Shakhrai, Vasyl

Shakhrai, Vasyl [Шахрай, Василь; Šaxrai, Vasyl'], b 11 February 1888 in Kharkivtsi, Pyriatyn county, Poltava gubernia, d January 1920 in Katerynodar, Kuban oblast. Bolshevik leader. Upon the outbreak of the October Revolution of 1917 he quickly established himself as a revolutionary leader in the Poltava region. With the other Bolshevik deputies he left the All-Ukrainian Congress of Workers', Soldiers', and Peasants' Deputies in December 1917 to participate in the First All-Ukrainian Congress of Soviets, at which he defended Ukraine’s right to self-determination and was elected to the Central Executive Committee of Ukraine’s Soviets. As people's commissar for military affairs he helped disarm the Haidamaka Units of the Army of the UNR supporting the Central Rada and organize detachments of the see Red Cossacks in the Poltava region. In January 1918 he represented the Soviet government of Ukraine (the People's Secretariat) in the Russian delegation to the Brest-Litovsk peace conference (see Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk). On 16–19 March, at the Second All-Ukrainian Congress of Soviets, Shakhrai was chosen people's commissar for agrarian affairs. He took part in the Tahanrih Bolshevik Conference of 19–20 April. Under the pseudonym of V. Skorostansky he wrote the booklet Revolutsiia na Ukraïni (Revolution in Ukraine, 1918) and, with Serhii Mazlakh, Do khvyli! Shcho diiet'sia na Ukraïni i z Ukraïnoiu? (1919; trans, On the Current Situation in the Ukraine, 1970). In March both authors were expelled from the Communist Party for criticizing Vladimir Lenin’s nationality policy and advocating an independent Ukrainian communist party and state. Shakhrai continued to serve in the Bolshevik underground in Ukraine and Kuban, where he was executed by Anton Denikin’s troops.

Jaroslaw Koshiw

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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