Початкова сторінка

Сергій Білокінь (Київ)

Персональний сайт історика України


Members of the Central Rada

S. Bilokin

The fate of such a peculiar social group as members of the Central Rada deserves to be dealt with as a separate subject. The question to be answered is whether a person who had once made part of Ukraine’s democratic parliament had any chances of survival in his or her own country. Unfortunately, the precise number of members of that parliament has never been established. According to the records of the credentials committee of its 6th General Session, the Ukrainian Central Rada included 798 persons. Pavlo Khrystyuk spoke of 822 mandates, and the historian Isydor Nahayevskyi put their number at 848. The two most authoritative sources of information about these people are the reference book compiled by V. Verstyuk and T. Ostashko (1998), which contains 126 biographical entries [114], and The Encyclopedia of Ukraine (Vol. I–V) published in Toronto between 1984/85 and 1993.

After the fall of the Ukrainian State, the corps of Central Rada deputies divided into two parts: those who stayed in Ukraine and those who emigrated (some of the latter later returned). Thus, Khrystofor Baranovskyi spent a week in jail in May 1919 and left the country the following year [115]. He would die in Brazil in 1941. Naturally, we are interested in those who remained in the territory under the Bolshevik control.

At the beginning of 1918, Muravyov’s thugs plunged the golden-domed Kiev into a bloodbath the like of which the city had not seen since the times of Andrey Bogolyubsky and the Tartar khans Batu and Mengli-Girey. Fedir Ernst, an art historian, told the story in a letter to his brother, the archaeologist Mykola Ernst, dated June 15, 1918: “Bodies of executed people were carted on drays through the whole city, in heaps of 10-15 people per dray, uncovered, in twisted poses, soaked in blood – whole caravans of them. And before those scums got out of Kiev I confess I trembled for my life every minute and ran away under bullets more than once. [116]” One would wonder how the Bolsheviks managed to excite their Red Guards, who supposedly had been socially safe and tame before the war, to a bloodthirsty frenzy. A White counterintelligence operative, Nikolai Sigida, made an interesting observation about the Reds of the end of 1917–beginning of 1918:

“The chiefs of the force were beasts, the shootings and the most awful atrocities accompanied them throughout their expedition and were designed to arouse that mob which was called troops. Those people gave not a minute of respite to a man who trudges through blood on to more blood, not a minute of sleep to a man intoxicated with the blood of his brother to keep the frenzy from wearing off before the goal was achieved. A purely bestial understanding of the mass psychology.” [117]

Sigida was writing about the Red detachments of N. A. Khovrin and R. F. Sivers which were advancing on Taganrog. But we also have similar testimonies about those which were marching on Kiev. Muravyov himself described his “army” in practically identical terms: “This is an army that can only attack. As soon as it stops, it begins to disintegrate, requisition, plunder, and kill. [118]” In his fiery harangues Muravyov promised his soldiers he would give them the captured cities for pillage. He kept his word. S. Moyseyev, chairman of the 1st Revolutionary Army Committee, who was closely acquainted with Muravryov, recalled those dramatic days in Kiev: “When Muravyov arrived at the place of executions and found himself surrounded by a mob of brutish Red Guards laden with loot, he did not order them to stop plundering but, on the contrary, urged them to further shootings saying that the most important thing now was to be ruthless. [119]

Considering the fact that the conduct of Red Guards moving in different directions was the same, one may well wonder whether this was because the general guidelines for manipulating this rabble were drawn up in Moscow with their commanders receiving the same instructions.

One victim of mysterious assassinations so common in those years was Ivan Steshenko, General Secretary for Education in the Central Rada administration [120]. A prominent public figure, he was the focus of attention of very different people.

“Everybody knows,” said one of his obituaries, “how many insults were hurled at I. M. [Steshenko] by enemies of Ukraine, the Black-Hundreders, the ‘socialists’ from the K.[iyevskaya] Mysl, and – it makes one ashamed of remembering – from some of the ‘conscious’ Ukrainians for his dedicated activities. His name was always on the lips of the beneficent Russian teachers. When [Muravyov’s] ‘Bolsheviks’ came, they rushed to search for I. M. to take him away for execution. In winter, in a terrible snowstorm, I. M. left Kiev on foot… and on that occasion escaped from Bolshevik bullets…” [121]

