Nestor Makhno was aggressively opposed to all factions that sought to impose their authority over southern Ukraine, battling in succession the forces of the Ukrainian People's Republic, Central Powers, White Army, Red Army, and other smaller forces led by various Ukrainian otamans.
99 Facts About Nestor Makhno
In exile, Nestor Makhno settled in Paris with his wife Halyna and daughter Elena.
Nestor Makhno played an important role in the development of platformism and the debates around the 1926 Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists.
Nestor Makhno died in 1934 in Paris, at the age of 45, from tuberculosis-related causes.
Nestor Makhno was the youngest of five children born to Ivan and Evdokia Mikhnenko, former serfs who had been emancipated in 1861.
When Nestor Makhno was only ten months old, his father died, leaving behind an impoverished family.
Nestor Makhno was briefly fostered by a more well-off peasant couple, but he was unhappy with them and returned to his family of birth.
At only seven years old, the young Nestor Makhno was put to work tending livestock.
Nestor Makhno's brothers worked as farmhands to support the family.
Nestor Makhno quickly alerted an older stable hand "Batko Ivan", who attacked the assailants and led a spontaneous workers' revolt against the landlord.
Nestor Makhno rapidly moved between jobs, focusing most of his work on his mother's land, while occasionally returning to employment to help provide for his brothers.
Nestor Makhno initially distributed propaganda for the Social Democratic Labor Party, before affiliating with his home town's local anarcho-communist group: the Union of Poor Peasants.
Nestor Makhno was initially distrusted by other members of the group, due to his apparent penchant for drinking and getting into fights.
On 26 March 1910 a district court-martial convened in Katerynoslav sentenced Nestor Makhno to be hanged.
Nestor Makhno was then moved to the prison in Luhansk, where family briefly visited him, before being moved again to the prison in Katerynoslav.
Nestor Makhno's frequent boasting in prison earned him the nickname "Modest".
In Butyrka prison Nestor Makhno met the anarcho-communist politician Peter Arshinov, who took the young anarchist under his wing as a student.
Prison did not break his revolutionary zeal, with Nestor Makhno vowing that he would "contribute to the free re-birth of his country".
Nestor Makhno quickly became a leading figure in Huliaipole's revolutionary movement, aiming to sideline any political parties that sought to seize control of the workers' organizations.
Nestor Makhno justified his leadership as only a temporary responsibility.
Nestor Makhno called for the local bourgeoisie to be disarmed and their property expropriated, with all private enterprise to be brought under workers' control.
Nestor Makhno dispatched his brother Savelii to Oleksandrivsk at the head of an armed anarchist detachment to assist the Bolsheviks in retaking the city from the Nationalists.
The city was taken and Nestor Makhno was chosen as the anarchists' representative to the Oleksandrivsk Revolutionary Committee.
Nestor Makhno was elected chairman of a commission, which reviewed the cases of accused counter-revolutionary military prisoners, and oversaw the release of still imprisoned workers and peasants.
Nestor Makhno thereafter returned to Huliaipole, where he organized the town bank's expropriation to fund their revolutionary activities.
Nestor Makhno was personally summoned to the train of Bolshevik Commander Alexander Yegorov, but failed to link up with Yegorov who was in fast retreat.
Unable to return home, Nestor Makhno retreated to Taganrog, where a conference of Huliaipole's exiled anarchists was held.
Nestor Makhno left to rally Russian support for the Ukrainian anarchist cause with plans to retake Huliaipole in July 1918.
On his travels, Nestor Makhno witnessed the newly established Cheka confront, disarm, and kill revolutionary partisans who disobeyed their decrees, causing Nestor Makhno to question whether "institutional revolutionaries" would extinguish the revolution.
Nestor Makhno met the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, who at this time were beginning to turn against the Bolsheviks.
Nestor Makhno discussed Ukraine with the anarcho-communist theorist Peter Kropotkin, who wished Nestor Makhno well.
Satisfied with his time in Moscow and in need of forged identity papers to cross the Ukrainian border, Nestor Makhno applied to the Kremlin.
Yakov Sverdlov immediately arranged for Nestor Makhno to meet Vladimir Lenin.
Nestor Makhno staunchly defended the Ukrainian anarchist movement from charges of "counter-revolution", criticizing the Red Guards for sticking to the railways while peasant partisans fought on the front lines.
Lenin expressed his admiration for Nestor Makhno and admitted his mistakes regarding the revolutionary conditions in Ukraine, where anarchists had already become the predominant revolutionary force.
Armed with a fake passport and disguised as a Ukrainian officer, Nestor Makhno crossed the Ukrainian border in July 1918.
Nestor Makhno learned that the forces occupying Huliaipole had shot, tortured, and arrested many of the town's revolutionaries.
