Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic

Annie Lee | Jan 11, 2024

Table of Content


The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, abbreviated as Ukrainian SSR (in Russian: Украи́нская Сове́тская Социалисти́ческая Респу́блика, Украи́нская ССР), commonly referred to as Soviet Ukraine, was one of the fifteen constituent republics of the former Soviet Union, from its formation in 1922 until its dissolution in 1991.

The Ukrainian SSR was a founding state of the United Nations, although it was legally represented by the Soviet Union in international relations. Following perestroika and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian SSR has been transformed into a modern State of Ukraine, whose current constitution was ratified on 28 June 1996.

Throughout its 72-year history, the borders of the republic changed on certain occasions. After the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939, the current western region of Ukraine was separated from the Second Polish Republic and annexed by the Soviet Union. Likewise, in 1954, the Crimean oblast was ceded to the Ukrainian SSR by the Russian SFSR, in accordance with the ukaz of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of February 19, 1954. Between 1923 and 1934, the city of Kharkov was the capital of the Ukrainian SSR. In 1934, the seat of government was moved to the historical capital Kiev, which remains the capital of independent Ukraine.

Geographically, the Ukrainian SSR was located in Eastern Europe to the north of the Black Sea, being bordered by the Soviet republics of the Moldavian SSR, the Belarusian SSR and the Russian SFSR. The border of the Ukrainian SSR with Czechoslovakia formed the westernmost part of the Soviet Union. According to the Soviet census of 1989, the population of the republic consisted of 51 706 746 inhabitants. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 2001, the population of Ukraine decreased to 48,457,000.

From the late 1920s, Ukraine became involved in Soviet industrialization, and in the following decade the republic's industrial output quadrupled. However, industrialization came at a high cost to the peasants, who were demographically the backbone of the Ukrainian nation. To meet the state's ever-increasing demand for food and to finance industrialization, Stalin instituted a program of collectivization, whereby the state expropriated peasants' land and livestock and grouped them into collective farms, enforcing this policy through regular troops and the secret police. Members of the collective farms could not receive grain until unattainable quotas had been met, and hunger in the Soviet Union became widespread. Between 1932 and 1933, several million died from a famine caused by this policy, known as the Holodomor.

The times of industrialization and Holodomor also coincided with the Soviet assault on leaders of national politics and culture, often accused of "nationalist deviations". Two waves of Stalinist political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union (this includes four-fifths of the Ukrainian cultural elite and three-fourths of the senior officers of the entire Red Army.

The Ukrainian SSR existed until 1991 and, although during this 70-year period no democratic state existed, Ukrainian nationalist groups such as the UPA tried unsuccessfully to establish an independent state. There were also independence movements in other regions not controlled by the Soviet Union, such as in the Transcarpathian region, where Carpathian Ukraine existed ephemerally in 1939, before being annexed by Hungary.

After the February Revolution of 1917, which deposed Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, the October Revolution, carried out by the Bolsheviks, and the beginning of the disintegration of the Russian Empire, the Ukrainian Bolsheviks established a short-lived Ukrainian Soviet Republic. During the civil war period (1917-1923), many factions were formed proclaiming themselves to be governments, each with supporters and detractors. The two most prominent governments were the government of the Ukrainian People's Republic in Kiev and the government of the Ukrainian People's Republic of the Soviets in Kharkov.

The first was internationally recognized as a signatory of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk between the Central Ukrainian Rada and the Central Empires, while the second was only supported by Lenin's government. Both were fought against by the forces of the White Movement in the region. This conflict, known as the Ukrainian War of Independence, was part of the Russian Civil War and represented a struggle for national independence, which ended with the defeat of the Ukrainian People's Republic, its territory being annexed to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (Ukrainian: УРСРР). After the defeat of Soviet Russia in the Polish-Soviet War, the present-day western region of Ukraine became part of the Second Polish Republic. In 1922, the Ukrainian SSR became a founding member of the Soviet Union after the signing of the Treaty on the Creation of the USSR.

The Ukrainian People's Republic of Soviets was founded on December 24-25, 1917. In its publications, it names itself as the "Republic of the Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies" or as the "Ukrainian People's Republic of the Soviets". However, this republic was recognized only by another unrecognized state, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (Russian SFSR). Due to the signing by the Ukrainian Central Rada of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, it was finally defeated in mid-1918 and finally dissolved. The last session of the government took place in the city of Taganrog. In July 1918, the former members of the government formed the Communist (Bolshevik) Party of Ukraine, whose constituent assembly was held in Moscow.

With the defeat of the Central Empires in World War I, Bolshevik Russia resumed its hostilities towards the Ukrainian People's Republic, which was fighting for Ukrainian independence, organizing another Soviet government in Kursk, Russia. On March 10, 1919, in accordance with the Third Congress of Soviets in Ukraine (which took place between March 6 and 10, 1919), the name of the Ukrainian People's Republic of Soviets was changed to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic.

