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Chapter 28

This webpage reproduces a chapter of

History of the Ukraine
By Dmytro Doroshenko

printed by
The Institute Press, Ltd.
Edmonton, Alberta,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 30

 p611  Chapter XXIX

 * * * *

(The numbers link directly to the sections.)

(192) The Great War 1914‑1918. (193) Repressive Measures Against Ukrainians in Russia and in Austrian Provinces Occupied by Russian Army. (194) Union for Liberation of the Ukraine. (195) Revolution of 1917 and Ukrainian National Movement. (196) Ukrainian Autonomy. (197) Bolshevist Revolution in Russia and Proclamation of Ukrainian Democratic Republic. (198) Ukrainian-Russian War. (199) Peace of Brest-Litovsk. (200) The "Coup d'Etat" of the 29th of April, 1918, in Kiev.

 * * * *

192. The Great War 1914‑1918.

The Great War of 1914‑1918 brought vital changes to the Ukrainian nation. From the very beginning of the war, Ukrainian territories on both sides of the Austro-Russian frontier became one of the chief battle grounds of the Eastern Front and were terribly ruined and devastated. The fight on the Austro-Russian front was, to a great extent, conducted with Ukrainian forces: the Russian armies employed against Austria chiefly consisted of mobilized peasants from the Ukraine of the Right Bank of the Dnieper. They were confronted with their kindred, Ukrainians from Galicia and Bukovina, who fought in the ranks of the Austrian armies. The declaration of war was no less important to the national life of Ukrainians on both sides of the Austro-Russian frontier. Progress of the Ukrainian national movement in Galicia had long since alarmed the Russian government and Russian chauvinistic circles. In order to weaken the Ukrainian movement in Galicia and nullify its influence on Ukrainians in Russia, the Russian government financially supported the Moskvophils in Galicia and long before the outbreak of the war in 1914 made war preparations against Austria in order to annex Galicia.

 p612  193. Repressive Measures Against Ukrainians in Russia and in Austrian Provinces Occupied by Russian Army.

Russia entered the war against Austria, intending the annihilation of the Ukrainian national movement in Russia as well as in the Austrian provinces that were to be conquered. Notwithstanding that the whole Ukrainian press in Russia at once declared on the outbreak of the war that Ukrainians would loyally fulfill their obligations towards the Russian State, the administration closed all Ukrainian papers and periodicals on the following day, and exiled some of their editors to Siberia. All Ukrainian societies and organizations were closed, and when Professor Hrushevsky, who was a Russian subject, found his way with great difficulty to Kiev, he was at once arrested and after some months in prison, was exiled to a small place on the Volga. The decree of 1876 entirely prohibiting the printing of books in Ukrainian was again put in force. An even worse fate awaited the Ukrainians in Galicia. On entering Galicia, the Commander-in‑Chief of the Russian army, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, published a manifesto "To the Russian population" of Galicia, declaring that the Russian army was coming to liberate the "Russian population" from Austrian "thraldom" and "restore Galicia the lawful inheritance of the Muscovite Tsars to its rightful monarch, the Russian Tsar". Then a relentless persecution of the population started. The Russian authorities treated the Ukrainians of Galicia as if they were Russian subjects who had rebelled against the authorities and were now to be punished. All Ukrainian institutions, banks, co‑operative societies, schools, scientific, cultural and educational societies were closed, and their houses and possessions plundered. All Ukrainian newspapers were prohibited; also printing in Ukrainian or selling Ukrainian books or having them in the libraries. The Ukrainian language was prohibited in public and all who openly recognized themselves as Ukrainians were treated as enemies of the Russian State and army. Numbers  p613 were arrested, sent to Russia and banished to Siberia. During the first months of the war tens of thousands of Ukrainians without difference of sex, age or positions, from members of Parliament and University professors to poor peasants, women and children, were dragged to Siberia or the extreme northern parts of Russia. The Uniate Church met with especially cruel persecutions: the Metropolitan, Andrew Sheptitsky, was arrested in Lvov, carried far into Russia and imprisoned in the monastic prison in Suzdal. Hundreds of Uniate clergy, priests and monks, met with the same fate, being arrested and removed to the extreme northern provinces in Russia. The Russian authorities, breaking all international conventions, at once began forcibly to introduce Orthodoxy in the occupied provinces of Galicia. A half‑mad fanatic Orthodox bishop named Aulogi,​a was sent here from Russia and he began to root out the Uniate Church with methods reminiscent of the Middle Ages. He brought with him hundreds of Orthodox priests from Russia and installed them in parishes taken from the exiled Uniate clergy. Numbers of Galician children were carried away to be baptised with great solemnity as Orthodox. Administrative posts in the occupied provinces were given to Russian officials of the worst kind, who became the terror of the population and completely discredited Russian power in their eyes. This official Russian policy was later called a "European scandal" by the Russian member of the Duma, the well-known Professor Miliukov. Russian Ukrainians sent a delegation to the Foreign Minister Sazonov, who had the reputation of being a liberal and progressive statesman, in order to attract his attention to violence and breaches of the law being perpetrated by the Russian authorities in Galicia. He answered that the present was a favorable moment to exterminate the Ukrainian national movement once and for ever. Later speaking in the Duma, Sazonov was not ashamed to repeat the calumny that the Ukrainian national movement had been initiated and subsidized by the Germans. Not one of the Russian  p614 members of the Duma present lifted his voice in protest against this calumny. Sazonov's declaration and the policy of the Russian government as a whole persuaded Ukrainians that they could not expect any good from a Russian victory and that the military defeat of Russia alone could bring Ukrainian national emancipation.

