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Historical References in a Song "Makhno" by Mongol Shuudan

Mongol Shuudan in St. Petersburg, May 2015. Photo by Alexey Komarov

Mongol Shuudan in St. Petersburg, May 2015. Photo by Alexey Komarov

Music takes a special place in every person's life and is the art of arranging sound to create some combination of form, harmony, melody, rhythm, or other expressive content. It is more pleasant to relax and easier to work with music. Besides, music is the best language in the world, understood everywhere. It is a great way to get to know the culture of other people and countries. Also, we can perceive those who have been gone for a long time and find out how they lived and what worried them through music.

One of the most common forms of musical composition is a song—a short piece of music, usually with lyrics on various topics. And history is a pretty common topic. Many musicians dedicate their songs to some historical events or personalities.

An example of such musicians is the Russian anarcho-punk-rock band Mongol Shuudan (Russian: Монгол Шуудан), which shows the correlation between society, people, and authority through the glass of the Russian Civil War (1917–1922), considering its participants and events as the characters and environments of their songs. The lyrics of the song called Makhno, for instance, contain many references to the history of Russia and Ukraine. And the music, both dark and groovy, will help you feel the vibe of the time of the Russian Civil War.

In times of peace and tranquility, listening to such music could probably lead to a romantic attitude towards those events. But today, when the situation in the world is quite similar to what it was at the beginning of the 20th century, and in Ukraine, again are sounds of explosions and machine guns fire, the events of a hundred years ago are perceived more realistically.

Mongol Shuudan—Makhno (English translation)

Foot in the stirrup—one! Saber up—two!

Aim for the mug—three! Just shoot him down!

And then swing the golden saber,

Just hack, and then you are a hero!

Do not feel sorry for an enemy—he is not your kin.

Just shoot him down, and then you are a hero!


Makhno sold out to Lenin

And went to make a bed for him.

Makhno sold out, but I'm not happy.

I fired four bullets in a row at him.


The bullet is a fool—it's not a problem. And a belly-length beard,

And lampasses are wide. Brother, take care of your head!

Eeee, black flag!

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We, a little red one, will make a pie out of you.

Mama, fill the grenades with gunpowder.

You will send a soldier to war in the morning.


Makhno sold out to Lenin

And went to make a bed for him.

Makhno sold out, but I'm not happy.

I fired four bullets in a row at him.


Marusya says to me: "I am fierce!

You, dude, take it!" Well, here she is, mine!

I do not know who kindled the flame.

Eeee, black flag!


Makhno sold out to Lenin

And went to make a bed for him.

Makhno sold out, but I'm not happy.

I fired four bullets in a row at him!

I fired four bullets in a row at him!

I fired four bullets in a row at him!

You can find the original lyrics here https://genius.com/Mongol-shuudan-makhno-lyrics

The Title of The Song

The title of the song is the last name of Nestor Ivanovych Makhno (Ukrainian: Нестор Іванович Махно; November 7, [October 26, Old Style], 1888 – July 25, 1934), commonly known as Bat'ko Makhno (Ukrainian: батько Махно — Father Makhno), who was a Ukrainian anarchist leader and the commander of the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine (Ukrainian: Революційна Повстанська Армія України), also known as the Black Army, during the Russian Civil War.

One can hardly find a more controversial and mysterious figure of the Civil War in Ukraine than Nestor Makhno. Soviet historiography, literature, and cinema, with rare exceptions, depicted him as the leader of bandits who robbed and killed civilians. Modern publications, on the contrary, portray Makhno as a hero, which is also incorrect. Actual historical figures are entirely different from the characters in fiction, whom the authors paint in black and white. And the life story of Nestor Makhno is also interesting because it tells better than any textbook what anarchism was in practice.

Nestor Makhno in 1919

Nestor Makhno in 1919

Nestor Makhno was born into a poor peasant family in Huliaipole, Yekaterinoslav Governorate of the Russian Empire (now Zaporizhzhia Oblast, Ukraine). He joined revolutionary activities around 1906 but rose to prominence in 1917.

