A short biography of Makhnovist commander Foma Kozhin
Foma Kozhin was born and lived in Katerinovka (now in the Ukraine) in the Maryinsky district in the Donbass basin.
It is known that he commanded a detachment in the Red Army in December 1918, whist professing anarchist views. There is a possibility that he took part in the raid of guerrilla miners led by Ivan Grigorievich Chaplin in November 1918 in the Bakhmut district against the regime of the Hetman Skoropadsky.
He led a machine gun detachment in early 1919 in the Soviet 13th Regiment, and then became a brigade commander. However, he rejected Trotsky’s plans to build a regular army and Lenin’s war communism and on 20th June 1919 left with his machine gun detachment to join the Makhnovists.
The Bolsheviks sent a special detachment in pursuit led by K. Medvedev and commissar Antonov on June 27th. During their attempted arrest of Kozhin they were captured by the gunners and shot.
Kozhin’s adherence to the Makhnovists was a huge bonus for them, as he was an accomplished guerrilla commander and tactician. He had a key role in the defeat of the forces of the White general Denikin in the battle of Peregonovka in autumn 1919. The battle took place outside the village of Peregonovka at 2 a.m. on 27th September. Kozhin with about 100 tachankas (horse drawn carriages fitted with machine guns) together with other Makhnovist units, defeated a force of 20.000 and heavy losses were inflicted on the Denikinists. In particular the so-called “Native Division” made up of Chechens received many casualties. Later Kozhin’s forces caught up with the Native Division near Alexsandrovsk. Two regiments were annihilated by machine gun fire, and a sabre charge wiped out those remaining. Kozhin’s forces lost only 40 combatants. This was followed by another attack on the Chechen regiments near Ekaterinoslavl, after which the Native Division ceased to exist.
On April 12th, 1920 Kozhin formed a self-defence unit in his home district of Maryinsk, with 100 cavalry and 30 tachankas and on May 15th joined up with the main Makhnovist forces for a raid through the north of Donetsk province.
Returning from the raid, Kozhin attacked Bolshevik forces and then when the Makhnovists went into alliance once more with the Bolsheviks against the White forces of Baron Wrangel, played a key part in their defeat. Kozhin moved with other Makhnovist units into the Crimea and defeated the mounted regiments of Barbovich, destroying them completely. This allowed the Red Army to advance quite quickly and turn the retreat of Wrangel into a rout.
When the Bolsheviks once more outlawed the Makhnovists, Kozhin disbanded his detachment and went underground in his native district. But already by February 15th, Chekist units were already in pursuit of him in the neighbourhood. A month later Kozhin formed a detachment of 300 cavalry and 12 mounted machine guns and passed through Grishinsky district, briefly occupying the village of Bogoyavlenskoye. However, he was forced to move on, with the 7th Cavalry Division of the Red Army in hot pursuit. In Styla, the Kozhin units destroyed all the local records and shot the local military commissar and twelve policemen. Kozhin then moved on to Taganrog, to link up with rebels there. But then Kozhin changed his plans and moved to occupy Starobeshevo, There the 6th Labour Regiment under the command of Golodaev, who had been tasked with destroying Makhnovist detachments, was heavily defeated and then pursued to the Maryinsky district. Here Kozhin divided his detachment in two. One unit of 80 cavalry went to Pokrovskoye, whilst Kozhin with 200 cavalry and 7 mounted machine guns moved to Galitsynovka.
Kozhin then left the Donetsk province, unexpectedly returning in late March, where he carried out raids. In early April Kozhin linked up with the Makhnovist units of Fedor Shchus and Savonov. On April 8th they were caught up with by a Chekist regiment and were defeated in a ferocious battle. They lost 21 partisans, as well as two flags seized by the Chekists, one black, with the motif of 24th Mariupol Group of Makhnovist rebels: Live Freely or Die! and one red, inscribed with Long Live the Red Army Which Defends the Social Revolution. The defeated Makhnovists fled to the Dnieper floodplains.
Soon Kozhin returned to the Donbass and distributed leaflets calling for a Congress of Soviets. But he was again defeated at Novoaleksandrovka but retaliated with an attack on the 7th company of the 76th Regiment.
Linking up with other Makhnovist commanders, including Shchus and Kurilenko, Kozhin created a force of 600 cavalry and 100 tachankas., raiding in the Chernigov region and then around Poltava.
There are two versions of how he died, one given by Viktor Belash, who wrote that that he was seriously wounded in the bladder in July 1921 and then treated for his wounds under a false name in August at the hospital in Taganrog, where he died on the operating table. Another account of his death states that he was injured in June 1921 during a battle, and fearing arrest, killed himself.
Article by Alexander Matyushin and Andrey Kozelkov at:http://newskif.su/2018/5148/