A short biography of Alexei Mokrousov, an anarchist guerrilla leader who went over to the Communists
Mokrousov was born on the 9th September (21st old calendar) 1887 in the village of Ponyri in the Zolotuhinsky district of the Kursk region in Russia into a family of poor peasants. His real first name and patronymic was Thomas Matveyevich, which he later changed to Alexei Vasilyevich, apparently because of need to disguise his identity as a revolutionary. He had to work at hard physical labour from an early age. At the age of seventeen he left his home and obtained work as a miner in the Donbass basin. According to his own memoirs he still believed in the Tsar and the priesthood in this period and was known as a brawler, hooligan and drunk.
However the course of his life changed with one incident. He was standing outside a tavern in Makayevka with a group of miners when a carriage carrying the drunken merchant Goloshapov sped by. This individual was known for his overbearing ways. He apparently hurled an empty vodka bottle into the crowd, which struck Mokrousov on the head. Mokrousov then raced after the carriage, dragged Goloshapov out and brutally beat him up. Arrested by the police, he was placed in a cell with the revolutionary anarchist Petrov -Vilyui . The police probably thought that at the very least Mokrousov would deride and insult the anarchist and perhaps beat him up. However, things turned out differently with Petrov-Vilyui explain his vision of a different society and the need for social transformation. According to Mokrousov on their parting Petrov -Vilyui shook Mokrousov’s s hand and said :" Remember, young man, all the things I have said here and courageously take the path of revolutionary struggle for the rights of the downtrodden and the oppressed! "
Mokrousov’s standing in Makayevka had gone up, because the merchant was unpopular and notorious for his devious business methods. When he was released after a few months he was called up to the Navy in 1908 where he began revolutionary agitation among the sailors. He became known as an orator and agitator for anarchism. Denounced by the ship’s boatswain in 1912, he fled the secret police and with a false passport escaped to Finland and then via Sweden to England. He worked on ships to Australia and at the beginning of the First World War he was working as a sailor in South America. He was apparently active in the workers’ movement in all of these places. He became a whaler, was ship wrecked and spent a few months on a desert island, where he survived by eating turtles. According to his own memoirs, on one cruise he surprised a wealthy businessman, knocked him over the head and threw him overboard.
In 1917 he returned to Russia and took part in the October Revolution in Petrograd. He was at the head of a group of sailors which captured the central telegraph office. He then was involved in the re-housing of working class families, giving wealthy house owners five minutes to pack. Later in the year he was summoned by Pavel Dybeko, head of the Tsentrobalt ( Central Committee of the Baltic Fleet) to go to Sevastopol to fight the Whites. There he formed the First Black Sea Revolutionary anarchist detachment which in January-February 1918 was involved in heavy fighting with the Germans and their Ukrainian Haidamak allies. Whilst in Sevastopol he apparently engaged in terror tactics, shooting Celebi Cihan , head of the Kuraltai ( Council) of Crimean Tatars. On December 15th 1917 he was involved in the shooting of 32 White officers on the Malakhov kurgan ( ancient steppe barrow). There he commanded a squad of sailors that executed the Chief of Staff of the Black Sea Fleet, Rear Admiral Mitrofan Kaskiv, chief commander of the Sevastopol port, head of the division of mine ships, Vice Admiral Paul Nowicki, Chairman of the naval vessels, and Lt. Gen. Julius Ketrits. Speaking at a meeting of the Feodosia Soviet on March 12th, 1918 he urged the destruction of the entire bourgeoisie.
Once at Poltava the detachment was surrounded by the enemy. Led by Mokrousov the detachment charged in with fixed bayonets, routing the opposition and capturing five machine guns and much ammunition and food.
Mokrousov was then appointed head of the defensive areas of Kherson, Taganrog, and Rostov and commanded the left flank on the Don-Kuban front. In September 1918 he was seriously wounded when a grenade was thrown in his car whilst passing through a village. In June 1919, recovering from his injuries he commanded the southern military sectors at the head of a Rifle Brigade. For a while he served under Dybenko alongside the detachments of Makhno and Grigoriev. It appears that his detachment may later have been involved in actions against the Makhnovists, a reprehensible act from an avowed anarchist like Mokrousov.For his courage and achievements he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner by the Bolsheviks.
In 1920 he was given the task by the Bolsheviks of organising guerrillas in the mountain forests. He re-organised the units and attacked the White general Wrangel from the rear on the Crimean peninsula in August. His forces landed by steamer near the town of Sudak dressed in White uniforms, with Mokrousov wearing a colonel’s epaulettes. They captured weapons, uniforms and food and destroyed the supply of sleepers for the Perekop-Djankov line. They then occupied part of Sudak. The garrison commander then fled . Mokrousov went on to inflict further defeats on Wrangel. At Karasubazar he engaged in further terror, shooting dozens of wealthy people.
After the Civil War Mokrousov was involved in working in housing committees. In 1928 after years of still calling himself an anarchist, he joined the Communist Party. With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War he went to Spain and was a military adviser on the Aragon front with the Republican forces. With the defeat of the Republic he offered to organise guerrillas in the Sierra Morena and attack the Francoist forces from the rear. This offer was not taken up.
On his return he worked in the Crimea as first secretary of the Crimean Autonomous Republic. He was an enthusiastic supporter of Stalin’s purges, denouncing and arresting “deserters, Trotskyists, spies, White officers” etc. In 1941 with the Nazi invasion he organised guerrilla forces in the Crimea. He gained an unsavoury reputation among other guerrilla leaders for his drunkenness and his return to old terror tactics. He fell out repeatedly with other guerrilla leaders and shot people for the slightest transgression. He was implicated in the deportation of the Crimean Tatars when they were accused by the Stalin regime of being guilty as a nation in supporting the Nazis, and in the massacre of Crimean Tatars and Crimean Germans at Simferopol. He refused to let Tatars into his units, and it was he and another guerrilla commander Martynov who first brought up the accusation of Tatar unreliability. He organised indiscriminate attacks on Tatar villages in order to bring on German counter-offensives. He drove hundreds of Tatars out of the forest who were then gunned down to a person by the Germans.
He harassed the Nazis from the rear, by summer 1943 forcing them and their Romanian allies out of the Crimea.
At the 20th Party Congress in 1956 the personality cult of Stalin was denounced and Mokrousov fell into disrepute. He died on October 28th 1959 in Simferopol, of a heart attack that it was alleged had been brought on by these events. A Crimean resort is still named after him.
It might at first seem strange that someone with both an anarchist background and who had participated in the Russian revolution should have survived so long under the Stalin regime. The fact that he fought in Spain is offered by some as an explanation, but it did not save other Communists who had gone to Spain. More likely his own brutal methods and his willingness to do the bidding of Stalin endeared him to the regime. Mokrousov’s shameful career was a particularly extreme illustration of what happened when anarchists took the road of close collaboration with the Bolsheviks.
Fisher, Alan W. The Crimean Tatars.
Makhno, N. Under the blows of the counterrevolution.
Naimark, Norman M. Fires of hatred: ethnic cleansing in twentieth century Europe.
Anarchists in the State : www.anarchist-studies-network.org.uk/documents/.../Martin%20Miller.doc