The defeat of the Russian armies in the summer of 1915, brought certain changes in Russian official policy. In the spring of that year Austro-German armies broke through the Russian front in the Carpathian mountains and forced the Russian armies to retreat and to evacuate almost all Galicia with the exception of a small stretch of country along the Russian frontier. At the same time the Germans pushed the Russians out of Poland, Lithuania and a considerable part of White Russia. The retreating Russian troops devastated and ruined everything behind them, forcing the population to leave for Russia. This led to unspeakable suffering of hundreds of thousands of the population dragged forcibly out of their homes and dispersed throughout Russia to suffer from hunger and cold, bringing besides, disorganization everywhere. Most of these forcibly evacuated were never able to return and perished from privation. In the same way over a hundred thousand Ukrainians from Galicia, converted to Orthodoxy were evacuated with the Russian army from Galicia. They were promised all kinds of advantages in Russia but their fate was no better: mostly they fell victims to hunger, epidemic diseases and general misery.

The complete collapse of the Russian armies in 1915 disclosed widespread treachery besides the incompetence, corruption and venality, especially in the Commissariat of the Russian army. Culprits were to be found everywhere from the lowest ranks to the highest, even including the Minister of War.1 These disclosures, as well as military failures owing to incompetence, provoked public indignation: the first nationalistic outburst of war‑enthusiasm  p615 abated considerably. The government was compelled to make concessions to public opinion: the organization of the Commissariat, armament and munitions, medical and sanitary services as well as general supplies for the army, was taken out of the incompetent hands of the bureaucratic officials and given to public organizations such as the Union of Municipal and Provincial Self-governments and to Military-Industrial Committees. Russian public opinion which at the outbreak of the war had concluded a "Silent Pact" with the government, was again roused to opposition: from the tribune of the Duma voices of critics discontented with the bureaucratic regime were heard again. The system of national and religious persecution of Ukrainians in Galicia and the terrible misdeeds amounting to crimes of the newly installed Russian administration there, now met with severe condemnation from the liberal and progressive section of the Russian press and in the Duma. This had the effect that when, in the summer of 1916, the Russian army this time led by General Brussilov succeeded in reconquering eastern Galicia and Bukovina, the former persecutions of the Ukrainian population were not repeated. The Russian authorities did not punish the population for having Ukrainian nationality; some of the Ukrainian schools were even re‑opened; though still as a rule, the Russian authorities were, as before, hostile to and mistrustful of the Ukrainian population.

