The Rise of the Rada

By Jennifer Kruczek


After the November Revolution, a significant number of Ukrainians began to demand political independence rather than a cultural and political autonomy. The first stage in this transformation began with the establishment of the Rada Government. The Rada first organized on March 17, 1917, by the Society of Ukrainian Progressives which asked the people to obtain, by peaceful means, the rights which belonged to them (Reshetar 47). In order to make itself more representative, the Rada called an All-Ukrainian National Congress which met in Kiev on April 17-21. The Congress dealt with two issues: the question of Ukraine's political status and the necessity of broadening the Rada's membership. The Congress adopted a resolution which declared that only "national-territorial autonomy would meet the needs of the Ukrainian people and the other nationalities living in the Ukraine" (Reshetar 49). The atmosphere in which the National Congress convened was one of hopeful enthusiasm.


All of the Russian socialist newspapers refused to print the text of the declaration of the Rada. The Provisional Government of Russia heard the demands of the Rada delegation and said that it was not viable. They said that the Rada could not claim to represent all of Ukraine because they had not been elected by popular suffrage. They attempted appease the Ukrainians by asserting its adherence to the right of all nationalities by recognizing the national individuality of the Ukrainians (Reshetar 56-57).


The Rada responded with the First Universal, which was issued on June 23, and declared that it could not allow Ukraine to fall into a state of disorder and decline. It announced, "Let Ukraine be free. Without separating itself entirely from Russia...let the Ukrainian people in their own land have the right to order their own lives...From this day forth we shall direct our own lives" (Reshetar 60-61). The Provisional Government was taken aback by the proclamation of the First Universal and antagonized the Rada by appealing over its head to the Ukrainian people "in the name of all free Russia" and pointing out that the revolution was in danger (Reshetar 64). This plea fell on deaf ears and they realized a need for an agreement with the Rada.


The result of these conversations between the Rada and the Provisional Government on July 12 was the Second Universal. It declared that the Provisional Government recognized the right of the Ukrainian people to self-determination. It also provided for the broadening of the Rada by the inclusion of representatives of the non-Ukrainian nationalities living in the Ukraine (Reshetar 65). The Rada's leaders took seriously the reference in the Second Universal to "the creation of a new life in Ukraine" (Reshetar 68). The Rada Congress reorganized the seats to allow non-Ukrainian nationalities a spot in the Congress. The Rada came up with a constitutional-like proposal for the Provisional Government. The Provisional Govenment regarded the proposal as going beyond the agreement of the Second Universal. The Ukrainians claimed that they were not appropiating authority, but merely exercising it until confirmed by the government. Provisional Instruction was sent to Ukraine stating that the Rada was seen as "supreme organ of the Provisional Government of Ukraine" and laws were to be put in place only after the Provisional Government approved them (Reshetar 71-72). A few days later in Kiev, shots took place where a number of Ukrainians were killed and wounded, and the Rada claimed that the Russians shouted out at the time that this was their reply to the Ukrainians request for autonomy (Reshetar 74).


In the light of this event, the stormy debates in the Rada were understandable if not justifiable. Some wanted to completely sever relations with the Russians and reject the "Instructions," while others stated that the "Instructions" embodied the achievements of the Rada and rejection of it would leave them with no legal authority. The debates ended with the Rada accepting a changed form of the "Instructions." The original one failed to meet the needs and desires of the Ukrainian people and national minorities. It appeared as though the agreement between the two parties had been concluded, but the amicable relations between the Ukraine and the Provisional Government did not continue. The Rada continued with the fight by confidently stating that the federation of free republics would soon be confirmed, and the Provisional Government would be unable to preserve a centralist Russia (Reshetar 74-75).


The Rada's dream was interrupted by the November Revolution where the Rada joined with the Kiev Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks transformed Russia into "a federation of sovereign equal democratic republics with protection of the rights of minorities" (Reshetar 84-85).



  • Reshetar, John S., Jr. The Ukrainian Revolution, 1917-1920. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1952.





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