Nikifor Grigoriev

Ukrainian military leader (1884-1919)

Nykyfor Hryhoriev
Hryhoriev in 1919
Native name
Никифір Олександрович Григор'єв
Birth nameNykyfor Oleksandrovych Servetnikov
Born(1884-02-09)9 February 1884
Dunaivtsi, Podolia, Russian Empire
(now Ukraine)
Died27 July 1919(1919-07-27) (aged 35)
Sentove [uk], Kherson
Allegiance Russian Empire (1904-1917)
Ukrainian People's Republic (1917-1918)
Ukrainian State (1918)
Ukrainian People's Republic (1918-1919)
Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic (February-May 1919)
Borotbists (May-July 1919)
Service Imperial Russian Army (1910-1917)
Ukrainian People's Army 1917-1919)
Ukrainian Soviet Army (February-May 1919)
Peasant Division (May-July 1919)
Years of service1904-1919
RankEnsign (1914)
Staff Captain (1917)
Lieutenant colonel (1917-1919)
Division commander (1919)
Commands held 56th Zhytomyr Infantry Regiment (1917)
Ukrainian Kherson Division (1917-1919)
1st Trans-Dnepr Brigade (February-April 1919)
6th Ukrainian Soviet Division [ru] (April-May 1919)
Peasant Division (May-July 1919)
Battles/warsRusso-Japanese War
World War I (Eastern Front)

Ukrainian War of Independence

AwardsCross of St. George

Nykyfor Oleksandrovych Hryhoriv[a] (né Nychypir Servetnyk[b] 1884 – 27 July 1919) was a Ukrainian paramilitary leader noted for repeatedly switching sides during the Ukrainian Civil War. He was commonly known as "Otaman Hryhoriv." In some historical accounts, his first name is given as "Matvii" or "Mykola".[according to whom?]

He is sometimes misrepresented as the otaman, or leader, of the Green armies.[by whom?] His association with the Green armies is due to collaboration with the army of Danylo Terpylo, which fought against the Ukrainian People's Republic, Red Army, and White Army. Although he cooperated with Terpylo, this was marginal.[citation needed]


Nikifor Servetnikov was born in 1884 in the small village of Zastavlia [uk], in the Novo-Ushytsia uyezd of Podolian Governorate, which was then part of the Russian Empire. Servetnikov served in the cavalry of the Russian Imperial Army in the region of Kherson and participated in Russo-Japanese War in the Russian Far East serving in the Trans-Baikal Host. After his discharge he served as a gendarme in the town of Proskuriv, Podolian Governorate.[citation needed]

Servetnyk volunteered to the army with the outbreak of the First World War and was enlisted as a Praporshchik (see Rank structure) to the 56th Zhytomyr Infantry Regiment in 1914. In course of war, he was awarded the Cross of St. George for bravery. Servetnikov eventually rose to the rank of staff captain (Russian: Штабс-капитан) in the 58th Prague Infantry Regiment (1917) and changed his surname to Hryhoriev. During this period he became a member of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917 (February Revolution and October Revolution), he supported the socialist-oriented Central Council of the Ukrainian People's Republic. He served in the reorganized National Army of Ukraine and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel.[citation needed]

Russian Civil War period

Hryhoriev's cavalry forces enter Odesa after the French military evacuated the city, April 1919

In April 1918, he took part in the conservative coup d'etat led by hetman Pavlo Skoropadskyi which earned him the rank of colonel. In the summer of that year, he revolted against the Hetman State and created his own insurgent army. He joined another revolt in November that year which was organized by the Directorate of Ukraine and Symon Petliura. During the Russian Civil War in December Grigoriev participated in the military campaign against the Russian forces of the South. During that campaign he took Mykolaiv, Kherson, Ochakiv, and Oleshky. Before capturing Mykolaiv, he overran 545 soldiers of the already-defeated Hetmanate. He occupied Mykolaiv on December 13 and appointed himself the city commissioner struggling against the city council. Hryhoriev was appointed a commander of the Ukrainian Kherson Division of the Southern group of general Oleksandr Hrekov until January 29, 1919, later the 1st Trans-Dnipro Riflemen Brigade (~6,000 men) of the 3rd Trans-Dnipro Riflemen Division.

