Communist Party of Ukraine

Communist Party of Ukraine or CPU (Комуністична партія України; Komunistychna partiia Ukrainy). Known until 1952 as the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine, or CP(B)U, the CPU was a part of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), which embraced the Communists of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and controled all aspects of society. The CPU accepted Marxism as its ideology and, according to its political program, claimed to be building communism in Ukraine.

The CP(B)U arose through the association of local groups of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' party (Bolshevik) (RSDRP[B]) in Ukraine. When it came to power, the Party was joined by small groups of the Borotbists and Ukrainian Communist party members as well as Jewish left-wing socialists. The founders and first leaders of the CP(B)U were predominantly Russian or Jewish members of the intelligentsia. The rank and file consisted of Russian and nationally indifferent Ukrainian workers in large industrial cities. At the time of its founding in 1918 no more than 7 percent of the Party’s membership considered itself Ukrainian. The Ukrainian policy of the CP(B)U was defined at its founding conference as follows: ‘The Conference of the CP(B)U considers the task of our party in Ukraine to be: to struggle for the revolutionary union of Ukraine with Russia on the principles of proletarian centralism within the boundaries of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic.’

The Bolsheviks in Ukraine separated themselves from the Mensheviks and formed their own organizations only in 1917. In the summer of 1917 the Central Committee (CC) of the RSDRP(B) brought the Bolsheviks in Ukraine under two territorial organizations: the regional organization of southwest Ukraine, with a central office in Kyiv, and a provincial organization of the Donbas-Kryvyi Rih Basin, with offices in Kharkiv and Katerynoslav. The Kyiv Bolsheviks, influenced by Ukrainian national Communists, had a greater respect for the Ukrainian national revolution and voted against preparations for the October Revolution of 1917, considering it unrealistic under the prevailing conditions in Ukraine. The Bolshevik groups from Kharkiv, however, favored the seizure of power by the soviets. At the Party conferences held in July and December of 1917 Volodymyr Zatonsky, Vasyl Shakhrai, and Yurii Lapchynsky demanded that the Bolshevik organizations throughout Ukraine be merged into one Ukrainian Communist party, which would participate in the Ukrainian national revolution in order to gain control of it. The CC of the RSDRP(B) and the Kharkiv-Katerynoslav organizations, however, underestimated the importance and strength of the national renaissance in Ukraine and tried to separate themselves from Ukraine by creating the ‘independent’ Donets–Kryvyi Rih Soviet Republic in Ukraine’s industrial region. Only in 1918, when events forced the Bolsheviks to recognize the existence of the Ukrainian National Republic and then to begin military operations against it and to set up their own government in Kharkiv to challenge the authority of the Central Rada, did the Bolsheviks agree to form a single Communist Party of Ukraine. At the Tahanrih Bolshevik Conference on 20 April 1918 Mykola Skrypnyk, with the support of the Kyiv Bolsheviks, overcame the opposition of the Russian delegates and forced through a resolution setting up the CP(B)U as an independent party with no organizational subordination to the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) (RCP[B]).

However, the first congress of the CP(B)U, which took place in Moscow on 5–12 July 1918, revoked the resolution of Tahanrih and declared that the CP(B)U was an integral part of the RCP(B) and was subject to its central committee. There was a fierce struggle over revolutionary tactics in Ukraine between the Kyiv and Kharkiv-Katerynoslav groups at this and the two subsequent congresses. After each unsuccessful attempt of the CP(B)U to gain the support of the Ukrainian people, particularly in 1919 and 1920, a Ukrainian national opposition (led by Vasyl Shakhrai, Yurii Lapchynsky, and later the former Borotbists) sprang up in the Party, demanding its separation from the RCP(B). But Moscow and the Russian majority in the CP(B)U consistently suppressed each opposition group, treating it as a manifestation of Ukrainian nationalism.

