to restore normal human life conditions by promoting business and market operation, free trade, education and local government in the part of territory free of the Bolshevik rule. Military operations were to be suspended for a time, and efforts were to be focused on rewarding grassroots projects. Krasnov saw the early promise of this policy materializing on the Don, in Siberia, and in Ukraine in the summer of 1918. Had they been encouraged, the inhuman War Communism constraints imposed by Lenin and Trotsky that condemned the countryside to poverty could have brought the Bolsheviks to an early collapse. Their crude socioeconomic model could not compete against common sense, and evidence of this came to light in a different geopolitical setting between 1985 and 1991. Also, according to Krasnov, the inevitable convergence of healthy territories would open the way for a resurgence of Russian statehood on federal principles. In other words, victory over Lenin’s party could be achieved in politics and economics, rather than on the battlefield. A real, “other Russia” would help bring these prospects about.

It is only to be regretted that Lieut. Gen. Anton Denikin waved aside Krasnov’s plans as sheer fantasy and put more faith in the romantic attraction of the slogan “Russia united and undivided,” than in pragmatic politics. After an angry break with Denikin, Gen. Krasnov left South Russia in February 1919, to die in the clutches of the Stalin regime 30 years later. As he had prophesied, reliance on naked force led the Whites nowhere near success. The cruel paradox of the Russian Civil War was that a gallant officer with deep peasant roots, the grandson of a serf and son of a recruit who had risen in ranks, Denikin meant less to the common people than the crafty political schemers Lenin and Trotsky, neither of whom had any links to the people. Denikin’s attempt to seize Moscow in a cavalry raid in the summer of 1919, with logistics in disarray and the vast territory under his control in chaos, ended in disaster, which was followed by evacuation from Novorossisk in the North Caucasus to the Crimea in 1920. The army that arrived in the Crimea was no longer a fighting force, but a handful of exhausted individuals. His spirit broken and his mind washed out, Denikin surrendered his power to his successor on April 4, 1920. Soon he left Russia for good, in a patched trench coat with the paltry sum of 13 pounds sterling in his pocket.

The man who took over from Denikin as commander-in-chief of the Russian armies in the South was Lieut. Gen. Baron Petr Wrangel.

There could be life on the “island Crimea”

In two months, Gen. Wrangel managed, spending twelve hours in his office or with the troops every day, to restore the army’s fighting spirit and enforce rigid discipline. Several generals (Pokrovsky and Postovsky among them), who gained notoriety for their dissolute lifestyles, rowdiness, and fondness for “generous gifts of the grateful population,” were forced into exile abroad. To bury the memories of previous excesses, Wrangel changed the name of his forces from Southern Army to Russian Army on May 11, and raised its strength to 40,000 infantry and cavalry. On June 7, the Whites took the offensive along the full length of the frontline, and pushed the 13th Red Army under I. Pauka far back from the isthmuses leading into the Crimea and fighting their way into Northern Tauria within days. This seemed incredible after the Novorossiisk disaster. And yet Wrangel pressed the offensive by skillfully maneuvering his small forces. Although the British government practically stopped helping the White movement in South Russia, France was sympathetic with Wrangel’s efforts and showed support for his resolve to hold on to the Crimea and the whole of Tauria Province. As the conflict between Red Russia and independent Poland came to a head, France viewed the Russian Army as its European ally in its opposition to the Bolsheviks. On August 10, France gave de facto recognition to the government of South Russia, and soon the U.S. government too displayed interest in “Crimean statehood.”

In an early interview after becoming the army chief, Wrangel described his political aims in the following terms, “I want to make life in the Crimea, on this small patch of land, livable… Well, briefly, I want to tell the rest of Russia, to show it… that over there you have communism, which is famine and secret police excesses, while here we have land reform under way, local councils will come soon, beginnings of order and possibly freedom… I want to win time… so that word could spread, that you could live in the Crimea. If we achieve this, we will be able to move on slowly, differently from what it was under Denikin – patiently tightening our grip on what we have seized. The provinces we capture from the Bolsheviks will be the source of our strength, instead of the weakness they were before.”

“Leftist policy with rightist’s hands,” talks with industrial workers, land and local government reforms and, in broader terms, an alternative Russia were Wrangel’s chief accomplishments and main weapons. The Russian White movement in the Crimea demonstrated its capacity for political innovation and the principles that set the Whites apart from the Bolsheviks during that second Time of Troubles, in particular, inviolability of the Church, broad-elected peasant governance starting from counties up, freedom of private business initiative, and land reform in the interests of the people toiling on the land.

Alexander Krivoshein who had returned from foreign exile helped Wrangel enormously in his reform efforts. He had been a land and farming supervisor in Petr Stolypin’s government and was the mastermind and the driving force of the prime minister’s reform from 1906 to 1915. He became Wrangel’s assistant for civilian affairs and was, in fact, head of South Russia’s Crimean government. Another civilian on whom Wrangel relied was Petr Struve, a renowned civil servant and politician of great talent, whose name is associated with the resurgence of Russian liberal conservative thought. In politics, Struve advanced from the author of the Russian Social Democratic Party’s 1898 Manifesto to the chief of the department for external relations in South Russia’s anti-Bolshevik government in 1920. France’s recognition of Wrangel’s government was largely Struve’s personal success.