On February 23 (March 8, New Style), 1917, the February Revolution began in Petrograd (present-day Saint Petersburg), the then-capital of Russia. As a result, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated, and the Provisional Government, made up primarily of representatives of the liberal parties, took charge. But it was very unpopular and therefore shared the dual power with the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies. Soviets (Russian: советы; councils) were collective representative bodies of people's power elected by the population for a certain period. At the beginning of the Revolution, the Socialist Revolutionary Party (the SRs) and the Mensheviks dominated the Soviets, but, gradually, the Bolsheviks became prevailing, who demanded, "All Power to the Soviets."

Most of the modern territory of Ukraine was then part of the Russian Empire, and events there developed in line with the all-Russian Revolution. The Provisional Government was considered the highest authority, but, as in the rest of the territory of the former Russian Empire, the Soviets held actual power on the ground. But in Ukraine, a third political force appeared — The Central Council of Ukraine (also called the Tsentralna Rada or the Central Rada), founded in Kyiv on March 4 (March 17, New Style). Its creators defined the task of the Central Rada as the coordination of the national movement.

After the February Revolution, Makhno got out of prison, where he served his life sentence for the murder of an official of the military administration back in 1908. Soon he returned to Huliaipole and quickly became a leading figure in Huliaipole's revolutionary movement. In the same period, Makhno also headed a local anarchist group, formed armed detachments, and confiscated land from landowners, dividing it among the peasants. In addition, Makhno led the work of the local labor union.

On October 25 (November 7, New Style), 1917, a Bolshevik armed uprising, known as the October Revolution, took place in Petrograd. As a result, the Council of People's Commissars (the Bolshevik government in Petrograd, commonly known as the Sovnarkom) replaced the overthrown Provisional Government. After that, a conflict arose between the Ukrainian Central Rada and the Sovnarkom. Makhno supported the Bolsheviks in that conflict.

In December 1917, in Kharkiv, the Ukrainian Soviet government, the People's Secretariat of Ukraine, was elected, which assumed full power in Ukraine, and deprived the Central Rada of its authority. Then, in early January 1918, the Sovnarkom and the People's Secretariat of Ukraine decided on a joint armed offensive against the troops of the Central Rada. By this time, the Kharkiv and Yekaterinoslav provinces were already under the Bolsheviks. On February 9, the Soviet forces took Kyiv, but the day before, the Central Rada and the remnants of its military left the city and went to Zhytomyr.

Meanwhile, on February 9, 1918, in Brest-Litovsk, the German and Austro-Hungarian delegations signed a separate peace treaty with the Rada's emissaries. Soon after that, German and Austro-Hungarian troops entered the territory of Ukraine since the Central Rada asked for help in the fight against Soviet forces. Neither the Bolsheviks nor the Anarchists could offer serious resistance to the regular units, so by the end of April, the German and Austro-Hungarian armies took control of the whole country.

However, the Central Rada was in a deep political crisis after returning, and soon the Germans and Austro-Hungarians found out the futility of cooperation with it. Then the Rada was abolished due to the coup d'etat of Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky, supported by the occupation forces.

On March 3, 1918, the Central Powers signed a peace treaty with Soviet Russia. The Russian side pledged to immediately make peace with Ukraine, accept the treaty between the Central Powers and Ukraine, and withdraw their forces from the country.

The unit of Nestor Makhno retreated, like other Ukrainian revolutionary units, to Taganrog in Rostov Oblast of Russia. Makhno, however, was going to return to Ukraine to fight the invaders. But before, he decided to travel through the cities of Soviet Russia to learn about ​​the state of the anarchist movement and possibly find some support. Also, Makhno met in Moscow with the Bolshevik leaders: Vladimir Lenin and Yakov Sverdlov.

