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Part I
Chapter 16

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!


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Part II
Chapter 2

Part Two
The Consolidation of Stalinism in the Ukraine

 p79  Chapter I

Two Documents

In the struggle against his opponents, Stalin and his aides in the GPU‑NKVD used the grossest fabrications and falsifications to produce fake evidence against the accused. The story of this forgery, which began in the early thirties and culminated in the well-known Moscow trials (1936‑38), has been analyzed by many Western journalists, writers and scholars.1 Two prominent defendants, Trotsky and Sedov, have themselves given their own interpretations of the trials and confessions.2

In all this voluminous literature, the nature of the accusations and the trials in the Ukraine is not discussed. This is all the more regrettable since the trials in the Ukraine which took place before the Moscow trials occupy a special place in the history of Soviet falsification and deserve careful scrutiny. In the ensuing pages an attempt will be made to study some aspects of the Ukrainian trials.

The first big political trial in the Ukraine was held in 1921. The defendants were a group of Ukrainian Social Revolutionaries, headed by Vsevolod Holubovych, a former member of the Central Rada, delegate of the Rada to the Brest-Litovsk peace conference, and onetime Prime Minister of the Ukrainian People's  p80 Republic.3 Like the trial of the Russian Social Revolutionaries which took place a year later (1922) in Moscow, the Ukrainian trial was conducted without forgery or fabrication.

To compromise the former Social Revolutionaries, the victorious Bolshevik Party did not condescend to extorting or forging the evidence of the accused. The Moscow trial of the Russian Social Revolutionaries, in particular, was conducted in an atmosphere of unrestrained fair play.4 Prominent Western lawyers and leaders of the Second International (Vandervelde, Liebknecht, and Rosenfeld) were invited to participate in the defense council. The defendants in both trials (Moscow and Kiev) bore themselves with dignity and spoke courageously, at times even quite outspokenly, in their own defense.

The Bolsheviks could afford to treat their conquered opponents with magnanimity. They did not ask for their heads;5 on the contrary, they let them feel their helplessness and then released them. This is precisely what happened to Holubovych and his colleagues. Shortly after serving a mild sentence, Holubovych was appointed to a highly responsible government post, chairman of the Supreme Economic Council of the UkSSR, which he occupied until 1931. Another defendant, Professor S. Ostapenko, became one of the chief contributors to the government-sponsored periodical Chervony shlyakh, and professor at the Institute of National Economy in Kiev. Ivan Lyzanivsky, who was tried at the same time, later obtained the post of director of the Rukh publishing house.

It may, indeed, be said that the confidence which the Bolsheviks had in their victory and the support of the people which they had succeeded in obtaining by the highsending promises of the Revolution were so great that neither lies nor force were necessary in combatting their opponents. Not until the people began to feel that they had been betrayed by the Bolsheviks and that the promises of the Revolutionsº were not being fulfilled did the Party resort to falsehood and fabrication. Through these devices it attempted to convince the people whose confidence it had lost.

The nationality policy pursued by Skrypnyk and approved by the Party up to 1929 offered an amnesty to former leaders of Ukrainian and anti-Soviet parties as long as they were ready to collaborate with the Soviet Ukrainian regime. After 1930, Stalin's new course in the nationality policy made it necessary to remove from their parties all those who had once taken part in the creation of an independent  p81 Ukraine. It was impossible to do this legally, especially as most of them had a long record of loyal work for the Soviet regime. These men could only be arrested and tried on false charges.

The first such attempt was made in the Ukraine in 1930, at the trial of the so‑called Union for the Liberation of the Ukraine (SVU). During this trial, organized primarily to discredit certain scholars and intellectuals connected with the Ukrainian People's Republic,6 the methods of fabrication and intimidation used later at the Moscow trials were given their first full-dress rehearsal. After this success­ful experiment the GPU created a new fictitious conspiratorial organization — the Ukrainian National Center (UNTs). The arrests which followed the "uncovering" of these two organizations removed many former leaders of the Ukrainian People's Republic, most of whom were not members of the Party. The same Ukrainian SR's who, in 1921, had received mild sentences and were subsequently released, were re‑arrested on much more serious charges ten years later, and were all liquidated. After the arrival of Postyshev the attention of the Soviet police was primarily directed at the Ukrainian Communists, "the counter-revolutionaries with Party member­ship cards in their pockets."

The second phase in the story of Soviet incriminations is eloquently told by two "documents" which were described as "circulars of the Ukrainian under­ground." The first of these was made public by Popov in his speech at the November Plenum,7 the second by the chief of the Ukrainian GPU, Balitsky, at the Twelfth Congress of the CP(b)U.8

Here are the most important parts of the first "document" as revealed by Popov. "I have now in front of me," said Popov, "a most interesting circular issued by the Ukrainian counter-revolutionaries. It made its way to the editorial office of Komunist by accident. It describes in detail the methods of struggle against the Soviet government. Here is the political platform of these counter-revolutionaries." The alleged document read as follows:

Hitler's seizure of power showed the Ukrainian national-socialists the concrete path towards liberation from Muscovite occupation . . .

