A short biography of Nazar Zuychenko, one of first members of Gulyai Poye Anarchist Communist Group, persecuted by the Soviet authorities
Nazar Zuychenko was born in Gulyai Polye, the home village of Nestor Makhno, in 1887 or 1888, into a peasant family. His education was so basic that he remained illiterate, according to some reports although it doesn’t seem to have stopped him from having a rich political and cultural life. He told Viktor Belash in autumn 1918 that "In 1905, in Gulyai Polye a revolutionary situation was brewing. ... The mood was militant. We really liked the programme of the anarchist-communists .... in 1904 in Gulyai Polye AK Semenyuta began organizing efforts to establish a group of rebels.” Zuychenko went on to say that after Bloody Sunday, January 9, 1905 Waldemar Antoni, a member of the Ekaterinoslav anarchist communists, returned to his home village of Gulyai Polye. He was an excellent propagandist and immediately gained recognition among young people there. Nazar joined the new anarchist communist group established at Gulyai Polye in that year. From 1905 to 1907 he worked as a metal worker at the Kerner factory making agricultural machines in Gulyai Polye. Nazar was also a member of the local Poor Peasants Union which had been established by the group. This resulted in local landlords and rich peasants forming a Union of "true Russian people" (“Union of the Archangel Gabriel"), chaired by the bailiff Karachentsev... This even attracted some support among the workers in the factories. Their main slogan was: "Death to Jews and save Russia." They organised several pogroms against the Jews. Nazar told Belash that: “ We got together and decided , before it it's too late, it is necessary to disperse and neutralize them.” The Union of Poor Peasants issued a warning and then…“our boys set fire to the farm of landowner Chernoglazihi who was playing first fiddle in their union,” and then did the same with other farms of the members of this Black Hundreds –style outfit. The Union of the Archangel Gabriel then ceased its activities. “The victory was ours”. This points to the very strong foundations on which the Makhnovist movement was later built with active action from the start against anti-Semitism and for internationalism in one of its founding nuclei.
When Nestor Makhno started work at the factory he soon learnt that an amateur theatrical group was operating there directed by Zuychenko. He was keen on acting and introduced himself. Nazar subsequently introduced Nestor into the ranks of the Anarchist Communist Group and became a close friend. In 1907 Nazar was arrested for distributing illegal literature and participation in arson. He was exiled to Chelyabinsk, where he fled from in 1908. In August of the same year he was arrested in a safe house in Ekaterinoslav and delivered to Gulyai Polye. Whilst he was in prison he was too talkative to a cell-mate, Yakov Grin, who was in fact a plant of the authorities. He told him that he had participated in armed attacks on the authorities. Following a harsh interrogation he confessed to looting, killings and said that they were all done for political reasons. Due to a case of acute typhus his case was handled separately from other defendants in the trial (several were hanged and Nestor Makhno received a long prison sentence). Skirda believes that this was faked by the authorities because of the assistance given to them by Zuychenko. On March 19th 1911 the Provisional Military Court in Ekaterinoslav sentenced him to death by hanging, which was later commuted to 25 years hard labour. He served the sentence in Saratov prison.
After the February Revolution of 1917 he was freed under an amnesty and volunteered for military service. He fought in the army on the Austrian front. After the October Revolution of 1917 he returned to Gulyai Polye. He was greeted warmly by Nestor Makhno, who was either unaware of his role in his conviction, or had forgiven him. Makhno mentions him affectionately in his Memoirs. During the reign of the Hetman Skoropadsky he had to live underground. He was a member of the Makhnovist movement from 1918 to 1921. He chaired the Commission for Anti-Makhnovist Inquiry (KAD) set up to control the actions of the Makhnovist counter-intelligence. He was a member of staff of the Makhnovist GHQ. He voluntarily surrendered to the Bolsheviks in April 1921 under an amnesty.
After the establishment of Soviet power he was sentenced to 1 year of imprisonment "for the unlawful seizure of grain from the peasants" (this from the Bolsheviks!!). He later lived in Gulyai Polye, and worked as an agricultural labourer. That ludicrous charge was followed by one even more so. On August 12th 1926 he was arrested by the Zaporozhye district office of the GPU on the charges that "in 1908 - 1909 as a member of the party Gulyai Polye anarchist communist party, after arrest by the Ekaterinoslav gendarmerie he gave damning testimony about the activities of Nestor Makhno and other members of the group " ( from the sworn enemies of Makhno!). He was convicted on these charges on October 27th 1927 to 10 years in prison!! Following the amnesty celebrating the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution his sentence was reduced to three years and four months.
He was again arrested on October 15th 1930 by the Dnipropetrovs’k GPU on suspicion of involvement in counter-revolutionary organizations, preparing for armed attacks against the Soviet authorities. During the preliminary investigation these “counter-revolutionary organisations” “liquidated in the spring of 1931” were not identified, but the result obtained was “evidence” of “the social danger” of the accused. On July 31st 1931 the case against Zuychenko was turned into one of “conducting anti-Soviet agitation”. He was imprisoned at Dnipropetrovs’k. On December 22nd 1931 he was sentenced to imprisonment in a concentration camp for 5 years. He served this in the fearsome White Sea-Baltic OGPU labour camp, from which he was sent on 25th October 1932 to the Dmitrov OGPU camp in the Moscow region.
On his release he worked in the Red Metalworker factory at Gulyai Polye. In February 1938 he was arrested by the Gulyai Polye NKVD as a member of the counterrevolutionary organization of ex Makhnovists who were preparing for armed attacks on the Soviet authorities . Many other ex-Makhnovists were rounded up and shot in this period (see the separate bio on Ivan Chuchko here at libcom). The NKVD tribunal of the Dnipropetrovs’k region sentenced him on April 25th 1938 to be shot. This was carried out on July 7th 1938 in Dnipropetrovs’k.
In January 1958 the military tribunal of the Odessa military overturned the NKVD ruling saying that the prosecution case should never have gone ahead because of lack of any proof.
Konstantin Feodosevich Shteppa -who had been a History Professor at Kiev University- mentions Zuychenko in his memoirs in favourable terms as one of the fellow inmates awaiting execution on one of the death wards which he himself fortunately was released from (In Stalin’s Prisons- Reminiscences).
Malet, M. (1982). Nestor Makhno in the Russian Civil War
Skirda, A. (1982) Nestor Makhno, Le Cosaque de l'Anarchie