The ge­n­e­sis of Ukrainian con­ser­vatism:

What shaped the aris­to­cratic tra­di­tion in pol­i­tics be­tween the Cos­sack pe­riod and the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle in 1917-1920

The Ukrainian Week - - CONTENTS - Yuriy Tereshchenko, his­to­rian and re­searcher of the 20th century in Ukraine

What shaped the aris­to­cratic tra­di­tion in pol­i­tics be­tween the Cos­sack pe­riod and the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle in 1917-1920

As a po­lit­i­cal con­cept, con­ser­vatism is rooted in the re­sis­tance to rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tions of so­ci­ety and pub­lic opin­ions trig­gered by the French Revo­lu­tion. The ad­vo­cates of con­ser­vatism – pri­mar­ily, aris­to­crats and the clergy – pro­moted the con­ser­va­tion of the old so­cio-po­lit­i­cal sys­tem and re­sisted a sim­pli­fied no­tion of equal­ity that was gain­ing a foothold as nat­u­ral and in­sti­tu­tional dif­fer­ences be­tween peo­ple faded.

Early dis­plays of con­ser­vatism man­i­fested them­selves in the USA in the prin­ci­ples of checks and bal­ances, pro­tec­tion of pri­vate prop­erty and the rule of law en­trenched both in the plan­ta­tion states of the South, and the mer­can­tile in­dus­trial states of the North. The fed­eral Con­sti­tu­tion arose from this foun­da­tion to pro­tect the Amer­i­can so­ci­ety from rad­i­cal up­heavals. In fact, Amer­ica’s so­cial trans­for­ma­tion in the 18th and 19th cen­turies was not a revo­lu­tion but a war for the in­de­pen­dence of colo­nial en­ti­ties from the me­trop­o­lis.

By con­trast to the sys­tems of uni­for­mity and pseudo-equal­ity that par­a­lyze civic ini­tia­tive and lead to stag­na­tion, con­ser­vatism sup­ports pri­vate prop­erty as a guar­an­tee of so­cial di­ver­sity, civil lib­er­ties and cul­tural devel­op­ment.

Con­ser­vatism in­ter­prets rad­i­cal strug­gle for lib­erty as a process that de facto leads to the de­struc­tion of lib­erty. As an al­ter­na­tive, it ad­vo­cates re­stric­tion of rad­i­cal move­ments and cre­ation of an en­vi­ron­ment that is most con­ve­nient for the evo­lu­tion of so­ci­ety. For this pur­pose, con­ser­vatism sup­ported pri­vate prop­erty as an in­sti­tu­tion that de­fends plu­ral­ism, so­cial di­ver­sity, in­di­vid­ual and so­cial free­dom and cul­tural devel­op­ment at var­i­ous stages of his­tory.

Con­ser­vatism was first used as a po­lit­i­cal term that de­scribed ef­forts to pre­serve civilizational ac­com­plish­ments of the pre­vi­ous era and com­bine them with the chal­lenges of the 19th century at the time of Napoleon and the sub­se­quent years. It did not cre­ate a strict po­lit­i­cal model or a uni­ver­sal ide­ol­ogy. In­stead, it of­fered so­ci­ety a way to pre­serve pos­i­tive civilizational ex­pe­ri­ence in a given coun­try, and faith in the cre­ative role of its tra­di­tional in­sti­tu­tions of power

and spir­i­tu­al­ity, such as monar­chy or church, as well as of the lead­ing so­cial stra­tum based on a his­tor­i­cal tra­di­tion.


Con­ser­vatism played an im­por­tant role in Ukraine’s his­tory as a po­lit­i­cal prin­ci­ple that guided cer­tain so­cial classes, and as a tool for pre­serv­ing the lan­guage, faith, rit­u­als, and tra­di­tional ways of fam­ily and civic life. The con­ser­va­tive tra­di­tions of Old Kyiv and Ha­ly­chyna-Vol­hy­nia Prin­ci­pal­ity were the foun­da­tion on which the princes, the bo­yars and the mil­i­tary re­lied within the Grand Duchy of Lithua­nia. The Dutchy of­fered de­cen­tral­iza­tion for al­most 200 years, en­sur­ing the preser­va­tion of tra­di­tional lo­cal or­der and western vec­tor of devel­op­ment in the ter­ri­tory de­spite oc­ca­sional at­tempts of some Lithau­nian princes to con­duct a harsher uni­tary pol­icy. In Ukraine, this re­sulted in the devel­op­ment of con­trac­tual re­la­tion­ship in so­cio-po­lit­i­cal life, the sep­a­ra­tion of state and church, the re­stric­tion of the grand prince’s au­to­cratic power, self-gov­er­nance of ter­ri­to­ries and mu­nic­i­pal com­mu­ni­ties, and the con­sid­er­a­tion of rights and dig­nity of an in­di­vid­ual, even if in a limited so­cial niche.

