Michael Palij, The Anarchism of Nestor Makhno, 1918-1921: An Aspect of the Ukrainian Revolution, 1976.

2. The Partisan Movement

The formation and effective operation of partisan groups was possible because of the residue of military experience and weapons from the war. During the chaotic self-demobilization of the Russian Army,1 soldiers often carried weapons home with them. The peasants expropriated weapons from the Germans at the end of 1918, and from the retreating" Bolshevik and Denikin troops. The rapid changes of government and continual disorder prevented many people, especially returnees from the front, from settling down to peaceful work and almost every village became an arsenal of arms and experienced manpower for the partisan movement.2 This situation was noted by a contemporary Western observer:

The entire population is armed to the teeth with rifles, revolvers, and even armoured cars. There is no lack of ammunitions or of fortifications with trenches and barbed wire. As every male has served in the army, the quality of the armed force at the disposal of the villages is by no means despicable.^

The hetman government, by discharging from the army a large number of young and patriotic Ukrainian officers with combat experience, added to the opposition and created ready cadres of partisan leaders.4

The partisan movement had its roots as far back as spring 1917, during the Central Rada, when groups appeared to keep order in the areas through which the Russian troops from the front were crossing, but it did not develop fully until the hetman period. Local revolts occurred as early as May 1918 and subsequently the entire country became the scene of growing insurrections. The partisans enjoyed the sympathies of the local population, which helped them and provided a well-organized intelligence service that enabled them to strike their adversaries' most vulnerable spots: staff headquarters, ammunition stores, military stables, and lines of communication and transportation. They demoralized the enemy by ambushing smaller military units, committing individual acts of terror, and spreading false rumors. When confronting larger enemy forces, the partisans would call peasants from several villages, who came, both on foot and mounted, carrying sticks and scythes, their number having a frightening impact upon the enemy. The partisans used surprise and hit-and-run tactics. Usually they attacked either at times of poor visibility, in bad weather, in difficult terrain, or in villages. Their main weapons were machine guns and hand grenades.

From the ideological, organizational, and strategic points of view, the partisan movement can be divided into three distinct chronological periods: the first, up to the summer of 1918, though its ideological characteristics carried over through spring 1919; the second, through the end of 1920; and the last, after 1920. During the first period nearly every village and district had an armed group organized by political or military adventurers. As a spontaneous movement, many of its leaders lacked both adequate education and national or ideological consciousness. Each local partisan leader acted independently, recognizing no authority and having no connection with the Ukrainian regular army. The rank and file consisted of a mixture of patriots and adventurers and both they and their leaders were easily misled by the enemy's propaganda.

The second period was marked by a radical change, brought about by the exploitation and terrorism of the police and landlords, the Austro-German punitive expeditions, and by the invading "White" and "Red" Russian forces. In contrast to their previous invasions of 1918 and 1919, when they hardly touched the countryside, the Bolsheviks in 1920 organized special detachments to expropriate food, clothing, and arms from the peasants. In this period the number of partisans substantially increased and movement was better organized, with better leaders, many of whom were regular army officers. Consequently, the struggle was greatly intensified—from April to June 1919 there were 328 uprisings. Thus instead of a "march on Europe," the Bolsheviks had to fight the people for Ukrainian grain.

Although at the end of 1920 the Ukrainian regular army was compelled to retreat, reorganize, and employ guerrilla warfare, the partisans, who now numbered 40,000, intensified their resistance to the Bolshevik occupation.

It was during this third period that the first organized resistance with the ideological platform of the liberation movements was established. According to Soviet sources the peasants hated the Bolsheviks: "Killing Soviet agents, militia men, Red Army soldiers, making attacks upon the Soviet district authorities, railroad depots, destroying food requisition detachments . . . such was the everyday practice of the bandits.' The intensified partisan movement was largely in response to the Bolshevik terror and requisition policy in Ukraine. In 1920 the Bolshevik authorities requisitioned from the peasants 160 million poods of grain, over 6 million poods of meat, 30,000 poods of potatoes, 225 million poods of eggs, about 300,000 poods of fruit, and a large quantity of sugar. Moreover, the Red Army requisitioned separately from the civil authorities, collecting, for example, 25 million poods of grain at the end of 1920.10

The Ukrainian partisan movement suffered from deficiencies of leadership, logistics, and organization. Although the partisans, driven by the enemy's oppressive measures, improved their organization and consolidated local groups into districts, they remained isolated from one another and were never organized into a nationwide force under unified leadership. The Directory made no serious effort either to help the partisan leaders unite the entire movement under one leadership, or to coordinate actions between the army and the partisan groups. It underestimated the importance of the partisans' role in the struggle. General Iurko Tiutiunyk observed: "Nobody, except the Red Russians, paid proper attention to the activities of Hryhor'iv, Zelenyi, Anhel, Sokolovs'kyi, and other partisan leaders."12 Although the Directory appointed I. Malolitko (pseudonym, Satana) in July 1919 to coordinate the partisan groups, he was not known to the partisans nor did he come into contact with them. In September, the Directory appointed Omelian Volokh, one of the military leaders, to head the partisan movement, but after his appointment he played only a negative role. It also established at Kamianets' a Central Ukrainian Partisan Committee consisting of representatives of Socialist parties and organizations, but this body, designed to coordinate and unify partisan organizations, never undertook any serious activities.13

Although almost all the partisans strongly supported the principle of Ukraine's sovereignty and defended it against both the Whites and Reds, their political tactics too often diverged. They could have played a much more positive role in the struggle against the nation's enemies if the Directory had paid more attention to them and given them proper assistance.

