Chuchko, Ivan Minovich, 1893-1938

A short biography of Ivan Chuchko, Makhnovist commander hounded by the Soviet authorities for many years.

Ivan Chuchko was born on July 13th 1893, in the village of Gulyai Polye , the native village of Nestor Makhno in the Ukraine. He was born into a peasant family and received an elementary education. From 1914 to 1917 he served in the armed forces of the Tsar. After demobilization he returned to Gulyai Polye and started his own farm. He joined the Makhnovist movement in 1918 and became a commander of an insurgent unit, and then assistant chief of operational staff, the adjutant of Makhno and a member of staff of the Makhnovist Zadneprovski 3rd Brigade. In early 1920 he fell ill with typhus and was sent to Gulyai Polye. Later, after his recovery, he was invited by Makhno to rejoin his detachments but turned down this offer. He was then mobilised into the Red Army.

After demobilization in 1921, he lived and worked in Gulyai Polye. However, the Soviet authorities never forgave him for his involvement in the Makhnovist movement and he was deprived of electoral rights for these reasons in 1926.Persecution continiud and on July 31st 1931 he was arrested by the Special Branch of the Dnepropetrovsk GPU (formerly the Cheka) on charges of counterrevolutionary activity. During the investigation he denied all charges, only confirming his service in command positions in the Makhnovist forces. On October 8th 1931 he was convicted and sent to a concentration camp for 5 years, which he served in the OGPU/NKVD ( yet new names for the Cheka) Dmitrov labuor camp at Dimitrov.. After his release he returned to live in Gulyai Polye and worked as a blacksmith at the Red Metalworker factory there. On March 8, 1938 he was arrested by the NKVD on charges that he was a "party to Makhno's guerrilla organization with the aims of overthrowing Soviet power" The resolution of the NKVD troika of Dnepropetrovsk region on April 11, 1938, was that he was guilty of being a member of the Makhnovist guerrilla organization established in the Ukraine as early as 1921 and which continued its subversive activity until 1938. He was sentenced to death. The sentence was executed on April 26th 1938 in Dnepropetrovsk.

The murder of Chuchko was only one aspect against the Makhnovist veterans in the Ukraine. Scores of others were arrested and executed between 1937-1938 in one last savage endeavour to exterminate the movement. As Anatoly Dubovik notes “ We will probably never know whether these cases were completely invented by the investigators or there were some actual facts of clandestine activity…” ( The Anarchist underground in the Ukraine in the 1920s and 1930s: Outlines of history in After Makhno, Kate Sharpley pamphlet 2009).

Nick Heath