Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas:  jgo.e-reviews 7 (2017), 4 Rezensionen online / Im Auftrag des Leibniz-Instituts für Ost- und Südosteuropaforschung in Regensburg herausgegeben von Martin Schulze Wessel und Dietmar Neutatz

Verfasst von: Ljubov’ N. Žvanko


The Emergence of Ukraine. Self-Determination, Occupation, and War in Ukraine, 1917–1922. Ed. by Wolfram Dornik / Georgiy Kasianov / Hannes Leidinger / Peter Lieb / Alexei Miller / Bogdan Musial / Vasyl Rasevych. Transl. from the German by Gus Fagan. Edmonton, AB, Toronto, ON: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press, 2015. XXX, 441 S., 7 Ktn., 5 Abb. ISBN: 978-1-894865-40-1.




World War I radically changed the geopolitical face of Europe, destroyed political, economic and social structures that had existed for centuries. A number of new national states appeared on the ruins of the former powerful empires on the continent. The Ukrainians were one of the oppressed people who fought for their independence and were divided in the early 20th century between two empires, the Russian and Austro-Hungarian.

This scientific collection aims to show the layering of the Ukrainian state building process and the creation of the nation in 1917–1922 (p. 399). An international team of seven historians from Austria (Wolfram Dornik, Hannes Leidinger), Germany (Peter Lieb), Poland (Bogdan Musial), Ukraine (Georgii Kasianov, Vasyl Rasevych) and Russia (Alexei Miller) wrote the book. In fact, this peer-reviewed collection, according to Marko Robert Stech, the author of the preface, a “slightly condensed version” of the German-language Die Ukraine zwischen Selbstbestimmung und Fremdherrschaft 1917–1922 (Graz, 2011), “marks an important new stage of our work in this area”.

The Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta in Edmonton acted as the initiator of the English edition, and Wolfram Dornik, Ph.D, from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Research on War Consequences in Graz acted as the coordinator of the editorial project. He writes that the book had been the product of a two-year research project The 1918 Occupation of Ukraine by the Central Powers, implemented under the leadership of Stefan Karner at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute.

Subject of the collective research, as noted in the introductory article by Wolf­ram Dor­nik, is the unexplored period of the occupation of Ukraine during the last year of the World War I, and along with it the process of strengthening of the national identity in societies of Central and Eastern Europe and its impact on political discourse, the system of interstate relations in this part of the continent and the resulting shift of frontiers (p. XV–XVI). The chronological framework of the book covers the years 1917–1922, although, in fact, these boundaries are somewhat floating and extend in some paragraphs from 1914 to 1924 that is from the beginning or the First World War to the final approval of the Bolshevik regime in Ukraine.

However, in the paragraph by Alexei Miller, the main presentation of the material on the Ukrainian national movement in general refers to the 19th and early 20th century and to some degree is discordant with the outlined time frame of the study.

The publication has a clear structure. The main material of the book is grouped into four sections (with 13 articles): Eastern Europe between War and Revolution, 1914–1922 (2 articles), Ukrainian Efforts at State-Building between Independence and Foreign Domination (2 articles), The German Empire and Austria-Hungary as Occupiers of Ukraine in 1918 (4 articles), Ukraine in International Relation 1918 (5 articles). Looking Ahead: A Comparison of the Occupation Regimes of 1918 and 1941–1944 and Concluding Observations is placed in the final part. The supplement provides a list of over 20 funds used in archives of Austria, Great Britain, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Hungary, Czech Republic, France, Switzerland and the United States. This fact clearly indicates the high scientific level of the book; nevertheless, two important funds of the Central State Archive of the Supreme Bodies of Power and Government of Ukraine (Kyiv) remained out of sight of the historians. This is the Fund of the German military mission in Ukraine and the Fund of the Imperial and Royal mission of Austria-Hungary in Ukraine, which contains about 50 files with original mostly German-language documents. A solid selection of research literature, a list of abbreviations and an index of geographic names is also given. And finally, there are informations about the authors.

In his introduction Wolfram Dornik considers a key issue in determining the time frame of World War I, as it is impossible to define peace, which came as of “absence of war” because a number of local armed conflicts still took place (p. XVI). The historian reviews the available literature on the complexity of the conceptual framework. Wolfram Dornik emphasized that the collection highlights mainly political and economic aspects of the occupation of Ukraine, whereas cultural and historical subjects remained out of their attention.

The first section Eastern Europe between War and Revolution, 1914–1922 is devoted to the main events of the war in Eastern Europe, still after its ending, and to the attitude of the Central Powers to Ukraine. In the first paragraph, Hannes Leidinger rather superficially outlines the main events in the Russian Empire during 1917–1922: the revolutionary change, the rise to power of the Bolsheviks and the further deployment of the civil war. He interprets the February Revolution of 1917 as a common revolt against the monarchy (p. 3), while the Bolshevik coup in October 1917 he calls “a coup” and nevertheless uses the term “October Revolution” (p. 7). In the following paragraph, Wolfram Dornik thoroughly reviews the major military operations on the Eastern front, the problems and challenges for the signatories of the peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk (March 1918). The author concludes that the Central Powers making a treaty with Bolshevik Russia opened a Pandora’s box because in this case the Allies had to wage war on their destruction (p. 83). And Ukraine, of course, occurred in the midst of those events fighting for its independence and balancing among the stronger players. Then Wolfram Dornik and Peter Lieb, considering the attitude of the Central Powers to Ukraine, noticed that at the initial stage of the war, Ukraine was outside of their interest. Moreover, they considered that the Ukrainian issue was an internal affair of the Russian Empire.