Working deep in the under­ground we must be extremely careful, resilient, tenacious, shrewd, and more able than anyone else to exploit the situation to our advantage, especially since we possess continuity in our purpose and a more practical sagacity. In case of danger we should re‑arm, disperse into single units, and, if this is insufficient, use all means to save the whole while sacrificing the parts. The main areas of our activity must be as follows: the workers' milieu in large industrial areas; technical and engineering personnel; the village (the kolkhoz, the sovkhoz, and the individual farm); the centers of technical agronomy; the industrial managers; co‑operators; teachers; city proprietors; and lastly — those Communists who are sympathetic with us . . .

 p82  Collectivization, having destroyed the basis of agriculture, has forced out from the villages the most talented and cultured elements, which have taken refuge primarily in heavy industry. These elements, deprived of the right and opportunity to show their creative initiative in agriculture . . . are the most suitable material for propagating our ideas . . .

While working among non‑Ukrainians, it is necessary to avoid the nationalist point of view; we must realize that the Ukrainian state cannot be built up by the forces of Ukrainization alone . . .

In our illegal activities, it is imperative to disguise our thoughts by suitable words when addressing public meetings. The Communist slogan, "we create a Ukrainian culture national in form and socialist in content," we must change in practice to "socialist in form and national in content," meaning by "socialist form" this smoke-screen which should enable us to fight our enemies.

The GPU chief, Balitsky, revealed the following "document" proving Ukrainian conspiracy, which, according to his account, had fallen into his hands by accident:

Our program must be a compromise between the program of Hitlerism and that of the Ukrainian peasants . . .

Social classes and a Ukrainian aristocracy must exist . . . I am not a reactionary, but the nation should be heterogeneous . . . The working class must be linked with the craftsman . . . Industry must be denationalized. Real property should be reinstated . . . The present moment calls for a consolidation of forces here and abroad . . . Our present task consists in uniting all national forces — from the peasants to the socialists.

There followed directives for under­ground activities:

1) The under­ground headquarters should establish close contact with agents abroad and with the interventionists.

2) It must preserve strictest conspiracy.

3) It must prepare the fighting cadres for the future war.

4) It must establish close contact with the anti-Communist under­ground in Georgia, Belorussia and the other republics of the Soviet Union.

The first thought which occurs after examination of these sensational "documents" is this: Which anti-Soviet center of Ukrainian resistance could have been responsible for their content? Neither Popov nor Balitsky gave a clear answer to this question. There were theoretically two possible sources from which these "documents" could have emanated: 1) the Ukrainian emigre parties abroad, 2) the alleged nationalist under­ground in the Soviet Ukraine.

Let us first survey the emigre Ukrainian political scene. It consisted of the following major political groups:

1) The Ukrainian Socialists, supporting, on the whole, the Ukrainian government in exile of the Ukrainian People's Republic headed by Andriy Livytsky.  p83 The chief Ukrainian Socialist parties were the Social Democrats, the Social Revolutionaries, and the Social Radicals.

2) The Ukrainian National Democrats (UNDO), the most influential group in the Western Ukraine.

3) The Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) headed by Yevhen Konovalets, ideological followers of fascism.

The Ukrainian Monarchists (USKHD, later SHD), followers of Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky.

Small groups of Ukrainian ex‑Communists (the Communist Party of the Western Ukraine, the Galician group, "Sel‑rob,") which showed an anti-Soviet orientation after the liquidation of Shumsky's deviation in the CP(b)U.

There was no shred of understanding between these groups; on the contrary, they were all extremely hostile to each other. Therefore, it would be inconceivable that the secret "documents" could have been dictated by a coalition of these groups.

Which of these separate groups could have been responsible for the "under­ground circulars"? The first paragraph of the circular mentioned by Popov excludes the possibility that the three mentioned groups could have issued it. The Socialists, the Democrats, and the ex‑Communists were openly anti-fascist and anti-Hitler. They were also sharply opposed to the Nationalists and on no occasion did any of them assume the appellation "national-socialists," and a careful check of their literature shows that it did not appear in any of their writings. Although the Nationalists often borrowed their theory from the arsenal of fascism, they could not be described as mere dupes of Hitler. What makes it improbable that they were responsible for the circular is the appeal to the Soviet workers, and the ex‑Communists. Such an orientation was foreign to the Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN).

Popov's "document" remains, therefore, full of inner contradictions and does not correspond to the program of any single Ukrainian emigre group.