Nestor Makhno himself was forced to take a number of precautions to evade capture.
Nestor Makhno advocated for coordinated attacks on the estates of large landowners, advised against individual acts of terrorism, and forbade anti-semitic pogroms.
In Ternivka, Nestor Makhno revealed himself to the local population and established a peasant detachment to lead attacks against the occupation and Hetmanate government.
In coordination with partisans in Rozhdestvenskoye Nestor Makhno resolved to reoccupy Huliaipole and establish it as a permanent headquarters for the insurgent movement.
Nestor Makhno raided multiple Austrian positions, seizing weapons and money, which led to the insurrection's intensification in the region.
However, when the occupation forces counterattacked, Nestor Makhno was forced evacuate Huliaipole.
Nestor Makhno's detachment withdrew north, where it sought refuge in the Dibrivka forest, neighbouring the village of Velykomykhailivka.
Nestor Makhno, in turn, led a campaign of retributive attacks against the occupation forces and their collaborators, including much of the region's Mennonite population.
Nestor Makhno focused much of his energies on agitating amongst the peasantry, gathering much support in the region through impassioned improptu village speeches against his enemies.
At a regional insurgent conference, Nestor Makhno proposed that they open up a war on four simultaneous fronts against the Hetmanate, Central Powers, Don Cossacks, and nascent White movement.
Nestor Makhno argued that in order to prosecute such a conflict, it would be necessary to reorganize an insurgent army along a federal model, directly answerable to him as commander-in-chief.
On 12 February 1919, Nestor Makhno extricated himself from the front to attend the movement's second regional congress in Huliaipole, where he was elected honorary chairman, having rejected official chairmanship due to the front requiring his attention.
The Bolshevik interference in front-line operations even led to Nestor Makhno arresting a Cheka detachment, which had directly obstructed his command.
Kamenev immediately published an open letter to Nestor Makhno, praising him as an "honest and courageous fighter" in the war against the White movement.
Kamenev sent a telegram to Nestor Makhno, asking him to condemn Hryhoriv or else face a declaration of war.
Nestor Makhno responded to Kamenev's request by reaffirming his commitment to the struggle against the White movement, which he worried would be endangered by opening conflict with Hryhoriv.
Nestor Makhno thus relinquished command of the 7th Ukrainian Soviet Division and declared his intention to wage a guerrilla war against the Whites from the rear.
In early July 1919, Nestor Makhno fell back into Kherson province, where he met with Hryhoriv's green army.
Red Army mutinies became so bad that the Ukrainian Bolshevik leader Nikolai Golubenko even telephoned Nestor Makhno, begging him to subordinate himself again to Bolshevik command, to which Nestor Makhno refused.
The insurgents launched a number of effective attacks behind White lines, with Nestor Makhno himself commanding a cavalry assault against Mykolaivka that resulted in the capture of sorely needed munitions.
The White offensive eventually pushed the insurgents back as far as Uman, the last stronghold of the Ukrainian People's Republic, where Nestor Makhno negotiated a temporary truce with Symon Petliura, in order for wounded insurgents to recuperate on neutral ground before launching a counteroffensive.
Nestor Makhno then led the pursuit of the retreating Whites, decisively routing the enemy forces, leaving only a few hundred survivors.
Nestor Makhno quickly ordered the revolutionary committee be shut down and forbade their activities under penalty of death, telling the Bolshevik officials to "take up a more honest trade".
At a regional congress in Oleksandrivsk, Nestor Makhno presented the Draft Declaration of the Revolutionary Insurgent Army of Ukraine, which called for the establishment of "free soviets" outside of political party control.
Nestor Makhno denounced them as "counter-revolutionaries", causing them to walk out in protest.
Nestor Makhno responded by proposing the workers self-manage the railways and levy payment for their services directly from the customers.
Nestor Makhno refused and the All-Ukrainian Central Executive Committee declared Nestor Makhno to be an outlaw.
Once recovered, Nestor Makhno immediately began to lead a campaign of guerrilla warfare against the Cheka and requisitioning units.
Nestor Makhno implemented a discriminatory policy for dealing with captured Red Army units: commanding officers and political commissars would be immediately shot, while the rank-and-file soldiers would be given the choice to either join the insurgent army or be stripped of their uniforms and sent home.
Nevertheless, Nestor Makhno hoped that victory over the Whites would oblige the Bolsheviks to honor his desire for soviet democracy and civil liberties in Ukraine.
Under the terms of the pact, Nestor Makhno was finally able to seek treatment from the medical corps of the Red Army, with physicians and surgeons seeing to a wound in his ankle, where he had been hit by an expanding bullet.
