A really interesting Masters thesis on the relationship between Mennonites and Makhnovists in southern Ukraine during the Russian Civil War through the historical narratives found in each group’s literature.
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 Selbstschützler 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.