Conservatism.Conservatism as an ideology and political trend did not appear in Ukraine until the 19th century, but conservative attitudes—firm adherence to traditional forms of community life and respect for established authority—were evident from earliest times. They contributed to the preservation of a Ukrainian identity after the Union of Lublin (1569) had placed the country under Polish rule and exposed it to strong Polonizing pressure. An elemental conservatism was the driving force behind the defense of the ‘old faith,’ Orthodoxy, against Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Uniate challenges. This led to a revival of the Orthodox church and a strengthening of the traditions of Kyivan Rus’ among Ukrainian ecclesiastical and secular elites in the first half of the 17th century.

The Khmelnytsky revolution (1648) (see Cossack-Polish War) derived its strength from popular grievances, but Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky enlisted the services of numerous noblemen and followed a basically conservative social policy. Departing from the frontier democracy of the Zaporozhian Sich, he gave his rule an authoritarian, monarchical character and tried to make the hetman's office hereditary. Such attempts were repeated by several later hetmans (Ivan Samoilovych, Ivan Mazepa, Kyrylo Rozumovsky).

The Cossack Hetman state of the second half of the 17th and the 18th century evolved into a hierarchical system of estates, and the Cossack starshyna (officer) stratum crystallized into a new landed aristocracy. The political thinking of that class combined a liberal tendency towards representative institutions with a conservative historical legitimism. Declaring the Pereiaslav Treaty of 1654 a constitutional charter, the Cossack elite defended on that platform the autonomous status of the country against Muscovite encroachments and their own corporate ‘rights and liberties.’ The Russian government, however, was able to capitalize on the spontaneous conservatism of the Cossack and peasant masses and their reverence for the tsar's monarchical charisma. This facilitated Ukraine's absorption into a centralized Russian Empire.

19th century. Aspirations for the restoration of the autonomous Cossack state survived in the circles of the nobility in Left-Bank Ukraine until the middle of the 19th century. Some steps in that direction were undertaken in connection with Napoleon Bonaparte's invasion in 1812 and the Polish Insurrection of 1830–1. The ideology of Ukrainian historical legitimism and state rights was eloquently formulated in the influential Istoriia Rusov (History of the Rus' People), an anonymous treatise written in about 1800 and widely circulated from the 1820s. Similar ideas existed also among segments of the Polish-Ukrainian nobility in Right-Bank Ukraine.

The modern Ukrainian national movement, which originated in the 1840s with the Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood, was from the outset motivated by a radical democratic-populist philosophy. Populism became the dominant outlook of the Ukrainian intelligentsia in the second half of the 19th century; it increasingly assumed a socialist character. Having adopted an ethnic concept of nationality, the Ukrainian intelligentsia had no use for historical legitimism. A vocal, though isolated, contemporary critic of populist ideology was Panteleimon Kulish, a former Cyrillo-Methodian turned conservative. He pointed to the destructiveness of elemental popular revolts and stressed the importance of elitist cultural values.

The weakness of Ukrainian conservatism resulted from conditions under tsarist autocracy, which polarized society between the extremes of reaction and revolution, while depriving moderate elements of channels of independent political action. Consequently, Ukrainian conservatives could express themselves only in non-political ways. Civic-minded landowners and industrialists sponsored cultural and educational institutions (museums, libraries, private schools, scholarly journals, etc) or worked in the zemstvo self-government. Ukrainian culture owes much to these efforts, although, because of tsarist proscriptions, they had to take place mostly in a Russian linguistic garb. Representative conservative personalities of the second half of the century are Hryhorii Galagan, Vasyl V. Tarnovsky, and Hryhorii Myloradovych. In the next generation came Fedir Umanets, Vasyl Horlenko, the brothers Andrii V. Storozhenko and Mykola V. Storozhenko, and Dmytro Doroshenko. The future hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky also originated from this milieu.