After the ratification of the Soviet Constitution of 1936, the names of all Soviet republics were changed, exchanging the second word ("Soviet" or "radyanska" in Ukrainian) and the third word ("socialist"). According to this situation, on December 5, 1936, the Eighth Extraordinary Congress of Soviets of the Soviet Union changed the name of the republic to "Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic" (Ukrainian SSR), which was ratified by the Fourteenth Congress of Soviets in the Ukrainian SSR on January 31, 1937.

Foundation 1917-1922

After the February Revolution of 1917, various factions sought to create an independent Ukrainian state, alternately cooperating and fighting each other. Numerous socialist factions participated in the formation of the Ukrainian People's Republic (UPR) such as the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, revolutionary socialists and others. The largest faction initially consisted of members of the Ukrainian Socialist-Revolutionary Party (Ukrainian Socialist-Revolutionary Party), which headed the government together with federalists and Mensheviks. Most of the time the Bolsheviks boycotted any government initiative, instigating various armed demonstrations to establish Soviet power without any attempt at consensus.

Immediately after the October Revolution in Petrograd, the Bolsheviks instigated the Bolshevik Revolt in Kiev to support the revolution and secure Kiev. However, due to lack of adequate support from the Ukrainian population and the Central Rada, the Kiev group of Bolsheviks disbanded. Several of its members moved to Kharkov and received support from eastern Ukrainian cities and industrial centers. Later, this decision was considered a mistake by the Secretary of Internal Affairs of the People's Secretariat of the Ukrainian People's Republic of Soviets Yevgeny Bosh. The Secretariat issued an ultimatum to the Central Rada on December 17 to recognize Lenin's Bolshevik government, of which the Rada was highly critical. The Bolsheviks convened a separate congress and established the Ukrainian People's Republic of the Soviets on December 24, 1917, declaring that the Central Rada and its sympathizers needed to be eradicated. Several battles ensued against the Ukrainian People's Republic in order to install a Soviet regime in the country and, with the direct support of the Russian SFSR, the Ukrainian national forces were practically defeated. The Ukrainian government appealed to foreign powers to find direct support from the Central Empires because European governments refused to recognize it. After signing its own Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Central Powers, Soviet Russia returned all the territories captured in Ukraine, and the Bolsheviks were expelled from Ukraine. The Ukrainian Soviet Republic was dissolved after the last session on November 20, 1918.

In the end, after the creation of the Communist (Bolshevik) Party of Ukraine in Moscow, a new Ukrainian Bolshevik government was formed on December 21, 1919, initiating new hostilities against the pro-independence Ukrainians who had lost the military support of the defeated Central Empires. Finally, the Red Army ended up controlling most of the Ukrainian territory after the Soviet-Polish Peace of Riga. On December 30, 1922, by signing the Treaty of Creation of the USSR, the Ukrainian SSR, together with the Russian SSR, the Byelorussian SSR and the Transcaucasian SSR, became one of the founding members of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Interwar period 1922-1939

The revolution that brought the socialist party to power devastated Ukraine, leaving more than 1.5 million dead and hundreds of thousands homeless, in addition to which Soviet Ukraine had to face the famine of 1921. Seeing the exhausted society, the Soviet government remained very flexible during the 1920s. Thus, national culture and the Ukrainian language enjoyed a renaissance, as "Ukrainianization" became a local implementation of the Soviet policy of korenization (literally "indigenization"). The Bolsheviks also undertook to introduce multi-benefit health care, education, and social security, as well as the right to work and housing. Women's rights were greatly increased through new laws intended to eliminate social inequalities. Most of these policies were abruptly abolished in the early 1930s, after Iosif Stalin gradually consolidated his power to become the leader of the Communist Party and the de facto dictator of the Soviet Union.

The Ukrainian national idea endured during the interwar years and even extended to a large territory with a traditionally mixed population in the east and south that became part of the Soviet republic of Ukraine. In those years, several national territorial units were reserved for non-Ukrainian ethnic groups. In addition to an autonomous republic in the west for the Moldovan people of Ukraine, several national raions existed in that period, including 8 Russians, 7 Germans, 4 Greeks, 4 Bulgarians, 3 Jews and 1 Pole.

The rapidly developing Ukrainian language-based education system dramatically raised the literacy of the rural Ukrainian-speaking population. Simultaneously, newly literate ethnic Ukrainians migrated to the cities, which quickly became largely Ukrainianized, both in population and education. Equally expansive was an increase in Ukrainian-language publications and the general emergence of Ukrainian cultural life.

