in Taras Hunchak, ed., The Ukraine, 1917-1921: A Study in Revolution, 1977.
Nestor Makhno and the Ukrainian Revolution
Controversy has surrounded the person of Nestor Makhno from his first appearance as an insurgent commander in the summer of 1918. Was he an ideological anarchist struggling for a new order or a cutthroat profiting from the turmoil of the Civil War? Was he favorably disposed to the Jewish population or a pogromist? These and other issues have been disputed from the turbulent years of the Civil War to our own day.1 Lack of concrete information has served only to increase interest in the legendary Batko (Father) Makhno, and it is not surprising that he figures prominently in many literary works, the most recent being Oles Honchar's Sobor (Cathedral).2 Interest in Makhno also has been revived by the New Left, especially by Daniel and Gabriel Cohn-Bendit, who see in Makhno a model for the young revolutionary for whom Communism is irrelevant.3
For all the interest that Makhno has evoked, remarkably little scholarly work has been devoted to him or to the movement he led. The problems of separating truth from legend and of gathering the extremely dispersed source material have presented considerable obstacles. Furthermore, very little documentation concerning Makhno (newspapers, proclamations, personal papers) has survived or is available in the West.4 Because of the controversy surrounding Makhno and the lack of scholarly studies about him, it has been difficult to evaluate his relationship to the Ukrainian Revolution. This study will focus on the most crucial issue -- Makhno's perception of the Ukrainian question.
There is no definitive biography of Makhno and no thorough evaluation of his movement. A general outline of his life, however, has been established.5 He was born in 1889 into a poor peasant family in Huliai-Pole, a rural center in the southern Ukraine not far from Zaporizhzhia. During the 1905 Revolution, Makhno joined an anarchist group in his native town. This terrorist group of anarchist-communists was tried for the assassination of a police official in 1908, and Makhno was sentenced to life imprisonment in Moscow's Butyrki prison.6 There he received further instruction in anarchism from Petr Arshinov, a Russian worker from Kateryno-slav (Dnipropetrovsk). The February Revolution of 1917 freed Makhno from prison, and he returned immediately to Huliai-Pole, where he revitalized the anarchist group and became active in the revolutionary events of village life. The German and Austro-Hungarian occupation of the Ukraine in the spring of 1918 forced Makhno and his anarchist comrades to flee to Bolshevik Russia. From March to July 1918, he wandered through revolutionary Russia and met with Lenin and the famous anarchist, Prince Peter Kropotkin. In July, Makhno returned to Huliai-Pole and launched a guerrilla war against Hetman Skoropadskyi's government and the forces of the Central Powers. Peasant discontent in the Ukraine provided a favorable environment for the growth of Makhno's anarchist-influenced insurgent movement, and the overthrow of the Hetman's government left him in a position of considerable power in Katerynoslav gubernia and the surrounding areas.
Makhno proved to be a brilliant military leader for his peasant army. After December 1918, he sided with the Bolsheviks, whose invading Red Army was struggling with the Directory for the control of Kiev. In February 1919, Makhno negotiated an alliance with the Bolsheviks, who in turn called for the subordination of his "Insurgent Revolutionary Army of the Ukraine" to the Red Army Command. This alliance was soon strained because the Bolsheviks attempted to assume command of Makhno's forces as well as the territory that he controlled. Further dissension with the Bolsheviks in the spring resulted from the agreement for mutual cooperation between Makhno and the major anarchist group in the Ukraine, the Nabat, led by Vsevolod Eikhenbaum (Volin). The Nabat group saw in the Makhnwshchyna (Makhno movement) an opportunity to put theoretical anarchism into practice, and it greatly strengthened anarchist influence on the Makhnwshchyna by providing the necessary ideological cadres.7 The threat of a common enemy, Otaman Matvii Hryhoriiv, improved relations between the Bolsheviks and the Makhnivtsi (supporters of Makhno), which by the spring of 1919 had deteriorated to the point of open hostility. Hryhoriiv presented a far greater threat to Bolshevik rule than Makhno did.8 Makhno refused to join Hryhoriiv's revolt, and during a meeting on July 27 assassinated him.
The mounting Denikin offensive in August and September 1919 swept both the Bolsheviks and Makhno from Left-Bank Ukraine. Makhno retreated as far west as Uman, where he came into contact with the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen (Sichovi Striltsi) and Petliura's forces. Makhno and these Ukrainian formations, faced with the threat from Denikin, agreed to tactical military cooperation on September 21, 1919. However, four days later, Makhno moved alone against Denikin and broke through the White Army's encirclement. In lightning raids throughout Left-Bank Ukraine, he wrought considerable damage on Denikin's rear forces and was thus instrumental in halting the White general's advance on Moscow.9 With the defeat of Denikin, the Makhnivtsi reached the height of their power. By the fall of 1919, they occupied the large cities of Oleksandrivsk (Zaporizhzhia) and Katerynoslav and were able for a short period to concentrate on ideological work and the reorganization of their territory.
