Groundwork For An Independent Ukraine

Photo by/ Euan Cameron

One of the many notable names in the long fight for Ukrainian independence was Mykhailo Hrushevsky; historian and scholar. He was chairman of the Ukrainian Central Rada (the revolutionary parliament) in 1917-1918. It was his energy, his knowledge and wisdom and his determined guidance, that propelled the people through to an Independent Homeland. As an historian, he compiled a ten-volume History of Ukraine-Rus that spanned the period of prehistory to the 1660s. Critics of his work describe his academic achievements as Rationalist Enlightment; a combination of principles and romantic positivism. His speeches supported a national Ukrainian identity that would unite the country. The Ukrainian people regarded him as the greatest of their political scholars and one of their most prominent statesmen amassing in his lifetime over 2000 separate literary titles.

In 1928, Mykhailo Volobuyev, an economist, wrote and published a magazine article which reiterated the value of viewing the Ukraine as ‘a historically created national agrarian organism’. This was radically removed from the prevailing view at that time. The article was titled “Regarding Problems of the Ukrainian Economy” and it held forth for critical analysis the “European model” which considered that the Ukraine was nothing more than a colony belonging to tsarist Russia, the colonial Empire. Even the name Ukraine was avoided during this time. People referred to the territory as ‘the Southern District’ or simply ‘the South’. Shortly thereafter he argued with the Russian imperialists in favor of Ukraine’s right to control its’ economic development and its’ national budget. He was ordered to recant of his views. Following his failure to do as ordered he was arrested as a ‘Ukrainian counterrevolutionary’ and sentenced for a term of 5 years in a concentration camp. This was later commuted to exile in Kazakhstan. He was eventually released in 1943 and ended his life as a worker in the Economics and Trade Institute in Donetsk.

Mykola Khvylovy was a graduate of the Bohodukhiv Gymnasium after which he joined the Communist Party. That did not last long. He moved to Kharkiv in 1921 where he found his place amongst other young writers connected with the Ukrainian Proletarian Artists. He wrote both poetry and short stories; his stories becoming well known for their difficult narrative forms and complicated imagery. In a number of published pamphlets, he did not hesitate or shy away from presenting his opinions concerning politics and art. The Ukrainian artist at this time was tied to mainly established Russian forms and ideas which Mykola wanted to see changed to cultural trends more in line with Western Europe. The result was not in his favor. His work created controversy. Other writers declined to follow his lead and the rising Ukrainian literary scene became divided as a result. His second series of pamphlets were released in 1925-1926 titled, Thoughts Against The Current. They furthered developed his argument against what was being called ‘the cult of Epigonism’ (the imitation of an artist in a later generation). Mykola wanted Ukrainians to establish their own path of intellectual style and construction. It was during this time he coined the slogan “Away From Moscow. Because of the repressive regime in power harassing his friends in the pro-Ukrainian Communist movement and the continuing horrors of the famine (a time known as Holodomor), Mykola Khvylovy committed suicide on the 13th of May 1933 at his apartment in Kharkiv in front of his friends. His suicide note said in part: “Arrest of Yalovy is the murder of an entire generation. For what? ……………….. The responsibility lies with me. Today is a beautiful sunny day. I love life, you can’t even imagine how much. Long live the Communist Party”. After his death his literary works were banned in the Soviet Union until its’ collapse.

Photo by/ Fabian Barral

Over a thousand artists and intellectuals were ordered to be executed during the years Stalin was in power. Others were confined to cages like animals and suffered the fate of complete mental derangement.

The three men I have listed in this post were all responsible for major shifts in the politics of their time. Their love for their country and their shared vision for its’ freedom and independence never wavered, never faltered, but remained clear and consistent down to this day in 2022.

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