What really happened to Vasily Chapaev

We remember Chapaev from books and films, we tell jokes about him. But the real life of the red division commander was no less interesting. He loved cars, argued with the teachers of the military academy. And also Chapaev is not a real surname.

Hard childhood

Vasily Ivanovich was born into a poor peasant family. The only wealth of his parents is nine eternally hungry children, of which the future hero of the Civil War was the sixth.

Legend has it that he was born premature and warmed up in his father's fur mitten on the stove. His parents assigned him to seminary in the hope that he would become a priest. But when once the guilty Vasya was put in a wooden punishment cell in one shirt in a severe frost, he fled. I tried to be a merchant, but I could not - he was too disgusted by the basic trading commandment: "If you don't cheat, you won't sell, if you don't weigh it down, you won't profit." “My childhood was gloomy and difficult. I had to humiliate myself and starve a lot. From an early age I roamed about strangers, ”the division commander recalled later.


It is believed that the family of Vasily Ivanovich bore the name of the Gavrilovs. "Chapaev" or "Chepay" was the nickname that the grandfather of the division commander, Stepan Gavrilovich, received. Either in 1882, or in 1883, they loaded logs with their comrades, and Stepan, as a senior, constantly commanded - "Chepay, chepay!", Which meant: "Take, take." So it stuck to him - Chepay, and the nickname later turned into a surname.

They say that the original "Chepay" became "Chapaev" with the light hand of Dmitry Furmanov, the author of the famous novel, who decided that "it sounds better this way." But in the surviving documents from the civil war, Vasily appears under both options.

Perhaps the name "Chapaev" appeared as a result of a typo.

Academy student

Chapaev's education, contrary to popular belief, was not limited to two years of parochial school. In 1918 he was enrolled in the military academy of the Red Army, where many fighters were “herded” to improve their general literacy and strategy training. According to the recollections of his classmate, peaceful student life burdened Chapaev: “Damn it! I'm leaving! To come up with such an absurdity - fighting people at the desk! ". Two months later, he filed a report with a request to release him from this "prison" to the front.

Several stories have survived about Vasily Ivanovich's stay at the academy. The first one says that at the exam in geography, in response to the old general's question about the significance of the Neman River, Chapaev asked the professor if he knew about the significance of the Solyanka River, where he fought with the Cossacks. According to the second, in a discussion of the battle of Cannes, he called the Romans "blind kittens", telling the teacher, a prominent military theorist Sechenov: "We have already shown those like you, generals, how to fight!"


We all imagine Chapaev as a courageous fighter with a fluffy mustache, a naked saber and galloping on a dashing horse. This image was created by the national actor Boris Babochkin. In life, Vasily Ivanovich preferred cars to horses.

Even on the fronts of the First World War, he was seriously wounded in the thigh, so horse riding became a problem. So, Chapaev became one of the first red commanders who got into a car.

He chose iron horses very meticulously. The first - the American Stever, he rejected because of the strong shaking, the red Packard, which replaced him, had to be abandoned too - it was not suitable for military operations in the steppe. But the "Ford", which squeezed 70 miles off-road, fell in love with the red commander. Chapaev also selected the best drivers. One of them, Nikolai Ivanov, was practically forcibly taken to Moscow and appointed as the personal driver of Lenin's sister, Anna Ulyanova-Elizarova.

Female deceit

The famous commander Chapaev was an eternal loser on the personal front. His first wife, a petty bourgeois woman Pelageya Metlina, whom Chapaev's parents did not approve of so much, calling him a "city white-handed woman, " bore him three children, but did not wait for her husband from the front - she went to a neighbor. Vasily Ivanovich was very upset by her act - he loved his wife. Chapaev often repeated to his daughter Claudia: “Oh, you are beautiful. She looks like her mother. "

The second companion of Chapaev, however, already a civilian, was also called Pelageya. She was the widow of Vasily's comrade-in-arms, Pyotr Kamishkertsev, to whom the division commander promised to take care of his family. First, he sent her benefits, then they decided to move in. But history repeated itself - during the absence of her husband, Pelageya started an affair with a certain Georgy Zhivolozhinov. Once Chapaev found them together and almost sent the unlucky lover to the next world.

When the passions subsided, Kamishkertseva decided to go to peace, took the children and went to her husband at the headquarters. The children were allowed to see their father, but she was not. They say that after that she took revenge on Chapaev by giving the whites the location of the Red Army troops and data on their numbers.

Fatal water

The death of Vasily Ivanovich is shrouded in mystery. On September 4, 1919, Borodin's detachments approached the city of Lbischensk, where the headquarters of Chapaev's division with a small number of soldiers was located. During the defense, Chapaev was badly wounded in the stomach, his soldiers put the commander on a raft and sent him across the Urals, but he died of blood loss. The body was buried in the coastal sand, and the tracks were hidden so that the Cossacks would not find it. The search for the grave subsequently became useless, since the river changed its course. This story was confirmed by a participant in the events. According to another version, being wounded in the arm, Chapaev drowned, unable to cope with the current.

"Or maybe it came out?"

Neither the body nor the grave of Chapaev could be found. This gave rise to a completely logical version of the surviving hero. Someone said that due to a severe injury, he lost his memory and lived somewhere under a different name.

Some argued that he was safely transported to the other side, from where he went to Frunze, to be responsible for the surrendered city. In Samara, he was put under arrest, and then they decided to officially "kill the hero", ending his military career with a beautiful end.

This story was told by a certain Onyanov from the Tomsk region, who, allegedly, after many years met his aged commander. The story looks dubious, since in the difficult conditions of the civil war it was inappropriate to "scatter" experienced military leaders who were highly respected by the soldiers.

Most likely, this is a myth generated by the hope that the hero was saved.