Nestor Makhno and the Russian Civil War

During the fierce struggle that followed the Russian Revolution, writes David Footman, an intrepid Ukrainian guerilla leader waged war against Whites and Reds alike.

Soon after the October Revolution, civil war broke out in southern Russia which lasted with many fluctuations of fortune until 1921. White and Red armies, German, Austrian and Polish forces, and independent Ukrainian command were all at different times involved.

In these events an important part was played by the Insurgent Revolutionary Army under Nestor Makhno, a peasant by origin, an out-and-out revolutionary of Anarchist views, and a guerilla leader of outstanding ability.

Apart from his influence on the course of the war, his story provides a unique example of an attempt to put Anarchist principles into practice. It also illustrates the problems confronting the Soviet Government in dealing with the Ukrainian peasant; and the measures and methods they employed to solve their problems.

Mr. Leonard Schapiro has well described the Russian Anarchists as a “varied conglomeration of harmless idealists, active terrorists, groups of anarcho-syndicalists, partisans, theorists and some criminal elements.”

The movement had a following in the Southern Ukraine, and when Nestor Makhno, a young peasant turned unskilled labourer, of Gulyai-Polye (a village in the Ekaterinoslav Province), grew interested in politics, he became an Anarchist.

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