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The Makhnos of Memory Mennonite and Makhnovist Narratives
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All that we have a right to demand of history is that it shall point us with faithful and sure. hand to the general causes of human suffering among these causes it will not forget the. immolation and subordination still too frequent alas of living individuals to abstract. generalities at the same time showing us the general conditions necessary to the real. emancipation of individuals living in society That is its mission those are its limits. beyond which the action of social science can only be impotent and fatal. Mikhail Bakunin God and the State, This thesis is dedicated to all victims of Ukraine s revolution and civil war. TABLE OF CONTENTS,ABSTRACT iii,ACKNOWLEDGMENTS iv,CHAPTER 1 Theory and Methodology 1. CHAPTER 2 Through Makhnovist Eyes 28,CHAPTER 3 Through Mennonite Eyes 69. CHAPTER 4 The Eichenfeld Massacre A Re Narrativization 106. BIBLIOGRAPHY 155,Endnotes 167, This thesis examines the conflict between the military forces of Nestor Makhno and. Mennonites colonists in southern Ukraine during the Russian Civil War 1918. 1921 through the historical narratives found in each group s literature Employing a. methodology derived from deconstructionist approaches to history and James Wertsch s. theory of distributed collective memory this thesis considers the nature of each group s. historical narratives their biases the context of their respective productions. and how these same narratives contain intimations of the other side s perspective The. thesis explores Makhnovist and Mennonite narratives in relation to each. other Regarding the Makhnovists the thesis argues that the personal writings of Nestor. Makhno Victor Belash the Makhnovist Chief of Staff and Makhno s wife Galina. Kuzmenko as well as histories by two of the movement s intellectuals Voline and Peter. Arshinov understood the Mennonite colonists through categories of class The thesis. divides Mennonite narratives of Makhno into Selbstsch tzler and pacifist accounts both. found in newspaper accounts memoirs and secondary historical accounts The. thesis shows how both of these Mennonnite accounts identified Makhno as the. enemy but ultimately narrativized Makhno in different ways The thesis analyzes. eyewitness accounts of the 1919 Eichenfeld massacre and its representation in current. historiography arguing that this tragic event was the consequence of organized class. based terror By reframing Eichenfeld within the context of revolutionary terror. a multi perspectival narrative emerges embracive yet critical of both Makhnovist and. Mennonite narratives,Acknowledgements, This thesis has involved working with sources in French German Russian Ukrainian.
and Polish I take full responsibility for all translations from the original French German. and Russian I would like to acknowledge the generous support of Malcolm Archibald in. providing translations from the Ukrainian and Polish sources and in assisting me with the. Russian translations His assistance and materials provided have been indispensible in. the completion of this thesis Malcolm s dedication to the study of anarchist history has. been a constant inspiration, While I have had the honour of narrating the story contained in this thesis it could not. have been accomplished without the voices of those who have assisted me over the past. four years Foremost I want to thank my advisor Dr Royden Loewen and the Mennonite. Studies department at the University of Winnipeg I want to thank Dr Oleh Gerus for. first setting me upon the path of this thesis I would like to thank the archives at the. International Institute of Social History the Canadian Mennonite Heritage Centre the. University of Michigan and Harvard University for providing copies of critical sources I. want to especially thank Marianne Janzen for access to her files on the Eichenfeld. massacre and Margie Koop for generously providing information on the Janzen family. Finally I want to express a heartfelt thank you to Ludmilla Karyaka for her assistance. during my visit to Zaporozhye as well as the Gulyai Pole Museum and Dnepropetrovsk. Museum for their generous accommodation to my schedule. The remaining list consists of those individuals that in some way contributed to the. completion of this thesis If I have missed anyone I take full responsibility Lisa Gislon. Mary Marshall Dr Felix Schnell Dr Colin Darch D D Johnston Joel Penner Peter and. Lorna Doerksen Dave Berg Eldon Heinrichs Marilyn Heidebrecht Paul Patterson and. Kelly Ruth,Theory and Methodology, In the summer of 2011 I traveled to the Zaporozhye region in southeastern. Ukraine 