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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL - Dossier 1917: A Ukrainian revolutionary: Maroussia emerges from oblivion (fr, it, pt) [machine translation]

Date Wed, 20 Sep 2017 09:11:26 +0300


A charismatic activist who had passed through prison and exile, a formidable orator and warlord, she inspired terror for the whites and mistrust for the reds. Having become an interlope and folkloric character in Soviet culture, it has been rediscovered in recent years. ---- Maria Nikiforova (32) was arrested in April 1918, during the great repression of anarchism. But in Ukraine, libertarians weigh heavily, and escapes capital punishment. It was the whites who shot her in September 1919. ---- Nestor Makhno, who was the soul of the insurgent peasant army of Ukraine between 1918 and 1921, has not usurped its place in the memory of anarchism and the Russian Revolution. But it must be known that in the representation of the Makhnovshchina by the USSR, Makhno was often flanked by a female alter-ego: " Banditka Maroussia ". The Soviet collective memory has retained them as an infernal couple of highwaymen, thirsty for blood and rapine.

Sometimes depicted as a missed boy, sometimes as a trail of the countryside, enraged and violent, Maroussia really existed. Her real name was Maria Grigorievna Nikifirova, and her life is at the very opposite of her caricature.

From terrorism to exile

Born in 1885 in Alexandrovsk, in the Ekaterinoslav region, she spent her childhood less than a hundred kilometers from Gouliai Polié, which became the " capital " of the Makhnovshchina in southern Ukraine. Daughter of a veteran officer of the war of 1877-1878 against Turkey, nothing apparently predisposes her to become revolutionary. That is what she is doing, from the age of 16.

However, interpretations differ on this first commitment. Historians close to the libertarian trend [1]situate it within the bezmotivn anarcho-communism (ie " without motive ": practicing undifferentiated violence against the rich). The publications from the Russian Archives relate it rather to the socialist-revolutionary current [2].

One thing is certain: Nikifirova practices propaganda by the fact, and multiplies violent actions. In 1908, she was sentenced to twenty years hard labor for the killing of a municipal official Alexandrovsk, but she managed to escape from the prison of women of Moscow on the night of 30 June to 1 st July 1909 .

The paths of escape will lead Maria, in stages, to flee the Russian empire by the east. A period of almost ten years of exile then opens, from the United States to France via England, Germany, Spain and Switzerland, as opportunities and encounters. In this discovery of the world, she forged her deep political convictions, becoming definitely anarchist. At the end of 1913, she participated in the conference of Russian anarcho-communists in exile, and gave a few articles to the Russian libertarian press in New York (Golos Trouda) and Chicago (Vperiod).

When the war broke out in 1914, it stood behind Kropotkin to defend the sacred union of anarchism with the Russo-Anglo-French camp against what was identified as the supreme danger: German imperialism.

An anarchist warlord

One can note in this choice what seems to be a characteristic feature of the personality of Maria Nikifirova: the taste for the armed action.

On her return to Russia in 1917, she was active in the Communist Anarchist Federation of Petrograd, and during the July days she went to harangue the sailors at Kronstadt to incite them to mutiny. After the failure of the insurrection, she returned to Alexandrovsk. It was there that she learned the putsch of October.

In the Ukraine, Maroussia, as she calls herself, sets up a battalion of anarchist partisans, the Volnaya Boevaïa Druzhina (" Free and Voluntary Military Detachment ") which has an armored train decorated with black flags, confronts the counter- revolutionaries and multiplies expropriations-redistributions.

Her qualities as organizer, speaker [3]and her bellicose character are spotted by Vladimir Antonov-Ovseïenko, who assumes the Bolshevik military command in Ukraine. He considers it Bolshevik-compatible and will intervene on several occasions in his favor during his legal setbacks. For his part, Nikifirova and his men allied themselves with the Red Guards to overthrow the Alexandrovsk pronounist soviet and substitute for it a revolutionary soviet.

In Soviet culture, Makhno is generally portrayed as a drunken tyrant , and " Banditka Maroussia " as his companion. This cartoon is from Pervaya Konarmia, an album on the Civil War published in 1937.
With Nestor Makhno

The divorce came in April 1918, when the Bolshevik government broke the anarchist movement . Her excesses - acts of looting - are used against her. She is arrested and the Red Army begins to disarm her supporters.

The anarchist Apollo Kareline defends the All-Russian Executive Committee of the Soviets, but it is mainly Antonov-Ovseyenko who protects it. In September 1918, after two trials, she was only sentenced to a mild sentence: the six-month deprivation of the possibility of exercising functions within the soviets.

Between January and spring 1919, in full red terror against the anarchists, she rejoined Makhno again for a few months, assuming various positions within the insurrectionary army he set up. The Russian Archives suggest that it could have played an intermediate role between the Red Army and the Black Army and that it should be used for secret and delicate missions.

It was during one of these risky missions in the Crimea, in preparation for an attack on the staff of Denikin, that she was arrested in Sevastopol on 11 August 1919. The whites took the time judge before shooting it, in mid-September 1919.

Maroussia is not, therefore, this harpy caricatured by Soviet propaganda ; she is doubtless not a saint (a " Joan of Arc of anarchism " as her English biographer calls it). In the light of the Russian archives, a thorough historical study is still to be carried out on Maria Nikifirova, an anarchist, speaker and indomitable warrior, tossed by the contrary winds blowing on the Russian Revolution.

Pierre Chamechaude (Friend of AL, Paris northeast)

In the folder:

February-March 1917: After the Tsarists, drive the capitalists
Minority but galvanized, anarchists advocate expropriation all the way
A tract of the Communist Anarchist Federation of Petrograd (March 1917)
The first libertarian wave (1905-1908)
April-May: The irrepressible rise to the social explosion
Anarcho-syndicalists in factory committees
June-July: Creating insurrection is not enough
The fiasco of the Journées de juillet
August-September: The counter-revolution digs its own tomb
The Other Components of Russian Socialism in 1917
October red (and black): The assault in the unknown
A Ukrainian revolutionary: Maroussia emerges from oblivion
November 1917-April 1918: From pluralism to the confiscated revolution . Four cleavage points:
People's Power vs. State Power
Socialization against nationalization
Popular militia against hierarchical army
On requisitions and expropriations
Epilogue 1918-1921: Resistance and eradication

[1] Malcolm Archibald, Atamansha: the life of Marusya Nikifirova, Black Cat Press, 2007 ; Mila Cotlenko, Maria Nikifirova, the revolution without waiting. The epic of an anarchist across the Ukraine (1902-1919), Mutines Séditions, 2015.

[2] Collective, Political Parties in Russia. Late nineteenth e -first third of the XX th century, Moscow, ROSSPEN, 1996 (in Russian).

[3] Makhno, in Memoirs and Writings (Ivrea, 2010), praises his charisma and his ability to win accession during his public speeches.

http://www.alternativelibertaire.org/?Dossier-1917-Une-revolutionnaire-ukrainienne-Maroussia-sort-de-l-oubli
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