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Chapter 16

This webpage reproduces a chapter of

The Story of the Ukraine
by Clarence Manning

published by
Philosophical Library
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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Chapter 18

 p203  Chapter Seventeen

Between Revolution and War

The revolution of 1905 made many changes in the life of Russia and these affected very materially the situation in Ukraine. For the period of a few weeks it appeared as if the entire country were reverting to a state of chaos. There seemed little positive agreement upon any definite course of action. Change was in the air. Each nationality in the Russian Empire, each social class propounded its own program and there was no central authority to decide between them. The imperial power seemed weakened after the disastrous Russo-Japanese war but the various malcontents were not prepared to harmonize their differences into a working whole. As a result the forces of the central government were ultimately able to resume control and gradually annul many of the promises that they had been forced to make at the height of the movement.

The agrarian disturbances in Eastern Ukraine were among the most bitter in the entire Empire but it was relatively easy to consider these as more agrarian than national, the more so as up to this time Russian authorities had refused to consider Ukraine as a separate entity within the Empire. That had been destroyed by Catherine and even though the conditions of landholding were far more favorable to the individual than elsewhere in Russia, it would have been exceedingly tactless for the autocracy and the liberals alike to stress any symptoms of dissatisfaction that came from a separatist source. For good or ill it was necessary for Russia, the Russia of the right or the left, to maintain the theory that Ukraine and Russia were one and  p204 inseparable or a fire would be kindled that would be difficult to extinguish.

The prohibition of the publication of books in the Ukrainian language for forty years now bore very definite fruits. The Ukrainian leaders were not in a position to distribute revolutionary material in their native language as well as were the Poles, the Baltic peoples and the groups of the Caucasus. The peasants (and they were the chief force in the disturbances in the country) were concerned about the land question and undoubtedly paid more attention to the economic situation than the national and cultural problems.

On the other hand, in the various cities of Ukraine where there had been an influx of Great Russians, largely workmen, the appeals of the radical parties that also denied the existence of Ukraine, led the strikers in the various factories to emphasize the demands that they made on the owners and on the government. Here again it was highly expedient to play down the feelings of any self-conscious Ukrainian groups and to label them as dreamers and as fantastic individuals who were romantically trying to recall a long vanished past.

It is significant in view of the frequent statements that only a handful of scholars and literary men were in favor of Ukrainian separate development that the new laws introduced by the government repealed all the prohibitions that had been made in 1863 and 1876. The censor­ship was lifted and without delay there began a flood of Ukrainian newspapers and journals in all the cities of Ukraine. Several were started in Kiev, in Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Poltava. In places where for over a century there had not been a word of Ukrainian spoken (according to the information of the government), now newspapers sprang up almost like magic to supply a need that was solemnly declared to be non‑existent.

 p205  More than that, the Imperial Academy of Sciences restudied the question of Little Russian and officially decided that Ukrainian formed an independent East Slavonic language and was not a mere dialect of Great Russian. This fact alone was a complete reversal of the position taken for a century by scholars, journalists, radicals and critics. It justified the position of the Ukrainian national party in Galicia and it also warmly supported the attitude of the Great Russian scholars who had so persistently and inconsistently emphasized the differences between the Muscovites and the people of Kiev in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It could not of course restore to the Ukrainian cause those millions of people who during the past centuries had become Russianized in order to acquire the civilized and highly cultured society which they had lost hope of finding at home.

Thus, following the Revolution of 1905, Ukrainian was restored, on paper at least, to its rightful place as a language in the Russian Empire. Yet for post-revolutionary Russia it was a dangerous thing. In the era of repression that followed the failure of the Revolution, attempts were made to censor the publications in Ukrainian more severely than those of other nationalities. It was also forbidden to open schools in Ukraine with instruction in Ukrainian. Many devices were tried to stem the spread of Ukrainian knowledge. Abroad the Russian government still continued to deny the existence of a separate Ukrainian people, and here it won its greatest success.

There was a Ukrainian bloc forming in the First Duma which met in 1906 but this was dissolved before it really could get to work. In the later Dumas the elections were better controlled and the Ukrainians were compelled to realize that they had a long way to go before they could secure even equal treatment with the other nationalities in the Russian Empire. It was too important for Russia at  p206 all costs to maintain the unity with the Ukraine, to control its Black Sea coast and its rich resources to allow too close examination of the forces that were spreading in the area.

Yet even those reliefs that were offered to the people showed again the vitality of the movement. In 1907 there was established at Kiev a Shevchenko Scientific Society which worked very closely with the older foundation in Lviv. The Literary and Scientific Review, of which Franko was one of the chief editors and contributors, started a second edition in Kiev. In every way it was becoming uncomfortably clear to both Russia and Austria-Hungary that the two Ukraines were coming to consider themselves one, but separated by a foreign border, exactly as was the case in Russian and Austrian Poland.

