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Volodmyr Vynnychenko

Rudolf Mark suggests that the coalition initially put together by Vynnychenko did not have a strong political character. Vynnychenko himself was quite determinedly left wing but once the new government was formed he had very little support. He was well known as a prolific novelist and dramatist (3) but he had also been in and out of prison as an early member of the Revolutionary Ukrainian Party (RUP) and the original Ukrainian Social Democratic Workers Party (USDRP), formed in 1905. We have already seen how Vynnychenko and Petliura (also previously a member of the RUP and USDRP) had fallen out in the days of the Central Rada in Kiev in 1917, mainly over Petliura's insistence on the need for a regular army. Petliura believed that the Vynnychenko line had proved inadequate to defend Kiev against the Bolsheviks; Vynnychenko believed that the Petliura line had had the effect of provoking the Bolshevik invasion. The quarrel continued with the Directory installed in power after December 1918. Petliura was persuaded that nothing could be done without full independence. According to the Russian language Wikipedia he declared allegiance on 2nd January 1919 to the 'National Idea' - which I assume means the National Idea as defined by Mikhnovsky, regarding all non-Ukrainian elements as enemies. Mikhnovsky himself was desperately worried about the influence of the Socialists on the Directory and, together with the Grain Growers, had hatched a plan to establish a military dictatorship under Bolbochan and Konovalets. But in the event Bolbochan was arrested and Mikhnovsky himself went down with typhus.

(3)  A footnote in the English language translation of Khrushchev's memoirs tells us that 'Khrushchev has on more than one occasion compared himself to the hero of Vinchenko's story [The Talisman - PB]. Pinya was a puny little Jew elected as their headman by a number of very tough prisoners as a gesture of contempt. When the proving time came - a prison breakout - he put them all to shame by rising to the occasion as a born and sacrificial leader.' Khrushchev Remembers, translated by Strobe Talbot with notes by Edward Crankshaw, Sphere Books edition, 1971, p.38, fn 11.

It's unclear from the Russian Wikipedia account how he regarded Petliura who seemed to be doing what he would have wanted. On 8th January 'a decree was issued on the arrest and trial of all citizens wearing shoulder straps of the Russian army and royal awards, except for St George's crosses as "enemies of Ukraine."' On January 16th the Directory declared war on the Soviet Union. On 5th February, the Bolsheviks, led by Antonov Ovseenko, drove them out of Kiev. (4)

(4)  According to the Ukrainian Wikipedia account of the Green leader Danylo Terpylo (Ataman Zeleny). The Ukrainian Wikipedia account of the Green leader Nikyfor Grigoriev gives 18th February, leading me to wonder if there is still a confusion between Old and New calendar dates.

Vynnychenko, by contrast to Petliura, had argued for a federal union with Bolshevik Russia and a system of government in Ukraine based on the Soviet, rather than the parliamentary model. Mark (p.126) quotes him writing in September 1917: 'For a Socialist, the national development is an unavoidable, natural and useful factor and means of bringing people closer to the higher forms of social life, and for nationalists it is the goal itself, the ultimate goal, on which they will dwell a while, freeze, and then return.' And he quotes him again in December 1918, at the moment of the Directory's triumph, saying 'that the Ukrainian people was still far from forming a nation: "They are a sullen, discontented … people. We want to make them into a nation and they look askance at our manipulations and grumble angrily."' For Vynnychenko, reform in the interests of 'the working people' (not 'the proletariat' since there hardly was a Ukrainian proletariat) had to come first. In December 1918 he had been engaged in secret negotiations with the Bolsheviks. But on 10th February 1919, following the Ukrainian Wikipedia account ('Volodymyr Kyrylovych Vynnychenko'): 'On the instructions of the Entente, Vynnychenko as "almost a Bolshevik", along with the rest of the left socialists, was removed from the Directory and other authorities of theUNR', leaving Petliura in full control. I'm guessing that Petliura was desperately seeking aid from the Entente after his expulsion from Kiev. The French at the time were occupying the coastline from Odessa to Kherson. There is a certain irony in that soon afterwards (in May) the Europeans (British and French) were obliging the White Army in the East to adopt the reforms of the February Revolution. (5)

(5)  Richard Pipes: Russia under the Bolshevik régime, London, Harvill (Harper Collins), 1994, p.78.