In the second section Ukrainian Efforts at State-Building between Independence and Foreign Domination Georgiy Kasianov analyzes the historical formation of “Ukrainian Revolution” as a complex of all events during 1917–1920 in the Ukrainian lands (p. 76) and made his own retrospective review. In his turn Vasyl Rasevych considers the issues of state for Western Ukraine, the Ukrainian-Polish conflict in 1918 in Galicia, which each side considered as its own territory. He drew attention to the strange fact that even after the proclamation of the West Ukrainian People’s Republic Ukrainian officials were in no hurry to return from Vienna to Lviv (p. 148).

The third section, The German Empire and Austria-Hungary as Occupiers of Ukraine in 1918, which is the most crucial in the book, presents various components of the occupation of Ukraine by Germany and Austria-Hungary. The attack of Austria-Hungary and Germany after the signing of the Brest-Litovsk treaty with Ukraine on February 9, 1918, the first peace treaty in the Great War, the growing rivalry between the allies, which is especially evident in the attack on Ukraine, military operations against the Bolsheviks, especially the activities of the occupational authorities, the distribution of the spheres of influence, the interaction with the governments of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (January–April 1918) and the Ukrainian State of Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky (April–December 1918), the economic use of Ukrainian resources as a way of postponing the revolutionary explosions in the empire are analyzed in three sections by Wolfram Dornik and Peter Lieb. The historians emphasized that officially Ukraine had the status of a friendly country and thus was not under the control of the German and Austro-Hungarian military authorities (p. 213). In fact, it was, and Germany played the major role in the allied occupation tandem (p. 225). Assessing the economic component of the occupation of Ukraine, the historians say: “Thus the economic policy of the Central Power in Ukraine cannot be described as ‘exploitation’, although such plans did exist, above all on the Austro-Hungarian side, at the start of the occupation. In sum, the term ‘utilization’ would be more apporopriate here or, more exactly, ‘failed utilization’” (p. 278–279). Vasyl Rasevych somewhat simplistically presents the evolution of the attitude of the Ukrainian population to the German and Austro-Hungarian troops, which initially were recognized as liberators from the Bolshevik band.

The fourth and largest, in terms of volume, section, Ukraine in International Relation 1918, like in a kaleidoscope runs through the policy of imperial Russia (Alexei Miller), Bolshevik Russia (Bogdan Musial), France (Hannes Leidinger), Great Britain (Wolfram Dornik), the United States of America (Wolfram Dornik), Poland (Bogdan Musial) and Switzerland (Wolfram Dornik, Peter Lieb) referring to Ukraine and its aspirations to gain independence, to protect against the Bolshevik army, shows the change in priorities of the major diplomatic players in Ukraine, Bolshevik Russia and Poland. With his fundamental approach Bogdan Musial presents a triple occupation of Ukraine by the Bolsheviks, its “pacification” (p. 339) and the establishment of communism in this part of Europe. In summarizing the historian notes: “The consequences of communist rule were catastrophic for Ukraine and Ukrainians, in every respect” (p. 346). The researchers on a large source basis come to the conclusion that Great Britain and France to some extent were ready to take the side of independent Ukraine. This is evidenced by the policy of maneuvering of the Entente, which also kept contact with the Bolshevik government (Hannes Leidinger). At the same time Ukraine and Poland were considered by them as a cordon sanitaire between Europe and Bolshevik Russia. Poland managed to win and defend its independence with the support of the main political forces of the continent. Ukraine, which was seen as a source of raw materials, became part of a new political entity – the Soviet Union.

In the final part, Wolfram Dornik, Georgiy Kasianov, Peter Lieb try to compare thoroughly the German occupation administrations in 1918 and 1941–1944.

The book contains seven maps that show territorial changes as a result of geopolitical games. One should also note the excellent printing quality of the book making its reading, among other things, an aesthetic pleasure.

Thus, this international collection is a good example of how can be overcome national borders of research. It presents different views on one problem, goes beyond an historical norm. The reader in this case only wins because he gets truthful and unbiased information, generated by the so-called “collective intelligence” of historians from different parts of the European continent. The history of Ukraine of that period appears as the interplay between different causal factors, becoming part of transnational processes that unfolded in East Central Europe in the last year of the World War I.

Ljubov’ N. Žvanko, Char’kiv, Ukraine

Zitierweise: Ljubov’ N. Žvanko über: The Emergence of Ukraine. Self-Determination, Occupation, and War in Ukraine, 1917–1922. Ed. by Wolfram Dornik / Georgiy Kasianov / Hannes Leidinger / Peter Lieb / Alexei Miller / Bogdan Musial / Vasyl Rasevych. Transl. from the German by Gus Fagan. Edmonton, AB, Toronto, ON: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press, 2015. XXX, 441 S., 7 Ktn., 5 Abb. ISBN: 978-1-894865-40-1, http://www.dokumente.ios-regensburg.de/JGO/erev/Zvanko_Dornik_The_Emergence_of_Ukraine.html (Datum des Seitenbesuchs)

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