History of the Makhnovist Movement (1918-1921)
The Revolutionary Insurrection in the Ukraine
The Revolutionary Insurrection in the Ukraine
The Brest-Litovsk treaty concluded by the Bolsheviks with the Imperial German government opened the doors of the Ukraine to the Austro-Germans. They entered as masters. They did not confine themselves to military action, but became involved in the economic and political life of the country. Their purpose was to appropriate its products. To accomplish this easily and completely they re-established the power of the nobles and the landed gentry, who had been overthrown by the people, and installed the autocratic government of the Hetman Skoropadsky. Their troops were systematically misled by their officers about the Russian revolution. The situation in Russia and the Ukraine was represented to them as an orgy of blind, savage forces, destroying order in the country and terrorizing the honest working people. This way they provoked in the soldiers a hostility towards the rebel peasants and workers, thus creating the basis for the absolutely heartless and plundering entry of the Austro-German armies into the revolutionary country.
The economic pillage of the Ukraine by the Austro-Germans, with the connivance and help of the Skoropadsky government, was colossal and horrifying. They carried off everything - wheat, livestock, poultry, eggs, raw materials, etc. - all in such quantities that the means of transportation were not sufficient. As it was brought to the immense depots which were given over to the loot, the Austrians and the Germans hastened to take away as much as possible, loading one train after another. Hundreds, even thousands of trains, carried everything off. When the peasants resisted this pillage and tried to retain the fruits of their labour, floggings, reprisals and shootings resulted.
The occupation of the Ukraine by the Austro-Germans constitutes one of the most tragic pages in the history of its revolution. In addition to the violence of the invaders and their cynical military brigandage, the occupation was accompanied by a fierce reaction on the part of the landed gentry. The Hetman's regime meant the annihilation of all the revolutionary conquests of the workers, a complete return to the past. It was therefore natural that this new condition strongly accelerated the march of the movements previously begun, under Petliura and the Bolsheviks. Everywhere, primarily in the villages, insurrectionary acts began against the landowners and the Austro-Germans. It was thus that the new revolutionary movement of the Ukrainian peasants began, a movement which was later given the name of the Revolutionary Insurrection. The origin of this revolutionary insurrection is often seen as merely the result of the Austro-German occupation and the regime of the Hetman. This explanation is insufficient and therefore not true. The insurrection had its roots in the depths of the Russian revolution and was an attempt by the workers to lead the revolution to its natural conclusion: the true and complete emancipation and supremacy of labour. The Austro-German invasion and the pomeshchiks' (landowners') reaction only accelerated the process.
The movement rapidly took on vast proportions. Everywhere the peasants took a stand against the pomeshchiks, assassinated or drove them away, took over their lands and their goods, and paid no attention to the invading Austro-Germans. The Hetman and the German authorities responded by implacable reprisals. The peasants in the rebellious villages were flogged and shot in mass, while all their goods were burned. In a short space of time hundreds of villages suffered a terrible punishment from the military and landed castes. This occurred in June, July and August, 1918.
Then the peasants, persevering in their revolt, started guerrilla warfare. As if by order of invisible organizations, they formed a multitude of partisan detachments almost simultaneously in various places, acting militarily and always by surprise against the nobles, their guards and the representatives of power. As a rule these guerrilla detachments, consisting of 20, 50 or 100 well-armed horsemen, would appear suddenly where they were least expected, attack a nobleman or a State guard, massacre all the enemies of the peasants, and disappear as quickly as they had come. Every landlord who persecuted the peasants, and all of his faithful servants, were noted by the partisans and were in continual danger of being killed. Every guard, every German officer was condemned to almost certain death. These exploits, occurring daily in all parts of the country, cut the heart out of the landowners' counter-revolution, undermined it, and prepared the way for the triumph of the peasants.
It must be noted that, like vast and spontaneous peasant insurrections which rise without any preparation, these organized guerrilla actions were always performed by the peasants themselves, with no help or direction from any political organization. Their methods of action made it necessary for them to look after the needs of the movement themselves, and to direct it and lead it to victory. During their whole fight against the Hetman and the pomeshchiks, even at its most difficult moments, the peasants remained alone in the face of their vicious, well-armed and organized enemy. This fact had great influence on the very character of the whole revolutionary insurrection (as we will see later). Wherever it remained to the end a class action, without falling under the influence of political parties or nationalist elements, it retained not only the imprint of its origin in the very depths of the peasant mass, but also a second fundamental trait - the perfect consciousness which all these peasants possessed of being their own guides and the animators of their own movement. The partisan detachments were proud of this special quality of their movement and felt themselves capable of fulfilling their mission.
