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]
Chapter 17

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!


[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapter 19

 p210  Chapter Eighteen

The First World War

On August 1, 1914, Germany declared war upon Russia and the First World War was on. The tensions and controversies that had been growing in bitterness beneath the surface all through the nineteenth century now exploded with unparalleled force. The future was to be anybody's guess, for the increasing magnitude of the struggle soon overflowed the bounds that had been set for it in the thoughts of the leaders of the various countries, and the most fantastic dreamer could not have imagined the strange changes that were to take place in an area that seemed to the outside world fixed and determined for centuries.

In such a turmoil the Ukrainian problem was involved from almost the first day of the struggle. In Austria, without any delay, the government arrested and interned all the leaders of the Ukrainians who had been in any way sympathetic to Russia. Their institutions were closed, and their publications stopped, for Austria-Hungary had no intention of allowing them to be the focus of a movement on behalf of the enemy.

At the same time, in Russian Ukraine, the Russian government for its part at once suppressed all Ukrainian activity. The newspapers that had been published in Kiev and elsewhere with governmental permission were closed and the patriotic enthusiasm played into the hands of the Russian nationalists, who had long been displeased at the Ukrainian development. From 1914 until the Revolution there was steadily increasing agitation to eliminate everything Ukrainian from the Russian Empire, and leaders of all parties vied with one another in discovering new methods  p211 of upsetting and preventing Ukrainian work. The ostensible excuse was that the Ukrainians were really Russians and that it was German influence and money that was developing the Ukrainian culture, language and national consciousness. It would take too long to recite all the devices that were invoked. Authors desiring to publish in Ukrainian were ordered to give three copies of their manuscripts to the censors in advance of publication. Then these were examined and held up, changes were made, and the publication was prevented. The leaders of the Ukrainians were arrested and moved further into the country so that they could have no possibility of working and of corresponding with the enemy. Requirements were made that all Ukrainian articles should be published only in the Russian orthography. Ukrainian work in Eastern Ukraine was brought to as complete a halt as the Tsarist government could accomplish.

At the same time the Russian armies invaded Eastern Galicia and on September 3, 1914, within a month after the beginning of the war, they occupied the city of Lviv. It was now the turn of the pro‑Russian factions. The Russian Governor General of Galicia, Count A. G. Bobrinsky, intended to wipe out the entire Ukrainian movement and willingly listened to the denunciation of the Ukrainians offered by the pro-Russian party. Ukrainian libraries and reading rooms were closed, Ukrainian co‑operatives and other institutions were brought to an end, and everything was done to prove to the people that they were Russians and nothing else. Even Prof. Hrushevsky, who was seized at his summer home in the Carpathians, was sent to Nizhni Novgorod on the Volga under arrest, although the Russian Academy of Sciences later arranged to have him moved to Moscow where he could work in the libraries. He was followed into arrest and exile by thousands of the intellectual leaders of Galicia.

 p212  It was not only the secular institutions that were affected. The Russians decided to wipe out the Uniat Church. Many of the priests had fled before the approach of the Russian armies. Those who remained were forced to return to Orthodoxy, exactly as Russia had done in all of the territory which she had taken from Poland during the last century and a half. As a result, relations between the peasantry and the Russians became even worse than between the Russians and the Poles in the western part of Galicia. Archbishop Sheptitsky, the head of the Uniat Church, was arrested and sent into Russia and was not allowed to return to his home for years.

Finally the Tsar himself visited Lviv and other centres in the spring of 1915, and in well chosen words declared that Galicia was now an inherent part of Russia and would remain so. The Russians spread over the entire province up to Krakow. They occupied much of Carpatho-Ukraine and threatened to go through the passes of the mountains into the plains of Hungary.

This was the high watermark of the Russian advance into Austria-Hungary. At the end of April, 1915, the German armies of General Mackensen broke the Russian line on the Dunajec River and compelled a general retreat. This meant more misery for the inhabitants of Western Ukraine. Naturally the pro‑Russian Ukrainians hurried to get out of the province. In addition to them, the Russian armies gathered up as much of the population as they could and started them, willingly or unwillingly, with their families and their cattle on a long march into Russia to a place of safety. Thousands of displaced Ukrainians were thus gathered in prisons and concentration camps in and around Kiev and countless thousands were moved by train to Kazan, to Perm and on into Siberia. The enforced migration was the largest of its kind in Ukrainian history, even exceeding the depopulation  p213 of the country during the Ruin of the seventeenth century.

