Free Territory

Free Territory
Free Territory
Вільна територія



"Смерть всім, хто стоїть на перешкоді здобуття вільності трудовому люду!"  (Ukrainian)
"Death to all who stand in the way of freedom for a working people!"
Approximate location of the Free Territory
Capital Huliaipole
Language(s) Ukrainian, Russian
Government N/A (Anarchist Communism)[1]
Political Leader
 - 1918-1921 N/A[2]
Historical era World War I
 - Established 1918
 - Disestablished 1921
 -  est. 7 million 
History of Ukraine
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The Free Territory (Ukrainian: Вільна територія, vilna teritoriia), Russian: свободная территория, svobodnaya territoriya; or Makhnovia (Махновщина, Makhnovshchina) (January 1918 – 1921) was a territory of operation by free soviets and libertarian communes[2] under the protection of the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Nestor Makhno where an attempt was made to form a stateless anarchist[1] society in part of the territory of modern Ukraine during the Ukrainian Revolution. The area of the Free Territory was inhabited by roughly seven million people[3]. After the fall of the Hetman regime in the Ukrainian State the territory was occupied by the Russian forces of Anton Denikin, forming a temporary government of Southern Russia. By 1920 Denikin's forces were eliminated from the territory by the Red Army in cooperation with forces of Nestor Makhno whose units were conducting a guerrilla warfare behind the enemy lines.

As the Free Territory was organised along anarchist lines, references to "control" and "government" are highly contentious. For example, the Makhnovists, often cited as a form of government (with Nestor Makhno being their leader), played a purely military role, with Makhno himself being little more than a well-respected military strategist and advisor.[4]




The military role Makhno had adopted in his early years shifted to an organizing one. The first congress of the Confederation of Anarchists Groups, under the name of Nabat ("The Alarm Drum"), issued five main points: suspension of all political parties, rejection of all dictatorships (mainly those organizing over people), negation of any State concept, rejection of any "transitory period" or "proletarian dictatorship", and advocated the self-management of all workers through free workers' councils (soviets). These were in clear contrast to Bolshevik views.

The color that this anarchist group used to distinguish itself was black (the traditional color of anarchism), as that was what its military was considered - as opposed to Tsarist "Whites" and Bolshevik "Reds."

Development and characteristics

From November 1918 to June 1919, the Makhnovists established an anarchist society run by the peasants and workers in Ukraine. The territory that was under their control was approximately between Berdyansk, Donetsk, Alexandrovsk (now known as Zaporizhia), and Yekaterinoslav (Sicheslav, now Dnipropetrovsk). According to Makhno, "The agricultural majority of these villages was composed of peasants, one would understand at the same both time peasants and workers. They were founded first of all on equality and solidarity of its members. Everyone, men and women, worked together with a perfect conscience that they should work on fields or that they should be used in housework... The work program was established in meetings in which everyone participated. Then they knew exactly what they had to do." (Makhno, Russian Revolution in Ukraine).

According to the leaders of the RIAU, society was reorganized according to anarchist values, which lead Makhnovists to formalize the policy of free communities as the highest form of social justice. Education was organised on Francesc Ferrer's principles, and the economy was based on free exchange between rural and urban communities, from crop and cattle to manufactured products, according to the theories of Peter Kropotkin.

The Makhnovists said they supported "free worker-peasant soviets"[5] and opposed the central government. Makhno called the Bolsheviks dictators and opposed the "Cheka [secret police]... and similar compulsory authoritative and disciplinary institutions" and called for "[f]reedom of speech, press, assembly, unions and the like".[5]

A declaration stated that Makhnovist revolutionaries were forbidden to participate in the Cheka, and all formal militias and police forces including Cheka-like secret police organizations were to be outlawed in Makhnovist territory.[6][7] Historian Heather-Noël Schwartz comments that "Makhno would not countenance organizations that sought to impose political authority, and he accordingly dissolved the Bolshevik revolutionary committees".[8][9] However, the Bolsheviks accused him of having two secret police forces operating under him.[10]


The Bolshevik government in Petrograd initially allied with Makhno and considered allowing an independent area for Makhno's libertarian experiment.[8] With all political parties banned in the Free Territory, the Bolsheviks increasingly saw the Makhnovists as a threat to their power,[11] and restarted a propaganda campaign declaring the Free Territory to be a warlord regime, and eventually broke with it by launching surprise attacks on Makhnovist militias[12] despite the pre-existing alliance between the factions.[13] The Bolshevik press alleged that leaders in the "Free Territory", rather than being elected democratically, were appointed by Makhno's military clique. They claimed that Makhno himself had refused to provide food for Soviet railwaymen and telegraph operators, that the "special section" of the Makhnovist constitution provided for secret executions and torture, that Makhno's forces had raided Red Army convoys for supplies, stolen an armored car from Bryansk when asked to repair it, and that the Nabat group was responsible for deadly acts of terrorism in Russian cities.[14] Such allegations were generally unsubstantiated.[15]

See also


  1. ^ a b Noel-Schwartz, Heather.The Makhnovists & The Russian Revolution - Organization, Peasantry and Anarchism. Archived on Internet Archive. Accessed October 2010.
  2. ^ a b Skirda, Alexandre, Nestor Makhno: Anarchy's Cossack. AK Press, 2004, p. 86
  3. ^ Peter Marshall, Demanding the Impossible, PM Press (2010), p. 473
  4. ^ Skirda, Alexandre, Nestor Makhno: Anarchy's Cossack. AK Press, 2004, p. 34
  5. ^ a b Declaration Of The Revolutionary Insurgent Army Of The Ukraine (Makhnovist). Peter Arshinov, History of the Makhnovist Movement (1918-1921), 1923. Black & Red, 1974
  6. ^ Nestor Makhno--anarchy's Cossack
  7. ^ Declaration Of The Revolutionary Insurgent Army Of The Ukraine (Makhnovist). Peter Arshinov, History of the Makhnovist Movement (1918-1921), 1923. Black & Red, 1974
  8. ^ a b Avrich, Paul. Anarchist Portraits, 1988 Princeton University Press, p. 114, 121[Need quotation to verify]
  9. ^ Schwartz, Heather-Noël (January 7, 1920). "The Makhnovists & The Russian Revolution: Organization, Peasantry, and Anarchism". Archived from the original on January 18, 2008. 
  10. ^ Footman, David. Civil War In Russia Frederick A.Praeger 1961, page 287
  11. ^ Skirda, Alexandre, Nestor Makhno: Anarchy's Cossack. AK Press, 2004, p. 236
  12. ^ Skirda, Alexandre, Nestor Makhno: Anarchy's Cossack. AK Press, 2004, p. 238
  13. ^ Skirda, Alexandre, Nestor Makhno: Anarchy's Cossack. AK Press, 2004, p. 237
  14. ^ 'The Makhno Myth,' International Socialist Review #53, May–June 2007.
  15. ^ Nestor Makhno FAQ. The Nestor Makhno Archive. Accessed October 2010.

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