Historical facts
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 The Ukrainian National Revolution 

(1917-1921)

On February 23, 1917, the revolution broke out in Petrohrad (the empire capital St. Petersburg was renamed during the Russian-German war of 1914). Tens of thousands of soldiers from the local garnisson joined workers on the third day of conflict. Two authorities appeared in the evening of February 27, which played an essential part in the following events: Petrohrad council of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies and the Provisional Committee of the State Duma (Parliament). On March 2, Tsar Mykola II abdicated and the Duma Committee, in agreement with the Petrohrad Council constituated the executive organ of new power: the Provisional Government. It had to prepare democratic elections to Constituent Assembly which had to determine the form of the state system and to adopt Constitution.

Representative authorities in provinces came to civil organizations where representatives of trade-industrial circles and administrative bureaucracy occupied leading positions. As to their party belonging, almost all of them were constitutional democrats (cadets). A Council of United Public Organizations appeared on March 4 in Kyiv. The commissars of the Provisional Government were given the executive power, which had earlier belonged to tsarist governors and district police officers. Heads of province and district land administrations became such commissars. Elected committees began functioning in volosts instead of the officers.

The society of Ukrainian Progressionists (organized by M. Hrushevskyi, S. Yefremov, and E. Chykalenko in 1908 as the inter-party political block), having left the underground, used the recommendation of the Provisional Government to create the councils of united public organizations in provinces to form the All-Ukrainian Council. The Ukrainian Tsentralna Rada (Central Council) also appeared in Kyiv on March 4 - simultaneously with the Council of United Public Organizations. This representative democratic body (UTR) appeared on the wave of revolutionary events to head the national-liberation movement in all Ukrainian provinces. It included the representatives of the Society of Ukrainian Progressionists, Orthodox clergymen, progressive Ukrainian social democrats, and heads of cooperative culture-educational, military, students' and scientific organizations, societies and communities. Mykhailo Hrushevskyi, the recognized leader of the Ukrainian liberation movement, was still in exile when elected as Head of the Tsentralna Rada.

The Organization of the Workers' Council began in Ukrainian industrial centers and that of soldiers' councils in harnisons and in the front immediately after overthrowing the monarchy. The workers' councils were established in Kharkiv, Kyiv, Katerynoslav and Kremenchuk. The councils were non-party organizations which had no historical analogues. Their first appearance during the revolution of 1905-1907, and again in 1917 was evidence of the workers' distrust of any state institution. The call for expropriation of the tools of production was most popular in these councils. By the middle of 1917, 252 councils had been created in 9 Ukrainian provinces - including 180 in Donbas.

Socialist parties of the socialist-revolutionaries (SRs) and social democrats (the Menshevists' part), who influenced the workers' and soldiers' councils during the first months of the revolution, wanted to create the democratic parliamentary republic. They had no intention of proclaiming the councils under their control or for the state organs to take the political power. This is why they supported the legitimate Provisional Government. The Bolsheviks' division of social democrats (after their chief V. Lenin came back from emigration in April 1917) added this motto to their armory: "All power to the Soviets". So, the Bolshviks stood in the way of democratic orientation of the revolutionary process. The acquisition of control over the councils (Soviets) and the announcement of the Soviet Republic meant the establishment of a political dictatorship of the Bolshevik party. The slogan of nationalization of the production tools proved to be equivalent to establishing their economic dictatorship.

The number of Bolsheviks in Ukrainian provinces grew quickly from 2 thousand before the revolution, to 10 thousand by the end in April 1917. Even as the minority in the councils, they began organizing the army for the civil war they foresaw. They organized workers' squadrons, militia, the red-guards detachments. The resistance of councils under the control of mensheviks and SRs and the counteractions of the local authorities of Provisional Government, hindered this work to a certain extent. However, the Red Guards' detachments were created in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Katerynoslav, and Odesa.

Meanwhile, the national revolution developed. In the first announcements of the Tsentralna Rada, the national program was mainly a cultural trend. M. Hrushevskyi, who had returned from exile, put the slogan of constitution of national territorial autonomy of Ukraine. The head of UTR called for the Ukrainians to not embrace the lands with the overwhelming Ukrainian population. These were 9 provinces (the Soviet Ukraine was later created on their territory) as well as Kuban, the northern and two southern regions of the Bessarabian prince, Kholmsk province, western districts of the Don Army region, and the southern regions of the Voronezh province.