Early in 1920, the Bolsheviks reestablished their control of the Ukraine and initiated hostilities against the Makhnivtsi. Only Wrangel's autumn offensive caused a brief change in the situation. The Bolsheviks formed a new alliance with Makhno. This agreement was the final factor precipitating a break by most of the Nabat group with Makhno. Following the surprisingly easy defeat of Wrangel, the Bolsheviks renewed hostilities, and by November the Makhnivtsi were hard pressed by the Red Army. In August 1921, the remnants of the Makhno forces fled across the Rumanian border.
After detention in Rumania and a trial in Poland for "fomenting rebellion," Makhno went to Paris.10 He remained active in anarchist circles, but he was troubled by the poverty and tribulations of exile, and the accusations by certain Russian anarchists that he was an anti-Semite. Despite these problems, before his death in 1934, he wrote numerous articles for the Paris journal, Delo truda, and he completed three volumes of his memoirs -- a narrative of the Makhnivshchyna to December 1918.11
This brief outline suggests Makhno's importance in the history of revolutionary events in the Ukraine. Yet, if little has been done to research the life and thought of Makhno and the history of the movement that he led, almost nothing has been done to discuss his relation to the Ukrainian national reawakening. The standard histories of the Makhnivshchyna by Petr Arshinov and Vsevolod Eikhenbaum (Volin) included only a few perfunctory remarks about Makhno's attitude toward the Ukrainian question.12 The matter is given a little more attention by the Soviet historian M. Kubanin, whose work is interesting chiefly for its assertion that Makhno converted to Ukrainian nationalism in 1920-1921.13 The only work that deals specifically with any aspect of the problem is Lubomyr Wynar's short article, "The Relationships between Nestor Makhno and the Army of the Ukrainian National Republic, 1918-1920"; it does not, however, treat in any detail Makhno's thinking on the Ukrainian question.14
Makhno and the Makhnivshchyna have often been viewed as being totally divorced from the Ukrainian national revival. This may partially be due to our own preconceptions of the 1917-1921 period. The relationship of a given historical figure to the Ukrainian question has been evaluated largely by his support of or opposition to a Ukrainian national state. In focusing attention on Ukrainian political movements, we have often overlooked a post-1917 "revolution" of even greater importance. This "revolution" was the acceptance of the idea of an entity with fairly well-defined borders called the "Ukraine," and the self-identification of the masses living in this area as "Ukrainians." This was a revolution in perception, and it brought about a general recognition that Ukrainians were a separate nation. Even the Russians or Poles, who had hitherto viewed Ukrainians as merely a part of their own nations, came to accept this new view. Although the degree to which the Ukrainian masses were nationally conscious before 1917 is debatable, and although many Russians and "Little Russians" (Ukrainians who believed that they were the Little Russian branch of an "All-Russian" nation) questioned the existence of a Ukrainian nation, by the 1920's the concepts "Ukraine" and "Ukrainians" were almost universally accepted and had become analogous, for instance, to "Armenia" and "Armenians.' The dynamics of the awakening of Ukrainian consciousness can be understood only by studying the countless individual experiences that composed it.
Makhno is an interesting subject for a number of reasons. First of all, whatever his own national self-identification, his ideological commitment to anarchism meant that he could never accept the philosophy of groups seeking to set up a state (including a national state). Secondly, he was a peasant with little formal education who was catapulted to a position of power as a leader of the peasant masses. Hence, a study of Makhno may help our understanding of the peasantry's relationship to the national awakening. Finally, Makhno allowed himself to be Russified in his youth, at least linguistically, and spent a good part of his life in Russian revolutionary circles.15 Thus, at an early stage in his career he allied himself with the dominant Russian culture and group. Obviously, all these factors greatly affected Makhno's attitude on the Ukrainian question.
Little is known of Makhno's early life or of the Huliai-Pole environment. The town was overwhelmingly Ukrainian in population, but also included a substantial number of Jews and a small number of Russians, most of whom held government positions.16 However, Huliai-Pole was located near the Russified centers of Katerynoslav and Oleksandrivsk, a factor of considerable importance for Makhno's future development. It is clear that the increase of political activism aimed at the Ukrainian countryside did not bypass Huliai-Pole. The first event of significance in Makhno's career was his politicization -- conversion to an anarcho-communist group that had been established in Huliai-Pole by anarchists from Katerynoslav. In this way, Makhno and a number of other Ukrainian youth were brought into contact with the urban anarchist movement. Makhno's adherence to anarchism was to be of central importance throughout the rest of his life, and in order to understand his actions, as well as the major influences upon him, the relationship between anarchist theory and nationalism must be discussed.
