Ukrainization (Ukrainizatsiia). A series of policies pursued by the CP(B)U in 1923–33 to enhance the national profile of state and Party institutions and thus legitimize Soviet rule in Ukrainian eyes. Ukrainization was the Ukrainian version of the all-Union policy of indigenization.

Since Ukrainians were by far the largest non-Russian nation in the newly created USSR, indigenization went farther in Ukraine than in other national republics. It included the following measures: making Party and state cadres fluent in the Ukrainian language and familiar with Ukrainian history and culture; actively recruiting Ukrainians into the Party and state apparatuses; establishing separate Red Army units with Ukrainian as the language of command; financially supporting non-Communist cultural institutions, such as the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences; developing a Communist or pro-Communist Ukrainian intelligentsia to play, eventually, the leading role in the ‘Ukrainian cultural process’; and vastly expanding education and publishing in Ukrainian to raise the social prestige of Ukrainian culture. Ukrainization evolved from an attempt to make the Soviet regime more palatable to the Ukrainian people into the larger project of de-Russifying the urban environment and establishing Ukrainian as the dominant language throughout society.

Ukrainization grew out of the weakness of early Soviet governments in Ukraine. As early as 1920 Mykola Skrypnyk attributed this weakness to national hostility between the Ukrainian peasantry and the Russified workers, which was reflected in the Ukrainophobic policies of the Soviet authorities. The solution lay in the gradual de-Russification of the proletariat in Ukraine and its adoption of Ukrainian culture. The Borotbists, led by Oleksander Shumsky, offered a similar analysis. Other Bolshevik leaders in Ukraine, such as Khristian Rakovsky and Dmytro Lebid, opposed any concessions to Ukrainian cultural aspirations.

In 1921 the 10th Congress of the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) (RKP[B]) proclaimed, along with the New Economic Policy, the complete equality of national languages and cultures. The persistence of partisan activity in rural Ukraine, called ‘kulak-banditry’ in Soviet sources, and the Basmachi revolt in Central Asia forced the 12th Congress of the RKP(B) in 1923 to admit that its nationality policy was not working and to introduce the policy of indigenization, which was designed to give the Russian-imposed Soviet regimes in the non-Russian republics a veneer of national legitimacy. On 16 July 1923 Khristian Rakovsky was replaced as chairman of the Ukrainian Council of People's Commissars by Vlas Chubar, a Ukrainian. On 27 July the council ordered the school system, except for schools serving national minorities, to be completely Ukrainized within the next two years. On 1 August the Ukrainian government decreed that all public officials master Ukrainian within two years, and that all official business be transacted in the Ukrainian language.

Despite widespread opposition to Ukrainization within the still largely Russian CP(B)U, ex-Borotbists, such as Oleksander Shumsky, Vasyl Blakytny, Serhii Pylypenko, and Mykhailo Semenko, were given considerable authority over Ukrainian cultural policy. Blakytny became editor of Visti VUTsVK, the organ of the government, and head of the mass literary organization Hart. Pylypenko was editor of the newspaper Selians’ka pravda and head of the peasant literary organization Pluh. Semenko founded Nova Generatsiia, an association of Ukrainian futurist writers. In 1923 Shumsky became editor of Soviet Ukraine's first and most prestigious ‘thick journal,’ Chervonyi shliakh, and in 1925, people's commissar of education responsible for the Ukrainization program and all cultural policy. Shumsky's appointment to this key post came shortly after the CP(B)U's Russophile leader, Emmanuil Kviring, was replaced by Lazar Kaganovich, who made it clear that no further foot-dragging on Ukrainization would be tolerated. Yet Shumsky called for Kaganovich's immediate replacement by an ethnic Ukrainian, Vlas Chubar, and an even faster pace of Ukrainization. In 1927 Shumsky was replaced by Mykola Skrypnyk, who had aligned himself against Shumsky with Joseph Stalin and Kaganovich, both of whom supported the policy but opposed any criticism of Russian interference. In 1927 Stanislav Kosior replaced Kaganovich as CP(B)U first secretary. Under Skrypnyk's supervision all postsecondary education was rapidly Ukrainized. He also oversaw Ukrainization in Ukrainian areas outside the Ukrainian SSR.

