Dolzhenko, Ivan (?-1921?)

A short biography of Makhnovist and anarchist communist Ivan Dolzhenko

Submitted by Battlescarred on May 23, 2019

“The whole city with its riches is socialised, and neither the army, nor the political parties, nor the government, but you, the working proletarians, are the masters of the new free life in the classless society. Build a new one without the care of political parties!” Dolzhenko speaking at Yekaterinoslav congress, 1919

Ivan Dolzhenko was a Kuban Cossack from the Yeisk district. Graduating from high school, he then served in the Kuban Cossack regiment and attained the rank of sergeant major. Around 1905-6, influenced by anarchist agitation, he became an anarchist communist and deserted, fleeing abroad. He then took part in the activities of exiled anarchist communist groups. With the coming of the revolution in 1917 he returned to Russia and took part in the anarchist movement in the North Caucasus and in the October uprising probably at Tuapse on the Black Sea.

In November 1918, together with Viktor Belash he carried out underground work in Mariupol against the regime of the Hetman Skoropadsky...Belash had fled from the unsuccessful Mariupol uprising against the Germans and had ended up in the Yeisk district. Dolzhenko accompanied Belash on his return to Mariupol in a fishing boat in October 1918 and from then on acted as Belash’s adjutant.

In January 1919 he joined the Makhnovist movement with Belash, and became a cavalry commander. Belash described Dolzhenko as one of the best orators among the Makhnovists. But stated that he was “too enthusiastic about the organizational forms of the anarchist movement and the transition period, justifying the Bolshevik tactics." He was delegate to the congress of the Military Revolutionary Council of the Makhnovists at Gulyai-Polye, on 7th March 1919 and the front-line congress at Mariupol on 12th May 1919.

In March 1919 he took part in battles battles in the areas of Mariupol and Taganrog. In spring 1919, according to Belash, he insisted on the stopping of criticism of the Bolsheviks by the Makhnovists and on the need to preserve the united revolutionary front against the Whites. In early June 1919, after the Bolsheviks broke the alliance and treacherously attacked the Makhnovists from the rear, he wanted the alliance restored at all costs up to the removal of Makhno from commanding posts, again according to Belash. On 24th June 1919, he went underground with Belash, after threat of arrest by the Cheka..

He rejoined the Makhnovists on August 8th 1919 and worked that autumn and winter the Makhnovist HQ at Alexandrovsk and then Yekaterinoslav. He volunteered to kill Simon Petliura, the Ukrainian nationalist leader at a meeting arranged for late September 1919, in the same way that Grigoriev had been killed by the Makhnovists. Petliura must have sensed that something was afoot, because he failed to turn up at the meeting.

Dolzhenko carried out agitation among workers for self-organisation and the creation of non-partisan “councils of economic organisation”, with the aim of improving economic life in the liberated areas. With the return of the Bolsheviks to the Ukraine he went underground with the Novospasovka anarchist communist group on 19th January 1920. According to Belash, he led its pro-Bolshevik wing, proposing the cessation of anti-Bolshevik agitation and calling for the legalisation of the anarchists and for the creation of agricultural communes and “peaceful implantation” within the Soviet regime. These proposals were not accepted by the Bolsheviks and on 8th May 1920 Dolzhenko and other members of the Novospasovka group rejoined the Makhnovists.

In summer and autumn 1920 he was again at Makhnovist HQ and served as adjutant to Belash. Considering the Makhnovist detachments too weak to consolidate in one area and assisting in the construction of an anarchist society, he proposed intensifying propaganda and agitation among workers and peasants and the construction of economic organisations, with if necessary, their defence from the Bolsheviks with armed units.

In October 1920 he took part in the raid on the White forces of Wrangel and according to Bolshevik sources was the commander of the Makhnovist cavalry from December 1920., In the winter and spring of 1920–21 he participated in Makhnovist raids in the Ukraine. Since July 1921, after the defeat of the Makhnovists, together with Belash and others he tried to break through to the Caucasus to join up with Makhnovist forces there. On 15th September 1920, the detachment dissolved itself and Dolzhenko and Belash went underground. Again according to Belash, Dolzhenko was disillusioned with the Makhnovist movement and anarchism. Around the 2oth September 1921, he was discovered by the Cheka in the village of Tikhoretskaya. He put up armed resistance but was captured. After this there are no details of his fate.

Nick Heath

Skirda, A. Anarchy’s Cossack.



4 years 11 months ago

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Submitted by Battlescarred on May 23, 2019

It is conceivable that when Belash wrote his account of Makhnovism in captivity under Chekist supervision, that he was deliberately emphasising the pro-Soviet aspects of his close friend who for all he knew was still alive, in order to gain leniency for Dolzhenko.