In anarchist theory, the solution of national problems is achieved with the overthrow of the state. In a stateless society, the bourgeoisie is no longer able to oppress the workers by playing on their nationalism. Also, the abolition of the state ends national oppression and allows the free development of all nations.17 Classical anarchism does not recognize national questions.
Though most Russian anarchists in the pre-revolutionary period dismissed the question of nationalism as irrelevant, a minority thought that greater attention should be devoted to this issue. In 1910, Maksim Raevskii wrote in Burevestnik that "it is even possible to say that the national factor in the life of mankind is studied less in our literature than are all other important questions of social and political life."18 Raevskii and the dean of Russian anarchists, Peter Kropotkin, attempted to bring about a change in Russian anarchist attitudes toward the liberation struggles of the Poles, Georgians, Jews, and other minority groups. However, the prevailing tendency in the pre-1917 period was either lack of attention to the national factor, or, when it was alluded to, a simple denunciation of nationalism as a bourgeois manifestation. For those anarchists interested in the nationality issue, the limited literature on the subject gave little guidance.19
Anarchists were very active in the Ukraine after the 1905 Revolution. Their activity, however, was centered in the Russified cities of Katerynoslav, Kharkiv, Odessa, and Kiev. Given the ethnic configuration and cultural-linguistic characteristics of these centers, it was possible for the anarchist movement in the Ukraine to be culturally "Russian" and thus to avoid the national problem. It is impossible to estimate the number of Ukrainians in the anarchist movement. However, the lack of special Ukrainian anarchist groups or of periodicals in Ukrainian suggests that the number of Ukrainian-speaking or nationally conscious anarchists was not large.20 The lack of evidence of Ukrainian activity in the anarchist movement is in marked contrast to the considerable material on the participation of Ukrainian Jews in the movement.21 Even Raevskii, an anarchist interested in the nationality problem and a native of the Ukrainian city of Nizhyn, made no mention of Ukrainians in his discussion of the nationality problem in the Russian Empire.22 A measure of the anarchists' lack of perception of a Ukrainian problem is revealed by the local reports, or "chronicles," in the pre-1917 anarchist press. A study of these "chronicles" shows evidence of anarchist activity in twenty-five Ukrainian cities and villages.23 In only six cases (all from northern Ukraine and not including a single major city) is there evidence of consciousness of the existence of a Ukrainian nation.24 Thus, the pre-1917 anarchist movement in the Ukraine had neither contact with nor great awareness of the Ukrainian national movement. Linguistically and culturally, it was predominantly a Russian movement of the Ukrainian cities.
Makhno's anarchist leanings placed him in the world of Russian revolutionaries, a world that, though not Russian nationalist, was Russian in outlook and that viewed any "localist" or nationalist movement as a hindrance to the social revolution. Makhno's entrance into this "Russian" environment was reinforced by his confinement in Moscow's Butyrki prison, where he came under Arshinov's tutelage.25 It was probably his long confinement there that linguistically Russified him.26
The Makhno who returned to Huliai-Pole in March of 1917 was not interested in a search for national identity but in social revolution and cooperation with anarchist forces. "Ukrainianism," a concept that he may well have first encountered at that time, was to him a bourgeois political movement of the village intelligentsia and merely another ideology to be combatted. The distinction between political activity on behalf of a Ukrainian state and the assertion of one's linguistic-national identity as a Ukrainian was still very vague. This was especially true in Katerynoslav gubernia, where Ukrainian political and cultural life were particularly underdeveloped.27 To increase their strength, the Ukrainian political factions in the area cooperated in joint activities. The more rightist groups devoted their efforts to cultural work. The weakness of the Ukrainian political movement caused others, including Makhno and the anarchists, to consider "Ukrainians" as merely an amorphous political faction.
