April 9, 2019

Halyna Yarova: “Contemporaries, Who Are Creating Today's Policy of the State, Seem Not to Understand Their Mission”

Interview with the Director of the Hetmanship Museum


— The activity of the Hetmanship Museum headed by you can be considered unique to Ukraine because you are paying attention to the prominent Ukrainian leaders who, in different years of the Ukrainian history, dreaming about our statehood, restored and sought to consolidate it for the sake of our people, our Ukrainian nation. I hope the time will come when this museum will have expositions dedicated to the activity of our modern Presidents. And at the same time I am asking you to kindly share your own attitude to them in answering my questions about important historical events, taking into consideration the work done by your museum. In particular, are you and your colleagues satisfied with how the theme of the 100th anniversary of Pavlo Skoropadskyi's being declared the Hetman of Ukraine was studied?

— Hetman Pavlo Skoropadskyi's role in the Ukrainian history has always been of interest to us since the very first days of our museum, that is since 1993. Our work began from scrap. At that time, Olena Pavlivna, Hetman's youngest daughter, managed to come to Ukraine. She was born in the capital of Germany, where the Hetman's family emigrated from Ukraine. Academician Yaroslav Yatskiv and his colleagues, met her on her arrival, accompanied her in her travelling Ukraine. The Institute of History, together with the Institute of the Ukrainian Archeography at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, organized an interesting conference having also invited outstanding academicians and historians. This happened for the first time, because before this, P. Skoropadskyi had not been recognized as a historical personality, as a positive figure in historical science, first of all — in the Soviet one.

— Who's was the initiative to collect the above-mentioned archival materials?

— Editor-in-Chief of those “Memoirs” Yaroslav Pelenskyi — Director of the Vyacheslav Lypynskyi East European Research Institute.

— I know that you personally were friends with Hetman's daughter — Olena Pavlivna Skoropadska. Born in exile, she still considered herself Ukrainian. But then, why, living abroad, Ukrainians try to return to Ukraine?

The Hetmanship Museum

The Hetmanship Museum

— Hetman's children knew several languages, besides Ukrainian — Russian, German, and English. Ms. Olena came to us for the first time in her life and communicated without difficulty in Ukrainian… While not even all Kyivites could or would want to do this!

Just one interesting fact: having emigrated after the known events of 1918, Pavlo Skoropadskyi had to sell his wife's jewels (it was very difficult to do this in the post-war ruined Germany) to buy a house which, apart from his family, became also a shelter for the family of Anatoliy Mordvinov — Nicholas II's Adjutant, whose wife, Olga, was a friend of Hetman's wife.

A collection of paintings, hang in the living room while Hetman was alive, after his death was transferred to the V. Lypynskyi East European Research Institute of Philadelphia. In 2004, when the building of the institute was sold, Olena Pavlivna ordered to send Hetmans' portraits to our museum. These are portraits of Ukrainian Hetmans: Bohdan Khmelnytskyi, Pavlo Polubotok, Petro Doroshenko, Danylo Apostol, Ivan Skoropadskyi and Ivan Samoylovych. And two portraits of women — the mother of Cyrylo and Oleksiy Rozumovskyi and the second wife of Ivan Skoropadskyi — Nastya. And also the bas-relief of P. Skoropadskyi created by Arthur Lewin-Funcke. I do not think there is a better bas-relief. It can be seen in the center of our exposition.

Why portraits of these particular Hetmans?

— Olena Pavlivna confirmed that the Ukrainian Hetmans depicted in the portraits were relatives. You see, by and large, it shows that Ukraine did have its true elite, which enemies tried and tried hard to take away from it. Saying that Ukrainians have no reason to consider themselves a nation, they cannot have their own history or culture. But the elite is, figuratively speaking, the beginnings of the state, which can be created by its best representatives, and pursue a national policy beneficial for it.

I want to say that if Ukrainians are interested in their genealogy, then this is an indication that we are worthy to have our own state.

If you carefully look at your history, analyze it objectively, then you can avoid the cumbersome mistakes in the development of statehood. Right?

— I must agree with you. The so-called Soviet stereotypes of perceiving history still show. But, as an historian, I want to say that our leaders of the 1990s, of the beginning of our independence, were much more educated than their present heirs. And even more, it's enough to just compare their worldviews with that of Pavlo Skoropadskyi, to conclude: contemporaries, who are creating today's policy of the state, seem not to understand their mission.

Government officials should respect their office, honestly perform their duties and care about the people and the state, and not just, to put it mildly, to enrich themselves at the expense of the country. Let's remind, P. Skoropadskyi had to change three governments within seven months! Is it not clear why? He sought to create a complete state mechanism, without which the state would not be built.

