Parties, political

Parties, political. Political parties in Ukraine have reflected the complexity of the country’s social and ethnic stratification. Major nationalities, such as the Ukrainians, Russians, Poles, and Jews, have organized their own political parties. The influence of the national idea was strong enough to fragment even the proletarian movement along national lines.

The basic difference between Ukrainian and national-minority parties in Ukraine lay in their attitude toward self-determination. Whereas Ukrainian parties emphasized national liberation as the first step toward the solution of other problems, the minority parties tended to oppose it or to ignore the issue. Russian parties acted in unison as custodians of Russian imperial interests and opposed Ukraine’s separation from Russia. Polish political parties recognized in principle the demand for an independent Ukraine. Almost all Jewish political parties supported the idea of an autonomous Ukraine within the Russian Empire but categorically rejected demands for independence. The Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) and its instrument, the CP(B)U, recognized the ‘abstract right of the Ukrainian people to self-determination’ but did everything to prevent its realization.

Modern Ukrainian political parties sprang from the national movement that developed in the late 19th century in reaction to national oppression. After centuries of Russification the Ukrainian national movement was preoccupied mostly with cultural renascence and national awareness. In a sense this so-called Ukrainophile movement was apolitical: beyond protesting against Russification, it raised no objection to the tsarist regime. The Hromada of Kyiv attracted mostly moderate intellectuals who cherished the country’s romantic past but did not advocate separatism. At most they demanded autonomy for Ukraine. Yet the Hromada’s contribution to the education and national awakening of the common people had a profound influence on the future political development of Ukraine.

In Russian-ruled Ukraine the first political parties sprang up only at the turn of the 20th century. In February 1900 a clandestine political organization known as the Revolutionary Ukrainian party (RUP) was founded in Kharkiv. That year a small Ukrainian Socialist party (Kyiv) (USP) emerged in Kyiv, and in 1903 it merged for a brief while with the RUP. In 1902 Mykola Mikhnovsky formed the Ukrainian People's party (UNPO), which was the most nationalistic of the early Ukrainian parties. The leftist elements of the RUP broke away in 1904 and formed the Ukrainian Social Democratic Association, generally known as the Ukrainian Social Democratic Spilka, which accepted the position of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' party (RSDWP) vis-à-vis the nationalities and party unity. In 1905 the remaining members of the RUP renamed the party the Ukrainian Social Democratic Workers' party (USDRP). Ideologically, the USDRP was close to the Russian Mensheviks and other social democratic parties in Western Europe. It was not a popular mass party: its social base consisted of Ukrainian workers and radical intelligentsia. It elected only two deputies in the election to the All-Russian Constituent Assembly in 1917. At the beginning of 1919 it split on the issue of independence from the RSDWP, and its leftist faction set up the Ukrainian Social Democratic Workers' party (Independentists), which a year later became the Ukrainian Communist party (UKP).

At the end of 1905 the Ukrainian Democratic Radical party (UDRP) came into being in Kyiv. This was a nonsocialist, liberal party, resembling in many respects the Russian Constitutional Democratic (kadet) party. It demanded constitutional monarchy, a federal system instead of an empire, and autonomy for Ukraine. Over 30 of the 40 Ukrainian deputies in the Second State Duma were Democratic Radicals. When the party disintegrated early in 1908, its moderate elements formed a clandestine nonparty organization, the Society of Ukrainian Progressives (TUP), to combat Russian chauvinism.

Although cells of Ukrainian Socialist Revolutionaries had been active in many Ukrainian gubernias since 1905, they did not form the national party known as the Ukrainian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries (UPSR) until April 1917. This was an agrarian party that advocated the socialization of land and autonomy for Ukraine. In the 1917 election to the All-Russian Constituent Assembly the UPSR won over 45 percent of the votes in Ukraine. It had the largest caucus in the Central Rada and played a leading role in the General Secretariat of the Central Rada and the Council of National Ministers of the Ukrainian National Republic. At its secret congress in May 1918, the party split, and it was dissolved soon afterward. Its left wing formed the Borotbists in March 1919; its right and center wings restored the UPSR. The small Ukrainian Labor party (Kyiv) (est October 1917) was close to the UPSR ideologically.

