Kuban Cossacks were not ardent supporters of Ukrainization
Photo: RIA Novosti
About the little-known pages of the history of the south of Russia
In the information confrontation, the Ukrainian and Russian sides actively use not only facts from our common past, but also dusty myths that have been circulating for more than a decade. Which, spreading like an avalanche on the Internet, become "reinforced concrete" arguments in the minds of those who are not at all familiar with Russian history.
One of these myths: the Krasnodar Territory, founded by immigrants from the Zaporozhye Sich, is the original territory of Ukraine. And even allegedly was under the "zhovto-blakitny" flag during the Civil War. We talk with the Krasnodar historian Igor Vasiliev about whether the Kuban really recognized the power of Kiev, and about a little-known page in Soviet history - the violent Ukrainization of southern Russia in the late 1920s. Recently, a senior researcher at the Kuban Cossack Choir Research Center for Traditional Culture published a monograph "Ukrainian Nationalism, Ukrainization and the Ukrainian Cultural Movement in the Kuban."
- Modern Ukrainian historians, developing the idea of the dependence of the Kuban on Ukraine, emphasize that the "titular", or the most numerous nation on the territory of the modern Krasnodar Territory, are historically Ukrainians. Is it so?
- Indeed, for a long time, until the second quarter of the last century, Little Russians were the largest ethnic group in the Kuban, accounting for about half of the region's population. The point is different - they were not carriers of the Ukrainian ethnic identity proper, which appeared rather late. The Little Russian identity should not be confused with the Ukrainian one!
The Little Russians separated themselves from the Great Russians at the level of dialect, folk culture, and sometimes a way of life. At the same time, they did not separate from the triune Russian people at the level of identity. Even if the Little Russian Cossack was not very well versed in the specifics of Russian folk culture, "Russianness" for him consisted in devotion to the Russian sovereign and the Orthodox faith.
The specificity of ethnic processes in the Kuban is that many people with Ukrainian surnames have never been Ukrainians: from Little Russians, they smoothly transformed into Russians. Ukrainophiles in the Kuban could "turn around" twice: during the Cossack regime during the Civil War and during Soviet Ukrainization. They only faced the general indifference of the Kuban people, including those with Ukrainian roots, to their projects.
Ataman Yakov Kukharenko
By the way, while collecting material for a monograph and getting acquainted with the works of Ukrainian historians, have you more often come across objective scientific works or propaganda materials that play a propaganda role? What works with distorted historical facts surprised you the most?
- Modern Ukrainian authors writing about the Ukrainians of the Kuban mainly refer to the “neo-state school”. Accordingly, their position is quite pro-Ukrainian.
Some eminent Ukrainian scientists express their position in a very reasoned manner, their works are of great importance. For example, Professor Stanislav Kulchitskiy put forward many valuable ideas about the reasons for the start of Ukrainization, Vladimir Serychuk published a lot of unique documents on Ukrainization in different regions.
At the same time, the monograph, and the doctoral one, by Dmitry Bilogo “Ukrainian Kuban in 1792-1921 rock. Evolution of Social Identities”. This formally scientific work is based on speculation and outright fraud. For example, a completely Russian-language pre-revolutionary education in the Kuban was declared Ukrainian for some reason.
Bilyi declared the cautious "declaration of intent" on the opening of Ukrainian schools in the Kuban, expressed by members of the circle of ataman Yakov Kukharenko, "Ukrainian schools", which in fact have not been recorded anywhere. Further, the researcher claims that during the Civil War, real Ukrainian schools appeared in the Kuban. Sources show that things did not go beyond declarations and isolated experiments. Primarily because of the desire of the students' parents to keep teaching in Russian.
Clear. And now about the history itself. When, in your opinion, came the turning point in the national consciousness of the Black Sea, before that Zaporozhye, Cossacks, who began to feel themselves not as a "free Sich", but as a sovereign army?
- Let's start with the fact that the Zaporizhzhya Sich from the very beginning was an international project jointly implemented by Ukrainians, Russians and Poles. Let me remind you that it also included Italians and Germans. When the Ukrainian hetman power of the 17th – 18th centuries was created, the Zaporizhzhya Sich was actually an independent community from it, which sometimes simply fought with Ukraine. Take, for example, Kostya Gordeenko's movement to Ivan Mazepa's hetmanate.
The Black Sea Cossacks who came to the Kuban from the very beginning served the Russian State, participated in the most difficult and glorious deeds of that period. And the state helped them to settle down, gain strength, replenish with people. In fact, the state purposefully created an army. By the way, the demographic potential of the Kuban people was actively replenished by retired soldiers of the regular Russian army. With the appropriate self-awareness.