Scientific works “The Statesman and the State: to the 100th anniversary of Pavlo Skoropadskyi's being declared the Hetman of Ukraine”

Scientific works “The Statesman and the State: to the 100th anniversary of Pavlo Skoropadskyi's being declared the Hetman of Ukraine”

I consider relevant and interesting collection of scientific works entitled “The Statesman and the State: to the 100th anniversary of Pavlo Skoropadskyi's being declared the Hetman of Ukraine”. Those, for whom this collection is intended, will be delighted with it. But then, so will be others, who will be able to look through its pages, because, it is largely about geopolitical issues related to Ukraine.

— It's nice to hear such an assessment of our work, but it goes first of all to the authors of the articles and those who initiated publication of the book. The meaningful works maintain the society's attention to the history, which does not allow it to get covered with the dust of the present.

This collection includes an article of the Ph.D. in Politics O. Mykhaylova on some aspects of the formation of P. Skoropadskyi's worldview. Originally he was an apolitical military serviceman who, without regret, took the release from the oath to the tsar, later he seemed to accept republican ideas, was a supporter of liberalism, with a parallel inclination to be a Ukrainian. Not going deeper into this topic, let us compare him with the military of our time, who by their decision to return to Ukraine in 1991 prevented combat actions such as those that were started by Russians in Azerbaijan or Lithuania, and later in Chechnya or Trans-Dniester region.

— The Soviet propaganda had been forming the minds of the former Soviet army, and its troops had undergone numerous trials at different hotspots, in particular — in Afghanistan. Independence is valued more when it is achieved by extremely great efforts of a united nation. Like today our military are fighting arms in hand. And the Soviet times will never come back.

Speaking about the attempts to return the past, what do you think about P. Skoropadskyi's (then the Hetman) possible participation in releasing the Russian Tsar Nicholas II, who was imprisoned in Yekaterinburg. The then Commander of the German troops in Ukraine Field Marshal Hermann Eichhorn allowed the Hetman to appeal to the Kaiser to help release the Russian tsar from the Bolshevik captivity. General Mosolov, Duke Kochubey and Duke of Leuchtenberg proposed P. Skoropadskyi to create a German-Haidamak subversive-rescue expedition, which would, with the help of emissaries of German intelligence, liquidate the guard and take Nicholas II abroad. There were certain hopes for the uprising of the Czechoslovak Legion in the spring of 1918, which could release Nicholas II. Weapons and ammunition for this were supplied by Remington Arms, Union Metallic Cartridge Company, at the National City Bank of New York's money. The Germans promised that in that case their troops from Ukraine and from under Rostov-on-Don would seize Tsaritsyn and march to Moscow.

— This can be attributed to P. Skoropadskyi's faithfulness to his officer's integrity. He tried to be worthy of his vocation, always to stand above all sorts of petty disputes. Already in exile, he urged Ukrainian emigrants to unite for a common cause, rather than argue, as it had been the case with Banderites and Melnykites.

The theme of monarchism, with which Hetman had to do due to his activity and his origin, is extremely important, and it is impossible to silence or avoid it. Remember that at that time the empire was falling apart, its capital and Moscow were captured by Bolsheviks and their supporters, while the former Russian elite (including units of the Russian army and officers) found itself on the periphery. The officers tried to restore the tsardom, including to release Nicholas II, who abdicated the throne. To P. Skoropadskyi, as to a general, this was also, of course, a natural step for reduction of things to order in the collapsed country.

Professor Volodymyr Potulnytskyi in the above-mentioned collection published his research on P. Skoropadskyi as a politician, a military strategist, a diplomat. Having settled in emigration, the Hetman continued to work on Ukraine's independence, seeking allies, trying to establish contacts with them, to predict their plans for the future of the world, to understand the geopolitical role of our state. According to the author of the research, the Hetman managed to establish diplomatic relations with 14 states on three continents — in America, Asia and Europe — and created the basis for Ukraine's expansion of diplomatic relations at a completely different level compared with the policy of republican states. That was the level of not only state but also of dynastic history and traditional conservatism, which was legalized by P. Skoropadskyi's establishing such relations with two existing monarchies — the United Kingdom and Japan.

