Russia and Ukrainian (In)Dependence

It is clear that the revolutions that occurred in Russia in 1917 did not only affect Russia, but also its neighboring nation, Ukraine. The Revolutions may have even inspired the people to host their own rebellions. On June 10, 1917 the First Declaration of the Rada took place. In this Declaration, the congress explained their responsibilities to protect the rights and freedoms of the Ukrainian land and its wish to have a free Ukraine without separating from all of Russia. However, the declaration then explains how the Russian Provisional Government ignored demands by Rada delegates and did not wish to work with the Rada to build a new regime. With that, the Rada declared that they would work to reach autonomy in the Ukraine. On December 12, 1917, just about six months after the First Declaration of the Rada, was the Self-determination of the Ukraine. This all-Ukraine Congress of Soviets, like in the Declaration of the Rada, declared goals for bettering Ukrainian life. However, in the Self-determination, the congress rejected the Rada and claimed them to have a counter- revolutionary nature. The Self- determination focused on workers and peasants, the lower classes, and their rights and freedoms. Also, this congress chose to recognize Ukraine as a federal part of the Russian Republic and was far more focused on protecting worker’s rights than on Ukrainian independence.

Both congresses expressed a want for freedom from Russia but also seemed to have some anxiety about complete independence. The First Declaration only declared a want for autonomy after explaining how its original request to work with the Russian Provisional Government was rejected. The Self-determination of the Ukraine did not outwardly state a want for independence from Russia but did express Ukrainian pride and independence by stating the congress’s job to fight for the self-determination of the Ukraine in the interests of the workers and peasants. However, the Self-determination does outwardly recognize the Ukrainian Republic as a federal part of the Russian Republic and did not express a desire to change that. The declarations differed in that the Self-determination of the Ukraine was concerned mostly with workers and peasants and their rights and overall quality of life whereas the Central Rada expressed more general goals of independence from Russia. It seemed even that if the Central Rada was more concerned with the lives of workers and peasants and less so with independence form Russia, that the Congress of Soviets would not have rejected them in their Self-determination of the Ukraine.

Both congresses were simply looking for a better quality of life; the Central Rada believed that this could only happen after independence from Russia and the All-Ukraine Congress of Soviets seemed to believe unity with Russia would bring the best benefits, at least for the lower classes. Possibly the revolutions in Russia at the time confused the Ukrainians on where Ukraine stood in relation to Russia and what would be more beneficial to the people of the country, autonomy or unity.

4 thoughts on “Russia and Ukrainian (In)Dependence

  1. I belive an important topic to bring forward on the topic of independence movements in Russia, is one of demographics.

  2. I belive an important topic to look into when discussing the early movements for independence in Russia is of demographics. Russia, is a massive nation that encompasses not only Russians but peoples of numerous ethnic perspectives and religions. It is quite important that the Bolsheviks took advantage of the fact that the many minorities of Russia would not be served by the conservative government, and that by speaking the language of the people they would better be represented. But while October revolution was one of class, I believe the first declaration of Rada was one of ethnicity.
    I find the fact that Ukraine’s revolution attempted to split off into its own nation instead of simply overthrowing the government and giving the land back to the people a case of a local ethnic and cultural identity triumphing over the class based identity of the Bolsheviks. This ethnic side of the conflict can still be seen today in the Ukrainian civil war and the subsequent war with Russia.

  3. I really liked your point on whether the Ukrainian congresses were confused on their position with this new Soviet government. After nearly a milennium of a monarchy, now a new system is in place and it is not hard to understand the split in opinion for what would be best for Ukraine. With many new ideas being put into place, the welfare of the Ukraine would be very dependent on the welfare of the new Soviet government.

  4. You suggest that if the Central Rada had focused less on its goal to gain independence from Russia in its First Declaration, then the Congress of Soviets may have accepted their requests. I agree that it would make sense for the Congress of Soviets to approve of requests involving the rights of workers, but the Russian Soviet Government recognized the independence of Finland and Estonia. Though both these countries focused primarily on their right to independence, their independence from Russia was recognized. This brings up the question, what was different between the declaration of independence of Finland and Estonia, and that of Ukraine? Both Finland and Estonia are Baltic states and their inhabitants do not speak Slavic languages. Perhaps Russia felt more hesitant to let go of a Slavic country such as Ukraine. This hesitancy may help explain Russia’s reasoning behind its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

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