Yurkevych, Lev

Yurkevych, Lev [Юркевич, Лев; Jurkevyč; pseudonyms: L. Rybalka, E. Nicolet], b 31 August 1883 in Kryve, Skvyra county, Kyiv gubernia, d 24 October 1919 in Moscow. Ukrainian Marxist; son of Osyp Yurkevych. He joined the clandestine Revolutionary Ukrainian party in 1904 and was a founding member of the Ukrainian Social Democratic Workers' party (USDRP) in 1905. Later he was elected a USDRP Central Committee candidate member. He went abroad in 1907 to complete his university studies, which he had begun at Kyiv University in 1903. After his father’s death in 1910, he lived in France, Lviv, and Switzerland (from 1914). Using his sizable inheritance, he funded and edited the USDRP monthly Nash holos (Lviv) (1910–11) and subsidized the journal Dzvin (Kyiv) (1913–14). Under the pseudonym L. Rybalka he wrote and published brochures in Kyiv on the national question and the working class (1913) and classes and society (1913). In Dzvin, his brochures, and Borot’ba (7 issues, 1915–16), the Geneva-based organ he funded and edited under the pseudonym E. Nicolet, Yurkevych polemicized against Dmytro Dontsov’s ‘bourgeois nationalist’ proposal that Ukraine separate from Russia and federate with Austria, and condemned the Ukrainian bourgeoisie in the Russian Empire (as servile supporters of tsarism) and the émigré Union for the Liberation of Ukraine (as agents of Austrian and German imperialism). His open letter to the Second Socialist International in Kienthal in 1916 was published in Lausanne as the brochure L’Ukraine et la guerre.

Yurkevych also criticized the chauvinist, centralist thinking of the Russian Bolsheviks and advocated the need for Ukrainian autonomy and a separate Ukrainian proletarian revolution and Ukrainian social democratic workers’ party. Vladimir Lenin denounced his views and in 1914 conspired to undermine his influence. In 1917 in Geneva, Yurkevych published a brochure in Russian on the Russian Social Democratic Workers' party and the national question that was one of the earliest critiques of Lenin’s positions on democratic centralism and the national question (English translation in Journal of Ukrainian Studies, Spring 1982). Yurkevych died after the February Revolution of 1917 before being able to return to Ukraine. A biography of him, by Volodymyr Levynsky, was published in Lviv in 1927.

Myroslav Yurkevich

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

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