Ukrainian aris­to­crats pre­served so­cial in­sti­tu­tion of the pre­vi­ous epoch and kept them func­tion­ing up un­til the Union of Lublin in 1569 that in­cor­po­rated Ukrainian land into the Pol­ish king­dom. This launched the ru­inous in­flu­ence of the Pol­ish class of mag­nates on Ukrainian aris­to­crats, pri­mar­ily the top layer. This ru­ina­tion in­cluded the degra­da­tion of long-stand­ing modes of so­cial life that had evolved from the Kyiv Rus and Ha­ly­chyna-Vol­hy­nia Prin­ci­pal­ity, and threat­ened con­ti­nu­ity in Ukrainian state­hood. In the new his­toric cir­tum­c­stances, the task of find­ing a so­lu­tion went from the old feu­dal elite to the new class, Ukrainian Cos­sacks.

As they emerged cen­tered around Za­por­izhzhia Sich as its mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal cen­ter, so did the first cells of the state body that later trans­formed into the state led by Bo­hdan Kh­mel­nyt­sky. Its state­hood was based on a new so­cio-eco­nomic foun­da­tion shaped by the mod­ern pe­riod in Europe. Un­like feu­dal landown­ers, Cos­sacks mostly used hired la­bor and re­jected feu­dal land own­er­ship and serf­dom. “Bour­goise re­la­tions emerged in Cos­sack­ruled ter­ri­to­ries; they had an im­por­tant im­pact on other re­gions,” wrote Volodymyr Holobut­skyi, a re­searcher of Cos­sack his­tory.

The so­cio-eco­nomic evo­lu­tion of the Cos­sacks whose eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties un­folded in an anti-feu­dal early bur­gouise frame­work, clashed with the land own­er­ship by the Pol­ish no­bil­ity in Ukraine, lead­ing to harsh so­cial and na­tional con­flicts. While other classes in Ukraine did not move be­yond the op­po­si­tion al­lowed by law, the Cos­sacks de­fended their in­ter­ests through armed re­sis­tance against the Pol­ish regime.

As the Cos­sack state evolved, it ab­sorbed old small and mid­dle feu­dal elite. Civil ser­vants, armed ser­vants and small landown­ers joined the Cos­sacks in the late 16th century, hav­ing a pow­er­ful im­pact on the emerg­ing en­tity’s class iden­tity, as well as po­lit­i­cal and so­cial de­mands. These groups played an im­por­tant part in trans­fer­ing the state­hood legacy to the Cos­sacks, and hav­ing the Cos­sacks re­vive it in a new his­tor­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment. As they merged with the Cos­sacks, these groups in­jected a knightly el­e­ment, the con­fi­dence in equal­ity with the no­bil­ity.

The num­ber of the Cos­sacks grew in Ukraine, and the pop­u­la­tion in­flu­enced by it ex­panded and re­fused to sub­ject to the Pol­ish ad­min­is­tra­tion. As a re­sult, Rzech­pospolita saw a state cre­ated in the state. Even­tu­ally, this led to a na­tion­wide ex­plo­sion in Ukraine and the elim­i­na­tion of Pol­ish rule.

There was no harsh chrono­log­i­cal line be­tween the first and the sec­ond stages of state­build­ing. In 1648, the con­struc­tion of a new Ukrainian state, Za­por­izhian Host, be­gan. After sev­eral years of bloody and ex­haust­ing war with Poland, Ukraine ac­cepted the pro­tec­torate of the Moscow tsar in 1654. How­ever, it re­mained a sep­a­rate state body with its own so­cio-po­lit­i­cal or­der and church, ad­min­is­tra­tion, army, fi­nance, diplo­macy, het­man as head of state, as well as rights and priv­i­leges of some so­cial classes. Ukraine en­tered into con­trac­tual re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sia as a free and in­de­pen­dent party that did not cre­ate any com­mon state in­sti­tu­tions with it.


