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"Ukraine Anarchists / Scenario Packs / OOBs" Topic

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dandiggler26 Jun 2008 4:05 p.m. PST

I'm still pretty new to the RCW / SPW but I've really enjoyed reading about Nestor Makhno and the various Anarchist and Nationalist forces in the Ukraine. What would be suitable miniatures for Makno's army and are there any scenario packs (like Skirmish Elite) or OOBs? I'm mainly looking at a skirmish level game such as Warhammer Great War (or any other suggested rule sets) that I can adapt them to.

Mark Plant26 Jun 2008 8:11 p.m. PST

What scale are you looking at? I can help in 15mm only.

Orders of battle for the anarchists would be difficult: generally they were some scummy infantry with a few machine guns. Maybe a tiny bit of awful cavalry and perhaps the odd gun (badly crewed and with almost no ammunition).

Mahkno's army was completely different to the other anarchists -- a far superior army. It had excellent cavalry and tachankas. Infantry was often cart mounted. Again a shortage of ammunition was the norm. Decent artillery only when serving in the Red Army.

You can find the odd OOB for the Nationalists, but you need to specify which ones and which period.

If you are dealing with skirmish level, then surely OOBs are meaningless? You take a few infantry or cavalry and perhaps an MG/tachanka for the anarchists and put them up against a regular White or Red platoon. (Actually, at skirmish level, perhaps more likely against a requisitioning or arresting partly.)

dandiggler26 Jun 2008 9:13 p.m. PST

I'm looking for 28mm. I've been eying up the Eureka Tachanka, although I suppose I'd have the create a new crew for it. I'm mainly interested in Makhno's army, but it seems difficult to find correct minis for the period. I've seen the WWII partizans by Brigade Games, but I'm not sure if they'd work for infantry (those armed with rifles, not SMGs).

jedburgh27 Jun 2008 7:05 a.m. PST

Try Copplestone's Russian Partizans for the rank and file. You might just have to wait for Brigade/Copplestone for the leadership – they seem to hve carried as much personal armament as possible.

Altius27 Jun 2008 7:15 a.m. PST

Copplestone does some excellent Russian partisan infantry in their Back of Beyond range. I suppose you could mix them in with some of the White Russian or Bolshevik troops to represent partisans wearing remnants of uniforms. They are all outstanding figures, and I am really hooked on them for my own RCW project. For the cavalry, you could use a mix of their various cavalry packs to get the right look.

Also, have you checked out Cannon Fodder? He does a line of Post-WWI European revolutionaries that might work for you.

Musketeer Miniatures also does a line of Irish revolutionaries: link From the photos, they seem like very nice figures, but the clothes might look too Western to be Ukranian partisans.

Area2327 Jun 2008 1:01 p.m. PST

Planning a Makhnovichina army for ages, but never got to it…
I'd use Copplestone cossack cavalry mixed with bolshevik cavalry.
Infantry- ragged white russians with shoulderboards filed off and partisans.

The Copplestone partisans I have are taller than Brigade, unfortunately, but work okay in seperate units if you're not too picky.

bruntonboy27 Jun 2008 1:11 p.m. PST

Makhno had at times a fairly standard army including artillery, an armoured train and even (IIRC) an aeroplane. He occaisionally also had command of Red Army troops when the Bolsheviks were in such trouble that they had to swallow thier pride and cooperate with the Anarchists. The bulk of his troops were often deserters from Red pr White armies so use these figures but the scruffier versions the better.


Mark Plant27 Jun 2008 5:48 p.m. PST

Makhno didn't command any Red Troops. While his men *were* Red troops -- in theory -- there was no way the Soviets would let him gain control of any more than they could help. In practice his men were never actually Red Army -- they didn't wear the uniforms, obey orders from anyone other than Makhno, nor allow Communist propaganda or commissars. They are better thought of as allies than subordinates.