The young anarchist's entrance into the political life of the Huliai-Pole of 1917 meant a struggle with Ukrainian forces. Makhno and his group of anarcho-communists soon attained dominance in the Huliai-Pole Soviet and successfully opposed the activity of the major Ukrainian party, the Ukrainian Socialist-Revolutionaries. Makhno carried on a bitter struggle against the "Ukrainians," or, as he called them, the "socialist chauvinists," and contacts with urban anarchists only strengthened the Huliai-Pole group's antipathy. Marusia Nikoforova and other Oleksandrivsk anarchists visited the town and counseled the use of terror against Ukrainian parties.28 Local anarchists responded by assassinating the major "Ukrainian" leader in the village, Semiuta-Riabko.29 Makhno's deep antagonism to the Ukrainian movement was one of the factors leading to his cooperation, in January 1918, with Bolshevik forces in Oleksandrivsk against the forces of the Rada.30 He viewed the Rada's invitation to the Central Powers to enter the Ukraine as the final betrayal of the revolution.31
Even before Makhno launched the guerrilla movement that was to become the Makhnivshchyna, and before the Nabat group of anarchists had any influence on him, the outline of his policies had emerged. This anarcho-communist peasant, who no longer had command of his native language, was suspicious of "Ukrainianism" (ukrainstvo) in general and was vehemently opposed to Ukrainian political formations. His anarchist persuasions made the culturally Russian anarchists of the Ukrainian cities his cohorts, and he felt comfortable working within this non-Ukrainian milieu. Finally, like so many other anarchists, he saw the Bolshevik movement as revolutionary and was willing to cooperate with it against what he viewed as the forces of reaction.32
Soon after Makhno returned to Huliai-Pole from Moscow, in July 1918, he launched the guerrilla movement that was to be the basis of his power. Peasant resentment against the conservative regime of the Hetman as well as the German and Austro-Hungarian occupation was widespread. In the northern and western areas of the Ukraine this discontent was utilized by the Ukrainian political forces of the Directory. At the same time, Makhno became a major leader of the anti-Hetmanate rebellions in the steppe areas of Katerynoslav and Taurida gubernias.33 But already, from the first contacts between the Directory forces of Otaman Havrylo Horobets and the Makhnivtsi, it was evident that Makhno was bitterly opposed to groups attempting to establish a Ukrainian state. Any hope that he could be won over to the Ukrainian national cause was destroyed by Chubenko and Myrhorodskyi, Makhno's emissaries to Horobets. One of the Directory officials present at this meeting described it in the following manner:
They [the Makhno delegates] spoke Russian and under the slogans of battle with the "counterrevolution," "bourgeoisie," etc., did not want to hear of anything else. To the proposition of the Ukrainian Command that they enter into a common struggle for the resurrection of the Ukrainian state, they announced that they considered the Directory a counterrevolutionary force and that for them, revolutionaries, mere was no common path with the Ukrainian nationalist bourgeoisie. In general their phraseology did not differ at all from that of the Bolsheviks.34
There was almost no common ground between Makhno, who stressed the needs of the revolution, and the Ukrainian forces, who emphasized Ukrainian cultural and national aspirations.
Throughout the complex political events of 1919-1920, Makhno's policy toward the Ukrainian problem was consistent. After the Nabat group of anarchists joined Makhno, several publications propounding ardent internationalism were founded. Ukrainian nationalism, as well as nationalism of any sort, was condemned in the movement's major organ, the Russian-language newspaper Put k svobode.35 When Otaman Hryhoriiv rose in revolt against the Bolsheviks under the banner of Ukrainian nationalism and called for Makhno's assistance, the Makhnivtsi issued a condemnation:
What does Hryhoriiv say? From the first words of his "Universal" he says that the people who crucified Christ rule the Ukraine, that they have come from rapacious Moscow. Brothers, is it possible that you do not hear in these words the dark call to the Jewish pogrom? Is it possible you do not feel the aim of Otaman Hryhoriiv to tear asunder the living brotherly link of revolutionary Ukraine from revolutionary Russia?36
Not only was the movement as a whole opposed to Ukrainian nationalism, but those both favorable and hostile to Makhno testify to his lack of nationalist feeling.37 The degree of Makhno's hostility to Ukrainian nationalists is illustrated by Fotii Meleshko's account of his meeting with Makhno in 1919. Meleshko recalls that Makhno asked him whether he was afraid, since the anarchist leader was rumored to murder all "nationally conscious" Ukrainians.38
Makhno consistently refused military cooperation with Ukrainian nationalist forces. Only once did he come to an agreement with Ukrainian military groups. First contact was made with the "foreign" Galician Sich Riflemen near Uman at the height of the Denikin offensive in late September 1919.39 Although an accord was reached and the Petliura forces accepted a group of Makhno's wounded, the agreement was in effect only four days.40 The Makhno camp issued a pamphlet denouncing Petliura and later charged that he planned to betray them to the Whites.41 Subsequently,
Makhno was charged with having planned to deal with Petliura as he had with Hryhoriiv.42
It would be a mistake, however, to label the Makhnivtsi as "anti-Ukrainian." Although they opposed the political goals of most "svidomi ukraintsi" (nationally conscious Ukrainians), they accepted the existence of a Ukrainian nation and used the terms "Ukraine" and "Ukrainians."43 Opposing Denikin's restrictions on the use of the Ukrainian language in schools, the Cultural Enlightenment Section of the Makhnivshchyna issued the following order in October 1919, on the pages of Put k svobode.