From the early days of the Cos­sack state­hood, Bo­hdan Kh­mel­nyt­sky re­al­ized that the tra­di­tional elected het­mans would not nec­es­sar­ily be able to build the pres­tige of the Cos­sack state or strengthen the author­ity of its in­sti­tu­tions in the eyes of the whole so­ci­ety in a long-term prospect. The author­ity of the het­man’s power could be lost ir­re­versibly if the mace, the het­man’s sym­bol of power, ended up in less ca­pa­ble or pop­u­lar hands.

The elected Cos­sack het­man had no power to con­sol­i­date all strata of Ukrainian so­ci­ety as the elec­tion process in­volved only parts of it and could al­ways lead to un­ex­pected re­sults. There­fore, as the strug­gle for lib­er­a­tion in­ten­si­fied, Kh­mel­nyt­sky showed stronger in­ten­tions to change the na­ture of the het­man’s power.

Bo­hdan Kh­mel­nyt­sky planned to elim­i­nate two fea­tures of Ukrainian het­manate: its elected na­ture and its de­pen­dence on for­eign states. In his last years, his goal was to fill the het­man’s author­ity with new essence, turn­ing it into a hered­i­tary in­sti­tu­tion and mov­ing out of de­pen­dence on the Rus­sian tsar through an al­liance with Swe­den.

Vi­ach­eslav Lypyn­sky, an ide­o­logue of Ukrainian con­ser­vatism, saw the sta­bil­ity of the het­man’s power and its trans­for­ma­tion from elected to hered­i­tary or dy­nas­tic as cen­tral among the slew of is­sues trig­gered by the 1648-1657 na­tional lib­er­a­tion strug­gle. He viewed the dy­nas­tic prin­ci­ple for the het­manate as one of the key pil­lars of the evolv­ing or­der. In his works, Lypyn­sky pro­vided many facts that proved the de­sire of Kh­mel­nyt­sky, the leader of the Cos­sack revo­lu­tion, to pro­foundly change the sense and the na­ture of the Het­manate, and to trans­form it into an in­sti­tu­tion of hered­i­tary suc­ces­sion.

Lypyn­sky con­cluded that the idea of hered­i­tary Het­manate in one form or an­other had been a per­ma­nent com­po­nent of po­lit­i­cal mind­set in the time of the Cos­sack state and evolved into a tra­di­tional Ukrainian reality. “The de­sire to turn the Het­manate from a sys­tem of elec­tion for life, as bor­rowed from the Pol­ish monar­chy, into a hered­i­tary non-elected monar­chy was, from the time of Bo­hdan Kh­mel­nyt­sky, Ivan Samoilovych and Kyrylo Rozu­movsky a tra­di­tional as­pi­ra­tion of na­tion-state con­ser­vatism, i.e. the con­ser­vatism that looks for sup­port­ing points in its own coun­try, not in its neigh­bors,” Lypyn­sky wrote. The dy­nasty prin­ci­ple ac­com­pa­nied the strug­gle of Ukraini­ans for their ter­ri­tory and pol­i­tics, demon­strat­ing “Ukraine’s sep­a­rate­ness from Moscow” in Lypyn­sky’s words.

He saw the pol­icy based on dy­nasty and ter­ri­tory rather than cul­ture and na­tion as an im­por­tant fac­tor of

na­tional state­build­ing which was as im­por­tant for Ukraini­ans as it was for other Euro­pean na­tions. “Na­tional sep­a­rate­ness of the Bavar­i­ans from the Prus­sians lies in the House of Wit­tels­bach and their state,” he wrote. “[The sep­a­rate­ness of] Aus­trian Ger­mans from the Ger­man ones lies in the Hab­s­burgs and their dy­nasty and ter­ri­tory pol­icy; [the sep­a­rate­ness of] the Wal­loons from the French lies in Bel­gium which is only pos­si­ble as a monar­chy state based on ter­ri­to­rial and po­lit­i­cal grounds rather than cul­tural and re­li­gious ones.”

Sim­i­larly, the princes of Ha­ly­chyna-Vol­hy­nia Prince­dom from the houses of Rostyslavovy­chs, Ro­manovy­chs, then the Ged­im­i­nas, Koriy­a­tovy­chs and Ol­ger­dovichs im­per­son­ated cer­tain Ukrainian ter­ri­to­rial po­lit­i­cal trends in state­build­ing. This tra­di­tion was taken over and con­tin­ued by the het­mans and the Cos­sack state­hood that was built, like the pre- vi­ous state en­ti­ties, on the foun­da­tion of land own­er­ship and set­tled farm­ing.