At the time when the life of Ukrainians in Galicia under the Russian occupation was an uninterrupted martyrdom, the attitude of the Austro-Hungarian authorities to them was hardly any better. Owing to the existence before the war of certain Russophil tendencies among the Ukrainians of Galicia — the so‑called "Moskvophils" — the whole failure of the Austro-Hungarian troops and the rapid loss of Galicia were laid at the door of Ukrainians who were accused of treason. A terrible persecution was started of the unhappy and innocent population. Without any enquiry or trial thousands of blameless Ukrainians, including clergy and members of the  p616 intelligentsia as well as peasants, perished on the gallows and in Austro-Hungarian concentration camps, where many of them died in consequence of the deadly conditions and inhuman treatment by the authorities. And yet all these persecutions were entirely unjust: from the outbreak of the war the Ukrainians of Galicia were, as a solid whole, in the defence of the Austrian monarchy which gave them a certain possibility of national development. In the spring of 1915 a "General Ukrainian Council" (Zahalna Ukrainska Rada) was founded in Vienna representative of all Ukrainian parties. This organization, as well as the whole of the Ukrainian press and all the Ukrainian clergy and "intelligentsia", was on the side of the constitutional Austrian government and against the arbitrary autocratic Russia. Soon after the outbreak of war special Ukrainian volunteer detachments were formed which courageously fought on the Austrian side against Russia. But the loyalty of the Ukrainian population, all their sacrifices and the persecutions of the Russian authorities were not appreciated by the Austrian government. The old Emperor, Franz Joseph, who had always been unfavorable to his Ukrainian subjects, soon before his death published a manifesto on the 23rd of October, 1916, in which he promised Galicia general autonomy but without dividing it into a Ukrainian or Eastern part and Polish or Western, as Ukrainians had tried to obtain since 1848. This signified that the whole country was given into the hands of the Poles. By this the Austrian government wished to secure the sympathies of their Polish subjects after Germany had declared her promise to rebuild the Polish State out of the Polish provinces taken from Russia. The old Emperor died soon after but his successor, Emperor Charles, promised to implement Franz Joseph's promise concerning the autonomy of Galicia. Ukrainians in Galicia as well as in Russia were bitterly disappointed in this deathblow to all their hopes of having under Austrian constitutional rule, in part of Ukrainian territory at least, a possibility of free national development.

 p617  194. Union for Liberation of the Ukraine.

The idea of a strong Ukrainian country under the sceptre of the Austrian Emperor which could serve the Ukrainian people as a rallying centre, like the Piedmontese served to unite and liberate Italy, was also supported by Ukrainians in Russia. Soon after the outbreak of the war a group of Ukrainian political refugees from Russia, founded at Vienna in 1914, the "Union for the Liberation of the Ukraine" (Soyuz Vizvolennia Ukrainy), whose object was to endeavor to build up, with the help of Germany and Austria, an independent Ukrainian State out of the lands taken from Russia. The Austrian government was at first not very favorable to the extensive plans of the "Union for the Liberation of the Ukraine", hoping to annex these lands to Austria. On the other hand the German government gave the "Union" active assistance, treating them as the embryo of the future Ukrainian State. Further, they were given the opportunity of taking care of Ukrainian prisoners of war of the Russian armies concentrated in special camps. Teachers and instructors from among Galician Ukrainians were engaged to conduct courses for the men in order to educate them in citizen­ship. At the end of the year 1916, military units of several divisions were formed from among the Ukrainian prisoners which should serve as a nucleus of the future Ukrainian army. The Austrian government then followed this example and also arranged special camps for their Ukrainian prisoners of war, who were formed into one division. In this Germany and Austria followed the lead of the Allies who had formed legions of Czechs, Poles and Rumanians, prisoners of war of the hostile armies. The "Union for the Liberation of the Ukraine" at the head of which were four energetic patriots, Volodimir Doroshenko, M. Melenevsky, Ol. Skoropyss-Yoltukhovsky and A. Zhuk, also conducted in the neutral non‑belligerent countries extensive propaganda for the formation of an independent Ukrainian State, putting this question in the forefront of the problems raised by the war.

