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Mykhailo Hrushevsky

On the 2nd March - Julian calendar, 15th in the Gregorian calendar (6), the day when Nicholas II signed the paper of abdication and the names of the Provisional Government, handpicked by the KDT leader Pavel Miliukov, were announced, the different parties that identified themselves as distinctly 'Ukrainian' (with the exception of the openly pro-German/Austrian SVU/ULU) formed a general council, the Rada, in Kiev.

(6) Russia was still using the Julian calendar and it isn't always obvious which calendar historians are using when they give dates. Ferro, Politique des nationalités, p.140 refers to a manifesto of the Provisional Government concerning the legal order in Finland on 6th March. This is a date from the Old Calendar; in the New Calendar, the suspension of martial law in Finland was agreed on the 19th March. But on p.136 he refers to a secret Franco-Russian treaty agreed on the 11th March. This must refer to the New Calendar since it was agreed with the Tsar on the very eve of his fall. I've tried to keep the calendar dates right but can't be sure I've always succeeded.

According to the Ukrainian nationalist historian Serhy Yekelchyk: 'Ukrainian rallies and parades poured into the streets like never before. The city of imperial administrators and the official church found itself overrun by crowds waving blue and yellow flags.' However, he continues: 'this mass support evaporated with the disintegration of the front, economic collapse and the Bolshevik invasion … the enthusiastic crowds of the spring of 1917 acquired the disparaging moniker of "March [1917] Ukrainians" - those who went with the flow of the revolution but disappeared in the days of defeat.' (7)

(7) Serhy Yekelchyk: 'The Ukrainian meanings of 1918 and 1919', Harvard Ukrainian Studies, 2019, Vol.36, No.1/2, p.73. Yekelchyk, President of the Canadian Association of Ukrainian Studies and a lecturer in the University of Victoria, is very active in arguing the Ukrainian case eg in his book The Conflict in Ukraine: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. See Philip Cox, June 2, 2022: Historian of Ukraine thrust into public role by war, ', '

As he points out: 'the fall of the monarchy produced neither a Ukrainian state nor a Ukrainian army - nor indeed a Ukrainian nation. These things would have been possible only if patriotic activists had had the time to reach out to the masses and mould them into modern citizens and members of the Ukrainian nation.' Contrary to the development in Galicia 'the persecution of Ukrainian culture under the Tsars did not afford Ukrainian activists this opportunity.' As I've suggested previously the 'persecution' consisted mainly in depriving the Ukrainian urban intelligentsia of the possibility of communicating with the mostly agricultural population in their own language. In Austria, a process of popular education, taken over by the political radicals, had been initiated by the Greek Catholic Church. Something similar had occurred in Finland and in the Baltic provinces:

'In the nineteenth century the Finnish and Baltic clergy and professional intellectuals took the initiative in providing the the pedagogical leadership for organising provincial or national school systems. Progress in that direction was slow, for the Russian central authorities displayed little interest in funding elementary education until the 1860s and local society had to be persuaded to finance the building of schools and the training of teachers. The pedagogical principles for the schools organised in Finland and the Baltic provinces came mainly from Pestalozzi, Diesterweg and Fröbel with whose ideas Finnish and Baltic German clergymen and professionals became familiar as a result of spending student years in Åbo, Helsingfors (Helsinki) or Dorpat; travelling in Germany or residing in St Petersburg, where tens of thousands of Germans, Finns and Swedes lived and maintained their own Lutheran churches and schools. Beginning in the 1860s more adequate funding came to be provided for education, gradually bringing a substantial proportion of the Estonian, Finnish and Latvian peasants into schools organised according to modern principles of pedagogy. Before 1917 universal, obligatory education was achieved in neither Finland nor the Baltic provinces but the majority of the population had one form or another of schooling by the twentieth century. Unlike the rest of the Russian Empire, practically everyone in Finland and the Baltic Provinces was literate.' (8)

(8) Edward C. Thaden: 'Finland and the Baltic provinces: élite roles and social and economic conditions and structures', Journal of Baltic Studies, Summer-Fall 1984, Vol. 15, No. 2/3, p.219.

