A monument to Mykhailo Hrushevsky was unveiled in Kyiv on December 1, 1998. It is the first monument to Hrushevsky in Kyiv (and probably the only one in Ukraine). It is really a shame that a monument to such a remarkable person was erected only now. There were many reasons why it had taken so long to pay homage in the form of a monument to such a distinguished personality in the political and cultural history of Ukraine. But as they say it is better late than never. It was not in the field of politics though that he had
distinguished himself most. It was his monumental many-volumed History of Ukraine-Rus that made his name worthy to be remembered and respected.
Mykhailo Hrushevsky was born in the town of Kholm (now it is situated in the territory of Poland) in 1866. Upon graduation from Kyiv University of St. Volodymyr (now this University is named after T. Shevchenko), he continued his scholarly research into the history and literature of Ukraine in Lviv and in Kyiv. In 1898 the first volume of his ten-volume History of Ukraine-Rus was published. It took him almost forty years to complete the great work, with the last volume released in 1936, two years after his death. There were two more separate volumes on Ukrainian history published in 1904 and in 1911. In the twenties Hrushevsky wrote and published five volumes of A History of Ukrainian Literature.

Over the years he wrote a great number of articles dealing with Ukrainian history and culture, he wrote fiction stories and plays.In addition to enormous work done by him as a scholar, he engaged in political activity. Because of his pronounced nationalistic leanings, he was constantly harassed by the authorities — in the eastern Ukraine by the Russians and in the western Ukraine by the Austro-Hungarians. He was one of the founders of the Ukrainian National Democratic Party in Halychyna, set up at the very end of the nineteenth century. In the first decade of the twentieth century he continued his campaign of encouraging people to search for their national identity. He displeased the authorities so much that in 1914 he was arrested and exiled to the Russian town of Simbirsk, thousands of kilometres away from Ukraine.

February Revolution of 1917 in Russia toppled the Tsar and a Provisional government was set up to rule the country.

The national forces in Ukraine saw their chance to go independent and in March, 1917, the Ukrainian Central Rada (Council) sprang up as a central power whose main aim was to proclaim and actually achieve Ukrainian independence.

Mykhailo Hrushevsky, as a widely recognized leader of the Ukrainian national movement, was elected the Head of the Rada in absentia— at the time he was still in exile. After his return to Ukraine, Hrushevsky, in his capacity of the Head of the Central Rada whose functions were close to those of a president, kept urging the official establishment of Ukraine’s sovereignty and in June of 1917 the Provisional Government of Russia was forced to recognize the Central Rada as the ruling body of an autonomous state.

In October (November by the new calendar style) the Bolshevik coup in Saint Petersburg overthrew the Provisional Government and the Central Rada reacted by proclaiming Ukraine a national republic. An extremely complex political situation, in which many powerful political and military forces were involved (including those of Germany which was still nominally at war with Russia), led to the downfall of the Central Rada and of the Ukrainian National Republic which was replaced by the Ukrainian State with Hetman P. Skoropadsky at its head. Hrushevsky was displaced as president and had to go into hiding to avoid being arrested.

In 1919 he emigrated from Ukraine and lived in Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Geneva and Paris. Meanwhile Ukraine succumbed under the Bolshevik military pressure and after the Civil War completely lost its independence becoming in the twenties “the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic” within the Soviet Union. In 1924 Hrushevsky returned to Ukraine and surprisingly enough was not arrested. His scholastic achievements were recognized and he was elected a full member of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and in 1929 he became an Academician of the Academy of Science of the USSR.

He was allowed to continue his work as a historian but a pressure was put upon him to move from Ukraine to Moscow. He was in no position to refuse and in 1930 he left Ukraine for Moscow. Next year he was arrested by the secret police and charged with “anti-Soviet activity” and with running a “Ukrainian nationalistic centre.” Almost miraculously (it was the time when thousands of people, accused of “Ukrainian nationalism” were dying in concentration camps or were shot by firing squads), he was later released but his health had been ruined and the ailing Hrushevsky died at a spa in the town of Kislovodsk on November 25, 1934.

Soon after his death all of his works were removed from all the libraries, and it was categorically forbidden to have or read anything he had published and written. It was only after Ukraine had regained independence in 1991 that Hrushevsky’s rich legacy of scholarly and other works began to be returned to the Ukrainian people. It would be premature to say that Hrushevsky’s role in helping the Ukrainian people find their national identity has been fully appreciated but the start has been made.

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