The Entangled Eastern Front and the Making of the Ukrainian State: a Forgotten Peace – a Forgotten War and Nation-Building

  • Post category:Issue XIX

Mark von Hagen
American historian, Professor of Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian history at the University of Arizona (USA)


Abstract. In his article the author reproduced a picture of the Ukrainian state formation and described the stages of the independence movement deployment. Despite all the efforts — conscious or unconscious — of the numerous “authors” of Ukrainian statehood, there were always powerful forces who opposed the idea of Ukraine’s independence. The Bolsheviks and Whites showed the most hostile attitude towards the idea of the Ukrainian state and nation. This was confirmed by the devastating actions of the White Army and the Polish Republic in the western lands of Ukraine. A first war between Soviet Russia and Ukraine poisoned the relations of the two revolutionary governments and ruined the peace among the Ukrainian Bolsheviks. However, because of their state weakness and the urgent need for food for the starving Petrograd and other parts of Russia, Bolsheviks were supposed to pretend that they take their slogans of national self-determination seriously. Even recognizing the Ukrainian People’s Republic and at the same time putting ultimatums on it and threatening war, unless the UNR surrenders its armed forces and statehood to the subject of the Bolsheviks.
The author explored the process of German-Austrian occupation of Ukraine, noting that the occupation in wartime is characterized by the features of colonial regimes of exploitation and subordination, which vividly and at the same time sadly demonstrates the presence of the Central Powers in Ukraine in 1918. By strengthening the Ukrainian government they had contracted with and promised military and political support, the Germans were simultaneously weakening and undermining it because of their inflated demands. The article also analyzes the limited sovereignty of the Ukrainian state, describes the attitude to the idea of the Ukrainian state and the nation of other peoples.
Keywords: Ukrainian state, independence, sovereignty, occupation, Bolsheviks, Soviet Russia, Central states.

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