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In the form now of a grey cloud with a snakelike belly moving through the City, now of dark-brown turbulent rivers of people pouring through the ancient streets, Petlyura’s innumerable forces were making their way to the cathedral square for the parade.

The first to arrive, carving their way through the black river of people, with a crash of gleaming cymbals and a blast of trumpets shattering the frost, were the densely packed ranks of the Blue Division.

Then, dressed in their blue jackets and in their showy astrakhan cocked caps with blue tops, came the Galicians. Two blue-and-yellow standards, propped between bared sabres, followed immediately behind the massed ranks of the brass band and, behind the flags, jauntily marching with measured tread on the crystalline snow, came rank upon rank of soldiers, wearing uniforms of a good-quality, albeit German cloth. The first battalion was followed by lines of troops in long, black, belted cloaks, wearing helmets and parading their bristling bayonets in a dense brown thicket.

Then came Cossack rifle regiments, in their countless numbers, wearing ragged grey uniforms, followed by battalion after battalion of Haydamak Cossack infantrymen, with the dashing regimental, battalion and company commanders prancing along on horseback between each battalion. Confident, triumphant march tunes crashed through the air like gold in the multicoloured river of the parade.

The infantry were followed by the cavalry regiments, the men rising and falling in their saddles as they trotted gently along. The eyes of the delighted crowd were dazzled by the sight of the crumpled, battered fur caps, with their blue, green and red tops and gold tassels. The lances, looped onto the cavalrymen’s right hands, jigged up and down like needles. In among the cavalrymen the standards waved cheerfully, and the horses of the commanders and the buglers were impelled forward by the triumphant sound of the music. As round as a ball, the large, jolly figure of Bolbotun rode ahead of his company, offering up his low forehead, gleaming with grease, and his chubby, radiant cheeks to the frost. His chestnut mare, her bloodshot eyes rolling, champing at the bit and dribbling foam, kept rearing up as it tried to shake off the sixteen stone weight of the colonel. His curved sabre clattered in its scabbard as he dug gently into her nervous, steep-sided flanks with his spurs.

“Our leaders are with us, are one with us, as brothers!” sang the brave haydamaks in chorus as they trotted and bounced along, their colourtul cap tassels bobbing …

Following the ten cavalry regiments came an endless column of artillery, with the fearsome rumble of heavy wheels and the rattle of limbers. The gun carriages carried large blunt-snouted mortars and compact howitzers rolled along. Cheerful, contented gun crews sat on the limbers with triumphant expressions, while the cavalrymen themselves looked calm and sedate. The carriages were pulled by large, big-rumped, well-fed horses fourteen hands high, and smaller, hard working peasant horses, looking like pregnant fleas. A troop of light mountain artillery trotted nimbly past, the small cannon bouncing along with their gallant crews.

“So, there’s your so-called fifteen thousand for you... What lies we were told! Fifteen thousand... bandits... chaos... and look what we have! Good Lord, you’d never count them all! Another battery  … and another … and another. (1)

(1)  Mikhail Bulgakov: The White Guard, translated by Roger Cockrell, Richmond, Alpha Books, 2012, pp. 222-5.

Petliura's entry into Kiev in December 1918, as described in Mikhail Bulgakov's novel The Whtie Guard, was perhaps the closest Ukraine ever came, prior to the present confrontation with Russia, to a unified military action. But this appearance was misleading. For the purposes of getting rid of the Germans and Skoropadsky Petliura had secured the support of many of the peasant ('Cossack') bands who had been conducting their own insurgency since May. But to quote the German historian Rudolf A. Mark:

'The influx of new recruits into the Directory's army in November and December was both spontaneous and brief, the expression of a revolt against a hated regime - the Hetmanate - and the foreign occupying forces supporting it. The peasant population had joined forces with the UNR only for the short time when it seemed to be the most viable option and best suited to their own requirements. The peasants were fighting for the power to dispose freely of land and food - and nothing more. The Ukrainian nationalists came up against this attitude again and again in 1919 - in insurgent divisions as well as units of their vanishing army.' (2)

(2)  Rudolf A. Mark: 'Social Questions and National Revolution: The Ukrainian National Republic in 1919-1920', Harvard Ukrainian Studies, Vol. 14, No. 1/2 (June 1990), pp. 127-8.

