All-Ukrainian military congresses

Image - A meeting of the All-Ukrainian Council of Military Deputies (July 1917).

All-Ukrainian military congresses (Vseukrainski Viiskovi zizdy). The First All-Ukrainian Military Congress was held on 18–21 May 1917 in Kyiv. Over 700 delegates represented about 1.5 million Ukrainian soldiers from almost all units of the Russian army and navy. The congress was chaired by Symon Petliura, Mykola Mikhnovsky, Volodymyr Vynnychenko, and Yurii Kapkan. It recognized the Ukrainian Central Rada as ‘the only competent body empowered to decide all matters relating to all of Ukraine.’ The congress overwhelmingly supported the decisions of the All-Ukrainian National Congress (17–21 April 1917) and demanded that Ukraine's national and territorial autonomy be recognized immediately and that Ukrainian military units of the Russian army and navy be separated and Ukrainianized. To direct the Ukrainian military movement, the congress created the Ukrainian General Military Committee, headed by Petliura.

The Second All-Ukrainian Military Congress was held on 18–23 June 1917 in Kyiv. Over 2,500 delegates representing 1.7 million soldiers attended the congress, despite the fact that it was banned by the Russian Provisional Government's minister of war, Aleksandr Kerensky. The congress declared this ban to be illegal. While supporting the Central Rada, which was struggling with the Provisional Government for its rights, the congress instructed the Rada ‘to begin at once a determined organization of the country’ without consulting the Russian government, and ‘to actually establish the foundations of an autonomous order.’ The second congress elected the All-Ukrainian Council of Military Deputies, consisting of 132 members, which became part of the Central Rada, and ordered the Ukrainian General Military Committee to prepare, among other measures for Ukrainianizing the armed forces, a plan for organizing the Free Cossacks. The First of the Universals of the Central Rada was read to the congress.

The Third All-Ukrainian Military Congress was held on 2–12 November 1917 in Kyiv. About 3,000 delegates (1,100 at its opening) attended. This was a period of very strained relations with Russian circles. Because the command of the Kyiv military district wanted to turn Ukraine into a stronghold of the Russian Provisional Government against the Bolsheviks and the Central Rada as well, the congress interrupted its sittings for a few days to form the first Ukrainian Regiment For the Defense of the Revolution (commander: Col Yurii Kapkan). The congress demanded ‘from its highest revolutionary body—the Central Rada—the immediate proclamation of the Ukrainian Democratic Republic on Ukrainian ethnic territories,’ the strengthening of Ukrainian statehood, including the full Ukrainianization of the army and navy, and an immediate peace treaty. The resolutions of the third congress had a strong influence on the proclamation of the Ukrainian National Republic in the Third of the Universals of the Central Rada. The congress elected a new All-Ukrainian Council of Military Deputies, consisting of 158 members, who also became part of the Central Rada.

Visnyk Ukraïns’koho Viis’kovoho Heneral’noho Komitetu, nos 5–6 (Kyiv 1917)
Khrystiuk, P. Zamitky i materiialy do istoriï ukraïns’koï revoliutsiï 1917–1920 rr., 1–2 (Vienna 1921; repr New York 1969)
Doroshenko, D. Istoriia Ukraïny 1917–1923, 1 (Uzhhorod 1930; repr New York 1954)

Arkadii Zhukovsky

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

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