Declared in 1919, but devastated by war, imperial intervention, famine, and chaos for several years, it was not until late 1921 that the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was firmly established. This article gives a quick history of the country before the creation of the U.S.S.R. in December, 1922.
‘The Ukrainian Soviet Republic’ by Leonid from Soviet Russia (New York). Vol. 7 No. 8. October 15, 1922.
(We reprint this interesting article from the Berlin “Rote Fahne” whose regular contributor and correspondent, Leonid, is well known to the readers of “Soviet Russia”.)
“THE Ukrainian Soviet Republic is one of the States of the Russian Soviet Federation. Abroad little is known about this republic. A grain producing territory, inhabited by “Little Russians” as they used to be called in old Russia, infested by bands and robbers, very disorderly— that is about all.
During the last years of the war, after the break-down of the Russian front, the German troops under Field Marshall Eichhorn penetrated the Ukraine, instituted there a kind of monarchy under the Hetman Skoropadski, carried off much grain to Germany and proceed with a regular transformation of the country into a colony. After the conclusion of the armistice with the Allies in the Winter of 1918 the German troops had to leave the Ukraine. The great number of German war concerns organized to exploit the country disappeared quickly. The first large scale attempt by German imperialism to found direct centers of colonization in the East failed miserably.
Struggle against the Counter-Revolution.
During the following three years (1918-1920) the Ukraine was a theatre of incessant bloody struggles. After the collapse of the feudal reign of the Hetman, forcibly instituted by the Germans, came the rule of the Ukrainian nationalist bourgeoisie and the kulaks (rich peasants), under Petlura. This was ended by the Red troops and the Ukrainian workers.
Later on the entire Ukraine was occupied by the counter-revolutionary army of Denikin, until it, too, was forced to flee. Then came the period of the “bands”. Throughout the country countless “bands” roamed about, robbing, assaulting; they were composed of former officers, rich peasants and underworld elements. Calling themselves the carriers of the “Ukrainian National Movement”, they fought everywhere against the Ukrainian Soviet Power, at the same time practising pillage as a “side line”. These bands, composed of mounted men were incredibly swift; they often covered stretches of sixty and more miles a day and kept the whole country in terror.
The Ukrainian Soviet Government understood that without the destruction of the bands, without the final crushing of the Ukrainian rich peasantry and bourgeoisie, no really constructive work could be undertaken in the country. The government promoted in the whole country, in all villages, the foundation of so-called “Committees of the poorest peasants”. In the course of a few months these committees contributed decisively to the crushing of the counter-revolutionary band movement. Side by side with the working class they represent today the most important political factor in the Ukraine. For these “committees of the poor” which in the villages unite the entire petty peasantry, represent the ruling city proletariat in the country. The power given them by the State they use in villages to restrain the rich peasantry, to rearrange the conditions of land tenure in favor of the poor peasants, and to rehabilitate the country from the political, cultural and economical points of view.
The internal political situation.
Today the village in the Ukraine (which means about ninety per cent of the population) no longer represents an anti-Bolshevist factor. We mean the mass of peasants, consisting not of small, but of middle landholders. What has brought about this change? The civil war, the counter-revolution under whose rule the Ukraine suffered in the course of the last few years did it. For the White Guards had brought back the landed nobility; and the large masses in the Ukraine (more than in Great Russia where the country did not have to suffer as much directly from the counter-revolutionists) came gradually to the conviction that the Soviet power is their friend and protector.
This is the main reason why the internal political situation of the Ukraine is at present quite different from what it was two years ago when the Ukrainian Bolsheviks had still to fight hard for the establishment of their rule in the country. The Soviet Government has finally succeeded in establishing itself; the period of the civil war has passed here. The working class, great masses of the peasantry, the Red Army stand in closed ranks behind the Soviets outside of whom no power is able to maintain itself. This. will be confirmed by every inhabitant of the Ukraine, not only by a worker or a poor peasant, but even by a bourgeois intellectual. Practical experience has brought him to this conclusion.
The Ukrainian economy.