Bo­hdan Kh­mel­nyt­sky’s dy­nasty­cen­tered ideas were im­ple­mented in close con­tact with the over­all pro­cesses of the Cos­sack state build­ing. They re­quired con­sol­i­da­tion of all classes that had been “strongly as­sim­i­lated by the Pol­ish state­hood and were dif­fi­cult to per­suade to take on sep­a­ratist plans and fol­low the het­man’s in­tents.” The dif­fi­culty of this task was partly rooted in the fact that Kh­mel­nyt­sky and the Cos­sack lead­er­ship did not of­fer a na­tion­wide pro­gram for some time, fo­cus­ing in­stead on pro­tect­ing the in­ter­ests of their class first.

As he stepped on the path of en­trench­ing his own dy­nasty, Bo­hdan Kh­mel­nyt­sky was ob­vi­ously un­able to im­ple­ment his idea with­out the sup­port of the Ukrainian no­bil­ity that was still nu­mer­ous and had not yet joined the Cos­sacks. His only chance to win such sup­port was in be­com­ing an “au­to­crat of Rus”, and “the Master and Leader of our land”, as de­scribed by Sylvestr Ko­siv, the Met­ro­pol­i­tan of Kyiv, Ha­ly­chyna and All Rus, a found- er of the Kyiv-Mo­hyla Academy and an ac­tive op­po­nent of the Het­manate Ukraine’s 1954 union with Mus­covy. The es­tab­lish­ment of a united na­tional front had to play a cru­cial role in Kh­mel­nyt­sky’s war, as it had in the later pe­riod of the 1917-1921 strug­gle for Ukraine’s state­hood. The only source of it was a strug­gle for Ukrainian state­hood that would be com­mon for all Ukrainian classes.

When Bo­hdan Kh­mel­nyt­sky sensed a threat to the wider Ukrainian na­tional in­ter­ests from Moscow, he en­tered into a new al­liance with Protes­tant states, in­clud­ing Swe­den, Braden­burg-Prus­sia, Tran­syl­va­nia, as well as Mol­davia and Wal­lachia. That block was aimed against Poland, as well as Moscow.

The het­man’s split with Poland and the even­tual ac­cep­tance of the Rus­sian tsar’s pro­tec­tion showed the “Rus no­bil­ity”, both Ortho­dox and Catholic, that it could no longer rely on Pol­ish state in­sti­tu­tions or any prospect of their re­con­struc­tion on Ukrainian land. “The Rus no­bil­ity was tak­ing a hard, bloody way to re­al­iz­ing that there could be no peace and or­der in its Rus un­less it re­turned to its orig­i­nal state­hood and fully united with its peo­ple,” Vi­ach­eslav Lypyn­sky wrote. “The Cos­sack state­hood had ma­tured by that point, and the Het­man of the Za­por­izhzhia Host was re­sem­bling more and more the for­got­ten Crown of the Rus princes. In 1655, the no­bil­ity be­gan to turn its at­ten­tion to­wards Ukraine and its pow­er­ful leader.”

This class was the most con­sis­tent in pre­serv­ing the old state and the na­tional tra­di­tion on which the het­man re­lied to im­ple­ment his state­build­ing and dy­nasty plans. It also had a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the do­mes­tic and for­eign pol­icy of the Cos­sack state.


The re­turn of the Ukrainian no­ble class, still Pol­o­nized, to Ukrainian state­hood was a cru­cial com­po­nent of “nur­tur­ing the Ukrainian Na­tion out of all of the parts bro­ken off and frag­mented ear­lier […] that cli­maxed in the last year of Bo­hdan Kh­mel­nyt­sky’s het­man­ship,” Lypyn­sky wrote.

The aris­to­cratic con­ser­va­tive na­ture of the no­bil­ity in the western and north-western ter­ri­to­ries that merged into the Cos­sack state be­came the sup­port­ing pil­lar for the het­man’s wide-scale po­lit­i­cal plans. In­te­grated into the Cos­sack class, the no­bil­ity re­mained vir­tu­ally the only car­rier of the old state and na­tional tra­di­tion, cre­at­ing the ground on which Kh­mel­nyt­sky’s plans for a hered­i­tary monar­chy could gain a foothold.

