Mykola Ivanovich Mikhnovsky
31 March 1873
Turivka, Poltava Governorate, Russian Empire
|Died||3 May 1924 (aged 51)|
Kyiv, Ukraine, Soviet Union
|Alma mater||Kiev University|
|Occupation||political and social activist, lawyer, journalist, founder, ideologue and leader of an Ukrainian independence movement|
Mykola Ivanovich Mikhnovsky (March 31, 1873 - May 3, 1924) was a Ukrainian political and social activist, lawyer, journalist, founder, ideologue and leader of a Ukrainian independence movement in the late 19th - early 20th century. Author of the pamphlet "Independent Ukraine", one of the organizers of the Ukrainian army, co-founder of the first political party in East Ukraine - Revolutionary Ukrainian Party (RUP), the leader of the Ukrainian People's Party, co-founder of the Ukrainian Democratic Party, a member of the Brotherhood for Self-determination.
A descendant of an old Cossack family, whose roots can be traced back to the 17th century, Mykola Mikhnovsky was born to the family of a rural priest in the village of Turivka, Pryluky County, Poltava province in 1873. He spent his childhood in the countryside, listening to folk songs, stories and songs. His world views were influenced by his father, who shaped his "spirit of independence". His father held church services in the Ukrainian language. Mykola was educated in the town of Pryluky. After graduating from high school in 1890, he studied Law at Kiev University.
The growth of Ukrainian national consciousness in the late 19th century led to a riff among the Ukrainian intelligentsia. The older generation approached the "Ukrainian question" through culture and education, limiting their demands to moderate reforms that would have abolished the national-cultural restrictions for Ukrainian within the Russian Empire. The younger generation however, were attracted to socialist ideals. They believed that national liberation could be achieved through a common struggle with other nations against the existing social order in Russia. In the early 1890s, a new trend developed. It was started by a Mikhnovsky, a student who openly declared the state independence of the Ukrainian nation. He began to preach boldly, that the only way to gain state independence was through armed conflict and that this was the only path for the Ukrainian people.
As a freshman at the University of Kiev Mikhnovsky joined the Ukrainian national movement and became a member of "Young community". However, cultural and apolitical activities did not satisfy him. As a radical-minded young man in 1891 he formed a secret student organization. The first Ukrainian national organization with a clearly political purposes was founded by a group of students from Kharkiv and Kyiv Universities, which in summer 1891 took the oath of allegiance to Ukraine, and founded a secret political society, in honor of the poet Taras Shevchenko calling it the "Taras Fraternity".
Mikhnovskyy, though he was not among the founders, soon became the ideologue and leader of the fraternity. As a law student, he developed an ideological platform, known as the "Credo of a young Ukrainian." "The Taras Fraternity" declared its goal to fight for "an independent sovereign Ukraine, united, whole and undivided, from the San to the Kuban rivers, from the Carpathians to the Caucasus mountains, between the free-free, with no master and no boor, without the class struggle within the federation".
The case of the "Taras Fraternity" seemed almost hopeless, but Mikhnovsky spread their views. These were the performances of other human belief, is not popular and not recognized by most Ukrainian leaders. The propaganda of the "Taras Fraternity" had no noticeable success. Yet throughout Ukraine isolated supporters appeared who shared their views, not only among students but also the peasants, petty bourgeoisie, the intelligentsia. The organization ceased to exist after 1893, as part of "Taras Fraternity" were arrested, and another - sent into exile.
Mikhnovsky was lucky to escape arrest. He graduated and began working in one of the lawyers' offices in Kyiv. However Mikhnovsky did not abandon his social activities. In 1897 he traveled to the city, which had established close relationships with western leaders and purchased a large number of illegal publications, including works by Mykhailo Drahomanov and Ivan Franko. Police believed that he was anti-government".
In 1898 Mikhnovsky moved to Kharkiv, where he became a lawyer and a prominent Ukrainian independence activist. In 1900 he became one of the founding members of Revolutionary Ukrainian Party, which became the first Ukrainian political party under Russian rule. In response to the spread of Marxist ideas in RUP, in 1902 some of its members organized a new organization called Ukrainian People's Party, of which Mikhnovsky became a leader. After the 1905 Revolution Mikhnovsky founded a few Ukrainian newspapers and in 1909 helped to create a mutual credit society in Kharkiv. As a member of Ukrainian liberation movement, he also took part in organizing terror attacks against Russian monuments, one of which succeeded.
Mikhnovskyy's "Ten Commandments" for the Ukrainian People's Party labelled Jews, Poles, Russians enemies "for as long as they ruled and exploited us [Ukainians]." He condemned intermarriage with foreigners.
During the First World War, Mikhnovsky proposed to create Ukrainian national units in the Russian Imperial army. In March 1917 he joined the Ukrainian Central Council and headed the newly created Polubotok Military Club, aiming to create a separate Ukrainian armed force. After the Central Council refused to support the club, its members started a coup attmept, which ended in a failure. Mikhnovsky was detained by the gendarmerie and sent for military service to the Romanian Front. After the October Revolution in Russia, he returned to Ukraine and entered the Ukrainian Democratic Peasant Party (UDKhP), founded by Vyacheslav Lypynsky. When German armies occupied Ukraine and installed the Hetmanate regime, Mikhnovsky opposed the rule of hetman Pavlo Skoropadskyi, but refused to take part in a coup to topple him. In late 1918 the Socialist Directory took power in Kiev. Mikhnovsky considered the new government to be extremist and incompetent and his party plotted to replace its leadership either with colonel Petro Bolbochan or Sich Riflemen leader Yevhen Konovalets. However, in 1919 Mikhnovsky contracted typhus. After being temporarily arrested by the Bolsheviks, he left politics and next year left Ukraine for Kuban. Unable to be evacuated together with the White forces, Mikhnovsky settled in Poltavskaya, working as a teacher.
In 1924 Mikhnovsky returned to Kiev, where he was arrested by GPU, but released in a short time. On 3 May 1924 Mikhnovsky was found hanged in a garden belonging to his long-time political ally Volodymyr Shemet. Officially his death was ruled a suicide, however there were rumours of Soviet secret services' involvement.
During the era of Soviet rule in Ukraine public mention of Mikhnovsky was forbidden, as he was considered a Ukrainian bourgeois nationalist. After Ukrainian independence a number of memorial plates and monuments were installed in his memory, including one in Kharkiv.