In July 1918, Makhno returned to the Ukraine territory occupied by Austro-German troops and reappeared in Huliaipole, where he joined the partisan unit. After the very first successful military operation against the German forces, Makhno was elected commander. In the fall of 1918, he was, in fact, already the leader of the insurgent movement not only in the Huliaipole region but throughout the Yekaterinoslav province.

The November 1918 revolution led the Central Powers to defeat in the First World War, and the command of the Austro-German forces sought to withdraw their units from Ukraine as soon as possible. Soviet Russia, in turn, annulled the Brest-Litovsk Treaty.

Hetman Skoropadsky, having lost his allies, found himself in a precarious position. On November 13, 1918, Skoropadky's opponents formed a rival government known as the Directorate, which began an armed power struggle. After a month, the Directorate's troops took Kyiv and overthrew Skoropadsky's regime.

Soon after that, on November 28, 1918, in Kursk, the Bolsheviks created The Provisional Workers-Peasants Government of Ukraine, which became the highest legislative, executive and administrative body of Soviet power in Ukraine. Thus, once again, there was a situation of Ukrainian dual power.

Nestor Makhno among the rebels. In the foreground Petrov, Gorev, Makhno, and Shchus. 1919

Nestor Makhno among the rebels. In the foreground Petrov, Gorev, Makhno, and Shchus. 1919

Makhno at first took a wait-and-see attitude during those days. However, after the Directorate's units intensified hostilities, threatening Makhno, he accepted the proposal of the Bolsheviks on joint armed operations against the Directorate's forces. From February 1919, the Insurgent forces under the command of Nestor Makhno, numbering up to 50 thousand people while maintaining internal autonomy, integrated into the Ukrainian Soviet Army as the 3rd Trans-Dnieper Brigade. Soon, units of the Ukrainian Soviet Army, jointly with the Makhnovists, launched an offensive. And by May 1919, the Soviet forces controlled almost the entire territory of Ukraine within the borders of the former Russian Empire.

On May 17, 1919, the Armed Forces of South Russia (AFSR or SRAF), under the command of Anton Denikin, launched an attack on the Donbas. After the AFSR inflicted heavy defeats on the armies of the Southern Front of the Red Army, Denikin set his troops on the task of capturing Moscow.

The 3rd Trans-Dnieper Brigade, under the command of Makhno, fought against Denikin's troops on the Southern Front and suffered heavy losses. In June 1919, After the Whites occupied the Donbas, Lev Trotsky, the chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council, outlawed Makhno for the collapse of the front and disobedience to command.

After the break with the Bolsheviks, Makhno continued resistance to Denikin's troops. When Denikin launched an offensive on Moscow in the summer of 1919, Makhno began a large-scale guerrilla war behind the Denikin lines and again called on the peasant rebels to ally with the Reds. According to Denikin, Makhno's partisan actions behind the lines significantly influenced the course of the war and helped the Reds repulse Denikin's attack on Moscow.

In the fall of 1919, when the Whites collapsed and retreated, Makhno organized an autonomous peasant republic with its center in Yekaterinoslav, behind the lines of Denikin's troops. Initially, rebels greeted the advancing Reds friendly and often went over to their side, but the relations soured then.

On January 9, 1920, the All-Ukrainian Revolutionary Committee outlawed Makhno and his group as deserters and traitors. Then, wanting to exploit the quarrel between the Makhnovists and the Bolsheviks, the White Army commanding general, Pyotr Wrangel, in the summer of 1920, proposed an alliance against the Bolsheviks to Makhno, promising to carry out broad land reform in case of victory. However, Makhno refused the offer and publicly executed Wrangel's envoy in Huliaipole. When the Bolsheviks, in turn, again offered Makhno a military alliance against Wrangel in the fall of 1920, Makhno again agreed.

The Makhnovists took part in the battles for Crimea. The Red Army command ordered the Makhnovists to relocate to the South Caucasus shortly after the fall of the White Crimea. Considering this order a trap, Makhno refused to obey. The Bolsheviks answered with a military operation to eliminate partisanship.