 p618  195. Revolution of 1917 and Ukrainian National Movement.

Quite independently, and before the plans for the reconstruction of the Ukrainian State made by the Ukrainian patriots who sought the support of the Central Powers could be realized, the idea of an independent Ukrainian State was put into effect by the efforts of the Ukrainian people alone without any foreign help or intervention. In March, 1917, the Revolution broke out in St. Petersburg. It required only a few regiments of the St. Petersburg garrison, among whom Ukrainians played a leading part, to overthrow the old regime. The Romanov monarchy ceased to exist. Revolution soon spread throughout the Empire and everywhere in the provinces local governing bodies were organized which submitted to the Central Provisional government in St. Petersburg. The Ukrainians in Kiev succeeded in seizing power and very soon organized their own national central organ called "Ukrainian Central Council" (Ukrainska Centralna Rada). It was composed of representatives of the Ukrainian political parties, co‑operative Unions, clergy, army, workmen, peasants, professional organizations and educational and cultural societies. Professor M. Hrushevsky, who at the outbreak of the Revolution had returned from exile to Kiev, became the head of the "Central Rada". Following the formation of this body, declarations began to come in from newly organized Ukrainian committees in all parts and corners of the Ukraine, recognizing the Central Rada as supreme and announcing their wish to submit to it as to a Ukrainian National government. In a very short time the Ukrainian press was organized, Ukrainian political parties, clubs and such like, schools and publishing societies were formed and vigorous activity started in all fields: various congresses took place in Kiev. Boundless enthusiasm spread throughout all classes of the Ukrainian population. Russianized Ukrainians, who never before had admitted to being anything but Russians, were now inspired with national enthusiasm: high military officers,  p619 clergy, University professors, came to the sessions of the Central Rada offering their services in building up a new life in the Ukraine. Under the eyes of all the renaissance of a nation was taking place.

196. Ukrainian Autonomy.

On the 19th‑25th of March a national Ukrainian demonstration in which about a hundred thousand people participated took place in Kiev, followed by an impressive meeting which carried a resolution demanding from the Russian Provisional government autonomy for the Ukraine. On the 6th‑8th April a Ukrainian National Congress took place in Kiev, composed of about a thousand representatives from various organizations, institutions, societies, etc., from the whole territory of the Ukraine. It was decided to transform the Central Rada into a truly representative assembly by means of regular elections from all political parties, professional and class organizations according to the territorial principle. Seats were reserved for representatives of the minorities in the Ukraine, Russians, Poles and Jews. Congresses of peasants, of workmen and a military congress followed the National Congress at short intervals and sent their elected representatives to sit in the Central Rada, which thus became a Revolutionary Ukrainian Parliament and very soon the supreme organ of power in the Ukraine. The National Congress decided that the form of the Ukrainian constitution should be territorial autonomy within the Russian Federative Republic. Professor Hrushevsky, who presided at sessions of the National Congress, was elected President of the reorganized Central Rada.