In the interest of the spiritual development of die people, the language of school instruction ought to be one to which the local population (teachers, students and parents) naturally inclines. The local population, not the authorities and not the army, ought to decide this question freely and independently.44
The need to communicate with the peasant masses led to the foundation of a Ukrainian-language newspaper, Shliakh do voli.45 Specifically Ukrainian themes, such as historical subjects and literary allusions, were mentioned frequently in Makhnivtsi publications during the later phases of the movement's existence.46
The increase of Ukrainian-language materials in the Makhnivshchyna was a result of the work of a small group of Ukrainian intellectuals. The most important of these was Makhno's wife, Halyna Kuzmenko, a former teacher of Ukrainian language and history in the Hulaia-Pole Gymnasium.47 Halyna used her influence to Ukrainianize the cultural milieu of the Makhnivshchyna.48 In the summer of 1919, a group of Ukrainian intelligentsia gathered around her in an attempt to convert the Makhno movement to the Ukrainian nationalist cause.49 The available information is incomplete, but a plan may have been afoot to overthrow Makhno himself, and discovery of this probably was the factor precipitating his anti-Petliura pamphlet. One former supporter maintained that, after Makhno discovered these plans, he easily dislodged the Ukrainian nationalists from the movement.50 Yet, the fact that he allowed Ukrainian nationalists to work in his camp at all illustrates the need for Ukrainian cultural workers. The purported plot to convert the movement into an instrument of Ukrainian nationalism failed, but the need for cultural workers continued.51 Halyna, whom Makhno does not seem to have suspected of plotting against him, did not cease in her attempts to Ukrainianize the movement. The activity of Ukrainian intellectuals, however, was merely a minor current in the Makhnivshchyna.
In fact, anarchists, many of them Russian and Jewish, provided the basic cadre of the movement in 1918-1919. The slogans of the movement were internationalist, and Ukrainian nationalism was opposed, though the latter was considered only a peripheral problem. Nonetheless, some Soviet historians have claimed that both the movement and Makhno turned to nationalism during the 1920-1921 period. M. Kubanin asserted that many of the ideological anarchists departed from the Makhno camp and that, under the influence of Halyna and a "chauvinistic" group, the peasant leader's pronouncements became more and more nationalistic. He also charged that Makhno cooperated with Petliura units in "mutual non-aggression pacts and joint action against Soviet power," and that Makhno's final transformation into a Ukrainian nationalist came just before his flight to Rumania, when he drew up a universal calling for the liberation of "Mother Ukraine" -- Nenka Ukraina.52 In 1928, Makhno wrote a rebuttal to Kubanin in which he totally dismissed the charges. He also asserted that Kubanin distorted anarchism's espousal of local autonomy so as to create trumped-up charges of nationalism. Unfortunately, he did not provide any substantial information on the period, and his assertion that Halyna did not even wish to win him over to nationalism does not coincide with what is known about her.53
There is considerable cause to doubt Kubanin's charge of Makhno's conversion to nationalism. The nationalist papers and pronouncements he refers to are never cited or quoted in his work.54 Moreover, a Bolshevik proclamation issued sometime after November 1920 -- that is, after the Wrangel defeat -- asserted that, unlike Petliura, Makhno was not a nationalist and did not appeal to nationalist sympathies.55 Kubanin's statement that the number of anarchists with Makhno decreased considerably between 1919 and 1920 is, of course, correct. The increasing dissatisfaction of Nabat with Makhno led to a final break in November 1920, but this was not over the national question.56 The alleged "truce, non-aggression pact, and joint action against the Soviets" with the Petliura bands is contradicted by Kubanin's own citation of his major informant on the period: "There was no official link with the Petliura detachments, excluding certain chance meetings, since the Petliurivtsi feared us as an opposing camp and avoided contacts."57It is true, but hardly significant, that on occasion there was cooperation between elements of the two groups, because both were so hard pressed by the Bolsheviks. Of more importance is Makhno's own admission that during 1920 former Petliura units joined his camp and introduced a nationalist element into his forces.58 However, he claimed to have resisted this influence. The projected universal that Kubanin charged Makhno as planning to issue is discussed by a former Makhno supporter, Teper, in the following manner:
Shortly before the flight to Rumania, Makhno decided to put into the archives all prior declarations and to take upon himself the composition of a new declaration in a completely different vein. Basically he proposed in it a project for the national liberation of the Ukraine. . . . But a part of the commanding staff protested strongly against this declaration, and he was forced not to push it any further.59
Far from seeing this declaration as the culmination of a process, Teper views it as a desperate, last-minute effort to secure Ukrainian nationalist support. Thus, he contradicts Kubanin's allegation of a steady process that culminated in this proposed manifesto. The problem of Makhno's conversion can be resolved only on the basis of new evidence.