He was later forced out of those cities by the Entente forces (Greek and French) (see Southern Russia Intervention). During this time the general Hrekov participated in the negotiations with The Entente forces to ally against the Bolsheviks. Grigoriev did not approve that and was especially upset when Vynnychenko was forced out of the office leading Petliura to head the Directory Committee later on February 13. On January 29, 1919, Grigoriev sent a letter to the headquarters of the Zaporizhia Corps in Kremenchuk (a week after the arrest of the UNR Col. Petro Bolbochan):

In Kyiv gathered the Otamanate, the Austrian Fendryky Reserves, country-side teachers, and all kinds of careerists and adventurists who pose themselves for statesmen and big diplomats. They are not the professionals and definitely out of place, I do not believe them and move on to the Bolsheviks as after the arrest of Colonel Bolbochan I do not believe in the good of our Homeland.

Bolshevik propaganda poster depicting the struggle against Ataman Grigoriev

On January 25, 1919, Potluri ordered him and otaman Hulai-Hulenko to join the south-eastern group against the Armed Forces of South Russia near Alexandrovsk (today Zaporizhzhia) and Pavlohrad. Hryhoriev decided to ignore that order. He had no intentions to fight against the White forces as well as the forces of Makhno who operated in the area and were in opposition to the Directorate. Since that time he systematically ignored all the orders that were coming from the Headquarters of the Ukrainian Army. A similar situation was taken place throughout the Ukrainian Armed Forces at that time. On January 30, Hryhoriev sent a representative to the revolutionary committee, or revkom, of Yelizavetgrad (now Kropyvnytskyi), claiming to be the Chairman of the Soviet Emissaries. He also sent a telegram to the revkom of Alexandrovsk with an approval for the actions of the Soviet government of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.[citation needed]

At the beginning of February 1919, Hryhoriev attacked the forces of colonel Kotyk at Yekaterinoslav (now Dnipro), capturing him in the process as well. Later he sent a telegram to Red Kharkiv informing that he caught the cat (meaning Kotyk). The Ukrainian Command immediately announced him outlawed, warranting every citizen of the Republic to kill the deserter. On February 2 the Ukrainian Borotbist Vasyl Ellan-Blakytny arrived at Znamianka to organize the Soviet Ukrainian government with the help of Hryhoriev, but later he telegraphed back to Moscow not to hurry with the coalition with Hryhoriev, due to possible treachery. Hryhoriev, nonetheless, continued his attacks and effectively stormed Kryvyi Rih and Yelizavetgrad, causing UNR forces to withdraw out of Central Ukraine to Podilia.[citation needed]

Allying with the Bolsheviks

After the withdrawal of UNR forces from Kyiv, otaman Hryhoriev continued his negotiations with the Bolsheviks on February 18, 1919. Hryhoriev together with his brigade became now part of the Red Army 1st Trans-Dnieper Riflemen Division (later expanded to the 6th Ukrainian Rifle Division), while Nestor Makhno led his troops as another brigade of that division and Pavel Dybenko who commanded the division was in charge of another brigade. He was still closely connected with the Socialist-Revolutionaries who had great influence over the rural population of the country. During that time, he attacked the Askania-Nova preserve and started food requisitioning in the name of Revolution. The head of government of Soviet Ukraine Christian Rakovsky sent Hryhoriev a note of protest in that regard. In a short time, however, April 1919 the preserve would be nationalized.

In March 1919 he advanced with his Army against the Allied Intervention force. He first took Kherson, later managed to take Mykolaiv. After a two-week battle starting on 8 April, he also occupied Odesa, thus forcing the Greek-French forces to withdraw. At first, he was appointed the commandant of the city, but Bolsheviks subsequently protested the plunder of Odesa by Hryhoriev's troops.