Ukrainization had a substantial impact on the national composition of Ukraine's cities, its proletariat, and the CP(B)U. The percentage of Ukrainian residency in Kharkiv grew from 38 in 1923 to 50 in 1933; in Kyiv, from 27 to 42; in Dnipropetrovsk, from 16 to 48; and in Odesa, from 7 to 17. The proportion of Ukrainians among Ukraine's 1.1 million workers grew from 55 percent in 1926 to 59 percent in 1931 and 60 percent in 1933. In 1922 CP(B)U membership was 23 percent Ukrainian and 54 percent Russian; in 1933 it was 60 percent Ukrainian and 23 percent Russian. But not all Ukrainians considered Ukrainian to be their native language or were literate in it. According to the 1926 census 45 percent of the population of the Ukrainian SSR was literate (16 percent in the countryside and 50 percent in the cities). Of the 11.7 million literate inhabitants, 9.6 million were Ukrainians, of whom only 6.5 million were literate in Ukrainian. Slightly more of Ukraine's inhabitants were literate in Russian than in Ukrainian. The distinction between ethnicity and language literacy was particularly evident in the CP(B)U: in January 1927 Ukrainians accounted for 52 percent of the members and candidates, but only 31 percent gave Ukrainian as their native language. A mass literacy campaign, which was mostly Ukrainian, raised adult literacy in Ukraine to 74 percent in 1929. At the high point of Ukrainization, in the 1932–3 school year, 88 percent of all students were enrolled in Ukrainian-language schools. About 57 percent of trade-union members were Ukrainians in 1930, but only 44 percent claimed Ukrainian as their native language. In the crucial industrial sector the situation in 1929 was much worse: 48 percent of Ukraine's trade-union members in industry were Ukrainian by nationality, 32 percent spoke Ukrainian at home, 43 percent read Ukrainian, and 38 percent wrote Ukrainian. By 1933, 88 percent of all factory newspapers were published in Ukrainian, double the figure for 1928.

The policy of actively favoring Ukrainian over Russian led to resentment among some Russian-speakers. The view that Ukrainization violated the national rights of Ukraine's workers was articulated in 1925 by Yu. Larin. In 1927 Grigorii Zinovev, then in opposition to Joseph Stalin, denounced Ukrainization as a policy supporting Symon Petliura's followers and encouraging Ukrainian chauvinism. Many Russian CP(B)U members felt excluded from the development of Ukrainian culture. Others, such as S. Dimanshtein, feared that the progress of Ukrainization would ultimately unleash centrifugal political forces. In the 1920s Stalin consistently supported Ukrainization and publicly denounced such views. But his attitude changed in the early 1930s.

The political justification for Ukrainization had been the need to placate the Ukrainian peasantry. The collectivization of agriculture, based on the massive application of force by central authorities against the peasants, eliminated any such need and bypassed the republic's leadership. When the Ukrainian elite, fostered by Ukrainization, attempted to defend the Ukrainian peasantry from the center's worst depredations, Stalin responded by eliminating the elite, its social base, and the Ukrainization policy which strengthened that social base. The state-ordered Famine-Genocide of 1932–3, Pavel Postyshev's assignment to the position of second secretary of the CP(B)U, the 1933 purge of the CP(B)U, and the widespread repressions against Ukrainian cultural activists marked the end of Ukrainization. Rapid industrialization continued to draw Ukrainian peasants to the cities, mines, and factories, but means of preventing their denationalization were vastly diminished in Ukraine and completely eliminated in Ukrainian ethnic territories outside Ukraine.

Dmytryshyn, B. Moscow and the Ukraine, 1918–1953: A Study of Russian Bolshevik Nationality Policy (New York 1956)
Kul’turne budivnytstvo v Ukraïns’kii RSR: Vazhlyvishi rishennia Komunistychnoï partiï i Radians’koho uriadu, 1917–1959 (Kyiv 1959)
Mace, J. Communism and the Dilemmas of National Liberation: National Communism in Soviet Ukraine, 1918–1933 (Cambridge, Mass 1983)
Krawchenko, B. Social Change and National Consciousness in Twentieth-Century Ukraine (London 1985; Edmonton 1987)
Liber, G. Soviet Nationality Policy, Urban Growth, and Identity Change in the Ukrainian SSR, 1923–1934 (Cambridge, Mass 1992)

James Mace

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]

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