Hrushevsky and the Ukraine's 'Lost' History
Michael Hrushevsky (1866-1934) is one of the most important Ukrainian figures of the modern era. Both for his admirers and for his detractors he was a legend in his own time. In the eyes of his supporters, this bearded and bespectacled professor was by far the greatest of modern Ukrainian historians, the author of a monumental ten-volume History of Ukraine-Rus which documented the history of the Ukrainian people from Kievan Rus to the dawn of the modern era. Hrushevsky was also known as the principal organiser of modern Ukrainian scholarship, the most celebrated spokesman for the decentralisation and federalisation of pre-revolutionary Russia, the first president of the short-lived but precedent-setting Ukrainian People's Republic of 1917-18, and one of the most influential historians living in the Soviet Union during the 1920s. In fact, as early as the revolutionary years of 1917-l8 his compatriots had already admiringly dubbed him the 'father' of his country.
Of course, Hrushevsky's critics interpreted these activities in their own special way. In the eyes of the supporters of Tsar Nicholas II, for example, Hrushevsky was the 'arch- traitor', an Austrian, Polish, or German agent who had invented an 'artificial' Ukrainian language and dreamed up a false scheme of Russian and Ukrainian history. Before the revolution of 1917, Russian monarchists saw 'the magical hand of Hrushevsky' behind almost every manifestation of the forbidden Ukrainian national movement. Later on, the defeated 'Whites' of the 1920s, especially emigre Russian liberals, tended to see Hrushevsky as the radical Ukrainian separatist who, in 1917, had helped the 'Reds' to disrupt the Provisional Government and cause the downfall of Russia. By the 1930s, moreover, Soviet authors too discounted him as a 'bourgeois Ukrainian nationalist' who was plotting against the Soviet state. Under Stalin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev his name could not be mentioned in print without an accompanying series of opprobrious adjectives and he was always labelled 'an uncompromising enemy of the Russian and Ukrainian peoples'.
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