The authenticity of the "document" produced by Balitsky is also extremely doubtful. It contains what may best be described as the "restoration program" for the Ukraine. Yet the principles of the restoration, (the denationalization of industry, the return of the Ukrainian aristocrat and of real property, the heterogeneity of the nation) could hardly come from a single political party. What makes the whole program particularly questionable is the phrase "I am not a reactionary but I think that the nation should be heterogeneous." This personal form of address would hardly occur in a political program; it is more likely to have come from the report of a Soviet agent on a visit to one of the Ukrainian  p84 emigre groups. There is good reason to believe that such agents operated quite success­fully.9

Is it possible that these secret "documents" originated in the Soviet Ukraine? In answering this question one must rather rely upon one's judgment of Soviet reality than on the speculative evidence for or against such a possibility. It is as difficult to imagine that the Ukrainian Communists (Skrypnyk, Shumsky, Khvylovy) were capable of being nationalist agents as it is difficult to believe that men like Bukharin, Trotsky, or, for that matter, Beria were tools and dupes of foreign agents. All evidence based on an analysis of their outlook and activities as well as on the opinions of all those in the West who wrote on the Soviet trials supports the view that the Soviet charges in the Ukraine were a part of the "greatest frame‑up in the world." The "documents" of Popov and Balitsky have no relation to the historical situation in the Soviet Ukraine and are the products of the GPU and its masters.

Why, then, were they made public and in this particular form? Simply because it was necessary to evoke the specter of a wide Ukrainian conspiracy, involving all parties and groups, in order to dispose of anyone whom the GPU wanted to destroy. Popov's and Balitsky's "programs" supplement each other. The first is more general and "suited" to the "national deviationists" in the CP(b)U, the second, more specific in its formulation, was "suited" to those who did not fit the first category. Both postulate a conspiracy to overthrow the Soviet regime in the Ukraine, to separate the Ukraine from Russia, and to restore capitalism. These were the charges made against all those Ukrainian Communists and non‑Communists who perished in 1932‑34. The "documents" were invented in order to furnish "evidence" that these charges were true.

The Author's Notes:

1 Nathan Leites and Elsa Bernaut, The Ritual of Liquidation: The Case of the Moscow Trials, Glencoe, The Free Press, 1954. Friedrich Adler, "Moskovsky protsess vedm" (The Moscow Witch Trial), Sotsialistichesky vestnik, No. 18‑19, 20, 1936. A. Avtorkhanov, op. cit. Max Schachtman, Behind the Moscow Trial, the Greatest Frame‑up in History, New York, Pioneer Publishers. The Case of Leon Trotsky; Report of Hearings on the Charges Made Against Him in the Moscow Trials by the Preliminary Commission of Inquiry, John Dewey, Chairman, Carleton Beals (resigned), Otto Ruehle, Benjamin Stolberg, and Suzanne LaFollette, New York, Harper Bros., 1937. Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon, London, Cape, 1941. George Orwell, Animal Farm, London, 1946. Victor Serge, The Case of Comrade Tulayev, New York, 1950. Josef Czapski, Na nieludskiej ziemi (In an Inhuman Land), Instytut literacki, Paris, 1949. Ivan Bahriany, Sad hetsymansky (The Orchard of Gethsemane), 1950.

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2 L. Trotsky, Moya zhizn, II, Bereg, 1930; Prestupleniya Stalina (Stalin's Crimes), 1937; "Rech k amerikanskim rabochim" (A Speech to the American Workers), Byulleten oppozitsii, No. 54‑55, March 1957; "Novaya moskovskaya amalgama" (A New Moscow Amalgam), ibid.; also Byulleten oppozitsii No. 62‑63, 1938 (Trotsky's Comments on the International Commission of Leon Sedov, Livre rouge sur le procès de Moscou, Paris, published in German under the title Rotbuch über den Moskauer Prozess; "Moskovskie protsessy — sud nad oktyabrem," Byulleten oppozitsii, No. 52‑53, 1936.

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3 D. Manuilsky and S. Dukelsky (ed.), Delo chlenov Tsentralnogo Komiteta Ukrainskoi Partii Sotsyalistov-Revolutsionerov Golubovicha, Petrenko, Lyzanivskogo, Chasnyka,º Yaroslava i dr. (The Case of Holubovych, Petrenko, Lyzanivsky, Chosnyk,º Yaroslav and Other Members of the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Party of Socialist-Revolutionaries), Stenographic Report, Kharkov, 1921.

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4 Cf. E. Kuskova, "V Evropy li my" (Are We in Europe), Novoe russkoe slovo (The New Russian Word), December 6, 1952.

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5 It is true that Shumsky asked the penalty of death for Holubovych, yet this demand was made in sheer retaliation for a similar request which Holubovych had made when Shumsky was tried in 1919 (Cf. Budivnytstvo radyanskoi UkrainyI, pp134‑35).

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6 Cf. Kovalevsky, op. cit., pp72‑108; Solovey, op. cit., pp119‑125; Smal-Stocki, op. cit., pp102‑103; Chamberlin, op. cit., p57.

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7 Visti, December 10, 1933.

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8 Visti, January 21, 1934.

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9 Cf. Ukrainsky derzhavnyk, kalendar-almanakh (Ukrainian Statesman: calendar, almanac), (1942), Berlin, pp74‑79. Yaroslav Kutko, "Pekelna mashyna v Rotterdami" (The Time Bomb in Rotterdam), Narodnya volya (The People's Will), September 25, 1952.

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