The Ukrainian anarchist Maria Nikiforova played a prominent role in the Russian Revolutions of 1917 and the subsequent Civil War as an organizer, military commander, and terrorist. A revolutionary from the age of 16, she was on trial for her life on four separate occasions under three different regimes and was sentenced to death twice. Her exploits became the stuff of folklore. But she was ‘blacklisted’ by official historians and her story was lost for generations.
Even writers sympathetic to anarchism have, as a rule, neglected her. Although she was closely associated with the famous peasant anarchist Nestor Makhno, books about Makhno scarcely mention her. And yet in 1918 Nikiforova was already famous as an anarchist atamansha (military leader) throughout Ukraine, while Makhno was still a rather obscure figure operating in a provincial backwater. She is absent from the works of Peter Arshinov, Volin, and Paul Avrich. Alexandre Skirda’s book on Makhno mentions her but only devotes one paragraph to her in a work of 400 pages.