Gen. Wrangel published his guidelines for land reform on June 7, the same day the Russian Army took its offensive beyond the Crimea. Farmland was declared, by the immutable right of private ownership, to belong to the tiller. Farmland distribution and delimitation was to be overseen by special county councils, to be elected by farmers themselves. An interim directive regarding local county governments was published on October 3, and on October 29 they were given full control over primary schools in their areas and the authority to appoint and dismiss school staff. Wrangel and Krivoshein hoped to spread their local government idea from county to district level, and on to regional assemblies, which were to elect a National Assembly as the last act in the drama of the revolutionary turmoil.

Trade blossomed under White rule, in spite of inevitable inflation, and numerous markets, bazaars, fairs, cafeterias, restaurants, snack bars, stores, entertainment facilities, theaters, and movie houses were doing brisk business. The socioeconomic realities of the Civil War were taking their toll though. The worst of it was inflation, with prices running fast ahead of salaries. And yet there was no famine, or large-scale mortality, or the shortages of everything experienced in Russian cities under the Bolshevik’s War Communism. The living standards of industrial workers were significantly higher under the Whites in the Crimea in 1920 than those of the workers in Petrograd, Moscow or Tula. Independent labor unions, crushed completely in Red Russia in 1918, enjoyed their newly acquired freedom under the “Black Baron.” Local government officials complained that their salaries were 20 percent or less of what industrial workers in the Crimea earned.

Wrangel encouraged community organizations and charities, civilian educational institutions, army schools, and the Scout movement. Whatever censorship existed, it did nothing to prevent the publication of more than 20 newspapers and magazines. Many Russian men of letters, including Arkady Averchenko, Vikenty Veresaev and Ivan Shmelev, wrote for Crimean publications. Wrangel and Krivoshein sought to cultivate the best possible relations with the indigenous Tatar population and other ethnic minorities in the Crimea, but the time was too short for them to enact a law on relations with the Crimean Tatars before evacuation. Counterintelligence in the Crimea was in the hands of Lieut. Gen. Yevgeni Klimovich, a senator and the former chief of the Interior Ministry’s police department, who was now successfully fighting Bolshevik saboteurs. According to studies at local archives in the 1990s, almost 200 persons, most of them active in underground Bolshevik cells, were shot by counterintelligence units under Wrangel. Bolshevik attempts to organize a strike movement in the Crimea failed.

Imprinted on my memory forever will be the Crimea’s fading shore

It is hard to say what turns the destinies of Wrangel’s state and Russia would have taken, had the Russian Army held out in the Crimea till spring 1921, when hundreds of thousands of farmers, enraged by the requisitioning of food surpluses, rose against the Bolsheviks in West Siberia and Tambov Province. Wrangel did not hold out, even though there were a few minor successes at the front. The Whites failed in their efforts to begin operations in the Kuban area across the narrow Kerch Strait from the Crimea or to recover lost ground in the North Caucasus, despite their new policies. Frunze’s Southern Front had no difficulty receiving reinforcements, but the Russian Army’s human resources were dwindling, and its resources in the Crimea had been exhausted. The troops, fighting day and night, were collapsing from fatigue.

The peace made between Red Russia and Poland sealed the fate of the Whites’ Crimea. It had been a thorn in Lenin’s side because of the reforms there. The Crimea’s defenses across the Perekop Isthmus have always been greatly exaggerated by Soviet historians. By October 28, Frunze had a five-to-one superiority in infantry and cavalry, and his troops were supported by the mobile cavalry of anarchist Nestor Makhno’s Insurgent Army. The Red Army had a significant advantage in machine guns, cannon, tanks, and armored vehicles. Early frosts played into the Reds’ hands, as they were going to cross the shallow swampy bay, the Sivash to take on the Whites from the rear. Frunze was confident that his Southern Front troops would break into the Crimea and smash the Russian Army, preventing its escape from Eupatoria, Kerch, Feodosia and Yalta by sea.

In the night of November 7, the Reds crossed the Sivash and captured Perekop after a day of heavy fighting. By noon on November 10, the fighting had ended on the front, and the Whites began an orderly retreat toward the Crimean ports under cavalry cover. Army school cadets took over guard duties at the ports and embarkation points, where ships had been brought in, coal stockpiled, and foodstuffs and medical supplies hoarded long before the fateful day. On November 11, the Reds lost Chongar. On that day, South Russia’s government announced its evacuation plan, offering all those who, it believed, were not in immediate danger to stay behind. Frunze, on the radio and in leaflets, promised full amnesty and an opportunity to emigrate to all who chose to do so. On November 12, army personnel started embarkation in Sevastopol. Vice-Admiral Kedrov had procured transport ships for civilians as well, putting out to sea all craft he could lay his hands on, including slow barges, pleasure yachts, and fishing boats too frail to survive even a light storm. The sea was unusually calm on that day, though. The crowds on the shore waved their handkerchiefs, hats, and caps, and many pitied the unwilling fugitives, who, in turn, had no idea of the fearful fate that was to befall many in the crowd, already condemned to physical destruction.

The Crimea Left Behind in Palls of Smoke… (by Kirill Alexandrov)





Manya and Sevastopol

Pictures of Manya and her birthplace, Sevastopol, and other places on the Crimea from before the Revolution

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