The savage reprisals of the counter-revolution did not stop the movement; on the contrary, they enlarged and broadened it. The peasants became increasingly united among themselves, driven by the very force of events to a general plan of revolutionary action. To be sure, the peasants of the whole Ukraine were never organized into a single force acting under a single leadership. From the point of view of revolutionary spirit, they were all united; but in practice they were mainly organized locally, by regions; small detachments of partisans, isolated from one another, united to form larger and more powerful units. In so far as the insurrections became more frequent and the reprisals more ferocious and organized, these unions became an urgent necessity. In the south of the Ukraine, it was the region of Gulyai-Pole which took the initiative in unification. There it took place not only for reasons of defence, but also and primarily for the purpose of the complete destruction of the landowners' counterrevolution. This unification had yet another purpose, namely to make of the revolutionary peasants a real and organized force capable of combating all counter-revolution and of defending the freedom and the territory of the revolutionary people.
The most important role in this effort at unification and in the general development of the revolutionary insurrection in the south of the Ukraine was played by the insurrectionary detachment guided by a peasant native to the region, Nestor Makhno. From the first days of the movement up to its culminating point, when the peasants vanquished the landowners, Makhno played a preponderant and central role to such an extent that the whole insurgent region and the most heroic moments of the struggle are linked to his name. Later, when the insurrection had triumphed completely over the Skoropadsky counter-revolution and the region was threatened by Denikin, Makhno became the rallying point for millions of peasants in several regions. This was the moment in the history of the Ukrainian insurrection when it acquired its form and clarified its historical tasks. For it was not everywhere that the insurrection retained its consciousness, its revolutionary essence, and its loyalty to the interests of its class. While in the southern Ukraine the insurgents raised the black flag of anarchism and set forth on the anti-authoritarian road of the free organization of the workers, in the western and north-western regions of the Ukraine they gradually slipped, after the overthrow of the Hetman, under the influence of foreign elements, enemies of their class, notably the nationalist democrats (Petliurovtsi). For more than two years a part of the insurgents in the western Ukraine supported Petliura, who under the nationalist banner pursued the interests of the local liberal bourgeoisie. Thus, the insurgent peasants of the governments of Kiev, Volyn, Podol'sk and a part of Poltava, while having common origins with the rest of the insurgents, were subsequently unable to discover among themselves either the consciousness of their historic mission or the ability to organize their forces, and they fell under the rod of the enemies of labour, becoming blind instruments in their hands.
The insurrection in the southern Ukraine had an entirely different significance and took on a different aspect. It separated itself strictly from the non-labouring elements of contemporary society, it strictly and resolutely got rid of the national, religious, political and other prejudices of the regime of oppression and slavery; it based itself on the real aspirations of the proletarian class of the city and the country, and it carried out a bitter warfare in the name of these aspirations, against the many enemies of labour.
We have already mentioned that an outstanding role was played by Nestor Makhno in the extensive region of the peasant insurrection in the southern Ukraine. Let us follow him in his activity during the first period, namely until the overthrow of the Hetman, and give some brief biographical notes.
The peasant Nestor Ivanovich Makhno was born on October 27, 1889, and was brought up by his mother in the village of Gulyai Pole in the district of Aleksandrovsk, government of Ekaterinoslav. He was the son of a poor peasant family. He was only ten months old when his father died, leaving him and his four brothers in the care of their mother. Because of the extreme poverty of the family, he worked at the age of seven as a shepherd, tending the cows and sheep of the peasants of his village. At 8 he entered the local school, which he attended in winter, working as shepherd in summer. At 12 he left school and his family to take a job. He worked as a farmhand on the estates of nobles and on farms of German kulaks. Already at this time, when he was 14 or 15, he felt a strong hatred toward the exploiters and dreamed of the way he would some day get even with them, both for himself and for others, if he ever had the power to do so. Later he worked in a foundry in his village.
Until the age of 16 he had no contact with the political world. His social and revolutionary concepts developed spontaneously in a very narrow circle of peasants, proletarians like himself. The revolution of 1905 made him break out of his small circle, and threw him into the great torrent of revolutionary events and actions. He was 17, full of revolutionary enthusiasm and ready to do anything in the struggle for the liberation of the workers. After having made several contacts with political organizations, he decided to enter the ranks of the anarchist communists and from that moment became an untiring fighter for social revolution.
