The phenomenal life of Ukrainian peasant Nestor Makhno (1888-1934) provides the framework for this breakneck account of the downfall of the tsarist empire and the civil war that convulsed and bloodied Russia between 1917 and 1921.
As in many of history's chivalric tales, clashes were fought through lightning cavalry charges and bitter hand-to-hand, saber-wielding combat. The combatants were drawn from several camps: Budyenny's Red cavalry, the Don Cossacks and Kuban Cossacks (allied with the Whites), Ukrainian nationalists, and Makhnovist partisans. Makhno, a formidable and daring strategist, headed an army of anarchist insurgents—a popular peasant movement which bore his name.
Mahkno and his people were fighting for a society "without masters or slaves, with neither rich nor poor." They acted towards that idea by establishing "free soviets." Unlike the soviets drained of all significance by the dictatorship of a one-party State, the "free soviets" became the grassroots organs of a direct democracy - a living embodiment of the free society - until they were betrayed, and smashed, by the Red Army.
Delving into a vast array of documentation to which few other historians have had access, this study illuminates a revolution that started out with the rosiest of prospects but ended up utterly confounded. More than just the incredible exploits of a guerilla revolutionary par excellence, Skirda weaves the tale of a people, and the organizations and practices of anarchism, literally fighting for their lives.