Some trivia about Ukraine on the 29th anniversary of country’s Independence by George V.Pinchuk. History of Ukraine: From the communist occupation to a national renaissance and back. Part 9.
By the end of the year 1920, the Red Army occupied, essentially, all of what used to be the Russian imperial part of Ukraine. Over 1.2 million troops under the general command of Leon Trotsky were dislocated there, including five armies that consisted of dozens of divisions and brigades. In addition, the Bolshevik-occupied part of Ukraine was filled with the so-called CHON (from Russian Части особого назначения, “Units with Special Task”). These armed units were formed to a large extent from foreigners, or, as they were officially called, “Internationalist Warriors” – Latvians, Hungarians, in some cases the Chinese mercenaries. Their commanders in Ukraine were usually Communists from inner parts of Russia. The CHON almost never fought with the remnants of the White or Petlyurite armies but, rather, were kept for policing rural areas, where they violently suppressed any popular discontent or uprising. One especially nasty task of the CHON was officially called “Food Surplus Appraisal,” which in fact meant complete or almost complete requisition of everything edible from peasants, including even grain reserved for seed. Needless to say, the robbed peasants were doomed to starvation, and died by thousands. In the case of any resistance, the CHON troops had orders to kill everyone in the rebellious village and to burn it to the ground.
In January 1921, the government of the Ukrainian People’s Republic in Exile, which at that time was located in Tarnów, Poland, decided to prepare for a large-scale offensive against the Bolshevik occupiers’ regime in Ukraine. Yurko Tyutyunnyk, a General Coronet of the UPR’s Armed Forces, was made the commander of this operation, which came to be known as the Second Winter Campaign of the Ukrainian Army.
Georgiy Yosyfovych Tyutyunnyk was born in 1891 in the Cherkasy region of central Ukraine. On his mother’s side, he was a grand-nephew of the great Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko. His parents were neither wealthy nor prominent, but his two older brothers were members of the SR (Socialist Revolutionary) Party. They had a profound influence on young Yurko, making him a believer in a better future for the Ukrainian peasantry after a revolution against the Tzarist oppression. However, Yurko never joined SR or any political party whatsoever, instead choosing a career in the military. He fought bravely during WW1 and was wounded several times. Amazingly, he also managed to pass the exams as an extern and to get his certificate of the completion of a secondary school, even though he never attended classes. With this certificate, he was admitted to a military school and graduated from it in 1915 in the rank of an Ensign. In 1917, he was promoted to the rank of a Lieutenant.
After the fall of the Romanov dynasty, Tyutyunnyk worked enthusiastically on the task of Ukrainization of the units of the crumbling Russian imperial army located in Ukraine. He became an elected representative to the All-Ukrainian Military Congress and, in May 1917, a member of the Central Rada. However, he felt that his true place was not in the parliament but among the troops. Tyutyunnyk became one of the organizers and leaders of the reborn Ukrainian Cossack regiments. There, he quickly went up the ranks and, by the end of 1917, commanded a Kish (regiment) of light cavalry; in February-March 1918 his Cossacks distinguished themselves in the battle with the Bolshevik army of Muravyov. During the rule of Hetman Skoropadsky, Yurko Tyutyunnyk became one of the most active members of the anti-Hetman resistance and a close friend of Symon Petlyura. In November 1918, he was arrested on the orders of Skoropadsky and sentenced to death. However, on December 14, when the Dyrektoria troops were fighting in the outskirts of Kyiv, Tyutyunnyk and two other inmates of the Lukianivska prison in Kyiv incited a riot and broke out of the prison, joining the street fight against the remains of the Hetman’s army.
Tyutyunnyk was in the middle of heavy fighting throughout the years 1919-1920, showing extraordinary abilities as a soldier, a commander, and a propagandist. In January 1919, he was captured by Red Army troops and was about to be shot, but made a speech urging the Red soldiers to recall their Ukrainianness and to switch sides, joining Petlyura. The speech was a success, and the unit of the Reds became part of Petlyura’s Black Sea division. Later in the year, Tyutyunnyk joined the troops of Otaman Grigoriev and fought against Denikin troops, helping the “Grigorievs” to capture the city of Odesa. For a short while, he became the commander of a division that was subordinated to the Red Army commanders; however, in May 1919 Tyutyunnyk and about 2,000 men under his command returned to the army of the UPR. Between June 1919 and November 1920, Yurko Tyutyunnyk commanded a two-division group within the army of the UPR and (in winter 1920) served as the first deputy of General Omelyanovych-Pavlenko (see Part 8).
