General Secretariat of the Central Rada

General Secretariat of the Central Rada (Генеральний Секретаріат Української Центральної Ради; Heneralnyi Sekretariiat Ukrainskoi Tsentralnoi Rady). Chief executive body of the Ukrainian National Republic from 28 June 1917 to 22 January 1918. Five days after the proclamation of the First Universal of the Central Rada the Executive Committee (later Little Rada) of the Central Rada accepted a proposal of the Ukrainian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries (UPSR) and formed the General Secretariat as a coalition ‘cabinet’ of Ukraine's autonomous government. At first the General Secretariat consisted of eight general secretaries and a general chancellor. Its chairman and general secretary (sec) for internal affairs was Volodymyr Vynnychenko (Ukrainian Social Democratic Workers' party [USDRP]); the general chancellor was Pavlo Khrystiuk (UPSR). The other general secretaries were: sec of finance Khrystofor Baranovsky (a non-partisan co-operative leader); sec of nationalities Serhii Yefremov (Ukrainian Party of Socialists-Federalists [UPSF]) and (from 10 July 1917) Oleksander Shulhyn (UPSF); sec for military affairs Symon Petliura (USDRP); sec for agrarian affairs Borys Martos (USDRP); sec of justice Valentyn Sadovsky (USDRP); sec of education Ivan M. Steshenko (an independent); and sec of food supply Mykola Stasiuk (UPSR). The USDRP held a majority of the portfolios.

In Ukrainian circles early opinion on the role of the General Secretariat differed. Some thought it was to lay the groundwork for autonomy; others thought it was to exercise the powers of government. In non-Ukrainian circles it was regarded with great hostility. On 9 July 1917, the General Secretariat published a declaration that defined it as ‘the executive body of the Central Rada’. Negotiations between the Central Rada and the Russian Provisional Government on 11–13 July 1917 led to the latter’s recognition of the General Secretariat as the highest executive power on Ukrainian territory. It was agreed that the Central Rada would be expanded to include representatives of the national minorities in Ukraine and that members of the General Secretariat, chosen from Central Rada deputies, would be confirmed by the Provisional Government. The General Secretariat was to be responsible to the Rada. By the end of July the Central Rada was enlarged by representatives of the national minorities and workers’ deputies elected by the First All-Ukrainian Workers’ Congress. This change was reflected in a new General Secretariat to which five portfolios were added. Vsevolod Holubovych (UPSR) became sec of transport; Aleksandr Zarubin (Russian Socialist-Revolutionary), sec of postal and telegraph services; and Moisei Rafes (Jewish Bund), general controller. Two portfolios reserved for Russian Social Democrats—trade and industry, and labor—remained vacant. Three undersecretaries for nationalities were created in the General Secretariat: one for Jewish affairs, filled by Moishe Zilberfarb (United Jewish Socialist Workers’ party), one for Polish affairs, filled by Mieczysław Mickiewicz (Polish Democratic Center party), and one for Russian affairs, which remained vacant for a time.

After long hesitation the Central Rada accepted the ‘Provisional Instruction to the General Secretariat’ issued on 17 August 1917 by the Provisional Government. According to this decree the General Secretariat, reduced from 14 to 8 general secretaries (not counting the general chancellor), was to be the highest organ of the Provisional Government in the regional administration of Ukraine and was to be appointed by the Provisional Government on the recommendation of the Central Rada. After a long, heated debate the Central Rada accepted these humiliating conditions. Volodymyr Vynnychenko resigned under severe criticism by the Ukrainian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries (UPSR), and Dmytro Doroshenko was asked to form a new General Secretariat. When he failed, Vynnychenko assumed the task and by September 3 completed it. On 14 September the Provisional Government confirmed the new General Secretariat. It consisted of Vynnychenko, chairman and sec for internal affairs; Ivan M. Steshenko, sec of education; Mykhailo Tuhan-Baranovsky (UPSF), sec of finance; Oleksander Shulhyn, sec for nationalities; Zilberfarb and Mickiewicz, undersecretaries; M. Savchenko-Bilsky (UPSR sympathizer), sec for agrarian affairs; Aleksandr Zarubin, general controller; Oleksander Lototsky (UPSF), general chancellor; and Petro Stebnytsky (UPSF), the Ukrainian National Republics' commissioner to the Provisional Government. On 10 October 1917 the program of the General Secretariat was presented to the Little Rada. Its general purpose was stated to be ‘the unification of all Ukrainian territories and the entire Ukrainian people in one autonomous entity’.

After the Bolsheviks had overthrown the Provisional Government and the Ukrainian National Republic troops had taken control of Kyiv, the Central Rada, with the encouragement of the Third All-Ukrainian Military Congress, enlarged the General Secretariat by adding the following portfolios: food supply, assumed by Mykola M. Kovalevsky (UPSR); military affairs, Symon Petliura; labor, Mykola Porsh (USDRP); trade and industry, Vsevolod Holubovych; justice, Mykhailo Tkachenko (USDRP); transport, Vadym Yeshchenko (Ukrainian Party of Socialists-Independentists); and postal and telegraph services, Aleksandr Zarubin. D. Odinets (Russian Popular Socialist party) was appointed undersecretary for Russian affairs. After the proclamation of the Third Universal of the Central Rada on 20 November 1917, the membership of the General Secretariat changed again: Mykhailo Tuhan-Baranovsky (temporarily replaced by Vasyl Mazurenko), M. Savchenko-Bilsky, Zarubin, and Oleksander Lototsky resigned. On 6 January 1918, Symon Petliura left the General Secretariat. After further changes in early January 1918, the General Secretariat was left with the following members: Volodymyr Vynnychenko, chairman and sec for internal affairs; Tkachenko, sec of justice; Porsh, sec for military affairs and labor; Oleksander Zhukovsky (UPSR), undersecretary for military affairs; Oleksander Zarudny (UPSR), sec for agrarian affairs; Kovalevsky, sec for food supply; Oleksander Shulhyn, sec of foreign affairs; Yeshchenko, sec of transport; Mykyta Shapoval (UPSR), sec of postal and telegraph services; Dmytro Antonovych (USDRP), sec for naval affairs; Mazurenko (USDRP), acting sec of finance; Holubovych, sec of trade and industry; Steshenko, sec of education; D. Odinets, undersecretary for Russian affairs; Moishe Zilberfarb, undersecretary for Jewish affairs; Mieczysław Mickiewicz, undersecretary for Polish affairs; Oleksander Zolotarov (Jewish Bund), general controller; and Ivan Mirny, acting general chancellor. The Fourth Universal of the Central Rada, proclaimed on 25 January 1918 (the document, however, was dated 22 January), transformed the General Secretariat into the Council of National Ministers of the Ukrainian National Republic.

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Oleksander Shulhyn, Arkadii Zhukovsky

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1988).]

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