As a result of numerous clashes with the Red Army's superior forces, at the end of the summer of 1921, the remnants of the Makhnovist detachments were pressed to the Romanian border. On August 28, 1921, a unit of 78 people led by Makhno, with his wife and closest comrades, crossed the border with Romania. Makhno was shell-shocked, wounded by 12 bullets, and had a broken leg. The Romanians immediately interned the Makhnovists.

In April 1922, Makhno, with his wife and 17 other comrades, despite the Bolshevik's demands for Makhno's extradition, fled to Poland with the help of local authorities, who were not interested in pandering to the Bolsheviks nor in conflict with them. So Makhno ended up in a Polish internment camp.

In the Polish politics of the 1920s, Makhno was of interest to many. Ukrainian nationalists offered him to organize a common front of emigrants against the communists, but Makhno did not even want to talk to them. He also rejected proposals from the Polish communists.

On September 25, 1923, the Polish police arrested Makhno with his wife and comrades. Soon they were brought to trial on charges of preparing an uprising in Eastern Galicia to annex it to Soviet Ukraine but were acquitted. In 1924, with the help of Russian anarchist emigrants, Makhno obtained permission to leave for Germany, from where he later moved to Paris.

Nestor Makhno with his daughter Elena shortly before his death

Nestor Makhno with his daughter Elena shortly before his death

Makhno settled in Vincennes, a suburb of Paris. He worked part-time as a joiner, carpenter, and even weaving slippers. Local anarchist organizations also assisted him. In the last years of his life, Makhno actively participated in the life of European anarchist associations, published individual essays in the anarchist journal Delo Truda, and with the help of a prominent figure in Russian anarchism, publicist Maria Goldsmith, he prepared memoirs.

On July 6 (according to other sources, July 25), 1934, Nestor Makhno, at 45, died in a Paris hospital from bone tuberculosis. The urn with his ashes was buried in the columbarium of the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, in cell number 6685.

You can find more detailed information about Nestor Makhno on the dedicated to him global multilingual portal, The Nestor Makhno Archive.

Poster of the Reds during the Russian Civil War

Poster of the Reds during the Russian Civil War

The 1st Verse

Foot in the stirrup — one! Saber up - two!

Aim for the mug — three! Just shoot him down!

And then swing the golden saber,

Just hack, and then you are a hero!

Do not feel sorry for an enemy — he is not your kin.

Just shoot him down, and then you are a hero!

Apparently, in the beginning, we see a cavalry charge description. And the widespread use of cavalry was one of some features of the Russian Civil War. Worth noting that many of the participants in the Civil War had previously fought in the First World War, characterized by trench warfare when troops occupied fortification lines comprising mostly military trenches. The defense acquired such a deeply echeloned structure that no one thought about breaking through it with cavalry.

The Russian Civil War turned out to be completely different. Positional battles were irregular, the front was never continuous, and the density of fire was relatively low. In such conditions, the cavalry acquired decisive importance. All the belligerents began to create large cavalry formations capable of autonomously operating on the rear communications of the enemy, disrupting his control and supply system and even capturing large settlements, facilitating a breakthrough for infantry with their actions.

The following line, "Do not feel sorry for an enemy — he is not your kin," likely expresses another feature of the Civil War. Namely, there was the extreme mutual hatred of the belligerents. In addition, it often turned out that members of the same family ended up on opposite sides. Brother fought brother, and son fought father. Such mess could happen either because of a random combination of circumstances or because ideas were often appreciated more than family ties.

Vladimir Lenin in Moscow on May 25, 1919

Vladimir Lenin in Moscow on May 25, 1919

Chorus

Makhno sold out to Lenin

And went to make the bed for him.

Makhno sold out, but I'm not happy.

I fired four bullets in a row at him.

In the chorus, we see the line, "Makhno sold out to Lenin." Vladimir Lenin was a Russian revolutionary, Marxist theorist, founder of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (Bolsheviks), the first and founding head of government of Soviet Russia, and, later, the Soviet Union.

