The fate of a man

Babs71, in addition to regularly describing and announcing sightseeing walks to little-known monuments of Petersburg, is a passionate collector of old postcards, documents and photographs from the flea market and via his friends. The following pictures are fragments of a former family photo album. The data interpreting them have been added from the comments to the original Russian post.

Tsarist officer Ivan Ivanovich Gavrishev and his family from Orel. It has been clarified by the commentators that Gavrishev was lieutenant of the 110th infantry regiment of Kovno, and his son at this time – around 1912 – a student of the Bakhtin cadet school in Orel. They have also noted that he had no medals: he only wears on his jacket the badges of his regiment and of the St. Petersburg Vladimir officer’s academy – this was the lowest rank officer’s academy as compared to the Pavlovsky academy in St. Petersburg and the Alexandrovsky academy in Moscow –, and that his rank is unusually low in comparison to his age and marital status.

If – as the saying goes – the older is he who is closer to death, then we must begin with the son. His portrait was probably made in the same years and in the same photo studio in Orel, which – “Awarded with the highest patronage of Tsar Nicholas II in 1904… Negatives will be preserved” – was founded in 1851 on Volkhovskaya street, in the Levakov house. According to a comment, it worked as a photo studio even four or five years ago. Since then it has been converted into a drugstore, but a memorial plaque on the wall says that the first photo studio in Orel was opened there in 1851. Between 1902 and 1916 it was owned by the titular court photographer Ivan Grigorevich Varenik. Many of his photos, messengers of a lost world, can be found over the Russian web.

A reader from Orel mentions that one of the professors of the Bakhtin cadet school was a passionate photographer as well as the biographer of the school’s students. His negatives were preserved by his granddaughter, who wanted to publish them in an album. The plan has come to naught.

Babs71 has also included here another photo, but the readers point it out that this does not represent the same boy, not only because it was made some fifteen to twenty years earlier, in late 1892 in Warsaw, but also because the person it represents has sergeant’s rank. However, the similarity is really striking. Are they relatives, or did all the students look similar in the cadet school?

But this is indeed the son: his last photo before leaving for the front, and the rest are already on the battlefield. In these latter he proudly shows to the public eye his wristwatch, which was then still a rarity in Russia. The first ones appeared on the European market in 1904, and in the German army they belonged to the equipment of the scouts. Most probably the son also obtained his one as a war booty.

The last photo in a visiting card format was made in 1919, shortly before he fell in the civil war.

And this is his father after the beginning of the Great War.

He is already a captain, and has been awarded the fourth-class St. Vladimir medal. Below the same person at the front.

Returned from the front, together with his wife, on a studio photograph. At the same time was made on his wife, Alexandra Stefanovna the following photo in a postcard format, which also served as an ID card from 19 October 1916 on:

These photos were made perhaps on Easter 1916, when the captain was on leave at home in Orel. This is attested by the following three occasional pictures, on which he takes part together with his daughters on the Easter fund raising in favor of the veterans (the inscription of the flag is: “Дайте увечному на красное яичко!” – “Contribute for red eggs to the disabled persons!”). According to local commentators, such collection was first organized in Orel in 1916, and in 1917 there was no more time for it. This determines the date of the images.

There are also two pictures on his sister, who served at the front as a nurse. One of them was dedicated to their mother on 14 April 1915.

In the other she had herself photographed with a sword in her hand, which is strange because according to military regulation a nurse was forbidden to touch weapons.

In the civil war Gavrishev fought on the side of the Reds, which seems unusual for a former Tsarist officer, but the readers have noted that he had not much choice. Orel, situated only 300 kilometers to the south of Moscow, was always in Red hands – except for a short period between 13 and 20 October 1919, when it was occupied by Denikin’s armies –, and it was customary to use the officers’ families as a hostage to ensure their loyalty to the new regime. According to his stripes he reached the 8th grade in the Red Army, which roughly corresponds to the major or lieutenant colonel rank in the Tsarist army.

Perhaps it indicates the lack of his conviction that after the war he left the army and in the 1920s and 30s he worked as a teacher. Maybe this was also the reason how he could escape the purge launched in the 1930s against the former Tsarist officers.

He died of hunger during the Blockade of 1941-43 in Leningrad.

He was buried in the mass grave number 7 in the Serafimov cemetery.