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Struggling for Independence

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Struggling for Independence

Haidamaka uprising (Haidamachchy-na) eighteenth-century popular rebellions against the social, national, and religious oppression of the Polish regime in Right-Bank Ukraine.

As the abuse of power by Polish magnates and nobles and in Ukraine increased, disaffection among the common people grew; serfs, other peasants, impoverished Cossacks, artisans, burghers, and agricultural colonists fled from their oppressors into the steppes or forests. There they formed bands of haidamakas, which moved swiftly from one area to another to attack their enemy and disappeared again into the wilds. Zaporizhian Cossacks played leading roles as organizers of the rebel bands, which plundered and burned towns and nobles' estates, killing Roman Catholic and Uniate clerics, nobles and their agents. The Poles reacted by further repressing the peasantry. Haidamakas who were captured were tortured and cruelly executed. Yet the haidamakas' call for a free land, for the abolition of serfdom, and for the free exercise of the Orthodox faith found sympathy among the peasantry and many Orthodox monks, who often provided them with shelters, supplies, and hiding places.

The first general insurrection broke out in 1734 during the war for the Polish throne after the death of Augustus II. The haidamakas captured several towns, including Vinnytsia, Brody, and Zbara-zh, and penetrated as far as Kamianets-Podilskyi and Lviv. The uprising was crushed by the intervention of Russian troops.

The second major uprising broke out in 1750. Having organized themselves on the territory of the Zaporizhian Cossacks, the haidamakas captured Uman, Vinnytsia, Chygyryn, and other towns before uprising was suppressed by the Polish forces. Failure of the revolt can be attributed to the lack of co-ordination among the various haidamaka detachments, of a general plan of action, and of a common leader.

The largest and bloodiest haidamaka uprising, known as the Koliivshchy-na, broke out in 1768 in the Kyiv and Bratslav regions and spread to Podilia, Volhynia, and even Subcarpathia. The main leaders of the uprising were the Zaporizhian Cossack M. Zalizniak and the captain of the Uman Cossack militia, I. Gonta. Many towns were captured by the rebels, and their Polish and Jewish inhabitants were slaughtered. The Poles managed to crush the uprising only with the help of Russian troops.
After 1768 haidamaka uprising in Right-Bank Ukraine declined. Such later revolts as that led by U. Karma-liuk, however, were not unlike the earlier ones. The haidamakas and their uprisings have been preserved in the collective memory in the form of legends and folksongs.

Though Ukraine was given extensive autonomy in 1654 it was gradually reduced by czarist ukases. The final blow was dealt by Empress Catherine II. In 1775 Russian troops approached the Zaporizhian Sich, took it by stealth and ruined it.

The 18th century was marked by the spreading of the national liberation movement. It witnessed the Haidamak Revolt and Koliyivshchyna rebellion, led by Zaporizhian Cossack Maksym Zal-iznyak and Cossack Sotnyk Ivan Honta. The first half of the 19th century was marked by peasant revolts against serfdom. Among their leaders was the legendary Ustym Karmalyuk. In 1813 he headed a peasant movement in Podil-lya which spread to Kyiv province and Bessarabia.

In 1845 Mykola Kostomarov, a young scholar, Mykola Hulak, a government clerk, and Vasyl Bilozersky, a learned ethnographer and pedagogue, founded the Brotherhood of Sts. Cyril and Methodius. Its program was based on the idea of Ukraine's national liberation and the formation of a federation of Slavic states. In 1847 all its members were arrested and punished severely.

The liberal stand of the Russian government in 1850s led to the revival of the Ukrainian national idea. Ukrainian intellectual communities began to appear which conducted national cultural work, up until the revolution 1917.

In Halychyna, the awakening of the national spirit was largely due to the activities of the Ruska Tryitsya: Mar-kiyan Shashkevych, Yakiv Holovatsky and Ivan Vahylevich.

The February Revolution in Russia served as a powerful catalyst for the national movement in Ukraine. In March 4, 1917, on the initiative of the Society of Ukrainian Progressives, the Tsentral-na Rada (Central Council) was formed in Kyiv as a representative body of Ukrainian democratic forces. Mykhailo Hrushevsky was elected its Chairman. On June 10 (23), 1917, the Central Rada proclaimed Ukraine's autonomy within Russia. On July 3(16) the General Secretariat government was formed headed by V. Vynnychenko. Finally, on November 7 (20), the Ukrainian National Republic (UNR) was proclaimed. This marked the beginning of an undeclared war between Ukraine and Soviet Russia which lasted till the end of November 1921.

On December 12 (25), 1917, the All-Ukrainian Congress of Soviets in Kharkiv proclaimed Ukraine a Soviet republic and formed the first Soviet administration consisting largely of bolsheviks. It was in these circumstances that the Central Rada proclaimed Ukraine's independence on January 9 (22), 1918. But the bolshevik troops seized Kyiv and occupied Left-Bank Ukraine.

Meanwhile, on October 18,1918, the Ukrainian National Rada was set up in Lviv. Ukrainian troops took power in Lviv on November 13, the Western Ukrainian People's Republic was proclaimed. On January 22, 1919, the ceremony of uniting UNR and WURR took place in Kyiv.

The UNR troops could not hold back the Red Army's offensive and on February 5, 1919 they had to leave Kyiv. Vynnychenko resigned. His post went to Supreme Otaman Simon Petlyura (1879-1926).

Bohdan Khmelnytsky
Bohdan Khmelnytsky
  World War II