Makhno and Memory
Anarchist and Mennonite Narratives of Ukraine’s Civil War, 1917–1921
Nestor Makhno has been called a revolutionary anarchist, a peasant rebel, the Ukrainian Robin Hood, a mass-murderer, a pogromist, and a devil. These epithets had their origins in the Russian Civil War (1917–1921), where the military forces of the peasant-anarchist Nestor Makhno and Mennonite colonists in southern Ukraine came into conflict. In autumn 1919, Makhnovist troops and local peasant sympathizers murdered more than 800 Mennonites in a series of large-scale massacres.
The history of that conflict has been fraught with folklore, ideological battles and radically divergent cultural memories, in which fact and fiction often seamlessly blend, conjuring a multitude of Makhnos, each one shouting its message over the other.
Drawing on theories of collective memory and narrative analysis, Makhno and Memory brings a vast array of Makhnovist and Mennonite sources into dialogue, including memoirs, histories, diaries, newspapers, and archival material. A diversity of perspectives are brought into relief through the personal reminiscences of Makhno and his anarchist sympathizers alongside Mennonite pacifists and advocates for armed self-defense.
Through a meticulous analysis of the Makhnovist-Mennonite conflict and a micro-study of the Eichenfeld massacre of October 1919, Sean Patterson attempts to make sense of the competing cultural memories and presents new ways of thinking about Makhno and his movement. Makhno and Memory offers a convincing reframing of the Mennonite / Makhno relationship that will force a scholarly reassessment of this period.
About the Author
Sean Patterson is a doctoral student at the University of Alberta, exploring historical memory in Ukraine’s Zaporizhia region over the 20th century. Patterson graduated from the University of Manitoba and University of Winnipeg’s joint masters program, where he was awarded the W.L. Morton Gold Medal for outstanding research. He currently resides in Edmonton, Alberta.