At the same time, the use of Ukrainian in the workplace and in government affairs was continuously encouraged, as the recruitment of indigenous cadres was implemented as part of korenization policies. While initially, the party and government apparatus was majority Russian-speaking, by the late 1920s, ethnic Ukrainians composed more than half of the Ukrainian Communist Party membership, the number strengthened with the accession of the Ukrainian Socialist-Revolutionary Borotbist Socialist-Revolutionary Party, a former independence and non-Bolshevik Communist party.

Despite the ongoing anti-religious campaign throughout the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian National Orthodox Church, called the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC), was created. The Bolshevik government initially saw the national church as a tool in its goal of suppressing the Russian Orthodox Church, always viewed with great suspicion by the regime, being the cornerstone of the pre-revolutionary Russian Empire and the initial strong opposition it had towards regime change. Therefore, the government tolerated the new Ukrainian national church for some time and the UAOC gained a large following among the Ukrainian peasantry.

The shift in Soviet economic policies toward accelerated industrialization was marked by the introduction in 1928 of Iosif Stalin's first Five-Year Plan. Industrialization brought about a dramatic economic and social transformation in the traditionally agricultural Ukraine. In the early stages, Ukraine's industrial output quadrupled and the republic experienced record industrial development. The massive influx of the rural population to the industrial centers increased the urban population from 19% to 34%.

However, industrialization came at a high cost to the peasantry, demographically the backbone of the Ukrainian nation. To meet the state's need to increase the food supply and finance industrialization, Stalin instituted a program of collectivization of agriculture, which profoundly affected Ukraine, often referred to as the "breadbasket of the USSR." In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the state gathered peasants' land and animals into collective farms. This policy was implemented from 1929 onwards, using regular troops and secret police to confiscate land and materials when necessary.

Many resisted and a desperate struggle of the peasantry against the authorities ensued. Some slaughtered their livestock rather than turn them over to the collective farms. The richer peasants were labeled "kulaks," enemies of the state. Tens of thousands were executed and some 100,000 families were deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan.

Forced collectivization had a devastating effect on agricultural productivity. Despite this, in 1932 the Soviet government increased Ukraine's production quotas by 44%, ensuring that they could not be met. Soviet law required that members of a collective farm not receive grain until government quotas were met. In many cases, the authorities demanded such high levels of procurement from collective farms that famine became widespread.

The Soviet famine of 1932-1933, called Holodomor in Ukrainian, claimed as many as 10 million Ukrainian lives when the Stalin regime forcibly eliminated peasant food stocks by the NKVD secret police. As elsewhere, the exact number of starvation deaths in Ukraine may never be known precisely. That said, the most recent demographic studies suggest that more than 4 million Ukrainians perished in the first six months of 1933 alone, a figure that increases if population losses in 1931, 1932 and 1934 are also included, along with those in adjacent territories inhabited mainly by Ukrainians (but politically part of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic), such as the Kuban.

The Soviet Union suppressed information about this famine, and until the 1980s only admitted that there were some difficulties due to kulak sabotage and bad weather. Non-Soviets argue that the famine was an avoidable and deliberate act of genocide.

The times of industrialization and collectivization also provoked a broad campaign against "nationalist deviation", which in Ukraine translated into an assault on the national political and cultural elite. The first wave of purges between 1929 and 1934 targeted the revolutionary generation of the party, which in Ukraine included many supporters of Ukrainization. The next wave of political purges of 1936-1938 eliminated much of the new political generation that replaced those who perished in the first wave and halved the membership of the Ukrainian Communist Party.

The purged Ukrainian political leadership was largely replaced by the cadre sent from Russia who were also largely "rotated" by Stalin's purges. When Ukrainization policies were halted (1931) and replaced by mass Russification, approximately four-fifths of the Ukrainian cultural elite, intellectuals, writers, artists and clergy, were "eliminated," executed or imprisoned in the following decade. Mass arrests of the hierarchy and clergy of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church culminated in the liquidation of the church in 1930.

World War II 1939-1945

On August 23, 1939, in Moscow, the foreign ministers of the Soviet Union, Vyacheslav Molotov, and Nazi Germany, Joachim von Ribbentrop, signed a secret peace agreement with an amendment on the division of Eastern Europe: the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact. Pact according to which Western Poland became an area of German interest, the Soviet Union regained all the lands of the Russian Empire and received Galicia and Bukovina in order to level the borders. On September 1, German armies crossed the Polish border, France and the United Kingdom entered the war on the side of Poland; this was the beginning of World War II. On September 17, Soviet troops crossed the Polish border from the east.