Nestor Makhno was visited by the Hungarian communist leader Bela Kun, who greeted him as "fighter of the worker and peasant revolution, comrade Batko Makhno" and gave him gifts, including over 100 photographs and postcards depicting the Executive Committee of the Communist International.
Back in his hometown, Nestor Makhno requested three days of rest and recuperation but this was rejected by the Bolshevik command, which ordered the insurgents to continue their offensive, under penalty of their alliance being nullified.
Nestor Makhno turned his attention towards reconstructing his vision of anarcho-communism, overseeing the reestablishment of the local soviet and a number of other anarchist projects.
Nestor Makhno had hoped that simply defeating a few Red divisions would halt the offensive, but found himself having to change tactics in the face of his encirclement by overwhelming numbers, consequently splitting up his contingent into a number of smaller detachments and sending them in different directions.
Nestor Makhno led his detachment to the Galician border, before suddenly swinging around and heading back across the Dnieper.
Nestor Makhno was unable to withdraw from the front and tend to his injuries, as his sotnia repeatedly came under attack by the Red Army.
The subsequent pursuit of Nestor Makhno lasted five days and covered 520 kilometers, causing his sotnia heavy losses and almost running them out of ammo, before they were finally able to shake the armored detachment off their trail.
Nestor Makhno continued to execute raids in the Don river basin despite having suffered several wounds.
Nestor Makhno came into contact with the exiled Ukrainian nationalists around Symon Petliura, themselves allies of both Romania and Poland.
Nestor Makhno subsequently attempted to secure permission to move on to Czechoslovakia or Germany, but the Polish government refused.
In prison, Nestor Makhno drafted his first memoir, which Peter Arshinov published in 1923 in his Berlin-based newspaper Anarkhicheskii vestnik.
Nestor Makhno sent open letters to exiled Don Cossacks and the Ukrainian Communist Party, and began to learn German and Esperanto.
Unable to secure a visa to travel to Germany and facing a severe strain on his marriage with Halyna, Nestor Makhno attempted suicide in April 1924 and was hospitalized by his injuries.
Nestor Makhno found work at a local foundry and a Renault factory, but was forced to leave both jobs due to his health problems.
Nestor Makhno advised his family to move out to prevent them from contracting tuberculosis.
Between his debilitating illness, homesickness and a strong language barrier, Nestor Makhno fell into a deep depression.
Nestor Makhno collaborated with exiled Russian anarchists to establish the bimonthly libertarian communist journal Delo Truda, in which Makhno published an article in each issue over three years.
In June 1926, during a meal with Alexander Berkman and May Picqueray in a Russian restaurant, Nestor Makhno met with the Ukrainian Jewish anarchist Sholem Schwarzbard, who went pale upon seeing the Ukrainian nationalist leader Symon Petliura walk into the room.
Nestor Makhno attempted to dissuade him but the deed was carried out anyway, with Schwarzbard's subsequent trial bringing to light a trove of documentary evidence on the pogroms in Ukraine, exonerating the assassin.
Allegations of antisemitism were later disputed by historians and some of Nestor Makhno's biographers, including Paul Avrich, Peter Kenez, Michael Malet and Alexandre Skirda.
Nestor Makhno's wife grew to resent him, causing the couple to separate on multiple occasions, with Halyna even unsuccessfully attempting to apply for permission to return to Soviet Ukraine.
Nestor Makhno came into a serious personal and political conflict with Volin, which would last until their deaths, resulting in the later volumes of Makhno's memoirs only being published posthumously.
Nestor Makhno was particularly impressed by the revolutionary traditions of the Spanish working classes and the tight organization of the Spanish anarchists, declaring that if a revolution broke out in Spain before he died, then he would join the fight.
In great pain, increasingly isolated and financially precarious, Nestor Makhno got odd jobs as an interior decorator and shoemaker.
Nestor Makhno was supported by the income of his wife, who worked as a cleaner, and in April 1929, May Picqueray and other French anarchists established a "Makhno Solidarity Committee" to raise funds.
Nestor Makhno spent most of this money on his daughter, neglecting his own self-care, which contributed further to his declining health.
Nestor Makhno spent his last years writing criticisms of the Bolsheviks and encouraging other anarchists to learn from the mistakes of the Ukrainian experience.
Nestor Makhno was cremated three days after his death, with five hundred people attending his funeral at the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
Nestor Makhno is a local hero in his hometown of Huliaipole, where a statue of the Bat'ko stands in its main town square.
Nestor Makhno reprised his role in the 1926 sequel Savur-Mohyla and returned to crime by using the name "Makhno" as a pseudonym.
The 2005 Nine Lives of Nestor Makhno was a Russian biographical miniseries about Nestor Makhno's life.