The Ukrainian Party of Socialists-Federalists (UPSF) was founded in April 1917 by members of the Society of Ukrainian Progressives, and built on the program of the earlier Ukrainian Democratic Radical party. Its members held important portfolios in the General Secretariat of the Central Rada and the Council of National Ministers of the Ukrainian National Republic. The Ukrainian Party of Socialists Independentists (UPSS), established in Kyiv in December 1917, was composed mainly of Ukrainian military officers and former members of the Ukrainian People's party. The Ukrainian People's Republican party (est 1918) was antisocialist and a major supporter of Volodymyr Oskilko’s attempted coup in Rivne on 29 April 1919. On the conservative side the former members of the Hromada of Kyiv organized the Ukrainian Federative Democratic party at the end of 1917. The Ukrainian Democratic Agrarian party (UDKhP), established in Lubny in June 1917, was perhaps the most conservative of all Ukrainian parties. It supported the Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky’s coup against the Central Rada but later became critical of the Hetman government.

The chief Russian political parties active in Ukraine in the early part of the 20th century were the Russian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries, which ideologically resembled its mother party in Russia and differed from it only administratively; the Russian Social Democratic Workers' party (or Mensheviks), which was the Ukrainian section of the All-Russian Menshevik party and shared its ideological position; the Russian People’s Socialists, which represented petit-bourgeois groups with a liberal democratic ideology but had very little influence; the Constitutional Democratic (kadet) party, whose ideology and social base were the same as those of Pavel Miliukov’s all-Russian party; and the Bloc of the Nonpartisan Russians, which was a coalition of Russian monarchists and reactionary chauvinists. The Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine (est 1918) was not an independent political entity but a branch of the single Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik).

The Ukrainian National Republic was the first state in modern times to recognize and implement national-personal autonomy. Hence, representatives of Jewish and Polish parties were admitted to the Central Rada and the General Secretariat of the Central Rada. The General Jewish Workers’ Union, or Bund, which had 175 local organizations in Ukraine, supported Ukrainian autonomy but not independence. The United Jewish Socialist Workers’ party belonged to the socialist revolutionary bloc but disagreed with the Russian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries on the nationality question and supported Ukrainian autonomy. After a split in 1918, its left wing joined the Bund in forming the Jewish Communist Union. The Jewish Social Democratic Workers’ party, or Poale Zion, was the smallest and most conservative socialist group. The most conservative and nationalistic Jewish party, the Zionist party, which promoted the idea of a separate autonomous Jewish territory, co-operated with the Central Rada.

The Polish minority resembled the Russian. Conservative elements of the landed aristocracy could not accept the idea that the Ukrainian ‘peasants’ were an independent nation. Polish moderates regarded Ukrainians as natural allies against Russian imperialism. The Polish Socialist Party (Center) was the equivalent of the Russian Mensheviks and the Ukrainian Social Democratic Workers' party. It supported an independent Ukrainian republic. The Polish Socialist Party (Left) differed from the Russian Social Democratic Workers' party only on the nationality question. It supported independent Polish and Ukrainian republics. The Polish Democratic Center party represented Polish landowners in Ukraine and opposed the agrarian policy of the Central Rada. Favoring an independent Poland, it wavered on Ukrainian self-determination.

In Russia political parties ceased to exist with Vladimir Lenin’s dispersal of the All-Russian Constituent Assembly on 5 January 1918. In Ukraine they disappeared in the early 1920s with the final victory of the Red Army and the establishment of Soviet rule.

In Austrian-held Ukrainian territories—Galicia and BukovynaUkrainians began to organize their own political parties at the end of 19th century. The first political party in the full sense of the term was the the Ukrainian Radical party (URP), founded in Lviv in 1890. By 1895 three political trends had emerged in the party: a socialist-populist, a Marxist-socialist, and a radical-populist trend. When the groups associated with the latter two trends broke away in 1899 and formed their own parties, the Ukrainian Social Democratic party (USDP) and the National Democratic party (NDP), the URP became a peasants’ party. At first the USDP was merely a branch of the Austrian Social Democratic party and won little support among Ukrainian voters. The NDP, with its emphasis on national unity and independence, quickly became the dominant party in Galician and Bukovynian political life. In 1918 it played the leading role in building an independent Ukrainian state. At its congress in Stanyslaviv in April 1919, the NDP changed its name to the Ukrainian Labor party. The URP was the second-strongest Ukrainian party in Galicia before the First World War. In 1918 it took part in the Ukrainian National Rada.