After the Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939, German and Soviet troops divided Polish territory. Thus, Galicia and Volhynia with their mainly Ukrainian population were re-united with the rest of Ukraine. The unification of the country, achieved for the first time in its history, was a decisive event in the history of the nation. According to a Treaty between the USSR and the Third Czechoslovak Republic, signed on June 29, 1945, the region of Subcarpathian Ruthenia was transferred to the Ukrainian SSR, becoming the present-day Zakarpattia Oblast. Then, after France surrendered to Germany, Romania ceded Bessarabia and northern Bukovina to Soviet demands. The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic incorporated the northern and southern districts of Bessarabia, northern Bukovina and, in addition, the Soviet-occupied Hertsa region, but ceded the western part of the Moldavian ASSR to the newly created Moldavian SSR. All these territorial conquests were internationally recognized by the Paris Peace Treaties of 1947.

On June 22, 1941, formed Operation Barbarossa to defeat the Soviet Union and win the strategic territory, the armies of Nazi Germany went on the offensive against the Soviet troops along the entire border and formed the Eastern Front. The battalions of the southern army was sent to Ukraine, the number of Soviet troops and equipment was equal to the German army, but the surprise factor led to a rapid and fierce advance by Germany. The Germans, using blitzkrieg tactics perfected in European countries, advanced rapidly in mechanized units to the rear of the Soviet troops, encircling entire armies. After breaking the Soviet tank counteroffensive in the Lutsk area, German troops were close to Kiev within a few weeks. In September, almost the entire Soviet southwestern front, 660,000 troops, was sent to concentration camps. After a three-month defense in October, Allied German troops captured Odessa. In November the siege of Sevastopol began, which drew part of the German troops into the Caucasus.

The German occupation forces annexed the former Austro-Hungarian lands and formed the Imperial Commissariat of Ukraine with its capital at Rivne and ruled by Erich Koch. The lands west of the Dniester River were ceded to Romania as Transnistria, the rest of the Ukrainian territory was under the control of the military administration. A portion of Ukrainians and Poles, particularly in the west, where they had experienced two years of harsh Soviet rule, initially regarded the Wehrmacht soldiers as liberators. The retreating Soviets murdered thousands of prisoners. Some Ukrainian activists in the national movement hoped for a push to establish an independent Ukrainian state. Initially, German policies somewhat encouraged these hopes through vague promises of a sovereign "Greater Ukraine," as the Germans were trying to tap into anti-Soviet, anti-Ukrainian, anti-Polish and anti-Jewish sentiments. A local Ukrainian auxiliary police was formed, as well as a Ukrainian SS division, the 14th Waffen SS Grenadier Division Galicia (1st Ukrainian). However, after the initial period of limited tolerance, German policies soon changed abruptly and the Ukrainian national movement was brutally crushed.

After the failure of the German Blitzkrieg near Moscow in the winter of 1941, Soviet troops unsuccessfully attempted a counteroffensive in the spring of 1942. In July 1942, the Germans occupied their last settlement in the Soviet Union. After the defeats at El Alamein and Stalingrad, Nazi Germany lost its main ally, Italy, and a military-tactical advantage. On December 18, 1942, Soviet troops began to liberate the occupied territories. By occupying northern Italy and establishing the puppet Republic of Salo, the Germans attempted to seize the initiative on the Eastern Front, recapturing Kharkov. But in August 1943, the Germans lost the Battle of Kursk and Allied troops landed in southern Italy. This finally turned the tide of the war and opened the way for the Soviet military machine to the West.

Kiev was recaptured by the Soviet Red Army on November 6, 1943. In May 1944, Crimea being liberated, the Soviet authorities carried out the forced deportation of Crimean Tatars for alleged collaborationism. At the end of October 1944, the last territory of today's Ukraine (this is celebrated annually in Ukraine (on October 28) as the "Anniversary of the liberation of Ukraine from the Nazis". On May 7, 1945, Germany capitulated and May 8 was declared Victory in Europe Day. On September 2, 1945, Japan capitulated and World War II ended.

The Ostland Police Battalion (or Battalion 33) was an Ordnungspolizei (order police) unit that served in World War II under the command of the Schutzstaffel. The battalion, established in October 1941, performed punitive duties. In October 1941 the battalion was sent to Lviv (Lwów). At that time, about half of the inhabitants of Równe were Jews. About 23,000 of these people were taken to a pine grove in Sosenki and massacred between November 6 and 8, 1941 by the 1st Company. A ghetto was established for the remaining approximately 5,000 Jews. On May 11, 1942, about 1,000 Jews were reportedly executed in Minsk. On July 13-14, 1942, the remaining population of the Rivne ghetto, about 5,000 Jews, were sent by train to about 70 kilometers north of Kostropil (Kostropol), where they were killed by the 1st Company "Ostland" in a quarry near the woods outside the town. Subsequently, the Rivne ghetto was liquidated. On July 14, 1942, the battalion or elements of the battalion provided security together with the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police for the transport of Jews from the Riga ghetto to the Riga Central Station, using the train. On July 15, 1942, another 1,000 Jews were shot at the same location. On June 27, 1942, about 8,000 Jews were executed near the town of Słonim. On July 28, 1942, about 6,000 Jews were executed in Minsk.

