Odessa State University of Internal Affairs
Petro Mohyla Black Sea National University (Mykolayiv)
The paper is devoted to secret activities of the Italian revolutionaries who fled
to the USSR in 1921–1925 and united in Odessa as the «Group of Italian Political
Emigrants» and the local cell of the «International Organization for the Support
of Revolutionary Fighters» (MODR). The Soviet intelligence service and the Comintern,
counting on the revolutionary potential of the Italians in the «red years»
(1919–1920), considered Italy to be the stronghold of the world revolution. The
leaders for that revolution were trained not only in Moscow, but also in Odessa.
A group of Italians who had fled from the persecution of the fascists lived in the
latter city. This groups of former members of the Communist Party of Italy, the
«left wing» of the Italian Socialist Party and anarchist federations was forced to
cooperate with the Comintern, the MODR, the State Political Authority (DPU)
and other Soviet institutions.
Based on a tragic examples of eight Italians who lived in Odessa during the
1920s, the paper describes the methods of Soviet intelligence for establishing the
net of agents in West European countries, surveillance of «suspicious» foreigners
and the spying for Italian consulate in Odessa. Italian political emigrants were
used for recruitment. This was considered a sort of «communist treatment» for
Italian sailors from commercial cargos in the port of Odessa, viewed as potential
agents of the «world revolution». This recruitment was performed under the
banners of «The International Sailor Club» (or «The Karl Marx Club for Foreign
Sailors»), or the «International Union of Sailors and Dockers».
In 1923–1924, agitated Italian political emigrants on behalf of those organizations.
However, in 1924 they were arrested and imprisoned for one year. After
release they were suspected of «counter-revolutionary sentiments» and contacts
with the anarchist underground in Odessa and Dnepropetrovsk. In 1928, E. Gherbovaz
and D. Serpo were again arrested in Odessa on a fabricated charge of espionage
— disclosure of intelligence on recruitment of Italian sailors to the Italian
consul. Subsequently they spent many years in camps.
In 1927, another Italian political emigrant Miro Avlich was arrested for spying
for the Italian consul in Odessa. During 1922–1925 he worked on Soviet commercial
ships and «on a part-time basis» reported to the DPU.
Italian political emigrants, brothers Antonio and Amadeo Buticchi, also cooperated
with the DPU. They started working in «the contraband detection». In
1925 Antonio became a «secret agent» and was sent to Sverdlovsk. Later in Odessa,
he spied after the Italian consulate. Amadeo Buticchi, «with the permission
of Moscow», returned to Italy. He officially deported from the USSR to conceal
his cooperation with the DPU.
In 1923, anarchist political emigrants G. Bucciarelli, L. Evangelisti, R. Cavani
arrived at Odessa. In 1927, L. Evangelisti and R. Cavani managed to illegally
escape the USSR, as it was claimed by the DPU, with the help of West European
sailors, and possibly with the support of the DPU itself. R. Cavani returned to
Italy and twice attempted to kill dictator B. Mussolini. He took part in organizing
a revolution in Spain. In 1936–1938 R. Cavani and L. Evangelisti fought in
the Spanish Republican Army. G. Bucciarelli was arrested in 1933 «for anarchist
propaganda» and in 1937 «for counter-revolutionary activity».
Thus, the Italian political emigrants in the USSR became political hostages,
many of them as agents of the Comintern’s «world revolution» and the DPU.
In the 1930s their fate was mostly tragic — they were sent to GULAG camps or
sentenced to death.
Keywords: DPU, Comintern, «International Organization for the Support of
Revolutionary Fighters», Communist Party of Italy, Odessa, political emigrants,