It is worth noting that these words cause resentment among some fans of the Mongol Shuudan band because Nestor Makhno never sold out to anyone. And this seems to be true since there is enough evidence of how indifferent Makhno was to material goods, which for him were just a means of struggle.

However, it is worth remembering that Makhno collaborated with the Bolsheviks, which sometimes caused discontent among other anarchists, who also criticized Makhno's policies, accusing him of leading a political party seeking to seize power.

Some researchers, speaking of Makhno's hesitation between anarchism and Bolshevism during the Civil War, suggest the idea that he could well have become a Bolshevik. Makhno himself said that he is, first of all, a revolutionary, and only then an anarchist.

For example, when the left SRs and anarchists regarded the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk as a betrayal of the Revolution by the Bolsheviks, Makhno considered it one of the cleverest tactical maneuvers. He also agreed with Lenin that it was impossible to fight the enemies of the Revolution without an organization of the masses and a firm discipline. However, with all the fluctuations between Bolshevism and anarchism, Makhno always took the side of anarchism.

Nevertheless, although Makhno did have conflicts with other anarchists, open clashes with the use of weapons never came to pass. So, the words, "I shot him four bullets in a row," should be considered an author's hyperbole.

Kolchak's poster during the Russian Civil War.

Kolchak's poster during the Russian Civil War.

The 2nd Verse

The bullet is a fool—it's not a problem. And a belly-length beard,

And lampasses are wide. Brother, take care of your head!

Eeee, black flag!

We, a little red one, will make a pie out of you.

Mama, fill the grenades with gunpowder.

You will send a soldier to war in the morning.

"The bullet is a fool—the bayonet is a fine chap. (Russian: Пуля дура, штык молодец.)" This phrase is a quote from the manual for combat training of troops by the famous Russian commander A.V. Suvorov, published in 1806 under the title Science of Victory. Also, other translations of this phrase exist, for example, "The bullet is a mad thing; only the bayonet knows what it is about."

But this phrase has been taken out of context. In the second part of the manual, called Verbal Instruction to Soldiers on the Knowledge Necessary for them, we find the following words: "Save a bullet for three days, and sometimes for a whole campaign, when there is nowhere to get it! Shoot rarely but accurately; stab firmly with a bayonet. The bullet will make a slip, but the bayonet will not make a slip. The bullet is a fool — the bayonet is a fine chap."

As we can see from the context, Suvorov urged the soldiers to save bullets and not be afraid to rely on the bayonet if necessary. The phrase is often used ironically today as a symbol of military conservatism, arrogance, and neglect of modern military technologies.

However, we have only part of the quote in the lyrics: "The bullet is a fool." And then the adding: "It's not a problem." In this form, it may mean that if you have missed with a gun—it doesn't matter since you will get a foe with a saber.

The following is probably a description of those foes, although one can only guess who specifically the author had in mind. A long beard, for instance, was characteristic of the clergy, who mostly supported the Whites. And lampasses may refer to the Cossacks.

Lampasse is a trouser stripe along the side of the seam, from top to bottom, different from the color of the trousers. In Russia, during the Civil War, mainly the Cossacks were wearing lampasses. The Cossacks, in brief, are representatives of a specific ethnic-social community formed within the framework of a particular service class. They were semi-nomadic, semi-militarized people who settled in various frontier areas under the nominal suzerainty of different states, mainly in Eastern Europe. The Cossacks were allowed a great degree of self-governance in exchange for military service. Also, they have played a significant role in Ukrainian and Russian history and culture. Currently, the Cossacks live primarily in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. There are also Cossack diasporas abroad (formed since the days of the Civil War).

During the Civil War, the Cossacks fought for both sides, yet, more for the Whites. In the report of the Cossack department of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, at the end of 1919, there was a conclusion that the Red Cossacks made up 20% of the total. And from 70 to 80% of the Cossacks, for various reasons, were on the side of the Whites.

