Ukrainian Dual Historiographies – Part VI

Dear Readers:

Today continuing this series, based on this piece in VZGLIAD by reporter (and historian) Dmitry Lyskov.

A housekeeping note:  After today’s post, I need at least one more segment to complete this Ukrainian Rada story.  Therefore I will postpone, as needed, tomorrow’s usual month-closing post).  And Happy New Year to everybody!

Okay, where we left off, our intrepid reporter Lyskov is bringing into question the legitimacy of the Kiev Congress of All Soviets (December 4, all dates old-style).  The Congress was convened by the Bolshevik Party, which enjoyed a comfortable majority (60% of representatives) in the Executive Committee of the Kiev Soviet.  The invitations to the local soviets, and the mandates given out, were all supposed to end in a majority-Bolshevik congress, with the result being a massive “DA!” or perhaps even “Duh!”  vote to dissolve the Rada and switch the Ukrainian government over to the Soviets of workers, soldiers and batrak deputies.

Instead, the cunning anti-Bolshevik camp (apparently a coalition of the moderate bourgeoisie plus the Socialist Revolutionaries) managed to hi-jack the Congress by flooding it with hundreds of (un-mandated) pro-Rada delegates.  A motley conglomeration of svidomite hobbyists and SR’s, pretending to be just regular soldiers and workers delegates, voted to support the Rada.  Thus they handed a resounding slap in the face to the Leninists.  But Leninists are not the type who take a slap in the face lying down.  The Bolsheviks called the whole thing a farce, quit the conference and slammed the door really hard on the way out, took off for Kharkov, organized a new Congress, this one voted “the right way” and declared Ukraine to be a Soviet Socialist Republic.  At this point, the stage was set for the confrontation between two competing entities each calling itself the government (vlast).

But here is the kink:  The Soviet government in Russia, led by Lenin, were completely sincere about their proclamations of “self-determination” for the smaller nations comprising the Russian Empire.  If there was one thing in the world (apart from Communism itself) that the Bolsheviks believed in with 100% sincerity, it was this.  And given this major point of doctrine, they totally would have allowed the Ukraine to separate from Russia, even under a bourgeois Rada type government.  The Bolsheviks (as opposed to certain Russian nationalists around even today) believed that there was such an ethnic entity as the Ukrainian people, and that such a people had the right to secede.  Once again, even under a bourgeois government.  Hence, the existence of the Rada itself was not even the real issue, as we shall see below, when we get to The Telegram.

A typical Russian telegraph office

Lyskov agrees mostly with the factualness of  this Ukrainian textbook in its claim that the Soviet of Peoples Commissars sent a bullying telegram to the Rada.  But Lyskov disputes such details as “They demanded that it disband forthwith, and even declared a state of war to exist between the SovNarKom and the Ukrainian Rada.”

The telegram did not, factually, demand that the Rada disperse!  Technically it did not even take sides in the dual-power struggle Team Soviet vs. Team Rada!

This is an important point, because Ukrainian “patriotic” and bourgeois historiography wants to see an international conflict here:  Russia vs. Ukraine.  Not a class struggle either, because they just assume that the bourgeoisie are the rightful ruling class.  Hence, they want to see this history as a Russian invasion against “the Ukrainian people”.  Whose rightful representative was the bourgeois Rada, natch.

While debating the content of the SovNarKom telegram, Lyskov has committed the primal sin of linking the actual text of the telegram.  Since I had previously jested with this telegram and possibly given a wrong impression with my joking around, I feel it is my duty to translate in full.  So here goes:


Manifesto to the Ukrainian people (dated December 4, 1917) containing ultimative demands to the Central Rada.

Council of Peoples Commissars. Spot Lenin in the middle, Stalin in between Lenin and Kollontai making a funny face.