As a Red Army officer,[1][2] Hryhoriev was responsible for pogroms in 40 communities and the deaths of about 6,000 Jews in the summer of 1919.[3]

Rebellion and alliance with Makhno

In May, Hryhoriev deserted the Red Army, opposed to Bolshevik requisitioning policies and after being ordered to assault into the Romanian territories in order to provide military support for Soviet Hungary and with his units captured the city of Yelisavetgrad.[citation needed]

In his rebellion against the Red Army, called the Grigoriev uprising, he was supported by most southern-Ukrainian peasants who were outraged by the Bolshevik policy of "war communism" (including rural confiscation of food), and were also hostile to the White movement that was backed by land-owners. The anti-Bolshevik uprising started on 8 May 1919, when Hryhoriev issued a proclamation "To the Ukrainian People" (До Українського народу), in which he called upon the Ukrainian people to rise against the "Communist imposters", singling out the "Jewish commissars"[4] and the Cheka. In only a few weeks, Hryhoriev's troops perpetrated 148 pogroms, the deadliest of which resulted in the massacre of upwards of 1,000 Jewish people in Yelisavetgrad, from 15 to 17 May 1919.[4]

In July 1919, after suffering heavy losses against the Red Army, Hryhoriev escaped to the areas controlled by Nestor Makhno and offered to join the forces against "the Reds and the Whites". His proposition was accepted.[citation needed]

Makhno did not trust Hryhoriev. After 3 weeks of common actions against Bolshevik forces, Hryhoriev openly disagreed with Makhno during negotiations at Sentovo on 27 July 1919 (today a village of Rodynkivka, Oleksandriia Raion, Kirovohrad Oblast). Hryhoriev had been in contact with Denikin's emissaries and was planning to join the White coalition. This was unacceptable to Makhno — he held a particular hatred of all monarchists and aristocrats since the time of his imprisonment. According to Peter Arshinov, Makhno and the staff decided to execute Grigoriev. Chubenko, a member of Makhno's staff, accused Hryhoriev of collaborating with Denikin (According to Arshinov, Denikin's emissaries were captured and executed) and of inciting the pogroms.[5] There are several accounts that give different circumstances of Hryhoriev's death. Hryhoriev threatened Chubenko and Makhno, drew his gun, and was shot and killed. The accounts of the event differ, and ascribe the final shot either to Chubenko, Karetnik or Makhno.[5][6][7]


See also


  1. ^ Ukrainian: Никифір Олександрович Григор'єв, Nykyfir Oleksandrovych Hryhor'ev
    Russian: Никифор Александрович Григорьев.
  2. ^ Ukrainian: Серветників, Servetnykiv
    Russian: Серветников.


  1. ^ Timkov, O. Otaman Grigoryev: Truth and Myth.
  2. ^ Timkov, O. Otaman Grigoryev: Truth and Myth.
  3. ^ Encyclopedia Judaica vol. 13 pp. 699-700
  4. ^ a b Werth, Nicolas (2019). "Chap. 5: 1918-1921. Les pogroms des guerres civiles russes". Le cimetière de l'espérance. Essais sur l'histoire de l'Union soviétique (1914-1991) [Cemetery of Hope. Essays on the History of the Soviet Union (1914–1991)]. Collection Tempus (in French). Perrin. ISBN 978-2-262-07879-9.
  5. ^ a b Alexandre Skirda, Nestor Makhno: Anarchy's Cossack, p 125.
  6. ^ Nestor Makhno, "The Makhnovshchina and Anti-Semitism," Dyelo Truda, No.30-31, November-December 1927, pp.15-18
  7. ^ Peter Arshinov "History of the Makhnovist Movement 1918-1921" Ch. 7
  8. ^ Formation of the Soviet statehood in Ukraine.

External links

  • Encyclopedia of Ukraine article
  • Ataman of Pogroms Grigoriev (in Russian)
  • Bio in Russian (in Russian)
  • Universal of Grigoriev

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