The unknown assassins caught him later, in another place. Two revolver shots mortally wounded him late at night on July 31, 1918 on Kurakinska St. in Poltava. He had not found a cab and was walking with his son to spend the night with his friends. The following day he died in a hospital without regaining consciousness [122]. Remembering the departed Mochulskyi and Narbut, the writer Halyna Zhurba wrote:

“This was especially painful after the recent murder of Olexandr Murashko who had died at the hands of ‘unknown’ bandits. In actual fact, the Moscow Bolshevik hand systematically destroyed Ukrainian cultural figures, such as Steshenko and oth.[ers].” [123]

It is interesting that the Steshenko assassination was the one case where the Bolsheviks assumed responsibility. Although in July 1918 Poltava was under the control of Hetman Skoropadskyi’s Ukrainian State, the 1941 warrant for the arrest of Steshenko’s wife Oxana issued by the UkrSSR People’s Commissar for State Security Meshyk said quite definitely: “[Oxana] Steshenko’s husband was formerly the education minister of the Central Rada (killed by the Red forces in 1918). [124]” At an interrogation held on July 22, 1941 the investigator pressed Oxana Mykhaylivna: “We know that your husband Steshenko was killed in 1918 by the Red Army forces as a minister of the Hetmanate (sic), is this so? [125]” Incredible as it may seem, there is corroborating evidence of this version. Visiting Poltava, S. Yefremov wrote in his diary on December 20, 1923:

“Have learned terrible details of the murder of Steshenko from Kost Ivanovych [Tovkach]. He was sentenced to death by the Bolshevik organization of the Zinkiv District; the sentence was carried out by a member of that organization. His name is Bashlovka. It is hard to understand why the judgment fell on Steshenko, of all people. [126]

In 1919, Ivan Lutsenko, a doctor from Odessa and a member of the Central Committee of the Party of Socialists-Separatists, fell in battle, and Volodymyr Naumenko was executed “on the basis of the Red terror.” Illya Shrah died in Chernihiv while being held by the Bolsheviks under house arrest, and Kuzma Korzh was executed by the Cheka in Kiev. The ordeal of Vsevolod Holubovych was quite characteristic. In 1919 alone he was detained twice by the Communists, and in August 1920 he was arrested by the Cheka in Kamyanets-Podilskyi. He was sentenced to five years of forced labor in a concentration camp but later released under the amnesty declared by the VUTsVK in 1921. He was told, however, to report to the militia every week. Employed as head of the capital construction department of the All-Ukrainian Council of National Economy, he was arrested again for alleged involvement in the case of the “Ukrainian National Center.” On January 2, 1932 Holubovych was sentenced to ten years in concentration camps. On February 7, 1932 the USSR GPU Board reduced his term to six years. Taking into account the time he had spent in jail awaiting trial, his term was to expire in the summer of 1937. But on June 2 that year the NKVD requested the Presidium of the U.S.S.R. TsIK to extend his term – and he was duly given another five years. On May 16 1939 he died in the Yaroslav prison. He would not have been released anyway: the expiration of a prison term meant nothing to the Bolsheviks.

Another two members of the Central Rada, Academician Mykola Vasylenko of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences and his brother Kostyantyn, were arrested in 1924 and put on trial in the case of the so-called “Action Center.” Both were sentenced to 10 years in prison. On November 24 of the same year Mykola was released. He would die in Kiev in 1935. His younger brother remained in prison but was later also released. In 1937 he was arrested for a second time in Vinnytsya. Shortly after the beginning of the war Kostyantyn Vasylenko was executed as a political prisoner (all criminal offenders were set free).

The SVU [127] case involved seven members of the Central Rada. They were Serhiy Yefremov, Volodymyr Chekhivskyi, Andiy Nikovskyi, Yosyp Hermayze, Hryhoriy Holoskevych, Valentyn Otamanovskyi, and – the last one of this group – Lyudmyla Starytska-Chernyakhivska. Nikovskyi served a term in the notorious Solovetsky camp and died in Leningrad during the war, early in the blockade period. Hryhoriy Holoskevych hanged himself in Tobolsk in 1934 after his release.

