Socialist Revolutionaries

Socialist Revolutionaries. Representatives of a current within the Russian Empire's revolutionary movement that tried to create a synthesis of populism and Marxism to appeal to peasants as well as workers and the radical intelligentsia. Socialist revolutionary (SR) groups first emerged in the late 1890s. Among the earliest SR formations was the Party of Socialist Revolutionaries, founded in 1897 and known as the Southern party because it had branches primarily in the cities of Ukraine (including Kharkiv and Odesa) and southern Russia. At the end of 1901 the Southern party joined with other SR groups to form the Socialist Revolutionary party. The SRs became particularly interested in the peasantry as a result of the peasant unrest that broke out in Poltava gubernia and Kharkiv gubernia in 1902. They formed a Peasant Union in 1902, and in the program adopted at their first party congress in 1905 they called for the socialization of the land. The 1905 congress also created a regional party organization for Ukraine, uniting the pre-existing Kharkiv, Kyiv, Poltava, Volhynia, and Voronezh party committees.

The SR movement in Ukraine was primarily connected with the Russian revolutionary movement, but groups of Ukrainian SRs also appeared between 1905 and 1917. Not until revolution broke out in the spring of 1917 (see February Revolution of 1917), however, was the Ukrainian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries (UPSR) formally founded in Kyiv. The UPSR played a large role in the revolutionary events in Ukraine during the next few years.

The Russian SRs had included federalism in their program prior to the revolution, but in the spring of 1917 they generally adopted a hostile attitude to the Central Rada's strivings for Ukrainian autonomy. Only when the Russian Provisional Government finally made concessions to Ukrainian autonomy in July 1917 did Russian SRs co-operate with the Central Rada, but they completely opposed the proclamation of Ukrainian independence in January 1918. Prominent Russian SRs in Ukraine during the revolutionary era included A. Zarubin (post and telegraph minister in the autonomous Ukrainian government) and P. Nezlobin (chairman of the Kyiv soviet). Although divided over the national question, Russian and Ukrainian SRs ran joint lists in the Kharkiv, Kherson, and Poltava districts during the elections to the All-Russian Constituent Assembly conducted in late 1917 and early 1918. The election results demonstrated the great popularity of the SRs in Ukraine, where Russian and especially Ukrainian SRs received about two-thirds of the votes cast.

Both the Russian and the Ukrainian SRs split into left and right factions after the October Revolution of 1917, with the left SRs supporting the Bolsheviks. After the Bolsheviks solidified their power, SR influence was eliminated in Soviet Ukraine, as right SRs emigrated abroad, and left SRs merged with the Bolsheviks. The Russian SRs disappeared in late 1919, and the Ukrainian SRs (including the pro-Bolshevik Borotbists), in 1920–1. Ukrainian SRs in Western Volhynia, which came under Polish rule in 1920, joined with the Galician-based Ukrainian Radical party in 1926 to form the Ukrainian Socialist Radical party. The UPSR also continued to exist in the emigration, although it was riven by factional divisions in 1921.

John-Paul Himka

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

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