(X.1918 – VII.1919)



Paul Robert Magocsi

Chapter 39 from the book ”History of Ukraine”,  Toronto / 1996   

Maps: Andrew Andersen, Andras Bereznai and I.  Nistor




Although since its establishment in late 1918 the West Ukrainian National Republic had claimed sovereignty not only over eastern Galicia but also over Bukovina and Transcarpathia, these two territories followed decidedly other paths in the immediate postwar era. Bukovina's Ukrainian political leadership had worked together closely with the Galicians in Vienna during the war years and then participated with them in the Ukrainian National Council in L’viv (Lwow) (Lwow), which proclaimed independence (1 November) for all Ukrainian lands within the disintegrating Austro-Hungarian Empire. Parallel with developments in Galicia, the Ukrainian Committee was set up in Bukovina's administrative center of Chernivtsi on 25 October 1918, under the leadership of a Ukrainian deputy to the Austrian imperial parliament, Omelian Popovvch. The new committee met with a few Romanians led by another parliamentary deputy, Aurel Onciul, who hoped to keep Bukovina within a future Austrian federal state. On 4 November, these leaders and their supporters formed a joint Romanian-Ukrainian provisional government, which two days later forced the Austrian officials to surrender their governing authority. They also agreed to divide the province, so that the northern half might become part of the West Ukrainian National Republic.



http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7e/Iancu_von_Flondor_1919.png/220px-Iancu_von_Flondor_1919.png                                      bukowina_alt_ethn


Iancu Flondor (left) and Ethnic map of Bukovina, as of 1918

(Click on the map for higher resolution)


These developments bore little fruit, however, because the majority of Bukovina's Romanians had other plans. Just two days after the Ukrainian Committee was formed, on 27 October, Romanian deputies from the Austrian parliament and Bukovinian diet joined with local political activists to establish in Chernivtsi their own national council. Led by Iancu Flondor, the Romanian National Council opposed any division of Bukovina, expecting that the entire province would soon be 'reunited' with Romania. When the Romanian-Ukrainian provisional government replaced the Austrians on 6 November, Flondor responded by calling on Romania to send troops. Five days later, a Romanian force entered Chernivtsi, the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen withdrew without resistance to Galicia, and all of Bukovina was annexed to Romania.

In Transcarpathia, the situation was much more complex. Following the example of other groups within the disintegrating Habsburg Empire, the Transcarpathian Rusyns/Ukrainians set up several national councils in late 1918 to discuss the fate of their homeland. The Hungarians, too, were not idle. On 31 October politicians led by Count Mihaly Karolyi formed a revolutionary government in Budapest, which two weeks later (12 November) was transformed into the independent republic of Hungary. The new republic laid claim to all territories under the former jurisdiction of the Hungarian Kingdom, including Transcarpathia.


https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/23/Mihaly-karolyi--outlawsdiary00tormuoft.jpg image002

Hungarian president Karolyi (left) and Ethnic map of Hungary, as of 1918 not including Croatia-Slavonia

(Click on the map for higher resolution)


Hungary's national minorities were displeased with this turn of events and made plans to dissociate themselves from their former rulers. Among the several national councils that met in Transcarpathia in November and December 1918, three political orientations evolved. One council (Uzhhorod) favored remaining with Hungary; the other two councils looked elsewhere, to joining either the new state of Czechoslovakia (Presov) or an independent Ukraine (Sighet Marmatiei). In an attempt to head off moves in either of the latter two directions, the new Hungarian republic passed a law on 21 December 1918 creating an autonomous province called the Ruthenian Land (Rus'ka Kraina). As an autonomous part of Hungary, the Ruthenian Land was endowed in February 1919 with its own governmental minister (Oreszt Szabo) and local governor (Agoston Stefan), and in March it held elections to a Ruthenian diet based in the town of Mukachevo.

While the Hungarian republic was trying to assert its control over Transcarpathia, two local leaders traveled to Galicia, where on 3 January 1919 they asked for help from the West Ukrainian National Republic. Then, on 21 January more than 1,200 Rusyns/Ukrainians met in the small town of Khust to proclaim their desire to join a united Ukraine (Soborna Ukraina). One part of Transcarpathia, the far-eastern Hutsul region, even declared an independent Hutsul Republic in early January and accepted aid from the West Ukrainian National Republic. The Hutsul Republic managed to survive for the next six months until its government was driven out by Romanian troops.