When they reached their destination, the Russians continued to maintain the theory that they were only Russian and hence it was unnecessary for them to found Ukrainian schools for the children, to establish Ukrainian relief committees or to maintain any organizations in their new homes. They were given none of the privileges that were extended to the Poles or other nationalities uprooted in the same eastward retreat of the Russian armies, and it was intended that they should vanish without a trace into the Russian mass.

A later offensive by General Brusilov in 1916 recovered for Russia a small area in the southeast, but of course the advance of the armies on Ukrainian territory only revived the oppression of the population. Until the Russian revolution, there could be no talk of any Ukrainian movement in the Russian Empire. Milyukov, it is true, once brought to the attention of the Duma the sad condition of these Western Ukrainians in Russian exile and prison camps but he aroused no enthusiasm, for liberals and reactionaries alike insisted that the Ukrainians were Russians and that there was no Ukrainian question at all.

On the other hand the return of the Austro-German armies to Galicia after the Russian retreat brought back the status quo in the province. The Ukrainian institutions were reopened, where they had not been completely destroyed by the Russian occupation. At the outbreak of the war there had been established at Vienna a Society for the Liberation of Ukraine by various refugees from Russia. This endeavored to keep the Ukrainian question before the eyes of the Austrian authorities in the hope that the Central Powers would create an independent Ukraine out of any territory that might be detached from Russia. This was broadened in 1915 to form a General Ukrainian Council  p214 to consider all phases of the Ukrainian question and to oppose the activities of the Poles of Galicia. Like the Polish Legions of Pilsudski, the Ukrainians established the Sichovi Striltsi (The Rifle­men of the Sich) and organized two regiments, although the development of the Austro-German policy prevented these from playing any important part in the war.

On November 23, 1916, the Emperor Francis Joseph gave orders to prepare a decree establishing Galicia as a Polish state, with almost as much independence as had been planned for the Kingdom of Poland, to be set up by the Germans out of Polish territory taken from Russia. This was a severe blow to the Ukrainians, for they had hoped that Galicia would be divided and that the Ukrainian section would receive special recognition. It was not to be, but the Ukrainians protested sharply against the idea of adding the province of Kholm to the Polish lands. Yet they became bitterly disillusioned, for they realized that even during the strain of a War which was pla­cing greater and greater burdens upon all the citizens of the Dual Monarchy, the blighting hand of the Hapsburgs was still working against them and preventing, as in the past, any final settlement of the position of the province. The activity of the Polish National Committee in the lands of the Entente seemed to the authorities a greater menace than the domestic feeling of the Ukrainian peasants and as these had been unable to get an effective hearing throughout the world and were the object of a vicious propaganda by Russia, it hardly seemed worthwhile to the government at Vienna to give much thought to the already devastated province.

Thus the weary years of war dragged along and still nothing was done to improve the condition of the Ukrainians or to satisfy in any degree their legitimate aspirations. They were still as they had been in the past — the forgotten members of the Hapsburg dominions. They could pay taxes and  p215 serve in the army, but whenever there came any talk of a readjustment of conditions in the Empire, they were over­looked. They had won what they had through profiting by the fears of the government as to Polish intentions but they were discarded as soon as a working agreement was made between the government and the Polish aristocrats.

The Hapsburg Empire was in this pursuing its usual policy, for it was a cardinal principle of the government of Francis Joseph to support in every way the noble classes against all other elements of the population, up to the point where they menaced the integrity of the Empire and the delicate balance that had existed since the settlement of 1867. The loss of the old Ukrainian aristocracy which had been Polonized centuries earlier was now keenly felt by the people, for they lacked those aristocratic spokesmen who could penetrate to the inner circles of the Viennese court and plead their cause in a way that would appeal to the Emperor. When Francis Joseph died and was succeeded by his nephew, the Emperor Karl, at the end of 1916, it was too late to do more than outline a new policy, but already the Empire was obviously collapsing and the Ukrainians were almost openly looking forward to the creation of their own independent state.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 25 Apr 22