197. Bolshevist Revolution in Russia and Proclamation of Ukrainian Democratic Republic.

The revolution of March in Russia, which began as a political revolution against the autocratic regime, very soon took the character of a social revolution. Extreme social parties soon seized the reins and pushed the popular movement towards extreme social reforms. The  p620 same also happened in the Ukraine: the revolution which started to vindicate the national aspirations, very soon placed on the agenda questions of the widest reforms of the social and economic order, in the first place the reform of landowner­ship. All the Ukrainian political parties, those which renewed their activity after the revolution as well as the newly formed, adopted socialistic slogans on their programmes. The chief Ukrainian political parties were: the Social Democrats; the Social Revolutionaries formed from the so‑called "Peasant Union" (Selianska Spilka) which already existed at the time of the Revolution of 1905; the Social Federalists party transformed out of the secret Ukrainian society of "Progressive Ukrainians' Society" (Tovaristvo Ukrainskikh Postupovtsiv) and which consisted mostly of Ukrainian intelligentsia; and finally the Party of Ukrainian Social Independents or partisans of the political independence of the Ukraine who were chiefly numerous in the army. The first two parties, the Social Democrats and the Social Revolutionaries, were by far the most numerous and influential and took the lead in the Central Rada. Representatives of national minorities in the Rada also belonged to socialist parties, including the Bolsheviks. The far less numerous representatives of non‑socialist parties and of minorities, which were at first present in the Central Rada, very soon left. Thus the Central Rada became a Socialist Parliament which in its social policy pursued exclusively the interests of the poorer peasants and workmen and did not care in the least for the interests of the important land­owners or well-to‑do peasants.

The Ukrainian national movement was strongly supported by the army. In consequence of the general mobilization, the flower of the Ukrainian population and the most active elements were concentrated in the ranks and dispersed on all the Russian fronts. Thus on all fronts Ukrainian military committees were formed which at once demanded to be separated into special Ukrainian military units. At the same time in Kiev, immediately  p621 after the close of the National Congress, special regiments of Ukrainian volunteers were being recruited. Early in May, 1917, a Ukrainian Military Congress took place in Kiev, attended by delegates from one million organized Ukrainian soldiers on all Russian fronts which declared itself ready to support the Central Rada. In consequence of this the Central Rada, feeling itself supported by armed force, took a more decisive tone in the negotiations with the Central Russian government in St. Petersburg concerning Ukrainian autonomy. In July, 1917, Ukrainians succeeded in obtaining the consent of the Russian Provisional government to the autonomy of the Ukraine within limited frontiers including five provinces: Kiev, Poltava, Chernigov, Volynia and Podolia. A Ukrainian Autonomous government was then formed under the name of the "General Secretariat", at the head of which as its Prime Minister was Volodimir Vinnichenko, a Ukrainian author and a member of the Social Democratic Party.

The Russian Provisional government, however, which had only unwillingly and under the pressure of the difficult position in which they were at that time, given their consent to Ukrainian autonomy, postponed putting it into effect. In the same way they put all kinds of obstacles in the way of the formation of Ukrainian military units, notwithstanding the fact that during the last Russian offensive organized by Kerenski, the only military units which fought on the front and suffered heavy losses, were Ukrainian regiments allowed to fight under Ukrainian colors. The Central Rada was compelled to struggle with the Russian Provisional government for every detail in the realization of Ukrainian autonomy granted "de jure". All the energy of the Ukrainian government and the General Secretariat, was spent not so much in organizing the administration of the country on the new basis of autonomy, as on this struggle with the Russian government of St. Petersburg. It was while engaged in this struggle that the Provisional government  p622 ceased to exist, being overthrown by the Bolsheviks in November, 1917.