Neither the Hungarian nor the Ukrainian orientation, however, was to prevail in Transcarpathia. An unexpected source was to make a crucial difference in the political future of the region. This source was the United States, in particular immigrants from Transcarpathia. Known at the time as Uhro-Rusyns (i.e., Rusyns from Hungary), in July 1918 the group chose a young Pittsburgh lawyer, Gregory Zhatkovych, to represent them in finding a solution for the fate of their homeland. Zhatkovych first favored the idea of an independent Rusyn state (Rusinia), but after meeting with President Woodrow Wilson and the Czech leader Tomas G. Masaryk (who was in the United States working on behalf of a future independent Czechoslovakia), the Rusyn-American leader came to favor the Czechoslovak solution. He arranged a plebiscite among immigrants in the United States, who in November voted overwhelmingly (68 percent) to join the Czechoslovak republic.



http://zbruc.eu/sites/default/files/pictures/zhatkovich.jpg          karpatorus

Greg Zhatkovych (left) and Carpatho-Ruthenia, as of 1918 (Click on the map for higher resolution)


Armed with the Rusyn-American decision, the new government in Prague, by then headed by President Masaryk, dispatched troops in late December 1918 to occupy Transcarpathia. By January, the Czechoslovak forces had gotten only as far as Uzhhorod (on the present-day Ukrainian border with Slovakia), because the rest of the region was being administered by the pro-Hungarian government of the autonomous Ruthenian Land. Then, in March, when Hungary became a Soviet state (under Bela Kun), the autonomous region was taken over by a Bolshevik regime. This Communist threat to the Danubian Basin prompted war between a Hungarian Soviet army on the one hand and Czechoslovak and Romanian forces on the other. The Hungarian Communists were eventually defeated, and by the summer of 1919 Czechoslovak and Romanian forces were occupying all of Transcarpathia. On 8 May 1919, Uzhhorod became the site of the convocation of the Central Ruthenian National Council, which accepted the decision of the Rusyn immigrants in the United States and declared its voluntary union with Czechoslovakia, although with the understanding that all Rusyn-inhabited territories south of the Carpathians would be granted political as well as cultural autonomy.

The Ukrainian revolution: success or failure?

By the summer of 1919, each of the three Ukrainian territories in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire had found itself in a new country. Eastern Galicia was held by Poland, northern Bukovina by Romania, and Transcarpathia by Czechoslovakia. Only in the case of Transcarpathia was the new political situation supported by the local population. None of these territorial arrangements, however, was internationally recognized as yet. That recognition had to await the decisions of the Peace Conference in Paris, where leaders of the victorious Entente had been sitting since early 1919 in an effort to redraw the map of Europe.

With the de facto incorporation of western Ukrainian lands into Poland, Romania, and Czechoslovakia by mid-1919, and with the establishment of Bolshevik rule in Dnieper Ukraine in early 192o, the efforts to create a sovereign Ukrainian state uniting all Ukrainian-inhabited territory that would be independent of the surrounding powers effectively came to an end. Faced with this result, most non-Marxist writers have subsequently considered the Ukrainian revolutionary era a failure. Their reasoning? Ukrainians were unable to achieve the supposedly ultimate goal of national movements — independent statehood. Accordingly, the record of those revolutionary years, 1917-1920, has been searched in detail for what went wrong.

Many reasons are given for the failure of the revolution: (1) political inexperience that resulted in destructive in-fighting and a lack of firm leadership; (2) the total breakdown of cooperation between Galician and Dnieper Ukrainians; (3) submission to foreign powers, especially Germany; (4) invasions by the White Russians and the Bolsheviks; (5) the refusal of the Entente to aid the Ukrainian cause; (6) the failure to resolve the land question and the reluctance of the peasant masses to support their 'own Ukrainian' governments, and their tendency to join destructive marauding bands instead; and (7) the opposition of the many minorities on Ukrainian territory to the idea of Ukrainian independence. Finally, the most important reason given for the perceived failure is that Ukrainians as a peopie were not sufficiently conscious of their national identity in 1917-1920 to want to struggle and sacrifice themselves for Ukrainian statehood.

Looked at in another way, however, the Ukrainian revolutionary era was a success. One might well wonder why so many Ukrainians did in fact struggle and sacrifice their lives for the idea of independence. This was particularly remarkable in east-central, or Dnieper, Ukraine, where the Ukrainian movement was virtually non-existent or, at best, limited to a handful of individuals. Then suddenly, after 1917, energy and sacrifice on behalf of the national cause burst forth, in the political, social, cultural, and military spheres. And even if these efforts did not bring about the hoped-for independence, the revolutionary experience itself instilled in Ukrainians a firm sense of national purpose — achieved, moreover, not after several generations of peacetime cultural work, but in less than half a decade. From such a perspective, the Ukrainian revolution was a remarkable success.

On the other hand, this period was never viewed as a failure by apologists for the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. After all, it was the revolutionary era that gave birth to the Soviet Ukrainian government, which, after three attempts, finally established its authority over most lands within Ukrainian ethnolinguistic boundaries. In Soviet Ukrainian terms, therefore, independence was indeed achieved for most of Dnieper Ukraine between 1917 and 1920. All that remained was for subsequent generations to bring that achievement to all Ukrainian lands. The next five chapters will explore the impact of Soviet and non-Soviet rule on Ukrainian territories, where the differing heritages and goals of the revolutionary era would be kept alive.