Mikhnovsky, Mykola

Image - Mykola Mikhnovsky (1893 photo). Image - Mykola Mikhnovsky's brochure Samostiina Ukraina.

Mikhnovsky, Mykola [Міхновський, Микола; Mixnovs’kyj], b 1873 in Turivka, Pryluky county, Poltava gubernia, d 3 March 1924 in Kyiv. Political and community activist, publicist and lawyer, and ideologue of Ukrainian nationalism. He studied law at Kyiv University and during his student years was one of the initiators (1891) of the Brotherhood of Taras. His speech at the Taras Shevchenko anniversary celebrations in Poltava and Kharkiv in 1900, printed in Lviv as Samostiina Ukraïna (Independent Ukraine), became the program of the Revolutionary Ukrainian party (RUP) in its early period. When most of RUP’s membership abandoned an independentist platform, he left it to assist in organizing the Ukrainian People's party (UNP, founded in 1902) and wrote the ‘Ten Commandments’ and the ‘Program’ to underscore its commitment to full Ukrainian statehood. A representative of the citizens of Kharkiv during the unveiling of the Ivan Kotliarevsky monument in Poltava in 1903, Mikhnovsky insisted in speaking in Ukrainian rather than in Russian and inspired the rest of the delegates at the gathering to follow suit. He popularized independentist ideas in various periodicals (short-lived because of a lack of funds) that he edited or published, including Samostiina Ukraïna (Lviv 1905), Khliborob (Lubny) (1905), Zaporizhzhia (Katerynoslav 1906), and Slobozhanshchyna (Kharkiv 1906). A somewhat more durable publication was the newspaper Snip, which he published in Kharkiv in 1912–13.

During the Ukrainian struggle for independence (1917–20) Mikhnovsky was in Kyiv propagating the idea of Ukrainian independence and the formation of a national army. He organized the Ukrainian Military Club (which he represented in the Central Rada) as well as the Khmelnytsky Regiment. A member of the presidium of the First All-Ukrainian Military Congress (18–21 May 1917) (see All-Ukrainian military congresses) and the Ukrainian General Military Committee, he became frustrated by the opposition to his independentist ideas. He was a key figure in the attempt by the Polubotok Regiment to seize power on 18 July 1917. Early in 1918 he began working with the Ukrainian Democratic Agrarian party. After Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky pronounced the federation of Ukraine with Russia, Mikhnovsky joined the anti-hetman insurrection. With the Bolshevik occupation of Ukraine, Mikhnovsky was imprisoned, and upon his release he fled to the Kuban, where he worked in co-operatives and as a teacher at the Pedagogical Technical School in Poltava Stanytsia. He returned to Kyiv in the spring of 1924, but incessant persecution by the Soviet authorities led him to suicide.

Mikhnovsky was the ideologue of independent Ukrainian statehood. He formulated the principles of Ukrainian nationalism in the ‘Ten Commandments’ of the Ukrainian People's party and then developed them into a social program that foresaw an inevitable struggle with both capitalism and the internationalist tenets of socialism and communism. He favored ‘a single united, free, and independent Ukraine ... from the Carpathian Mountains to the Caucasus Mountains.’ Mikhnovsky ultimately proved intolerant of others and unable to unite a strong following to realize his ideas. Nevertheless, his ideas had a significant impact on the post–First World War generation of the 1920s and 1930s, particularly in Western Ukraine and in the emigration. The nationalist Ukrainian Student Organization of Mikhnovsky is named in his honor.

Shemet, S. ‘Mykola Mikhnovs’kyi,’ Khliborobs’ka Ukraïna, 5 (1925)
Andriievs’kyi, V. Mykola Mikhnovs’kyi (Munich 1950)
Mirchuk, P. Mykola Mikhnovs’kyi—Apostol ukraïns’koï derzhavnosty (London 1960)
Horielov, M. Peredvisnyky nezalezhnoï Ukraïny: Istorychni rozvidky (Kyiv 1996)

Volodymyr Yaniv

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

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