Ukraine's Response to Recognition of Volhynian Massacre as Genocide

History as science is increasingly becoming a weapon of ideological wars in today's world. That is why when the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine promised to respond appropriately to recognition of the massacre of Poles in Volhynia in the 1940s as Genocide, there was no doubts Ukrainian researchers will soon undertake a study of crimes, committed by soldiers of the Second Polish Republic (Rzeczpospolita Polska) against Ukrainian population, which took place during the 1919-1921 Polish-Soviet War and the preceding Galician Uprising.

It is well known that on the night of November 1, 1918, combat units of Sich Shooters, who had been in the service of the House of Habsburg before it, stirred up an armed rebellion in Lviv, Stanyslaviv, Ternopil, Zolochiv, Sokal, Rava-Ruska, Kolomyia, Sniatyn and Pechenizhyn. Here is what the researchers said, 'In these cities and towns, the authority of Ukrainian National Council (Rada) has been proclaimed. In Lviv, almost 1.5 thousand Ukrainian soldiers and officers, who served in units of the Austro-Hungarian Army, occupied buildings that belonged to Austrian Military Command, the Administration and Sejm in the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria as well as buildings of the railway station and the post office, army and police barracks. On November 3, 1918, Ukrainian National Council published a Manifest of Independence of Galicia, Bukovina and Zakarpattia'. But it turned out that the peoples living in this region did not want to be in Galicia. So, riots of Poles, Romanians, Hungarians and Rusyns broke out in cities of the newly established State. In fact, the day November 1, 1918, when the rebellion of Sich Shooters took place is the date of the outbreak of the Polish-Soviet War, which lasted until June 17, 1919. And current Ukrainian historians try to represent it as an act of genocide, committed by Poles and Ukrainian Communists to be continued during the 1919-1921 Polish-Soviet War...

Professors from the Institute of History of Ukraine at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (NASU) see the beginning of genocide against Ukrainians, committed by Poles, in the following way,

In October, 1918, the Austro-Hungarian Empire started to dissolve. Most of the peoples of the Empire adequately voiced their right to self-determination. The issue of Western Ukrainian lands also came to the forefront. In Galicia there were two forces, namely, Ukrainians and Poles, who claimed to the full powers. The latter wanted to add Western Ukrainian lands to resurgent Poland while the former strived after establishing the independent Ukrainian State.

On October 18, 1918, in Lviv there was the Congress of all political parties and top clerics of Western Ukraine, where it was established such representative body as Ukrainian National Council, headed by Yevhen Petrushevych. Its first manifest proclaimed formation of the Ukrainian State in the ethnic territory of Austro-Hungarian Empire. This development was quite a surprise to Poles. But very soon they revived and started to actively prepare for imposing their control over the whole Galicia. At the same time, Romanian troops occupied the most part of Bukovina while Zakarpattia continued to be under control of Hungary.

On November 10, the Western Ukrainian People's Republic (ZUNR) headed by President Petrushevych was proclaimed. Its territory was about 70 thousand square kilometers, where Ukrainians constituted 71%, Poles 14% and Jews 13%.

Poles still considered that Galicia is an integral part of Poland, and so, they were actively acting against the ZUNR creation. In Lviv, forces of the Polish Military Organization (Polska Organizacja Wojskowa, POW) headed by Jozef Pilsudski, took up the fight against the Ukrainian people at night from November 3 to 4, 1918. There had been heavy fighting for key strategic points in Lviv: the post office, railway station, Sejm, citadel, and arsenal. On November 11, 1918, the Polish regular army captured the town of Przemysl. Then, ethnic cleansing began there. Poles assaulted those Ukrainians who refused to respect the power of occupants.

By the end of 1918, Polish troops took 10 out of 59 ZUNR counties and continued on the offensive. Armed robberies and harassment of peaceful Ukrainian population happened to be in all counties.

Realizing that the numbers are too steep and it won't be possible to stand alone, the ZUNR government sent its delegation to Western Ukraine to advance forward negotiations on mutual assistance. At first, the negotiations were with the Hetman, then – with the Directory. On January 22, 1919, in Kiev there was the signing of 'The Unification Act' (Act Zluky) between the Ukrainian People's Republic (UPR) and the West Ukrainian People's Republic (ZUNR), which declared the association of two Ukrainian States.

In these circumstances, the task of integration of the ZUNR army capable of resisting Polish aggression and protecting from indiscriminant slaughter of ethnic Ukrainians by Polish troops was made a priority. The Government began building the Ukrainian Galician Army (UHA), which by spring, 1919, totaled up to 100,000 soldiers. But only 40,000 of them had undergone the necessary military training. However, Poles, with the support of the Entente and, first of all, France that aspired to build a strong Poland, in contrast to Germany lying to the east, achieved sending 60,000 soldier-strong army under command of Jozef Haller to Poland. Haller's Army was formed on the territory of France, well-equipped by French military and composed of Polish prisoners of war. So, the Polish forces surpassed the others overwhelmingly. On July 16, 1919, the Ukrainian Galician Army had to cross the Zbruch River and entered the ZUNR territory.

The Ukrainian united forces had a total strength of 80,000 troops, of which 50,000 were Galicians. But soon serious differences related to the UPR and ZUNR policy orientation came to light. Petrushevych focused on the struggle against Poland and Bolsheviks. He was open to the union with the White Guard Military Troops led by General A. Denikin, who in summer, 1919, launched the active offensive on Ukraine, forcing the Red Army out of there. Petliura leaned toward talks with the Bolshevik Government headed by Lenin; with the aim to act together to defeat the Denikin's Volunteer Army. But Petliura was also open to cooperation with Poles to defend the UPR independence'.