If that were to happen in the Ukraine it would have had to be done by the Russian Orthodox Church

Fat chance!

The Provisional Government moved quickly on Finland. On the 4th/17th March it annulled the imperial legislation that had at least since the Manifesto of 1899, in Finnish eyes at least, (9) restricted the rights of the Finnish Diet; it also released political prisoners, including members of the Finnish Jäger movement which fought with the Prussian 27th Jäger Battalion. On 6th/19th it published a manifesto promising to respect the autonomy of Finland and extend the rights of the Diet. The ministry of Foreign Affairs even declared that Finland had a right to become independent or join up again with Sweden. Poland's right to independence was recognised on the 16th/29th March. (10)

(9) The Finnish view is contested in Osmo Jussila: 'The Historical Background of the February Manifesto of 1899', Journal of Baltic Studies, Summer-Fall 1984, Vol.15, No.2/3, pp.141-7.

(10) Ferro: Politique des nationalités, pp.139-40. 

Lithuania, like Poland, was under German occupation, while Latvia - then part of the governorate of Livonia - was the scene of fierce fighting. The Russians had evacuated Courland on the West Coast in June 1915 and Riga in July, practising a scorched earth policy, dismantling industry and taking a large part of the population with them. On 30th March/12th April, however, the Provisional Government united 'Danish Estonia' with the Northern part of what had been the governorate of Livonia (the rest of it became 'Latvia') and elections were announced to a provisional assembly (the Maapäev) which were held over the Summer. (11)

(11) Wikipedia entry: 'Autonomous Governorate of Estonia'. Where other sources are not given the likely source is either Wikipedia or the Encyclopedia of Ukraine. Also Ferro: Politique des nationalités; Johannes Remy: "‘It is unknown where the Little Russians are heading to": The Autonomy Dispute between the Ukrainian Central Rada and the All-Russian Provisional Government in 1917', The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 95, No. 4 (October 2017), pp. 691-719 and Richard Pipes: The Formation of the Soviet Union, Harvard University Press, 1964. Remy is a Finnish historian, a lecturer in the University of Helsinki specialising in Ukrainian history, also active in Finnish politics as a Social Democrat. Pipes, pioneer of russophobic neoconservatism, enemy of Solzhenitsyn, also seems to me to have been an excellent historian.

All this activity made the usual response given to Ukrainian demands - that all such decisions could only be taken by the Constituent Assembly - look rather lame. On 17th/30th March - the day after the commitment to Polish independence was announced - a group of Ukrainians in Petrograd submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister, Georgii Evgenevich Lvov, asking for a Commissar for Ukrainian Affairs, a proposal that would entail defining 'Ukraine' as a distinct territory with clearly defined affairs of its own. They also demanded official recognition of the Ukrainian language to be used in relations with the government and in the church. The Provisional Government discussed the memorandum with apparent seriousness but referred it to its 'Judicial Commission' where it seems to have disappeared. They did however appoint as commissar in the Kiev governorate Mikhail Akimovich Sukovkin, 'a Russian who got along well with the Ukrainian activists.'  (Remy: It is unknown, p.696).

In Kiev, an 'Executive Committee of the Council of Combined Social Organisations' (IKSOO) had been very quickly formed by the city authorities on 1st/14th March. On the 4th/17th March the Society of Ukrainian Progressives, established the Ukrainian Central Council, the 'Rada', under the chairmanship of Mykhailo Hrushevsky. In 1894, Hrushevsky had been appointed Professor of the newly created chair of Ukrainian history in Lviv. He had been recommended to the post by Volodomyr Antonovych, who had been Drahomanov's colleague in the work of the Kyiv Hromada. While in Lviv he had taken control of and reorganised the Shevchenko Scientific Society, which was to become to the present day a major centre for the promotion and study of Ukrainian culture. His Traditional scheme of "Russian" history and the problem of a rational ordering of the history of the Eastern Slavs, published in 1904 by the Russian Imperial Academy of Sciences, laid the basis for the argument pursued by most Ukrainian historians, rejected by most Russian historians, that the Ukrainians had as much right as the Russians to claim descent as a distinct national identity from the original Kingdom of Kievan Rus'. His literary output was enormous - over 1,800 works, according to the Ukraine Encyclopedia. Following the 1905 revolution when the pressure on use of the Ukrainian language eased, he spent most of his time in Kiev where he was arrested at the outbreak of the war. He was in Moscow, only just released from exile, when he was elected in his absence to the Rada.

