c. 1880-1921


Nick Heath

A short biography of Dermenzhi (Dermendzhi), Potemkin mutineer, Makhnovist commander and anarchist communist


Dermenzhi, whose first name remains a mystery for the present, was born in the Ismail district of Bessarabia, within the Russian Empire (and not in Georgia as Skirda states). He came from the middle class. He began to work in the electrical and telegraph services. He was a sailor on the battleship Potemkin, and took part in the mutiny of 1905, after which he sought refuge in Romania and became an anarchist communist. He participated in the work of Russian émigré anarchist groups in France, Italy, Switzerland, and Great Britain. In 1917 he returned to Russia with the coming of the Revolution.

At the beginning of 1918 he worked with the Gulyai-Polye group of anarchist-communists which numbered Nestor Makhno among its members. In August 1918 he was an active participant in the insurgency against the Hetman Skoropadsky and his Austrian and German military backers. He organised and was the commander of an anarchist partisan detachment which at the beginning of 1919 had 200-400 combatants. He linked up with the Makhnovists, and at the frontline rebel congress of 4th January 1919 was elected commander of the 2nd Regiment, which was composed of 1100 fighters. In Viktor Belash’s testimony given to the Cheka he is described as a thickset middle-aged man with long hair hanging down to his shoulders and over his eyes. Note the fashion for long hair among the Makhnovists which was said to have been started by Fedor Shchus and taken up by other partisans including Makhno himself. In mid-March 1919 he was arrested on charges of anti-Bolshevik propaganda by the Cheka KGB, but released by the end of the month. He then worked with the Makhnovist staff.

When the Bolsheviks attacked the area controlled by the Makhnovists on the 15th June 1919 he went into hiding with the Makhno detachment, and took part that summer in guerrilla battles against both the Reds and the White forces of Denikin. He was one of the organisers, along with Budanov and Kalashnikov of the anarchist-Makhnovist mutiny within the 58th Red Division on the 20th August which resulted in 40,000 combatants joining up with the main Makhnovist forces. With the return to Ukraine of the Reds in January 1920 he was again arrested by the Cheka.

In mid-February 1920, he apparently managed to escape. He formed an armed group of 15 combatants, rejoining the Makhnovists in Gulyai-Polye. In summer-autumn 1920 he once again served as chief of communications of the Makhnovists. In October 1920 on behalf of the Makhnovist staff he organized and led a separate telegraph communication battalion. On the 26th November 1920, with the end of the last military-political agreement between Makhno and the Soviet regime, the battalion was attacked in Pologi by the Red Army, but managed to break through to link up with the main Makhnovist body. He took part in Makhnovist recent raids in the spring and summer of 1921.

He was killed in action against the Reds in Kherson Province on 19th August 1921.

Nick Heath



Source: Libcom

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