Russian anarchism at this time faced two concrete tasks: 1) to unmask the political fraud which the socialist parties led by Marxists were preparing against the workers; 2) to point out to workers and peasants the path toward social revolution. In these tasks Makhno discovered an extensive field of activity, and took part in many of the most dangerous acts of the anarchist struggle.
In 1908 he fell into the hands of the Tsarist authorities, who condemned him to be hanged for anarchist associations and for taking part in terrorist acts. Because of his youth, the death penalty was commuted to life imprisonment at hard labour. Makhno served his sentence in the Butyrki central prison of Moscow. Although prison life was without hope and very difficult for him to bear, Makhno used it to educate himself. He showed great perseverance and learned Russian grammar, mathematics, Russian literature, the history of culture, and political economy. In fact, prison was the only school in which Makhno acquired that historical and political knowledge which was a great help to him in his subsequent revolutionary activity. Life, action, deeds were the other schools in which he learned to know and understand men and social events.
It was in prison, while he was still young, that Makhno endangered his health. Stubborn and unable to accept that complete extinction of personality that those condemned to forced labour underwent, he was always insubordinate to the prison authorities and was continually in solitary confinement, where, because of the cold and damp, he contracted pulmonary tuberculosis. During the nine years of his detention, he was frequently in irons for "bad behaviour"; he was finally released with all the other political prisoners by the proletarian insurrection in Moscow on March 2, 1917.
On leaving prison, Makhno returned to Gulyai-Pole, where the peasant masses showed profound sympathy for him. In the whole village he was the only political prisoner who was returned to his family by the revolution, and for that reason he became the object of spontaneous respect and confidence for the peasants. He was no longer an inexperienced young man, but a tested fighter with a powerful will and definite ideas about the social conflict.
At Gulyai-Pole he immediately devoted himself to revolutionary work, first seeking to organize the peasants of his village and its surroundings. He founded a farm-workers' union, organized a workers' commune and a local peasants' soviet (council). The problem that concerned him most was that of uniting and organizing the peasants into a powerful and firm alliance so that they would be able once and for all to drive out the landed gentry and the political rulers and to manage their own lives. It was to this end that he guided the organizational work of the peasants, both as a propagandist and as a man of action. He sought to unite them in the face of the flagrant deception, injustice and oppression of which they were victims. During the period of the Kerensky government and in the October days of 1917, he was president of the regional peasants' union, of the agricultural commission, the union of metal and carpentry workers, and, finally, president of the Peasants' and Workers' Soviet of Gulyai-Pole.
It was in this last capacity that in August, 1917, he assembled all the pomeshchiks (landed gentry) of the region and made them give him all the documents relating to lands and buildings. He proceeded to take an exact inventory of all this property, and then made a report on it, first at a session of the local soviet, then at the district congress of Soviets, and finally at the regional congress of Soviets. He proceeded to equalize the rights of the pomeshchiks and the kulaks with those of the poor peasant labourers in regard to the use of the land. Following his proposal, the congress decided to let the pomeshchiks and kulaks have a share of the land, as well as tools and livestock, equal to that of the labourers. Several peasant congresses in the governments of Ekaterinoslav, Tauride, Poltava, Khar'kov and elsewhere followed the example of the Gulyai-Pole region and adopted the same measure.
During this time Makhno became, in this region, the soul of the peasants' movement, which was taking over the lands and goods of the pomeshchiks and even, if necessary, executing them. He thus made himself the mortal enemy of the rich and of local bourgeois groups.
At the time of the Austro-German occupation of the Ukraine, Makhno was charged by the Gulyai-Pole revolutionary committee with the task of forming battalions of insurgent peasants and workers for the struggle against the invaders and against the Central Rada (Supreme governing body of the Ukraine). He was forced to retreat with his partisans from the cities of Taganrog, Rostov and Tsaritsin, fighting every step of the way. The local bourgeoisie, who had been strengthened by the military support of the Austro-Germans, put a price on his head, and he had to go into hiding. The Ukrainian and German military authorities took revenge by burning his mother's house and shooting his elder brother Emel'yan, who was a war invalid.
In June, 1918, Makhno went to Moscow to consult several old anarchists on methods and directions to follow and on the nature of his work among the Ukrainian peasants. But the anarchists in this period of the Russian revolution were very indecisive and weak, and, receiving no satisfactory suggestions or advice, he returned to the Ukraine with his own ideas.
