The Dolenko brothers. Dolenko, Nikolai Ilyich (1883-1944) aka M. Chekeres, Andrei; Dolenko, Ilya Ilyich (1896-1937)

Header of 'Golos Truda', first Russian edition: 11th August 1917.
Header of 'Golos Truda', first Russian edition: 11th August 1917.

Short biographies of the anarchists Nikolai and Ilya Dolenko

Submitted by Battlescarred on June 7, 2020

Nikolai Dolenko was from a peasant family in Romny, in the gubernia of Poltava. His father obtained a post on the railways. Nikolai managed to become a student at the Mining Institute in Yekaterinoslav in 1904 and joined the Socialist-Revolutionaries (SRs). As a result, he came to the notice of the authorities and suffered an arrest.

He was an active participant in the anarchist movement in Yekaterinoslav in 1906-1908, within the workers group of the anarchist communists. After the defeat of the International Combat Detachment of the Anarchist Communists, he was arrested in February 1908. Acquitted in February 1910, he went into exile. He was active within the Geneva Group of Anarchist-Communists.

As an observer he attended the Paris congress of the Federation of Anarchist Communists (Brotherhood of Free Communists) in October 1913, and opposed himself to the ideas of Apollon Karelin.

In 1914 he moved to the USA.

He contributed to the exile Russian anarchist press under the name of M. Chekeres including Golos Truda (Voice of Labour) based in New York, and Put k Svobode (Road to Freedom) based in Geneva and edited by Roshchin and Orgeiani.

He returned to Russia with the Revolution in 1917 and was active in Kharkov, editing the paper Khleb I Volya (Bread and Freedom) from June 1917 to 1918, and Workers Thought (September 1917-1918) and was a leading activist within Kharkov Anarchist Federation which soon changed its name to the Kharkov Anarchist Communist Federation.

In July 1917 he was one of the organisers of the congress of anarchists in southern Russia, and secretary of a provisional information bureau set up at the congress to prepare for an all-Russian Congress of Anarchists. Unfortunately, the unfolding civil war put a stop to that. In summer 1918 he had moved to Moscow where he worked alongside Maximov and Yarchuk on Volny Golos Truda (The Free Voice of Labour) after the suppression of Golos Truda by the Bolshevik government.

In autumn 1918 he was a key activist of the Nabat Confederation of Anarchists of the Ukraine (KAU) and worked for is paper, the eponymous Nabat. He was elected to the secretariat of KAU at its underground congress in September 1920.At the same time he was active in the Romny group of KAU, along with his wife Elizaveta Tinovitskaya ( see her biography at

Together with Elizaveta and their two children, Dolenko was arrested by the Cheka on his way to the legal congress of the KAU in Kharkov on 25th November 1920. They were transferred to the Butyrki prison in Moscow in January 1921. After Dolenko’s release he remained in Moscow.

In February 1924, after the death of Lenin, he declared that the maximum unity of the revolutionary movement was necessary, and joined the Communist Party. He then worked as a paediatrician for the rest of his life. Elizaveta died of pancreatic cancer in 1940 and Nikolai, suffering from progressively advancing tuberculosis that he had probably contacted in prison, died in Moscow on January 1st, 1944.

His younger brother Ilya was born in Romny in 1896. He was active in both legal and underground work within Nabat in Kharkov between 1917 and 1921. An agronomist, he worked in leading positions within the People’s Commissariat of Agriculture of the Ukraine, whilst according to his own testimony at a later trial, maintaining his anarchist communist beliefs. He was twice arrested during the concocted investigation into the Labour Peasant Party (TCN) in 1930-1931 described as a “counterrevolutionary wrecking organisation in Agriculture of the Ukraine”. He strenuously denied membership of this most likely fictitious organisation during his trial. He was sentenced to 8 years in prison. On October 31st, 1937, he was sentenced to death at the Karaganda labour camp in Kazakhstan and probably executed on the same day.

The granddaughter of Elizaveta and Nikolai, Natalia Arskaya, brought out Knights of Freedom, the first novel of a trilogy about the Russian anarchist movement, published in Moscow in 2011, with characters based on her grandparents.

Nick Heath