The CP(B)U came to power in Ukraine only through the support of the Bolshevik occupation army (see Ukrainian-Soviet War, 1917–21) and had to move its headquarters to Moscow several times. It became firmly established only after the final occupation of Ukraine by the Bolsheviks. The Party was not very large or popular (see table 1). Only 19 percent of its membership in 1926 was Ukrainian, even after the left wing of the Ukrainian Social Democratic Workers' party (Independentists) and the Borotbists (Ukrainians constituted 52 percent of the industrial proletariat at the time) had joined the Party. Politically the CP(B)U was sectarian, and its socioeconomic policies encountered popular resistance from the very beginning. In introducing War Communism in Ukraine, the Party did not want to distribute the landowners’ estates among the peasantry; instead it tried to turn them forcibly into state farms and communes. Along with the government requisition of farm products, this policy sparked peasant revolts. In 1920 a Workers’ Opposition emerged in the CP(B)U which, with the help of workersstrikes, took over the leadership of the Party at the fourth congress and revoked the economic policy of War Communism. This faction was suppressed by administrative means by the Central Committee of the RCP(B).

The power of the CP(B)U became firmly established in Ukraine only during the period of the New Economic Policy, and particularly after the Borotbists and Ukrainian Communist party had joined the Party. A struggle over nationality policy continued in the Party throughout the 1920s. When, in 1922–3, Joseph Stalin and the CC of the RCP(B) renewed their proposal to abolish the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and the other Union republics and to incorporate them as autonomous republics into the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, the Politburo of the CC of the CP(B)U rejected the proposal, and the Ukrainian delegates in Moscow, led by Mykola Skrypnyk, Hryhorii Hrynko, and Oleksander Shumsky and supported by the national Communists of other republics and by Vladimir Lenin, overcame the Russian chauvinists in the Party. They saved the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, although they had to accept a compromise in the form of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as a federated state (see National communism).

A more serious conflict in the CP(B)U arose over Ukrainization. The non-Ukrainian majority in the Party, led by Emmanuil Kviring and Dmytro Lebid, stubbornly opposed both the promotion of Ukrainian personnel to the Party’s and republic’s leadership and the propagation of the Ukrainian language and culture. This pro-Russian wing was sharply attacked by the national opposition in the Party, led by Oleksander Shumsky and Mykola Khvylovy and widely supported by the Ukrainian intelligentsia and young people as well as by Mykola Skrypnyk. Faced with this united front, the CC of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) (VKP[B]) recalled Kviring from Ukraine. But in 1925 it replaced him at the head of the CP(B)U with Lazar Kaganovich and instructed Kaganovich not to stop Ukrainization, but to divide the Ukrainian national Communists and suppress them. Kaganovich fulfilled his assignment. Skrypnyk and some of the Ukrainian Communists were forced to take a stand against Shumsky and Khvylovy, who, distrusting the Russian chauvinist bureaucracy, issued the call ‘away from Moscow.’ During 1926–8, 36,300 members, or 12.5 percent of the membership, were expelled from the CP(B)U. The Communist Party of Western Ukraine supported the Shumskyists. At the same time the CP(B)U conducted a struggle against the Trotskyist Left Opposition within its ranks.

After his victory over Leon Trotsky and Nikolai Bukharin, Joseph Stalin established his dictatorship over the Party and government. Political power was strictly centralized in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and both the Party and society became bureaucratized. Stalin’s centralization found a natural ally in Russian chauvinism and its champion—the Russian bureaucracy. Local national autonomy was seen as a hindrance; hence, in 1933–4 Stalin abruptly changed the nationality policy of the VKP(B). He condemned ‘local nationalism’ as the principal enemy of centralism and ordered that Ukrainization be stopped. During this period the forced collectivization of the peasantry and the elimination of the kulaks were carried out, accompanied by famine. The CP(B)U went through a severe crisis during these changes of policy: in the first phase of collectivization and the anti-kulak campaign in 1929–30, 26,700 members were expelled, and some of them were arrested. During the Famine-Genocide of 1932–3, 51,000 more members were expelled. The demands of Mykola Skrypnyk and some of the other leaders of the CP(B)U that obligatory grain delivery quotas be lowered and the famine stopped were regarded by Stalin as placing the interests of the Ukrainian peasantry above the interests of socialism, and Skrypnyk’s followers were accused of nationalism. Immediately after this, Ukrainization was halted, and its promoters, as well as numerous Ukrainian writers and cultural figures, were killed. An additional 27,500 members were expelled from the CP(B)U. During the whole crisis 46 percent of the CP(B)U’s membership was expelled and persecuted, including 49 percent of the members of its Central Committee.