The intense creation of political parties took place in Ukraine during the first two months of the revolution. A party of socialists-federalists had been formed on the basis of the Society of Ukrainian Progressionists. This party had great influence with the Tsentralna Rada, though it had not become the numerous one. The Ukrainian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries had also been organized and became the most massive one among the national parties. By the middle of 1917, it accounted for about 75 thousand members. But the number of members of the all-Russian party of SRs was incomparably greater in Ukrainian provinces. The Party of Ukrainian Social Democrats, headed by V. Vynnychenko and S. Petliura, also essentially yielded in quantity in relations to the all-Russian party of mensheviks. By the middle of 1917, it included about 5 thousand members, while the number of mensheviks in Ukraine exceeded 50 thousand people.

The First Universal of Tsentralna Rada was announced on June 10, 1917 in Kyiv at the congress of delegates of Ukrainianized regiments of the Tsarist Army. It proclaimed that Ukrainian people had the right to manage their life through the Ukrainian Constituent Assembly called on democratic ground. Some days later, the executive organ of power, the General Secretariat headed by V. Vynnychenko was created at the closed meeting of the Rada.

The Provisional Government had to recognize the Tsentralna Rada as a state organ. After such a success, the Rada approved the Universal II, where it informed about the creation of the General Secretariat and the development of the law on Ukrainian autonomy.

The intensification of social economic crisis continued deteriorating the material conditions of proletarized masses. Under these conditions, the extremists' slogans of Lenin's branch of the All-Russian Party of Social Democrats proved more and more popular. The number of Bolsheviks in Ukraine reached 33 thousand people. As to its massiveness, Lenin's party essentially yielded to mensheviks as well as to Russian and Ukrainian SRs, but it was distinguished by its discipline and offensiveness. From the second half of the year, the Bolsheviks and their supporters began to prevail in the Soviets of the workers' and soldiers' deputies. On September 8, the Kyiv Soviet workers' deputies first accepted the Bolsheviks' revolution.

Threatened by the left extremism, the party of cadets began inclining to the settlement of national crisis before using force. With the consent of its leaders, the ruling clique of the army generals, headed by General L. Kornilov, a Supreme Commander in Chief, made an effort to overthrow the Provisional Government. But the plot was not discovered.

The Bolsheviks played the main part in its discovery. Their influence essentially increased, especially in the southern and eastern provinces of Ukraine, while the Provisional Government, saved by them, gradually lost the support of people because of setting aside the immature reforms.

On October 25, 1917, Bolsheviks overthrew the Provisional Government and at the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets in Petrohrad, they created their own Government - the Soviet of People's Commissars (Sovnarcom), headed by V. Lenin. The October over throw created a new political situation, to which the Tsentralna Rada had to react immediately. It issued its Universal III, where it proclaimed the creation of the Ukrainian Republic (UPR).

Impressed by the offensive of the Russian troops controlled by Sovnarcom, the Tsentralna Rada leaders quickly lost illusions of Russia's transformation into a democratic federal republic. The formal separation from Bolsheviks' dictature became a main task. On the night of January 12, 1918 M. Hrushevskyi issued the Universal VI of the Tsentralna Rada, which proclaimed the independence of the UPR.

On January 27, 1918, the first peace treaty of the world war was signed between the UPR and four states of the German block in Brest-Litovsk. A day before the signing of the agreement, the Soviet Army entered Kyiv and the Tsentralna Rada had to recognize that it needed immediate military help. ON February 18, German and Austro-Hungarian troops began to occupy Ukraine. According to the Peace Treaty, concluded on March 3 between Russia and the Central States, the Sovnarcom committed to recognize independence of the UPR and started peace negotiations.

The presence of the occupational army removed the revolutionary situation in Ukraine. Activity of those social classes which required to respect the private property and to liquidate chaos and anarchism increased. The former tsarist General P. Skoropadskyi used these moods and came to power, being proclaimed the Hetman of the "Ukrainian State", which replaced the UPR. Complete power was in his hands before calling in the parliament.