When not fighting with the Red Army the Makhnovists from time to time captured artillery, trains etc. But they could only use them briefly, for surprise value. The very survival of the insurgents was the inability of the opposition to pin them down, ruling out artillery trains or being tied to railway lines. (Nor could they effect any repairs, nor find any ammo.) For skirmish level there is no need to worry about such minor events.

When fighting for the Reds then he was supplied with heavy equipment and, more importantly, had a secure rear area. But who wants to game him when he was fighting as a Soviet?

A bigger problem for gamers is that Makhno was good, and survived when others failed, because he managed to stick to asymetric warfare. This was one reason why his fighting force was built around cavalry and tachankas, with his infantry cart mounted if he used them in an attack. If he couldn't win by surprise or shock, then he withdrew immediatley. His men were not able to sustain fighting for any length of time.

Scenarios therefore should be about the Makhnovists attemtping to hit-and-run, or the Reds/Whites attempting to pin a unit down so they could wipe it out. Straight up fighting wasn't his style, and he basically invariably lost when the opponents could catch him with anything like equal forces (which wasn't very often).

While his men were good at what they did, it does not mean that they were anything like a regular army. When the White army broke out of the south in 1919 that they did so through Makhno's portion of the front, which crumbled totally.

Mike O28 Jun 2008 11:42 a.m. PST

Following has some interesting stuff on OOBs, maps etc. for the battle of Peregonovka which seems the closest to a set-piece fight for the Makhnovists when they were cornered after a long retreat from the Whites (and actually won):


Mike Erwin and Dennis Bishop are collaborating on a new version of a board-wargame called "Tatchanka!" which might also provide useful data for battles with minis (maybe not skirmish though):

I'm going down the 20mm plastic route and sets such as Strelets WW1 Russian Infantry, Hussars, Cossacks and Dragoons seem to have some versatile figures:


Inevitably there's plenty of debate surrounding the course of certain events involving the Makhnovists – particularly from writers with declared anarcho-communist sympathies on the one hand and Marxists, Leninists, Trotskyists and Stalinists on the other. Responsibility for the White break out on the Ukrainian front in May 1919 is one of them.

Makhno sympathisers like Arshinov, Skirda and Malet claim the breakthrough first came either on the Makhnovist left flank assigned to the 13th Red Army forces (Arshinov also alleging the Reds had withdrawn forces leaving the flank open) or at the junction of the two. Some also charge the Reds deliberately starved Makhno of arms and ammo.

Colin Darch takes the pro-Bolshevik line that Shkuro's cossacks solely poured straight through the crumbling Makhnovists with virtually no resistance. He also accepts at face value that "Trotsky was convinced that Makhno's anarchism was only Kulak banditry in fancy dress" although the opposing view might be that Trotsky thought nothing of the sort and was using increasingly bitter slurs in a desperate bid to counter the perceived threat to the Bolshevik's Ukrainian ambitions represented by Makhno. Red Army commanders themselves report a steady haemorrhage from their Ukraine-front units deserting to the "Blacks".

Mark Plant28 Jun 2008 4:10 p.m. PST

Durruti, there is indeed doubt about what happened.

In my opinion the versions of Arshinov, Skirda and Malet are largely worthless when it comes to military detail:
1) because they are *hugely* biased. They are writing propaganda, not history. "Arshinov also alleging the Reds had withdrawn forces leaving the flank open". He's alleging that the Soviets deliberately let the Whites out of the bag for a short term gain over a much less dangerous opponent (and ally). How likely is that?
2) they were all writing politics, not military history. They were not soldiers and had no interest in military affairs, other than to absolve Makhno of any faults.

The difference between them and the Lenin/Trotksy faction on military effectiveness is interesting. Both sides started out with the dogma that self-organised militias are the most effective military organisation. The Soviets soon cottoned on that they are not. To the end the Anarchist writers never gripped the fact that formally disciplined armies are far more effective, even in a civil war. How much then do we value the military opinion of writers who fail to look the obvious facts in the face?