The campaign of terror was directed by the second secretary of the CC of CP(B)U, Pavel Postyshev, who was sent from Moscow in January 1933 with a large number of Russians to replace the purged officials and to take over the Party and government machine in Ukraine. Postyshev eliminated every Ukrainian Communist who at any time had been a Borotbist, Ukapist, Shumskyist, Skrypnykist, Trotskyist, or any other oppositionist. Almost the whole generation of revolutionaries that had created the CP(B)U and established Soviet power in Ukraine was destroyed. Although new members were admitted to the Party in 1934 and the proportion of Ukrainians increased to 60 percent, the new members were careerists who blindly accepted every change of policy. Twenty percent of the CP(B)U's members were apparatchiks, that is, employees of the Party, while the proportion of workers decreased from 58.5 percent in 1921 to 41.1 percent in 1933. The Party’s new statutes of 1934 transformed it into an economic-administrative institution that began to control all sectors of society. The CP(B)U enforced a monolithic discipline among its members by means of privileges and fear.

In 1936–8 the completely loyal CP(B)U underwent another great purge. Considering war with Germany and Japan to be inevitable, Joseph Stalin decided to uproot well in advance all ‘potential double-dealers’ who could become ‘traitors.’ In 1936, 45,000 members of the CP(B)U were expelled and arrested. In 1937–8, during theYezhov terror, another 162,000 members, or over 50 percent of the Party’s total membership, were purged. In the course of this campaign even Pavel Postyshev and Stanislav Kosior (first secretary of the CC of the CP(B)U in 1930–37) turned against Stalin and were executed. In the second half of 1937 almost all the members of the CC CP(B)U and the government of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic were shot. In 1938 Nikita Khrushchev, with a large group of Russian Communists, came from Moscow to take over the leadership of the CP(B)U. He also promoted hitherto-unknown Ukrainian Party functionaries of the raion level to important positions in the Party and the government.

In the 1930s the CP(B)U finally lost all contact with the Ukrainian people. The lack of popular support became apparent during the German-Soviet war, when the Party could neither organize a strong underground in the German-occupied territories nor bring the popular-resistance movement under its leadership. Almost all Party members either fled east or were mobilized into the army. Not more than 1 percent of the CP(B)U membership remained in Ukraine, and most of these members fought with the Soviet partisans in Polisia, not in the underground.

After the Second World War, as a result of its powerful administrative machine, based primarily on the secret police, the CP(B)U quickly consolidated its authority in Ukraine and organized the reconstruction of the economy. But politically and ideologically it remained a lifeless body: no programmatic, theoretical, or international-political problems were discussed at its congresses any longer. There was no opposition in the Party. The mild purges of 1946 and 1949–52, in which 3 percent of the members were expelled from the Party for inactivity, disloyalty during the war, or manifestations of Ukrainian ‘nationalism’ or Jewish ‘cosmopolitanism,’ did not disrupt the general routine. The only ideological problem that perturbed the CP(B)U after the war was ‘Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism.’ In accordance with the directives of Andrei Zhdanov and Lazar Kaganovich, the CP(B)U became a manifest champion of Russian chauvinism: praising everything Russian, it cultivated an inferiority complex among Ukrainians, systematically hampered and destroyed Ukrainian culture, and permitted extensive Russification of Ukrainian education. The Russification policy and chauvinist propaganda reached their greatest intensity during the secretariat of Leonid Melnikov in 1950–3. Joseph Stalin’s death and, particularly, Nikita Khrushchev’s criticism of Stalin at the 20th Congress of the CPSU, followed by the defeat of the opposition led by Viacheslav Molotov, Lazar Kaganovich, Georgii Malenkov, and Georgii Zhukov in 1956–8, ended in the condemnation of Stalinism, but not of Russian chauvinism. The Communist Party of Ukraine continued to be a force hostile to the Ukrainian people. The fact that only a little more than 2 percent of Ukraine’s population belonged to the Party testifies to its unpopularity. In 1956, for every 1,000 inhabitants of Ukraine, only 22 were Communists (38 in the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic).