Members of the Ukrainian upper classes easily assimilated into the tsarist establishment, taking up careers in the imperial army and civil service without necessarily losing awareness of their ethnic origin and a sense of Ukrainian territorial patriotism (eg, General Mikhail Dragomirov). This Russified Ukrainian conservatism at times degenerated into a reactionary pan-Russian chauvinism. Examples include Mikhail Yuzefovich (the instigator of the anti-Ukrainian Ems Ukase, 1876), the circle around the Kyivan daily Kievlianin (editors: Dmitrii Pikhno and Vitalii Shulgin), and, after the Revolution of 1905, the Kyiv Club of Russian Nationalists, the Union of the Russian People, and other reactionary organizations of the Black Hundreds operating in Ukraine.

A spokesman for a distinctly national Ukrainian conservatism during the last pre-First World War years was Viacheslav Lypynsky. In contrast to populists and socialists, whose tendency was to restrict Ukrainian nationality to the common people, he advocated the formation of a socially diversified, all-class, national community as a precondition of political independence. Lypynsky's objective was the reintegration of the elites into Ukrainian national life; under his inspiration a group of ‘Roman Catholic Ukrainians’ came into existence among the Polonized Right-Bank nobility.

In Galicia the Greek Catholic church was the central institution of Ukrainian life, and until well into the second half of the century the clergy was the only educated class. Ukrainian priests were family men, different from the celibate Latin-rite Catholic clergy; in their lifestyle they resembled a lesser gentry. During the Revolution of 1848–9 in the Habsburg monarchy clergymen made up the leadership of the emerging Ukrainian (Ruthenian) nationality and its political representative, the Supreme Ruthenian Council. The council followed a conservative, pro-Habsburg policy, opposed Hungarian and Polish insurgents, and called for the formation of a separate Ruthenian crown land within the Austrian Empire.

The conservative, mostly clerical, circle that dominated the Galician scene from 1848 through the 1870s was known as the Old Ruthenians or sviatoiurtsi (the ‘Saint George's Coterie,’ after Saint George's Cathedral in Lviv). The circle included Mykhailo Kuzemsky, Mykhailo Malynovsky, B. Didytsky, and Antin Petrushevych. Identifying nationality with religious denomination, they emphasized the Eastern form of Christianity, which visibly demarcated Ukrainians from the Roman Catholic Poles. Out of regard for traditional Church Slavonic, they scorned efforts to introduce the vernacular as the literary language. Their attitude towards the peasantry can be described as benevolent paternalism, and they showed little understanding of social problems and the need for popular political participation. In their struggle against the Poles, the Old Ruthenians leaned on the Austro-German centralists. This policy collapsed when Vienna turned over the control of Galicia's administration to the Polish aristocracy in 1867. Feeling betrayed by Austria, some prominent Old Ruthenians (Ivan Naumovych, Yakiv Holovatsky, and others) reoriented themselves towards Russia. The transformation of conservative Old Ruthenians into reactionary Russophiles brought about the stagnation and disintegration of their party. By the 1880s the leadership of Galician Ukrainian society had passed to the rival populist, or Ukrainophile, trend. The Galician populists, however, remained moderate, adhering to strictly non-revolutionary, legal methods. A strong moderating factor was the continued influence of the Uniate church. As the ranks of the populists were swelled by the influx of former Old Ruthenians, they assumed a more conservative and clerical hue. The leading personalities among them were Stepan Kachala, Yuliian Lavrivsky, Danylo Taniachkevych, the brothers Volodymyr Barvinsky and Oleksander Barvinsky, Omelian Ohonovsky, Anatol Vakhnianyn, and Yuliian Romanchuk. By their grass-roots educational and organizational work the populists laid the foundations of modern Ukrainian nationalism in Galicia. But their conformism and ‘respectability’ made them unacceptable to the younger generation, who in 1890 founded the Ukrainian Radical party, with a socialist and anticlerical program.

In 1890 the conservative populists entered into an agreement with Galicia's ruling Polish aristocracy. This so-called New Era lapsed after a few years, but it led to the establishment of Oleksander Barvinsky's conservative Christian Social Movement, which never enjoyed a wide appeal because of its collaboration with the Austro-Polish regime. The National Democratic party, a new political force (from 1899), was a coalition whose spectrum extended from near-socialists to conservatives. United on a platform of nationalism and progressive political and social reforms, they insisted on ‘organic work’ and parliamentary methods, professed loyalty to the Habsburg monarchy, and maintained cordial relations with the Uniate church hierarchy.