Proceeding from the interests of the unity and brotherly union of of the workers and laborers, of all the exploited masses in their struggle for socialism; proceeding from the recognition of these principles as shown by numerous decisions of the organs of revolutionary democracy, of the soviets, and in particular of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, — the socialist government of Russia, the Soviet of Peoples Commissars, once again asserts the right to self-determination of all nations, which were oppressed by Tsarism and by the Great Russian bourgeoisie; asserts the right of nations even unto separation from (Great) Russia.

And therefore we, the Soviet of Peoples Commissars, recognize the new Ukrainian Republic, its right to completely separate from Russia, or to negotiate any other type of relationship with the Russian Federation, be it federative, or some other type (of relationship).

Anything that touches on the national rights and the national independence of the Ukrainian people, will be recognized by ourselves, the Soviet of Peoples Commissars, immediately, without restrictions, and unconditionally.

Against the Finnish bourgeois republic, which remains bourgeois for the time being, we have not laid a finger on them, we have not in the least limited their national rights or the national independence of the Finnish people, and we will not undertake any steps limiting the national independence of any nation among those (nations) belonging to, or wishing to belong to, the Russian (Российской) Republic.

“You will OBEY the Sovnarkom!”

We accuse the Rada of the following:  Hiding behind “national” phrases, it is conducting a purely bourgeois politics, which for a long time has prevented it from recognizing the Soviets and the Soviet government in the Ukraine; and by the way, the Rada is refusing to convene, as has been demanded by the Ukrainian soviets, the regional congress of Ukrainian soviets as soon as possible.  This two-faced politics is what prevents us from recognizing the Rada as the authoritative representative of the workers and exploited masses of the Ukrainian Republic; and it is this politics which has brought the Rada in the current time to certain acts which make it impossible for us to deal with them in any way.

For example, first of all, the disorganization of the front.

With one-sided commands, the Rada is relocating and recalling Ukrainian units from the front, thus destroying, in effect, the general front line [of the war] which was maintainable only by full cooperation of both [Ukrainian + Russian] Republics.

Secondly, the Rada has proceeded to disarming Soviet troops located in the Ukraine.

Thirdly, the Rada is actually supporting the Cadet-Kaledin conspiracy and the uprising against the Soviet government.  While hypocritically alluding to some fake so-called “autonomy” rights of the Don and Kuban, in this manner covering for Kaledin’s counter-revolutionary actions, which go counter to the interests and the demands of the huge majority of the working Cossacks, the Rada is allowing troops to pass through its territory on their way to meet up with Kaledin, while at the same time preventing the anti-Kaledin troops from passing through.

A Red Guard unit fighting against Ataman Kaledin

Embarked on this course of unbelievably betraying the Revolution, on this course of backing the most determined enemies of the national independence of the peoples of Russia, and of the Soviet government, backing enemies of the workers and the exploited masses, backing the Cadets and Kaledinites; — the Rada has left us no choice except to declare, without any hesitation, war against it (=the Rada), even if it were, technically speaking, the rightful and undisputed organ of the highest government, of an independent bourgeois Ukrainian Republic.

At the current moment, in light of all the circumstances laid out above, the Soviet of Peoples Commissars, presents to the Rada, in full view of the peoples of the Ukrainian and Russian Republics, the following questions:

  1. Will the Rada stop its efforts to disorganize the front lines which we have in common?
  2. Will the Rada agree, in the future, to stop allowing troops to pass through (its territory) on their way to the Don, the Urals, or any other places, without the agreement of the High Command?
  3. Will the Rada agree to support the revolutionary troops in their fight against the counter-revolutionary Cadet-Kaledin uprising?
  4. Will the Rada cease its attempts to disarm Soviet regiments and the Workers Red Guard (units) in the Ukraine, and to return, immediately, to them the arms that were confiscated?

In the case that we do not receive, in the course of the next 48 hours, satisfactory answers to the above demands, then we, the Soviet of Peoples Commissars, will consider the Rada to be in a state of open war against the Soviet government, both in Russia and in the Ukraine.

Sincerely yours,
The Soviet of Peoples Commissars

[to be continued]

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