The fact that the internal political situation of the Soviet Ukraine is at present completely assured, secures also its economic development. The constructive work is going on slowly, having been greatly handicapped by the famine. The Don basin, the industrial center of the entire country, is gradually recovering, steps having been taken to provide for the welfare of the workers, to gather skilled forces and to carry out technical improvements. The basis for an increase of production has been laid in the Ukraine, too, through the “new economic policy”. Already, last winter. an increase in production was noticed. True, since that time the situation of the Don basin as well as the entire Ukrainian industry (metals in the Don region, sugar in Western Ukraine) has to a great extent become worse, because the famine has visited the five industrial provinces of the Ukraine— Kharkov, Nikolayev, Zaporozhie, Odessa, Yekaterinoslav. In the southern regions mass starvation among the workers is going on even now. In some places all the children of workers’ families, up to the age of 4 and 5 years have died out. There is great need in Ukraine for the help of foreign workers, not only in food and clothes, but also in industrial material for the reestablishment of industry. In the Ukrainian sugar industry which in the past exported a great surplus and which at present is hardly working, it is planned to grant concessions to foreign workers in order to revive production.
The restoration of Ukrainian industry depends upon two conditions: First, foreign help; and second, the harvest, which in part seems to yield splendidly. If the peasant has a good crop, then the city will also greatly benefit from it because the tax in kind paid by the countryside and the purchasing power of the peasants will increase. If the peasant can buy, then there will be work for industry and food. And as soon as the city workers have enough to eat all other obstacles to a quick recovery and development can be easily overcome.
To assure this development, an army of Communist village teachers, cooperators and agronomists who are at present being trained for this work will be put on the job throughout the country.
Although an independent State, Ukraine is in close contact with Soviet Russia. The administration, the economic organization, the army are modeled on Russia. There is a close relation between the Ukrainian and the Russian Soviets, the former taking part in the All-Russian Soviet Congresses.
At present there is need for many things in Ukraine: Food and clothing for the workers, machinery and skilled workers and specialists for industry and agriculture. But all this will come in due time; the conditions for the final success— a good harvest, help from abroad—are at hand or are being created. But what is most important to its reconstruction and development is that Red Ukraine possess to a full extent: Iron will, energy and discipline.
OATH of the representatives of the regions which had a good crop to help the famine-stricken regions of Soviet Ukraine. This poster with the symbolical motto: “Sickle and Hammer will destroy the Famine” is displayed everywhere in those provinces of Soviet Ukraine which had a good harvest, to further relief for the famine stricken regions. The text of the poster is as follows: ‘We, the delegates of the All-Ukrainian Congress of the poorest peasants of the regions which had a good harvest, swear to you that your words about the spectre of famine which grips your regions at the throat are clear and comprehensible to us. And we swear to you that after returning we will give active aid to the famine stricken by delivering to you as soon as possible the rations which we pledged for the starving. We realize the importance of our work in fighting the famine. We know that at home you are expected by the hungry who have sent you here. Now, tell your starving comrades that we, the peasants from the provinces blessed with a good harvest, are responding to your cry. As to the seed grain, we are placing our loan at your disposal in pro rata deductions, and we recommend to our government that it turn its attentions to the railroads which put obstacles in the way of delivering the seed grain and the rations to the starving. We swear to you again that we will ask everywhere for help in your behalf, and where our entreaties are unsuccessful, there we will employ all measures including compulsion on those who will refuse. We know that during the hard times of the revolution you have fed and clothed our Red Army which has crushed all bands and has cowed the White Guards. know that our oath cannot satisfy the starving, but tell them in our name. We know also that you have fed the hungry from Moscow and the other provinces. We, the poorest peasants, know that our oath cannot satisfy the starving, but tell them in our name that we will put our oath into effect.
Soviet Russia began in the summer of 1919, published by the Bureau of Information of Soviet Russia and replaced The Weekly Bulletin of the Bureau of Information of Soviet Russia. In lieu of an Embassy the Russian Soviet Government Bureau was the official voice of the Soviets in the US. Soviet Russia was published as the official organ of the RSGB until February 1922 when Soviet Russia became to the official organ of The Friends of Soviet Russia, becoming Soviet Russia Pictorial in 1923. There is no better US-published source for information on the Soviet state at this time, and includes official statements, articles by prominent Bolsheviks, data on the Soviet economy, weekly reports on the wars for survival the Soviets were engaged in, as well as efforts to in the US to lift the blockade and begin trade with the emerging Soviet Union.
PDF of full issue: (large file): https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/srp/v6-7-soviet-russia%20Jan-Dec%201922.pdf