Short URL for this page:

[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous section]
Part I
Chapter 9

This webpage reproduces a chapter of

Stalinist Rule in the Ukraine
by Hryhory Kostiuk

published in the U. S. A. by
Frederick A. Praeger, Inc.
New York

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!


[image ALT: link to next section]
Part I
Chapter 11

Part One
Stalinist Centralism and the Ukraine

 p38  Chapter X

The Campaign for "Ukrainization"

The purpose of Stalin's offensive against the Ukraine was not only to force collectivization upon the recalcitrant and stubborn peasants. His plan was grand and far‑reaching in scope. It was to destroy the spiritual and cultural backbone of the entire nation, as well as to terrorize the peasantry. Without this complete annihilation of spiritual resources and cultural achievements, Stalin's victory in the Ukraine could never be complete. Realizing this, he decided to unleash all the forces of devastation at his disposal against those who stood for an independent Ukrainian culture, tradition and consciousness, even though they were devoted Communists.

In the early thirties the Ukrainian SSR was one of the most thriving Soviet republics. Economically (in the production of steel, coal, agriculture) it was the most power­ful unit of the USSR; numerically, it was second only to Russia; culturally, it represented a considerable achievement.1

The Ukraine's nominal ruler was the CP(b)U, which was not a monolithic party, but a conglomerate. It had been formed in the process of the revolution in the Ukraine and consisted of two contending elements: the national element, born in the Ukrainian Revolution of 1917, and the Russian element, traditionally centralist in its tendencies. As a result of these "twin roots" of the CP(b)U, the Party, as was always admitted by early Soviet Ukrainian historians,2 was polarized between two divergent trends.

The leading representative of the Ukrainian trend within the CP(b)U was Mykola Skrypnyk, a prominent theorist and historian of Ukrainian Communism, the co‑founder of the Soviet Ukrainian government (first chairman of the Soviet Ukrainian People's Secretariat), member of the Bolshevik Old Guard, close associate of Lenin, member of the Central Committee of the CP(b)U and the All‑Union CP(b), head of the Ukrainian delegation to the Comintern and permanent member of the Executive Committee of the Comintern.

The centralist Russian trend in the CP(b)U was always headed by its general secretary who was appointed by Moscow and was never a Ukrainian.3 During the twenties the Ukrainian tendency in the CP(b)U had the upper hand, although its victory was never complete. Under the influence of this dominant tendency,  p39 the Ukrainian SSR developed into a clearly defined national, economic, and cultural organism. The centralist tendency was discredited during the Civil War when it held sway during the periods of Red Army occupation in the Ukraine. This trend was losing ground because of the pressures exerted by the non‑Russian nationalities and also because of the international aspect of Communism. In 1923, during the Twelfth Congress of the All‑Union CP(b), Great Russian nationalism was declared the major danger in the USSR. This decision strengthened the growth of national elements in the non‑Russian Communist Parties.

Although the stimulation of a national culture in the Ukraine during the twenties could, in the absence of complete independence, lead to no permanent achievement, it nevertheless produced a vigorous flowering of literature, science and scholar­ship. It may be said that the forces released during the national revolution in the Ukraine in 1917,4 which led to the establishment in the same year of the Ukrainian People's Republic, did not disintegrate with the fall of this state. They re‑emerged in the Soviet Ukraine, and the Communists could not entirely suppress the urge of the Ukrainians to achieve full independence. After 1920 the CP(b)U came to be regarded by some as the continuator of the Ukrainian struggle for national independence, and of the country's cultural and political self-expression.5

The attempts to extinguish Ukrainian national Communism made by the Russian Bolsheviks during the periods of the Civil War and of so‑called War Communism were unsuccess­ful. Among them were the unsuccess­ful attempt to block the formation of a separate Communist Party in the Ukraine,6 the refusal on the part of the Russian CP(b) to recognize the CP(b)U as the nominal master of the Ukraine,7 the anti-Ukrainian terror of Colonel Muravev and the chief of the Cheka, Lacis, when many people in Kiev were even executed for speaking Ukrainian in the streets,8 and the decision of the All‑Russian Central Council of Trade Unions, in March 1919, to ask for the immediate merger of the Ukrainian trade union movement with the Russian movement, as a prerequisite for the merger of the Ukraine with the Russian Soviet Republic.9 All of these ended in failure.

