A short biographer of Alexander Kalashnikov, anarchist communist and Makhnovist commander
“An unusually courageous and talented commander”. Petr Arshinov, History of the Makhnovist Movement.
Alexander Kalashnikov was born in Baku, but from an early age lived in Gulyai Polye. He served in the First World War as an ensign. He worked as a mechanic at a factory in Gulyai Polye. From 1917 he was secretary of the Gulyai Polye Anarchist Communist Group. With other anarchists he took part in setting up an agricultural commune, Commune No 1, on the Klassen estate near Gulyai Polye (Colin Darch, following the information of the historian Volkovinsky, makes the false assertion that the landowner Klassen was killed by the anarchists, when accounts show that he was offered a chance to join the commune).
At the beginning of April 1918 the so-called socialists, in reality nationalists, of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (UNR) took Ekaterinoslav from the Bolsheviks and proceeded to Gulyai Polye, where they targeted the local Soviet, Revolutionary Committee and the Anarchist Communist Group. Members of these groups were tortured and shot. One of these was Moise Kalinichenko, who had been the first secretary of the Anarchist Communist Group, as well as other anarchists like Stepan Shepel and Pavel Korostelev (alias Khundai). Emilian Makhno, Nestor’s older brother, almost blind as a result of a wound received during the Russo-Japanese War, was shot in front of his wife and their five young children. Lioba Gorelik, a very active anarchist within Gulyai Polye’s Jewish community, was beaten to death. Kalashnikov and Nestor Makhno’s older brother Savva were taken to the jail at Alexandrovsk.
With the end of the First World War, the November 11th Armistice, and the withdrawal of Austro-Hungarian and German forces, Savva and Kalashnikov were released and returned to Gulyai Polye.
Kalashnikov took part in the Makhnovist movement from November 1918, and at first commanded the 1st Brigade. He was one of the most popular of the Makhnovist commanders.
However now a new nationalist government under Petliura dispersed the soviet in Ekaterinoslav, arrested six Bolsheviks and shot two Left Socialist Revolutionaries. The members of the soviet appealed to Makhno who agreed to intervene. He arrived with 600 partisans, and Kalashnikov, leading one unit, boarded a morning train packed with workers going to work, and seized the main station without firing a shot. Unfortunately, the thousand troops promised by the Bolsheviks and Left SRs proved to be only half that number, and the information given to the Makhnovists about enemy strength was also underestimated, leading to street fighting dragging on for several days, before the city fell. This proved to be a hollow victory, as the Petliurists recaptured Ekaterinoslav a few days later.
In mid-July 1919, the creation of the Makhnovist Insurgent Army was announced, numbering about 1,500. With the White offensive led by Denikin, the Makhnovists were forced to retreat to the west. Part of the Southern Front of the Red Army also retreated. This included 7,000 Makhnovists. It was intended that they retreat from Ukraine to Russia. This was met by dissatisfaction within the ranks of the retreating Red Army, who did not want to abandon the defence of Ukraine, and considered this a desertion of the revolutionary cause. In a skilfully engineered move, an uprising of the 3rd Brigade of the 58th Division took place at Novy Bug, under the leadership of Kalashnikov, Viktor Belash, Alexander Klein, Avram Budanov, Petr Garkusha and others, on the night of August 13th. The Red Commander Brigadier General Georgei Kochergin, realising that an uprising was in the offing, ordered Kalashnikov’s arrest. The Makhnovists captured Kochergin’s headquarters and arrested Kochergin, the military commissars and former Tsarist military officers. Kochergin and his wife were threatened with execution, but Kalashnikov spoke against this and saved their lives. Kalashnikov was then elected commander and it was decided to join up with the Makhnovist forces. Other sections of the 58th Division took part in the uprising, as a result of which Kalashnikov was in command of 20,000 infantry and cavalry, with artillery, machine guns and three armoured trains. This was a major blow for the Bolsheviks, as practically nothing remained of the Red Army in southern Ukraine and Crimea.
On August 26th the Kalashnikov grouping met up with a Makhnovist detachment of 2,000 at the village of Dobrovelichkovka in Elisavetgrad county. A meeting took place there, on September 1st, leading to the creation of the Revolutionary Insurgent Army of Ukraine in October 1919. Kalashnikov was elected to its Revolutionary Military Council, and appointed commander of the newly created 1st Donetsk corps. This took part in the Makhnovist victory at Peregovka over the Denikinists on September 27th.
The following day the 1st Donetsk Corps took part in the campaign into the Ekaterinoslav region. However Kalashnikov’s column did not fulfil its task of attacking Ekaterinoslav and changed its route, instead occupying Krivoy Rog. As a result a commission was set up the Makhnovist HQ, to investigate reasons for the non-fulfillment of the order. On the same day the commission was wound up, and Viktor Belash imposed a severe reprimand on Kalashnikov. It was still expected that Kalashnikov would proceed to Ekaterinoslav in mid-October, but this did not happen. On October 10th he arrived in Zaporozhye, where he explained his reasons for the non-fulfilment of the order, as due to the withdrawal by Makhnovist HQ of units led by Kazansky, Uralov, and Vaschenko that were necessary for the Ekaterinoslav operation. In November, he was appointed head of the defence of Zaporozhye.
Confidence in Kalashnikov seems to have been re-affirmed, and on May 29th, 1920, he was elected head of the operational department of the Soviet of the Revolutionary Insurgents of Ukraine (SRPU) at Aleksandrovka, where a new Revolutionary Military Council was set up.
He died after being hit by an artillery shell fired from a Red armoured train at Barvenkovo station on June 28th or 29th, 1920. He left a wife and child.