In November 1942, the battalion together with an artillery regiment and three other German battalions of the Ordnungspolizei under the command of Otto von Oelhafen, participated in a joint anti-partisan operation near Ovruch (Owrucz) with more than 50 villages burned and more than 1,500 people executed. In one village, 40 people were burned alive in revenge for the murder of SS- Untersturmführer Türnpu(u). In February 1943, the battalion was sent to Reval, Estonia. On March 31, 1943, the Estonian Legion had 37 officers, 175 NCOs and 62 privates in the Ostland Police Battalion.

In their active resistance to Nazi Germany, Ukrainians constituted a significant part of the Red Army and its leadership, as well as of the underground and resistance movements. Initially, the Germans were welcomed as liberators by some Western Ukrainians, who had joined the Soviet Union only in 1939. However, the brutal German regime in the occupied territories eventually turned their supporters into opponents. The Nazi administrators of the conquered Soviet territories did little to take advantage of the Ukrainian population's dissatisfaction with the Stalinist regime and its economic policies. Instead, the Nazis retained the collective farm system, systematically carried out some of the genocidal policies against the Jews, and began a systematic depopulation of Ukraine to prepare it for German colonization.

Although the vast majority of Ukrainians fought alongside the Red Army and partisans, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists created an anti-Soviet organization in Galicia, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (1942) fought the occupying Nazi forces and continued to fight against the Soviet Union even years after the war. Using guerrilla warfare tactics, the insurgents killed and terrorized those they perceived as representatives or allies of the Soviet state. At the same time, another nationalist movement fought alongside the Nazis, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists.

In total, the number of Ukrainians who fought in the ranks of the Soviet Army is estimated at 4.5 million Partisan guerrillas in Ukraine are estimated at 47 800, from the beginning of the occupation, to 500 000 at its peak in 1944, with approximately 50 % of native Ukrainians. Generally, the figures of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army are not very reliable, varying from 15 000 to more than 100 000.

In Ukraine, the resistance movement had two currents: Ukrainian nationalism in the west and Soviet communism in the east. German Abwehr intelligence used the radical branch of the OUN, the OUN(b), for sabotage. Instead, the nationalists hoped to use the Germans to restore the Ukrainian state. On June 30, 1941, Yaroslav Stetsko proclaimed the Act on the Restoration of the Ukrainian State at a general meeting, after which he and Stepan Bandera were deported to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Until the defeat in 1942, the OUN(m) continued to organize resistance groups towards the center, south and east of Ukraine, in Volhynia, Taras Bulba-Borovets organized the Ukrainian Revolutionary Army. On October 14, 1942, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, later led by Roman Shukhovych, was formed with the aim of fighting against both imperialisms, Russian communism and German National Socialism. The Polish-Ukrainian national confrontation led to the Volhynian tragedy in 1943, in which up to 90,000 Poles and 30,000 Ukrainians died. In July 1944, when more than 100,000 soldiers were in the ranks of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, the Supreme Ukrainian Liberation Council was formed.

However, some Ukrainians resisted the Nazi attack from the beginning and a partisan movement immediately spread throughout the occupied territory. Some elements of the Ukrainian nationalist underground formed a Ukrainian Insurgent Army that fought against Soviet and Nazi forces. In some western regions of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army survived underground and continued resistance against the Soviet authorities well into the 1950s, although both sides killed many Ukrainian civilians in this conflict.

During the period from March 1943 to the end of 1944, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army committed several massacres of the Polish civilian population in Volhynia and eastern Galicia with all the signs of genocide (Massacres of Poles in Volhynia and eastern Galicia). The death toll amounted to 100,000, mostly women and children.

According to the General Plan for the East, the Germans used the local resources to the maximum, exploited the population as labor, deported them to Germany (in total more than 4 million inhabitants).

Many civilians were victims of atrocities, forced labor and even massacres of entire villages in retaliation for attacks against Nazi forces. Of the estimated eleven million Soviet soldiers who fell in battle against the Nazis, about 16% (1.7 million) were ethnic Ukrainians. In addition, Ukraine saw some of the most important battles of the war, beginning with the siege of Kiev where more than 660,000 Soviet soldiers were taken captive, in the fierce defense of Odessa and the victorious assault across the Dnieper River.

The total losses inflicted on the Ukrainian population during the war are estimated at between five and eight million, including more than half a million Jews killed by the Einsatzgruppen, sometimes aided by local collaborators. Of the Soviet troops who fell to the Nazis, estimated at 8.7 million, 1.4 million were Ukrainians. To this day, Victory Day is celebrated as one of the ten civic holidays in Ukraine.