Since the 1840s, the Black Sea Cossacks were clearly aware of the difference from the Ukrainians, their distinctive Cossack specifics. It is very similar to how the English colonists in North America realized their identity and difference from England … In the late 19th - early 20th centuries, voluntary Russification of the Kuban people began. Influenced by a value orientation to serve the Russian state. And Ukrainian nationalism a priori meant Russophobia and rejection of Russian statehood.
- Let's go back to the middle of the 19th century, when the memories of Sich freedom were still fresh. Among those who are considered, at least in Ukrainian historical literature, to be Ukrainophiles, is the chieftain of the Black Sea Cossack army, Yakov Kukharenko. Was he really a supporter of "independence"?
- Major General Kukharenko, no doubt, was a Little Russian. This is an ardent admirer of the Little Russian Cossack way of life, traditions, and folklore. However, as a Little Russian, he was a staunch patriot of the Russian Empire. Sincerely and successfully defended her interests on the battlefield!
Yakov Gerasimovich himself, his father and some of his sons were invited to the coronation of the Russian autocrats. His son Nikolai served in the imperial convoy, and the knowledge of Ukrainian culture by the daughter of Hannah (she captivated a family friend, the famous "kobzar" Taras Shevchenko by singing the song "Tiche Richka") did not prevent her from marrying a Russian officer Apollo Lykov.
Ataman Kukharenko's opposition to the "Muscovites" is out of the question. Here we can talk about a certain expansion of the rights of the Black Sea Cossacks with the revival of the traditions of the old hetman autonomy, the preservation of the cultural characteristics of the Black Sea Cossacks. By the way, during the conflict situation with the project of resettlement of the Black Sea residents to the Kuban, Kukharenko tried to be a conductor of this project and did not join the opposition of the Black Sea elders.
- What is known about the stay in the Kuban of one of the heroes of modern Ukraine, Simon Petliura? Did his views find active support from the local Cossacks?
- Petliura did not live long in the Kuban at the very beginning of the 20th century. He did not try to distribute anti-government leaflets for a long time, then he was imprisoned for a short time, for some time he helped the patriarch of Kuban intellectualism Fyodor Shcherbina in collecting materials for the “History of the Kuban Cossack Host”.
He was “squeezed out” by the local special services. That, undoubtedly, saved his political career - in the Kuban Simon Petlyura was absolutely not in demand outside the narrow circle of Ukrainian intellectuals, whose ideas were completely uninteresting to the majority of the population, especially the Cossacks. But in Ukraine, he found his social base.
- On the Internet you can find statements about the alleged annexation of the Kuban to Ukraine in 1918. Was the Kuban Rada really in favor of joining the region to Ukraine on the basis of federalization?
- There was nothing of the kind. There were diplomatic relations, allied relations, bilateral ties in various fields. The most successful and least relevant in the conditions of the Civil War are in the field of culture. I repeat - there was no talk of any joining. The Cossacks, still a recent pillar of the brilliant world empire, would have considered the transition "under Kiev" a harsh insult.
The Kuban Cossacks have their own, special identity, inextricably linked with the Russian, and not with the Ukrainian. A special social and quasi-state organization that was actually stronger and more stable than the Ukrainian one. In Ukraine, even when compared with the Kuban, there was a permanent discord. None of the forces claiming power controlled the entire territory. So who was supposed to join whom ?! Hurry Ukraine to the Kuban. But that was not the case either.
- Let's continue. "The delegation of the Kuban Rada received weapons from the official Kiev, and among the Cossacks there were joyful rumors about the landing of the Haidamaks on the seashore," writes one of the modern Ukrainian publicists about the events of the Civil War. Was "independent" Ukraine really actively supporting separatism in the Kuban?
- Ukraine sent diplomatic representatives to the Kuban (a distinctive baron of peasant origin, officer of the Russian General Staff Fyodor Borzhinsky), a special representative for culture (a certain Oles Panchenko). Ukraine itself needed weapons and combat-ready haidamaks, and absolutely all the parties to the conflict: both the self-appointed (Petliura), and semi-self-employed (Hetman Skoropadsky), and the communists and Makhnovists. This good was not enough in Ukraine.
Another thing is that in the Kuban there were powerful military traditions and a lot of soldiers and weapons. The Kuban Cossacks supported various participants in the civil conflict. A small detachment of Kubanians even fought on the side of the Ukrainian authorities. True, very small …
A typical late 19th century Kuban Cossack family
- One of the little-known pages of the history of the last century is the forcible Ukrainization of the southern regions of Russia. In your opinion, why in the midst of the political struggle for power, Stalin gave the Russian regions "at the mercy"?
- There are two main reasons: the struggle against the Cossack identity and worldview, which are extremely hostile to Bolshevism, and ensuring the loyalty of the Ukrainian communists during Stalin's struggle against internal party oppositions. They tried to replace the Cossack worldview with a Ukrainian one, which has common symbols with it (old songs, the memory of the Zaporozhye Sich), but more tolerant of Bolshevism. This goal, in contrast to the loyalty of Ukrainian party members, was never achieved.
