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Aron Baron (notes and queries)

Page history last edited by john 7 years, 5 months ago Saved with comment

Aron Baron was a significant figure in the Russian anarchist movement. This page is to iron out some of the issues in what has been written about him.


1, the defence of Poltava / Red Cossack

"In March 1918 he was involved in the defence of Poltava as a military commander" (Nick Heath's bio of Baron on Libcom) [now updated 4 July 2013]

"In March 1918, he is appointed commandant of Poltava, one of his tasks being to defend the city against interventionists." (wikipedia as of 25/6/13)


The idea of Aron Baron being commandant of Poltava comes from this order:

Order № 2 of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of All the Armed Forces of the Ukrainian [Soviet] People's Republic


Poltava, March 7 1918


I appoint:


1. Comrade Kikvidze – Commander of the Poltava Sector of the Front.


2. Comrade Vitaliy Primakov – Commander of the Bakhmach Sector of the Front.


3. Comrade Kolyadenko – Commander of the Znamensk Sector of the Front.


4. Comrade Sergei Bakinsky – Chief of Military Communications for the whole Front.


5. Comrade Grigoriy Razzhivin – head of the department for mobilization of the Poltava region.


6. Comrade Baron – commandant of the city of Poltava.


[Signed] Antonov-Ovseyenko

This order is reprinted in Antonov-Ovseyenko’s memoirs (Volume 2) and also in E. Bosch’s memoirs. Neither author indicates Baron’s first name or party affiliation. The fly-by-night Ukrainian Soviet People’s Republic had its headquarters in Poltava during the week March 3 – March 10, 1918.

According to Yu. Kravetz, the Baron mentioned in this order is Mikhail Baron, a member of the Poltava Revolutionary Committee. Mikhail Baron, a former student at Bern University, was an anarchist who became a Bolshevik. In December 1920 – February 1921 he was chief-of-staff of the 8th Cavalry Division of the Red Cossacks. His memoirs are in the collection Pervaya Chervonnaya, published in 1931 in Moscow.

A. Dubovik wonders if this might be the same person as the anarchist known as Baron-Londonsky, apparently because he spent some time in London. Baron-Londonsky was a Russian anarchist who emigrated to the USA and returned to Russia in 1917 along with other members of the Union of Russian Workers. He worked in the anarchist movement for a while, but in early 1919 he joined the Bolshevik Party. He is mentioned in Anatolii Gorelik’s book Anarchists in the Russian Revolution in a list of prominent anarchist renegades who joined the Bolsheviks. Most of the people in Gorelik’s list are well-known, but two or three, including Baron-Londonsky, are hard to identify nowadays.


"On December 27th 1917, he gets assigned the task of forming the 1st Regiment of the Red Cossacks Army, under the command of Mikhail Artemyevich Muravyov." (wikipedia as of 25/6/13)

I assume this the Mikhail Baron mentioned above, rather than Aron Baron.


So there's one or possibly two ex-anarchist Barons confusing the picture. Thanks to Malcolm Archibald of Black Cat Press and the comrades at Makhno.ru


The Libcom bio mentioned above has now been updated "Assertions that he was involved in March 1918 in the defence of Poltava as a military commander appear to be mistaken as he is confused with Mikhail Baron, a commander at Poltava and an anarchist turned Bolshevik."

Comments (3)

Malcolm Archibald said

at 8:14 pm on Jun 26, 2013

Mikhail Baron is mentioned in an historical novel about the exploits of Red Army commander I. E. Yakir:

From the train emerged a handsome young man in a leather jacket with thick, black hair framing his face, and stood behind Makhno. This was Semka Baron, a member of the "revolutionary military council" of the Makhnovist army, a former student at Oxford University, and a theoretician of anarchism. His brother Mikhail Baron, also an alumnus of Oxford, was a deputy chief-of-staff of the Red Cossacks, and fought for Soviet power, defending in these days Poltava from the assaults of Denikinist bands.

– Ilya V. Dubinsky, Naperekor vetram [Against the winds], (Moscow, 1964), p. 53.

Although taken from a work of fiction, this extract perhaps deserves attention because Dubinsky was well acquainted with Mikhail Baron, having served in the same Red Cossack formation with him.

A little rooting around in genealogical forums allows one to conclude that Aron Baron had five brothers and one sister. One of his brothers was named Semka and another was possibly named Mikhail. Semka Baron was an anarchist who was shot by the Moscow Cheka in September, 1921, along with Aron's wife Fanya.

The idea that a family of Ukrainian Jewish bakery workers sent two sons to Oxford seems preposterous, although Aron Baron's whereabouts in 1907–1912 is rather murky. In any case, we may be a little closer to distinguishing Mikhail Baron from Aron Baron and possibly determining a fraternal relationship. Unfortunately, it has so far not been possible to establish Mikhail's patronymic, which would be a big help.

Malcolm Archibald said

at 12:25 am on Jan 23, 2014

In a letter to G. P. Maximoff dated August 27, 1931, Alexander Berkman wrote:

«You will remember that when A. Baron had attacked P. K[ropotkin] during the funeral services in Moscow, I was much incensed against Baron. What Baron then said was, on the whole, justified, but I considered the time and place badly chosen.»

But did Aron Baron really criticize Kropotkin at the graveside? Here is an excerpt from Berkman's own diary entry for February 20, 1921, a week after the funeral:

«I was elected as one of the speakers at the funeral, but I ceded my place to Pavlov, as I thought his group of workers should be represented. Due to limited time, number of speakers had to be cut. E[mma] spoke in Engl[ish], adding a few words in Russ[ian] to allay, rather to counter, the foolish [utterings?] of Perkus. The latter spoke in the name of a few Petr[ograd] comrades and read a paper that outraged everyone at the grave. It was a criticism of K.’s stand on the war, and of his silence the last 3 years. Whether criticism justified or not, I consider it absolutely out of place. I was surprised at Perkus's action, as first of course he should have given me a hint of his intentions. Moreover, he was advised – and I learned this later – by those that knew of his paper, to speak to the funeral Com[mittee], advising them. He came but did not inform them. He even says he did, and every member of the Comm[ittee] was busy and not interested. But it was due to not understanding: I remember he asked me if I wanted to read what he was going to say at the funeral. I was even surprised at his question. Why should I read it? I asked him, not having the least suspicion of his intentions. He took it for consent that he may say at the grave what he pleases.»

So it appears that Berkman's memory failed him and that Baron, who spoke on behalf of the Nabat confederation, was not responsible for the scandal.

Malcolm Archibald said

at 12:27 am on Jan 23, 2014

Hyman Perkus, a carpenter by trade, emigrated from Russia to the United States in the early 20th century. In the USA he was active in the anarchist Union of Russian Workers, and was deported back to Russia with other leaders of the URW on board the SS Buford in December 1919. Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman were also on the ship, along with Perkus's common-law wife Doris Lipkin. A few weeks after Kropotkin's funeral, Perkus was involved in a failed attempt by Goldman and Berkman to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the Kronstadt Revolt, resulting in his arrest by the Bolsheviks. The subsequent career of Perkus is murky: he may or may not have joined the Bolshevik party, but he almost certainly perished in Stalin's purges.

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