Fifty years ago, on October 28, 1967, Sen. Paul Yuzyk of Canada delivered an address at a commemorative banquet on the 50th anniversary of the Ukrainian National Revolution. The event, held at the Sheraton Carlton Hotel, was sponsored by the Washington Metropolitan Branch of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America.
Sen. Yuzyk began: “Fifty years ago in March 1917, the tsarist regime of the vast Russian Empire, the largest continental empire in the world, came crumbling down before the forces of revolution. This downfall and ignominious end of Russian tsarism was inevitable, for it had been the bulwark of autocracy, Russian imperialism and colonialism, oppression and reaction, appropriately called the ‘prison of nations,’ which was the very negation of freedom, democracy, national self-determination and justice, the principles which characterized the Western world and civilization.”
Sen. Yuzyk recalled the actions of Ukrainian regiments from Volyn and Izmayil, who were called to disperse a crowd of protesters in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) by firing into the crowd. The regiments refused and instead fraternized with the protesters, who were demonstrating against the failure of the Russian Empire to maintain livable standards while maintaining a disorganized military campaign fighting on the side of the allies in the first world war, which resulted in high casualties for the tsar’s army of conscripts.
Two days after the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, Sen. Yuzyk explained, Ukrainians took the first step towards liberation. On March 17, the Society of Ukrainian Progressives, having the support of prominent intellectuals, called into being the Ukrainian Central Rada, the nucleus of a Parliament. One month later, the Rada convened the All-Ukrainian National Congress in Kyiv and demanded autonomy from the Russian Provisional Government. Petrograd instantly rejected the demand.
On June 23, 1917, Sen. Yuzyk continued, the Rada proclaimed the freedom of Ukraine within a Russian federation and declared itself to be the government. This revolutionary act inspired other peoples within the former Russian Empire to take matters into their own hands.
A congress of non-Russian people convened in Kyiv on September 21-28, 1917, anddemanded “a reconstruction of the empire into a federation of autonomous republics.” Petrograd again rejected the demands for autonomy for the republics.
The Bolsheviks seized power on November 7, 1917, and with it the Russian Revolution began, which resulted in the Rada’s Third Universal on November 20, that proclaimed a democratic Ukrainian National Republic.
A Fourth Universal was issued on January 22, 1918, wherein the Rada proclaimed Ukraine an independent and sovereign republic, the consummation of the liberation revolution and in keeping with the self-determination of nations set forth by President Woodrow Wilson, Sen. Yuzyk added.
Gradually, Ukraine and the other republics that declared independence in those early days following the collapse of the Russian Empire were subverted and conquered by the Red Army under totalitarian rule, “not much different from the autocratic tsarist regime,” Sen. Yuzyk noted. “The National Liberation Revolution, which brought into existence many independent states, received no support from the Western democratic powers; as a result, the Russian Soviet regime undermined and conquered these freedom-loving nations, thus restoring the most powerful colonial empire known in the history of mankind.”
Sen. Yuzyk suggested that had the Western powers recognized and supported Ukraine as an independent republic at its inception, this would have prevented the expansion of Bolshevik Russia into a Soviet Russian Empire.
Sen. Yuzyk summarized: “The Ukrainian nation has shed the blood of her finest sons and daughters for her freedom and democracy and is still carrying on a relentless struggle against the totalitarian Soviet Russian imperialism. If the United Nations declaration that ‘all peoples have an inalienable right to complete freedom, the exercise of their sovereignty and the integrity of their national territory’ applies equally as well to people in Africa and Asia without historical statehood, then surely it must apply to the civilized Ukrainian nation of 45 million people with a historical statehood and having already exercised her right to self-determination by the Act of January 22, 1918.”
Source: “The three revolutions of fifty years ago,” by Sen. Paul Yuzyk, The Ukrainian Weekly, November 4, 1967.