By the end of 1958 the CPU had 1,095,520 members and candidates. Of these, 60.3 percent were Ukrainian, 28.2 percent Russian, and 11.5 percent of other nationality. Twenty-five percent of the members had joined the Party before the war, 33 percent during the war and 42 percent after the Second World War. According to age, 17.6 percent of the members were 30 or under, 36.9 percent were 31–40, 28.2 percent were 41–50, and 17.3 percent were over 50. Women constituted 17.5 percent of the membership. Forty percent of the members had completed secondary education and higher education (in 1940 only 19 percent had done so). Twenty-nine percent of the members were employed in industry, construction, and transportation, 19 percent in agriculture, and 52 percent in administrative or academic work. (The respective figures for 1949 were 35 percent, 19 percent, and 46 percent.) The Party consisted of 52,983 local cells, attached to various plants, institutions, organizations, villages, and towns.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, when Mykola Pidhirny (Podgorny) and Petro Shelest were first secretaries of the CPU, some elements of the Party adopted a position on the nationality question that diverged somewhat from extreme Russian chauvinism. At the same time cautious attempts were made to increase the Party’s membership. In January 1959 only 5.05 percent of the population in Ukraine over 20 years of age belonged to the CPU, compared to the 6.6 percent of the Soviet population that belonged to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and 7.81 percent of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic population. Pidhorny and Shelest tried to expand the Party rapidly. Between the 20th congress in 1959 and the 24th congress in 1971 the CPU grew from 1,282,500 to 2,534,600 members and candidates, an increase of 97.6 percent. At the same time the CPSU grew by only 43 percent.

With the general increase in membership the proportion of Ukrainians in the CPU increased also (see table 2). In spite of these results, the number of members and candidates, even in 1971, remained disproportionately small. To some extent the continued weakness of the CPU was attributable to its weakness in the western oblasts of Ukraine. The reduced, but by no means eliminated, under-representation of Ukrainians in the CPU also reflected the privileged position of the Russians in Ukraine. Furthermore, the position of Ukrainians in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was relatively weak: in 1967 only 4.9 percent of all Ukrainians (residing in or outside Ukraine) were members of the CPSU, compared to 6.4 percent of Georgians, 6.1 percent of Russians, 5.6 percent of Armenians, and 4.7 percent of Belarusians.

Petro Shelest tried to defend the economic interests of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, particularly its coal and other heavy industries. Some steps were also taken to improve national-cultural conditions in Ukraine. In August 1965, with the approval of the Party leadership, plans were drawn up to partly de-Russify the institutions of higher learning, which are under the Ministry of Higher Education of the Ukrainian SSR. But the plans were never implemented, owing to ‘parental protest.’ Instead, in August and September 1965, on orders from the Kremlin, the first wave of arrests swept Ukraine (see Dissident movement). To protest this persecution of nationally conscious Ukrainian intellectuals, Ivan Dziuba addressed a memorandum to Shelest—a book-length manuscript entitled Internatsionalizm chy rusyfikatsiia? (Internationalism or Russification?). In November 1966 Shelest spoke at the Fifth Congress of the Writers' Union of Ukraine and promised Party support for those who cultivated ‘our beloved wonderful Ukrainian language.’ In March 1968 Fedir Ovcharenko, who was relatively sympathetic to the needs of the Ukrainian intellectuals, was appointed secretary for ideology at the CC of the CPU. Shelest’s book Ukraïno nasha radians'ka (Our Soviet Ukraine) appeared in 1970. In it the development of the Ukrainian SSR into a mighty European state was presented in the spirit of Leninist nationality policy. The book extolled the Cossack period of Ukrainian history, approved of the Ukrainization policy of the 1920s, and avoided excessive praise of the Russians.