At the siege of Kiev, the city was hailed as a "Heroic City" for the resistance put up by both the Red Army and the local population. More than 600,000 Soviet soldiers (a quarter of the western front) were killed or taken prisoner.

The vast majority of the fighting in World War II took place on the Eastern Front, and Nazi Germany suffered 93% of its casualties here.

Post-war times 1945-1953

While the European part of the Second World War (the fraction of which, counting from the invasion by Nazi Germany, is called in Russia the Great Patriotic War) ended in May 1945, the Germans were expelled from Ukraine between February 1943 and October 1944. The first task of the Soviet authorities was to re-establish political control over the republic which had been completely lost during the war. This was an immense task, taking into account the population distribution and material losses. During World War II the Soviet Union lost about 11 million combatants and about 7 million civilians, of whom 4.1 million were Ukrainian servicemen and 1.4 million were Ukrainian civilians. In addition, a total of 3.9 million Ukrainians were evacuated to the SFSR from Russia during the war, and 2.2 million Ukrainians were sent to forced labor camps by the Germans. The material devastation was enormous, Adolf Hitler ordered the creation of "a zone of annihilation" in 1943, and this together with the scorched earth policy of the Soviet army during 1941, left Ukraine in ruins. These two policies led to the destruction of 28,000 villages and 714 towns. 85% of the city center of Kiev was destroyed, as was 70% of the center of Ukraine's second largest city, Kharkov. Because of this, 19 million people were left homeless after the war. The industrial base of the republic, like so much else, was destroyed. The Soviet government had managed to evacuate 544 industrial enterprises between July and November 1941, but the rapid German advance led to the destruction, in whole or in part, of 16,150 enterprises, 27,910,000 collective farms, 1,300 tractor stations and 872 state farms.

The war expanded the territory of the Ukrainian SSR by annexing territories in eastern Poland to western Ukraine during the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939. While the war brought Ukraine enormous physical destruction, it also brought territorial expansion. The reason for this territorial expansion can be explained by the prestige of the Soviet Union as one of the victors of the war. The Ukrainian border was extended to the Curzon line, i.e. it annexed the present western territory of Ukraine, formerly controlled by Poland. Ukraine was also extended to the south, near the Izmail area, formerly part of Romania (after the Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina). The agreement signed by the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia allowed the transfer of Transcarpathia to Ukraine. The territory of Ukraine grew by 167,054 square kilometers and its population increase is estimated at 11 million.

After the Second World War some amendments were made to the Constitution of the Ukrainian SSR, which enabled it to act as a separate country within international law in some cases and, to a certain extent, to remain part of the Soviet Union at the same time. In particular, the amendments allowed the Ukrainian SSR to become one of the founding members of the United Nations, together with the Soviet Union and the Belarusian SSR. This was part of an agreement with the United States to ensure a degree of balance in the General Assembly, which, according to the USSR, was unbalanced in favor of the Western Bloc. As a member of the UN, the Ukrainian SSR was an elected member of the UN Security Council in the periods 1948-1949 and 1984-1985.

Khrushchev: 1953-1964

When Stalin died on March 5, 1953, a collective government took power headed by Nikita Khrushchev, Georgy Malenkov, Vyacheslav Molotov and Lavrenti Beria, who began a process of de-Stalinization. The change began when, in 1953, officials were allowed to criticize the Russification policy and, in particular, the Russification of Ukraine. Aleksei Kyrychenko, on June 4, 1953, succeeded Leonid Melnikov as first secretary of the Communist Party of the Ukrainian SSR, which was important since he was the first ethnic Ukrainian to reach the post since the 1920s.

The "thaw", the policy of deliberate liberalization, was characterized by four points: 1. amnesty for all those convicted of state crime during the war or the immediate post-war years, 2. amnesties for one third of those convicted of state crime during Stalin's rule, 3. the establishment of the first Ukrainian mission to the United Nations in 1958 and 4. the steady increase of Ukrainians with rank in the Party and in the Ukrainian SSR Government. Most of the positions of power and three quarters of the state officials were ethnic Ukrainians.