P. Skoropadskyi invited to his government authoritative figures who strove to work constructively. However, occupants permitted his activities only in the national-cultural sphere. Interested in removing maximum amounts of food and raw materials from Ukraine, the military administration of the central states continually meddled in the affairs of the state authorities. Peasants began the war with occupants who supported the return of landlords to their estates.

The Hetman's regime could survive only under the occupation. On November 12, 1918 a truce was concluded between Germany and Entente countries, which meant the end of the World War. German and Austro-Hungarian armies lost their occupation functions. The next day there was a secret meeting of the heads of Ukrainian parties who decided to organize the Directory to guide the overthrow of the Hetman's regime and to restore the UPR. The Directory was headed by V. Vynnychenko and its armed forces were subject to S. Petliura. They mainly consisted of thousands of battle-hardened rebels. Some weeks later, the Directory took control of entire Ukraine.

The appearance of the Directory was unexpected for the neighbors of Ukraine. The Entente planned to fill the power vacuum in Ukraine by bringing in 12-15 of its divisions with the occupation of Kyiv and Kharkiv. In November, the armed forces of S. Petliura were opposed by the troops of Y. Pilsudskyi, who wanted to draw as far eastward as possible the undetermined boundary of the renewed Polish state. Red armies of L. Trotskyi were about to invade Ukraine from the north and east and the White Guard of A. Denikin from the south.

The defeat in the world war lead to the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian empire and creation of independent states by its people. On October 18, 1918, the Ukrainian National Rada was constituted in Lviv. It proclaimed the intention to create a state on the ethno-Ukrainian lands within the empire. The reviving Poland also raised the claims for those lands. Therefore, the National Rada hastened to occupy Lviv and the whole territory of Western Halychyna with its armed forces. On November 13, they formed the West Ukrainian People's Republic (WUPR). The head of the National Rada, E. Petrushevych became the president of the WUPR, and K. Levytskyi headed the State Secretariat. The reunion of both Ukrainian states was announced on January 22, 1919 in Kyiv. The reunion declaration was to be approved by the Constituent Assembly called from the territory of all Ukraine. But it had not come to actual reunion. In 1919, the Polish troops, armed by the Entente, occupied Eastern Halychyna and Western Volyn. Much earlier, at the beginning of January, Soviet Russia began the invasion of the UPR and occupied its capital on February 5. The Directory first stayed in Vinnytsia, then in Zhmerynka, Proskuriv and Rivne. Early in May, S. Petliura and other figures of the UPR emigrated.

In January 1919, the government of Soviet Ukraine refused the denomination introduced by the Tsentralna Rada (UPR) and established another one, the Ukrainian Socialist People's Republic (Ukrainian SSR). The government's name also changed to Sovnarcom, as in Moscow. The government was headed by Khrystian Rakovskyi, the leading figure of the Second International who appeared in Russia after the advent of Bolsheviks and offered his services.

The elections of the workers' council, the Red Army soldiers and peasants deputies were held in spring 1919. As a result of the manipulations with representation norms, the Bolsheviks gained a complete advantage. The Soviets only served as a cover for the dictatorship of the RCP(b)-CP(b)U which was supported by the army and Extraordinary Commission. In accordance with the Ukrainian. SSR constitution, which had the constitution of Soviet Russia as a model, the All-Ukrainian Congress of Soviets became the higher legislative body and All-Ukrainian Central executive committee (AUCEC) performed its functions between congresses.

It was noted in the government declaration that the Ukrainian SSR was united with the RRFSR on principles of "Socialist Federation". The essence of federations was not deciphered, but the RCP(b) program (adopted in March 1919) indicated that the Federate Union of Soviet of Soviet states is a form of transition to complete unity. The Bolshevik party wished to centralize the military and economic management in short terms. On June 1, 1919, the all-Russian Central Executive Committee (ARCEC), proclaimed the decree about the "military-political union". Administration of the most important branches of the state of soviet republics was concentrated in the Moscow boards.