In 1920, the Ukrainian Communist Party (Borotbist)10 merged with the CP(b)U, adding to it thousands of former Ukrainian Left SR's. Five years later,  p40 in 1925, after many prominent Ukrainian scholars and politicians returned to the Soviet Ukraine from abroad where they had gone in 1919,11 the Ukrainian Communist Party (the so‑called Ukapists) also joined forces with the CP(b)U. At that time, too, many Ukrainian Communists from Galicia and Bukovina came to the Soviet Ukraine and were active in the government and in cultural life. In this way the kernel of Ukrainian Communism, created in the CP(b)U by Skrypnyk in 1918, was reinforced to such an extent that the dominance of the Ukrainian tendency in the CP(b)U was undisputed.

It was because of the strength of the native Communist forces in the Ukraine that the Russian CP(b) decided to initiate in 1923 a policy of "Ukrainization."12 This was a concession, made through necessity, not principle, to the overwhelming demand of the Ukrainians for active participation in every aspect of the culture and government of their country. "Ukrainization" was started in 1925, after the April Plenum of the CP(b)U. A year later, in 1926, the June Plenum of the CP(b)U gave specific instructions on the de‑Russification of the trade unions and the Komsomol in the Ukraine.13 Yet at the same plenum concern was expressed lest the Ukrainian national elements divorce themselves from Communism.14

The flowering of Ukrainian culture and intellectual life during the twenties manifested itself above all in literature,15 the fine arts,16 theater and music,17 and  p41 scholar­ship.18 The works of such writers as Khvylovy, Kulish, Yanovsky, Antonenko-Davydovych, Tychyna, Ivchenko, Lyubchenko, Vlyzko and Kosynka, the theatrical productions of Les Kurbas, the films of Dovzhenko, the paintings of Boychuk, the literary criticism of Zerov, and the scholar­ly studies by members of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences were evidence of the beginning of a cultural renaissance in which an attempt at national self‑expression was blended with a quest for universal aesthetic and intellectual values. In that decade, for the first time in Ukrainian history, complete editions of Ukrainian classics were published as well as many translations from Western literature. In schools, Ukrainian replaced Russian as the language of instruction. On the initiative of the Commissar of Education, Skrypnyk, research institutes were established for the purpose of studying the national and colonial problem. Inquiries into the Ukrainian economy and history were carried out by such men as Yavorsky, Hrynko, Shumsky, and Skrypnyk tended to regard the Ukraine as an independent republic, tied to the USSR by the bonds of the Soviet Constitution.

This idea of Ukrainian Communist independence was expressed by the writer Mykola Khvylovy in his pamphlets which stirred wide public discussion. In the third part of his essay "The Apologists of Scribbling" Khvylovy wrote:

The Ukrainian economy is not Russian and cannot be so, if only because the Ukrainian culture, which emanates from the economic structure [of the country] and in turn influences it, bears characteristic forms and features. So does our economy. In a word — the [Soviet] Union remains a Union and the Ukraine is an independent state.19

Other Ukrainian Communists accused Russia of pursuing the old tsarist policy of colonial exploitation of the Ukraine.20

The conflict within the CP(b)U, which the growth of Ukrainian national Communism made inevitable, was brought to a head in 1926, when the commissar for Education and a member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CP(b)U, Shumsky, was branded by the All‑Union CP(b) as a national deviationist when he demanded fuller cultural, economic, and political autonomy for the Soviet  p42 Ukraine. The crisis in the CP(b)U was all the more serious, because the Communist Party of the Western Ukraine sided with Shumsky. The first outbreak of this "Ukrainian Titoism" ended in the removal of Shumsky from his post, and in the liquidation of the Communist Party of the Western Ukraine.21 The danger of Shumsky's deviation was best described by Stalin in his letter to Kaganovich, written on April 26, 1926.22 In it he admitted that this movement "attracted the non‑Communist intelligentsia" because of the "weakness of the local Communist cadres in the Ukraine" and could "assume the character of a struggle for the alienation of Ukrainian cultural and social life from the common Soviet cultural and social life, of a struggle against Moscow and the Russians in general, against Russian culture."23

The fall of Shumsky, however, did not put an end to the Ukrainian resurgence within the CP(b)U. The fight of the Ukrainian Communists was carried on chiefly by Skrypnyk who replaced Shumsky as Commissar for Education.24 It is against the background of Soviet Ukrainian history of the twenties that we must see Stalin's plans for the subjugation of that country, entrusted to Postyshev in 1933.

