Peasant Autonomy
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Story 61

Steppe in the Don Valley, Southern Russia – spring 1918 (2)

A shepherd joins the Reds

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Andrey Shalaev)


Smiling and daydreaming, Mishka Koshevoy plods along on his mare. How beautiful the steppe is now in the spring, and how angry I was yesterday at Soldatov, I could have beaten him to death. When Mishka remembers it, riding in the sun with the rustling of the wind, the singing of the birds, the chirping of the marmots, he has to laugh, but yesterday he was steaming mad. “You are nothing but a Bolshevik”, that old Soldatov had barked at him, “you want to sell off our land to the devil. You should all be hanged. I will report you to the boss.” In a rage, Mishka had grabbed him by his collar, and he had even raised his fist. Fortunately he came to his senses just in time, and a while later he even made it up to him, because, well, he isn't a bad guy. But, the rich farmers stir everyone up against the Reds. And of course such an ignorant nature guy like Soldatov falls for it.

It is spring 1918. The Russian revolution is half a year old. An intense civil war is raging in the Don Valley in Southern Russia. The northern districts sided with the Reds, but the southern districts want autonomy and look for cooperation with the Whites, who want to wipe out the Bolsheviks in all of Russia. Many poor peasant boys from the southern districts secretly have left for the north to enlist in the Red army. Now they fight against their own fellow countrymen. Because of all the violent incidents from both sides, the resentment is growing from week to week.

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Sergey Yeliseev)


Mishka is a cheerful young man with a light beard, from a farm worker family in a southern district. I’ve have a good life here, he muses, but it is time for me to join the Reds in the north, like all these other peasant boys from the village. Because there must be equality, and no longer bosses and servants. We have to drive out these big farmers. Let me just save up some food, and then I will leave.


In his 1500 page, monumental novel And Quiet Flows the Don (1928-1940), the Russian author Mikhail Sholokhov describes the civil war in rural areas, just after the Russian revolution.

Go to:
= part 1: Deserters - Romania – autumn 1917 (1), story 59.
= part 3: The civil war is still not over - a hamlet in the Don Valley, Southern Russia – summer 1920 (3), story 64.
= the next page: Zapata, the beloved peasant leader - Morelos, South Mexico – 1919, story 62.
= the Table of contents, story 61.