After the downfall of the Russian Provisional government the Central Rada proclaimed a Ukrainian Democratic Republic in Kiev, but still in federation with Russia. The territory of this Republic was proclaimed to consist of provinces with a Ukrainian majority of population, thus to the five provinces granted by the Provisional Russian government: Kiev, Poltava, Chernigov, Volynia and Podolia, the provinces of Kharkov, Katerinoslav, Kherson and Tauria — but without Crimea — were added. The minorities on Ukrainian territory within the Ukrainian Democratic Republic, Russians, Poles and Jews, received national and group autonomy but without a territory. In order to secure their rights, special Secretariats were founded in the Ukrainian government, Russian, Polish and Jewish. Extensive reforms of a social and economic character were introduced. Private property on lands formerly belonging to great land­owners, the State and the Church, was abolished without compensation to the former owners. The land was to be divided among the peasants as their private property; an eight-hour work day was assured to workmen; freedom of press, assembly and speech, the rights to form trade unions and to strike, inviolability of persons from arrest without warrant and their homes from search were proclaimed; and the death penalty was abolished. Considering that the government of the young Ukrainian Republic endeavored to hold the front line against the armies of the Central Powers on the Ukrainian frontier, and because the Ukraine was an oasis of order and peace among the general chaos and anarchy that spread in Russia following the Bolshevik revolution, the Allied governments of Great Britain, France and Rumania, recognized the "de facto" Ukrainian Democratic Republic and entered into official diplomatic relations with the Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government was in a very difficult position, surrounded by enemies within and without. As  p623 we have already said the Ukrainian Parliament, the Central Rada, was composed exclusively of socialist parties, and thus lost the support of all non‑socialist elements in the population. The proclamation of the confiscation of landed property and the extreme policy as a whole threw into opposition the land­owners and industrialists. On the other hand the State officials, both Russians and Russianized Ukrainians, neglected or wholly disregarded the orders of the Ukrainian government. The Russianized or non‑Ukrainian urban population — for the most part consisting of Jews — were discontented with the separation from Russia and with the introduction of Ukrainian ways of life. The extreme demagogic catch-words scattered by the Socialist parties among the masses, ruined all conceptions of orderly government and roused their worst instincts.​b By autumn, 1917, the plundering and robbing of land­owners' manors, of sugar factories, breweries and distilleries and the cutting down of timber, had become frequent in the Ukraine. The old administrative machinery was in ruins and the new, organized in haste and without the necessary experience, lacked executive power. The economic life of the country especially the railway transport, already weakened and shaken by long years of war, began to give way. The country was on the verge of economic ruin and disintegration. The two chief political parties of the Central Rada, the Social Democratic and the Social Revolutionaries, started a struggle for power which hindered the normal work of the governing bodies, composed chiefly of the members of those two parties. Cabinets followed one another. The break‑up of the Russian front line, which in some parts was on Ukrainian territory or very near to it, led to mass demobilization and dispersal of the Russian troops, augmenting the general disorganization of life in the Ukraine.

198. Ukrainian-Russian War.

Having seized power in St. Petersburg and Moscow, the Bolsheviks started systematic and power­ful propaganda  p624 in order to Bolshevize the Ukraine. Supported by their organizations in Kiev and other important Ukrainian towns which organization chiefly consisted of Russians and Jews and by Bolshevized military units on the front, the Bolsheviks in October, 1917 made an attempt to seize the power in the Ukraine, but the Ukrainian government disarmed the Bolshevized military units and expelled them beyond the Ukrainian frontiers into Russia; the local Bolshevik groups were also put down by the Ukrainian authorities. This incurred threats and protests from the "Council of Commissars of the People" in St. Petersburg. The Ukrainian government, seeking allies against the Bolsheviks, entered into contact with the Don Cossacks who had not recognized the Bolsheviks but had founded their own government in the Don province with General Kaledin at their head. The Don Cossack regiments hastened home from the front in order to support their government and the Ukrainian government gave them permission to traverse Ukrainian territory for this purpose. The Bolshevik "Council of Commissars of the People" sent an ultimatum to the Ukrainian government, demanding that they should forbid the Don Cossacks to traverse Ukrainian territory. The Ukrainian government refused to comply with this ultimatum and the first Ukrainian-Russian war broke out. The Bolsheviks sent troops of the "Red Guards" into the Ukraine and endeavored to provoke a Bolshevist uprising in the Ukraine and disrupt the Ukrainian army by propaganda against the Central Rada, accusing the Ukrainian government of neglecting the interests of masses and favoring the rich.

