The Ukrainian People’s Gromada in the Civil War: Ukrainian Conservatives, Russian Statists, or Little Russian Patriots?
This article is devoted to the Ukrainian People’s Gromada (UPG), the organization of Little Russian landlords which played a prominent part in the political life of Ukraine and South Russia during the Civil War. Ukrainian historiography treats the UPG as an organisation of Ukrainian conservatives and assigns it the key role in the Hetman coup d’état of April 1918. There is also a widespread opinion that the Gromada was dissolved immediately after Hetman P. P. Skoropadsky took power. This work aims to reconsider traditional views on UPG and, with reference to new archival sources, prove the following: the role of the Gromada in the coup d’état was exaggerated considerably; the UPG continued to exist after Skoropadsky took power; and one can doubt the “Ukrainian” nature of the organisation, despite its name. Based on Skoropadsky’s memoirs and the accounts of other witnesses, as well as some German sources, the author proves that the Gromada was not the leading force in the coup d’état, but only the organisation which prepared lists of candidates to be included in the new government. The sources kept in the Central State Archives of the Supreme Bodies of Power and Government of Ukraine and the Hoover Institution Archives that are devoted to the activities of the UPG from the summer of 1918 to the spring of 1919 have not been made public previously. After the directorate seized power, the leaders of the Gromada fled from Kiev to Odessa. There they took part in local political intrigues and tried to distance themselves from Hetman Skoropadsky and the project of the Ukrainian state. The UPG leaders, who had previously viewed themselves as Ukrainian “samostiyniks”, now proclaimed that they were not Ukrainians, but Little Russians and “Russian statists”. An attempt is made to analyse the reasons why UPG members moved from the Russian political camp to the Ukrainian one and back several times in a comparatively short period. Based on research in the field of “nationalism studies”, the author concludes that the Gromada members had traditional, pre-modern views on the nation (in this case as a corporation of Little Russian nobility), which, together with their desire to adapt to the ever-changing political situation and fight for their privileges and economic interests, made it possible for them to keep joining Russian and Ukrainian nationalists interchangeably without perceiving their actions as national treason. The study of this topic makes it possible to address the Little Russian nobility’s behaviour in the Civil War and their attempts to integrate into Ukrainian or Russian national projects.
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