Nikolai Tuzov and the anarchist underground in Vyksa

Sovetskaya St, Nizhny Novgorod - 1920s
Sovetskaya St, Nizhny Novgorod - 1920s

A short account of the activities of anarchist Nikolai Tuzov and the anarchist underground

Submitted by Battlescarred on June 30, 2020

Nikolai Ivanovich Tuzov alias Zolnov was born into a working class family in 1903 at the factory village of Kulebaki in the province of Nizhny Novgorod. In 1919 he volunteered for the Red Army. In the following year he studied at the labour faculty in Nizhny. In that year, at the age of seventeen, he became friends with a member of the Communist Party, Yakov Grigorievich Samarin, according to his testimony during the OGPU investigation in 1935. Samarin, held anarchist views and was a member of the Workers’ Opposition around Shlyapnikov. In 1921, during the debate within the Communist Party involving the Workers’ Opposition, Samarin is alleged to have attracted members of the Komsomol (Communist youth organisation) around him.

Tuzov stated that:”As a result of the influence of Samarin, anarchist tendencies began to appear in me, which in time were strengthened by the fact that I began to study anarchist literature”. He obtained a book by Sebastien Faure from the Komsomol, and a copy of Bakunin’s God and the State from the Vyksa library.
In 1922, with Komsomol mobilisation he served in the Baltic fleet of the Red Navy up until 1924. He was disgusted by the rigid discipline within the fleet, and by the arrogant attitude of the officer class, many of whom still had their class origins in the nobility. As a result of his activities, and “the spreading of anarchist ideas within the Navy” he was exiled to in Zyryansky Krai in north western Russia in 1925. Here in the village ironically named Sloboda (Freedom) he met the convinced anarchist, the sailor Sergei Chuchkov (1) and the anarchist sympathiser Pavel Popov.

Later Tuzov managed to leave for Ust-Sysolsk and made contact with the exiled anarchists Ivan Vasilevich Malov (aka Udalov, Malov-Udalov) and Sara Moiseevna Donskaya, who lent him Kropotkin’s books , Bread and Freedom and Fields , Factories and Workshops.

He was also alleged to have contact with the anarchists Ivan Kalachev (2) and Ivan Alexeivich Akhrameev and remained in contact with them through correspondence after the end of his exile.

After his exile, Tuzov moved to Vyksa in Nizhny Novgorod province. There he gathered together a group. Its first meeting took place on April 13th, 1928 where according to testimony of one of its participants, Tuzov talked about his exile and the work and political principles of the anarchist organisation, about the founders of anarchism, Bakunin and Kropotkin, and about its current leading figures which he designated as Arshinov and Aron Baron. He also referred to his visit to the widow of Kropotkin, Sofia Grigorievna Kropotkina, who was presented with a model of a sailing ship on behalf of the exiled anarchists. It was alleged that she gave him addresses of safe houses of leading anarchists (it should be remembered that all of this information was gathered by the OGPU from the accused under duress so its veracity is questionable).

Describing the political situation in the country, it is alleged that Tuzov said that now no revolutionary work is possible because of reaction, but that after reaction, as a rule, the revolution set in, that there had been two revolutions, and that there would be a third. He recommended that members of the group "go deeper underground, conduct further work more conspiratorially, recruit more carefully, and meet him less in public."

Alleged members of the group included N. K. Gorshkov who according to testimony of another accused, set up an artel in Vyksa called Red Handicraft founded on anarchist principles of mutual aid and the anarchist communist principle “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. The artel included 13 members and intended to unite sympathisers of anarchism with it, and to apply anarchist principles in life and “thereby raise the profile of our anarchist group”. It soon collapsed due to lack of working capital. Other members included Kalachev, Alexander Shakhovsky,Valentin Ivanovich Tarakhanov,Kichashin, Fedor Semenovich Matyugov, Ivan Reschenskov and Abramov. Reschenkov was a leading figure in the anarchist group in the nearby village of Doschchatoe. Gorshkov was a former Socialist-Revolutionary who had joined the Communist Party between 1924-25.

Tuzov was alleged to have distributed anarchist propaganda in the area with the help of Kalachev.

Matyugov, born 1898, was a chief railway conductor. He had married Tuzov’s sister Alexandra.

Apparently the group intended to deliver anarchist speeches on May Day in 1928 and to exhibit anarchist black banners. This was halted by the arrest of Tuzov on that day, along with Matyugov and Reschenskov. Tuzov received a prison sentence of one month.

He returned to Leningrad after this and completed three courses at the naval technical school majoring as a navigator. In 1933 he was sentenced to three months forced labour for participating in sailors’ unrest in Murmansk. He then worked as a ship’s mate on the icebreaker Oktober, based at the port of Leningrad.

Later, on August 10th 1935 he was arrested by the OGPU during their investigation of the anarchist underground in Nizhny Novgorod province. He was sentenced to 10 years in the labour camp Sevzheldorlag, in the Komi Republic on February 14th, 1936. There he was arrested again by the NKVD on March 8th, 1941 and shot on either November 14th, 1941 or January 14th, 1941 according to conflicting accounts.

Matyugov was sentenced to seven years in the camps, and survived Tuzov by a few days, being shot in the Sevvostlag camp on December 28th, 1941. Alexandra was also arrested in 1935, along with another relative, Nikolai Alexeivich Matyugov, a shift supervisor at the Vyksa metallurgical factory. They were both shot at the Ukhtpechlag camp in 1937.

(1)Sergei Ivanovich Chuchkov. Executed on November 10th, 1941.

(2)Ivan Georgievich Kalachev. Born 1906 in the village of Eparka (Epparta) in the Topirinsky district of Bashkiria. An anarchist communist from the early 1920s. Worked as a standardiser of a brick workshop of an engine factory. Active in spreading anarchist ideas in Bashkiria. In 1925 he was exiled to the Zyransky district. Arrested on September 18th 1935 by the OGPU. Sentenced to 10 years in a labour camp. Shot or died in one of the camps on April 20, 1938.

Nick Heath


Black Banner, Lion’s Mane: Ya. V. Leontjev The fate of the rebel: The activities of the anarchist N. I. Tuzov in 1920–1930 :