The Bolsheviks, on the other hand, appreciated the power of the partisan movement and skillfully maneuvered it to their side, declaring that they were coming into Ukraine to fight a common enemy, the White Russians. Trotsky issued orders to the Red troops: "Ukraine is a country of Ukrainian workers and working peasants. Be aware that our aim is liberation, and not enslavement, of Ukraine.' At the same time, however, the Bolsheviks mercilessly combated the partisans behind their lines. On February 28, 1920, Trotsky issued a secret order concerning military policy in Ukraine:

The liquidation of the professional Ukrainian partisan movement is not only a necessary precondition to the formation of effective [soviet] Ukrainian units, but a question of life and death for the Soviet Ukraine. Military units operating on Ukrainian territory are strictly forbidden to include partisan groups either within their ranks or as separate 'volunteers.' . . . All partisan units should be immediately disarmed, disbanded, and those resisting should be destroyed. 1*>

Thus the Bolsheviks, after the liquidation of other fronts, were able to overpower the partisan groups.

Although Bolshevik influence in Ukraine had been greatly weakened by their brutality during the occupation in early 1918, they took advantage of popular resentment against both the hetman and the Austro-Germans to renew their propaganda among the population. Following withdrawal from Ukraine in March—April 1918, many Bolsheviks remained in the country, hiding in the forests, villages, and cities. This fifth-column movement carried on propaganda and later became the nucleus of the Bolshevik partisans, as indicated in the memoirs of one Communist:

Following the instruction of the Central Revolutionary Committee, we created a military organization. In Kyiv itself two headquarters—one for the town and one for the guberniia [province] —were established. The town headquarters directed about a score of military groups formed from the workers. Instructors were sent from Moscow. These were well trained military men who had recently undergone a special course of instruction. . . . Later we gave up forming detachments of workers and decided to form mainly detachments of peasants. 16

These activities were aided by the "peace delegation" of Khris-tian G. Rakovskii and its military expert, Colonel A. Egorov, in the Soviet consulate in Kyiv. The hetman government took preventive measures, but was held back by German authorities in Kyiv.17

The main base for the formation of the partisan groups was the "Neutral Zone"18 used by the Bolsheviks as a staging area for partisan action in Ukraine. Numerous refugees, driven from Ukraine by German repression, gathered in the buffer strip, especially during the second half of 1918. These partisans and later arrivals were enlisted into the Bolshevik ranks. The largest group, of about three hundred to four hundred men, was the Tarashcha partisans who participated in major insurrections in the districts of Tarashcha, Zvenyhorodka, and Uman', Kyiv province, in June 1918. From these partisan refugees the Bolsheviks formed the so-called "Tarashcha Division" consisting of four infantry regiments and one artillery brigade. After the fall of the hetman government, about eight hundred of the partisans returned to Ukraine; however, the Bolsheviks retained the name Tarashcha Division to increase their appeal to the Ukrainian population. The Neutral Zone also provided agitators and cadres for partisan groups and played a significant role in the Bolshevik war against Ukraine.

Besides the Ukrainian and Bolshevik partisans, there were partisans who, because of chaotic conditions and the power vacuum created by the Revolution and civil war, gained a degree of control over isolated areas and declared themselves independent. They fought everybody, foreign and native, who tried to invade their territory and interfere in their affairs. One such peasant partisan movement in southeastern Ukraine, under the leadership of the anarchist Nestor Makhno, played a significant role in the unification of the Huliai-Pole (Gul'aipole) region. Makhno understood the revolutionary spirit of the masses and was able to put it to effective use against his enemies. His effective struggle against various enemies would not have been possible without substantial support from the local peasants. The phenomenon can be understood only in terms of the socioeconomic problems in the region of the Makhno movement.


1. Field Marshall Ludendorff reported: "Hetman Skoropadsky told me that he never noticed how his corps, which he commanded in the war, dissolved. It simply vanished all at once. This simple story made a tremendous impression on me" (Ludendorff, Own Story, 2:125).

2. Chamberlin, Russian Revolution, 2:226; Kapulovskii, "Organizatsiia vostaniia protiv getmana," p. 98; Pavlo Shandruk, Arms of Valor, p. 75; Kova-levs'kyi, Pry dzherelakh borot'by, p. 500; Vynnychenko, Vidrodzennia natsii 3:71; N. Kryvoruchko, "Likvidatsiia ob'edinenoi bandy Gryzlo, Tsvetkovskogo i Guliai-Gulenko," in Vospominaniia o G. I. Kotovskom, ed. M. P. Belyi, p. 104; N. I. Shtif, Pogromy na Ukraine, p. 3; M. A. Rubach, ed., "K istorii grazhdanskoi voiny na Ukraine," LR, no. 3 (8) (1924), p. 177; Vladimir A. Maevskii, Povstantsy Ukrainy, 1918-1919 gg. (Novi Sad: S. F. Filonov, 1938), p. 39.

