Communism in Ukraine began when Poland and the communists signed the treaty of Riga after the second Bolshevik war. The USSR did not recognize Ukraine as a sovereign state, so they attacked until the signing of the treaty in 1921 which gave them control over Ukraine. War Communism was then introduced and enforced by the Supreme Economic Council (Vesenkha), it was an economic and political system with the aim of keeping towns and the army fully stocked with weapons and food this only ended when the New Economic Policy began in 1921. War Communism was a major failure the peasants rose in a massive rebellion against the so-called “dictatorship of the proletariat” and the communist demands for grain, which deprived the peasants of their livelihood. “War Communism”, which included also the nationalisation of industry, brought about the collapse of Ukraine’s economy resulting in the famine of 1921—1923 were hundreds of thousands of people perished.
Lenin realised the failure of this policy so he created the NEP, this meant there was a return to private ownership of land, small industry and business leading to a revival of Ukraine’s economic state. The country’s cultural state also regained momentum. The policy of Ukrainisation was created to build a stronger national identity, through the promoting of culture and Ukrainian replacing Russian in schools, government, publishing and other areas. When Stalin came to power he opposed Ukrainisation due to his fear that Ukraine was trying to distance itself from the USSR. This led to individuals and organisations being accused of “bourgeois nationalism” and being “promoters of counter revolution” against the Soviet state. In 1929 the secret police (GPU) were utilised to investigate these allegations, leading to show trials of intellectuals and the termination of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
Stalin named the beginning of his reign as “The Year of the Great Turning Point”, he introduced collectivisation. This meant the state/ government had complete control over crops and grains. For this to work Stalin liquidised the Kulaks (peasants who were more well off), nearly one million of them were either sent off to prison or remote areas in the north as well as concentration camps or executed for not conforming to the collectivisation idea. By doing this Stalin had managed to almost wipe out Ukraine’s intelligentsia as well as peasants. Collective farming failed miserably, farmers were expected to just hand over all their grains to the army even if it left them with nothing for themselves. This led to the famine of 1932, sometimes referred to as a genocide that killed approximately between 7 to 10 million people.
The 2 memorial statues signify the loss of lives during the famine
After Stalin died Nikita Khrushchev came to power, the mass murders and terror ended in Ukraine. People were once again encouraged to embrace their national identity. It’s not until after the mishandling of the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, did people freely criticise the communist government. The “Quiet Revolution” held in Kiev from September 8-10 1986 was the gathering of delegates from the provinces of Ukraine challenging the communist party. On August 24th 1991 it was agreed by the masses and parliament that Ukraine would become independent.