Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Yevhen Petrushevych

Petrushevych, Yevhen [Petrusevyc, Jevhen], b 3 June 1863 in Buzke, Kaminka-Strumylova county, Galicia, d 29 August 1940 in Berlin. (Photo: Yevhen Petrushevych.) Lawyer, political leader, and president of the Western Ukrainian National Republic. As a law student at Lviv University he was president of the Academic Brotherhood. While practicing law in Sokal (1896–1910) and then in Skole, he organized and led various local societies. An executive member of the National Democratic party, he was elected to the Austrian parliament (1907, 1911) and to the Galician Diet (see Diet, provincial) (1910, 1913) and served as vice-chairman of the Ukrainian Parliamentary Representation in Vienna (1910–16) and the Ukrainian caucus in the Diet (1910–14). He rejected political compromises with the Austrian government and led a determined struggle in both assemblies for the rights of the Ukrainian people; in particular he played a key role in the Galician Diet's electoral reforms of 1913, which gave Ukrainians a greater voice in the Diet. After becoming vice-president of the General Ukrainian Council (1915) Petrushevych resigned from that body because of what he regarded as its naive trust in the Austrian government. At the end of 1916 he was elected chairman of the Ukrainian Parliamentary Representation in the Austrian parliament and was recognized as the leading Ukrainian politician of his day. With a number of other Slavic leaders he proposed to transform Austria-Hungary into a federation of national states, including a Ukrainian one composed of eastern Galicia, northern Bukovyna, and Transcarpathia.

While the emperor vacillated, Petrushevych summoned a Ukrainian constituent assembly to Lviv to decide the future of those territories. At its first session on 18 October 1918, the assembly named itself the Ukrainian National Rada, chose Petrushevych as its president, and proclaimed an independent Ukrainian state. Petrushevych was re-elected president of the Rada on 3 January 1919 in Stanyslaviv and proved himself a capable leader and mediator. With the merging of the Western Ukrainian National Republic with the Ukrainian National Republic in January 1919, Petrushevych became the sixth member of the Directory of the Ukrainian National Republic. By mid-1919 the Ukrainian National Rada and the State Secretariat of the Western Ukrainian National Republic had recognized that military and political setbacks made it impossible for them to govern, and on 9 June they transferred their powers to Petrushevych, whom they nominated as dictator (see Dictatorship of the Western Province of the Ukrainian National Republic). Under his regime the Chortkiv offensive was conducted, the Ukrainian Galician Army (UHA) crossed the Zbruch River, and the combined forces of the Army of the Ukrainian National Republic and the UHA liberated Kyiv. The divergencies between Symon Petliura's and Petrushevych's governments in domestic and foreign policy increased during their stay in Kamianets-Podilskyi and finally led to a break, in November 1919. Petrushevych left Ukraine to pursue the struggle for independence abroad by diplomatic means.

On 25 July 1920 Petrushevych formed a government-in-exile in Vienna and lobbied for international recognition of Western Ukrainian statehood. Having gained a certain measure of support for his quest, he rejected Polish overtures for a degree of Ukrainian autonomy in exchange for recognition of their control over Galicia. His campaign collapsed after March 1923, however, when the Conference of Ambassadors recognized Galicia as part of the new Polish state. Petrushevych, then in Berlin, began to look for Soviet assistance in his aspirations. This tack also proved unfruitful, and support for him soon withered away.