Lev Nikolaevich Zadov


(aka Zinkovsky, aka Leva, aka Levka the Bandit)

Nick Heath

A short biography of Lev Zadov, anarchist communist, metalworker and (in)famous organiser of the Makhnovist intelligence corps


Lev Zadov was born on April 11th 1893 in the small Jewish farming settlement of Veselaya in southern Ukraine. Around 1898-1900 his family fell on hard times and moved to Yuzovka, in the Donetsk region, where his father worked as a coachman. Lev attended a Jewish elementary school there and then started to work as manual labourer at a mill, before becoming a metalworker at Yuzovka Metallurgical Works. In this factory he joined a group of anarchist communists. The renegade anarchist and Makhnovist Isaac Teper, who turned his coat for the Bolsheviks, refers to Lev and his brother as “both Jews, both long-time criminals”. This is a reference to the fact that, like many other underground political groups in this period (including Bolsheviks, Social Revolutionaries, Polish Socialists etc) they took part in expropriations ( armed robberies to raise funds). He robbed an official at a mine, a post office in the village of Karan, and a cash office in Debaltsevo. In 1913 the Group was broken up by the Okhrana, the Tsarist secret police. Zadov was arrested and sentenced to 8 years in prison.

He was released from prison with the February Revolution of 1917 and took on the pseudonym of Zinkovsky. He continued to be known under this name at a later date when he participated in the Makhnovist movement. In September 1917- April 1918, Lev was a deputy of the Yuzovska Soviet, and then a member of the Red Guard detachment in the Yuzovo-Makeyevska region. This detachment fought against the Austro-German occupation forces. It was forced to retreat through Lugansk to Tsaritsin, and then engaged with General Krusnov’s Cossacks. Lev became chief of staff in a combat unit of the brigade led by Kruglyak. In summer 1918 he was chief of staff of the detachment led by the anarchist Chernyak in the Tsaritsin region. He was sent by the staff of the Southern Front of the Red Army in August 1918 to carry out underground work behind German lines. But on the way he stopped off in Yuzovska, where he created his own combat unit with his brother Daniilo and 8 other anarchists. The unit headed to Gulyai Polye to link up with Makhno. He then set up Makhnovist detachments in the villages of Yuzovska, Grishinsk and Maryupol. Later on he was elected as a deputy regimental commander of the Makhnovist forces.

Chernyak suggested to Makhno that an intelligence and information gathering corps be set up – the kontrrazvedka. This included the associates of Chernyak, Yakov Glazgon and Tsintsiper, as well as Lev and Daniilo.

In April 1919 Chernyak and Lev Zadov set up sections of the kontrrazvedka in the cities of Maryopol and Berdyansk. These were charged with provisioning the Makhnovists. Later allegations were made by the Bolsheviks that the kontrarrazvedka was a secret police given over to extortion, torture and murder. Given that the NKVD later failed to press any such charges at Zadov’s trial in 1937 this seems to carry little weight.

He personally saved Makhno’s life on several occasions and successfully smuggled the seriously wounded Makhno over the Romanian border in August 1921. At the Dniester crossing, Zinkovsky, with 20 other Makhnovists dressed in Red Army uniforms, fooled the border guards and disarmed them, enabling a successful crossing.

Zinkovsky established the Makhnovist Foreign Centre in Bucarest in Romania in the 1920s. In 1924 Zinkovsky and his brother Daniilo (aka Zotev) crossed the Romanian border and surrendered to the Soviet authorities. They were given an amnesty the following year. Zinkovsky was offered a position in the foreign department of the Odessa OGPU, the successor the the Bolshevik secret police force, the Cheka. He and his brother, based in Tiraspol, officially ran an agent network in Romania, using Makhnovists in exile there and the Foreign Centre itself. For this work they received awards from the OGPU and it successor the NKVD.

But in 1935 the network collapsed and an enquiry alleged that the brothers had really returned to set up a Makhnovist network in Odessa. The former Makhnovist Ivan Chuprin gave evidence that the Zadov brothers “infiltrated the GPU under Makhno’s orders in order to form underground Makhnovist detachments in Ukraine”.

