Metahistorical Scepticism in Aleksei Goldenveizer’s Chronicle of Everyday Life in Kyiv, 1917–1921

Serhy Yekelchyk

Abstract


This article analyzes the memoir of a Russian-speaking Jewish lawyer, Aleksei Goldenveiser (1890–1979), as a source on the history of Kyiv during the revolutionary period (1917–1921). His work stands out among other reminiscences about the Revolution in Ukraine because of the author’s unprecedented attention to details of everyday life, along with his self-identification as simply an apolitical resident of Kyiv. Especially striking is the author’s satirical, even acerbic, tone in the description of all the political regimes that came to power in Kyiv during the Revolution: Ukrainian, White, and Bolshevik. This article proposes to conceptualize Goldenveizer’s position as metahistorical skepticism or as a strategy of conscious resistance to grand narratives, which is grounded in identification with the local and a focus on everydayness. It argues the Goldenveizer developed this narrative strategy following the failure, in the summer of 1917, of the political project of a civic, multinational, and urban identity. Although Goldenveizer served on the Executive Committee of United Civic Organizations in Kyiv and, briefly, on the Small Rada of the Ukrainian Central Rada, he felt like an outsider in politics of the day and described it as an astute bystander rather than participant. Because of this position, he was the first to note the reversal of imperial hierarchies and the creation of a new category: “national minorities.” At the same time, Goldenveizer consistently attempted in his memoir to check his own political and cultural biases, as one can see in his ambiguous treatment of the Ukrainian language and the Ukrainian national movement.


Keywords


Aleksei Goldenveizer; metahistorical skepticism; revolution; Ukraine; Kyiv; memoirs

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2018.3.326

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