1 Amongst the locals of Gulyai Pole circulates a legend that upon abandoning his. struggle and fleeing Ukraine Nestor Makhno ordered a cache of loot to be buried in a. secret location The intention was to safeguard funds for a renewed future struggle. Makhno never did return to his homeland and according to local rumour the treasure. remains buried to this day In my travels to Gulyai Pole I panned the sources and even. spoke with a relative of Makhno but never were any clues to the treasure s location. revealed In the end the gold at the end of the Makhnovist rainbow proved as ephemeral. as any pirate s tale but even if Makhno s gold did exist what could be expected by. finding it For myself I hoped to transform the imaginings of my mind into something. real by capturing a tangible piece of the past 2 Somehow I believed it might bring me. closer to the historical Makhno and a clearer understanding of his movement and its. In a sense all history is alchemy Whether turning lead to gold or the past into. objective history the goal is frustratingly elusive Descending into the rabbit hole of. Makhnovist research has inevitably led me to confront a multitude of competing. histories memories myths and legends all jostling to assert their own unique. perspective Poet and blogger Marie Marshall writes of Makhno. My peering into the life and character of Nestor Ivanovich Makhno has grown arms. and legs and the more it goes on the less I am able to grasp hold of truth the more. he becomes a wisp of smoke a man whose legend seems more important than his. reality That reality retreats into iconography can it be recaptured 3. Marshall articulates a fundamental reality confronting any attempt to accurately represent. the life of Makhno and his movement In a topic whose literature is fraught with folklore. ideological battles and radically divergent cultural memories how is one to discern fact. from fiction Who is the real Makhno Or to phrase it differently who are the Makhnos. I Background, Nestor Ivanovitch Makhno was the youngest child of a poor peasant family from. the town of Gulyai Pole As a youth Makhno embraced philosophical anarchism and. became active in a local anarchist group After the group assassinated a local police. chief Makhno was arrested and sentenced to a life of hard labour Following the 1917. February Revolution Makhno s release from prison was secured Returning to his. hometown he and other local anarchists organized the peasantry for the expropriation. and redistribution of land in the region During the German and Austro Hungarian. occupation of Ukraine in 1918 Makhno directed a peasant insurgency against the. occupiers Out of this insurgency emerged what would be called the Makhnovshchina. Makhno movement The movement was locally popular and successful in its. harassment of German and Austrian units stationed in the area. Ideologically the movement associated itself with the principles of anarchist. communism and actively recruited anarchist intellectuals to assist with propaganda and. social reform 4 The Makhnovist program was primarily concerned with the organization. of freely elected local soviets and the egalitarian redistribution of land The Makhnovist. army came to see itself as guardians of the civil population s right to freely organize. themselves without any compulsion from outside forces The movement was highly. suspicious of centralized authority and virulently opposed to party politics 5. With the end of World War I and the withdrawal of the occupying powers a. power vacuum emerged in Ukraine Given the weak Bolshevik presence in Ukraine. various local powers asserted their control over the regions of Ukraine The. Makhnovshchina quickly consolidated its power over Gulyai Pole and the surrounding. area In the ensuing civil war the Makhnovists would battle both the Whites and Reds in. a bid to establish an independent anarchist region The Makhnovist struggle would last. until August 1921 when the Red Army finally overwhelmed the movement and Makhno. was forced into exile, The high tide of the movement came shortly after the White army s thrust through. southern Ukraine towards Moscow in the fall of 1919 Makhno directed his forces to. attack the White army s vulnerable rearguard severely affecting the Whites ability to. continue their campaign and forcing the White commander General Denikin to transfer. frontline troops to deal with Makhno Shortly thereafter Red forces routed the White. army Amidst the defeat of Denikin the Makhnovists greatly expanded their sphere of. influence occupying a substantial area of eastern Ukraine until the arrival of the Red. Army in January 1920, During this period the Makhnovists occupied the numerous Mennonite colonies of.
