Zatonsky, Volodymyr

Zatonsky, Volodymyr [Затонський, Володимир; Zatons'kyj], b 8 August 1888 in Lysets, Nova Ushytsia county, Podilia gubernia, d 29 July 1938 in Kyiv. Ukrainian Bolshevik leader; full member of the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences from 1929; father of Dmytro Zatonsky. He joined the Menshevik wing of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' party as a gymnasium student in Kamianets-Podilskyi. A graduate of Kyiv University (1912), he taught physics at the Kyiv Polytechnical Institute. He joined the Bolsheviks in early 1917 and by May was a Presidium member of the Kyiv Party Committee and a deputy to the Kyiv Council of Workers’ Deputies. After the Bolshevik coup in Petrograd he headed the Bolshevik revolutionary committee and organized an uprising in Kyiv. He was secretary of education in the first Bolshevik government in Ukraine, the People's Secretariat (December 1917 to April 1918), and in January 1918 he was appointed its plenipotentiary in Moscow. From late March to mid-April 1918 he also headed the Bolshevik All-Ukrainian Central Executive Committee. He played a key role in the creation of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine at the Tahanrih Bolshevik Conference and was elected to the CP(B)U Organizational Bureau. From November 1918 he was a member of the Provisional Workers' and Peasants' Government of Ukraine (in which he supported the Russian-Ukrainian federalist position), and from December 1920, people's commissar of education. From July to September 1920 he also headed the Galician Revolutionary Committee in Ternopil.

After the consolidation of Soviet rule Zatonsky was a member of the Central Committee of the CP(B)U (1918–27, 1934–7) and a candidate (1923–4) and member (1924–37) of its Politburo. He headed the All-Ukrainian Association of Consumer Co-operative Organizations (1921–2), the People's Commissariat of Education (1922–3), and the political administration of the Ukrainian Military District (1924–5). He replaced Oleksander Shumsky as editor of Chervonyi shliakh (1926–30) and served as deputy chairman of the Council of People's Commissars and director of the government’s Institute of Soviet Construction (1927–33), and chairman of the government’s Chemical Engineering Committee (1928–34). In 1933 he replaced Mykola Skrypnyk as the people's commissar of education, and in 1934 he became a candidate to the CC of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik). Although Zatonsky did not belong to any national ‘deviation’ in the CP(B)U and toed the Party line, he gave qualified support to Ukrainization. He wrote a book on the national problem in Ukraine (1926; 2nd edn 1927) and valuable memoirs about the revolutionary period (1929). A collection of his speeches on education was published in 1935. He was arrested by the NKVD together with his wife in November 1937 and later executed.

Vsevolod Holubnychy

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

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