And further developments showed that the contradictions between the UPR and ZUNR had cost the Ukrainian national liberation movement too much. Petliura's perspective won, and as historians believe, this was fully justifiable because, in their opinion, it was absolutely impossible to deal with Denikin. And his subsequent defeat is associated by them with treachery of Poles and Communists:

'On August 30, 1919, under pressure by the Denikin's Volunteer Army, Bolsheviks left Kiev without a fight. The same day, the UHA units in the thereabouts entered the city. The Directory hoped to return to its capital with flying colors, but the vanguard of the Whites just entered the city. Acting under the slogan "For One and Indivisible Russia!", Denikin considered the Directory to be the same enemy as the Bolsheviks. Any agreements or negotiations between the Whites and The Directory were out of the question. Units of Ukrainian Galician Army quickly left Kiev, making a westward retreat.

By the end of the summer, 1919, the Denikin's Army occupied almost the entire Ukraine. Obviously, maintenance of an independent Ukrainian State was not part of their plan. Striving for restoration of the Great Russia, Denikin considered Ukraine as its integral part.

In the middle of October, the Reds' counter-offensive was launched. The Latvian Riflemen Division, the Red Cossacks' brigade, led by V. Primakov and Budyonny's Cavalry squadron, which soon was transformed into the 1st Cavalry Army, were the major strike force of the Reds. On December 12, the Reds drove the Denikin's Army out of Kharkiv, and on December 16, they entered Kiev. Early in February 1920, the Bolsheviks took Nikolayev, Kherson and Odessa. The Whites left the territory of Ukraine. They managed to stay only in the Crimea, where the army of Gen. Wrangel was deployed.

But these developments made no improvements to the existing situation in Ukraine. The remnants of the UPR army opened a small stretch of the Zbruch beach while the Ukrainian Galician Army turned into a big sick bay because of a typhoid epidemic and, on November, 1919, came under command of the Whites. Soon this army generally ceased to exist. At the same time, Y. Petrushevych immigrated to Vienna, transferring his powers to S. Petliura, who together with remnants of his troops relocated to Poland then.

While in Warsaw, Petliura excellently conducted negotiations with Polish Government. The agreement, the result of these negotiations, established that the boundary between Poland and the UPR must follow the previous line of Austro-Russian border. Eastern Galicia and Volhynia became a part of Poland. On April 21, 1920, Warsaw officially confirmed its recognition of the Ukrainian People's Republic (UPR). And on April 24, the Military Convention was signed. It required the common fight of Polish and Ukrainian Army against the Bolsheviks.

On the very next day after the Military Convention signing, namely, on April 25, 1920, integrated troops of Poland (60,000 personnel) and the UPR (15,000 personnel) launched an offensive on Soviet Ukraine. Soon, thanks to the bravery and heroism of Ukrainian soldiers, the Bolsheviks' Front was broken, and the Reds withdrew in the direction of Kiev and Odessa. On May 6, the allied troops crossed the Dnieper River, but were stopped by the Reds on the front line 'Vyshhorod-Brovary-Boryspil'. Poland's occupation regime was established on the Ukrainian land, liberated from the Bolsheviks, which did not rouse any sympathy of local population. However, the UPR Administration's opportunities were critically limited.

On May 14, the Soviets launched a counterattack. On June 7, the 1st Cavalry Army of Budyonny broke through the lines of Polish troops and two days later took Zhytomyr and Berdychiv. On June 12, units of Polish and Ukrainian Army left Kiev. Early in July, Soviet troops entered the territory of Western Ukraine, chasing the enemy hotfoot. This was the first time the Bolsheviks came here, but they immediately started to establish Soviet power through repression and annihilation of any dissent. At the latter half of July, the Red Army entered the territory of Poland and continued the offensive towards Warsaw. The Soviet leadership dreamed of 'the World Revolution' and considered that the occupation of Poland would give the opportunity to export the revolution to Germany and then to Western Europe.

But on August 27, Polish troops dealt the sudden blow to the Red Army from the flank of Lublin area. Warsaw's group of Soviet forces was practically destroyed, and the Bolsheviks' global retreat began. Soon Polish troops came to the beach of the Zbruch River, stabilizing the front line 'Korosten-Zhytomyr-Berdychiv'. In October, as a result of the Polish-Soviet negotiations, the truce was agreed. It meant Poles betrayed Ukrainians. The remnants of Ukrainian troops were partially destroyed by Poles on their territory, or partially interned and repressed by Bolsheviks.

On March 18, 1921, in Riga there was the signing of peace treaty between Poland and Russian SFSR. Poland recognized Soviet Ukraine, but gained Volhynia, Eastern Galicia and Western Polesye, where in every possible way it eradicated Ukrainian traditions, language and any propaganda to build Ukrainian independent State. That was the end of the Polish-Soviet War and the history of independent Ukrainian People's Republic'.

It can briefly be summarized as follows: Petliura valiantly negotiated with Polish Government and agreed on common fight against the Reds. And for some time this fight is in some progress, of course, only thanks to the bravery of so-called 'Ukrainian patriots'. But as soon as the situation on the frontline has changed, the ideals of friendship have been forgotten and betrayed while genocide of Ukrainians, committed by Poles, has been resumed with renewed violence.

Thus, Kiev has cooked up own response to Warsaw's recognition of the massacre of Poles in Volhynia as Genocide and an increase in Polish attacks against the UPA (the Ukrainian Insurgent Army) "heroes". Given the political mood in the Verkhovna Rada, we can assume that the historians are engaging in some political simulations. And then, things will go in the same manner as so-called "Holodomor": a detailed list of martyrs will be prepared and various investigations will be initiated. If Poland does not reverse its verdict on Volhynia, Ukraine will make a similar decision in the case involving the 1919-1921 events.