However Colin Darch is more reliable. For a start he read the White sources -- which had no dog in the fight between Red and Black -- as well as Red and Black ones.

I do think it likey that the Soviets limited the Makhnovists' supplies. It's not like the Soviet forces at the time were well supplied. In any case anarchist/Green forces were notoriously extremely wasteful, as they had no commissariat and no way of enforcing proper care with things like ammo.

Mike O29 Jun 2008 10:30 a.m. PST

I agree with you about Arshinov, Mark. Although he and Voline did accompany the Makhnovist army for periods – presumably in an attempt to lend some "idealogical backbone" – his book does not read as a memoir but as political justification (not always uncritical of Makhno) for anarchism. However there are a few interesting snippets here and there such as the high regard the Makhnovists had for White cavalry (and low for the Reds).

Skirda isn't as bad in my opinion. He does consult White sources, quoting extensively from Shkuro's memoirs ("Notes of a White Partisan" – interestingly Skirda treats Shkuro in a more favourable light than most left-wing authors). He also quotes the writings of V. Pavlov, a Lt. Colonel of the Markov Division. Unfortunately Skirda gives his enthusiasm for "the cause" too much free rein. I don't know if that's just a quirk of translation but I've noticed that style in several French historical writers where opinion takes over from objectivity (no offense to the French – sometimes the style can be quite refreshing as in Lachouque's "Waterloo"!).

Malet's book has a whole chapter on "Makhno's Military Organisation and Capabilities" plus lots of the same elsewhere so I'm not sure it can so easily dismissed. Writing in 1979 he perhaps didn't have access to the same sources a more recent writer might have though – I don't know.

As to the White breakthrough, I wouldn't say Arshinov and Skirda claim the Reds deliberately "let the Whites out the bag" – more they are claiming it was tactical incompetence and failure to understand the danger of a White attack. For instance, just prior, Dybenko had withdrawn a large number of troops (including the Crimean Shock Regiment from Makhno's force) to deal with the Grigoriev revolt. Skirda also cites Shkuro's memoirs where he claims his breakthrough was made possible by a Red army unit that had been defending a river bank impetuously pursuing a White unit they had checked. The Red unit was surrounded and destroyed, leaving a gap.

As for Darch, hmm, I'm not sure he's a soldier or has much interest in military affairs as his essay "The Myth of Nestor Makhno" is largely a political polemic from a Marxist-Leninist POV. In fact at the end of the essay he states " is Skirda's (book) which captures the imagination : it is written with passion and scholarship, although it is principally a narrative political and military history, avoiding idealogical, social and economic questions…A truly problematised Marxist history of the Makhnovshchina has yet to be written." Presumably he wants to be the one that does it!

His writing was also used in support of an anti-Makhno article in the "International Socialist Review"
prompting some replies on anarchist sites that allege the "Leninist historian Colin Darch" relied, pretty uncritically, on Soviet sources for his main attacks on the Makhnovist movement

My own opinion is that is VERY difficult to discover the true facts when just about all the writers have an agenda!
Viktor Belash's book "Dorogi Nestora Makhno" is supposedly useful on military matters for wargamers but only in Russian – plus he was a regimental commander and later Chief of Staff in the Makhnovist army.

Area2329 Jun 2008 2:59 p.m. PST

Beat the whites until they see red, beat the reds until they see black. ;)

Even in 2008 issues like the Maknovichina and Kronstad are still debate between Leninists, Trots and Anarchists.

And it žs a serious possibility the reds sabotaged supplies. They also rounded up and jailed and shot revolutionary opposition for political motives only.

Cool site with pics:
All biased though ;)

It seems 28mm miniatures with traditional Ukrainian peasant dress do not exist.