In order to destroy the influence of the Bolshevik propaganda, the Central Rada endeavored to pacify the masses in the Ukraine agitated by this propaganda by promising the most radical reforms: confiscation of lands from the great land­owners without compensation and giving it over to the "working people", socialization of the coal and iron mines, of factories, industries and so on. But it was hard to outdo the Bolsheviks in the field  p625 of social demagogy, which worked on the awakened social aspirations and worst instincts of the masses with catch words like, "steal what has been stolen from you!", inviting the lower classes to seize and divide among themselves the lands and possessions of the upper classes. The Central Rada and the Ukrainian government, composed chiefly of social theorists, doctrinaires, idealists, utopists and pacifists, were unable to create a strong Ukrainian army after the break‑up of the old Tsarist army; they even disbanded the regular Ukrainian divisions already formed, fearing and not trusting the old experienced Generals and officers. Instead of regular units they had formed detachments of volunteers led by patriotic but inexperienced young officers and even civilians. These detachments were not able to stem the advance of the Bolsheviks into the Ukraine and were obliged to retreat in all directions. In these very strained circumstances within and without, the Central Rada began its session early in January, 1918, and on the 11th/22ndº of January, 1918, proclaimed the complete independence of the Ukrainian Democratic Republic, severing every link with Russia. On the very day of the proclamation of independence, a Bolshevist uprising broke out in Kiev, led mostly by Jewish instigators. Amidst fierce fighting in the streets of Kiev which lasted for a week, amidst the thunder of artillery and the continual cracking of machine‑guns, the Central Rada remained in session and carried out its resolutions transferring the owner­ship of the land into the hands of the "working people" and nationalizing the forests, waters and mines, making a State monopoly of the trade in essential foods and declaring the State control of banks, etc. The General Secretariat was transformed into the Council of Ministers. After a whole week of fierce street fighting the Bolshevik uprising in Kiev was put down, but from the north the "Red Guards" were advancing on the Ukrainian capital led by Muraviov. The Council of Ministers was then instructed by the Central Rada to accept an Austro-German offer of peace negotiations  p626 and sent a Ukrainian delegation to Brest-Litovsk where the Bolshevik delegation was already conducting peace negotiations.

199. Peace of Brest-Litovsk.

The Red army advancing into the Ukraine, far more numerous than the Ukrainian defence force, broke the resistance of the Ukrainian volunteer detachments defending the approach to Kiev. The detachment, composed of students and schoolboys which defended the railway junction Kruty to the North-east of Kiev, met with especially hard fighting and after a heroic resistance was annihilated. The Red army approached the Dnieper and now stood within artillery range of Kiev, and began to bombard the city with heavy artillery from across the river. After a few days of continuous bombardment in which the city suffered tremendously, the Central Rada and the Ukrainian government, in order to stop further ruin, decided to leave the capital and with the few remaining thousands of the heroic defenders, retreated to the west in Volynia. The Bolsheviks occupied Kiev and, after having shot several thousand of mostly innocent private individuals, installed in Kiev a "Ukrainian Soviet Government" whose first steps were in the direction of plundering and terrorizing the population. Bolshevik rule was this time of a short duration. At the time when the Ukrainian government and the rest of the Ukrainian army were leaving Kiev, the Ukrainian Delegation in Brest-Litovsk had already signed the Peace Treaty with Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey. These governments recognized the Ukrainian National government and the Ukrainian Democratic Republic within ethnographic limits, thus including the provinces of Kholm, Berestia and Pinsk. The Ukraine and the Central Powers concluded a commercial treaty on a basis of reciprocity by which the Ukraine bound herself to deliver one million tons of grain and various foodstuffs. Both sides renounced all war compensations and agreed to exchange prisoners of war.  p627 The German government bound themselves to bring into the Ukraine the divisions formed out of Ukrainian prisoners of war for the defence against the Bolsheviks and also lend German troops to clear the Ukraine from their bands. By a special and secret treaty the Austrian government promised to form out of all Ukrainian territories in Austro-Hungary a special Ukrainian autonomous province within the bounds of the Austrian monarchy.