Khrushchev was deposed by the Central Committee and the full Politburo in October 1964 and was succeeded by another collective leadership, led by Leonid Brezhnev - born in Ukraine into a family of Russian workers - as First Secretary of the CPSU and Aleksei Kosyguin as Chairman of the Council of Ministers. The Brezhnev era will be marked by social and economic stagnation, a period known as the Brezhnevian stagnation. The new regime introduced the policy of Flowering, Reunion and Fusion. Policies aimed at uniting the various Soviet nationalities into one, by merging the best elements of each. This policy turned out to be a new form of the Russification policy. The unification of Soviet nationalities would be carried out, according to Vladimir Lenin, when the Soviet Union reached the final stage of communism, also the last stage of human development. Some Soviet officials throughout the Union called for the abolition of the "Soviet republics" and the establishment of a single nation. Instead of introducing the ideological concept of the Soviet nation, Brezhnev at the 24th Party Congress spoke of "a new historical community of the people - the Soviet people", and introduced the ideological concept of developed socialism, which postponed communism. When Brezhnev died in 1982, he was succeeded by Yuri Andropov, who died soon after taking power. Andropov was replaced by Konstantin Chernenko, who ruled for no more than 13 months. Chernenko was succeeded by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985.

Gorbachev and independence 1985-1991

The perestroika and glásnost policies promoted by Mikhail Gorbachev did not reach Ukraine as quickly as they did other Soviet republics, due to the opposition of Volodímir Scherbitski, a conservative communist appointed by Leonid Brézhnev as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Ukrainian SSR. In 1989, Scherbitski was forced to resign from his post by Gorbachev. The Chernobyl accident of 1986, Russification policies and social and economic stagnation led a number of Ukrainians to oppose Soviet domination. Gorbachev's policy of perestroika was not implemented in practice, 95% of industry and agriculture was still state-owned in 1990. The proposal for reform, which in turn could not be implemented, became a factor of opposition to the Soviet regime. The Glasnost policy, which put an end to state censorship, led to the Ukrainian diaspora contacting their compatriots in Ukraine, to the revitalization of religious practices through the destruction of the monopoly of the Russian Orthodox Church, and to the creation of independent pamphlets, magazines and newspapers.

Following the attempted coup d'état in the Soviet Union, on August 24, 1991, the Ukrainian parliament passed the Act of Declaration of Independence of Ukraine. In December, the referendum on independence took place, the result of which was a surprise, as the majority of the oblasts voted in favor of independence. 52% of the population of Crimea, which had been a territory of Russia since 1783, voted for independence. More than 80% of the population of eastern Ukraine voted for independence, 9 out of 10 citizens of the Ukrainian SSR voted for independence. Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union was almost immediately recognized by the international community. It was the first time in the 20th century that Ukrainian independence had been attempted without any foreign intervention or civil war. In Ukraine's 1991 presidential election 62% of Ukrainians voted for Leonid Kravchuk.

The Ukrainian SSR was divided into 25 oblasts (provinces) as shown in the following table (data from January 1, 1976, source: Great Soviet Encyclopedia).

Autonomous republics

The Ukrainian SSR was the second strongest economy in the entire Soviet Union only behind Russia, during the Soviet period metallurgical products, chemical industry and mechanical engineering were produced in large volumes as well as electricity and agricultural exports from the country increased.

During the postwar years, Ukraine's industrial productivity doubled from its prewar level. In 1945, industrial production totaled only 26% of the 1940 level. The Soviet Union introduced the Fourth Five-Year Plan in 1946. The Fourth Five-Year Plan would prove to be a remarkable success and can be compared to the "wonders of West German and Japanese reconstruction", but without foreign capital; Soviet reconstruction is historically an impressive achievement. By 1950, gross industrial output had already surpassed 1940 levels. While the Soviet regime still emphasized heavy industry over light industry, the light industry sector also grew. Increased capital investment and expansion of the labor force also benefited Ukraine's economic recovery. In the prewar years, 15.9 percent of the Soviet budget went to Ukraine; by 1950, during the Fourth Five-Year Plan, this had risen to 19.3 percent. The labor force had increased from 1.2 million in 1945 to 2.9 million in 1955; an increase of 33.2 percent over the 1940 level. The result of this remarkable growth was that in 1955 Ukraine was producing 2.2 times as much as in 1940, and the republic had become one of the leading producers of certain commodities in Europe. Ukraine was Europe's largest per capita producer of pig iron and sugar, the second largest per capita producer of steel and iron ore, and the third largest per capita producer of coal in Europe.

From 1965 until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, industrial growth in Ukraine declined, and in the 1970s it began to stagnate. Significant economic decline did not become evident before the 1970s. During the Fifth Five-Year Plan (1951-1955), industrial development in Ukraine grew by 13.5%, while during the Eleventh Five-Year Plan (1981-1985) industry grew by a relatively modest 3.5%. The double-digit growth seen in all branches of the economy in the postwar years had disappeared by the 1980s, replaced entirely by low growth figures. A continuing problem throughout the republic's existence was the planners' emphasis on heavy industry over consumer goods in the Soviet Union.