For a long time he had considered the idea of organizing the vast peasant masses in order to release the revolutionary energy that had been accumulating in them for centuries, and to hurl this formidable power against the existing regime of oppression. Now he judged that this moment had arrived. While in Moscow he read in the newspapers about the numerous insurrectionary acts of the Ukrainian peasants, and he grew agitated and impatient; every day of his stay in Moscow caused him great moral suffering. In haste, and with the aid of an old friend who was a comrade and former fellow prisoner, he equipped himself and finally left for the Ukraine and his region of Gulyai-Pole. This happened in July, 1918. He accomplished the trip with great difficulty and very secretly, so as not to fall into the hands of the Hetman's agents. On one occasion Makhno was almost killed, being arrested by an Austro-German detachment while carrying a suitcase of anarchist literature. A rich Jew from Gulyai-Pole who had known Makhno personally for a long time, succeeded in saving him by paying a considerable sum of money for his release. On route to the Ukraine, the Bolsheviks proposed to Makhno that he should select a certain region of the Ukraine and carry out secret revolutionary work there in their name. Naturally he refused even to discuss this offer; the tasks he had set himself had nothing in common with those of the Bolsheviks.
Back in Gulyai-Pole, Makhno decided that he would either die or obtain victory for the peasants, and in no event would he leave the region. The news of his return spread rapidly from village to village. Without delay he stated his mission openly among the great masses of peasants, speaking at improvised meetings, writing and distributing letters and leaflets. By pen and mouth he called on the peasants for a decisive struggle against the power of the Hetman and the landlords, emphatically declaring that the workers should now take their fate into their own hands and not let their freedom to act be taken from them. His stirring appeal was heard, in a few weeks, by many villages and whole districts, preparing the masses for the great events of the future.
Makhno proceeded immediately to direct action. His first concern was to form a revolutionary-military unit sufficiently strong to guarantee freedom of propaganda and action in the villages and towns and at the same time to begin guerrilla operations. This unit was quickly organized. In the villages there were marvellously combative elements, ready for action. They only lacked a good organizer. Makhno was the man. His first unit undertook two urgent tasks, namely, a) to pursue energetically the work of propaganda and organization among the peasants, and b) to carry on a stubborn armed struggle against all their enemies. The guiding principle of this merciless struggle was that no lord who had persecuted the peasants, no policeman of the Hetman, no Russian or German officer who was an implacable enemy of the peasants, deserved any pity; he must be destroyed. All who participated in the oppression of the poor peasants and workers, all who sought to suppress their rights or exploit their labour, should be executed.
Within two or three weeks, the unit had already become the terror, not only of the local bourgeoisie, but also of the Austro-German authorities. Makhno's field of revolutionary-military action was immense: it extended from Lozovaya to Berdyansk, Mariupol' and Taganrog, and from Lugansk and Grishino to Ekaterinoslav, Aleksandrovsk and Melitopol'. Rapidity of movement was his special tactic. Thanks to it, and also to the size of the region, he could always appear suddenly where he was least expected. In a short time he enveloped within a circle of iron and fire the whole region in which the local bourgeoisie were re-establishing their power. All those who, during the past two or three months, had succeeded in settling back into their old estates, all those who enslaved the peasants, stole their labour and land, all those who ruled over them as masters, found themselves suddenly under the merciless hand of Makhno and his partisans. Swift as the wind, intrepid, pitiless toward their enemies, they fell thunderously on some estates, massacred all the sworn enemies of the peasants, and disappeared as rapidly as they had come. The next day Makhno would be more than a hundred miles away, would appear in some town, massacre the Varta (security police), officers and noblemen, and vanish before the German troops had time to realize what had happened, despite the fact that they were all prepared for him. The next day he would again be a hundred miles away, taking action against a detachment of Hungarians who were taking reprisals, or hanging some guards of the Varta.
Both the Varta and the Austro-German authorities were alarmed. Several units were sent to capture Makhno. It was in vain. Excellent horsemen since childhood, his partisans could not be caught, for in a day they could cover distances that were impossible for regular cavalry. Often, as though to mock his enemies, Makhno would suddenly appear in the very centre of Gulyai-Pole, or in Pologi, where many Austro-German troops were always stationed, or in some other place where troops were concentrated, killing the officers who fell into his hands and escaping, safe and sound, without leaving the slightest indication of the route he was taking. Or else, when it seemed to his pursuers that they had at last found a fresh trail, when they were expecting to overtake and capture him in a town that had been pointed out to them by some peasant, he himself, with a small number of his partisans, in the uniform of the Varta, would penetrate into the very midst of the enemy, learning their plans and preparations. Then he would set out with a detachment of the Varta in pursuit of Makhno, and would exterminate them on the way.