3. Voyageur, "A Bird's Eye View of the Ukraine," The New Europe 15 (June 3, 1920): 182; see also A. Valiis'kyi, "Povstanchyi rukh v Ukraini v rokakh 1917-1922," VK, no. 4 (1961), p. 13.

4. Kapustians'kyi, Pokhid ukrains'kykh armii, 1:13—14; Udovychenko, Ukraina u viini za derzhavnist', p. 44; Tsapko, "Partyzany na Skhidnii Ukraini, p. 7;Mykhailo Omelianovych-Pavlenko, Na Ukraini 1917—1918, pp. 86—87.

5. Omelianovych-Pavlenko, Zymovyi pokhid, 2:22—23; Zadoianyi, "Povstans'ka stykhiia," no. 46, p. 15; Roman Gul', "Kievskaia epopeia, noiabr'—dekabr , 1918 g.," ARR 2 (1925): 59; Shelygin, "Partizanskaia bor'ba s getmanshchinoi," p. 65; H. Karpenko, "Selians'kyi rukh na Kyivshchyni za chasiv avstro-hermans'koi okkupatsii ta hat'manshchyny," LR, nos. 1—2 (46—47) (1931), p. 74; M. Vinogradov, "Chermu ia byl svidietelem," p. 12.

6. Valiis'kyi, "Povstanchyi rukh v Ukraini v rokakh," p. 14; Mazepa, Ukraina v ohni, 2:45; Vynnychenko, Vidro dzennia natsii, 3:432—33.

7. Dmytro Solovei, Holhota Ukrainy (Winnipeg: Nakl. Ukrains'koho holosu, 1953), p. 22; Arthur E. Adams, Bolsheviks in the Ukraine, p. 233; Fedenko, Ukrains'kyirukh,p. 185.

8. L. Poltava, "Povstantsi na pivdni Ukrainy v 1920—21 rokakh," VK, no. 3(28) (1967), pp. 32,35.

9. Kryvoruchko, "Likvidatsiia ob'edinennoi bandy Gryzlo," p. 104; see also N. P-a, "Protybol'-shevytski povstannia v Ukraini v 1921 r.," VK, no. 6 (43) (1969), pp. 57—58; P. Liutarevych, "Istoriia odnoho povstannia na Poltavshchyni ta ukrain-s'ke pidpillia v rokakh, 1920—1926," Ukrains'kyizbirnyk, no. 4 (1955), p. 136.

10. Fedenko, Ukrains'kyi rukh, p. 214.

11. Isaak Mazepa, "Zymovyi pokhid i partyzans'kyi rukh na Ukraini v 1919 r.," KD 1936, p. 92; Oleksander Dotsenko, Zymovyi pokhid, pp. CXXVII-CXXVIII; IUrko Tiutiunyk, Zymovyi pokhid 1919—20 rr., 1:72; Zadoianyi, "Povstans'ka stykhiia," no. 46, pp. 14—15.

12. Tiutiunyk, Zymovyi pokhid, 1: 72.

13. Mazepa, Ukraina v ohni, 2:46—47; Tiutiunyk, Zymovyi pokhid, 1:73; Dotsenko, Zymovyi pokhid, pp. CXXVIII, CXL; Panas Fedenko, "Mynulo pivstolittia," SV, no. 220, November 30, 1971; A. Valiis'kyi, "Povstanchyi rukh v Ukraini i otamaniia," SV, no. 54, March 21, 1957.

14. Dotsenko, Zymovyi pokhid, p. CXXXVIII.

15. Tiutiunyk, Zymovyi pokhid, 1: 72.

16. M. Maiorov, Iz istorii revoliutsiinoi borot'by na Ukraini, 1914—1919, p. 86.

17. Denikin, "Getmanstvo i Direktoriia na Ukraine," pp. 149—50.

18. The "Neutral Zone" was established by agreements between the German and Soviet Russian local commanders along the northern boundary of Ukraine. The area varied in width from six to twenty-five miles. In theory it was a no-man's land; in reality, however, both sides constantly trespassed it. This buffer strip was designed to prevent clashes between German and Russian troops. See Aussem, "K istorii povstanchestva na Ukraine," p. 8; Adams, Bolsheviks in the Ukraine, pp. 19—20; Denikin, "Getmanstvo i Direktoriia na Ukraine," pp. 149—50; Vasyl' Prokhoda, Zapysky nepokirlyvoho: Istoriia nastional'noho usvidomlennia, zhyttia i diial'nosty zvychainoho ukraintsia (Toronto: "Porboiem," 1967), 1:269; A. I. Egorov, Razgrom Denika 1919, p. 8.

19. Aussem, "K istorii povstanchestva na Ukraine," p. 8; Istoriia ukrains'koho viis'ka, pp. 431—32; Paladiichuk, "Spohady pro 'Hrebenkivshchynu,'" p. 36; Prokhoda, Zapysky nepokirlyvoho, 1:269—72.