Ukraine today a continuation of Ukrainian Republic of 1918-1920, Verkhovna Rada speaker says

Released from Serbian captivity, World War I prisoners of war of Ukrainian nationality of former Austro-Hungarian Imperial army swear the oath of allegiance to Ukraine on August 3, 1919. (Image: Wikipedia)

Released from Serbian captivity, World War I prisoners of war of Ukrainian nationality of former Austro-Hungarian Imperial army swear the oath of allegiance to Ukraine on August 3, 1919. (Image: Wikipedia) 

2016/08/28 • Analysis & Opinion, History, Ukraine

Andrey Parubiy, the speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, is among those who say that Ukraine today should be seen not as a newly independent state, which arose as a result of a declaration in August 1991, but as a continuation of the Ukrainian Republic of 1918-1920 that was suppressed and occupied by the Soviets.

Andriy Parubiy

Andriy Parubiy

As a result, he says, August 24th should be marked not as the Day of Independence but rather the Day of the Restoration of Independence and that this should be fixed by law.

That may seem a matter of hairsplitting to many, but in fact, it not only has enormous consequences – including the implication that between 1920 and 1991, Ukraine lived under Muscovite occupation – but is part of a general trend among many post-Soviet states to recover their pre-Soviet history and stress continuity with it as the Soviet period recedes into the past.

It has long been generally accepted that since 1991, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have had an easier path than the former Soviet republics in large measure because they, unlike all the others, stressed their continuity with the pre-war republics, insisted on legal continuity and occupation, and have thus been engaged in restoring rather than creating something entirely new.

Over the first two post-Soviet decades, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia have devoted varying amounts of official attention to and celebration of the anniversaries of their pre-Soviet statehood, most prominently in 2008 on the 90th anniversary and with plans for the centenary in 2018.

The efforts of the three Transcaucasus countries to insist that they have a pre-Soviet past they can look to and build on does not in the nature of things put them in the same position as the three Baltic countries – their earlier experience was both far shorter and far more troubled – but it does set them apart from the other post-Soviet states.

Parubiy’s statement suggests that at least some in Ukraine would like to see their country also stress its continuity with the previous period of Ukrainian independence. In doing so, such people clearly hope to stress that

Ukrainians have a state tradition that is separate from that of Russia/USSR.

But there may be more immediate reasons behind this move as well. On the one hand, an emphasis on state continuity more than implicitly suggests that what occurred between 1920 and 1991 was a Russian occupation. And on the other, that in turn implies as the Baltic countries have insisted and the world agrees that

formerly occupied countries have special rights.

Both these things can mobilize Ukrainians whose country is now being invaded and subverted by the Russian Federation:

  • by promoting a deeper sense of patriotism among them and
  • by giving them a sense that their state is no recent arrival but something with a real political history that they can look to and be proud of.

Unfortunately, there is another consequence of such stress on continuity. The period between 1917 and 1920 in Ukraine was a profoundly troubled one, and there are pages in it that no Ukrainian or anyone else can be especially proud. Russian propagandists are certain to pick up on that if Kyiv does decide to emphasize its continuity with the earlier Ukrainian state.


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Edited by: A. N.

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  • Alex George

    Fair points. Surely Ukrainians, like everyone else, have to look squarely at both the positive and negative things in their past.

    But it also seems impossible to ignore the fact of the existence of the Ukrainian republic in 1919. So surely it must be part of Ukrainian history.

  • Oknemfrod

    For the Ukrainians, the notion that “Russian propagandists are certain to pick up on” something as a pretext for yet another wave of smear campaign should be of zero concern. We’ve seen countless times now that putinoid agitprop is nothing but a bunch of spurious lies, anyway (the more outlandish, the merrier), and their perpetrators will always find a pretext, no matter how asinine, if they need one, or indeed need no pretext at all.

    As the Wolf says to the Lamb in one of Krlylov’s fables, “you’re already guilty because I want to eat” – an analogy especially apt in view of the entire history of the Russo-Ukrainian relationships (and recent one in particular). So, don’t worry about the “Russian propagandists”, just stick to the historical truth and do what’s right.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      Dwarfstan doesn’t have much to be proud of in its history so Dwarfstanians should be the last to crticise.

      • Oknemfrod

        They take pride in things at a mere thought of which normal people shudder.

        • zorbatheturk

          How true.

    • Lev Havryliv

      Top comment.

      • Oknemfrod

        Дякую, пане добродію.

  • zorbatheturk

    Ukraine’s problems started with a guy called Lenin.

  • Lev Havryliv

    Ukraine has a thousand year history including several periods of periods of statehood.

    It makes full sense to regard 1991 as the restoration of Ukrainian independence.

    Lenin’s Bolshevik armies destroyed the Ukrainian National Republic of 1917-21. Following this central and eastern Ukraine came under seventy years of illegal and illegitimate Russian Soviet occupation.

    The major lesson of the period of the Ukrainian Republic of 1917-21 is that Ukraine at that time was not militarily powerful enough to resist Russian military aggression. In fact Ukraine faced attacks from Russian Bolsheviks, Russian White armies of Denikin and Polish forces.

    Only a powerful Ukrainian army can guarantee Ukraine’s independence and security.