A short biography of Boris Veretelnik , Left Socialist Revolutionary and then anarchist and Makhnovist
Boris Vasilyevich Veretelnik was born into a peasant family in Gulyai-Polye. He worked as a foundry worker in the village and then in a foundry at the Putilov works in Petrograd. During the 1905-1907 Revolution he joined the Socialist Revolutionary Party and became an experienced organiser and agitator.
During the 1st t World War, he served as a sailor in the Black Sea Fleet. In 1917-1918 he was a member of the Sebastopol Committee of the Left Socialist Revolutionaries. In February 1918 he returned to Gulyai Polye, with E. Polonski, also a Left SR, and Charovski, who belonged to no party but was a peasant of Gulyai Polye. Makhno had known Veretelnik since childhood and he introduced all three to the Revolutionary Committee at Gulyai Polye. All three were admitted as members of the propaganda department of the Revolutionary Committee. Veretelnik soon joined the Gulyai Polye Anarchist Communist Group.
On 16th April 1918 he was arrested by the reactionary group at the time of the counter-revolutionary coup in the village, but managed to escape on the same day. Other anarchists were murdered by the group. He alerted Nestor Makhno - absent from Gulyai Polye at the time - about the situation with several letters. In the meantime he and another member of the Anarchist Communist Group organised meetings in each sotnia (ward) which voted for the immediate release of all arrested, and sent this demand to the group of reactionaries, who backed down and released all prisoners. During the situation the group of nationalists had manipulated the local Jewish population ( in order later to organize a pogrom against them) and Veretelnik alerted Makhno to the danger of a consequent outbreak of anti-semitism.
Veretelnik participated in the Taganrog conference held by anarchists retreating from Gulyai Polye.This was completely devoted to the situation that had developed at Gulyai Polye. The Anarchist Communist Group had been in the forefront against anti-Semitism in the area and were taken aback that they had been taken prisoner by Jews working with anti-Semites. There were bitter words from many, some going so far as to call for breaking off all work with the Jewish community. To their great credit the conference decided on a re-affirmation of struggle against all forms of anti-Semitism and to continue revolutionary activities with the Jewish community. A statement was issued with the signatures of Makhno and Veretelnik.
In summer 1918 Veretelnik carried out work in Moscow. By the end of the year he returned to the Ukraine to Ekaterinoslav. He joined the Makhnovist movement, and quickly became very popular in the area. He was an active participant of the 2nd Gulyai Polye District Congress on the 12th to the 18th February 1919, chairing the Congress and being elected to the Revolutionary Military Council (PRC) of the Makhnovist Movement. He participated in the Congress of the PRC on the 7th March 1919 and in the 3rd District Congress on the 10th April of the same year.
He did not take a direct part in military activities, focusing instead on work in the Gulyai Polye Soviet of Workers' and Peasants' Deputies, seeking to establish economic life on anarchist principles through the widespread development of non-partisan voluntary councils of both technical and coordinating bodies of administration. He was a supporter of the alliance with the Bolsheviks on the condition that they recognized the full independence of the Gulyai Polye area as the base of an anarchist social experiment. With the White offensive in the Ukraine he started participating in military work on 16th May taking up the post of Assistant Chief of Staff of the 1st Division of the Makhnovists. He organised the mobilisation of the Gulyai Polye population and was elected commander of the hastily formed Consolidated Infantry Regiment which armed itself with whatever weaponry it could find.
On 22nd May ( or 5th June?)1919 in battle with Don and Kuban Cossacks commanded by Shkuro at the village of Svyatodukhovka ten miles away the regiment was surrounded and completely annihilated, fighting bravely to the end with its commander Veretelnik.
Photo: Boris Veretelnik (sitting, left), Miron Bugaevsky (sitting, right), Trokhim Litvinenko (standing, left).
Litvinov, V. Nestor Makhno et la question juive
Makhno, N. La Revolution Russe en Ukraine.
Malet, M. (1982) Nestor Makhno in the Russian Civil War