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Nestor Makhno I

Updated on July 29, 2017

The Ukrainian Revolution occurred at a similar time, almost concurrently, as the Russian Revolution (1917 – 1921) and was in fact a revolution within a revolution. The Bolsheviks revolted to free Russia from czarist rule and their motives or intentions at time was to free the masses from the clutches of the decadence they were trapped in.

“Freeing the people from the clutches of decadence” however came at a huge cost and even as I write this I can’t help but wonder if revolutions are indeed what they are made out to be and if it isn’t easier to just work with the system to try and achieve a specific result or an objective.

Lenin was once quoted as saying “I don’t care if we exterminate 90% of the population, as long as the remaining 10% are communists”. The price as far as I am concerned was just too high. The success of the Russian Revolution came at a cost of 20 million lives.

At the start I was under the impression that Ukraine was a nation striving to achieve its own identity but having spoken to people who have been to Ukraine since then, I am convinced that there are two sides to the coin and that there is a segment of the population that firmly belief that Ukraine’s history should be read in light of Russia’s and at times it is not possible to distinguish or differentiate between the both.

I am not motivated by the current conflict in Ukraine and it matters not who is right and who is wrong. What matters is the long term prosperity of the Ukrainian people regardless of ideology, religion or ethnicity.

The success of the Russian Revolution sent shockwaves throughout Europe. In Poland First Marshall Jozef Pilsudski launched a preemptive strike into Ukraine in an attempt to prevent the inevitable with the proposition of setting up a new federation comprising of the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia), Finland, Belarus, Ukraine, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia.

Aligned with him were the citizens of Western Ukraine who rallied under the umbrella of the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic comprising mainly of people of Polish origin. The Russian Ukrainians who lived in Eastern Ukraine assembled under the banner of Symon Petliura’s Ukrainian People’s Republic. The coalition fired the first salvo and the rebellion, to break away from Bolshevik rule, lasted until October 1920.

The conditions prior to the revolution were deplorable. Capitalism did not develop organically in Ukraine and the wealth of the nation was divided among the ruling elite. Ethnic Ukrainians were confined to the realms of the proletariat

From the perspective of pro-Ukrainian writers, the revolution in Ukraine that ran concurrently with the Russian Revolution was not only an uprising against Imperial Russia but also an uprising aimed at ending Bolshevik rule in Ukraine. I tend to agree.

In the aftermath of the October Revolution of 1917, anarchism was the order of the day. The czarist rulers of Russia, in an attempt to re-install democracy, freed thousands of political prisoners and dissidents, in an effort to win popular support.

Lenin was quick to seize the opportunity and many of the disillusioned political prisoners were persuaded to embrace the politics of the Bolsheviks. Shift and change was in the air and it’s difficult to determine if the bulk of the masses were in favor of Lenin’s ideological reforms or if they merely wanted change. Whatever the reasons, the Bolsheviks swept to power.

Post their victory, the lush and fertile fields of Ukraine were trampled on by the boots of militants. The tide of battle flowed back and forth with a bulk of the proletariat, who comprised of farmers and poor peasants paying the price. The Bolsheviks would be quick to state that freedom came at a cost but they had no measure of the price that was to be extracted or extorted.

Featuring prominently on the Ukrainian side of things was someone who can aptly be described as a modern day Robin Hood, Nestor Ivanovych Makhno, the commander of an independent anarchist army.

Makno was born in Huliaipole. An Ukrainian from peasant stock, he spent many years as a political prisoner for his guerilla style strikes against those aligned with the czar. Released as part of social reforms and in an attempt to strike a balance between the ruling class and the proletariat, Makno and hundreds of his comrades would go on to structure and engineer another minor revolution.

© 2017 Kathiresan Ramachanderam and Dyarne Jessica Ward


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