Ukrainian conservatism since 1917. The mainstream of the struggle for independence (1917–20) in central and eastern Ukraine was leftist and socialist, but right-wing forces also asserted themselves during that period. In May 1917, in Lubny, Poltava gubernia, M. Boiarsky, Serhii Shemet, and L. Klymov founded the Ukrainian Democratic Agrarian party, whose program, drafted by Viacheslav Lypynsky, was based on the principles of national independence and private land ownership. A similar tendency found expression in the movement of Free Cossacks, a paramilitary organization for the defense of public order. At the congress in Chyhyryn, 16–20 October 1917, the Free Cossacks elected General Pavlo Skoropadsky as commander (otaman).

After the Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk the presence of German and Austro-Hungarian military units in Ukraine offered an opportunity to elements dissatisfied with the Central Rada's radical social, especially agrarian, policies. With German backing the Congress of Landowners, on 29 April 1918, proclaimed Pavlo Skoropadsky hetman; the name of the country was changed from Ukrainian National Republic to Ukrainian State. The 1918 Hetman government, which appealed to the tradition of the 17th–18th century Cossack Hetman state, represented the conservative strand in Ukraine's struggle for independence. It had the support of the proprietary classes and of conservative and moderate political groups. Its position, however, remained precarious, owing to Bolshevik subversion, the boycott by Ukrainian socialist parties, and the pressure of Russian and Russophile circles that wished to use Ukraine as a cornerstone for the rebuilding of an imperial Russia. In November–December 1918, after the defeat of the Central Powers, the government was overthrown by a popular uprising, and the Ukrainian National Republic was restored.

The Western Ukrainian National Republic, established on 1 November 1918 in formerly Austrian eastern Galicia, possessed a coalition government in which the National Democratic party played the leading role. It avoided extreme social experiments and maintained a high level of law and order, which under the circumstances gave it a comparatively conservative color.

During the interwar era Ukrainian conservatism could exist overtly only among Ukrainians outside the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Pavlo Skoropadsky's émigré supporters (Viacheslav Lypynsky, Dmytro Doroshenko, Oleksander Skoropys-Yoltukhovsky, M. Kochubei) founded in Vienna, in 1920, the Ukrainian Union of Agrarians-Statists, later renamed the Ukrainian Union of Hetmanites-Statists. The leader and ideologist of the movement was Lypynsky. In his theoretical writings he advocated a hereditary hetmanate with a corporate constitution (‘labor monarchy’); his conservative conception was opposed equally to liberal democratic republicanism and to fascist-type dictatorship. Through his brilliant historical works Lypynsky initiated the ‘statist school’ in Ukrainian historiography, whose adherents included Stepan Tomashivsky, Doroshenko, Vasyl Kuchabsky, Ivan Krypiakevych, and Teofil Kostruba; its impact could be felt also among Soviet Ukrainian historians. A group of conservative émigré scholars was associated with the Ukrainian Scientific Institute in Berlin.

In the 1920s the hetmanite movement spread to Ukrainian communities in North America (the Sich societies in the United States and Canada), and it had supporters and sympathizers among conservative and clerical circles in Western Ukraine (eg, Osyp Nazaruk's newspaper, Nova zoria). However, the rift between Viacheslav Lypynsky and Pavlo Skoropadsky in 1930 caused a serious setback. By the 1930s the hetmanite movement had been overtaken by the more dynamic integral-nationalist movement, and the ‘turn to the right’ among non-Soviet Ukrainians was diverted from conservative into nationalist-authoritarian channels (see Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists).

Since the Second World War monarchist (hetmanite) organizations have played only a marginal role in the political life of the Ukrainian diaspora. Their decline has been hastened by the extinction of the Skoropadsky line. The Lypynsky East European Research Institute in Philadelphia continues to serve as a conservative studies and publication center. Some conservative traits, partly derived from Lypynsky's theoretical legacy, are to be found in the thinking of democratic émigré groups. In th 1980s a return to traditionalist, conservative values has been noticeable in the writings of certain Soviet Ukrainian dissidents (eg, Valentyn Moroz).

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Ivan Lysiak Rudnytsky

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


Encyclopedia of Ukraine