English language Web site on current affairs in the biggest russian region
01:24 | Aug 15 | 2012

The Helmsman of the Republic

Maxim Ammosov, head of Yakutia in the 20th, ended his days in the Stalinist mayhem.

Youth has always been the vanguard of change. And harder the time, the more important it was the role of a leader – an energetic, young, faithful to his ideals person. Yakutia had luck in this respect. Such men as Maxim Ammosov, Platon Oyunsky and Isidor Barakhov were in control during the ordeal and fateful decisions. Maxim Ammosov, an outstanding statesman and party worker, a man after whom the main University of the Republic is named, is a hero of our today’s story.

From the seminary to the underground
Maxim Ammosov was born in the village of Khatyryk of the Namsky Ulus in 1897. After completion of the primary education in his native ulus, Maxim moved to Yakutsk and went to the teachers' seminary. Then he entered an underground political circle, led by the exiled Bolsheviks, after whom modern streets of Yakutsk were named: Petrovsky, Yaroslavsky and others.

Maxim Ammosov participated in the revolutionary movement since 1916. In 1918 he became secretary of the Board of Yakutsk, and then as an underground worker in Siberia. In 1920, after the defeat of the White Guardists’ forces, he was an authorized agent on the organization of the Soviet bodies in Yakutia. In 1921 he was the chairman of the Revolutionary Committee, since 1922 - a secretary of the Yakut regional office of the RCP(b). Since 1923 he was the chairman of the Yakut representative office in Moscow. In 1925-28 he was a Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars and of the Central Executive Committee of the Yakut ASSR. In 1928-30 he served in the apparatus of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (b). Since 1932 he became the secretary of the West-Kazakhstan regional committee, since 1934 first secretary of the Karaganda, and since 1936 of the North Kazakhstan, and then - Kyrgyz committees of the All-Union Communist Party (b). In March 1937 he was the first secretary of the Central Committee of the CP(b) of Kyrgyzstan. He was also a delegate of 11, 13, 16 and 17th Party Congresses. He was elected a member of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR.

From this point on Ammosov, Platon Oyunsky, Isidor Barakhov and other young Yakut intellectuals enter the political life. The next four years are an uninterrupted sequence of events when one political party was opposed to another, and all that at gunpoint of the supervisory bodies of the imperial administration. The abdication of the Tsar in February 1917 was not the end but the culmination of this struggle. During the Civil War Ammosov was forced to escape from Yakutia to perform underground work in other cities of Siberia for some time. But in 1920, Maxim returned to his homeland.

At the ruins of autocracy
During that time almost the entire government officials’ team of Yakutia was made up of young intellectuals. The working conditions were harsh: devastated economy, total deficit, continuing civil war, hostility of the part of population to the Soviet regime.
New approaches and solutions were needed and the new leadership was able to find them. The Civil War, murderous in other regions, ended in a relatively soft manner in Yakutia, largely, thanks to the flexible line of the Yakut revolutionary intelligentsia.
Ammosov held various senior positions in the Republic, the apogee being the position of chairman of the Council of People's Commissars and of the Central Executive Committee of the Yakut ASSR in 1925-28. The decisions and actions of that period can be enlisted for a long time; it is where Ammosov’s creative thinking, as they would say now, manifested itself in full power: the complex economic situation was solved comprehensively by establishing channels of local products sales, creation of local light industry. The largest enterprise of Yakutia – “Aldan Gold” was created with the direct participation and leadership of Maxim Ammosov at that time. The first aircrafts for the needs of Yakutia were purchased at Ammosov’s initiative and Lena river shipping company began to develop. Some of the neighboring regions set cap for the territories of Southern Yakutia, which had already been a pleasant industrial region. However, Maxim Ammosov managed to save most of them.
However, the key event of that time was granting Yakutia self-regulation (April 27, 1922). Although newly formed Yakut Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was part of the Soviet Union, nevertheless it was the first experience of nationhood for the Yakuts.
Meanwhile a storm was brewing in the Soviet state, the name of which was Joseph Stalin. From a passionate Bolshevik revolutionary Koba he becomes an all-union monolith Comrade Stalin, tightening the screws on the whole territory of the USSR. The regime needed sacrifices, but Ammosov and other representatives of the national intelligentsia did not want to be involved in this slaughterous feast.
And, of course, repercussions resounded. Ammosov, Oyunsky and Barakhov were sent to Moscow (away from Yakutia), where they were gradually moved aside from the political life. But here Ammosov’s old mentor, Emelyan Yaroslavsky, interceded and with his help Maxim fell back in line, and was soon sent to Kazakhstan at one of the leading positions.
After the success in Kazakhstan (Karaganda region under the Ammosov’s leadership became the third largest coal mine in the USSR) he was sent to Kyrgyzstan, where the culmination of the confrontation between Ammosov and the NKVD took place.

Playing with fire
Ammosov was forced “to brush the ranks” – in other words, lock up and destroy the local intellectuals and party leaders, all those who had been able to resist Stalin. Maxim Ammosov faced a dilemma: either to follow the instructions and betray his convictions or be doomed to failure. There was no other choice as it seemed, but he found it.
Thus, at Ammosov’s initiative the Commission for further consideration of cases was established for the first time in the Soviet Union. The work of the NKVD became more complicated: false accusation which allowed putting easily people in jail and then obliterating them were more difficult to come up with.
But such “playing with fire” could not last long. As a result, Maxim Ammosov was arrested and convoyed to Moscow in November 1937. For six months he was tortured and variously abused in the dungeons of the NKVD. After that, on July 28, 1938 Maxim Ammosov was executed by shooting according to the verdict of the Supreme Court of the USSR.
In September of that year, Isidor Barakhov was also executed by shooting and, a year later, Platon Oyunsky died in prison.
...Decades went by. Of course, not many people are aware of all these events now. Therefore, it is important to remember such people as Maxim Ammosov, a man who remained true to his ideals during all his life, despite the difficulties and trials. His life is a reminder that even being born as a simple peasant's son and not a fat cat or with an influential family, you can become the one who would pull your people out of the depths of ignorance and send them to a happy future.


Yakutia at the point of the Revolution
In 1897, the year Maxim Ammosov was born, 248,000 people lived in Yakutia (less than the population of Yakutsk now). Industry was almost entirely absent; there were only a few brick and leather processing factories. The locals were mainly engaged in animal husbandry. The public health service situation was catastrophic: the whole Yakutia had a total of 16 doctors at nine hospitals. The situation with education was not much better: there were 1620 students in 78 schools (most of which were parochial).