After the conclusion of peace Ukrainian military forces supported by Germans took the offensive and having defeated the Red army on the 1st of March, 1918, entered Kiev where the population gave them an enthusiastic reception. In two months' time the Ukraine was cleared of Bolsheviks and Ukrainian forces entered the Crimea in order to occupy Sebastopol, which was to be the base for the Ukrainian fleet. The Central Powers, however, mostly interested in the speedy return of normal conditions in Ukraine from which they hoped to obtain relief from the hunger that already threatened them, especially Vienna, brought into the Ukraine several military corps, thus creating an actual military occupation of the country. They interrupted the Ukrainian advance on Sebastopol and occupied the port with their forces.

The Ukraine government and the Central Rada, having returned to Kiev, failed somehow to establish good relations with their Austro-German allies. Unfortunately they also failed to realize that with the elimination of the Bolshevik danger, a considerable reaction had begun in the Ukraine. Land­owners, well-to‑do peasants as well as industrialists, now held up their heads and protested against the extreme social reforms, demanding their repeal. Rich and moderately well-to‑do peasants would not hear of the socialization of land and kept sending their delegations to the Central Rada, demanding that private property in land should be restored. But the Socialist Revolutionary Party, which had the majority in the Central Rada and in the government, would not hear of rescinding the decisions already taken. So that  p628 the moderate Ukrainian Party of Social Federalists was compelled to recall three of their members who were in the Cabinet.

200. The "Coup d'Etat" of the 29th of April, 1918, in Kiev.

It was then that among conservative circles of the Ukrainian population a conspiracy was made against the Central Rada with the object of overthrowing the Socialist government and proclaiming a monarchy in form of a Hetman State, traditional in Ukrainian history. The conspirators entered into an understanding with the commanding authorities of the German forces in the Ukraine and obtained their promise of a favorable neutrality. In the meantime successive sharp misunderstandings and conflicts took place between the Ukrainian Socialist government and the German commanding authorities. On the 11th of May, 1918, the Central Rada called the Constituent Assembly of all the Ukraine, which had to give its sanction to the social reforms already voted, knowing well that a majority was assured for the Social Revolutionaries during the elections which already had taken place. On the 28th of April, 1918, the Central Rada definitely passed the land reform and elected Professor Hrushevsky President of the Ukrainian Democratic Republic. But this was the final session of the Central Rada. The next day a German military detachment entered the building of the Central Rada interrupting the session, and searched all members for weapons under the pretext of a conspiracy being concocted against the German manifold military forces. On the morrow an imposing Congress of about 8,000 land­owners and well-to‑do peasants from all parts of the Ukraine assembled in Kiev called by the "Union of Land­owners", and proclaimed as Hetman of the Ukraine Pavlo Skoropadski, a General formerly in Russian service, now in Ukrainian. The newly elected Hetman belonged to an old Ukrainian family of Cossack Officers, having already numbered among its members a Hetman, Ivan Skoropadski, at the  p629 beginning of the Eighteenth century. The Germans had disarmed several Ukrainian units which were in Kiev, but no one thought of defending the Central Rada and the change of power took place almost without any bloodshed. Armed detachments of conspirators occupied all the official institutions, and the Ukrainian Democratic Republic ceased to exist, giving place to the "Ukrainian Sovereign State", with a Hetman at its head.

The Author's Note:

1 Sukhomlinov.

Thayer's Note:

a For now, this name has eluded me. It is very likely a typo, but for what?

[decorative delimiter]

b The author will give a striking example on p625.

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Page updated: 6 Jun 22