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Black Guards

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Black Guards (Russian: Черная Гвардия) were armed groups of workers formed after the Russian Revolution and before the Third Russian Revolution. They were the main strike force of the anarchists. They were created in the Autumn of 1917 in Ukraine by Maria Nikiforova and in January 1918 in Moscow, under the control of anarchists at industrial enterprises by Factory and Plant Committees and by Moscow Federation of Anarchist Groups cells. In the beginning of 1918, in reaction to the growing repression of all opposition and free expression, the anarchist groups within the Moscow Federation formed armed detachments, the Black Guards (around 1000 personnel) headed by Lev Chernyi. The Black Guards were the basis for the later formation of the Black Army. Hence, the term is often used as an English synonym for the Black Army when referring to the era of the Third Russian Revolution and Russian Civil War.

The Bolsheviks used the respite of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk to attack their critics on the left. On the night of April 12, 1918 the Cheka (secret police) raided the 26 anarchist centres in Moscow, including The House of Anarchy, the building of the Moscow Federation, and the Black Guards offered armed resistance. A fierce battle raged on Malaia Dimitrovka Street in which about 40 anarchists were killed or wounded and about 500 were imprisoned.

At the moment of the breakout of the Third Russian Revolution on the July 6, 1918, the Black Guards had again around 1000 personnel.

It should be noted that the Black Guards are completely unrelated to the Black Hundreds, a counter-revolutionary group related to the tsarist secret police.


The Black Guard may have been named after the anarchist black flag symbol. In Russian, chernyj (Cyrillic: чeрный) means "black", therefore another possible origin for the name 'the Black Guard' is Lev Chernyi.

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