And I agree with V. Potulnytskyi's opinion that such an experience can be a priceless achievement for our current and future politicians of all levels, because this is the most ancient, traditional and historical Ukrainian ideology — the ideology of Hetmanship. What is different about it is who consider themselves politicians here, how they see their mission and whether they understand it at all…

Working in archives, based on the content of the documents, my colleagues and I came to the conclusion that P. Skoropadskyi could have made a deal with S. Petlyura for the sake of Ukraine's independence. He was said to be an all-uniting man and urged everyone to get united around the Ukrainian idea. By the way, he considered S. Petlyura the most honest of all his enemies. Truth be told, I can't understand why now there are attempts to discredit S. Petlyura, to present his activity in dark colours? Isn't it in order to show the Ukrainians' inability to negotiate for the sake of common cause?

— One hundred years ago, in geopolitical terms, Ukraine was a coin to exchange in the uncompromising game of powerful states, which, after the end of the World War, sought to redraw the map. For tsarist Russia (as, of course, for Ukrainians), the First World War with the Austro-Germanic bloc lasted for 3 years and 7 months. The retired tsarist war minister D. Shuvayev in 1918 mentioned the figure of the loss of the Russian army — 8 million people. This alone was enough for Ukrainians to stand up for their independent state in order not to lay their lives for the sake of someone else's interests. Ukrainians realized the idea of Ukrainian independence almost a century later, while they could have done it at the beginning of the 20th century, as the Finns led by General C. Mannerheim did with the help of Germans.

Members of Hetman P. Skoropadskyi’s government

Members of Hetman P. Skoropadskyi’s government

— As an historian I want to note that the Ukrainians, like nobody else, had to defend their future for many centuries because of the specific location of Ukrainian lands — at the intersection of great roads and civilizational interests. And although this is now called geopolitics, our tasks or interests are practically the same as those that were one hundred years, two hundred years ago and much earlier…

As for the Ukrainians' having lost a chance to restore their state at the beginning of the 20th century, while the Finns used their chance, here I agree with you. At that time, Ukraine had enough military strength, but there was no statehood to successfully use it and build the state. This could have been achieved in the same way as General Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, mentioned by you, did, but it turned out that Ukraine is not Finland, and we do differ from Finns, whose government, unlike ours, has a clear vision of the ultimate goal of its actions. Incidentally, this is also true about the current events in Ukraine, which is trying to be a subject of international relations.

Don’t forget that under the rule of P. Skoropadskyi there were no party deviations, he did his best for the ministerial briefcase to be in the hands of true professionals. The Cadet Party did not support the Hetman, therefore, the Cadets that were part of the government were forced to forget about party obligations, and to suspend party membership. And that was quite logical.

— The Hetman was not perceived by the Socialists because he was a large landowner, right? Today such people are called oligarchs for their wealth.

— Ministers of his governments had different political views. There were no Socialists among them, because those refused to serve the Hetman, considering him a tsarist general who, in the Hetman's post, was one of the first to adopt the Universal on private property. They did not accept that. The second government is considered more pro-Ukrainian, but it lasted from October to the end of November, and was replaced by the third government, which also lasted for a short time.

Hetman Pavlo Skoropadskyi

Hetman Pavlo Skoropadskyi

— But he was also a good manager, although first of all — an officer, who made a good career. In particular, he voluntarily went to the Russian-Japanese war, which even nowadays is considered a decent deed.

— He took an example from his father, also a military man, who in the 19th century fought in the Caucasus in the Russian tsarist army. Therefore, military service can be considered their family tradition. As for P. Skoropadskyi as a good manager, a lot of materials on this can be found in the archives. But he considered himself first of all a military man, a statesman, his behavior in the post of Hetman testifies to this more than eloquently.

Hetman was blamed that he came to power on the bayonets of the German army. But that was not the case! Germans arrived in Ukraine after the signing of the Brest Treaty, liberated Kyiv, and came to our East and North. They were looking for a worthy person who could replace the Central Rada, lead the Ukrainian state, and really make state bodies work.

— Who of our contemporary scholars, in your opinion, most thoroughly deals with the topic of the Ukrainian Hetmanship?

— If we are talking about the state of P. Skoropadskyi, then Yaroslav Yuriyovych Pyrih is an expert in this theme, Doctor of Historical Sciences from the Institute of History of Ukraine. He has thoroughly analyzed the activities of Hetman's three governments and published a monograph on all his ministers. By the way, P. Skoropadskyi formed his first government on the principle of professionalism, therefore, it lasted the longest — for six months. Hetman's approaches to the selection of the state leadership are worthy of attention today, when we have to defend the independence of our Ukraine, which our enemies are trying to present not as a subject of international relations at all.

— Thank you for your answers to my questions.

Interview recorded by Oleh Makhno

The full interview you can read in the “BINTEL” Geopolitical Analytics Journal, Issue 1, 2019