After the downfall of the Western Ukrainian National Republic, the Ukrainians in Galicia continued the struggle for independence by political means. Their political parties played an important role in raising political consciousness and defending the constitutional rights of Ukrainians against the Polish authorities. The Ukrainian Radical party refused to co-operate with the Ukrainian Social Democratic party because of its pro-Soviet policy, and condemned the imperialist attitude of the Bolshevik party toward Ukraine. In 1926 a group of Socialist Revolutionaries from Volhynia joined the URP, and the party changed its name to the Ukrainian Socialist Radical party. The Ukrainian Labor party split into three factions in 1923, one of which formed the Ukrainian Party of National Work. The three reached an agreement in 1925 and together set up the Ukrainian National Democratic Alliance (UNDO), which continued the program of the National Democratic party. It assumed the leading position in Galician political life and expanded its network into Volhynia. A group of Sovietophiles resigned from the alliance and formed the Ukrainian Party of Labor in 1927. When UNDO’s policy of Normalization was discredited by the behavior of the Polish authorities, some of its members left, and in 1933 they set up the Front of National Unity, which rejected Normalization on the one hand and the revolutionary terror of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists on the other. The Ukrainian Agrarian party (est 1922) lost popular support because of its appeasement policy, and soon disappeared. Another party that advocated loyalty to the Polish state was the Ukrainian Catholic People's party. Its constituency was limited to Stanyslaviv eparchy, and its political influence was insignificant. The socialist end of the Ukrainian political spectrum was represented by Sel-Soiuz (est 1924), which was active in Volhynia and the Kholm region, and the Marxist People's Will party (est 1923), which was active in Galicia. In 1926 the two parties merged to form the Sel-Rob, which acted as the legal front of the Communist Party of Western Ukraine (KPZU). Because of its close ties with the CP(B)U, the KPZU enjoyed an autonomous status within the Communist Party of Poland. In 1927 the party split, and the majority faction defending Oleksander Shumsky was expelled from the Comintern. The KPZU leadership was subjected to several purges in the 1930s, and the party was dissolved in 1938. In its struggle for independence the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists rejected lawful political methods as ineffectual and regarded itself as a movement above the ordinary political parties. As extremism and political violence rose throughout Europe and particularly in Poland, its renunciation of parliamentary democracy and law-governed political competition seemed justified.

The non-Ukrainian parties with a significant constituency in Galicia during the interwar period were the Polish Socialist party, the Polish Popular Party–Liberation, the Radical Peasant party, the Peasant Alliance, the Polish Popular Party–Piast, the Christian Democrats, the Popular National Union, the Jewish Bund, and the Jewish Popular Union.

Some of the parties active in Ukraine during the struggle for independence (1917–20) resumed their activities abroad. The Ukrainian Radical Democratic party was the main supporter of the Government-in-exile of the Ukrainian National Republic during the interwar period. The Ukrainian Social Democratic party recognized the government but refused to participate in it; the Ukrainian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries and the Ukrainian Union of Agrarians-Statists, which was founded in Vienna in 1920, withheld recognition. After the Second World War the government-in-exile set up the Ukrainian National Council, a quasi-parliament, in which the older émigré parties, such as the UPSR and USDRP, were joined by parties that had been active in Ukraine during the interwar and the war period, such as the Ukrainian National Democratic Alliance and the two factions of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, or had sprung up recently outside Ukraine (the Ukrainian National State Union, the Ukrainian Revolutionary Democratic party, the Union of Lands of United Ukraine, the Ukrainian Peasant party, the Ukrainian Socialist party, and the OUN [Abroad]).

In Soviet Ukraine political parties other than the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and its affiliate Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU) were banned by the constitution and severely suppressed. A few small clandestine groups, such as the Ukrainian Workers’ and Peasants’ Union, tried to form alternative political parties but managed at most to draft a party program before they were uncovered and arrested. It was only after the election of a number of former dissidents to the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR (March 1990) and the lifting of the CPSU’s monopoly on political power (early 1990) that new parties began to proliferate in Ukraine. Within a year over a dozen parties had held their founding conventions: the Ukrainian Republican party (UREP), the Republican Party of Ukraine, the Ukrainian National party, the Democratic Party of Ukraine (DPU), the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine, the United Social Democratic Party of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Christian Democratic party, the Party of the Democratic Rebirth of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Popular Democratic party, the Ukrainian Party of Democratic Consensus, the Ukrainian Peasant Association, the Ukrainian Peasant Democratic party (UPDP), the Popular Party of Ukraine, the Green Party of Ukraine (PZU), the Liberal Democratic Party of Ukraine, and the Party of Slavic Rebirth. By the end of June 1991 only four of them—the UREP, DPU, UPDP, and PZU—had been legally registered.

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Jurij Borys

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

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