The Author's Notes:

1 Cf. Kosior's speech at the November Plenum, Pravda, December 2, 1933.

[decorative delimiter]

2 Cf. Ravich-Cherkassky, Istoriya kommunisticheskoi partii (bolshevikov) Ukrainy (A History of the Communist Party [Bolshevik] of the Ukraine), Kharkov, 1923; M. M. Popov, Ocherk istorii kommunisticheskoi partii (bolshevikov) Ukrainy (An Outline of the History of the Communist Party [Bolshevik] of the Ukraine), Kharkov, 1929; M. Skrypnyk, Statti i promovy (Articles and Speeches), I, Kharkov, 1930.

[decorative delimiter]

3 Not until after Stalin's death, did the CP(b)U receive, in June 1953, a secretary with a Ukrainian name, A. I. Kirichenko.

[decorative delimiter]

4 Cf. John S. Reshetar, Jr., The Ukrainian Revolution, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1952.

[decorative delimiter]

5 "Postanovlenie TsK RKP(b) 18 maya 1918 g. XI sezd RKP(b), Kiev, 1922, pp45‑46 (Skrypnyk's speech).

[decorative delimiter]

6 Cf. Ravich-Cherkassky, op. cit., passim; M. Skrypnyk, Statti i promovy, I, 1930; also: "Memorandum UKP (Borototbystiv) do Vykonavchoho Komitetu III‑ho Kominternatsionalu" (The Memorandum of the UCP (Borotbist) to the Executive Committee of the Third Communist International), Borotba (The Struggle), Kiev, 1920.

[decorative delimiter]

7 "K razresheniyu natsionalnogo voprosa" (Towards a Solution of the National Question), Borotba, Kiev, 1920.

[decorative delimiter]

8 V. Zatonsky, one of the leading Ukrainian Communists, relates how he himself was nearly shot for this offence (V. Zatonsky, Natsionalna problema na Ukraini), (The National Problem in the Ukraine), Kharkov, 1926, pp33‑40.

[decorative delimiter]

9 Visti, March 16, 1919.

[decorative delimiter]

10 Cf. I. Majstrenko, Borot'bism: A Chapter in the History of Ukrainian Communism, New York, Research Program on the USSR, 1954.

[decorative delimiter]

11 Among them were: Professor Mykhaylo Hrushevsky, former chairman of the Central Rada, a well-known historian and politician; M. F. Chechel, Professor of the Kharkov Technological Institute; General Yu. Tyutyunnyk, the leader of the Ukrainian democratic army against the Bolsheviks; A. Nikovsky, former Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Ukrainian People's Republic; P. Khrystyuk, member of the Central Rada, writer and politician, the author of Zamitky i materiyaly do istorii ukrainskoi revolyutsii (Notes and Materials Concerning the History of the Ukrainian Revolution), Vienna, 1921‑22, the poet M. Vorony, and many others.

[decorative delimiter]

12 Cf. XII sezd Rossiiskoi Kommunisticheskoi Partii (bolshevikov) (The Twelfth Congress of the Russian Communist Party [Bolshevik]); Stenografichesky otchet 17‑25 aprelya 1923 goda, Moscow, Krasnaya nov, 1923, V.705.

[decorative delimiter]

13 "Tezy TsK KP(b)U pro pidsumky ukrainizatsii" (Theses of the CC of the CP(b)U on the Results of Ukrainization), Kharkov, 1928, II.293‑303.

[decorative delimiter]

14 Ibid., p297.

[decorative delimiter]

15 Cf. George S. N. Luckyj, Literary Politics in the Soviet Ukraine: 1917‑1934, New York, Columbia University Press, 1956.