Ukrainization was carried out tediously and for a long time. But without Bolshevik radicalism, with kickbacks, as was the case with the Ukrainianization of the school in 1927. People were forced, they shook their nerves. But they did not shoot. Most of all, Ukrainization affected the sphere of school education, cultural work, newspaper business, and the press. To a much lesser extent - state and economic document flow.
Before the start of complete Ukrainization in 1928, the replacement of the Russian language by the Ukrainian language was hampered by concern for nonresident people who moved to the Kuban from other regions of Russia who did not have Zaporozhye roots. By the way, the Kuban balachka was then recognized by Ukrainian philologists as even more Ukrainian than dialects on the territory of Ukraine itself. The fact is that the literary Ukrainian language, which was created on the basis of dialects of Western Ukraine and borrowings from Polish, no longer included many of the old Ukrainian elements that were preserved by the descendants of the Cossacks in the Kuban.
- How did the inhabitants of the Kuban, including the remaining Cossacks, greeted Ukrainization?
- Ukrainization was greeted in the spirit of "life is hard anyway, but here it is …". With such lazy disgust. Although there were active, heated protests. Especially among the parents of schoolchildren, who opposed Ukrainization very sharply. They perceived the Ukrainian linguistic and national identity as absolutely foreign, alien. And they even compared it to Chinese.
From the very beginning, Ukrainization caused bewilderment and protests among ordinary Kuban residents. During the II Kuban District Party Conference in November 1925 (several years before the mass Ukrainization), the Presidium received a note: "Is it known to the Krai that the population does not want to learn the Ukrainian language and why this issue should not be brought up for discussion by the grain growers of the village?" Even in those areas where Ukrainians were a clear minority, all announcements by the authorities in the late 1920s had to be printed in two languages, and from the beginning of 1930 they tried to massively translate official office work at the district level into Ukrainian. But, naturally, many workers simply did not understand him.
Therefore, courses of the Ukrainian language began to be organized, to which they were driven almost forcibly, for example, in the Primorsko-Akhtarsky region. And in Sochi, due to non-attendance at the courses, it was decided to send responsible employees to them three times a week with attendance control.
The manager of the Abinsk branch of the State Bank of the USSR, Bukanov, a communist since 1919, was accused of "great-power chauvinism" for refusing to accept payment documents from the "May 1" collective farm in Ukrainian.
Parade of modern Cossacks in Krasnodar
Photo: ITAR-TASS, Evgeny Levchenko
- By the way, how did the remaining intelligentsia take Ukrainization?
- Especially against Ukrainization were people who had at least some education. Naturally, in Russian. There were relatively many of them in the Kuban. Completely illiterate did not really care what language to study in.
By the beginning of the 1930s, more than 20 regional newspapers and several hundred books were published in the Ukrainian language. But from the very beginning, they were not in demand. For example, in 1927, the Ukrainian books of the publishing house "North Caucasus" were catastrophically stale, the publishing house suffered losses. In the Yeisk region, institutions were ordered to forcibly buy out Ukrainian literature.
Changes and education were also affected. So much so that the People's Commissar of Education Anatoly Lunacharsky, at a meeting of school workers in Krasnodar, assured them of the groundlessness of fears that, under the pressure of the authorities, the Ukrainian language would supplant Russian.
"In most cases, teaching in the Ukrainian language causes discontent both among nonresident and among the Cossacks," wrote the Chekists about Ukrainization in the Kuban and Donskoy districts.
It got to the comical - the Germans living compactly in the Kushchevsky district complained to higher authorities that they were forced to learn Ukrainian. And the directive came - not to consider the Germans as Ukrainians.
Ukrainization irritated many too much, annoyed by its boringness and meaninglessness, a kind of Kafkianism. Such tediousness sometimes more strongly tunes in to active and tough protest than even direct violence. The experienced revolutionary Stalin understood this well, so in the early 1930s, when his political opponents no longer had such influence, he curtailed Ukrainization.
- From history to today. In the Krasnodar Territory, the traditional Ukrainian culture, apparently, is so forgotten that the authorities have to "implant" it in the form of a Cossack radio station and lessons at school?
- Cossack radio and the lessons of the balachka in the light of the above have not the slightest relation to Ukrainian culture. This is an attempt to inform people about some elements of the Kuban Cossack, and not at all Ukrainian culture. The relationship between Cossack and Ukrainian culture is in many ways similar to the relationship between American and English. Their relationship and similarity cannot be denied. At the same time, songs in English, even quite literary, are perceived in the United States as part of American culture, and by no means British. By the way, radio "Kazak FM" is very popular among elderly motorists who grew up in Soviet times. Both it and the lessons of Kuban studies are extremely far from the Ukrainian context.