southern Ukraine Due to the widespread wealth of the colonies the Makhnovists. identified most Mennonites as class enemies Furthermore in an effort to protect their. families and property many colonies had established self defense Selbstschutz units. which had collaborated first with the German occupation and later with the White army. In the Makhnovists the colonies perceived a direct threat to their continued existence. Already during the German occupation the colonies suffered under a wave of. Makhnovist raids that inevitably brought with it robbery murder and rape The decision. to arm themselves greatly divided the colonies between Selbstsch tzler and those who. maintained traditional Mennonite pacifism Under Makhnovist occupation Mennonite. families were subjected to constant harassment and abuse The horror of their experience. culminated in November December 1919 when a series of massacres were carried out by. Makhnovist troops in the colonies, The histories that emerged from Makhnovists and Mennonites in the aftermath of. these events consist of radically opposing narratives To the former Makhno and his. movement is a vindication of anarchism in practice and a shining example of the masses. ability to self organize In Makhnovist literature the Mennonites are never mentioned by. name Rather they are referred to simply as German colonists or more commonly as. capitalist exploiters Furthermore not a single mention of the massacres of 1919 is found. in the corpus of Makhnovist literature These events are left unmentioned and the. positive aspects of the movement are overwhelmingly brought into relief. By contrast the Mennonite narrative presents the Makhnovshchina as a force of. irrational violence void of any ideological vision Makhno is a wholly negative character. held personally responsible for the massacres and the suffering of Mennonites during the. civil war He is described as a terrorist or bandit consumed by an illogical hatred of. Mennonites The Mennonite narrative highlights the martyrdom of the Mennonite. community particularly its pacifist members who died a martyr s death Generally the. motivations behind the Makhnovist attacks the nature of the movement and Makhno s. specific role are treated in a cursory fashion The history of Makhnovist Mennonite. relations and their apparently irreconcilable narratives constitute the subject of this thesis. Makhno cannot be explained from one totalizing perspective Even to those who. knew him closely there was a slipperiness to his personality that evaded definition. Makhnovist intellectual Voline wrestled to write a biography of Makhno 6 The. unfinished manuscript is revealingly subtitled Contributions to the Study on the Enigma. of Personality Voline described his attempt to unravel the mystery of Makhno. One may be in contact with a man for many years But if his personal intimate life. remains outside this contact you will not learn much about his true personality. During the six months in total I spent with the movement I was in close contact. with Makhno I experienced with him episodes of all kind I spoke and. discussed much with him Often I shared evening meals with him The given. conditions to determine the personality of Makhno were therefore quite favorable. Yet I must emphasize that such knowledge always stopped short His intimate. personal life remained absolutely unknown Of it I knew absolutely nothing But it. was above all just that which would have allowed me to penetrate the depths of his. personality 7, It would appear Makhno was no more penetrable to his close comrade than to today s. researcher For those who did not know Makhno personally his character is frequently. presented as either an unsolvable riddle or an abstract signifier of anarchy liberty or. terror In the historical literature Makhno is fragmented into an array of competing. personalities and representations Makhno has been variously described as a. revolutionary anarchist a peasant rebel a Ukrainian Robin Hood a bandit terrorist a. mass murderer and pogromist No better an example is to be found of the divergent. interpretations of Makhno than between the historical narratives of the Makhnovists. themselves and the Mennonite colonists of southern Ukraine Nowhere else are the. Makhnos of memory so starkly contrasted, While the psychology of Makhno may never be quarried in the manner Voline. had hoped for we can come to understand Makhno and his movement through the. narratives that have been preserved Through a narrative approach we meet many. Makhnos some of which are verifiable through multiple sources and others which bear. the marks of myth or even outright falsehoods but nonetheless had a very real historical. impact To the extent possible fact must be differentiated from fiction but as Alun. Munslow writes Language like memory can recollect but it can never be reality 8. This thesis is self consciously deconstructionist in its theoretical orientation I use. the term deconstruction to signal a postmodernist perspective generally skeptical of. history s ability to represent the past in an unbiased referential manner Herein lies the. methodological crux of this thesis that the narrative form of history is as important as its. content and furthermore that form often regulates and modifies content to maintain. narrative integrity, It is imperative to emphasize that the deconstructionist position does not argue. that history is merely a genre of fiction To borrow a distinction made by. deconstructionist historian Alun Munslow historical narratives are fictive but not. fictional 9 A historical narrative s shape is constrained by actual events however these. very real events must be filtered through linguistic constraints of the human mind before. they become narrative The Soviet semiotician and cultural historion Yury Lotman. The historian cannot observe events but acquires narratives of them from the. written sources And even when the historian is an observer of the events. described the observations still have to be mentally transformed into a verbal. text since the historian writes not of what was seen but a digest of what was. seen in narrative form W hen an event is retold by means of a language then. it inevitably acquires a structural unity This unity which in fact belongs only to. the expression level inevitably becomes transferred to the level of content too 10. Specifically this thesis will discuss how Makhnovists and Mennonites have emplotted. each other in their respective histories It will be examined how specific. characterizations of Makhno and his movement by Mennonite authors and vice versa. service broader narrative interests In other words we will be exploring how the. structural unity of a narrative imposes itself upon the level of historical content. An integral component of my argument is that the group identity projects of. Makhnovists and Mennonites alike have shaped their historical representations to such an. extent and in such an exclusionary manner that two radically divergent versions of. history have evolved Indeed one could be forgiven for thinking that completely. different events were being narrated,II The Scope of this Project.