Also Leytes and Yashek, op. cit.; Yuriy Skerekh, "Styli suchasnoi ukrainskoi literatury" (The Styles of Modern Ukrainian Literature), MURI, Munich, 1946; B. Podolyak, "Poet yunosty i syly" (The Poet of Youth and Strength), MUR, Almanakh, I, Germany, 1946.

[decorative delimiter]

16 I. Vrona, "Na shlyakhakh revolyutsiinoho mystetstva" (On the Paths of Revolutionary Art), Vaplite, No. 3, Kharkov, 1927, p166.

[decorative delimiter]

17 L. Kurbas, "Shlyakhy 'Berezolya' " (The Paths of "Berezil"), Vaplite, No. 3, 1927, pp141‑65; M. Skrypnyk, Pereznahy tvorchoho terenu — rekonstruktyvni linii v literaturi, muzytsi, obrazotvorchomu mystetstvi (Changing Marks in the Creative Field: Trends of Reconstruction in Literature, Music and Painting), Kharkov, 1930; Yu. Olensky, "Do tvorchykh zavyazkiv suchasnoi ukrainskoi muzyky" (The Creative Origins of Contemporary Ukrainian Music), Literaturno-naukovy zbirnyk (Literary and Scientific Symposium), New York, I, 1952, pp287‑89.

[decorative delimiter]

18 M. Vetukhiv, "Osnovni etapy rozvytku Ukrainskoi Akademii Nauk u Kyyevi" (Main Stages in the Development of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences in Kiev), Literaturno-naukovy zbirnyk, New York, I, 1952; A. Ya. Artemsky, Shcho take Vseukrainska Akademiya Nauk (What is the All‑Ukrainian Academy of Sciences), Kiev, 1931; N. Polonska-Vasylenko, Ukrainska Akademiya Nauk (narys istorii), I, (1918‑1930), Munich, Instytut dlya vyvchannya istorii i kultury SSSR, 1955.

[decorative delimiter]

19 M. Khvylovy, "Apolohety pysaryzmu" (The Apologists of Scribbling), Kultura i pobut (Culture and Life), (Visti) No. 13, 1926, pp1‑8.

[decorative delimiter]

20 M. Volobuyev, "Do problemy ukrainskoi ekonomiky" (Concerning the Problem of Ukrainian Economics), Bilshovyk Ukrainy (Bolshevik of the Ukraine), Nos. 2, 3, 1928; A. Richytsky, Do problemy likvidatsii perezhytkiv koloniyalnosty ta natsionalizmu (Concerning the Problem of the Liquidation of the Vestiges of Colonialism and Nationalism), Kharkov, 1928; H. Hrynko, "Narys ukrainskoi ekonomiky" (An Outline of the Ukrainian Economy), Chervony shlyakh (The Red Pathway), No. 5‑6, 1926.

[decorative delimiter]

21 Ye. Hirchak, Shumkizm i rozlam v KPZU, Kharkov, 1928; M. Skrypnyk, Dzherela ta prychyny rozlamu v KPZU (Origins and Causes of the Split in the CPWU), Kharkov, 1928. It is interesting to record that after the dissolution of the Communist Party of the Western Ukraine (KPZU), its members were either deported to concentration camps (Vasylkiv-Turyansky, Bukshovany), or killed on Stalin's orders during the first Soviet occupation of the Western Ukraine (1939‑40).

[decorative delimiter]

22 Stalin's letter to Kaganovich, Stalin, Sochineniya, VIII, pp149‑54.

[decorative delimiter]

23 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

24 The forthrightness with which Skrypnyk defended the interests of the Ukrainians and other non‑Russian nationalities may be seen from his speeches, collected in Druha konferentsiya komunistychnoi partii (bilshovykiv) Ukrainy, 9‑14 Kvitnya 1929 roku (The Second Conference of the Communist Party [Bolshevik] of the Ukraine, 9‑14 April 1929). Stenohrafichny zvit, Kharkiv, DVU, 1929, and in XVI sezd VKP(b), iyul, 1930, stenografichesky otchet, 2nd ed., Moscow, 1931, pp242‑44.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 27 Jan 23