Volodymyr Vynnychenko

Volodymyr Vynnychenko

Infobox_President|name=Volodymyr Vynnychenko
Володимир Винниченко

order= Prime Minister of the Ukrainian People's Republic
term_start=December 19, 1918
term_end=February 10, 1919
predecessor=Mykhailo Hrushevsky
successor=Symon Petliura
birth_date=birth date|1880|7|26|mf=y
birth_place=Yelisavetgrad, Russian Empire (now Kirovohrad)
death_date=death date and age|1951|3|6|1880|7|26|mf=y
death_place=Mougins, France

Volodymyr Vynnychenko ( _ua. Володимир Кирилович Винниченко, "Volodymyr Kyrylovych Vynnychenko") (OldStyleDate|July 26|1880|July 14 – March 6, 1951) was a Ukrainian writer, playwright, political activist and revolutionary, politician, statesman. Vynnychenko is recognized in Ukrainian literature as a leading modernist, prerevolutionary writer in Ukraine, who wrote short stories, novels, and plays, but in Soviet Ukraine his works were proscribed, like that of many other Ukrainian writers, from the 1930s until the mid-1980s. Prior to his entry onto the stage of Ukrainian politics, he was a long-time revolutionary activist, who lived abroad in Western Europe from 1906-1914. His works reflect his immersion in the Ukrainian and Russian revolutionary milieu, among impoverished and working class people, and among emigres from the Russian Empire living in Western Europe.


Vynnychenko was born in Yelisavetgrad, Kherson Governorate (nowadays Kirovohrad). In 1900 Vynnychenko joined the Revolutionary Ukrainian Party (RUP) and enrolled in the law department at Kiev University, but in 1902 he was expelled for participation in revolutionary activities and jailed for several months. Afterward, he was forcibly recruited into the Russian tsarist army, where he began to agitate soldiers with revolutionary propaganda. Tipped of that his arrest was imminent, Vynnychenko fled to Western Ukraine, Galicia, a region that was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. When trying to return to Russian Ukraine in 1903 with revolutionary literature, Vynnychenko was arrested and jailed in Kiev for two years. After his release in 1905, he passed his exams for a law degree in Kiev University. In 1905 Vynnychenko became a founding and leading member of the Ukrainian Social Democratic Revolutionary Party, which was affiliated with the Russian Social Democratic Party, which was led by Martov & Lenin. In 1906 Vynnychenko was arrested for a third time, again for his political activities, and jailed for a year; before his scheduled trial, however, the wealthy patron of Ukrainian literature and culture, Yevhen Chykalenko, paid his bail, and Vynnychenko fled Russian Ukraine again, effectively become an emigre writer abroad from 1907 to 1914, living in Lviv, Vienna, Geneva, Paris, Florence, Berlin. While abroad, Vynnychenko married Rosalia Lifshitz, a Russian Jewish doctor. From 1914 to 1917 Vynnychenko lived near Moscow throughout much of WWI and returned to Kiev in 1917 to assume a leading role in Ukrainian politics.

After the Russian revolution in February 1917, Vynnychenko served as the head of the General Secretariat, a chief executive body in Ukraine. He was authorized by the Central Rada of Ukraine (a "de facto" parliament) to conduct negotiations with the Russian Provisional Government, 1917.

Vynnychenko temporarily resigned his post in the General Secretariat, but in the midst of a political crisis in Ukraine that followed the October Revolution in Petrograd which overthrew the Provisional Government, quickly resumed his duties.

It is often claimed that political mistakes of Vynnychenko (who was, in effect, prime minister) and Mykhailo Hrushevsky (the head of the Central Rada) cost the newly established Ukrainian People's Republic its independence. Both men were strongly opposed to the creation of the army of the Republic and repeatedly denied the requests by Symon Petliura to use his volunteer forces as the core of a would-be army.