The evolution of Makhnovist Mennonite relations and the historical narratives. that emerged from this encounter is the topic of this thesis In addition to attempting to. verify the factual circumstances of past events I will also explore how these events have. been subjectively experienced interpreted and articulated as part of Makhnovist and. Mennonite collective memory A close examination of key primary sources will serve as. the means to accomplish this objective, Chapters two and three will present the Makhnovist and Mennonite narratives. respectively through eyewitness memoirs histories newspapers and documents Chapter. two will contain a close reading of Makhno s memoirs alongside the works of. Makhnovist intellectuals Voline and Peter Arshinov and Makhnovist Chief of Staff. Victor Belash To a lesser extent information has been drawn from the diaries of. Makhno s wife Galina Kuzmenko and the head of the Makhnovist counter intelligence. Lev Golik as well as the memoirs of Makhnovist participants Osip Tsebry and Alexei. Chapter three will present the Mennonite perspective predominantly from the. diaspora memoirs of Russian Mennonites Gerhard Schroeder Dietrich Neufeld Gerhard. Lohrenz and David G Rempel Letters found in the archives of Russian Mennonite. historian Victor Peters have also been used to supplement the above mentioned memoirs. I have also made extensive use of the Molochnaia settlement newspaper Friedensstimme. to present a first hand pacifist perspective Finally to present the historical context of the. Mennonite colonies in Ukraine I have relied upon the work of James Urry who has. specialized on understanding Russian Mennonite culture from an anthropological. perspective Other important secondary sources include the works of John B Toews and. Lawrence Klippenstein s research on the Mennonite Selbstschutz. Each collective narrative will be submitted to a deconstructionist reading The. shape of each narrative s representation of the other will be sketched while. simultaneously bringing into relief contradictory elements therein which threaten the. structural unity of their collective historical narrative It will be shown that the structural. unity of the Makhnovist and Mennonite historical narratives are inherently unstable each. containing the seeds of a radically new narrative that has the potential to transcend the. narrow identity projects of Makhnovists and Mennonites alike By examining how. Makhnovists and Mennonites have represented each other the goal is to present a history. that moves beyond a culturally insular interpretation of events. Chapter four sets out to present such a re narrativization of the Makhnovist. Mennonite story through a close examination of the Eichenfeld massacre The chapter. will show that the massacre was undeniably a Makhnovist action but at the same time. challenge how Mennonite historians and their supporters have narrativized the event To. reconstruct the events around Eichenfeld a close reading of the previously mentioned. Makhnovist and Mennonite sources has been employed Particularly invaluable for this. chapter were the eyewitness accounts of Eichenfelders provided by Marianne Janzen. from her personal files To explore how historians have presented Eichenfeld a close. analysis has been made of the Mennonite publication Nestor Makhno and the Eichenfeld. Massacre in addition to the works of Ukrainian historian Nataly Venger While Venger. is Ukrainian she is closely associated with Mennonite scholarship and favours a. traditionally Mennonite perspective on Eichenfeld In conclusion the Makhnovist. persecution of Mennonites will be re narrativized through the concept of revolutionary. terror as a means of presenting a new historical narrative capable of communicating the. victim s and perpetrator s perspectives alike, The remainder of this chapter will explore the theoretical relationship between. narrative identity and collective memory as it relates to our topic For an understanding. and definition of deconstructionist history I have relied heavily upon the work of Alun. Munslow The theoretical thrust of this thesis centred on narrative and collective.


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