As a symbol of this new unification, Prof. Michael Hrushevsky moved from Lviv to Kiev. Prof. Hrushevsky had made himself the outstanding authority on Ukrainian history. He was born in Russian Ukraine in 1866 and had been educated in the University of Kiev. Then in 1890, when there was established at the University of Lviv a chair of Ukrainian history, he had been offered it and there he remained for nearly twenty years, producing the early volumes of his massive history of his native country. He examined the early records and did more than any one else to disprove the traditional point of view that after the Tatar invasions Ukraine had become merely an empty land and that the Kozaks and the later inhabitants were really a group of immigrants from either Poland or Moscow.

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Prof. Michael Hrushevsky

His arrival in Kiev and his active part in the Shevchenko Scientific Society there was perhaps the outstanding event during this period. It meant that in Kiev and in Russian Ukraine, where the revival of the nation had actually started, there would now be established the real centre of Ukrainian historical scholar­ship. It meant that the bonds  p207 between Kiev and Lviv would be tightened and that it might not be impossible for the two sections to work together, in case there should be a conflagration in Europe which would involve the two Empires.

This could not fail to have an effect upon European politics and indirectly upon the future fate of the Ukrainians and their position in world opinion. Russia as the self-appointed protector of all the Slavs could not fail to look with dissatisfaction at the loss of influence of her friends in Austria-Hungary. As the self-appointed model of Orthodoxy, she could not but be displeased at the success of the Uniats and at their revival in Eastern Galicia. During the years before 1914, she made constant efforts to turn back the Greek Catholics to Orthodoxy, especially in Carpatho-Ukraine under Hungary. She exploited in every way possible any unrest or discontent in the mountain valleys and hoped in the coming struggle to be able to profit by these newfound friends. At the same time her own position and her own attitude insisted upon thinking of all Ukrainians as merely a form of Russians and she could not visualize any policy other than that of complete Russification.

On the other hand, Austria-Hungary and later Germany could not be blind to the potentialities of the Ukrainian movement. They had first used it as a tool against the dangers offered by Polish irredentism. Now as they saw it growing in Russia, they began to wonder if it might not be used also as a means of disintegrating that country also. Some of their leaders began to scheme how this could best be done and they were willing to make minor concessions in Eastern Galicia which might win over the loyalty of the Ukrainians and make them more willing to be loyal to the Dual Monarchy.

In this position there ensued a curious tug of war. With the two Empires still nominally at peace, each was doing its best to sponsor a movement that would redound to its  p208 advantage in case of war. Neither one was willing to take any action or embark upon a course that would benefit the Ukrainians themselves. Austria would not establish a separate Ukrainian province which could appear openly in the Parliament and speak freely for the Ukrainian citizens of the Dual Monarchy. Russia would not grant such privileges to the Ukrainians in her own land as would prevent them from looking across the border. She regularly repressed Ukrainian meetings held on the anniversary of the death of Shevchenko, even in St. Petersburg, and continued the monotonous list of arrests and annoying restrictions on all Ukrainian activities. Even such a man as Milyukov could not fail to see that the policy of the government was working to strengthen a movement for Ukrainian separation, at the very moment when it was trying to Russianize the Ukrainians of Galicia, Carpatho-Ukraine and Bukovina.

In this crisis the Ukrainians showed their lack of political maturity. They had been so absorbed in the struggle to lay the foundations for their survival and revival that they had had no opportunity to prepare their position before the outside world. Their great writers and thinkers were less well known abroad than were the leading figures of any other great people. They did not have the control of a single university which would make them known to the world of scholars. They did not have any outstanding figures, known abroad, to plead their cause before neutral opinion and they did not realize that their claims would be evaluated in foreign lands in accordance with the national prejudices of those countries toward the two great Empires which were quarrelling over their possession.

Hence it was that when the crisis actually broke in 1914, Ukraine was a land of mystery to all except a very few scholars. There was no voice raised in her behalf as that of Paderewski for Poland or Masaryk for Czechoslovakia. Lying within the initial theatre of war and destined to be  p209 ravaged by armies on both sides, the Ukrainians had little to do except to trust to the justice of their cause and hope that somehow and in some way they would attract the attention to their problem that it deserved. For years the neighboring peoples had been waiting for the day to come. They had made preparations, often more as an intangible dream than as stark reality but they could, in the crucial moment, put these preparations into action. They could rely upon distinguished sons to win them a hearing everywhere. Rich emigrants could come to their assistance. The Ukrainians had nothing of this. Franko might look forward to the independence of his people with the downfall of the Empires, but even he could hardly think of the way to put his country's cause before the world. Ukraine entered the First World War as the forgotten nation, but the century and a quarter since the new revival started had changed it from an inchoate mass of serfs, as it was at the time of the extinction of the old traditions, into a fairly well concentrated group of people with a strong core and a strong self-consciousness that could not be ignored and that would not perish without striking a blow in its own behalf.

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Page updated: 25 Apr 22