Central Union of Ukrainian Students

Central Union of Ukrainian Students (Центральний союз українського студентства; Tsentralnyi soiuz ukrainskoho studentstva or ЦеСУС; TseSUS). A central organization that has represented and co-ordinated the activities of Ukrainian students outside the Soviet Union from 1922. TseSUS was founded in Prague at the Third All-Ukrainian Student Congress (20 June–8 July 1922), which acted on the resolutions of previous student congresses. Over the years the TseSUS head office has been located in Prague, Vienna, Munich, Paris, and the United States.

1922–45. For the first 12 years of its existence the union headquarters were in Prague, which provided favorable conditions for its activities. From 1922 to 1939 TseSUS called 11 ordinary and 2 extraordinary congresses; most of these were held in Prague, but some were held in Poděbrady, Danzig, and Vienna. Membership in TseSUS was based largely on national student unions (early members included the Professional Organization of Ukrainian Students; the Committee of the Ukrainian Students of Bukovyna, later the Union of Ukrainian Student Organizations in Romania; the Union of Ukrainian Student Organizations under Poland; the Union of Ukrainian Student Organizations in Germany and Danzig; and the Union of Subcarpathian Ukrainian Students), but almost all individual Ukrainian students’ clubs abroad in Europe, America, and Asia (Harbin) were also represented.

TseSUS membership was highest during its earliest years, with 4,650 students who belonged to 18 organizations in 1923. In 1924 new students’ clubs in the United States and Canada joined TseSUS, but total membership fell to 3,364 students. Later the Union of Subcarpathian Ukrainian Students joined the central union. From the end of the 1920s until the outbreak of the Second World War the union’s membership declined steadily. A variety of ideological-political tendencies that found adherents among Ukrainians were represented in TseSUS, but at the beginning of the 1930s the group was dominated by a nationalist tendency. Sovietophile Ukrainian students seceded from TseSUS in 1924 and founded the short-lived Working Alliance of Progressive Students.

In the fall of 1934 TseSUS moved its head office to Vienna because of a change in Czechoslovakia’s foreign policy and its rapprochement with Poland and the Soviet Union. At the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s students’ organizations underwent a structural change that resulted in the creation of national Ukrainian student organization. This simplified the work of the central executive, because the national unions assumed some of the group’s organizational and cultural tasks, leaving TseSUS to set policy and provide general direction for the union’s work.

TseSUS was active in the international forum, informing non-Ukrainians about the problems of Ukrainian students and about conditions in Ukraine in general under the different occupations. To maintain an effective relationship with non-Ukrainian organizations, TseSUS appointed representations in various countries. It participated in international student organizations, sent delegates to their conferences, collaborated with numerous national student unions, and published materials in foreign languages, and was accepted as a special member of the Confédération Internationale des Étudiants (CIE, based in Brussels). (A Ukrainian representation had earlier been admitted to the CIE in 1921, before TseSUS was formed.) It was also a member of the aid organization the International Students’ Service (ISS). Ukrainian students were represented by TseSUS at the All-Slavic Students’ Congress in Prague in 1922 and at various international student sports meets and Olympics. Vasyl Oreletsky, Mykhailo Mukhyn, S. Nyzhankivsky, L. Makarushka, Yaroslav Baranovsky, L. Huzar, and others were active in the area of international contacts. In 1933–9 TseSUS participated in the International Students’ League (Internationale Studentenliga), an anti-Communist central organization of students in Central Europe.

Through its economic department TseSUS solicited funds from the Ukrainian public and international organizations to provide needy students with aid. In 1940 this function was transferred to the Ukrainian Students' Aid Commission (KoDUS).

TseSUS published Students’kyi visnyk (1923–31) in Prague, followed by Students’kyi shliakh (1931–34) and Students’kyi visnyk (1935–9) in Lviv, as well as publications in foreign languages. Ivan Fediv, M. Masiukevych, O. Boikiv, Vasyl Oreletsky, Mykhailo Mukhyn, Volodymyr Yaniv, and Myroslav Prokop were closely associated with the student press.

When the German authorities began to restrict the union’s freedom of action, it decided to transfer its head office to Rome in 1939, but the outbreak of the Second World War made the move impossible. In 1941 the Nationalist Organization of Ukrainian Students assumed the task of co-ordinating the work of Ukrainian student organizations in Germany.

The following individuals served as president of TseSUS: P. Gan (1922–3), Ivan Fediv (1923–4), M. Masiukevych (1924–5), Vasyl Oreletsky (1925–6, 1927–33), S. Nyzhankivsky (1926–7), Yaroslav Baranovsky (1933–9), Dmytro Ravych (1939–42), and K. Bilynsky (1942–7). At the 10th Congress of TseSUS in 1934 it was resolved that every president of the Union of Ukrainian Student Organizations under Poland would automatically be the first vice-president of TseSUS.

