United Hetman Organization

United Hetman Organization (Soiuz hetmantsiv derzhavnykiv, or SHD). A Ukrainian conservative monarchist organization dedicated to the restoration of a Ukrainian Hetman state under Pavlo Skoropadsky, which developed independently in Canada and the United States during the interwar era. The organization grew out of Sich societies that had been formed in North America in the early part of the century. The impetus for their transformation came from the influence of Osyp Nazaruk, a leading conservative Ukrainian ideologue, who came to North America in the early 1920s. Both in Canada and the United States the hetmanite movement had the implicit support of the Ukrainian Catholic church.

In Canada the SHD was preceded by the Canadian Sitch Association. Proclaiming a clearly monarchist ideology, the group published Probii, Kanadiis’ka Sich, and (from 1934) Ukraïns’kyi robitnyk. It acquired real estate holdings and spread to western Canada after Volodymyr Bosy obtained a teaching position in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. Its members devoted much energy to military training and even acquired several aircraft. In 1934 the group formally reconstituted itself as the SHD. It reached the height of its development around the time of the visit of Danylo Skoropadsky, the hetman's son and successor, to North America in 1937–8. In 1940 it became one of the founders of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, but then declined during the war. A split in the group in 1952 further weakened it, and Ukraïns’kyi robitnyk ceased publication in 1958. The SHD subsequently published Nasha derzhava and Bat’kivshchyna (Toronto).

In the United States the Sich societies began a process of centralization and militarization that culminated in the election of Stepan Hrynevetsky as supreme otaman (head) at the 1922 convention, where resolutions were passed mandating the transformation of each branch into a sotnia (company) and each branch head into a sotnyk (captain or company commander). Hrynevetsky subsequently expanded the association's paramilitary trappings and developed its monarchist ideological character (the group was now called Hetman Sich). In 1924 Hrynevetsky received his bulava of office and pledged fidelity to Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky. With tacit support from the Ukrainian Catholic church, the Hetman Sich established a Ukrainian ‘liberation army.’ In 1930 hundreds of Sich members joined the American militia (now the National Guard). Permitted to form their own separate companies, they believed their American-trained force would someday become part of a Ukrainian liberation army. The final step in the development of a Ukrainian fighting force was the creation of a Ukrainian ‘air corps.’ During the 1930s the Hetman Sich obtained three airplanes—two biplanes and a four-passenger monoplane—named Ukraina, Lviv, and Kyiv. In spite of substantial opposition and defections (with many previous supporters becoming adherents of the Organization for the Rebirth of Ukraine), the group continued its activities, and its members increasingly began to seek military training within the US National Guard or with their own resources. In 1930 the Sich organization was formally reconstituted as the SHD. In 1938 the SHD was investigated by the (congressional) Dies Committee, and in 1940 by the FBI, for possible subversive activities. Although no direct charges were ever laid, the probes undercut member support drastically and resulted in the group's dissolution in 1942. A successor body of sorts (the Ukrainian Hetman Organization of America) was established in 1943 by figures such as O. Bilovus, Myroslav Simenovych-Simens, and P. Zaporozhets, but failed to generate mass support.

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

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