The partisans held to the following general rule in regard to the Austro-German and Hungarian troops they encountered: they would kill the officers and set the captured soldiers free; they would suggest that the soldiers should return to their own countries, tell what the Ukrainian peasants were doing, and work for the social revolution. Literature, and sometimes even money, were distributed among them. Only soldiers known to have been guilty of acts of violence against the peasants were executed. This way of treating the captured Austro-German and Hungarian soldiers had a certain revolutionary influence on them.
During this first period of insurrectionary activity, Makhno was not only the organizer and guide of the peasants, but also a harsh avenger of the oppressed people. During the short period of his first insurrectionary activity, hundreds of nests of the nobility were destroyed, thousands of oppressors and active enemies of the people were mercilessly wiped out. His bold and resolute method of acting, the rapidity of his appearances and disappearances, the precision of his blows, and the manifest impossibility of capturing him, dead or alive, soon made him a figure that struck terror and hatred in the bourgeoisie, but gave rise to feelings of deep satisfaction, pride and hope among the working people. To the peasants Makhno became a legendary figure. In Makhno's character and his actions, there were in fact qualities worthy of legend: his extraordinary boldness, his stubborn will, his resourcefulness in all circumstances, and finally the delightful humour that frequently accompanied his action.
But these were not all the important qualities in Makhno's personality.
The warlike spirit that was shown in his insurrectionary undertakings of this early period of his activity was only the first manifestation of his enormous talent as a warrior and organizer. We will see later what a remarkable military force and what a magnificent organizer came from the ranks of the peasants in the person of Makhno.
Not merely a remarkable military guide and organizer, but also a good agitator, Makhno constantly increased the number of meetings that took place in numerous villages of the region where he operated. He made reports on the tasks of the moment, on the social revolution, on the free and independent communal life of the peasant-workers that was the final goal of the insurrection. He also published pamphlets on these topics, as well as appeals to the peasants and workers, the Austrian and German soldiers, the Don and Kuban Cossacks, etc.
"Conquer or die - such is the dilemma which faces the Ukrainian peasants and workers at this historic moment. But we cannot all die, for we are innumerable - we are mankind! Therefore, we will conquer. But we will not conquer in order to repeat the errors of the past years, the error of putting our fate into the hands of new masters; we will conquer in order to take our destinies into our own hands, to conduct our lives according to our own will and our own conception of the truth."
(Taken from one of Makhno's first appeals.) This is how Makhno addressed the vast peasant masses. Soon he became the rallying point for all the insurgent masses. In every village the peasants created secret local groups, rallied to Makhno, supported him in all his undertakings, followed his advice and suggestions.
Many detachments of partisans - those already in existence as well as newly formed ones - joined his groups, seeking coordinated actions. The need for unity and activity on a general scale was recognized by all the revolutionary partisans, and all were of the opinion that this unity would be best achieved under Makhno's direction. Such was also the opinion of several large bands of insurgents who until then had been independent of one another. Notable among these were the large detachments commanded by Kurilenko, who operated in the Berdyansk region, that commanded by Shchus', in the Dibrivki region, and that of Petrenko-Platonov in the Grishino region. They all spontaneously joined Makhno. In this way the unification of the partisan units in the southern Ukraine into a single insurrectionary army came about naturally, through the force of events and the will of the masses.
