The Anarchist Red Cross started in Tzarist Russia. It was active on two fronts - the organisation of aid for political prisoners and deportees and organising self defence against political raids by Cossacks. It was sustained economically by Russian anarchists in the U.S.A.
During the Russian civil war ,when the Red Cross was active in organising relief, the anarchists changed the name of their organisation to the Anarchist Black Cross in order to avoid confusion. After the Bolsheviks seized power, the ABC moved to Berlin and continued to help prisoners of the new regieme in Russia, as well as victims of Italian fascism and others.
The Black Cross collapsed during the 1930's economic depression due to the huge demand for it's support and a decline in financial aid. During this period there were also many other similar anarchist relief organisations throughout the world.
In the late 1960's the ABC resurfaced in England, where it first worked to aid the many anarchist prisoners of the Spanish resistance, who had continued the fight against the fascist, Franco regeime in Spain.This regeime had ruled Spain since the late 1930's, when (with the assistance of German and Italian fascists) a revolutionary uprising of anarchist peasants and workers and other popular radical movements was crushed.
Other ABC groups sprang up in many countries, particularly in Italy and Germany, sometimes facing brutal repression from the state. The secretaries of both Milan and Berlin ABC's were murdered by the police. Despite the loss of these well respected comrades the ABC managed to obtain the release of many anarchist/political prisoners worldwide due to the massive International protests it helped to create. Today the ABC has a growing number of groups, networks and supporters in countries all over the world.