Thursday, March 10, 2022


The Ukraine is the site of one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Cucuteni culture was from about 5500BCE – 3000BCE – Also known as the “Trypillian Culture.” During middle phase there were settlements in the form of concentric circles of up to 15,000 people. Climate change and invasion of the Indo-European “Kurgan peoples” caused the collapse of this society and a “dark age”. The Cucuteni culture shows no sign of a power hierarchy and had a subsistence farming economy based upon gifting. What we see is a fairly advanced civilization without the state or class division. (*) This is also true of other neighboring cultures such as the Vinca, located in what is now Rumania and Serbia. This latter culture also had the beginnings of an alphabet, the symbols of which reappear a thousand years later in the Minoan “Linear A” script. The Kurgan peoples – who may have destroyed the Cucuteni-Trypillian civilization, were definitely a hierarchical society. The kurgans are mound tombs burying a king along with his sacrificed horses, wives and slaves.

In classical times this area was occupied by the Scythians - warlike tribes of horsemen. (900-200 BCE) Some of the horse-riding archers were women, giving rise to the Greek myth of the Amazons. The Scythians came from central Asia and Siberia and their lands stretched all the way from Mongolia to Germany.

March ahead several thousand years. The area of Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine was settled by the Eastern Slavs. First mention of the Slavs is in the second century AD by Roman chroniclers . It seems the Slavs lived in the area roughly similar to the Cucuteni culture thousands of years before, though their origins must lie in Eurasia further to the east. Russian history begins with the establishment of the Rus state. (Hence Rus-land) The Rus state was the result of the Varangians – a mix of Slav, Norse and Finns who traded in the area. Novgorod became the chief city and in 862 AD Oleg of Novgorod seized Kiev and established the state of Kievan Rus, which united the northern and southern East Slav lands. Under the influence of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire Kievan Rus adopted Christianity and other customs. (One of which was calling the king a Tsar (Russian translation of Caesar or emperor.) Kiev became wealthy with the trade on the Volga and the exchange of goods between Europe and the Middle East. In 1237 Kievan Rus was destroyed by the Mongols – with a great loss of life and the center of Rus-land shifted north to Moscow. Finally after almost 250 years of struggle the Mongols were defeated and the basis for the modern Tsarist state was created.

A contradiction lies at the heart of Russian society – a strange mix of authoritarianism and anarchism. A society that gives you Ivan the Terrible, Stalin, Putin and the Azof Battalion also gives you Bakunin, Kropotkin, Maria Spiradanova and Nestor Makhno. The roots of this contradiction may go all the way back to the Cucuteni culture with its stateless, classless society, conquered by the brutal Kurgans. Add to this the Byzantine despotism and its authoritarian religion and the traumas that 250 years of struggle against the Mongol invader must have engendered. In spite of the repression through the millenia, the cooperative and libertarian communist practices survived among the Ukrainian and Russian peasants. These took the form of the MIR – village ownership of the farm lands and their egalitarian distribution and the ARTELS – village production cooperatives. These libertarian communist practices were such that both Karl Marx and the Socialist Revolutionary Party thought that the Russian lands need not pass through capitalism, but on the basis of these practices develop a socialist society.

The positive aspect of the Russian peoples – their “instinctual” anarchism, means we should not give up on either the Russian or Ukrainian peoples, no matter the nature of their leaders or the system that dominates and exploits them.

(*) Nestor Makhno would have liked to have heard this.


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