Un­der his het­man­ship, Kh­mel­nyt­sky or­ga­nized a Ukrainian state aris­to­cratic class. It in­cluded the new “peo­ple’s aris­toc­racy” – the Cos­sacks and the de­scen­dants of the old state aris­toc­racy, the Ortho­dox and Ro­man Catholic no­bil­ity. It was the uni­fi­ca­tion of these two classes that kept the na­tion-state front se­cure from the ag­gres­sive claims of Moscow and Poland.

As the het­man’s power gained a monar­chist na­ture, even if the process was never com­pleted, it turned into an im­por­tant fac­tor in the con­sol­i­da­tion of Ukrainian so­ci­ety in the 1648–1657 lib­er­a­tion war.


The con­cept of a hered­i­tary het­manate did not fate with the death of its founder. The ri­valry of the monar­chist and repub­li­can ap­proaches to the or­ga­ni­za­tion of power in Ukraine marked all of the Het­manate’s sub­se­quent his­tory. Shaped un­der Bo­hdan Kh­mel­nyt­sky, the dy­nasty-based con­cept was con­sid­ered by his suc­ces­sors, in­clud­ing Ivan Vy­hovsky, Petro Doroshenko, Demian Mno­hohrishny and Ivan Samoilovych. They tried to im­ple­ment it. Ivan Mazepa was prob­a­bly the most con­sis­tent and com­mited ad­vo­cate of the het­man’s ab­so­lutist power. How­ever, the het­man’s pow­ers had been weak­en­ing after Kh­mel­nyt­sky. De­spite the un­de­ni­ably pos­i­tive ac­com­plish­ments of Mazepa’s het­man­ship, in­clud­ing cul­tural and eco­nomic up­turn, Ukrainian so­ci­ety was un­der­go­ing a painful ide­o­log­i­cal and moral cor­ro­sion that dis­abled na­tional con­sol­i­da­tion dur­ing his anti-Moscow cam­paign.

“In the long pe­riod of his own Moscow­philia and flir­ta­tion with Tsar Peter, he [Het­man Ivan Mazepa] un­der­mined all in­de­pen­den­tists – those as­pir­ing to present the na­tion-state cause in its full height and put it at the top of the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle of the time,” Lypyn­sky wrote. This de­mor­al­ized the class which the het­man nur­tured and to which he be­longed, while the whole na­tion even­tu­ally suc­cumbed to cor­ro­sion by Rus­sophilia, los­ing its na­tional ideals and con­sis­tent state­hood goals.


In 1708, Peter the Great im­posed an anath­ema on Ivan Mazepa for his al­liance with Charles XII of Swe­den. Vi­ach­eslav Lypyn­sky noted that Mazepa’s cause was lost, while the Ukrainian na­tion, con­fused by its own lead­ers and ex­pats from Moscow, ended up “curs­ing, in the churches built by Mazepa, the one who wanted to give it free­dom but failed, un­der the or­der im­posed by the tsar”.

As Lypyn­sky looks at the pe­riod of Het­man Mazepa and the tragic fi­nale of his pol­icy, re­fer­ring to Mazepa as a “tor­mented pa­triot”, he notes that the “lead­ers of the na­tion” should never “sac­ri­fice the eter­nal and ir­re­place­able for as long as the na­tion ex­ists, and na­tions [should never sac­ri­fice] the com­mon ideal of na­tional free­dom and sol­i­dar­ity in de­fense of this free­dom” for pri­vate, class or any other fleet­ing po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests.

Ukrainian elite did not shed the idea of a dy­nasty het­man­ship after the cat­a­strophic out­come of the Bat­tle of Poltava. In­tended to en­sure the con­ti­nu­ity of the Cos­sack state­hood, it was re­vived un­der the het­man­ship of Kyrylo Rozu­movsky. Ukrainian politi­cians thought of trans­fer­ing the het­man’s mace to Paul I, the son of Cather­ine the Great, dur­ing her life­time. This could pre­serve the in­sti­tu­tion of the het­manate. The Cos­sack elite re­turned to this idea un­der the rule of Paul I un­der the con­di­tion that his son, Grand Duke Kon­stantin Pavlovich, would be­come the “Great Het­man” with An­driy Hu­dovych, a po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary fig­ure, and a leader of the Het­manate’s au­tonomists, as re­gent along­side him. These last at­tempts of the Cos­sack elite to res­cue the het­man­ship with a sur­ro­gate Rus­sian dy­nasty failed.