Mark Plant29 Jun 2008 4:15 p.m. PST

As for Darch, hmm, I'm not sure he's a soldier or has much interest in military affairs

I might have the jump on you there. Many years back I got the full version of Colin's thesis on Makhno. It seems to me to be a quite dispassionate account, and pretty good on military details. (Peregenovka is particularly well covered.) I have tried to persuade him to let me republish it in full on but he is unwilling.

(I struggle to see him as "Leninist" but, as you say, the name-throwing and selective data use is pretty intense still in this field.)

For instance, just prior, Dybenko had withdrawn a large number of troops (including the Crimean Shock Regiment from Makhno's force) to deal with the Grigoriev revolt.

Too true. In "Bolsheviks in the Ukraine : the Second Campaign : 1918-1919" Arthur Adams attributes the Bolshevik collapse largely to Grigoriev. That is different from suggesting that the Bolshevik collapse was *deliberately* organised to as to discredit and destroy Makhno, as some anarchists seem to claim. Also it shows that Makhno's popularity in the area was not unique: Grigoriev has just as much "pull", and there were others such as Zelenyi as well.

It's a while since I read Skirda -- perhaps I should try again.

Mark Plant29 Jun 2008 4:17 p.m. PST

Durutti: e-mail me on pygmywars at gmail dot com.

Mike O30 Jun 2008 12:58 p.m. PST

Will do, Mark.

Area23, the politics are certainly still a hot topic for debate and this can have some influence on how RCW units are represented on the tabletop too! For instance, I'm not sure I agree with some of the "Proletarians, to Horse" army lists for the "Square Bashing" rules. It doesn't inspire much confidence when they refer to the Makhnovists as "Greens" led by someone called "Marknov" either…

I must say that I think Mark is excellent on the military capabilities of the Makhnovists and his alternative army lists and rules for "Red Actions" is superb; great improvements on the already nice originals (I think the Perfect Captain has been planning a new version?).

All of these debates are also reflected in the next great idealogical conflict – the Spanish Civil War. Mark makes an interesting point about the military effectiveness of self-organised militias with elected commanders and voting on orders etc. It's here that I find the greatest conflict between Marxist (in all their shades) writing because, of course, Trotsky was now in exile and seemingly putting forward a quite different image to the one when he was trundling around in his armoured train full of leather-clad boys – creating the Red Army of iron discipline, fear of the firing squad, Tsarist officers and very little "people power" (The "Trotsky Legend" like the "Napoleonic Legend"?).

There's a whole new discussion to be had here and it could get lengthy ;) The anarcho-syndicalist workers of Spain were a largely different bunch to the anarcho-communist peasants of Ukraine but there were many shared ideals. The Spanish also had some well known internal arguments over military organisational change and their war strategy plus they found themselves closely aligned with the POUM who were led by a former secretary of Trotsky who was murdered by the Stalinists. Books worth reading on this are Orwell's "Homage to Catalonia" and Beevor's "The Spanish Civil War". Also the films "Land and Freedom" by Loach and "Libertarias" by Aranda.

Finally I'll 'fess up that in my youf I was a Trot so I think I can appreciate aspects of both sides of the anarchist-Marxist debate (less so the Monty Pythonesque bashing between the 57 varieties of Trot and the 9000 varieties of Marx). I've still got my copy of "How the Revolution Armed, Vol 2: 1919" by Leon Trotsky as well as a host of others and reading that, along with accounts of Kronstadt, first set alarm bells buzzing. Not that this mattered when we had the more immediate threats of the poll tax and Maggie Thatcher to deal with :)

Mike O'B

Mark Plant01 Jul 2008 2:05 a.m. PST

Finally I'll 'fess up that in my youf I was a Trot

I think the "Durruti" gives away a bit of your view-point!

I personally have some softness for Anarcho-Syndicalism, in the French or Spanish style. It's a shame it's never had a decent run to see whether it works.

