Nestor Makhno Biography

Nestor Makhno, a Ukrainian anarchist revolutionary, played a significant role in the Russian Revolution by leading an independent army in Ukraine. Born into poverty, Makhno’s early struggles shaped his passion for national politics and his entry into revolutionary politics. Despite facing numerous arrests and a death sentence, he was eventually released and took command of the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine during the Russian Civil War. Makhno’s adoption of anarcho-communism and his fight against various opposing forces showcased his dedication to the cause. However, due to strong resistance, he was forced to flee to Paris, where he eventually passed away in 1934.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Nestor Ivanovych Makhno, Bat’ko Makhno
  • Died At Age: 45
  • Family: Spouse/Ex-: Agafya Kuzmenko (m. 1919), father: Ivan Rodionovich Makhno, mother: Evdokia Matveevna Makhno, siblings: Emelian Makhno, Grigory Makhno, Polycarp Makhno, Sava Makhno, children: Yelena Makhno
  • Born Country: Ukraine
  • Writers
  • Revolutionaries
  • Height: 5’3″ (160 cm), 5’3″ Males
  • Died on: July 25, 1934
  • Place of death: Paris, France
  • Ancestry: Ukrainian French
  • Cause of Death: Tuberculosis
  • Founder/Co-Founder: Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine
  • Discoveries/Inventions: Tachanka

Childhood & Early Life

Nestor Ivanovych Makhno was born on October 26, 1888, in Huliaipole, Russian Empire (now Ukraine). He was born into a poor peasant family and lost his father when he was 10 months old. Nestor had four elder siblings and was baptized on October 27, 1888. To avoid conscription, his parents marked his birth year as 1889 in official documents. Despite struggling financially, Nestor’s family managed to make ends meet with the help of his elder siblings. At the age of 7, Nestor started working as a shepherd while attending a local primary school in the winters.

Foray into Politics

Around the age of 17, Nestor began working as an apprentice painter and later in a local iron foundry. It was during this time that he developed a keen interest in politics after witnessing the exploitation of the working class by the upper classes. In 1906, he joined an anarchist organization, but due to lack of funds, they resorted to robbery. Nestor was arrested for robbery in 1906 but was acquitted. He faced more arrests in 1907 and 1908, with the latter resulting in a guilty verdict and a death sentence. However, the sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment, and Nestor was kept in the Butyrskaya Prison in Moscow. It was during his time in prison that he came in contact with intellectual Piotr Arshinov, which had a significant impact on his life. Nestor was released from prison in 1917 after the February Revolution began.

As a Political Leader

After his release from prison, Nestor immediately began organizing a peasants’ union and became known as a “Robin Hood” figure, taking wealth from the rich and distributing it to the poor. He gathered a large group of armed men to support his mission and became a local leader after the Russian Revolution began. However, when the German army marched into Ukraine after the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1918, Nestor realized his men were too weak to resist and went into hiding. He traveled to Russia, where he met his hero Peter Kropotkin and Lenin, who explained the difference between anarcho-communists and communists. Nestor returned to Ukraine in July 1918 and started raiding the regime with his armed group, engaging in guerrilla warfare. He gained a reputation as a strong battle strategist and an effective orator, often gathering more than 10 thousand men to fight for him. Nestor aimed to establish a libertarian society in the southern part of the Russian Empire and set up his first commune in Pokrovskoye.

Personal Life & Death

Nestor Makhno married a schoolteacher named Agafya in 1919, who later became his aide. They had a daughter named Yelena. Two of Nestor’s older brothers supported him fully but were captured and killed by German troops. Nestor Makhno passed away on July 25, 1934, in Paris, after battling tuberculosis for a few months. He is remembered as a true anarchist with an uncompromising nature, as well as a heavy drinker. Despite facing poverty and misery in his later years, Nestor’s struggle for liberty and social justice continued until his death.

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