For a slew of rea­sons, the in­de­pen­den­tist na­tion-state idea did not be­come a dom­i­nant one in Ukrainian so­ci­ety in the 19th century. It was side­lined by the nar­o­d­nik con­cepts of Ukraine’s na­tional devel­op­ment based on au­ton­omy and fed­er­a­tion with Rus­sia. Still, the in­de­pen­den­tist idea flared up from time to time, re­mind­ing those in­volved in the Ukrainian move­ment about the con­ti­nu­ity and in­de­struc­tib­lity of the na­tional state­hood con­cept. Its tra­di­tion, cen­tered on hered­i­tary monar­chy, lived on in dif­fer­ent vari­a­tions.


The Ukrainian aris­to­cratic class as the bearer of this tra­di­tion went through a dif­fi­cult and con­tro­ver­sial process of na­tional awak­en­ing on both sides of the Zbruch river, in Ha­ly­chyna and the Great Ukraine, through­out the 19th century. This was ex­pressed in the shifts of per­cep­tion of the na­tional as­pect and po­lit­i­cal ori­en­ta­tion of long-stand­ing no­ble Ukrainian fam­i­lies – the Sapi­hys, Shum­lian­skys, Shep­tyt­skys and Fe­dorovy­chs in Ha­ly­chyna, and the Hala­hans, Tarnovskys, My­lo­radovy­chs, Kochubeis, Sko­ropad­skys, Kha­nenkys and more in the Great Ukraine. De­spite the mo­nop­o­lis­tic po­si­tion of lib­eral democ­racy and so­cial­ist trends in the Ukrainian move­ment, this evo­lu­tion in the per­cep­tion of so­ci­ety by the no­ble class showed its as­pi­ra­tion to bal­ance out val­ues and ide­o­log­i­cal ori­en­ta­tions in the Ukrainian move­ment, and the urge to over­come the “fa­tal onesid­ed­ness of the na­tion”, as Vi­ach­eslav Lypyn­sky de­scribed it, cre­ated by the un­der­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the right con­ser­va­tive wing.

In the 1870-1880s, the grow­ing ten­tions be­tween the Aus­tro-Hun­gar­ian Em­pire and Ger­many on one side and Rus­sia on the other – it threat­ened turn­ing Ukraine into a bat­tle­field – en­cour­aged that shift. As a re­sult, the Aus­trian lead­er­ship be­gan to show more in­ter­est in the sit­u­a­tion in Ha­ly­chyna and in­ter-na­tion re­la­tions in the prov­ince. Nu­mer­ous vis­its of the Aus­trian em­peror and his suc­ces­sor, and their con­tacts with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Ukri­a­nian civic or­ga­ni­za­tions there en­cour­aged po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity in parts of the Ha­ly­chyna so­ci­ety – mod­er­ate con­ser­va­tives pri­mar­ily – that hoped to get con­ces­sions from the monar­chy in the na­tional do­main.

The pa­tri­otic Ukrainian com­mu­nity faced a need to make the Ukrainian is­sue a vis­i­ble el­e­ment in pol­i­tics, and trans­form the strife for Ukrainian na­tional in­ter­ests in Ha­ly­chyna into prac­ti­cal im­ple­men­ta­tion. Such hopes were fur­ther en­cour­aged by an ar­ti­cle ti­tled Rus­sia and Europe by Ed­uard Hart­mann in Die Ge­gen­wart, a mag­a­zine: it spoke about the prospect of sep­a­rat­ing wester prov­inces from the Rus­sian Em­pire. The key role in the pro­ject of frag­ment­ing Rus­sia would be played by the Kyiv King­dom, a pro­ject that would cover most of eth­nic Ukrainian ter­ri­tory.