My weakness is that Makhno's men were authority-haters in the peasant medieval style, not modern Anarchists at all. Thus they basically trashed any cities, not realising how important the cities were to their survival. (Very similar to Pol Pot's lunacy, actually.) Makhno could never have set up a viable economic system, because he relied on plunder for manufactured goods and had no way of rewarding city workers.

Mike O02 Jul 2008 1:11 p.m. PST

:) I'm going to try and change to my proper name as I've had enough of nicks I chose ages ago – on most forums nobody would know what it meant but it's a bit obvious here :)

BTW, Dan who started the thread might be interested in this site I found with some purported flags of Ukrainian nationalists and Makhnovists:

Ukrainian "Directory" (UPR/UNR) Flags:

Many people know the photo of the "skull and crossbones" black banner flanked by a rather smart escort but the following also reputedly shows a flag of the 3rd Insurgent Rifle Regt. in someones private collection:

You might have to join the forum ("Soviet Military Awards") to see the images. Genuine???

As to the infamous black banner mentioned earlier, there's a lengthy post by "serge bettencourt" that throws doubt on it:

"And second, well, that flag was not the Makhnovshtshina's flag.
Makhno, in his writings of 1926 to 1929, produced many clarifications and details about the movement, mainly in "Pobrozdenie" (the awakening) and in the "Anarkhichesky Vestnik" (the Anarchist messenger). On the anecdotic question of the skull & bones flag, brought up by the ONE famous photograph commonly attributed to the Makhnovists (and that is used on several game components), Makhno was very clear: even if he reckons that the flag on the picture could very possibly be a specific initiative of some sympathizer group or even a group formally affiliated to the Anarchist movement (and he sees absolutely no problem to that), the flag of the Makhnovshtshina was plain black and he personally NEVER saw any skull & bones on the movement's standards. Makhno adds that the skull & bones emblem was not particularly in favour, since it was widely used by the (White) enemy…Besides, no internal or external observer of the Makhnovshtshina ever reported the existence of such a characteristic banner."

It's about half way down this page if you can wade through it (serge is a far more "ardent admirer" than, er, anyone mentioned in our thread! )

Area2314 Jul 2008 11:44 a.m. PST

Is this about this famous banner of two or three half uniformed men with a huge black banner with a lot of cyrillic text?

An Ukrainian woman once translated it for me in Engrish, it's supposed to say something like 'Death to anyone who stands in the way of the working people's struggle' or something along those lines.

I'd really like to go on a trip to the Ukraine for this kind of info. Apparently there's a Makhno museum somewhere around Gulay Poyle (sp?).

As on real politics, Some good friends of mine are the local Leninist Committee and I always feel like the guy chained to the bench in the train, in Doctor Zhivago. ;)

Indeed a shame we still don't know if it works at all! :D

Mike O15 Jul 2008 12:22 p.m. PST


Yeah, this one:

I think it's the one Makhno refers to in this article:

According to the "Soviet awards" forum I linked to earlier it translates something like:

Smert – Death
"skull and bones"
vsim khto na pirishkodi – to all who prevents
dobuttya vil`nosti – receiving of freedom
trudovomu lyudu – for working people

So your friend is on the button. Not knowing Russian or Ukrainian I'm still wondering which of the two languages the slogans on the flags were written in?

There was some discussion on the Yahoo RCW site a while back but it seemed inconclusive to me (spoken vs written language etc.). Just going by online translators plus some Googling I found the first word; "Smert" which looks like "CMepTb" is Russian for "Death" (the word appears on several anti-Bolshevik flags too) – is it the same in Ukrainian?

"The Nine Lives of Nestor Makhno" TV series has this flag (as well as the one above) which also seems to have Russian language slogans:


It says "Freedom or Death" at the top and "Black Guards" at the bottom.

Lastly another reputed Makhnovist flag has surfaced on a Russian wiki page:


Reputed 2nd Insurgent Rifle Regt. flag. Like the one on the link for the 3rd Regt above, this appears to have Cyrillic wording in Russian such as Полк which means "Rifle".