Another interesting allusion is in words: "Mama, fill the grenades with gunpowder." Here we are undoubtedly talking about making improvised explosive devices used actively during the Civil War. And not only homemade grenades usual then. During the Civil War, there was a perceptible shortage of essential resources, which led to the need for homemade weapons of all types. In particular, it was an attribute of various partisan detachments.

Most of the partisan weapons were homemade. They used improvised firearms and cannons, spears from bayonets, and sabers from scythes, but one of the most original inventions was a ratchet, which served to imitate a machine gun. The noise from them was very reminiscent of machine-gun fire. As a rule, there were no attempts to come closer and check what was knocking there. Rattles appeared from similar devices of Siberian hunters for rounding up the beast. One of the first mentions of such rattles was in the report on the actions of kulak gangs on the border with the insurgent Izhevsk-Votkinsk region. Also, the rebellious Cossacks on the Don had similar rattles.

Cannons were another common type of homemade weapon. It could vary from simple pipes loaded with gunpowder and scrap metal to more complex products. During the years of Japanese intervention, Siberian and Far Eastern partisans even made cannons from wood. They cut down larch, burned its core, and upholstered it with iron hoops. Partisans loaded such cannons with gunpowder sewn into bags and used scrap metal instead of shells. The effect of such weapons was rather psychological. Imagine the enemy's astonishment when they heard the rumble of cannons in the middle of the woods!

Maria Nikiforova. Photo of the investigation file, 1909

Maria Nikiforova. Photo of the investigation file, 1909

The 3rd Verse

Marusya says to me: "I am fierce!

You, dude, take it!" Well, here she is, mine!

I do not know who kindled the flame.

Eeee, black flag!

The third verse introduces some Marusya (one of the many Slavic diminutives for Maria). Who could hide under this nickname? It is worth noting that many women occupied a prominent place in the anarchist movement. And during the Civil War, several Marusyas operated in Ukraine. However, the most famous was an anarchist partisan leader, Maria Nikiforova.

Maria Grigorievna Nikiforova (Ukrainian: Марія Григорівна Нікіфорова; Russian: Мария Григорьевна Никифорова; 1885–1919), was born in 1885 (according to other sources—in 1886 or 1887) in the city of Oleksandrivsk (present-day Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine). She joined revolutionary work at the age of 16–18. Nikiforova became involved in a campaign of motiveless terror, during which she staged several bombings and expropriation missions, including armed robberies.

In 1907, she was arrested in Kherson and eventually sent to Siberia to serve her sentence. There Maria escaped and, one way or another got to Europe. There Nikiforova, living under false documents, and moving from country to country, participated in the work of various anarchist organizations and, according to some sources, attended a school for artists.

The outbreak of the 1917 Revolution in Russia convinced her to return home. After participating in some revolutionary events in Petrograd and Kronstadt, Nikiforova returned to her native Oleksandrivsk in July 1917.

There she joined the local Anarchist Federation and soon became its informal leader. At that time, she met Nestor Makhno, who led anarchists in Huliaipole, no more than a hundred miles from Oleksandrivsk. Despite the differences in the interpretation of the anarchist doctrine, they became allies.

In the fall of 1917, Marusya formed the Aleksandrovsk Black Guard. After the October Revolution, Nikiforova allied with the Bolsheviks, probably to equip her unit at the expense of the Bolsheviks. At the end of 1917, Marusya, with her detachment, assisted the Bolsheviks in establishing Soviet power in Kharkiv and Yekaterinoslav (modern Dnipro).

Then, in early January 1918, Nikiforova and her unit participated in an armed coup organized by the Bolsheviks and anarchists. After that, Nikiforova became the deputy chairman of the newly formed Revolutionary Committee (Revcom).

The Marusya's participation in establishing Soviet power in three large cities of Ukraine seemed to endear the Bolsheviks to confidence. Her popularity increased dramatically. Nikiforova became the only female commander of a significant revolutionary unit in Ukraine. At this point, Marusya became a player on the national stage rather than just a local figure.

Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko in 1919

Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko in 1919

She also established a trusting relationship with the commander of the Soviet forces in Ukraine, Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, whom she met while living back in Paris.

In January 1918, Antonov-Ovseenko appointed Nikiforova the commander of the formation of cavalry detachments in the Steppe Ukraine, allocating significant funds for her needs, which allowed Marusya to organize the so-called Free Combat Druzhina.

Traveling in echelon formations, the decently equipped Druzhina successfully acted against the forces of the White movement and the Ukrainian Central Rada and participated in establishing Soviet power in Crimea. While the core of the group was personally loyal to Nikiforova, including several experienced veterans of the Black Sea Fleet, the more extensive section around them participated in the unit on a more temporary basis.

However, as soon as the Red and Black Guards collided with the advancing German and Austro-Hungarian armies, after the signing of the separate peace treaty between the Ukrainian Central Rada and the Central Powers, all hopes for a successful revolutionary war came to an end. The long retreat to the east began. The treaty that followed, signed by the Bolsheviks in Brest-Litovsk, Marusya, like many other anarchists, considered a direct betrayal of the Revolution and began to act more independently of the command of the Red Army.

During the retreat, she began to impose a significant indemnity on landowners, entrepreneurs, and other persons who, in her understanding, fall under the concept of the bourgeois. In addition, conflicts with local authorities, including Soviet ones, became commonplace. As a result, the Bolsheviks arrested Nikiforova for her unauthorized actions upon her arrival in Taganrog. However, due to the support of the anarchists and Left SRs, along with Antonov-Ovseyenko and several other Red Guard commanders, the Court of Revolutionary Honor acquitted Marusya.

After the failure of the defense of Taganrog, the Bolsheviks and anarchists, including Marusya, retreated to Rostov-on-Don. There, as well as in neighboring Novocherkassk, dozens of anarchist detachments from all over Ukraine have accumulated. The collection of indemnities from the bourgeoisie, which had already become customary, took place in Rostov, accompanied by robberies, searches, and arrests. The Bolsheviks intended to call the anarchists to account, but the forces of the Black Guards turned out to be so significant that it was impossible at that moment.

Shortly after Novocherkassk, the Germans stopped, and the units retreating across the whole of Ukraine got the opportunity to regroup in the Volga region. There, the Bolsheviks could finally create military superiority and disarm most of the anarchist detachments. But Marusya ventured to retreat along the Liski-Voronezh railway line, which was under the partial control of the White Cossack partisans and successfully made her way to Voronezh.

One can determine the further course of Nikiforova only approximately. Her unit appeared here and there throughout Ukraine and Russia. Eventually, the Bolsheviks arrested her in Saratov and escorted her to Butyrka prison in Moscow. In January 1919, The Moscow Revolutionary Tribunal found Marusya guilty of discrediting the Soviet government and disobeying local Soviets in the military sphere but could not prove the accusations of organizing robberies and illegal requisitions. According to the sentence, Marusya lost the right to hold responsible positions for six months from the date of the verdict.

Soon Marusya returned to Ukraine. By this time, Makhno had already concluded a military agreement with the Bolsheviks and became the leader of a strong peasant movement with its armed forces, controlling a vast and internally independent free region. There, Nikiforova hoped, with the help of Makhno, to assemble a new detachment.

However, Makhno did not want to spoil relations with the Bolsheviks then, so he ordered not to allow Nikiforova to lead the combat detachments. Instead, she supervised the so-called works of mercy in the Huliaipole region, specifically, the management of hospitals and educational institutions. Also, she did propaganda work.