Whether or not Makhno considered issuing a call for the liberation of the Ukraine as a last-ditch effort, the charge that he went over to the nationalist camp in 1920-1921 seems improbable.60 What is possible is that the virulence of his opposition to Ukrainian nationalism decreased in the face of what he saw as even greater enemies. Also, the triumphs of Russian forces in the Ukraine (Bolshevik or White) and the increasing self-identification of the masses as Ukrainian may have led him to think in Ukrainian terrm It is significant that in the anarchist emigre press, in which Makhm was so often held responsible for the Jewish pogroms, no mention was made of any Ukrainian nationalism.61
The problem of Makhno's relationship to the Ukrainian question appears to be simple. A Russified Ukrainian peasant led a movement ideologically opposed to Ukrainian nationalist forces and staffed by a culturally Russian anarchist elite. From what is known of his life in emigration in Paris, his contacts were with Russian anarchists, not with nationally conscious Ukrainians.62 He contributed to Russian anarchist publications and journals, and it would appear that his relations with his major Ukrainian contact, his wife Halyna, were strained.63
All the evidence is consistent, with one exception -- Makhno's own history of the movement in his memoirs. Composed in the late 1920's and early 1930's, his writings reveal a man very much aware of his own Ukrainian identity and the appeal of Ukrainian nationalism to the masses. He even displays a considerable degree of Ukrainian patriotism.64
The memoirs contain numerous texts of speeches, purportedly made by Makhno, explaining the bankruptcy of Ukrainian nationalism. Long passages assert the correctness of Makhno's and other anarchists' programs for the liberation of the Ukraine and Ukrainians.65 He describes the events of 1918-1919 as a process in which the "Russian Revolution in the Ukraine" became the "Ukrainian Revolution." One of the speeches quoted in the memoirs from the Revolutionary period includes a passage predicting that "Even should the Revolution in the Ukraine appear to be a continuation of the Russian Revolution, it will in its character and anti-state feeling be a Ukrainian Revolution."66 Makhno also included passages extolling the special qualities of the Ukrainian soul. He thus describes his feelings while addressing a meeting in Huliai-Pole:
I began to lose my equanimity and almost cried for joy at the breadth of development of the Ukrainian workers' and peasants' souls. Before me arose the peasants' will to freedom and independence, which only in the width and depth of the Ukrainian soul could so quickly and strongly manifest itself.67
In the memoirs, Makhno's interest focuses not only on the Ukrainian revolutionary soul, but also on Ukrainian culture. Although he wrote in Russian, Makhno prefaced the first volume with a note:
One thing alone must bother me in publishing this outline, and that is that it does not come out in the Ukraine and in the Ukrainian language. The Ukrainian nation is advancing culturally step by step toward a full definition of its own individual essence and this [the memoirs, F.S.] could be important. That I cannot publish my writings in the language of my people is not my fault but that of the conditions in which I find myself.68
The degree of Makhno's Ukrainianism even led Volin, the anarchist who edited the last two posthumous volumes, to attempt to tone down what he saw as ideological failings. Volin's commentary appended to the second volume asserted that "along with a fanatical faith in the peasantry (namely, in the Ukrainian peasantry) there existed in him [Makhno] a guarded, untrusting, suspicious relation to everything non-peasant (and non-Ukrainian)."69
There are numerous factors that may have led Makhno toward interest in the national question and national consciousness. The manifest rebirth of the Ukrainian nation, the influence of his wife, the growing acceptance of the Ukraine as an entity in the 1917-1921 period, the bitterness of the struggle against the Russian Bolsheviks and the Russian Whites, all may have been contributing factors. However, the fact that he threw in his lot with the Russian anarchists of Paris illustrated that in emigration he was far from being a nationalist or anti-Russian.
