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This webpage reproduces a section 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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 p. vii  Foreword

The smiles, the blandishments and the more flexible though no less calculated policies of Stalin's heirs have led to an understandable, if dubious, tendency in some quarters to relegate Stalinism to the historical dust bin and to view it as having been a temporary aberration on the Russian political scene. While it is true that a final verdict must await the future development of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the policies and purpose of the latter cannot be evaluated fully and the answer to this question obtained except by means of a careful comparison with all aspects of Stalinism. Thus the study of the quarter century of Soviet rule from 1928 to 1953 which has become synonymous with the late dictator's name is not of purely historical interest for it provides an indispensable yardstick by which to determine the degree to which Stalin's successors actually have or have not broken with their late mentor, have retained certain of his policies and practices while abandoning or modifying others.

Superficial comparison of the Stalin and post-Stalin periods usually results in emphasis being placed upon the more obvious recent changes such as the diminished role of direct terror, the granting to collective farms of permission to purchase agricultural machinery, the policy of localizing certain operational economic decision-making as a result of the establishment of the regional economic councils and the like. However, preoccupation with the more spectacular recent Soviet policies which have led to certain changes may result in the neglect of more fundamental and persistent policies and techniques of rule developed by Stalin and retained by his heirs.

One such area in which the post-Stalin regime has retained the basic Stalinist program is that of nationality policy. Here the persistence of Russian great-power chauvinism and the apparently increasing pressure to impose the Russian language and way of life upon the Soviet Union's non‑Russian peoples have outweighed the relatively minor concessions accorded the non‑Russians by N. S. Khrushchev as a result of his personal knowledge of national matters based upon his experience in the second largest republic in the twenties as well as from 1938 to 1949. Thus Stalinism, when viewed in its entirety, cannot be regarded as little more than a nightmare which the awakened victim casts off with a shudder and then quickly forgets. This period not only lasted too long but also left far too many marks upon the Soviet body politic and was an integral part of Soviet development.

The need for a continuing understanding of Stalinism makes Mr. Hryhory Kostiuk's study of Stalinist rule in the Ukrainian SSR a welcome contribution to the existing literature on this vital period. Mr. Kostiuk has painstakingly analyzed  p. viii no fewer than thirteen alleged anti-Soviet Ukrainian conspiracies and purge trials — both public and secret — which took place between 1930 and 1937. While much has been published on the infamous Moscow purge trials of 1936‑38, nothing has been written prior to this study on the no less significant Ukrainian trials which were fabricated in order to provide a pretext for the physical destruction of a substantial part of the Ukrainian nation′s intellectual cadres. Mr. Kostiuk's study includes a painful recital of the names of Ukrainian artists, writers, professors, scientists, academicians, civil servants, journalists, poets, and even commissars who were caught in the toils of a cruel purge based primarily on national affiliation.

A second reason for the importance of Mr. Kostiuk's study is that it is based upon unimpeachable sources which he cites and utilizes fully. These include the Visti of the All‑Ukrainian Central Executive Committee (VUTsVK) and the Moscow Pravda as well as other official publications. Ironically, Soviet scholars are not in a position to utilize certain published Soviet sources and archival materials. One reason for this is that certain older Soviet scholars and spokesmen have not been fully rehabilitated. Thus when the present writer visited the two leading libraries in the Ukrainian SSR during the summer of 1957 he was unable to find in the public catalogs any record of the published works of Mykola Skrypnyk and Volodymyr Zatonsky, who figure prominently in Mr. Kostiuk's study.1 In a Communist society even the dead are dangerous. Thus when a purged figure from the past has not been posthumously rehabilitated Soviet scholars cannot well cite his published works and speeches nor can they give adequate treatment to the role which he played during the period under consideration. Nor can proper attention be given to the activities of fully rehabilitated figures since they represent a period which Soviet scholars cannot treat objectively because of the compromising nature of Stalin's regime. Therefore Soviet historians must treat this ineffaceable blemish upon the regime's record with great caution.

Mr. Kostiuk's work is of value for still another reason. It lays bare the tragedy of the Ukrainian "national Communists" who had accepted uncritically Lenin's devious promises only to pay with their lives for the folly of believing that the Soviet regime would respect the right of national self-determination. Even more tragic is the record, which Mr. Kostiuk unfolds, of Ukrainian Communists like Zatonsky or Khvylya who for a time played Moscow's game as pressure increased and were perfectly willing to sacrifice certain of their comrades in combatting "bourgeois nationalism" either in the dubious hope of saving something or in order to further their own careers.

The account of the decade from 1929 to 1939 which Mr. Kostiuk has provided makes it clear why Ukrainians defected from the Soviet system in such large numbers during World War II. It also provides the background for an understanding  p. ix of the endless denunciations of "bourgeois nationalism" which occurred after the war during Khrushchev's tenure as Party chief in the Ukrainian SSR.

The present volume also throws light on the milieu in which Khrushchev emerged in 1959 as a full member of the CPSU Politburo and obtained Stalin's confidence. Mr. Kostiuk has made clear Khrushchev's complicity in the purging of Stanislaw Kosior, his predecessor as First Secretary of the Party organization in the Ukrainian SSR. For Khrushchev did not appear in Kiev in January of 1938 as a mere innocent ordered to a new post but had helped prepare the groundwork for his own promotion when he journeyed to the Ukrainian capital with Molotov and the hated Nikolai Yezhov in August of 1937 in order to engineer the liquidation of almost the entire Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Ukraine. It was this step that prompted the head of the Ukrainian Soviet government, Panas Lyubchenko, to commit suicide.

One of the virtues of the present volume is the author's use of an episodic approach which conveys the pathos and tragedy of these traumatic events. While fully utilizing all available documentary sources, he has also incorporated into this study a wealth of somber detail obtained from eyewitnesses and participants.

Mr. Kostiuk has had the unusual experience of personally witnessing many of the events which he has described and analyzed. As a native of the Ukraine he not only witnessed Stalin's depredations during the thirties but fell victim to them. Upon completing Kiev University, Mr. Kostiuk continued his higher education in the field of literature, obtaining the candidate's degree in 1932, and then pursued a teaching career in institutions of higher education in the eastern part of the Ukrainian SSR. During this period he wrote scholar­ly works which were published by the Ukrainian State Publishing House (DVU) and in Soviet journals. In the latter part of 1935 his career was abruptly interrupted when he was caught up in the wave of repression against Ukrainians and, without a trial, was confined in the infamous Soviet concentration camp at Vorkuta. Since World War II, Mr. Kostiuk has lived and worked in the West and has edited and written a number of studies.

All who are interested in the veracity of the Soviet historical record and in its completeness cannot but be grateful to Hryhory Kostiuk for his significant contribution to this end.

John S. Reshetar, Jr.

University of Washington

The Writer's Note:

1 In contrast, new cards had been introduced into the catalogs for Postyshev, Kosior, and Chubar, whose works had been removed from the shelves at the time they were purged but were restored following the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956.

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Page updated: 27 Jan 23