Ukraine: Heroic Freedom Fighters or Chthullu Villains?

I reused this image from last post, because a picture is worth a thousand words. Look deeply into those eyes. Because this was the face of the Ukrainian Revolution a hundred years ago. And a large part of how you view this current war depends on the story you read in those eyes.

The latest news available to the tired blogger: Putin has put his nuclear weapons on “high alert.” European countries including Switzerland (that’s right, you read that right, even the forever neutral Switzerland has thrown a gauntlet in Putin’s face) closing off the banks and freezing assets. Russian troops are fighting guerilla volunteers in the streets of Kharkiv, inching their way painfully toward Kiev. According to CNN and PBS Newshour, Putin has been claiming that he is targeting Nazis. I suppose his aim is just a little slow.

Here we see a random Ukrainian defending his city. I can see why Putin thinks he needs to act…..

As I mentioned in a previous post, this conflict has frankly been going on for quite some time, a century at the bare minimum. Arguably more. My last post is here in case you want to catch up:

Since writing that post I’ve done some more digging into the previous revolution. One of the key leaders in the Ukrainian revolution was Nestor Ivanovych Makhno. He is the handsome fellow with the brooding eyes that impressed me enough to include in both of my last posts.

Young Nestor in 1906.

Legend has it that the priest that was baptizing baby Nestor had his clothes catch fire on a candle, which was considered a sure sign that a trouble maker had been born. His father was a poor coachman, but at least the family had had the ambition to win their freedom from serfdom. He lived in poverty throughout his youth. He did receive four year of education. He was truant quite often, one day when he was playing hooky he went skating, crashed through the ice, and nearly drowned. He had lung problems the rest of his life. His mother beat him viciously when she learned he was not in class, so he became diligent for the few years he had left in school. In summer he worked on farms, in the winter he studied voraciously. After four years he was apprenticed to a carpenter. This reminds me of someone, I’m not sure who.

At age 16 the handsome lad joined a band of traveling actors. But these actors were little different than the stereotypical Gypsy bands that were written about so much in the nineteenth century. They stole from the rich and gave to the poor, and since they were poor, some say they simply kept quite a lot of what they stole. Eventually someone was killed, and since Nestor was part of the crew, he was imprisoned in Moscow. In prison he learned the theories of Anarchism and communism from the Arch Anarchist in Russia, Pert Arshinov. Under his tutelage he read as many books as he could get his hands on, and even started writing poetry. He was freed during the February Revolution, and returned home to sign the decree that “sovietized” the land, ordaining that all the land of the rich and the nobles should be redistributed to the peasants. He was the Big Man on Campus in his home town of Gulyay Pole. But he found that good times don’t last when you are sold down the river.

Imagine Oscar Wild as a revolutionary, and you get the idea.

The Soviets had acceded to a loss in the First World War. And to the victors belong the spoils. The Brest Treaty with Germany took the newly freed Ukraine from its liberty (in the eyes of Ukrainians, including Nestor) and made them a German conquest. Makhno was furious, and wrote: “There are no parties… there are only bunches of charlatans who for the sake of personal profit and extreme sensations… destroy the working people.” Refusing to live under German rule, he fled to Moscow, met Lenin and other Revolutionary leaders, and concluded the revolution was on a revolution “on paper.” What he witnessed there he labeled “the dictatorship of the proletariat.”

I’ve spent a lot of words on this man, and only scratched the surface of what made him a revolutionary. A great deal of controversy surrounds him, and except in his own home town, he is not held universally to be a hero. Even the Russians don’t know what to do with him, whether to label him a Hero of the People, or a villain on par with Hitler himself. His name is fourth on the list of the people awarded the “Order of the Red Flag.” Yet his wife was held as a war criminal after his death, and was only freed from the Gulags after the death of Stalin.

Makhno did not live that long. Nor did he die as a revolutionary. He died as a taxi driver in Paris. I will leave two posts for those who wish to read more. I’m not trying to pick a side here…Ukraine or Russia. But I think if we are going to be making statements in this current war, we have to have some vague idea of what transpired in these nations a century ago.

The Flag of the Black Army that followed Nestor Makhno

Oh yeah…and I nearly forgot! Makhno was used as a character in a Michael Moorecock (famous in D&D circles for several fantasy works, but mainly for The Elric Saga) novel, The Steel Czar.” I have not read this novel, but it is an alternative history where 1) the South won the Civil War, 2) the First World War and the October Revolution never happened, and 3)the protagonist is commissioned by the fictitious “Steel Czar” to drop an atom bomb on Makhno and his Black Army, but instead drops it on the Czar himself. So we owe our freedoms to Chthullhic chaotic forces.

And again….a video to link all of it together. Please let me know if you like the videos….I find that a lot of people I hand the posts to read the post, but don’t bother with the videos at all.

And yes…I know…I’ve only scratched the surface of this story….

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