The real explanation of Makhno's Ukrainianism lies in an article he published in 1926 in the anarchist newspaper, Delo truda, entitled "A Few Words on the National Question in the Ukraine."70 Makhno emphasized the great changes that the Ukrainian masses had undergone during the years of Soviet rule. He maintained that the Bolsheviks and their Moscow-based power had betrayed the Ukrainian laborer and had thus given him a great distrust of the prishlie (the outsiders, newcomers, or foreigners). Makhno asserted that, although during the Revolution the Ukrainian laborers had not sympathized with or followed those who put forth the ideas of Ukrainian "self-determination," they later came to view this concept favorably. Accordingly, Makhno advised his anarchist brethren:
The working masses sympathize with the idea of self-determination. At times they even affirm it in their life style. Thus, for example, they uphold their language and their culture, which in pre-revolutionary times were in the position of step-children. They keep up their life style, their customs, accommodating them to the achievements of their new life. The gentlemen state-builders have nothing against using ... all these natural manifestations of Ukrainian reality, against which the Bolsheviks would be powerless to struggle, even if they wished . . . for their goal of the creation of an independent Ukrainian state.71
He saw the Soviet Ukrainianization policy of the 1920's as an attempt by the Bolsheviks to reverse their original error and to harness Ukrainian nationalism in their service. Thus, Makhno asserted that even the anarchists' bitter enemy, the Bolsheviks, had to come to terms with a renascent Ukraine.
Makhno also warned anarchists that they must adjust to the new situation in the Ukraine in order to convince the laborers that not only foreign government but all governments were the source of oppression. Drawing upon the lessons of the past, he recalled that during the period of his activity:
There was no time to scrutinize, and there was never any examination of all the "aliens" in our ranks. Faith in the Revolution took precedence over any discussion of who those "aliens" might be, and whether they were not our enemies.72
Makhno stressed that "much has changed in the psychology of the Ukrainian laborer," and because of the great attraction that Ukrainian self-determination had for the masses, he suggested that the anarchists' major task was to explain that an independent Ukrainian government would be as oppressive as alien rule. In order to fulfill this task, he warned anarchists that they must take into account the following:
The Ukraine speaks Ukrainian, and because of this nationalism at times it does not listen to strangers who do not speak Ukrainian. One ought to consider this practically. If until this time anarchists have exerted a weak ideological influence on the Ukrainian village, it is because they cluster in the cities and do not take into consideration the national language of the Ukrainian village.73
In order to rectify this failing, he called for the formation of a Ukrainian anarchist organization to prepare to work under these conditions.
Makhno thus proposed Ukrainianization of the anarchist movement. The importance of this stand is obvious in view of the hostility and the lack of attention given by anarchism to the problems of nationality. Not even in the 1917-1921 period did the very active anarchist movements in the Ukraine begin to "Ukrainianize." The Nabat group chose the Ukraine as its field of action not because it had strong local roots, but simply because it saw greater potential for real revolution there.74Anarchist newspapers, manifestoes, and pamphlets were predominantly in the Russian language and at times reflected pre-Revolutionary Russian views toward the existence of a Ukrainian nation.75 When Bolshevik victory forced most anarchists to leave the Ukraine, they emigrated essentially as Russian anarchists. Thus, the emigre anarchist movement of the 1920's was no better equipped to operate in a Ukrainian environment than was the anarchist movement of 1905. But now, as Makhno pointed out, the Ukraine was a definite entity and nationalism was a vital issue.
Those Russian anarchists who noticed the change in the Ukrainian mentality were hardly prepared to understand or analyze it.76 Their concern for the world or, at least, the all-Russian revolutionary movement evoked little interest in the Ukrainian question. Even Volin and Arshinov, who begin their works with almost romantic descriptions of the Ukrainian people, in practice recount the history of the Makhnivshchyna as a Russian movement.77 Makhno, no matter how Russified he was, had strong attachment to his native Ukrainian countryside, and consequently took notice of the changes.
Even though the continuance of Bolshevik rule meant that anarchism was never put to the test in the Ukraine, Makhno's fear that the movement was too "Russian" for the new situation seems correct. His appeal seems to have had no effect, and there is certainly no indication that he formed a group of Ukrainian anarchists.78 There is some evidence of Ukrainian anarchist activity in the Americas, but it was not the result of Makhno's activities. A few anarchist publications in the United States showed a distinct Ukrainian consciousness79 and engaged in the formidable task of trying to win over the largely Galician Ukrainian workers from the nationalist camp.80
Makhno's memoirs must be understood in terms of his new perception of the Ukrainian problem. The long passages recounting ideological sparring with Ukrainian nationalists were an attempt to convince the "Ukrainian laborers" that the nationalist philosophy was still bankrupt. The apology for the Russian text of the memoirs is understandable in view of his recognition that to influence the Ukraine the Ukrainian language was indispensable.81 Perhaps to make his own former indifference to Ukrainian language and culture more palatable, he recounted the following incident. Returning from Russia to the Hetman-ruled Ukraine, he was rebuffed by a railwayman whom he had addressed in Russian, and he was forced to speak in Ukrainian.