Fifty persons were arrested in the case of the “Ukrainian National Center” (UNTs) which involved more ormer members of the Central Rada than any other single campaign. Four of them – Vsevolod Holubovych, Vasyl Mazurenko, Pavlo Khrystyuk, and Mykola Chechel – were arrested simultaneously on March 2, 1931. They were followed by Mykola Levytskyi, Arkadiy Stepanenko, Dmytro Koliukh, Mukola Lyubinskyi, Mykola Stasyuk, and Mykola Shrag, the son of Illya Shrag mentioned earlier. They received rather short sentences that ranged from three to six years. Another member of the Central Rada, Anatoliy Pisotskyi (Andriy Richytskyi) was sentenced to death in the UVO [128] case, a ramification of the UNTs purge. He was executed in 1934. In later years 33 UNTs defendants were imprisoned again on charges of “anti-Soviet activities” and “espionage.” Of these, 21 were executed and the remaining 12 received new prison terms. It became known not long ago that Mykola Levytskyi died in 1935 in a Siberian labor camp, Mykola Chechel was executed in Suzdal in 1937, Vasyl Mazurenko in Alma-Ata, and Arkadiy Stepanenko in Kiev in 1938. As was already mentioned, Vsevolod Holubovych died in the Yaroslavl prison. Pavlo Khrystyuk perished in a concentration camp in 1941. When the Germans occupied Mariupol during WW II, Mykola Stasyuk was working as a night watchman in the city park.

Outside these large groups many perished one by one. A member of the Central and the Little radas, the U.N.R. Minister of Internal Affairs Mykhaylo Tkachenko was interned in Russia and confined in a Moscow camp where he died in 1920. Olexandr Stepanenko returned to Ukraine in 1922 after a couple of years in emigration. In 1924 he was exiled to Russia and died there shortly afterward. The GPU arrested the ideologist of Ukrainian nationalism Mykola Mikhnovskyi in the spring of 1924 but released him after a brief detention. Next morning he was found dead, hanged in a garden.

General of the U.N.R. Army Yuriy Tyutyunnyk died a tragic death. Lured by the GPU to Ukraine, he was arrested in 1929 and executed in Moscow. Fedir Kryzhanivskyi was arrested in 1930. In 1933 he returned to Kiev after serving a three-year term. In 1938 he was arrested for a second time and executed. The aviator Viktor Pavlenko, a general in the U.N.R. Army, returned from emigration and died in the Kuban area during the man-made famine of 1932. Stepan Erastov died the following year not far away, in Sukhumi. Those imprisoned in 1933–34 included Serhiy Vikul, Mykhaylo Poloz (in Solovetsky Islands), Olexandr Shumskyi (liquidated by the NKVD state terrorist P. Sudoplatov), and the poet Mykola Voronyi. Yevhen Kasyanenko and Olexandr Yanko perished in 1938.

The Ukrainian non-Communist historians generally agree that Chairman of the Central Rada, President of Ukraine Mykhaylo Hrushevskyi was deliberately put to death in Kislovodsk on November 25, 1934.

Some of the Central Rada members stayed abroad, and the Bolsheviks did not feel comfortable about it. Already in 1926 Symon Petlyura was assassinated by a terrorist in Paris. After the Second World War, four prominent emigres were kidnapped abroad and died in Soviet prisons. These were Ivan Feshchenko-Chopivskyi, Mykola Galagan, Valentyn Sadovskyi, and Maxym Slavinskyi, then a very old man. It appears that all the members of the Central Rada who had remained in the territory of the U.S.S.R. had been taken care of still before the war. Of the new arrivals – the four kidnapped ones – Ivan Feshchenko-Chopivskyi lived longest (until September 2, 1952).

Now let us see who was still alive abroad at the moment of his death. Toward the end of 1953 12 former deputies of the Ukrainian Parliament turned up abroad for a joint action. They were Mykhaylo Yeremiyiv, Pavlo Zaytsev, Volodymyr Kedrovskyi, Mykola Kovalevskyi, Andriy Livytskyi, Boris Martos, Dmytro Chyzhevskyi, Yevhen Onatskyi, Olexandr Slyvynskyi, Levko Chykalenko, Olexandr Shulgin, and Andriy Yakovliv. Nykyfor Hryhoriyiv-Nash drafted their joint declaration which summed up their state-building activities and which they all signed. Apparently, there were more of them living abroad, but they must have simply lost contact with one another. There were quite a few former members of the Central Rada still living in exile abroad when in the U.S.S.R. this “question” had long been “solved.” The above list is far from complete, of course. In addition to those mentioned above, Solomon Goldelman, Andiy Likhnyakevych, Kornel (Korniy) Nishchemenko, Tymish Olesiyuk, Viktor Prykhodko, Kost Turkalo, and Panas Fedenko are known to have died in emigration. The last to go was Antin Postolovskyi who died on August 12, 1990. The age of 70 to 80 years can be assumed to be the natural limit of the lifespan of that generation. We know that abroad a large number of former members of the Central Rada lived to be 70. On the contrary, numerous vital statistics indicate that under Bolshevism the average life expectancy of Ukraine’s prominent public figures was extremely short. They were ruthlessly and systematically exterminated. The notorious Martin Lacis (Latsis) [129] frankly admitted as much:

“The Cheka has arrested almost all former czarist ministers, gendarmes, policemen, [and] prominent personalities from among public figures of the bourgeois class living in Russia.” [130]

To make our reconstruction of the events more accurate, it should be noted that some former members of the Central Rada had died of natural causes before the Great Terror. They included Petro Stebnytskyi (died of starvation in Kiev in 1923), Mykola Bilyashivskyi, director of the National Museum (1926), Olexandr Voloshyn and Volodymyr Shemet (both in 1933), and the cooperator Mykola Levytskyi (1936). Dmytro Isayevych avoided being swallowed up by the lethal whirlpool through sheer geography: at the wrong time he was in what proved to be the right place living in Volynia, then part of Poland (he died in 1973).

Maria Hrushevska, the late President’s wife, died a natural death in 1948. After her death the NKVD arrested their daughter Kateryna, Mykhaylo Hrushevskyi’s brother Olexandr and nephew Serhiy Shamray (both historians), and the husband of the latter’s sister Olga.

Finally, there were two incredible, unique cases. Mykola Shrah, deputy chairman of the Central Rada, who, as we mentioned, had been a co-defendant in the UNTs case, died in Lviv in 1970. And the artist Serhiy Kolos, with whom this writer was acquainted, died in Kiev in 1969.

Notwithstanding the above cases, our principal conclusion stands. In the Soviet Union, members of the Ukrainian Central Rada were slated for liquidation. Some of them had fallen in battle during the War of Liberation. The rest were killed in peacetime. Many of them were arrested years before the Great Terror. Even though they initially received relatively short terms, few, if any, were actually released. Whenever a camp inmate finished his term, a special decision in his individual case had to be taken at the very top for him to be set free. A Gulag prisoner, Jacques Rossi, recalled that at the end of the 1930’s he “met political prisoners who had never been released since 1919–1922 because of ‘extensionism’. [131]


114. V. Verstyuk and T. Ostashko, Diyachi Ukrayinskoyi Tsentralnoyi Rady: Biografichnyi dovidnyk, Kiev, 1998, p. 13.

115. CSAPAU, No. 38654 FP, Box 425.

116. IMFE, F. 13-3, No. 48.

117. N. Sigida, Vospominaniya belogo kontrrazvedchika, Rodina, Moscow, 1990, No. 10, p. 64.

118. L. Grinevich, Sledstvennoye delo, p. 17.

119. Ibid.

120. Encyclopedia of Ukraine (EU), Vol. V, p. 51.

121. [Yu. Siryi], "Pamyaty I. M. Steshenka," Knyhar, 1918, No. 12(13, Col. 684(685.

122. M. Rakhnyuk, † I. M. Steshenko, Kooperatyvna Zorya, Kiev, 1918, Aug. 31, No. 9(12, p. 8.

123. H. Zhurba, "Vid 'Ukrayinskoyi khaty' do 'Muzahetu,' Slovo, Coll. I, New York, 1962, p. 466.

124. CSAPAU, No. 55066 FP, Box 1252, Sh. 1.

125. Ibid., Sh. 14(15.

126. S. Yefremov, Shchodennyky, p. 45.

127. SVU ( Spilka vyzvolennya Ukrayiny ( (Union for Liberation of Ukraine) ( underground nationalist organization invented by the GPU.

128. UVO ( Ukrayinska viyskova organizatsiya ( (Ukrainian Military Organization) ( another GPU sham.

129. LACIS (LATSIS), Martin (true name: Jan Sudrabs) (1888(1938), a Lett by birth, one of Lenin's top butchers. In 1920(21 chief of Cheka in Ukraine. Liquidated by Stalin in 1938.

130. M. Lacis (Sudrabs), Chrezvychaynyye komissii po borbe s kontrrevolyutsiyey, p. 17.

131. Jaques Rossi, Spravochnik po GULAGu, Part 2, p. 288.