Anarchism in Ukraine
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Anarchism in Ukraine dates from the 19th century with the writings of Mykhailo Drahomanov (1841–1895), though it draws its rebellious inspiration in the actions of Nestor Makhno from the peasant uprisings of Stenka Razin and Yemelyan Pugachev as well as the Zaporozhian Cossacks.
The first theoretical anarchist in Ukraine was Mykhailo Drahomanov who was influenced by such writers as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin. While living in Geneva, he wrote numerous political tracts against all sorts of centralized governments and favored a bottom-up form of democracy of small communities organized on a federative basis, often referring to the Swiss form of government as a model.
Anarchists were active in the Revolution of 1905, forming the Union of Poor Peasants in Huliaipole, and suffered repression following its failure. Maria Nikiforova was arrested at this time, as was Sascha Schapiro, father of the anarchist mathematician, Alexander Grothendieck. Nestor Makhno and other anarcho-communists continued their attacks against aristocrats and capitalists throughout the south-eastern part of Ukraine.
Makhno became active again after the Russian Revolution in the raion of Huliaipole in a peasant region. Anarchist communes formed across south-eastern Ukraine, many of them productive enough to exchange wheat for textiles with workers in Moscow. Makhno at one time fought with Bolsheviks against the White Army and, because of his refusal to subordinate his army under Bolshevik command, he was denounced as a bandit, betrayed, and ultimately defeated by the Bolsheviks. For a duration of three years he formed the Free Territory with his (mostly peasant) Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine. The Free Territory existed only until June 1919, but in that time, communities operated successfully on the economic theories of the anarchist Peter Kropotkin and educational principles of Francisco Ferrer.
Volin was a prolific writer and anarchist intellectual who played an important part in the organization and leadership of Nabat. The Nabat Confederation of Anarchist Organizations, better known simply as Nabat (Набат), was an anarchist organization that came to prominence in Ukraine during the years 1918 to 1920. The area where it held the most influence is sometimes referred to as the Free Territory, though Nabat had branches in all of the major cities in southern Ukraine. Volin was charged with writing a platform for Nabat that could be agreeable to all the major branches of anarchism, most importantly anarcho-syndicalism, collectivist anarchism, anarcho-communism, and individualist anarchism. The uniform platform for Nabat was never truly decided upon, but Volin used what he had written and the inspiration from Nabat to create his Anarchist Synthesis. The proposed platform for Nabat included the following sentence which anticipated synthesis anarchism: "These three elements (syndicalism, communism and individualism) are three aspects of a single process, the building, of the organization of the working class (syndicalism), of the anarcho-communist society which is nothing more than the material base necessary for the complete fullness of the free individual."
Makhno tried to defend the Free Territory against further attacks by the Bolshevik and White armies, but lost ground throughout 1920 and 1921. By the end of 1921, the anarchist groups in Ukraine had been arrested or dispersed. Makhno fled to Romania, then Poland, and finally Paris, where he wrote his memoirs and proposed organizational tactics based on what he had learned in Ukraine.
Following the defeat of the Makhnovist movement and the establishment of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, within the Soviet Union, Ukraine was brought definitively under Communist Party rule. Any remaining remnants of anarchism in Ukraine were suppressed, many anarchists being imprisoned in the Gulag, and the New Economic Policy was implemented, transforming the Ukrainian SSR into a state-capitalist economy. Political repression in Ukraine intensified under the totalitarian rule of Joseph Stalin. The policies of collectivization and dekulakization, as part of the first five-year plan, led to a famine in Ukraine known colloquially as the Holodomor - killing millions of people due to starvation. This was followed by a repressive campaign against the Ukrainian intelligentsia, culminating in the Great Purge of 1937-1938.
During World War II, the former Makhnovist Osip Tsebriy formed the Green Guard to wage guerilla warfare against the Ukrainian SSR, the Reichskommissariat Ukraine and the ultra-nationalist Ukrainian Insurgent Army, briefly reinvigorating the anarchist movement among the Ukrainian peasantry in Kyiv. But it was defeated in 1943 by the Nazis and many of its members were forced into concentration camps. Nazi rule over Ukraine was eventually defeated by Soviet partisans, who restored Soviet rule and began a period of reconstruction in the country.
After the death of Stalin, the Khrushchev Thaw brought with it a period of De-Stalinization, which allowed the open criticism of Stalin's policies. Many Ukrainian communists particularly criticized the Stalinist policy of Russification, giving way instead to a period of Ukrainization. However, this policy was reversed under the Brezhnev administration, which advocated for a return to Soviet nationalism - continuing the halted russification of Ukraine. These policies, combined with the changes brought by glasnost and Perestroika, saw the country's first democratic elections, which culminated with the Declaration of Independence of Ukraine.
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The Ukrainian anarchist movement, which had reformed underground in the 1970s and grew substantially during the Revolutions of 1989, finally re-emerged publicly in the newly independent Ukraine. In 1994, the Revolutionary Confederation of Anarcho-Syndicalists (RKAS) was established in Ukraine, gaining 2,000 members by 2000. The RKAS coordinated trade unions, formed "Black Guard" defense units and established worker cooperatives around the country.
In 2011, libertarian Marxist and anarchist members of the Direct Action students' union established the Autonomous Workers' Union (ACT), with local branches in Kyiv and Kharkiv, among other cities. When the Maidan protests swept through Ukraine, the two unions participated in the protests, even taking a prominent role in Kharkiv. However, due to the large presence of far-right and Ukrainian nationalist elements within the protest movement and the lack of coordination of left-wing protestors, anarchists were unable to make their ideas a notable part of the broad platform of the protests. Some anarchists in south-eastern Ukraine came into conflict with the Anti-Maidan movement, largely consisting of Russian nationalists and Communists, after a Maidan protest was attacked.
The escalation of the conflict and the Russian invasion of Ukraine led to the ongoing War in Donbass, in which the Ukrainian state (with far-right paramilitary support) fought against the forces of the Russian state and pro-Russian separatist forces. Many anarchists were caught in the middle of the conflict, even leading to the dissolution of the Donbass-based Revolutionary Confederation of Anarcho-Syndicalists, which was forced to continue its operations illegally and underground.
Following this period of renewed conflict, in 2015 a Ukrainian branch of Revolutionary Action was established, organizing around the principles of solidarity and direct action. The organization has held demonstrations outside the Belarusian embassy, organized militant anarchist training camps on the outskirts of Kyiv and have claimed responsibility for attacks on neo-Nazis.
On October 27, 2019, insurrectionary anarchists carried out a bomb attack against a mobile communications tower, in the Proletarskyi District in Donetsk. It was reportedly done to draw attention to the torture being performed by the state security forces of the Donetsk People's Republic.
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The Great Famine (Holodomor) of 1932–33 – a man-made demographic catastrophe unprecedented in peacetime. Of the estimated six to eight million people who died in the Soviet Union, about four to five million were Ukrainians ... Its deliberate nature is underscored by the fact that no physical basis for famine existed in Ukraine ... Soviet authorities set requisition quotas for Ukraine at an impossibly high level. Brigades of special agents were dispatched to Ukraine to assist in procurement, and homes were routinely searched and foodstuffs confiscated ... The rural population was left with insufficient food to feed itself.
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