Mark, thanks for the excellent book :) I've got the Trans-Dnepr title on order from On Military Matters. Anyone interested in the RCW should:
1) look at Mark's Pygmy Wars site and the book recommendations.
2) join the Yahoo RCW site.
(as if you haven't already ;) )

Mike O15 Jul 2008 2:10 p.m. PST

Correction: or rather Полк means "Regiment". Винтовки means "rifles".

Mark Plant15 Jul 2008 4:48 p.m. PST

Reputed 2nd Insurgent Rifle Regt. flag

-- 2nd Combined Infantry Regiment
-- Ukrainian Insurgent Army
-- Makhnovist

The "Combined" is often translated as "Composite". In this case I can only assume that the regiment was made up of several village units lumped together. If it is not bogus.

Mark Plant15 Jul 2008 4:54 p.m. PST

That Smert'flag" is not a flag at all, but a banner to be hung vertically for a procession.

I'm not so sure about the Maknovists using the skull and bones and "Death" into 1919 -- it was heavily associated with the Whites, especially the Kornilovitsy.

Mike O16 Jul 2008 10:22 a.m. PST

Thanks for setting me right on the translation. The slogan on the reverse of the 2nd Regiment flag is visible through the fabric. If I've got it right it says:


Ah well, they'll do for gaming purposes even if they are fake.

Yep, a banner. In the TV series it hangs on the wall of the HQ – not that I give that much credit. Voline says;

"The infantry, when it was not fighting, led the march of the army; it was carried in tachanki. Each of these vehicles, which were drawn by two horses, carried the driver on the front seat and two soldiers behind them. The artillery brought up the rear. A huge black flag floated over the first carriage. The slogans "Liberty or Death" and "The Land to the Peasants, the Factories to the Workers" were embroidered in silver on its two sides".

Something like this maybe:
СВОБОДА или СМЕРТЬ ("Freedom" rather than "Liberty" as it seemed a more common slogan)
ЗЕМЛИ – КРЕСТЬЯНАМ! (or maybe ЗЕМЛЯ for "Land")

I'm not sure about the skull and bones either but they also appear on that 3rd Regt flag so is that genuine? I've got a nice Spanish book on SCW flags and it's interesting how similar some of the imagery and colours of the falange and Italian fascist flags are to some anarchist ones. That СВОБОДА или СМЕРТЬ slogan also appears on a flag in the Deryabin White Armies RCW book belonging to a unit of Kerensky supporters in 1917.

On Youtube there's a film collage with some footage of the Makhnovist forces. Good for the dress, (lots of greatcoats and fur hats in all shades plus civvies and peaked caps) there's also a parade that might show Makhnovist flags and banners. I see no skulls…


Mike O16 Jul 2008 2:33 p.m. PST

Just found this Russian language article on flags and banners of the Makhnovists:


Thanks to the good offices (and frustrations) of Mr Babelfish I see it mentions the 2nd Infantry Regiment flag in a Ukrainian museum, the Voline flag, discusses the skull-and-bones and a host of others. Not only black flags but also red flags that various detachments in the loose organisation decided to adopt.

Contrary to some accounts red flags became very common during the alliances with the Bolsheviks – honourary red banners being awarded to the 8th and 9th Trans-Dnieper Rifle Regiments by Dybenko after the capture of Mariupol in March 1919.

Think my little army is sorted for bits of cloth to wave around at the "bad guys" now ;)

Mark Plant16 Jul 2008 9:37 p.m. PST

I think also not just black flags, and red flags, but from what I could make out, black-and-red flags too.

That makes sense, combining the colours of anarchy and revolution.

Area2317 Jul 2008 11:51 a.m. PST

No surprise there. Afterall the red flag was universally revolutionary and became communist-only only after the bolshevik victory.

Red-black does make a lot of sense but I always though that wasn't used until the 1930's, but I could be wrong.

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