In 1886, Prince Adam Sapiha, a Pol­ish politi­cian in Ha­ly­chyna and a de­ter­mined op­po­nent of Rus­sophiles, es­tab­lished friendly re­la­tions with Olek­sandr Barvin­sky, an in­flu­en­tial fig­ure in Western Ukraine. He used this con­tact to get in touch with the mod­er­ate part of the Old Com­mu­nity, a group of Ukrainian in­tel­lec­tu­als and artists in­volved in cul­tural, civic and ed­u­ca­tional ac­tiv­i­ties be­fore the Rus­sian tsar banned it. In 1888, Barvin­sky as the leader of the con­ser­va­tive wing in Ha­ly­chyna, vis­ited Kyiv where the pro­ject of the Kyiv King­dom was ac­tively de­bated. In one of the meet­ings with the Old Com­mu­nity, lin­guist Pavlo Zhytet­sky said: “Ask your Keiser when he will come to us?” These con­tacts re­sulted in the ar­rival to Lviv of Olek­sandr Konysky, an ac­tive pro­po­nent of Pol­ishUkrainian agree­ment. Konysky trusted Adam Sapiha and of­fered him to head a Ukrain­ophile party that would dis­tance it­self from po­lit­i­cal co­op­er­a­tion with the Rus­sophiles. It was fairly safe to as­sume that Adam’s son, Lev Sapiha, could get the crown in the po­ten­tial Kyiv King­dom.

The cult of state­hood tra­di­tions from the me­dieval time was re­in­forced in the con­ser­va­tive wing of Ha­ly­chyna by the fact Aus­trian em­per­ors had ac­cepted the old ti­tle and coat of arms of the king of Ha­ly­chyna and Volodymyria in 1806, and used them un­til the col­lapse of the Aus­troHun­gar­ian Em­pire. On Au­gust 29, 1861, Bishop Spyry­don Lytvynovych [Met­ro­pol­i­tan of Lviv after 1863] re­jected the claim of the Poles that Ha­ly­chyna was a Pol­ish ‘his­toric and po­lit­i­cal in­di­vid­u­al­ity’ at the Aus­trian par­lia­ment. He noted that the king­dom of Ha­ly­chyna and Volodymyria

“be­longed to Ukrainian, not Pol­ish his­tory”.

Po­lit­i­cal ac­tivi­sa­tion of no­ble and aris­to­cratic groups in Ha­ly­chyna and some in the Great Ukraine raised the is­sue of turn­ing to the idea of dy­nasty as an im­por­tant pil­lar of the monar­chist move­ment. The work of Vi­ach­eslav Lypyn­sky played a great role in this. In his 1909 work Szlachta na Ukraine (No­bil­ity in Ukraine in Pol­ish), he de­scribed the pos­i­tive role of Ger­man dy­nas­ties in the Balkans where their rep­re­sen­ta­tives had shaped monar­chist in­sti­tu­tions. Ac­cord­ing to Lypyn­sky, Ger­man princes “sit­ting on the thrones of the Balkan states sud­dently felt loyal to dif­fer­ent Balkan pa­tri­o­tisms.”

Ap­par­ently, he be­lieved that this could be an op­tion for Ukraine.


The Ukrainian idea of a monar­chy was closely linked to the in­de­pen­den­tist move­ment for the Ukrainian State of the late 19th century and early 20th century.

As in­de­pen­den­tist-ori­ented so­cialdemocrats and con­ser­va­tives moved closer to­gether, they con­ducted a num­ber of as­sem­blies with Ukrainian em­i­grants and ac­tivists of Ha­ly­chyna in Lviv in 1911. The strug­gle for Ukraine’s in­de­pen­dence was put on the agenda. Along­side Vi­ach­eslav Lypyn­sky, this idea was ini­ti­ated by An­driy Zhuk, Levko Yurkevych and Volodymyr Stepankivsky – all mem­bers of the Ukrainian So­cial Demo­cratic La­bor Party.

Dur­ing World War I, the idea of the con­sti­tu­tional monar­chy was used for the po­lit­i­cal plat­form of the Union for the Lib­er­a­tion of Ukraine that in­volved mem­bers of both parts of Ukraine. Lypyn­sky’s at­tempt to prop up con­ser­vatism with a clearly in­de­pen­dence-ori­ented ide­o­log­i­cal and or­ga­ni­za­tional foun­da­tion gained a foothold. “I was an in­de­pen­den­tist, I am one and I will re­main one un­til I die,” he said.

The emer­gence of the monar­chist con­cept in Ukrainian po­lit­i­cal life sig­naled a grad­ual loss of mo­nop­oly by lib­eral democ­racy, nar­o­d­nik and so­cial­ist in­flu­ences in the Ukrainian move­ment. It showed that Ukrainian so­ci­ety was able to re­spond ad­e­quately to the chal­lenges of its time and strived to bal­ance out ide­o­log­i­cal and po­lit­i­cal lean­ings. The surge of the na­tional move­ment showed that the het­man tra­di­tion sur­vived in Ukraine based on the con­ser­vatism of atis­toc­racy and the peas­antry as the two key so­cial com­po­nents of Ukrainian coun­try­side, and turned into an im­por­tant ground for the dec­la­ra­tion of Pavlo Sko­ropad­sky’s Het­manate. The im­ple­men­ta­tion of the tra­di­tional na­tional state­hood by Ukrainian con­ser­va­tive forces was a frag­ment of the pan-Euro­pean con­ser­va­tive revo­lu­tion, a re­ac­tion to the preva­lence of lib­er­al­ism born out of the 19th century and clad in new demo­cratic dis­guise after the end of World War I.

