Sunday, February 10, 2019

Bulak-Bulakhovich of Belarus Said Founder of World's First Private Military Company

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 10 – Stanislau Bulak-Balakhovich is remembered if at all beyond the borders of Belarus only by those who have read Demyan Bedny’s nasty verses on “Kulak-Kulakhovich” or who have seen a reproduction of Dmitry Moor’s equally nasty Soviet story poster. 

            Even in Belarus itself, the self-proclaimed general is controversial, given his often complicated relationship with the Belarusian Republic and his willingness to draw his anti-Bolshevik fighters not just from Belarusians but from a variety of nationalities (, and

            But today on the 136th anniversary of Bulak-Balakhovich’s birth, Anatol Mikhnavets of the Belarusian National Memory organization celebrates him in a new way: he suggests that Bulak was in fact forced by circumstances to form what may be “the first Belarusian private military company” (

            Next month, Belarusians will mark the 101st anniversary of the Belarusian Peoples Republic, a short-lived entity that proved unable to raise its own army but did inspire some to try to create private military companies, Mikhnavets says. The most significant of these was Bulak’s.

                If one acknowledges that Bulak’s force had all the characteristics of a private military company, the Belarusian historian says, then Belarus can claim to have been the first country to have had a private military company as most sources suggest that none emerged until 1967 with the appearance of Watchguard International.

            “Belarusian historians disagree whether [Bulak-Balakhovich’s] detachment can be considered Belarusian and whether the Balakhovichites should be entered in the pantheon of national heroes” given that the group included many non-Belarusians, sought foreign financing and participated in the civil war on various sides.

            The unit fought not only in Belarus but in the Baltic countries, in Russia, and in Ukraine during the Russian civil war. It joined the Polish army and actively participated the Miracle on the Vistula in Warsaw. But he continued to fight against the Bolsheviks for the independence of Belarus.

            Forced to go into emigration, he worked with various groups, including serving as a military advisor to General Franco in Spain. But when Germany attacked Poland, Bulat-Balakhovich joined the Polish underground to fight German and Soviet occupation. He was killed by German operatives in May 1940. 

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