A fascinating and little known piece of history from the Bolshevik Revolution,
This review is from: Nestor Makhno--Anarchy's Cossack: The Struggle for Free Soviets in the Ukraine 1917-1921 (Paperback)Nestor Makhno led an Anarchist movement (the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of the Ukraine, aka the Black Army) which controlled much of the Ukraine for a time following the Bolshevik Revolution and fought both the Reds and the Whites for an independent and Anarchist Ukraine. It's a fascinating story, well-written and as far as I can ascertain, historically accurate. In the end, Makhno's forces were betrayed and destroyed by the Red's - a betrayal of the Anarchists by the Communists that would be repeated in the Spanish Civil War. Anyhows, backto this book and the Ukraine: a summation of the story follows:
The Black Army was an anarchist army formed in September 1918 in the Ukraine during the Russian Civil War. Arms and equipment were largely obtained from retreating Austro-Hungarian and German forces. During the Civil War, the Black Army numbered between 15,000 and 110,000 men and was organized on conventional lines, with infantry, cavalry, and artillery units. Makhno's cavalry was considered to be among the best trained and most capable of any of the cavalry units deployed by any side in the Russian Civil War. A primary obstacle to the Ukrainian anarchist army, and one which it never overcame throughout its existence, was a lack of access to industrial manufacturing resources, specifically factories capable of producing large amounts of arms and ammunition. The Black Army was forced to rely on captured supplies from enemy forces, along with food and horses from the local civilian population.
The Black Army enjoyed early successes - by early 1919, the Bolsheviks had withdrawn most Red Army forces from Ukraine after White successes in the south. In July, 1919, 40,000 Red Army troops in the Crimea mutinied, deposed their commanders and many set out to join the Black Army. The mutiny was organized by some of Makhno's anarchist comrades who had remained commanders in the ranks of the Red Army, including Kalashnikov, Dermendzhi, and Budanov; these men also planned the transfer of forces. For the Bolshevik government in Moscow, this defection was a major blow; since almost nothing remained of the Red Army in the southern Ukraine and the Crimea, Bolshevik influence in the area became nonexistent.
In late 1919,Makhno reached an agreement with the Bolsheviks to fight together against the Whites under Deniken, who were advancing towards Moscow. Makhno's attacks on the Whites diverted strength from the attack on Moscow and interrupted Deniken's supply lines - some historians note that if Makhno and the anarchist forces had not won a decisive victory at Peregonovka, blockading General Denikin's lines of supply and denying the White Army supplies of food, ammunition, and artillery reinforcements, the White Army would probably have entered Moscow in December 1919.
After the victories over General Denikin and the White Army, the Bolshevika repudiated its alliance with Makhno, repeatedly attacking concentrations of Black Army troops, ordering Chekist and Red Army reprisals against those believed sympathetic to the anarchists and using their vastly superior forces to steadily reduce areas of Russia under anarchist control. By 1920 Leon Trotsky had resorted to terror tactics, ordering the execution of thousands of Ukrainian villagers and peasants loyal to Makhno's Black Army. Trotsky also intentionally withdrew Red Army troops from their positions on the southern front, allowing Tsarist Cossack forces to overrun the southern Ukraine. At first, Makhno and the Black Army retreated, then counterattacked surprised General Wrangel's White regiments in the southern Ukraine. In late 1920 the Bolsheviks signed a new agreement with Makhno, planning a common military strategy against Wrangel's forces. After pressure by Makhnov over delays, details of the treaty were published.
It soon became clear why the Bolseheviks had resisted the publicizing of the Bolshevik-Makhnovist treaty. On November 26, 1920, less than two weeks after completing their successful offensive against General Wrangel's White Army in the Crimea, Makhno's headquarters staff and several Black Army subordinate commanders arrived at Red Army Southern Front headquarters to participate in a joint planning conference with Red Army commanders. Upon arrival, they were arrested and executed on the spot by a Red Army firing squad; the Makhnovist treaty delegation, still in Kharkov, was also arrested and liquidated. Makhno continued to fight on, but the peasants of Ukraine, dispirited by three years of war, food seizures, reprisals, and outright genocide, no longer flocked to join the Black Army in numbers. Makhno's final Black Army forces were defeated and dispersed in August 1921. With a small number of men, he managed to slip across the Romanian border into exile. Exiles from the makhnovist army formed part of an International brigade during the Spanish Civil War These Ukrainians were part of a company commanded by "Lieutenant Shevchenko" within the Battalion Mickiewicz-Palafox of the XIII International Brigade or Dabrowski Brigade, which crossed the Pyrenees after the fall of Catalonia, and who participated in the resistance movement against the Nazis.
According to the Franco-Bulgarian historian, Frank Mintz, during the Second World War, the Makhnovists reappeared - "Ukrainian guerrilla groups still brandish the black flag inthe fight against the Nazis and the Stalinists."
My recommendation - get the book and read it, it's truely fascinating.And if you enjoy this one, try the following:
The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine
My Disillusionment In RussiaThe Struggle Against the State and Other Essays
Russia's Lost Reformation: Peasants, Millennialism, and Radical Sects in Southern Russia and Ukraine, 1830-1917 (Woodrow Wilson Center Press)
The Ukrainians: Unexpected Nation, Second edition