As soon as Ukraine became a soviet republic, it entered the sphere of the action of the great experiment. The market economy was to be changed for commodity-free production. Peasants hoped that the soviet power would give them land estates of landlords as it had been promised in mottoes, which Bolsheviks used when going to the October overthrow. However, the decree of ARCEC adopted in February 1919, proclaimed collectivization as the current task of the village. In conformity with the decree, Kh. Rakovksyi's government gave preference to state farms and communes created on the basis of expropriated estates.

The powerful tide of the peasants resistance rose in response to the policy which Lenin later called "military communism" (when it failed and they refused from it). Ataman Zelenyi (D. Terpylo), member of the party of social democrats (independent) was the first to oppose the government in the middle of March. He did his best to spread the actions of his nearly twelve thousand member army to the left bank of the Dnieper, to Pereiaslav and Zolotonosha. The detachments of Nestor Makhno (who was named a "father", or bat'ko, by elected village atamans) operated in the Katerynoslav province, in the region of Huliaipole. Makhno fought well against Denikin's army he conventionally supported the soviet power, definitely opposing the anarchism of commissars and agrarian policy of Rakovksyi. The revolt of ataman M. Hryhoriev in May 1919 was the greatest.

Anti-Bolshevist rises of peasants deeply influenced the sprits of the Red Army, which mainly consisted of peasants, and provoked the mass desertion and general discipline relaxation. A. Denikin, a commander of the White Guards Voluntary army, took advantage of the occasion. From May to August 1919, the White Guards occupied Ukraine and started their march to Moscow.

Having placed the economy under the command of the state, Russian Bolsheviks could create the army that greatly surpassed the number of Denikin's armed forces. At the beginning of February 1920, the Red Army liberated the entire Ukraine.

When the defeat of Denikin was inevitable, the government of Soviet Russia turned its attention to Poland. Some propositions concerning peaceful settlement of the problem with boundaries were made to the government of Poland. Moscow supposedly consented to recognize the line of real demarcation of military forces that were formed in the summer of 1919 to be the state boundary. At the same time, beginning from 1920, V. Lenin began to draw up to the west front the most efficient detachments of the Red Army from everywhere, including the Urals, Siberia and Caucasus.

On the eve of the inevitable war with Soviet Russia, Y. Pilsudskyi, the head of the Polish state, considered it expedient to regulate relations with his former enemy, S. Petliura. Wishing to continue the war for an independent UPR, Petliura accepted his conditions. The Warsaw agreement was made in April 1920. The Pilsuskyi's government refused from the intentions to expand Poland to the limits of Rich Pospolyta of 1772 and recognized the UPR. This concession was of symbolic value. However, Petliura had to make real concessions when given consent to the state boundary along the line already occupied by Pilsudskyi's troops.

Pilsudskyi did not wait for the end of relocation of Soviet troops, and on April 25, 1920, began the offensive along the 500 km front using the forces of three armies which accounted for about 150 thousand people. Fifteen thousand of Petliura's soldiers advanced together with the Poles. On May 6, they occupied Kyiv. V. Lenin placidly met the first success of Poles because the objective correlation of forces was in favor of Russia. The counter-offensive of soviet troops that started on June 5 soon turned into the broad offensive headed by M. Tukhachevskyi. Moscow had formed a marionette-like government of F. Dzerzhynskyi, whom they planned to make the head of conquered Poland.

The threat of losing the state rights conquered in 1918 closely united the broadest ranges of population around the government. Immediate help with arms and ammunition was given by France. Troops of M. Tukhachevskyi were stopped within 23 km of Warsaw and began to retreat in confusion under the destructive Polish attack. In ten days, they were already over the Buh. At the end of September, the front was in the region of Zhytomyr and Berdychiv. The truce that was finalized in October fixed the consent of the Soviet party to remain Western Ukraine and Western Bielorussia within the boundaries of Poland.

After the withdrawal of Y. Pilsudskyi's troops to the Zbruch river, the S. Petliura's army fought in Left Bank Ukraine for about one month with the forces of O. Yegorov. On November 18, 1920 Petliura's troops left the frontier Volochysk and retreated to Poland. However, the UPR army continued the hopeless struggle with partisan raids in the Right Bank. After numerous protests by Rakovskyi, the Polish government stopped them at the end of 1921.



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