Marusya Nikiforova (pictured far left). Lev Kamenev (in the center). Huliaipole May 7, 1919

Marusya Nikiforova (pictured far left). Lev Kamenev (in the center). Huliaipole May 7, 1919

In May 1919, a delegation of Bolsheviks led by Lev Kamenev arrived in Huliaipole, and Marusya managed to convince him to petition for a halving of her punishment. Soon, Marusya went to Berdyansk and began to form a group of like-minded people. There she also met Witold Brzostek, the Polish anarchist, whom most sources identify as Nikiforova's husband. At the same time, according to some reports, they got married back in France. According to others—in Moscow, in 1918, after Marusya's release from prison on bail.

Brzostek and his comrade Kazimir Kovalevich were going to organize an underground anarchist organization and arrived in Ukraine to recruit experienced terrorists. Apparently, for this purpose, they decided to team up with Nikiforova. They assembled a group of about 60 people—mainly Makhnovist Kontrrazvedka (intelligence service) members.

After the Soviet state outlawed Makhno in early June 1919, they managed to get a certain amount of money from him to organize underground work. Then they divided their group into three sections of about 20 each. One group under Cherniak and Gromov was dispatched to Siberia to blow up the headquarters of the White dictator Kolchak. They reached Siberia but could not catch up with Kolchak and ended up merging with the anti-White partisan movement.

The second group under Kovalevich and Sobolev went to Kharkiv to free Makhnovist prisoners and blow up the headquarters of the Cheka (the first of a succession of Soviet secret-police organizations). But the prisoners had already been shot. So the group went on to Moscow to organize a terrorist attack on the Bolshevik leadership. In preparation for this, they carried out several armed robberies in Moscow and nearby cities to raise funds. On September 25, 1919, they exploded a bomb at a meeting of the Moscow Committee of the Bolshevik Party, killing 12 and wounding 55 prominent party members. During the ensuing raid, the Cheka wiped out the group. Kovalevich and Sobolev were shot dead in a skirmish. The rest of the group took refuge in a country house in Kraskovo near Moscow, which served as a printing house and a bomb laboratory, and blew themselves up along with some Chekists.

The third group, headed by Marusya and Bzhostek, intended to blow up the headquarters of General Denikin, the leader of the White armies in southern Russia, which was in Rostov-on-Don at the time. But Marusya may have sought help, financial or otherwise, from the Crimean anarchists and went to Crimea, then under the Whites.

On August 17, 1919, Marusya was recognized on the street in Sevastopol and arrested with her husband. Both of the accused were found guilty and executed. Marusya's group then headed for Kuban, where they participated in partisan anti-White activities.

However, there were rumors that Nikiforova survived and became a Soviet spy in Paris, where she participated in the assassination of Symon Petliura. Although, the actual assassin was the Ukrainian Jewish anarchist Sholom Schwartzbard.

In addition, rumors were facilitated by the activities of other Marusyas, who also commanded detachments during the Civil War. For example, Marusya Chernaya (Russian: Маруся Чёрная, Marusya Black) commanded a cavalry regiment in The Revolutionary Insurgent Army of Makhno from 1920-1921. Presumably, she died fighting in a battle against the Reds. Or Marusya Sokolovskaya, Ukrainian nationalist and former schoolteacher who assumed command of her brother's cavalry unit after he was killed in action. The Reds captured Sokolovskaya and shot her at the end of 1919. Also, there was Marusya Kosova, one of the leaders of The Tambov Rebellion of 1921-1922. She was known for her explosive nature and cruelty. Kosova disappeared after the suppression of the rebellion, and her fate is unknown.

Even during the life of Nikiforova, impostors began to appear, posing as her. Their detachments acted following the legends attributed to the real Marusya, so they were often confused by contemporaries and researchers, making it difficult to study the biography of Nikiforova. Also, her illicit activities meant that she left very few records during her life, only emerging as a public figure during her final years as a military commander.

In addition, Soviet and modern Ukrainian historiography often ignored the biography of Marusya for political reasons. Also, documents and materials about her are scattered across various state and departmental archives of Russia and Ukraine. So the full biography of Nikiforova has not yet been written, only the general picture of her life.

That is how many interesting historical references you can find in one song, carefully reading its lyrics and doing a simple search on the Internet.

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