This varied collection of 150+ books, memoirs, regional guidebooks and more captures a historical period when the definition of “Ukraine” shifted constantly. Competing ideas about Ukraine, Ukrainians, and their future, fueled vibrant debates and violent clashes in the first half of the 20th century. Primarily concentrated between the years 1912 and 1929, the items in this collection illuminate the concerns of intellectuals and politicians during Ukrainians’ early attempts at statehood and initial experience of Sovietization. The first World War irrevocably weakened the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires—traditionally the ruling powers in what is now Ukrainian territory. Nationalist, socialist, and anarchist political organizations, who had been growing their numbers since the late 19th century, took this opportunity to fight for their visions of a Ukrainian future.
The dynamic chaos of the Russian Revolution spread to Ukrainian territory, and the Bolsheviks were met with overt supporters, opponents, and temporary allies. Between 1917 and 1921, Ukrainian political activists of various stripes, Bolsheviks, the White Russian Volunteer Army, Polish Republican forces, and members of the Entente and the Allies struggled bitterly to wrest control of the territory. At the end of this conflict, jurisdiction over Ukraine was divided between the Soviet Union, Poland, Romania and Czechoslovakia. The interwar history of Soviet Ukraine is well-represented in this collection. It was a period characterized by an initial policy of korenizatsiia (the promotion of indigenous culture, language, and political elites) that was reversed under Joseph Stalin, leading to the repression of those elements in Ukrainian life.
Published between 1895 and 1957 (with the majority printed between 1900 and 1931), the materials in this collection include history books; polemical essays; tour guides; economic, statistical and infrastructural publications; archival collections; political instruction manuals; memoirs; and works on folk art and daily life (byt). Many books, especially those depicting artwork, are richly illustrated in full color. Most of the materials were published in Ukraine, Russia and the Soviet Union, but a handful of books were printed in important centers of Ukrainian émigré life such as Canada, Germany, France, the U.K. and the U.S. Southern Ukraine and Crimea are the subject of a great number of works, such as travel guides, memoirs and histories of the interwar conflict on that territory, and two unique books: one on the history of Crimean Karaites, and one illustrated children’s book on the everyday life of Crimean Tatars. Jewish people, another important ethnic minority group in Ukrainian history, are represented by several works of historical and personal reflection, such as “The Crimson Book: Pogroms of 1919-1920” by S.I. Gusev-Orenburgskii, published in Harbin, China. The variety of intellectual and political approaches to Ukraine can be seen in the myriad histories and essays in this collection. These include well-established histories by M. Hrushevsky and D. Doroshenko (both are replete with detailed images), anarchist N. Makhno’s memoirs, and memoirs from White Army soldiers. Researchers can find works from Ukrainophile, Russophile, statist, anarchist, conservative, and socialist perspectives. Finally, the effects of Soviet administration are also clearly represented here. One can find statistical and legal records about Ukrainian finances, economics, grain resources, electrification, and agriculture. A few works have a clear ideological impetus: a public lecture on “Red Laws and Red Court,” instructions for conducting revolutionary tribunals, and an essay on W. Ukrainian and W. Belarusian history “for the propagandist/political agitator.”
Exploring this collection would be useful for researchers studying Ukraine’s intellectual history and the interwar period. The collection features a handful of open letters and responses to public intellectuals, charting the discourse at a particular point in time. Personal and military memoirs will be useful for those aiming to understand life and strategy during the tumult of 1917-1921. Researchers interested in economic and commercial history will also find useful materials—tour guidebooks and a volume from the Russian Society of Shipping and Trade (and their advertisements) provide glimpses of leisure and trade in the early 20th century. Scholars of southern Ukraine and Crimea can access a variety of works focused on that region. Finally, those looking for perspectives on Ukraine from outside its borders will find several émigré answers to the central question that occupies so many of these works: where did Ukraine come from, and where is it going?