Ukrainian Military Organization

Ukrainian Military Organization (Українська військова організація; Ukrainska viiskova orhanizatsiia [UVO]). An underground revolutionary organization formed in 1920 to continue the armed struggle for an independent Ukrainian state. Its founders were former officers of the Sich Riflemen and the Ukrainian Galician Army, particularly the Rava Brigade of the Ukrainian Galician Army. UVO members differed in political outlook but were bound by their participation in the Ukrainian struggle for independence (1917–20).

In September 1920 a provisional Supreme Collegium of the UVO, consisting of Osyp Navrotsky, Mykhailo Matchak, Yarosalv Chyzh, Yurii Poliansky, and Volodymyr Tselevych, was established in Lviv. On 20 July 1921 it was renamed the Supreme Command, and Yevhen Konovalets and Yurii Otmarshtain were appointed commander and chief of staff, respectively. Organizational, intelligence, operations, and propaganda-political departments were established. The main area of operations was Galicia, which was divided into 13 military districts and 58 counties, each with its own command.

The first phase of the UVO's history (1920–2) was devoted to organizing cadres, obtaining arms, and conducting terrorist operations. Its major actions included an unsuccessful attempt on Józef Piłsudski's life on 25 September 1921, a Galicia-wide arson campaign against Polish landlords and colonists in the autumn of 1922, and the assassination of Sydir Tverdokhlib on 15 October 1922. The Polish government responded with a wave of arrests which shattered the UVO. Its leaders went underground, and some of them, including Yevhen Konovalets, escaped abroad. At a conference near Danzig in early 1923, it was decided to move the Supreme Command to Berlin and to set up a home command in Lviv under Andrii Melnyk. At the same time the UVO severed its ties with the government-in-exile of the Western Ukrainian National Republic (ZUNR).

UVO operations in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic were planned by Yurii Otmarshtain and executed by Yurii Tiutiunnyk. A number of officers, including Ivan Andrukh, M. Opoka, and V. Romanyk, were sent east to establish contact with insurgent forces. The prospects for UVO activity in Soviet Ukraine diminished as the partisan movement in Ukraine (1918–22) was brought under control, the New Economic Policy was introduced, and Ukrainization started. The UVO maintained several missions under different names outside Ukraine, including the Krai Command in Czechoslovakia, the External Delegation in Berlin, a group in Danzig, and the Ukrainian Circle of the Lithuanian-Ukrainian Society in Lithuania. Their tasks were to get official recognition for the UVO, cultivate contacts with government and other foreign circles, print UVO literature, purchase arms, and organize training for new cadres. UVO cells in North America organized larger civic institutions and provided financial support.

A prolonged power struggle within the UVO resulted in a serious setback for the organization. With the recognition of Poland's annexation of Galicia by the Conference of Ambassadors (15 March 1923), the Western Ukrainian National Republic government, led by Yevhen Petrushevych, lost its international status. To continue the struggle against Poland, President Petrushevych turned to the Soviet government, which made its aid conditional on his controlling the UVO and the removal of Yevhen Konovalets from the leadership of the organization. After two years of internal fighting, Petrushevych's faction was forced out of the UVO. It formed a rival organization (14 May 1926), the Western Ukrainian National Revolutionary Organization, which published Ukraïns’kyi revoliutsioner in Berlin (1926–9). Lacking support in Ukraine, the organization eventually disintegrated.

As political conditions in Galicia changed, and open opposition to the regime through political parties and institutions became possible, many UVO veterans opted to work within legally recognized civic and political organizations. Weakened by arrests, internal dissension, and the loss of veteran cadres, the UVO limited its terrorist activities and emphasized intelligence gathering, political education, and training of new recruits. Training courses were conducted in the Carpathian Mountains, Czechoslovakia, Germany, and Danzig.

After an unsuccessful attempt on the life of the Polish president S. Wojciechowski on 5 September 1924, a small detachment known as the Flying Brigade was set up. For about two years it held up mail trucks and post offices to obtain sorely needed funds, and carried out other operations, such as the assassination of the Lviv school superintendent S. Sobiński on 19 October 1926. This activity gave the UVO notoriety and attracted young people into its ranks. Its contribution to mass political education was equally important. Its own magazine, Surma (1927–34), published in Berlin (1927–8) and then in Kaunas, Lithuania (1928–34), had a run of 10,000. The organization also helped finance the publications Literaturno-naukovyi vistnyk, Zahrava, and Novyi chas and the Chervona Kalyna publishing house. A special Political Collegium was set up in the Home Command of the UVO.

UVO activities were financed from a number of sources—eg, funds of former military units, donations from the government-in-exile of the Ukrainian National Republic, donations from Ukrainians overseas, grants from Ukrainian financial institutions in Galicia, and expropriations. The UVO also received aid from foreign sources: Lithuanian government and military circles underwrote the publication and distribution of UVO publications, and German military circles financed training courses for its cadres.

After Andrii Melnyk, the home commanders of the UVO were Yaroslav Indyshevsky, Yuliian Holovinsky, Omelian Senyk, Roman Sushko, B. Hnatevych, and Volodymyr Horbovy.

Taking advantage of its prestige among young Ukrainian revolutionaries, the UVO played a key role in forging the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) out of smaller nationalist youth groups. Yevhen Konovalets, who assumed leadership in the OUN, regarded it at first as a political front for the UVO and as a pool for its cadres. The OUN, however, absorbed the UVO, appropriating its program and traditions. Without being dissolved formally, the UVO withered away in the early 1930s.

Konovalets', Ie. Prychynky do istoriï ukraïns’koï revoliutsiï (Prague 1928)
Martynets', V. Ukraïns’ke pidpillia: Vid UVO do OUN (Winnipeg 1949)
Knysh, Z. (ed). Sribna surma, 2 vols (Toronto 1959, 1962)
Knysh, Z. Vlasnym ruslom: UVO v 1922–1926 rr. (Toronto 1966)
———. Dalekyi prytsil: UVO v 1927–1929 rr. (Toronto 1967)
———. Na povni vitryla: UVO v 1924–1926 rr. (Toronto 1970)
Ievhen Konovalets’ ta ioho doba (Munich 1974)
Motyl, A. The Turn to the Right: The Ideological Origins and Development of Ukrainian Nationalism, 1919–1929 (New York 1980)

Zinovii Knysh

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]

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