The postwar years led to an increase in energy consumption. Between 1956 and 1972, to meet this growing demand, the government built five water reservoirs along the Dnieper River. In addition to improving Soviet-Ukrainian water transport, the reservoirs became sites for new power plants, and hydropower flourished in Ukraine as a result. The natural gas industry also flourished, and Ukraine became the site of the first postwar gas production in the Soviet Union; by the 1960s, Ukraine's largest gas field was producing 30 percent of the USSR's total gas production. The government was unable to meet the population's ever-increasing demand for energy consumption, but by the 1970s, the Soviet government had devised an intensive nuclear power program. According to the Eleventh Five-Year Plan, the Soviet government would build 8 nuclear power plants in Ukraine by 1989. As a result of these efforts, Ukraine became very diversified in energy consumption.

In 1966, the first trolleybus invented by Vladimir Veklich was inaugurated in Kiev, and on December 30, 1978, the first high-speed streetcar line was also inaugurated in Kiev.

In Ukraine the main means of transport were railroads and trolleybuses, also in Kiev, Krivói Rog and Kharkov there was a subway.

Trobeluses operated in 42 cities in the Ukrainian SSR.

Ukrainian industry was based on mechanical engineering, metallurgy, fuel and food industries.

Ukrainian SSR accounted for 17.2% of the electricity of the entire Soviet Union. In 1990, 66.7% of electricity was provided by thermal power plants, 24.8% by nuclear power and 8.5% by hydroelectric power.

Fuel production in Ukraine was a total of 6.1 % and 1.0 %, respectively.

Ukrainian mineral resources were also very important in the Ukrainian industry, the main resources being iron (Ukraine being one of the most important regions for its extraction), manganese, mercury, lead, zinc, titanium, cobalt and aluminum.

Mining plants for sulfur, rock salt, phosphorus, potash salt, graphite and phosphorites were very important for the chemical industry. Mountain resources such as chalk, clay, marble, gypsum and amber were important for Soviet building materials.

Metallurgy was one of the most important in the Soviet Union. Engineering was the most important in the Ukrainian industry, accounting for 30.5% of the Ukrainian GDP, the most important engineering center was Kharkov, where the industry was focused on the creation of tractors, transport, mining, shipbuilding and agricultural engineering.

The chemical industry included the production of fertilizers, sulfuric acid, soda, chemical fibers, dyes, rubber and sodium carbonate. Ukraine's share in the Soviet Union in the engineering industry was 15.5%.

Ukraine's food industry was the second largest in the entire Soviet Union; it accounted for 61.9 % of sugar, 32.8 % of animal oil, 21.9 % of meat, 25 % of canned food, 22.1 % of beer and 19.2 % of dairy products.

Agriculture accounted for 45% of Ukraine's GDP. The main agricultural products were cereals, wheat, barley, sugar beet, tobacco and soybeans.

Vegetable cultivation was especially centered around large cities and industrial areas where tomatoes, cabbage, onions, carrots, beets, radishes, parsley, parsley and eggplants were grown.

The most important branch of animal husbandry was animal husbandry, which produced 44% of the country's meat and 71% of its milk. Sheep, goats and cattle were the most important animals in Ukrainian animal husbandry.


  1. Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic
  2. República Socialista Soviética de Ucrania
  3. ^ Ukrainian-language acronym: УРСР, URSR
  4. ^ Russian-language acronym: УССР
  5. ^ The number of Supreme Soviet deputies varied from 435 in 1955, to 650 in 1977, then finally down to 450 by 1990.
  6. Véase el artículo de la Gran Purga para más detalles.
  7. Por lo general estas cifras tienden a ser mayores, debido a que no incluyen a los ucranianos residentes en otros países ni a los judíos ucranianos.
  8. Esta cifra excluye los prisioneros de guerra muertos.
  9. официальный в 1920—1989 годах, государственный язык республики в 1989—1991 годах
  10. C'est par le traité soviéto-tchécoslovaque du 29 juin 1945 (« Traité au sujet de l’Ukraine subcarpatique » et « Protocole annexé au traité conclu entre l’URSS et la République tchécoslovaque au sujet de l’Ukraine subcarpatique ») que la Ruthénie subcarpathique est devenue soviétique.
  11. Le 11 mai 1919, à la suite de l'échec des Bolcheviks de la république soviétique d'Odessa à prendre le contrôle de la Bessarabie au printemps 1918, ils proclamèrent aussi, sur les cartes, une République soviétique bessarabienne qui n'a cependant pas contrôlé la Bessarabie alors déjà unie à la Roumanie par le vote, en avril 1918, du soviet suprême de la République démocratique moldave, à majorité menchévique et nationaliste moldave, vote que la Russie soviétique refuse de reconnaître.
  12. (en) Steven Rosenberg, Ukraine crisis: Meeting the little green men, BBC News, 1er mai 2014, consulté le 30 avril 2014.

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