General Coronet Tyutyunnyk was among the few brave commanders of the Ukrainian military who defied the orders of the Poles to disarm. In late fall 1920, his troops, located in Halychyna (now Poland) went underground. Becoming responsible for the future assault on the Bolsheviks, the general, disguised and with fake documents, went to Lviv and checked into a resort house near the city. There, he worked around the clock to organize the headquarters of the operation and to build its detailed plan. The idea was to have three relatively small groups of the Petlyurites cross the border with Russia and stir a massive uprising in the Ukrainian lands. This plan did not look unrealistic, because, in fact, by summer 1921, several powerful insurgent armies were quite active in the Kyiv, Cherkasy, Podillya, Volyn and other Ukrainian regions. The biggest and best known of them was an army under the command of three brothers Chuchupak (or “Chuchupaka,” according to Vasyl Shklyar), which fought quite successfully against the CHON in the Cherkasy region. Their center was in the woods near the Kholodnyy Yar ravine, with its famous Motronivsky (St. Matrone) monastery described by Shevchenko in his poem “Haidamaky.”
Unfortunately, the Second Winter Campaign did not go as planned. One of the reasons of its failure was the relentless work of the Bolshevik military intelligence under the command of a talented adventurer, a Communist mercenary from Italy, Arturo Frauci, known in Russia under the name of Artur Artuzov. The Bolsheviks worked out a huge special operation under the code name “The Syndicate,” which coordinated the activities of their special agents masked as emissaries of the various counter-revolutionary organizations. Several of such fake “emissaries” met with the Kholodnyy Yar and other Ukrainian underground insurgent leaders, supplying them with disinformation and thus breaking their cooperation with each other. By the time the first Petlyurite troops crossed the border (November 1921), the insurgent armies were weakened and could not mount an uprising of the expected scale and intensity. On November 17, 1921, near the village of Mali Mynky, the Zhytomyr region, the last group of fighters for the Ukrainian cause was surrounded by the Bolshevik cavalry under the command of G. Kotovsky. It was a massacre. More than 1,000 Ukrainian braves were killed, and about 500 captured. On November 21, after days of most barbaric torture, 359 captives were killed by machine gun fire near the village of Bazar. Many of them died singing the national anthem of Ukraine. Not one of them agreed to switch sides and serve the Bolsheviks.
Tyutyunnyk and a small group of the Ukrainian fighters managed to break through the Kotovsky cavalry ranks near Mali Mynky and to reach the Polish border. In Poland, the wounded, ill, and tired 32-year old general immediately began to work on a project that was aimed at treating the veterans of the Ukrainian revolution who needed medical help. However, his usual keen sense of danger soon betrayed him. In late 1922, he was contacted by “representatives of the Ukrainian insurgency” (actually, Artuzov’s men), who offered him the position of the Commander-in-Chief of all Ukrainian armies fighting against the Bolsheviks. In summer 1923, knowing that Petlyura was planning to move to France and was not going to continue the fight, Tyutyunnyk accepted. Of course, he was immediately arrested after crossing the border with the USSR. In Moscow, he was quickly sentenced to death, but, almost miraculously, spared. Tyutyunnyk’s jailers noticed that general Yurko was an absolutely fantastic storyteller with an obvious talent for acting. This was reported to Ch. Rakovsky, the premier of the Ukrainian Bolshevik government. Rakovsky sent his representative who offered Tyutyunnyk to become an actor playing the “counter-revolutionary” “Nationalist” “Petlyurite” enemies in Soviet Ukrainian movies. Tyutyunnyk understood that it was one of these “offers he could not refuse,” and agreed. For several years, he was employed by the Kyiv and Odesa Cinema Studios, starring in propagandist films like “Zvenyhora” and “P.K.P.” However, in February 1929 Tyutyunnyk was again arrested and interrogated on suspicion of plotting against the Soviet government. He was executed by firing squad on October 20, 1930. Till his last breath, he continued to deny the existence of a “network of spies” of Petlyura in Soviet Ukraine and did not name any names.
Georgiy Yosyfovych Tyutyunnyk after the arrest in1929
Symon Petlyura settled in Paris in 1924. He remained the nominal head of the Ukrainian government in exile but slowed down as a politician. He knew that the Bolsheviks would not let him live long. Indeed, back in 1922, Lenin said during a session of the Communist Party’s Central Committee that of all the leaders of anti-Communist forces of the war of 1918-1920, “unlike all these Denikins and Yudenichs, only Petlyura remains really dangerous to us, so, as long as he is alive, we cannot rest.”