On January 22, 1918, at the time when the Ukrainian People's Republic was proclaimed independent, the country was squeezed between the German forces along its western border and the Bolshevik army of Muravyov along the eastern border. Within days, Muravyov invaded Kyiv and the government of the Ukrainian People's Republic signed a very unpopular treaty with Germans to rebuff Russians in exchange for a right to expropriate food supplies.

After the coup d'etat of Hetman Skoropadsky (in collaboration with Germans) in March, 1918, Vynnychenko left Kyiv and took an active part in organizing a revolt against the Hetman. The revolt was successful and Vynnychenko returned to the capital on December 19, 1918, as the head of the Directorate, a five-member body with supreme legislative and executive power. The Directorate proclaimed the restoration of the Ukrainian People's Republic with Vynnychenko as its president.

Vynnychenko, unable to restore order and overcome the disagreement among the Directors, stepped down on February 11, 1919. He emigrated the following March.

While in emigration, Vynnychenko wrote "Rebirth of a Nation" (Вiдродження нацiї, 1919), an account of the Ukrainian revolution up to that point. He argued that the Ukrainian nationalists had made mistakes by ignoring the social question, and that the Bolsheviks had similarly failed to see the importance of national liberation. However, he concluded that the Bolsheviks were beginning to change their position on the Ukrainian nation. For this reason, he began to support reconciliation with the Bolsheviks and return to the Ukraine. He formed the Foreign Group of the Ukrainian Communist Party, which was mainly made up of other former members of the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Party, in order to promulgate this position. In June 1920 Vynnychenko himself travelled to Moscow in an attempt to come to an agreement with the Bolsheviks. After four months of unsuccessful negotiation, Vynnychenko had become disillusioned with the Bolsheviks: he accused them of Great Russian Chauvinism and insincerity as socialists. In September 1920 he returned to the emigration, where he revealed his impressions of Bolshevik rule. This split the Foreign Group of the Ukrainian Communist Party: some remained pro-Bolshevik and indeed returned to Soviet Ukraine; others supported Vynnychenko, and with him conducted a campaign against the Soviet regime in their organ "Nova doba" ("New Era").

Vynnychenko spent the following thirty years in Europe, residing in Germany in the 1920s, then moving to France. As an émigré, Vynnychenko resumed his career as a writer; in 1919 his writing was republished in an eleven volume edition in the 1920s. In 1934 Vynnychenko moved from Paris to Mougins, near Cannes, on the Mediterranean coast, where he lived on a homestead type residence as a self-supporting farmer and continued to write, notably a philosophical exposition of his ideas about happiness, Concordism. He died in Mougins, near Cannes, France in 1951.


* Bahrii-Pykulyk, Romana. "Rozum ta irrattsiional'nist' u Vynnychenkomu romani." (Reason and irrationality in Vynnychenko's novel.) Suchasnist'(New York) 27, no.4 (1987): 11-22.
* Czajkowsky, Melanie. ‘Volodomyr Vynnychenko and his Mission to Moscow and Kharkiv’, "Journal of Graduate Ukrainian Studies", 1978, Vol. 3, No.2, pp.3-24.
* Kostiuk, Hryhory. Volodymyr Vynnychenko ta ioho doba. (Volodymyr Vynnychenko and his era.) New York: UAAS, 1980.
* Laschyk, Eugene. "Vynnychenko's Philosophy of Happiness." In Studies in Ukrainian Literature 1984-1985.
* Panchenko, Volodymyr. Budynok z khymeramy: Tvorchist' Volodymyra Vynnychenka 1900-1920 r.r. u evropeys'komu literaturnomu konteksti. (A building made of chimeras: the creative work of Volodymyr Vynnychenko 1900-1920 in the European literary context.) Narodne Slovo: Kirovohrad, 1998.
* Rudnytsky, Ivan L. ‘Volodymyr Vynnychenko’s Ideas in the Light of his Political Writings’, in Ivan L. Rudnytskyi, Essays in Modern Ukrainian History, Edmonton, 1987, pp.417-36.
* Struk, Danylo Husar. "Vynnychenko's Moral Laboratory." In Studies in Ukrainian Lilterature 1984-1985.

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