Nestor Makhno

Nestor Makhno
Nestor Makhno
Free Territory
In office
January 5, 1919 – August 28, 1921
Personal details
Born October 26, 1888
Huliaipole, Russian Empire (present-day Ukraine)
Died July 6, 1934
Paris, France
Nationality Ukrainian
Political party None (Anarchist communism)
Spouse(s) Agafya Kuzmenko
Children Yelena
Occupation Anarcho-communist revolutionary, guerrilla commander, writer, peasant, painter, stagehand
Religion None (Atheist)

Nestor Ivanovych Makhno or simply Daddy Makhno[1] (Ukrainian: Нестор Іванович Махно, Russian: Не́стор Ива́нович Махно́; October 26 [O.S. October 14] 1888 [2] – July 6, 1934) was a Ukrainian anarcho-communist guerrilla leader turned army commander who led an independent anarchist army in Ukraine during the Russian Civil War.

A commander of the peasant Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine, also known as the Anarchist Black Army, Makhno led a guerrilla campaign during the Russian Civil War. He supported the Bolsheviks, the Ukrainian Directory, the Bolsheviks again, and then turned to organizing the Free Territory of Ukraine, an anarchist society. This project was cut short by the consolidation of Bolshevik power. Makhno was described by anarchist theorist Emma Goldman as "an extraordinary figure" leading a revolutionary peasants' movement.[3] He is also credited as the inventor of the tachanka, a horse-drawn platform mounting a heavy machine gun.[4]


Early life

Nestor Makhno in 1909

Nestor Makhno was born into a poor peasant family in Huliaipole, Yekaterinoslav Governorate in the Novorossiya region of the Russian Empire (now Zaporizhia Oblast, Ukraine).[5][6] He was the youngest of five children. Church files show a baptism date of October 27 (November 8), 1888; but Nestor Makhno's parents registered his date of birth as 1889 (in an attempt to postpone conscription).[2]

His father died when he was ten months old. [7] Due to extreme poverty, he had to work as a shepherd at the age of seven.[7] He studied at the Second Huliaipole primary school in winter at the age of eight and worked for local landlords during the summer.[7] He left school at the age of twelve and was employed as a farmhand on the estates of nobles and on the farms of wealthy peasants or kulaks.[7]

At the age of seventeen, he was employed in Huliaipole itself as an apprentice painter, then as a worker in a local iron foundry and ultimately worked as a founder in the same organization.[7] During this time he became involved in revolutionary politics.[7] His involvement was based on his experiences of injustice at work and the terrorism of the Tsarist regime during the 1905 revolution.[7] In 1906, Makhno joined the anarchist organization in Huliaipole.[5] He was arrested in 1906, tried, and acquitted. He was again arrested in 1907, but could not be incriminated, and the charges were dropped.[7] The third arrest came in 1908 when an infiltrator was able to testify against Makhno.[7] In 1910 Makhno was sentenced to death by hanging, but the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and he was sent to Butyrskaya prison in Moscow.[7] In prison he came under the influence of his intellectual cellmate Piotr Arshinov.[7][5][8] He was released from prison after the February Revolution in 1917.[5]

Organizing peasants' movement