At about 2 p.m. of May 25, 1926, Petlyura walked down the Boulevard St. Michel and stopped by a bookstore at the corner with Rue Racine. As he was browsing through titles of the books, a man approached him and fired at him seven times with a revolver. Petlyura was driven to a hospital nearby but soon died of his wounds. The assassin, a 39-year old Samuel Schwartzbard, was a Jew from Ukraine (the Podillya Governorate) who belonged to the party of Anarchists. During the trial, Schwartzbard testified that his motive for assassinating Petlyura was both political and personal because all members of his family (15 persons) were killed in the Ukrainian city of Balta during a pogrom sanctioned by Petlyura. This was not consistent, however, with the fact that during the pogrom that Schwartzbard referred to, the one that occurred in 1919, Petlyura’s army was in 200 kilometers away from Balta and the city was, actually, controlled by the Red Army. The prosecution also presented about 200 documents indicating that Petlyura personally prohibited Jewish pogroms, calling the perpetrators “bandits” and asking the people to stop, arrest, and deliver them to swift justice. However, all these documents, as well as testimonies about the connection between Schwartzbard and Volodin, an agent of the Russian Bolshevik intelligence services, were disregarded, and Schwartzbard was acquitted.
On May 30, 1926, Paris bade farewell to Symon Petliura on its knees
In April 1923, the 12th Congress of the Communist Party of the USSR declared a course towards the so-called Korenization, from the Russian noun корень (root). It meant promoting the development of the national, ethnic, local languages and cultures with the goal to make masses better acquainted with the Marxist-Leninist dogmatics and the policies of the Soviet government. In Ukraine, Korenization meant Ukrainization. The methods used in this campaign were typical for Bolsheviks. The Ukrainian language was introduced to schools, theaters, public offices, documentation etc. by force. All public servants had to take the Ukrainian language classes and to pass an exam or otherwise be sacked. Printing of newspapers, magazines, and books in Ukrainian soared.
The Ukrainization campaign was a success. First of all, in rural areas, peasants were much more willing to send their children to schools where subjects were taught in their native Ukrainian language. Many adults went to schools, too. As a result, the level of illiteracy fell dramatically, from 47% in 1926 to 8% in 1934. Simultaneously, big cities all over Ukraine conspicuously acquired a Ukrainian character. Mill and factory workers were no longer afraid to be called “country bumpkins,” and began to speak Ukrainian at work, in stores, on the streets, during all kinds of public gatherings. For the first time in history, the carriers of the Russian language who refused to learn Ukrainian were ridiculed and sometimes publicly humiliated as “Russificators.” It sounds unbelievable now, but the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine did not use the Russian language at all at any of its institutions and during any of their public meetings between 1921 and 1933. Mykola Skrypnyk, one of the most prominent Ukrainization leaders who served as the People’s Commissar of Education of Ukraine in the late 1920-s, even spoke to his hosts through an official interpreter during his visits to Russia.
The Ukrainian literature and theater at the time of the Ukrainization made colossal strides. Poetry flourished, with its huge diversity of schools raging from the Neoclassics led by Mykola Zerov to Futurists like Mykhaylo Semenko. The literature for children and youth acquired a colorful figure of Mike Johansen, the author of breathtaking adventure and travel stories. Dozens of dramas and comedies were written by playwrights like Mykola Kulish and staged by theater directors like Les Kurbas. The Impressionist school of prose writing was colorfully represented by the unique genius of Hryhorii Kosynka. Many novels were written by the new generation of Ukrainian writers that included Petro Panch, Andriy Holovko, Valerian Pidmohylny and others. Ideologically, many of these rising stars were Leftists, revolutionaries, so it is a small wonder that they grouped into an organization called VAPLITE (from Ukrainian Вільна Академія пролетарської літератури, “the Free Academy of the Proletarian Literature”). But they were very far from being merely servants of the Communist regime. All of them had very strong Ukrainian patriotic (or Nationalist) convictions. Their leader, Mykola Khvylyovyy, himself a gifted and prolific writer of prose, shocked the Russian Bolshevik leadership and personally Stalin in 1928 by publishing an article titled “AWAY FROM MOSCOW!” There was absolutely nothing xenophobic in that article. It merely argued that the new generation of Ukrainian writers should not parrot the Russian literary tradition but, rather, educate itself in the world literature and continue the humanistic line of the world literary classic.
At the beginning of the 1930s, the Ukrainization campaign was artificially slowed down. Stalin feared the Ukrainian Nationalism just like Lenin did before him. The Ukrainization activists like Skrypnyk and Khvylyovyy were harassed as “Nationalist Deviators” (both committed suicide in 1934). From 1932 on, the number of Ukrainian-language newspapers, magazines, books, theater plays, motion pictures, and festivals continued to diminish. Many Bolshevik leaders who had made the mistake of taking Ukrainization too seriously and close to their hearts were arrested and imprisoned or executed as “Petlyurite spies.” Overall, the unprecedented rise of the Ukrainian culture in the years 1923-1933 was given a sad name, “The Executed Renaissance.”