This development of the CPU was cut short by the CPSU Politburo, which in May 1972 removed Petro Shelest from office and appointed Leonid Brezhnev’s protégé, Volodymyr Shcherbytsky, first secretary of the CPU. Earlier, in January 1972, another wave of arrests aimed at Ukrainian intellectuals had begun. In October 1972 Fedir Ovcharenko was replaced by Valentyn Malanchuk, who in 1979 was replaced by Oleksander Kapto.

Shcherbytsky’s appointment signaled an intensification of the Party’s anti-Ukrainian policy. The Party purge of 1973–5, connected with the renewal of membership documents, affected the CPU (4.6 percent of the members were expelled) more than the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (2.9 to 3.2 percent of its members were expelled).

At the 25th Congress of the CPU in 1976, Volodymyr Shcherbytsky gave his main speech in Russian, an unprecedented step since Joseph Stalin's death. At this congress I. Sokolov, a Russian, was elected second secretary in charge of cadres of the CC of the CPU. Again, this was the first time since 1953 that a non-Ukrainian had been given such an important post in the Party machine.

On 1 January 1978 the CPU had 2,749,268 members and candidates. By nationality 65.8 percent of the members were Ukrainians, 27.3 percent were Russians, and 6.9 percent were of other nationalities. The number of Ukrainians in the Party remained disproportionately small: according to the census of 17 January 1979, Ukrainians constitute 73.6 percent, Russians 21.1 percent, and others 5.3 percent of the republic's population. The number of Ukrainians in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was also relatively small: in 1976 only 9 percent of Ukrainians over 20 years of age were members of the CPSU, compared to 12.8 percent of Georgians, 12.3 percent of Azerbaidzhanians, 12.2 percent of Kazakhs, 11.4 percent of Russians, and 9.6 percent of Belarusians.

Five percent of CPU members in 1978 had joined the Party before the war, 10 percent during the war, and 85 percent after the Second World War (16 percent in 1946–57, 38 percent in 1958–67, and 31 percent in 1968–77). By age the statistics were as follows: members 30 years and younger, 15.5 percent; 31–40, 26.3 percent; 41–50, 26.1 percent; and over 50, 32.1 percent. Women accounted for 22.9 percent of the members. Of the members, 74.5 percent had completed secondary or higher education (26.7 percent had a higher education). In terms of occupation, 43.2 percent of the members and candidates were workers, 16.2 percent were peasants belonging to collective farms, and 40.6 percent were functionaries, etc. The members were employed in the following branches of the economy: 41.9 percent in industry, construction, and transportation; 16.2 percent in agriculture; and 41.9 percent in other areas.

The members of the CPU belonged to 64,500 primary organizations, which existed at various plants, institutions, organizations, and localities. The primary Party organizations elect delegates to raion Party conferences, which in turn elected delegates to oblast conferences; these then elected delegates directly to the all-Union congresses of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and to the republican congresses of the CPU. The local organizations at each level were directed by Party committees headed by secretaries. The republican congress of the CPU elected the CC of the CPU every five years. The permanent agencies of the CC and the top governing agencies of the CPU were: on political policy, the Politburo of the CC of the CPU (called the Presidium in 1953–66), which consisted of 7–11 members; and, on organizational matters, the Secretariat of the CC of the CPU, consisting of 3–6 members. The entire Party machine was headed by the first secretary of the CC of the CPU.

It would appear that with the possible exception of Vitalii Fedorchuk and Volodymyr Shcherbytsky, leaders of the CPU had not contributed substantially to Yurii Andropov’s or Konstantin Chernenko’s accession to power as general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on 12 November 1982 and 13 February 1984 respectively—quite a difference from the important role that CPU leaders played in the accession of Nikita Khrushchev (1953) and Leonid Brezhnev (1964).

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Yaroslav Bilinsky, Vsevolod Holubnychy

[This part of this article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]

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