It was at about this time, in September 1918, that Makhno received the nickname Batko - general leader of the revolutionary insurrection in the Ukraine. This took place in the following circumstances. Local pomeshchiks in the major centres, the kulaks, and the German authorities, decided to eliminate Makhno and his detachment at any cost. The pomeshchiks created a special volunteer detachment consisting of their own sons and those of kulaks for the decisive struggle against Makhno. On the 30th of September this detachment, with the help of the Austro-Germans, cornered Makhno in the region of Bol'shaya Mikhailovka, setting up strong military posts on all roads. At this time Makhno found himself with only 30 partisans and one machine gun. He was forced to make a fighting retreat, manoeuvring in the midst of numerous enemy forces. Arriving in the forest of Dibrivki, Makhno found himself in an extremely difficult situation. The paths of retreat were occupied by the enemy. It was impossible for the detachment to break through, and escaping individually was beneath their revolutionary dignity. No one in the detachment would agree to abandon their leader so as to save himself. After some reflection, two days later, Makhno decided to return to the village of Bol'shaya Mikhailovka (Dibrivki). Leaving the forest the partisans met peasants who came to warn them that there were large enemy forces in Dibrivki and that they should make haste to go elsewhere. This information did not stop Makhno and his partisans. In spite of the tears of the women who tried to hold them back, they set out for Bol'shaya Mikhailovka. They approached the village guardedly. Makhno himself and a few of his comrades went on reconnaissance and saw a large enemy camp on the church square, dozens of machine guns, hundreds of saddled horses, and groups of cavalry. Peasants informed them that a battalion of Austrians and a special pomeshchik detachment were in the village. Retreat was impossible. Then Makhno, with his usual stubbornness and determination, said to his companions: "Well, my friends! We should all be ready to die on this spot. . ." The moment was ominous, the men were firm and full of enthusiasm. All 30 saw only one path before them -- the path toward the enemy, who had about a thousand well-armed men, and they all realized that this meant certain death for them. All were moved, but none lost courage.
It was at this moment that one of the partisans, Shchus', turned to Makhno and said:
"From now on you will be Batko to all of us, and we vow to die with you in the ranks of the insurgents."
Then the whole detachment swore never to abandon the insurgent ranks, and to consider Makhno the general Batko of the entire revolutionary insurrection. Then they prepared to attack. Shchus' with five to seven men was assigned to go to attack the flank of the enemy. Makhno with the others attacked from the front. With a ferocious "Hurrah!" the partisans threw themselves headlong against the enemy, smiting the very centre with sabres, rifles and revolvers. The attack had a shattering effect. The enemy, who were expecting nothing of the kind, were bowled over and began to flee in panic, saving themselves in groups and individually, abandoning arms, machine guns and horses. Without leaving them time to come to themselves, to become aware of the number of the attacking forces, and to pass to a counter-attack, the insurgents chased them in separate groups, cutting them down at full gallop. A part of the pomeshchik detachment fled to the Volchya River, where they were drowned by peasants who had joined the battle. The enemy's defeat was complete.
Local peasants and detachments of revolutionary insurgents came from all directions to triumphantly acclaim the heroes. They unanimously agreed to consider Makhno as Batko of the entire revolutionary insurrection in the Ukraine.
Two days after these events, Bol'shaya Mikhailovka was invaded by a mass of Austro-German troops and detachments of pomeshchiks and kulaks assembled from the entire region. On October 5, German troops began bombarding the village with intense artillery fire, and when it was sufficiently destroyed by shells, infantry and kulak detachments entered the village and began to carry out executions and set fire to the entire village. Bol'shaya Mikhailovka burned for two days, and during those two days the kulak and German troops took fierce reprisals against the peasant population.
This fact further tightened the bonds among the peasants of the region and further strengthened their revolutionary relations.
The vast peasant masses, the majority of the inhabitants of the towns and villages, obviously were not in partisan detachments, but they were nevertheless tightly linked with the detachments. They supported them with supplies, furnished them with horses and fodder, brought them food in the forests when this was necessary, collected and transmitted to it the partisans information on the enemy's movements; at times large masses of peasants joined the detachments to carry out in common some specific revolutionary task, battling alongside them for two or three days, then returning to their fields.
The occupation of Gulyai-Pole by the insurgents on the eve of the Hetman's downfall and the decomposition of the Austro-German troops is very typical of these relations. Makhno occupied the village with a small detachment. The Austrians stationed at Pologi sent troops. During a whole day Makhno received no help and was forced to leave the village. But in the evening several hundred peasants of Gulyai-Pole came to his aid, and with them he was able to hold out against an entire division of Austrian soldiers. At dawn the peasants returned home, fearing betrayal on the part of some villagers who might have seen them in the ranks of the insurgents. And during the day Makhno was again forced to leave the village because of the stronger and more numerous enemy forces. At night he once again began to attack, being notified by peasants that they would come to his help as soon as it was dark. He retook the village, chasing out the Austrians with the help of the local inhabitants. This continued for three or four days, after which Gulyai-Pole finally remained in the hands of the insurgent peasants.
Such vital links between the broad peasant masses and Makhno's revolutionary detachments were established everywhere. These links were extremely important, since they gave the revolutionary insurrection the proportions and the character of a general peasant movement.
1. A territorial subdivision comparable to a "province," a "state," or a "department." (In Russian: guberniya, here translated as "government.")
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