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The Ukrainian Peasant Insurgency in the Revolutionary Period

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Birkbeck, University of London

Malet Street Building (enter via Torrington Square)

Room B35

London

WC1E 7HX

United Kingdom

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Dimitri Tolkatsch (University of Freiburg)

The Ukrainian Peasant Insurgency in the Revolutionary Period

1917 was a year of revolution not just in Russia, but in Ukraine as well. During the Ukrainian revolution, nationally-minded activists tried to establish a Ukrainian state, but they had to compete with the Bolsheviks as well as other actors such as the White Army of Denikin, the Central Powers and the hetman regime of Skoropads’kyi. In 1917 the Ukrainian national movement seemed to enjoy the confidence of the Ukrainian peasant masses. However, that support was often withdrawn; no political movement or party found complete support from the peasantry. Indeed, from 1918 right through to the end of the Civil War, Ukrainian peasants enacted several waves of local or regional uprisings against any and all political forces that tried to intervene in the inner-life of the villages. These uprisings significantly weakened any emerging power and played a crucial role in the defeats of all warring parties. In the hinterland of the insurgencies, the villagers conducted their own revolution, reforming their societies as they saw fit, in ways that included such contradictory elements as social justice, grass-roots democracy and ethnic cleansing. Although the insurgents were to eventually suffer defeat, their struggle showed how little the political elites of the revolutionary period understood the potential of the “dark masses”. This lecture, based on materials gathered in Ukrainian and Russian archives, will offer an understanding of the Ukrainian peasant revolution from below, something usually neglected in dominant historical narratives of the revolutionary period.

Dimitri Tolkatsch is PhD-candidate at the Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg (Germany). His research is funded by the Ernst-Ludwig-Ehrlich-Studienwerk Fund.

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Birkbeck, University of London

Malet Street Building (enter via Torrington Square)

Room B35

London

WC1E 7HX

United Kingdom

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