At the same time the political leadership of the revolt - the 'Directory' - was split between the commanding personalities of its two leading figures - Volodomyr Vinnichenko and Simon Petliura. The original 'revolutionary' opposition to Skoropadsky had been put together by Vynnychenko at a time when Petliura was in prison. What might be called a loyal opposition to Skoropadsky, the Ukrainian National-State Union, had been formed as early as May 1918. It included Mykola Mikhnovsky's Ukrainian Democratic Grain Party. MIkhnovsky had been, as we saw in the last article in this series, a keen supporter of Skoropadsky who had seriously considered making him Prime Minister. But to quote the Russian Wiki account ('Mikhnovsky, Nikolai Ivanovich'): 

'Pavel Skoropadsky was persuaded in the end not to appoint Mikhnovsky as prime minister, and he offered him the position of personal adviser. The ambitious Nikolai Mikhnovsky, of course, refused this. Together with the UDKhP [the grain growers party], he went into opposition to the hetman's regime, but the party refused to join the Ukrainian National Union, which was plotting against the Hetman. Nikolai Mikhnovsky made a lot of efforts to transform the hetman's political regime into a truly people's Ukrainian government. He was the author of a series of documents criticizing the composition of power and its policies, which were directly subordinated to the Hetman. Mikhnovsky was a member of the delegations that appealed to the German occupation authorities. Not trusting the socialists, Nikolai Mikhnovsky, like all democrat grain growers, did not support the idea of a mass anti-Hetman uprising.'

The Ukrainian National Union was formed when the National-State Union was joined by the Socialist parties but it still didn't itself aim to overthrow the hetmanate. Indeed Skoropadsky towards the end of his rule invited it to join him in government. Skoropadsky had formed a quite substantial army of his own, using the many members of the Russian officer class who had taken refuge in Kiev following the Bolshevik revolution. Vynnyhenko's achievement was largely to carve out of SKoropadsky's forces a revolutionary core prepared to take military action. It included Andrii Makarenko, in charge of the railway department at the Ministry of Transport, General Osets'kyi, who commanded Skoropadsky's railway troops, and, very importantly, Colonel Jehven [Evgeny] Konovalets, commander of the 'Sich' riflemen, formed in 1917 from former Galician-Bukovinan prisoners of war. The Sich riflemen had been disbanded after Skoropadsky had seized power in April but he had authorised their reformation in August. They played a crucial role in his overthrow. Konovalets was subsequently the founder in 1920 of the Ukrainian Military Organisation, maintaining the Ukrainian idea in Galicia in opposition to the Poles, and later he was the first leader of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists, formed in Vienna in 1929.

The conspiracy was joined soon after by Colonel Bolbochan, commander of the Zaporozhie division and General Yarishevich, the commander of the Podolsk Corps and of the 'Black Sea Kosh.'

Skoropadsky had released Petliura in November, apparently on the insistence of the Germans. Following the Russian language Wiki account ('Petlyura, Simon Vasilievich'): 'On November 13 in Kiev, at a secret meeting of the National Union , a decision was made to start an anti-Hetman uprising under the leadership of the Central Committee of the USDRP and the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Socialist Republic. Petlyura announced his participation in the uprising, a revolutionary triumvirate was planned, which was to lead the new revolutionary government: Vladimir Vinnichenko, Simon Petlyura, Nikita Shapova.'

The detailed account in the Russian Wikipedia entry on Petliura of the seizure of power begins by saying: 'Against the hetman's army of many thousands (about 30 thousand bayonets and sabers), which, moreover, could receive support from the German-Austrian troops, Petliura had only a small detachment of 870 Sich Riflemen at his disposal (according to other sources, 1500 or even 2000 people) and about 100 volunteers.' After many defections from the Hetman's army the account ends: 'On the night of December 12-13, a general assault on Kyiv began. The troops loyal to the hetman were no more than 3,000 bayonets and sabers, with 43 cannons and 103 machine guns. There were ten times more Petliurists who went to the assault. By the evening of December 14, all of Kyiv was in the hands of the Directory. Hetman Skoropadsky signed the renunciation manifesto and fled.'