Soviet documents point to the infiltration by the Zadov brothers of the Soviet secret police structure so that Makhnovists could be enabled to return from Romania and be legalized in the Ukraine. Viktor Belash’s confession, obtained under duress, says that Zinkovsky surrounded himself with amnestied Makhnovists and that the secret Makhnovist network in Odessa was a conduit between the Foreign Centre and Makhnovists still in Gulyai Polye. Moreover, this confession alleged that it was planned to create Makhnovist detachments in the Odessa district and that even after Makhno’s death in 1934, Zinkovsky received instructions from the Foreign Centre. According to these allegations, the Makhnovist organisation in Odessa had a membership of 90. Other Makhnovists besides Belash and Chuprin – Zuychenko, Boychenko, and Karetnikov – also gave incriminating evidence to the Soviet secret police.

Zinkovsky consistently denied his guilt and did not denounce his former comrades. He and his brother were tried and sentenced at a trial which lasted fifteen minutes.

He was shot in the cellar of the Kiev NKVD on the same day,September 25th 1938, as was his brother. His body was buried somewhere in Bykovna, one of the sections of the Darnitsky woodland park complex. Like Belash, he was rehabilitated, in 1990.

A former NKVD employee, Jakov Gridin, who had emigrated to Israel, alleged that one of Zinkovsky’s services to the Soviets had been his entrapment of a captain of the French counter-espionage service into an ambush in the Ukraine, which had paved the way for the amnesty of the brothers. This may have been true, but extremely suspect in Gridin’s allegations that Zinkovsky successfully murdered Makhno in a Warsaw hotel in 1922, on the orders of the Soviet secret police, when Makhno survived until 1934!

Zadov’s son, Vadim, under the name of Zinkovsky, had a career in the Soviet Army, retiring with the rank of colonel. Zadov’s daughter Alla died in the fighting with the Nazis in 1942 at Sevastopol. Allegations, with no backing evidence, have been made by Sergei Seymanov, the Soviet historian, in 1968, that Zadov had been working all along for the Bolsheviks. This seems unlikely, bearing in mind not just a failure to do away with Makhno, but to actually get him over the border.

It would be foolish to think that the kontrravezda was without fault in its activities and that it did not practice expropriation and murder against its opponents. Nevertheless, its activities were certainly not on the institutionalised and mass scale of the Cheka. Whether the Soviet allegations against Zadov are true, or just another paranoid manifestation of the Stalin era, remains to be proved. Much more research needs to be done as to whether or not Makhnovists/ anarchists did indeed attempt to set up secret networks within Soviet Russia (see also the case of Piotr Arshinov).

What is manifest is that Zadov, a Jew, was close to Makhno and saved his life on several occasions, once again contradicting the allegations of anti-Semitism, often levelled against the Makhnovist movement, not least by Leninists of various persuasions. Also notable is the important participation of conscious anarchist communists and workers – metalworkers, rail workers, etc (as with the Zadov brothers, Belash, Arshinov etc.) within the predominantly peasant movement of the Makhnovshchina.

Lev Zadov is depicted in the The Road to Calvary novels by Alexei Tolstoy as a ruthless but cowardly murderer who commits many atrocities against civilians but does not like to be involved in military engagements. Phrases like "Hide your teeth or I'll swing them out" and "I'm Leva Zadov, I'll speak and you'll fear" used by the Zadov character in the Tolstoy novels, became part of Russian popular currency. Tolstoy used a Soviet pamphlet published in 1924 in Kiev for his information on Zadov, hardly an unbiased source. Cowardice is hardly an apt attribute for Zadov, bearing in mind his rescue of Makhno from dangerous situations on a number of occasions.

Nick Heath


See also:
Kontrrazvedka: the story of the Makhnovist intelligence service by Vyacheslav Azarov (Black Cat Press, Edmonton, Canada, 2008) for further information.

Source: Libcom

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