In 1917, by the third year of the First World War, the multinational Russian Empire, Austria-Hungary, and Ottoman Empire all showed signs of internal weakness and disintegration. In the Russian Empire, military defeats, disorganization, inflation, and serious food shortages provoked mass social discontent and unrest, which culminated in the February Revolution of 1917 and the collapse of the monarchy. Following the abdication of Nicholas II on 15 March 1917, most of the opposition parties in the Russian State Duma banded together to form the Russian Provisional Government. The Bolsheviks, however, who came to dominate the soviets of workers' and soldiers' deputies in Petrograd and elsewhere, refused to participate in the government. In this situation of social and economic chaos and dual political authority, the Provisional Government found it impossible to maintain control. Taking advantage of the revolutionary situation, Ukraine's national leaders put forth not only social but also national and political demands and initiated the process of the Ukrainian struggle for independence. On 17 March 1917, the representatives of various Ukrainian political, community, cultural, and professional organizations gathered in Kyiv and formed the Ukrainian Central Rada as an all-Ukrainian representative body. The congress of co-operatives held in Kyiv on 27-28 March came out in support of Ukrainian autonomy, as did a mass rally of over 100,000 people in Kyiv on 1 April. Soon the authority of the Central Rada was recognized by the majority of Ukrainians and representatives of national minorities in Ukraine. The Central Rada issued four key universals, the fourth of which (in January 1918) proclaimed Ukraine's state independence... Learn more about the first stage of the Ukrainian struggle for independence (1917-20), the Central Rada period, by visiting the following entries:

STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE, 1917-20. The term used to describe the political, military, and diplomatic activities to achieve Ukrainian statehood in all Ukrainian territories. At first this struggle concerned the central Ukrainian territories. On 17 March the Central Rada was created in Kyiv and on 25 January 1918 it declared the independence and sovereignty of the Ukrainian National Republic (UNR). Mykhailo Hrushevsky was elected president. But a coup d'etat staged with the support of the Germans by Gen Pavlo Skoropadsky led to the creation of the Ukrainian State ruled by the Hetman government. The anti-hetman uprising that culminated in December 1918 restored the republican rule of the UNR and the Directory of the UNR introduced the labor principle of rule with the Labor Congress as the highest legislative body and with the Council of National Ministers as the executive organ. In the western Ukrainian lands that formed part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ukrainian National Rada was formed in Lviv in October 1918 and proclaimed a Ukrainian state on the territory of Galicia, Bukovyna, and Transcarpathia...

Struggle for Independence (1917-20)

CENTRAL RADA. At first, an all-Ukrainian center that united political, community, and cultural organizations; later, following the All-Ukrainian National Congress (April 1917), the revolutionary parliament of Ukraine that directed the Ukrainian national movement and by its four universals led Ukraine from autonomy to independence. The Central Rada was founded in Kyiv on 17 March 1917 on the initiative of the Society of Ukrainian Progressives and other political parties. After the All-Ukrainian National Congress the Rada was composed of 150 members, elected from political parties, professional and cultural organizations, and delegates from the regions. A new presidium was elected, with Mykhailo Hrushevsky as president and Serhii Yefremov and Volodymyr Vynnychenko as vice-presidents. To take care of current matters, the Rada chose an executive committee, the Little Rada, which consisted of members of the presidium, secretaries, and two representatives from each political party. All important matters were first decided by meetings of the Little Rada, and later ratified by the plenum of the Central Rada...

Central Rada

HRUSHEVSKY, MYKHAILO, b 29 September 1866 in Kholm, d 25 November 1934 in Kislovodsk, RSFSR. The most eminent Ukrainian historian; principal organizer of Ukrainian scholarship, prominent civic and political leader, publicist and writer. Hrushevsky graduated in 1890 from Kyiv University where he was a student of Volodymyr Antonovych. In 1894, he was appointed professor of the chair of Ukrainian history at Lviv University. In 1898 the first volume of his monumental History of Ukraine-Rus' was published in Lviv; by 1937 another nine volumes appeared in Lviv and Kyiv. This work was the first major synthesis of the history of Ukraine ever written. During the First World War, Hrushevsky was arrested by the Russian government in the fall of 1914. After a two-month imprisonment in Kyiv, he was exiled to Russia. Released from exile after the February Revolution of 1917, Hrushevsky quickly emerged as the leader of the Ukrainian national revolution. On 17 March, while still in Moscow, he was elected chairman of the Central Rada. On 29 April 1918, he became the first president of the Ukrainian National Republic...

Mykhailo Hrushevsky

ALL-UKRAINIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS. First major Ukrainian political forum after the February Revolution of 1917. Convened in Kyiv from 19 to 21 April 1917 by the Central Rada, the congress was composed of 900 representatives of political, cultural, and professional organizations (of workers, peasants, the intelligentsia, military, clergy, etc); delegates also came from the war front and Ukrainian centers in major Russian cities. The congress demanded a federative-democratic reorganization of the Russian Empire, immediate implementation of autonomist measures for Ukraine, and delimitation of Ukraine's borders in agreement with the people's will. The congress reorganized the Central Rada and elected its president (Mykhailo Hrushevsky), two vice-presidents, and 115 members who represented gubernias, major cities, the Ukrainian communities of Moscow and Petrograd, and civil, political, and cultural organizations. The legal and political significance of the congress went beyond the anticipated goals; it became, in fact, the constituent forum of the first Ukrainian parliament--the Central Rada...

All-Ukrainian National Congress

ALL-UKRAINIAN MILITARY CONGRESSES. The First All-Ukrainian Military Congress was held in May 1917 in Kyiv. Over 700 delegates represented about 1.5 million Ukrainian soldiers from almost all units of the Russian army and navy. The congress recognized the Central Rada as 'the only competent body empowered to decide all matters relating to all of Ukraine.' It demanded that Ukraine's national and territorial autonomy be recognized immediately and that Ukrainian military units of the Russian army and navy be separated and Ukrainianized. The second congress was held in June and the third congress -- in November 1917. The third congress demanded 'from its highest revolutionary body--the Central Rada--the immediate proclamation of the Ukrainian Democratic Republic on Ukrainian ethnic territories' and the strengthening of Ukrainian statehood, including the full Ukrainianization of the army and navy. The resolutions of the third congress had a strong influence on the proclamation of the Ukrainian National Republic in the Third of the Universals of the Central Rada...

All-Ukrainian military congresses

UNIVERSALS OF THE CENTRAL RADA. In 1917-18 the Central Rada promulgated four edicts possessing the significance of fundamental laws and reflecting the evolution of the Ukrainian state from autonomy within the Russian Empire to independence. Like the edicts of the 17th- and 18th-century Cossack Hetman state, they were called universals. The universals were published in newspapers, broadcast by radio, and posted throughout Ukraine on placards printed in Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, and Yiddish. The First Universal (23 June 1917) proclaimed Ukraine's autonomy ('from this day on we alone will create our life'). The Second (16 July 1917) stated that the Central Rada would be expanded to include representatives from national minorities and would thereby become 'the single supreme body of revolutionary democracy in Ukraine.' The Third (20 November 1917) announced the creation of the Ukrainian National Republic within a federated Russia. And the Fourth Universal (22 January 1918) proclaimed the Ukrainian National Republic an 'independent, subject to no one, free, sovereign state of the Ukrainian people'...

Universals of the Central Rada

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