 Hrushevsky presided over a rapid process of political development - a transition from an intellectual movement developing the appearance of a national culture to one that aspired - with, for the first time, a possibility of success - to being a popular movement. In the previous article in this series we saw how the Society of Ukrainian Progressives (the TUV) had been formed as an eclectic mix of a series of previous would-be parties operating for the most part clandestinely and using different combinations of the words 'radical', 'democratic' and 'Socialist'. Now it began to dissolve again into more clearly defined political groupings. The TUV itself eventually, in June, became the 'Socialist Federalist Party' but more important was the re-emergence of one of the earlier contributors - the Ukrainian Social Democratic Workers Party, whose leaders included the highly influential Volodomyr Vynnychenko, Simon Petliura and Mykola Porsh. It is doubtful if the USDRP could be called a Social Democratic Party in any meaningful sense of the term. It wasn't recognised as such by either the Menshevik of Bolshevik wings of the Russian party. The working class in the areas claimed by the Ukrainian nationalists tended not to identify as Ukrainian. Soviets were established throughout the area, beginning in Kiev, but they had a notably Russian character. 

Hrushevsky himself joined the Ukrainian Socialist Revolutionary Party which held its first congress in April. He left the TUV because it was calling for cooperation with Petrograd. Hrushevsky believed that the Provisional Government would be shortlived, Russia would fall into chaos and that the Ukrainians should make a unilateral declaration of autonomy (not yet full independence) and elect their own constituent assembly.

The Socialist Revolutionaries were much more credible as a Ukrainian nationalist party than the Social Democrats since, like their Russian namesake, their principle appeal was to the peasantry. Richard Pipes (Formation, p.9) makes the interesting point that the Ukrainian peasantry was quite unlike the Russian peasantry because serfdom had never taken root. There was very little in the way of a native Ukrainian aristocracy. The Polish aristocracy, alien and unpopular as it was, had been greatly weakened by the failure of its rebellions in 1830 and 1863. Land had been bought and sold more freely than in Russia and there were many more small independent famers working their own land. They were quite apprehensive as to what designs an all-Russian government under Socialist influence might have on the fertile black earth area of Ukraine.

The most radical nationalist party was the Ukrainian National Party led by Mykola Mykhnovsky advocating a federal arrangement with Russia as its minimum demand, but full independence as its ultimate goal. Mykhnovsky had, as a student, been one of the initiators of the Brotherhood of Taras and a speech he made had been adopted as the first - at the time independentist - programme of the Revolutionary Ukrainian Party. The Ukrainian National Party was formed in 1902 in Kharkiv (Mykhnovsky's stronghold even though it was a predominately Russian city). According to the Ukraine Encyclopedia:

'A 1903 brochure containing the UNP "Ten Commandments" [drafted by Mykhnovsky - PB] deemed the Russians, Poles, Jews, Hungarians and Romanians enemies of the Ukrainian people for as long as they kept exploiting them; it advocated a "Ukraine for the Ukrainians", the expulsion of all foreigners, the creation of an independent, unitary, democratic pan-Ukrainian republic [from the Carpathians to the Caucasus, ie the Kuban - PB] and the use of the Ukrainian language always and everywhere, and condemned marriage and fraternisation with non-Ukrainians.'

The Encyclopedia maintains that it had negligible support and 'became inactive' when Mykhnovsky left it in 1907, but Remy (It is unknown, p.699) has it still in existence in 1917.

Mikhnovsky with followers in Kharkiv