One hundred years ago, Ukraine emerged as an independent state for the first time in the modern era. On 20 November 1917, the parliamentary assembly in Kyiv known as the Tsentralna Rada (the Central Council) declared sovereignty for Ukraine under the name Ukrainian People’s Republic. Unlike the declarations of autonomy earlier on 23 June and 16 July 1917, the declaration of sovereignty on 20 November 1917 bore no reference to the Kerensky government in Russia, or the Bolshevik coup that was occurring there. The Bolshevik coup became a civil war in Russia, and Ukrainians had little interest in that for its own sake and much more interest in establishing Ukrainian national identity in a sovereign state.
The Russians launched hybrid war immediately against the Ukrainian People’s Republic. Sponsored “uprisings” of Bolsheviks were attempted throughout independent Ukraine. There was little support for these insidious attacks from within, especially in Kyiv. In Kharkiv the Russian Bolsheviks had some measure of success, and they bolstered this with a military invasion. The Muscovy invaders created a puppet regime in Kharkiv they called the Ukrainian People’s Republic of Soviets.
Independent Ukraine as the Ukrainian People’s Republic was given little chance to succeed. Only 7 days after the declaration of full independence on 22 January 1918, the Battle of Kruty on 29 January was bravely fought against impossible odds by schoolboy cadets, but at the end of the day was won by the Muscovy invaders. By 10 February 1918, the government of Ukraine was forced to flee Kyiv for Zhytomyr – the Red Army had captured the capital. Ukraine suffered a severe diplomatic setback with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk of 3 March 1918, thereafter becoming a de facto governate of Germany. With the defeat of Germany and Austria-Hungary in the First World War, Ukraine suffered a crushing blow diplomatically with the Treaty of Versailles of 10 January 1920. Like the partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century, Ukraine was divided between the Soviet Union and Poland and ceased to exist as a recognized sovereign state. The sweeping Soviet-Ukrainian War of 1917-1921, along with Polish-Ukrainian War of 1918-1919 and the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1921, finished off the nascent independence of Ukraine as the Ukrainian People’s Republic.
Like now, there was no civil war in Ukraine one hundred years ago. There was a civil war in a foreign country, Russia, that spilled over into Ukraine. Ukraine became independent one hundred years ago. Ukraine’s independence was subsumed under foreign, Muscovy occupation for 71 years. Independent Ukraine re-emerged in 1991.
On the centenary of Ukraine’s declaration of sovereignty, President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, spoke to participants of the “EuroMaidan” Revolution of Dignity and the parents of Serhiy Nigoyan, who was the first of the Heavenly Hundred to be shot and killed by Yanukovych’s “Berkut” security forces (on 22 January 2014). President Poroshenko said that having proclaimed the independence of the Ukrainian People’s Republic one hundred years ago, Ukrainians then failed to keep power. He urged unity among Ukrainians, especially in the face of Russian aggression now against Ukraine. Muscovy has never truly accepted that independent Ukraine has a right to exist. The President said: “Moscow’s instincts, reflexes and phobias haven’t changed over these 100 years. It is obvious now that the Kremlin’s special operation to disrupt the signing of the Association Agreement with the EU was a part of hybrid war against Ukraine.”
Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine has lasted for three months shy of four years. Sadly, there is nothing new under the sun when it comes to Muscovy perfidy and aggression. Putin’s Russian army invading Ukraine in Crimea and Donbas is doing the same thing today that Trotsky’s Red Army did invading Ukraine in Kharkiv and beyond a century ago. With different technology of communications, Russia is wielding the same hate propaganda against Ukrainians today as it did a hundred years ago. Russian intelligence services were the Cheka back then, but they became the NKVD, the MGB, the KGB, and now the FSB, but it’s all the same: Russian state terror deployed against everyone except those at the top of the Moscow criminal regime. It was sponsored “uprisings” of Bolsheviks in the Soviet-Ukrainian War of 1917-1921 and it’s paid protestors and “titushky” (hired thugs) in the Russo-Ukrainian War of 2014-20??
Ukraine is in a fight for its life. With weak support from other Western democracies, only the unity of the Ukrainian people and the strength of their national spirit will see them through. The centenary of the Ukrainian People’s Republic is an opportunity to reflect upon and realize that sovereign independence is the natural state for the Ukrainian people. Foreign occupation by Russians is an unnatural state, it is evil, and it is wrong. Ukrainians today are called upon to win true independence, and succeed where their forebears a century ago could not. Ukraine today will win when it carries out a plan for victory: victory on the war front fighting against Russian invaders, and victory on the home front fighting for a good and just society.