1945–67. After the end of the Second World War the Central Émigré Union of Ukrainian Students was established in Munich in December 1945, headed by Petro Mirchuk. Then in March 1946 TseSUS resumed its work. The existence of two central unions reflected the political rivalry between supporters of the OUN (Melnyk faction) and OUN (Bandera faction) and had a detrimental effect on student activities. After a fierce struggle between the two camps, the two unions merged at the Fourth All-Student Congress in Munich on 30 June- 2 July 1947. An important role in this reconciliation was played by the two union presidents, P. Melnyk and K. Bilynsky, and by Volodymyr Yaniv. With the conflict thus settled, TseSUS became active in various areas of student life.

The postwar period witnessed a great resurgence in organized student activity, reminiscent of that in the Prague period. The union represented 33 students’ clubs in 10 countries with a total membership of 2,721 students (1947). As many students graduated and some emigrated to North America, the number of members declined. TseSUS represented 1,950 students in 1948, 850 in 1950; and 574 in 1952. Outside of Europe the membership grew from 133 students in 1951 to 281 in 1953. Beginning in 1949, ideological and religious students’ organizations such as the Zarevo Ukrainian Student Association, the Ukrainian Student Organization of Mikhnovsky, the Obnova Federation of Societies of Ukrainian Catholic Students, and the Alliance of Orthodox Students joined TseSUS.

Student periodicals of the postwar period included Students’kyi shliakh, the bulletin Visnyk TseSUSu, and the literary journal Zveno (ed V. Bilynsky-Krymsky). After the reconciliation of the two central unions, TseSUS published the journal Students’kyi visnyk (1948–9) and its official paper Visti TseSUSu (1947–56).

TseSUS again became active on the international stage. The CIE was replaced by the International Union of Students (IUS), which had its head office in Prague and was largely subject to Soviet influence. After 1948 Western national unions began to resign from the IUS, and alternative central student unions were established—the International Student Conference (ISC) in Edinburgh in 1952 (dissolved in 1969) and the World University Service in 1950, the successor of the prewar ISS. TseSUS established ties with these unions and sent its representatives to various international student conferences. In 1953 at the congress of the ISC in Copenhagen it was recognized as ‘a representative student organization.’ From 1947 B. Makarenko, Ihor Sukhoversky, Z. Vynnytsky, and V. Mardak were active in the area of international contacts.

New forms of cultural-social work were introduced—the Student Ideological Congress in Munich in 1948, the Week of Higher Education in Munich in 1949, and, beginning in 1952, advanced summer courses in Ukrainian studies. The Ukrainian Students' Aid Commission continued to provide financial aid to needy students. The union’s head office was located in Paris for a brief period (1952–4) and then was moved back to Munich.

As large numbers of Ukrainian students began to leave Europe in the 1950s, those remaining centered their activities in Louvain, Paris, Munich, London, Madrid, and Vienna. In 1952 the American division of the union’s executive, with Petro Stercho at the head, was established, and by the end of the 1950s the TseSUS head office had moved to the United States. At the same time national student organizations were founded: the Federation of Ukrainian Student Organizations of America (1953) in the United States, the Ukrainian Canadian Students' Union (1953), the Central Office (Tsentralia) of Ukrainian Students of Australia (1959), the Union of Argentinian-Ukrainian Students (1963), and the Union of Ukrainian Student Associations in Europe (1963) in Western Europe. These unions assumed some of the tasks of the Central Union, and as the TseSUS executive became less active, its role was reduced to that of general spokesman for the Ukrainian student body. In the postwar period the union’s presidents were R. Zalutsky (1947–9), B. Huk (1949–52), Vasyl Markus (1952–3), Kyrylo Mytrovych (1953–4), P. Dorozhynsky (1954–8), and Ye. Hanovsky (1958–67).

1967–81. In 1967 TseSUS was reactivated, as a new generation of students, those born outside Ukraine, joined its ranks. World congresses of Ukrainian students were organized, to which national unions and international ideological associations sent their delegates. These congresses were held in New York in 1967, Montreal in 1970, Toronto in 1973 and 1977, and Philadelphia in 1976. TseSUS opened an office in Toronto in 1970 for a brief period. In 1971 TseSUS initiated a broad campaign in defense of Soviet Ukrainian dissidents. However, political and ideological rivalries, of the type that had plagued the union in the immediate postwar period, surfaced once more. Since 1977 TseSUS has been undergoing a leadership crisis and has become inactive. In this period it has been headed by B. Futei (1967–70), Oleh Romanyshyn (1970–3), A. Chornodolsky (1973–6), A. Chyrovsky (1976–7), and B. Harhai (1977–9).

TseSUS 1908–1938: Ukraïns’ke studentstvo v mynulomu i suchasnomu (Vienna 1938)
Narizhnyi, S. Ukraïns’ka emigratsiia (Prague 1942)
Makarenko, B. ‘25-richchia TseSUS,’ Visti TseSUSu, no. 2 (Munich 1948)
Orelets’kyi, V. ‘35-richchia TseSUSu,’ Feniks, no. 8 (1958)
Antonovych, M. Narys istoriï TseSUSu, 1921–1945 (Munich–New York–Toronto 1976)
Joukovsky, A. ‘Der Zentralverband der ukrainischen Studentenschaften,’ Mitteilungen, no. 18 (Munich 1981)

Arkadii Zhukovsky

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

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