The es­tab­lish­ment of the Ukrainian State marked a de­ci­sive turn of Ukraine’s so­cio-po­lit­i­cal and cul­tural devel­op­ment to­wards the West Euro­pean civ­i­liza­tion, lean­ing on its le­gal and spir­i­tual foun­da­tion. The Tes­ta­ment to All Peo­ple of Ukraine of April 29, 1918, the first doc­u­ment of the Ukrainian State, noted that “pri­vate prop­erty as the foun­da­tion of cul­ture and civ­i­liza­tion are re­stored in full ca­pac­ity.” The founders of the Ukrainian State of 1918 saw the in­sti­tu­tion of Het­man­ship as a tool for na­tional in­te­gra­tion and the buildup of co­op­er­a­tion among all classes and or­ga­ni­za­tions, not as a way to take over or elim­i­nate all other po­lit­i­cal wings in Ukraine.

How­ever, they failed to lead it through the skewed per­cep­tion of con­ser­vatism by so­ci­ety in Ukraine. Ukrainian pub­lic failed to re­sist the vi­sion of this trend as re­ac­tionary and pro-Rus­sian, as im­posed by Ukrainian lib­er­als and so­cial­ists. As a re­sult, Ukrainian democ­racy, to­gether with the Bol­she­viks ru­ined the Het­manate as a con­ser­va­tive model of Ukrainian stathood. It failed to cre­ate any durable al­ter­na­tive and drowned in end­less squab­bles, po­lit­i­cal clashes and party in­doc­tri­na­tions. Ukrainian con­ser­vatism as an or­ga­nized po­lit­i­cal force – it was mostly rep­re­sented by the Ukrainian Demo­cratic Bread­mak­ers’ Party founded by Vi­ach­eslav Lypyn­sky, Mykola Mikhnovsky, Ser­hiy and Volodymyr Shemeta in 1917-1920 – only man­aged to ex­pand its ac­tiv­ity in emi­gra­tion. The moral and so­cial legacy of Ukrainian con­ser­vatism and its speaker Vi­ach­eslav Lypyn­sky have not been prop­erly ac­cepted by so­ci­ety to­day.

Na­tional democ­racy that once again dom­i­nates Ukraine’s so­ciopo­lit­i­cal life to­day, like it did on the verge of the 19th and 20th cen­turies, is fol­low­ing the same ru­inous po­lit­i­cal style as it did in 1917-1920. This frus­trat­ing im­pact of the dom­i­na­tion of na­tional democrats in the Ukrainian move­ment has yet to be stud­ied care­fully and in de­tail in terms of their his­tor­i­cal path and ide­o­log­i­cal legacy. It is time to rec­og­nize that the lead­ers of the mod­ern na­tional democ­racy, just like their pre­de­ces­sors of the Ukrainian Peo­ple’s Repub­lic, are wast­ing the ef­forts of mil­lions of Ukraini­ans in their strug­gle for in­de­pen­dence. The ap­pli­ca­tion of their po­lit­i­cal ideas with­out crit­i­cal anal­y­sis can be fa­tal for Ukraine’s state­hood to­day. Turn­ing to the po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence of Ukrainian con­ser­vatism and its na­tion-state­hood ide­ol­ogy that aimed at con­sol­i­dat­ing all so­cial strata in Ukraine can be a key to the so­lu­tion of many painful prob­lems in the coun­try’s mod­ern po­lit­i­cal life.

Mass prayer at St. Sophia Square in Kyiv to cel­e­brate the dec­la­ra­tion of the Het­manate. April 29, 1918

Het­man Pavlo Sko­ropad­sky. Kyiv, 1918

Pavlo Sko­ropad­sky and Ser­hiy Shemet, an ac­tivist in the monar­chist move­ment and a founder of the Ukrainian Demo­cratic Bread­mak­ers’ Party. Wannsee, 1926

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