Big Carp Hetman
For us, the name “Ukrainian People’s Republic” sounds strange. But so it was. Proclaimed in the fall of 1917, the coat of arms, the flag and the anthem – almost as now. Yellow-blue cloth, trident and “Ukraine is not dead yet.”
It was conceived as an autonomy within Russia, but in the winter the Bolsheviks took kyiv. At the end of January 1918, the government reaches an agreement with Germany and its allies (Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria): the Germans expel the Reds, Ukraine is recognized as a state, but in exchange for grain, meat, butter and other goods.
strange deal? Is it possible to buy independence for bread and butter? And they thought they could.
The Germans have arrived. The republic immediately fell, and an “independent” Ukrainian state appeared in its place, headed by a hetman.
What kind of power and his hetman?
Russian officer Pavlo Petrovich Skoropadsky proclaimed himself hetman (officially, the clairvoyant pan-hetman of all Ukraine). He says almost by accident. He was walking past the circus, and there his friends from the Grain Producers’ Democratic Party were having a convention. They called me to the stage and invited me to become a hetman. so don’t give up…
The situation is anecdotal, but the circus is real – “Hippo Palace” in the center of kyiv. And the farmers actually called it “to the kingdom.” But not spontaneously. Before that, Skoropadsky consulted for a long time with the officers of the German army. They told him: you yourself take power in the capital, and then we will do it. We recognize Ukraine as a state. His job is to be the guarantor that Germany will receive what was promised.
And they promised the Germans a lot. According to the Brotfrieden agreement (from German – “world of grain”) concluded in Brest-Litovsk, Germany was supposed to have a million tons of grain, 400 million eggs, 50 thousand tons of cattle, lard, sugar, hemp, manganese ore, etc.
Skoropadsky was then 45 years old. From a noble Poltava family: the hetman was his ancestor Ivan Skoropadsky, who replaced Judas Mazepa. And hetman Ivan served Peter I faithfully all his life.
For most of Pavel Skoropadsky’s life, the idea of ”Ukrainian independence”, to put it mildly, did not bother him. He born in the Kingdom of Prussia, where he lived until he was five years old. In Russia, he served in the guard cavalry regiment (heavy guards cavalry), this is the elite of elites. The cavalry officer-guards saw their wives less often than the emperor. The Skoropadsky cavalry guard did not know the Ukrainian language, which, however, did not prevent him in 1917, when he already commanded an army corps, from Ukrainianizing subordinate troops: Russian officers were transferred to other units, replacing them with Ukrainian ones.
German Emperor Wilhelm II (left) and Hetman Skoropadsky in August 1918. Pay attention to whose hand is in his pocket and who is paying attention. Photo: Wikipedia
After declaring himself a hetman, he limited the Russian language in Ukraine, requiring communication only in Ukrainian, which, I repeat, I myself did not know. But he did not wear vyshyvanka (they were worn only in villages), preferring a Circassian coat with gazyrs and a Caucasian dagger.
And in the same 1918, he wrote in his diary: “If we have a free development of Russian and Ukrainian culture, we can flourish. If we now abandon the first culture, we will be only a bed for other nations.”
He did not reject these words, leaving them in his memories.
By facilitating the Russian revolutions, Germany delayed its military catastrophe. But she couldn’t change the course of history. At the end of 1918, Germany and its allies capitulate, its soldiers are returned to their homeland, which will put an end to the independence of Ukraine.
Yet for seven and a half months the Germans feasted in the Ukraine.
A million tons of grain, mountains of meat and fat – well, how not a feast? Germany was starving, in 1916 the Kaiser introduced a pro-dictatorship dictatorship: he confiscated the “surplus” food of the peasants. But stealing from your own is dangerous. They dated strangers, with the Slavs.
The army was also allowed to benefit: each soldier could send home a 5 kg package from Ukraine once a month. Despite the fact that Germany and Austria-Hungary have 450 thousand bayonets in Ukraine! Imagine the scale.
Ukrainian peasants revolted and refused to sow bread. And why, if the crop is taken away?
There was also a “carrot”: peasants who voluntarily sold bread to the Germans were given a coupon for 25 pounds for a bottle (1/20 of a bucket) of vodka at a fixed price – 140 rubles. for a bucket If the village headman ensured the delivery of more than 10 thousand pounds of bread, then he personally received a bucket of vodka free of charge.
But more and more bread was needed, Germany tried it. The German Gauleiters introduced forced agricultural labor under penalty of punishment ranging from flogging to the death penalty. That is, the German courts-martial extended their jurisdiction to the citizens of a country that Germany had just recognized, so to speak, as an independent state.
Perhaps this is all you need to know about the degree of “independence”.
The Germans in kyiv in the summer of 1918: checking documents of “friends” – Ukrainians. Photo: RIA Novosti
On the map, the Ukrainian state occupied fairly large territories. But a map is one thing and reality is another. Hetman controlled only Kyiv, and even then in some places. Lviv, Crimea and part of the eastern regions – abroad. The village is under the control of the hetmans, who did not recognize anyone’s authority. German garrisons constantly attacked the detachments of Father Makhno. Rivers of bread flow to Germany and rivers of blood on Ukrainian soil.
By the way, Bandera was already there then. Little. He is 9 years old, his father is a member of the Ukrainian parliament, however, this is another Ukraine – the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic. And so it was. A self-proclaimed country on the lands of Austria-Hungary, which Poland will later take for itself …
Rich food for contemporary historical parallels.
The cavalry guard is short-lived.
Skoropadsky’s soldier brother in the cavalry regiment, Karl Mannerheim, became a national hero of Finland. Skoropadsky and Mannerheim have a lot in common. Both belong to the entourage of Emperor Nicholas II. They both fought, became generals. Both tried to build nation-states on the ruins of the empire.
A comic parallel: both did not know the languages of their states. Mannerheim did not understand Finnish, he is a Swedish-German nobleman by blood. But Mannerheim succeeded with the state, while Skoropadsky did not. When German troops left the Ukraine at the end of 1918, the hetman fled with them wearing a German coat and bandaging his face. Petlyura seized power, but not for long. The Bolsheviks came, the Ukraine came home.
Otherwise it could not be. The attempt at state independence was doomed to fail, in the words of prominent Russian historian Yevgeny Spitsyn, due to “the prostitution of national elites.” With cries of “independence” they searched for their masters abroad. And all the ideas were drawn from radical nationalism, brought to kyiv from Galicia.
By the way
Skoropadsky, having fled from kyiv, lived in Germany. The ex-hetman was appropriately supported by all German rulers: from Emperor Wilhelm II to Hitler. He provided a house, paid a decent pension. He lived 72 years. He died in April 1945 by a bomb from an American bomber.