I was struck by this demand, but it couldn't be helped, and I, not having proper command of my native language, Ukrainian, was forced to disfigure it . . . I put a question to myself -- in whose name is this demanded of me . . . such a butchering of a language when I don't know it. I understood that this demand did not originate with the Ukrainian working people.
I was convinced that for such Ukrainians [the Hetman supporters] only their Ukrainian language is necessary, and not the full freedom of the Ukraine and of its working people.82
Makhno was thus interested in presenting himself and the anarchists as the only true purveyors of freedom for the Ukraine. The nationalists were not the only group he took to task on the Ukrainian issue. He was also intent on exposing what he saw as the hypocrisy of Bolshevik Ukrainianization policy. This is evident from his own account of the famous encounter with Lenin. Makhno claimed to have said to Lenin: "Anarcho-communists in the Ukraine (or, since you Communist-Bolsheviks attempt to shun the word Ukraine and call her 'the South of Russia') -- anarcho-communists in this 'South of Russia'..." Later, when Lenin informed Makhno of the border between Ukraine and Russia (post-Brest-Litovsk) Makhno gibed: ". . . and you still consider the Ukraine 'the South of Russia'?" Lenin answered "... to consider is one thing, comrade, to see in life another."83 Makhno uses this technique of emphasizing his own acceptance of the Ukraine, as opposed to the Russian chauvinist attitude of his enemies, in recounting conversations with Iakov Sverdlov. Sverdlov: "So you, comrade, are from the South of Russia." Makhno: "Yes, I'm from the Ukraine."84 In view of Makhno's contention that the Bolsheviks had embarked on the Ukrainianization policy of the late 1920's as an attempt to conteract their initial mistakes, the memoirs should be seen as an effort to make the public aware of what he saw as the hypocrisy of Bolshevik attitudes toward the Ukraine.
Not only ideological enemies came in for attack on the Ukrainian issue; Makhno also settled scores with his anarchist enemy, Alexander Shapiro. Shapiro charged Makhno with anti-Semitism in numerous articles in the emigre anarchist press.85 Thus, Makhno's description of a conversation about the Ukraine to which he adds the comment " (according to Shapiro, the South of Russia)," is in fact a counterattack charging his anarchist enemy with anti-Ukrainian Great Russian chauvinism.86
The vehemence with which Makhno criticized his enemies for anti-Ukrainianism merely emphasizes the development of his own Ukrainian national consciousness. The direction of Makhno's thinking is in fact a testimony to the triumph of the Ukrainian national revival in the years after the Revolution. For large segments of the Ukrainian population, the 1917 period and the revolt against the Hetman were crucial for the formation of a Ukrainian national consciousness. For Makhno, however, the crucial stage appears to have been the final imposition of Soviet rule. All the evidence supports the assertion that Makhno and the Makhnivsti carried on their struggle in an area where the Ukrainian issue was not of major importance. However, even in this area the influence of the Ukrainian revival was felt. In order to communicate on a large scale with the Ukrainian peasantry, the Makhno movement required Ukrainian-speaking cultural workers. Above all, the presence of a nationally conscious Ukrainian, Makhno's wife, introduced a limited Ukrainianization. The emergence of a nationally conscious Ukrainian nation in the 1920's, which prompted the Communist Party to introduce Ukrainianization, was the final decisive influence on Makhno's thinking. While he never became a nationalist, he did to a degree become a Ukrainian anarchist.
The evolution of Makhno's thought on the nationality issue was particularly complex because of his involvement in the "Russian" anarchist movement. The dilemma of the Ukrainian radical in the pre-Revolutionary period was to integrate Ukrainian national aspirations, which often seemed provincial and minor to the revolutionary youth, with the more important "All-Russian" or universal problems. The sons and daughters of the Ukrainian intelligentsia faced this problem early in their development. But, Makhno, who emerged from the nationally amorphous mass of peasantry, initially paid little attention to the implications of the Ukrainian revival in the Russian Empire. This was especially true because the anarchists, the group with which he identified, were antagonistic to nationalism and isolated from those segments of the population most influenced by the rise in national consciousness. Like many of his contemporaries during the Revolution, Makhno viewed "Ukrainian" as more a political than a national designation. By the 1920's, however, "Ukrainians" had emerged as a full-fledged nation, and one that could contain all shades of political thought -- from legitimate monarchist to communist. "Ukrainianism" was no longer identified with agrarian populists. Consequently, the Ukrainian nation could even contain an anarchist element. Just as there were French, Spanish, and Russian anarchists, who were by no means nationalists, there could also be Ukrainian anarchists. Makhno's thinking and writings reflected this emergence of a modern Ukrainian nation.