We are moving into the period when Petliura and his army were to gain their reputation as anti-semitic pogromists. Indeed what Christopher Gilley describes as 'probably the worst single episode of antisemitic violence committed by UNR troops' occurred in the town of Proskuriv as early as February 15th, 1919. Gilley gives an account of the pogrom based on the necessarily rather self serving memoirs (written in the 1960s) of one of the participants, K.Lysiuk:

'Lysiuk describes how in January he received information that the Bolsheviks were organizing an uprising in Proskuriv. The Bolshevik agents sent to stir up trouble were reportedly Jews, so he set out to find them in “Jewish circles.” He claims to have been familiar with these, and to have trailed the movements of the agents round the Jewish communities in Proskuriv and the surrounding villages. He could not find the agents, but he reported to Semesenko and the Proskuriv commandant at the end of the month that there was an “excited atmosphere” among local Jews. A “good Jewish friend” of his (who died in the pogrom, making his existence or testimony unverifiable after the event) told Lysiuk that the agents were in Proskuriv and awaiting weapons to start a rising, for which they were mobilizing support. In the last days of January and beginning of February, there were reports of shots being fired, for which the Jews received the blame. The situation became increasingly tense, and Semesenko issued an infamous declaration warning the Jews, whom he described as hated by all people, that they were not to misbehave. Patrols supposedly found arms in Jewish homes. According to Lysiuk, in response to the discovery, Semesenko ordered his men to kill only those Jews taking part in the rising; children were to remain unharmed. No other account suggests that Semesenko or his troops exercised any such restraint; indeed, while Lysiuk claims that the pogrom claimed 200 to 300 victims’ lives, most other reports, including that by the UNR’s own investigatory commission, give much higher figures [Gilley has already given the figure of 1,500 - PB]. The killing stopped only when Galician troops arrived in the town. Lysiuk’s account, which reads like an extended exercise in victim blaming, demonstrates how the common assumption that Jews opposed the UNR led to the search for traitors among the Jewish community and then, in turn, to the mass collective punishment of Jews during the pogrom.' (6)

(6)  Christopher Gilley: 'Beat the Jews, Save…Ukraine: Antisemitic Violence and Ukrainian State-Building Projects, 1918-1920', Quest - Issues in contemporary Jewish history, Journal of the Fondazione CDEC, issue 15 / august 2019. I have it off the web, unpaginated.

The 'Galician troops' might have been Konovalets' Sich Riflemen, but they may also have been present as the result of a fusion between the UNR and the 'West Ukrainian' ZUNR. The West Ukrainian Peoples Republic (ZUNR) had been declared on November 13th 1918 by a Constituent Assembly first meeting on 19th October in Lviv, made up of Ukrainian representatives in the Austrian parliament, in the 'sejms' (local assemblies) of Galicia and Burkovina as well as representatives of the Greek Catholic Church. It claimed sovereignty over the entire ethnic Ukrainian territories of Halychyna (Galicia), Bukovina and Transcarpathia, territories of the now collapsing Austrian Empire also claimed by Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic. The territory claimed by the ZUNR as ethnically Ukrainian was based on an "Ethnographic map of the Austrian monarchy', published in 1855. At the beginning of November, faced with an imminent takeover by Poland (supported by the Austrian governor of Galicia) the Ukrainians took control of the town of Lviv but the ZUNR rada was forced out of Lviv by the Polish army on November 21st and moved to Ternopil. From January 2nd 1919 they were based in Stanislav (now Ivano-Frankivsk). Northern Bukovina was taken by the Romanian army. (7)

(7)  Account mainly based on the Ukrainian Wikipedia account - Western Ukrainian People's Republic. 

The ZUNR and UNR formally merged in the 'Act of Zluk' on January 22nd, 1919, the ZUNR becoming the 'Western Region of the Ukrainian People Republic' (ZO UNR). It was however a very tentative affair. As things got worse, Petliura, confined to the right (West) bank of the Dniepr river and desperately in need of allies, would eventually open negotiations with the Poles, the enemies of his own West Ukrainian allies.